My standards for this list:
1) Accessible to new readers (no mid-run JMS stuff here)
2) No crap (Maximum Carnage is OUT)
3) Must be available to order IN TPB-format from Amazon (used is acceptable)
4) Exemplifies some core aspect of Spidey
Here we go (in no particular order):
- Spider-Man Wizard Masterpiece Edition HC
- Sigh. My first choice is not available on Amazon OR eBay, but you can get it at Lone Star Comics for $25. A year or two ago, these were available for $10 on eBay. A great collection that includes Spidey v. Juggernaut AND The Death of Jean DeWolff. In my opinion, when you get excellent Roger Stern AND excellent Peter David, you can't go wrong.
- The Very Best of Spider-Man
- Several individual one-off stories. Includes the last part of the "Master Planner" story and "Kid Who Collects Spider-Man," both of which are absolutely indispensable. Plus, $1 (at posting time).
- Ultimate Spider-Man, Volume 1
- IMHO, the series has dropped in quality since they killed Gwen, but this was such a revelation back in 2000. A great modern take, and for $17, it's a steal.
- Spider-Man: Death of the Stacys
- Excellent classic Spidey that features great classic art and writing. Plus, Green Goblin AND Doctor Octopus.
- Essential Spider-Man, Volume 1
- Really, one should get the first two volumes here to complete the Lee-Ditko run. I personally prefer Marvel Masterworks, but those are, of course, $50-a-pop for 10 issues, so this is the budget option. Gets you the first "Spidey quits" storyline, the "Crime-Master" storyline, and the "Master Planner" storyline. NOT recommended for people who can't deal with 60's story-telling convention or B/W art.
- Spider-Man: Birth of Venom
- While Venom has worn thin for me over the years, he was a lot of fun for me when I was 13. I remember jumping off the bus and rushing to my house to see if ASM 316 and 317 had come in their brown-paper wrappers, because VENOM WAS BACK! If people like Venom, this is the classic stuff, plus McFarlane art (about which I feel the same as I do about Venom).
- Spider-Man Visionaries: Kurt Busiek
- GREAT modern/classic Spidey stories. The ONLY good Spidey stuff from the mid-nineties, this book (reprinting Untold Tales of Spider-Man) is fun for fans. A good compliment to the Essentials above.
- Amazing Spider-Girl, Volume 1
- Not the launch TPB, but a good jumping-on point that removes the 2nd-person narration. Very good modern/classic Spidey stories again, but these focus on May. NOT recommended for people who live and die by Vertigo, indy, or "big-gun" books. DEFINITELY RECOMMENDED for people who like classic Marvel action AND the Spider-Marriage. I am a relatively recent convert to this book, but every issue feels like coming home. Bravo, DeFalco, Frenz, et al!
- Spider-Man: Kraven's Last Hunt
- Not my favorite, but it's good DeMatteis/psychological stuff that offers a more adult take on Spidey.
- Spider-Man: Origin of the Hobgoblin
- Absolutely my favorite Spider-villain, you'll pay a premium for this out-of-print volume, but these are the stories that got me HOOKED on Spider-Man.
- Amazing Spider-Man, "Volume 1" - the JMS Years
- Again, not my favorite, but JMS's stuff was solid to start with and went in a different direction with the character. Worth checking out.