In the mid-1980s, John Marc DeMatteis proposed a Wonder Man limited series involving his half-brother, Grim Reaper, in which Wonder Man is buried and ultimately crawls out of the grave. Tom DeFalco turned down the proposal. Years later, DeMatteis reworked the scene of a hero coming out of the grave into a Batman story exploring what would happen if the Joker actually killed Batman. According to DeMatteis, it would effectively turn the Joker "sane." When DeMatteis pitched the story to DC, however, it was rejected because it happened to be somewhat similar to another Batman story that was in development at the time, Batman: The Killing Joke. DeMatteis then reworked the story to use Hugo Strange in place of the Joker, but this, too, was rejected. Finally, DeMatteis pitched the idea again to Marvel, this time with Spider-Man and a new villain he came up specifically for the story. Marvel editorial accepted the revised proposal.
Several major elements were added to the story as DeMatteis began writing it. Marvel's plans to marry Spider-Man and Mary Jane Watson prompted DeMatteis to make their marriage the emotional focus of the story. The idea of substituting Kraven the Hunter for the new villain came to DeMatteis after a chance look at Kraven's entry in the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe. After Mike Zeck was brought on as penciler for "Kraven's Last Hunt", DeMatteis decided it would be a good idea to use a character he and Zeck had created together, Vermin.
The story was originally intended to run entirely in Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man, but editor Jim Salicrup decided to publish it as a crossover through all three Spider-Man titles, arguing that the impact of Spider-Man being killed would be lost if there were other Spider-Man stories running at the same time. While working on the story, DeMatteis commented, "I'm not looking beyond those six issues. The storyline really does not enter too heavily into the continuity of the other books. In fact, I almost think you could take these issues and put them on their own as a mini-series or graphic novel."
Because the plot had been completely written by the time Zeck started work on "Kraven's Last Hunt", he drew all six covers for the story before doing any of the interior art. Zeck remarked that the iconic "Resurrection" cover for part 4 (Web of Spider-Man #32) "was the absolute no-brainer of the six covers, and I completed that piece first. If an issue has a scene with the title hero rising from his own grave, it’s like receiving the number-one gift on your Christmas list! Anyone spending even one second mulling over a cover idea for that issue would have been in the wrong business. The other covers flowed from that one."
In 1994, DC published DeMatteis' Batman/Joker version of the story as "Going Sane" in Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #65-68.