This has always been one of my favorite Spider-Man covers. Credit for it goes to John Romita, Sr.
This issue of The Amazing Spider-Man came out in 1969, at the height of the student protests that rocked campuses across America. Since Spider-Man was a student at Empire State University at the time, it makes sense that he would eventually be drawn into the protests. In typical Marvel fashion, Spider-Man ended up supporting both the protesters and the police who later busted them. Spider-Man felt the protesters had a right to protest but that the police were also necessary to maintain the peace. Of course, in the end, the Kingpin would use the distraction of the protests to steal an ancient tablet, leaving the students to take the blame.
This cover perfectly captured the ambiguous place of both Spider-Man and Marvel in the counter culture. Spider-Man may appear to be with the protesters but it’s also not a coincidence that he’s swinging above them, indicating that Spider-Man was both a part of the counterculture and yet above it all at the same time. At a time of intense national polarization, Marvel manged to pull off the balancing act of supporting both sides at the same time.
Is Spider-Man a part of the protest or is he the one being protested? It all depends on what you want to see.