This article contains SPOILERS for Amazing Fantasy #1000!

Superstar writer Neil Gaiman gives a touching tribute to Marvel Comics’ Spider-Man, revealing how what is considered one of the greatest stories of the character actually changed his life. Gaiman’s short story in the anthological 1000th issue of Amazing Fantasy brings Spider-Man to life thanks to the author’s unique ability to insert fantastic elements into everyday situations or, like in this case, in Gaiman’s own life.

Neil Gaiman is a world-famous best-selling author who wrote exceptional novels such as American Gods, Coraline, and Stardust, all of which received big screen adaptations. Gaiman’s earliest success, however, came from comic books, when he authored The Sandman (which also received a very successful adaptation as a Netflix show) for DC’s Vertigo imprint. Over the course of his long career, Gaiman often came back to comics, mostly for DC, but he also wrote two limited series for Marvel: Marvel 1602 and The Eternals. Marvel chose Gaiman as part of the lineup of superstar authors that contributed to Amazing Fantasy #1000, a homage to the comic book that introduced Spider-Man to the world to ultimately help fans celebrate the 60th anniversary of the character.

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With Great Power” is the title of the story. It’s written by Neil Gaiman, and illustrated by Steve McNiven and Richard Isanove. It is a heartfelt homage to Steve Ditko, the co-creator of the character along with Stan Lee. Gaiman puts himself in the story, as a young British kid obsessed with the Spider-Man’s stories he read in Pow!, a weekly British comic magazine that featured a mixture of British strips with reprints from American Marvel Comics. Gaiman then imagines meeting Spider-Man as an adult, when he went visiting Steve Ditko in his New York study. Talking to his favorite hero, the writer tells him that one of his stories changed his life, because it taught him the value of never giving up.

The story Gaiman refers to is, of course, The Final Chapter!, by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, published in Amazing Spider-Man #33. Peter is trapped under tons of steel and rubble, unable to reach the vial of serum that will save his aunt May’s life. In a memorable sequence, Spider-Man finds the strength to lift the weight that’s trapping him He’s to says to himself (and to the readers) that, “Anyone can win a fight when the odds are easy. It’s when there seems to be no chance, that’s when it counts.” That story perfectly explains why Spider-Man is the “hero of the losers” because he represents the most human traits such as failure, weakness, and the indomitable will to overcome adversity.

Steve Ditko developed The Final Chapter!‘s plot (Stan Lee’s curated the script), and it went down in history as one of the greatest Spider-Man’s stories of all time. It’s clear that Gaiman has great respect and admiration for Ditko. Ditko’s work nurtured Gaiman’s imagination when he was a kid. Eventually, his skills led him to craft The Sandman‘s saga and other stories as moving and compelling as The Final Chapter!. Learning that this masterpiece inspired Neil Gaiman, who is almost universally revered by comic books fans all over the world, is a great way of celebrating Spider-Man‘s 60th anniversary.

Amazing Fantasy #1000 is now available from Marvel Comics.

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