Amazing Spider-Man #121 (June, 1973)

The subject of today’s blog post is generally considered to be one of the most important issues in the sixty-plus-year history of Marvel Comics’ best-known hero, Spider-Man.  Many fans would call it one of the most significant single comic books ever published by Marvel, period.  Some (though not, I must confess, your humble blogger) would even go so far as to call this issue the precise dividing point between the Silver Age of Comics and the Bronze.

But you almost didn’t get a chance to read about Amazing Spider-Man #121 on its fiftieth anniversary — not in this venue, anyway.  Why?  Because your humble blogger’s then fifteen-year-old self almost didn’t purchase the book when it first arrived on stands, back in March of 1973.  And why was that?  Because I’d stopped buying Amazing Spider-Man two months earlier. 

This actually came as a surprise to me when I began my research for this post a few weeks ago, as I didn’t — and still don’t — have a specific memory of deciding to stop picking up AS-M at the beginning of ’73.  But then, in digging into my personal collection, I discovered that I had a gap between issues #118 and #121.  Of course, that could have simply meant that I’d sold, traded, or just plain lost #119 and #120 — which feature a two-part adventure in which Spidey fights the Hulk — at some point in the last five decades.  The thing is, however, that when I looked up those two issues in their digital reprint editions, I found that I’d never read them before.  Not a single story beat or image in either comic was the least bit familiar to me.  That could only mean that I’d never owned Amazing Spider-Man #119 and #120 in the first place.

Could I have meant to buy them, and just missed them somehow?  That’s within the realm of possibility, of course, but I believe it’s highly unlikely.  While the newsstand distribution system was probably as unreliable in my hometown of Jackson, MS as it was most everywhere else in the U.S. in the early ’70s, my regular source for new comics — the neighborhood Tote-Sum convenience store — had a good track record on the major Marvel and DC titles.  I’d never missed an issue of Amazing Spider-Man before, after all, so it doesn’t make much sense that I’d suddenly miss two in a row.  (For the record, I was checking out the spinner rack at that Tote-Sum at least once a week, every week.)

So I’m pretty sure I must have given up buying AS-M before issue #121 came out.  As to why I’d kicked Spidey (my first favorite Marvel superhero, though he’d been replaced by Thor in the last couple of years) to the curb — especially at a time when I was buying most of the rest of Marvel’s superhero-themed output, — well, I can only speculate.  But I believe that the deciding factor was probably my dissatisfaction with issues #116 through #118, which had presented a revised and expanded version of a story originally printed in Spectacular Spider-Man #1 (Jul., 1968).  My unhappiness with these issues was twofold:  first, I already owned the original version of the story (albeit in its original black-and-white presentation), and I resented having to buy three issues of mostly reprint material to maintain my Amazing Spider-Man collection; second, it irked me that the repurposing of the original storyline here made a mess of established continuity, seeing as how I’d also bought and read an issue of Daredevil, published at the same time as SS-M #1, that had tied into events portrayed in the latter.  Fifty years after the fact, my best hypothesis is that these gripes combined with a general lack of enthusiasm for the preceding four issues’ Doctor Octopus-Hammerhead gang war story arc (writer Gerry Conway’s first major storyline after taking over from Stan Lee with #111) — as well as with my considerable skepticism regarding the potential entertainment value of a “fight” (as opposed to team-up) between Hulk and a way-outclassed Spider-Man — to break me of the Spidey-buying habit… though, as it happened, only for two months.

Because in March, 1973, that cover showed up in my Tote-Sum’s spinner rack — and I had to know who was about to die.

Original art for AS-M #121’s cover, signed by the artist, John Romita.

“That cover” is, of course, one of the most familiar — most iconic, if you’ll permit my employing that rather overused word — covers in Spider-Man’s history.  Almost everyone who knows anything about the original, comic-book version of the character knows the answer to Spidey’s desperate “Who?” — which means that no one today can look at this image and not immediately think about the events in the story that lay behind it.  But in March, 1973, none of us ordinary fans who were there to see this cover when it first appeared on the stands knew what was coming; to find out, we’d have to pony up our twenty cents.

If the purpose of a comic book’s cover is to sell that comic book, then the cover of Amazing Spider-Man #121 was unequivocally a great one.. at least as far as my fifteen-year-old self was concerned, half a century ago.

And what did my younger self find behind that great cover, when I finally got the book home and opened it to its first page?  Let’s take a look…

One thing I didn’t find on this opening splash page was the story’s title; Marvel was being cagey for a reason most of you are already familiar with (and any who aren’t will find out soon enough).  There were, however, the usual creator credits, straightforwardly presented in the ordinary fashion of the day.  But though my younger self almost certainly took these credits at face value, they don’t really tell the whole story of who contributed what to the making of this milestone comics story.

There’s a common narrative about how Marvel Comics worked in the early to mid-1970s that portrays it as a rather anarchic place to work, where editorial oversight was largely nominal, and writers were pretty much given free rein to do what they wanted with the titles they were assigned; free rein, that is, as long as the writers got their work in on time, didn’t get the company into legal trouble or push the boundaries of the Comics Code too aggressively — and, perhaps most importantly, as long as the titles continued to sell in reasonable quantities.  And I believe that that narrative is probably true for the bulk of Marvel’s output during this era.  But it doesn’t seem to have been true for every title — and especially not for the publisher’s most important properties, such as Spider-Man.

Self-portrait by John Romita, circa 1970.

Beyond his signature on the cover, John Romita’s only listed credit on Amazing Spider-Man #121 is as one of the story’s two inkers.*  But by his own account (which is undisputed, as far as I know), Romita had been playing a major role in plotting Spidey’s adventures since at least 1969, even for stories where his name didn’t appear in the credits at all.  (This may not have been the case during the four months of Stan Lee’s 1971 “sabbatical”, when writer Roy Thomas and artist Gil Kane were handling the series, but I suspect that was the only exception.)  His importance to the creative direction of the title was such that the credits of the first issues following Lee’s ultimate departure billed him first in the story’s credits, ahead of new scripter Gerry Conway (who, we should note, was only 19 years old when he landed the gig) — a highly unusual, perhaps even unprecedented mark of distinction.  And his role doesn’t seem to have diminished much — if at all — when Gil Kane returned to pencil a few issues.

In any event, Romita’s special status — as well as Marvel’s more general concern with keeping the Spider-Man brand healthy — meant that Gerry Conway couldn’t expect to have the same level of creative independence with Amazing Spider-Man as, say, Steve Englehart was being given with Captain America… or that Conway himself had enjoyed with Daredevil.

My younger self might have missed out on Peter Parker’s recent trip to Canada, but otherwise I was on pretty firm footing regarding what was going on in the lives of Pete and his friends.  Harry Osborn had been dealing with the repercussions of his earlier substance abuse (as chronicled back in Amazing Spider-Man #96-98 — the so-called “drug issues” that Marvel famously published without the Comics Code Authority’s seal of approval) for quite a while, after all.

Peter hopes to make it in to see Harry without running into his father Norman; alas, he’s not so lucky:

Before an understandably alarmed Peter can respond, Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane Watson emerge from Harry’s bedroom — and Norman takes the opportunity to kick all three of them out of the house, declaring, “We can do quite well without your so-called help.

As they exit onto the street, Gwen wonders aloud why Mr. Osborn was so nasty when she and the others were only trying to make things easier for him.  “Some people hate do-gooders, Gwen,” Peter responds.  “What can I tell you?”

“What do you think, Mary Jane?”  Peter’s question may be as innocent and straightforward as it appears on the surface… or it may be a subtle dig by our hero, made in reference to how Harry had reacted after MJ unceremoniously dumped him back in #97 (i.e., he’d overdosed on drugs).  I’m honestly not sure which of those readings Gerry Conway intended; although, given the writer’s oft-stated preference for MJ over Gwen, our best bet is probably to take Pete’s query at its face value.

Pete apologizes to Joe “Robbie” Robertson, at which point J. Jonah Jameson barges in and is just as intolerant of our hero’s probably-contagious ailment as Robbie predicted: “I’m not going to have my employees claiming days off for sick leave!”  Fine, says Peter; Jameson can just mail him his $200 check for those Spidey vs. Hulk photos.  Leaving the Daily Bugle, Pete changes into Spider-Man and swings for home, thinking about how nice it’ll be to spend some quality time with Gwen:  “It’s been days since I spoke to her — and what with Harry’s problems this morning — !  Well… it’ll be nice to have a talk.”

Meanwhile, back at the Osborn residence, the family physician has returned in response to Norman’s urgent call… though there’s little he can do so long as Norman won’t let his son be admitted to a hospital…

This is actually the third time we’ve seen Norman Osborn’s memories of being the Green Goblin return, following the initial onset of his amnesia in the climax of Amazing Spider-Man #40 (Sep., 1966); the first occasion was in Spectacular Spider-Man #2 (Nov., 1968), the second in AS-M #96 (May, 1971).  By now, the familiar sequence of events as the Goblin recovers his identity — first mentally, then physically, through the retrieval of his costume and equipment — has taken on something of a ritual quality…

Our hero immediately understands the significance of the pumpkin bomb (or “goblin’s lantern”, as it’s called here) sitting on top of the handbag he recognizes as the one he gave Gwen for Christmas:  “Osborn must have snapped… come here to find me… and found Gwendy instead!”  He knows he has to find the Goblin, and fast, before the madman can harm the woman he loves…

Though Conway’s script refers to the George Washington Bridge, what Kane has drawn is in fact the Brooklyn Bridge.  It’s a gaffe that would have been readily apparent to a New Yorker, though it went right over my noggin back in 1973.

Ignoring his foe’s ultimatum, Spidey comes swinging up the bridge’s cables — and the Goblin accepts the challenge, hopping onto his glider and flying to meet the web-slinger.  A lobbed pumpkin bomb doesn’t hit Spider-Man directly, but its explosion does throw him off balance…

At first, it looks like Spidey’s mighty effort has saved the day; the Goblin and his glider both go plummeting towards the East River, while our hero scrambles up one of the bridge’s main cables to the tower atop which Gwen Stacy still lies unmoving.  Noting that his beloved appears to be unconscious, Peter observes:  “Good thing, too — if Spidey’s to save his secret I.D.!

I wish I could remember whether or not the “SNAP!” in the next to last panel above actually registered with me, the first time I read this story; it’s possible that I didn’t pick up on it until a second reading (which may well have taken place immediately following the first).  Either way, I’m sure that I never had any doubt as to why the sound effect was there, and what it meant.  It wasn’t the least bit ambiguous, as far as I was concerned.

As clear as that sound effect on the preceding page had been, however, the Goblin’s explanation of what had just happened was equally confounding.  “A fall from that height would kill anyonebefore they struck the ground!”  Um, what?  That made no sense at all.  Didn’t skydivers routinely fall from greater heights, and for longer distances, before opening their parachutes?  But there it was in black-and-white — and while the Goblin was obviously not what you’d call a trustworthy person, his claim wasn’t challenged, either by Spider-Man or by the story’s omniscient narrator — not in this issue, and not in the next one, either.

I can still remember how stunned I felt as I finished reading “The Night Gwen Stacy Died” for the first time.  I’m not sure who out of the eight characters whose portraits appear on this issue’s cover I had thought most likely to perish by the end of the story — frankly, I may not have given the matter a whole lot of thought before I began reading — but I’m pretty certain that Gwen Stacy was the last person I expected to no longer be among the living by Amazing Spider-Man #121’s final page.

For the record, I knew that the violent death of a hero’s longtime love interest wasn’t exactly an unprecedented event in comic books.  After all, Marvel itself had been down this road just a couple of years before, with Sub-Mariner #37 (May, 1971); while my younger self hadn’t actually bought that particular issue, I was nevertheless well aware that Prince Namor’s betrothed, Lady Dorma, had met her end at the hands of the villainous Llyra within its pages.**  Still, Namor was Namor, and Spider-Man was, well, Spider-Man.  Regardless of Subby’s historical importance as one of the earliest Marvel superheroes from the Timely era, Spidey was unquestionably a much bigger deal for the publisher as of 1973; and so, the death of the latter’s lady love couldn’t help but feel like a bigger deal than the former’s.

I was also cognizant of the fact that Gwen Stacy hadn’t always been around.  Though I didn’t start buying Amazing Spider-Man until 1968, I’d since read a number of his adventures from the preceding six years, mostly by way of the Marvel Tales reprint title.  And so I knew that Peter Parker’s original love interest had been J. Jonah Jameson’s secretary Betty Brant (who was still around, though very much a minor background character at this point).  Gwen Stacy wasn’t Lois Lane, in other words.  On the other hand, Gwen had already been well-established as Peter’s steady girlfriend by the time I picked up my first issue (#59 — which, rather ironically in retrospect, spotlighted Mary Jane Watson on its cover, rather than Ms. Stacy).  As far as my relationship with the Amazing Spider-Man title was concerned, then, Gwen Stacy had always been around; even in those rare issues where she didn’t actually make an on-panel appearance, she was always on our hero’s mind.  And why wouldn’t she be?  Gwen was beautiful, smart, kind, funny, and she was devoted to Peter.  How could he not be head over heels in love with her?

So, yes, I was completely taken by surprise by the climax of Amazing Spider-Man #121.  I was also moved by Peter’s initial disbelief at what had occurred, followed by his grief and then, inevitably, his rage.

What I’m pretty certain I wasn’t was personally heartbroken over the loss of Gwen Stacy as a character, or angry that Marvel had chosen to kill her off.  That’s neither a boast nor a confession; I imagine that if I had been a couple of years younger, or older, I might have reacted differently.  (Though it’s also possible that I’m simply a bit more hard-hearted than the next fan.  Who’s to say?)

In any event, as most of you reading this likely know already, my reaction was hardly universal.  While some of the letters of comment that Marvel would print in the months to come would indicate approval — or at least acceptance — of the events of AS-M #121, others would refer to Gwen’s death as an “atrocity”, or compare those at Marvel whom they considered responsible as “soulless, mercenary sadists”.  By his own account, Gerry Conway was subjected to so much fannish opprobrium in the months following AS-M #121’s release that he stopped going to comics conventions for about a decade.

And then, after Marvel publisher Stan Lee began getting grief about Gwen Stacy’s death on the college lecture circuit, he claimed publicly that he hadn’t known that Conway and company were planning to kill Gwen off prior to AS-M #121’s going to press, and that he wouldn’t have approved the step if he had.  That, in turn, would lead to rebuttals, clarifications, etc. which have made the question “Who killed Gwen Stacy?” a matter of controversy to this day.

Regular visitors to this site may be surprised (as well as relieved, perhaps) to learn that, in contrast to some comparable historical controversies (e.g., “Who came first, Swamp Thing or Man-Thing?”, or “Who created Ghost Rider?”), your humble blogger will not be presenting all of the various accounts relating to the matter of Gwen Stacy’s death (and references to the documentation supporting them) in this post.  That’s not at all for lack of interest, or even time; but, rather, because most of that work has already been done (at least for sources released up through 2014 or so) by my fellow blogger, the Crusty Curmudgeon (who also occasionally comments on this blog as “crustymud”).  While Crusty and I have come to somewhat different conclusions regarding “whodunit” (I also have a mildly higher opinion of “The Night Gwen Stacy Died” simply as a piece of comic-book storytelling, for what that’s worth), the research he did in 2014 for his five-part, 20,000-plus word post, “Sex, Lies, and Comic Books: The Gwen Stacy Murder Case, Reopened”, is so thorough that it makes little sense for me to rehash it all here.  (Not to mention the valuable insights he shares within the piece, several of which I will be shamelessly piggybacking on in the paragraphs to follow.  Seriously, if you’re more than casually interested in this storyline and its aftermath — and you probably are, or you wouldn’t have gotten this far, would you? — you really owe it to yourself to read Crusty’s entire article; if not right now, then very soon.)

But while we won’t be making a comprehensive survey of the literature, as they say in academe, I do want to hit a few of what I consider to be the most important sources (naturally, these are also the ones I’ve used to draw my own conclusions).  We’ll start with the earliest, as I’m of the opinion that — all other things being equal — earlier accounts should carry greater weight than later ones, for the simple reason that, generally speaking, people tend to remember past events better the closer they are in time to them.

We’ll begin with an excerpt from a letter from Roy Thomas that was originally published in The Comics Journal #44 (January, 1979).  Thomas — who hadn’t been Marvel’s editor-in-chief for some years at this point, but who was still working for Marvel as a writer-editor on a number of titles — was writing in in response to an interview with Stan Lee the Journal had published a couple of issues earlier.  After setting the record straight (according to his own lights, naturally) on several points irrelevant to our present topic, Thomas went on to write:

The most important clarification of the issue, however — well, the most glaring anyway; I don’t know how truly important it is — is Stan’s doubtless sincere statement that he “just hated it” when Gerry Conway killed off Gwen Stacy.


That’s true, as far as Stan’s much-vaunted poor memory goes.  However, what Stan has forgotten over the years is that he both approved and applauded the suggestion (by me) that Gwen Stacy be killed — before Gerry ever heard of it.


John Romita and I had been discussing the possibility, just as a way of shaking Spider-Man out of certain creative doldrums that had lain heavy upon the strip, we felt, for some time.  One day after 5:00, when I was editor-in-chief, I bearded Stan in his lair and mentioned the idea, quite tentatively — with enthusiasm, but no special fervor.  Stan seized upon it at once; his enthusiasm was far greater than my own, at the time.


It was only after the story had been published, and the readers didn’t seem to share his/our enthusiasm, that he began somehow to get the idea that he hadn’t liked the idea at all.  Eventually, over the years, in his many college lectures, he gradually settled (quite sincerely, I’m sure) into the almost totally inaccurate version that someone (read: Gerry) had done the dirty deed while he was out of town.


Under pain of death and deprivation of all my first issues, the foregoing is a true statement.  I’m not trying to stir up Stan’s wrath; but my memory for such matters has almost invariably been better than Stan’s (or that of most people involved for that matter doubtless because an ongoing history of comic books is a hobby of mine).

While Thomas was obviously indulging in comic overstatement with that “pain of death” business, I’m inclined to take him at his word that the account of events he’s given here is essentially true — at least as he remembered them in late ’78-early ’79, roughly six years after the fact.  After all, the man’s identity as a comic book historian predates his career as a comic book professional; I really do believe that getting these details right mattered to him then, and still does.

Having said that, I have to acknowledge that Thomas slightly contradicted himself on this subject on at least one subsequent occasion.  A 1998 conversation between him and Stan Lee that was published in Comic Book Artist #2 featured the following exchange:

Stan: The memory I have is him [Gerry Conway] asking me how to write the thing [Amazing Spider-Man], and I said, “Hey, it’s your book, just keep it in character and write it.”  I took off, came back, and she was dead!  I think he was quoted somewhere as asking me whether he could kill her off and I said yes. I don’t remember that and can’t believe I would have…


Roy: I do remember you agreeing to it.  You probably felt that it was our ball — me as editor, and Gerry and John [Romita] — and it was our job.  I don’t think you wanted to stand in the way, but you were never enthusiastic about the idea.


Stan: If I agreed to it, it was probably because I had my mind on something else.  I was careless, because if I had really considered it, I would have said, “Roy, let’s talk this over.”

So, in 1979 Thomas claimed that Lee had “applauded” the notion of killing off Gwen Stacy, whereas in 1998, he recalled that Lee was “never enthusiastic” about the idea.  Personally, I don’t see any reason to believe that Thomas was prevaricating on either occasion, at least, not in regards to the basic facts of who came up with the plan and when and how it got the green light.  Perhaps the former editor-in-chief’s recollections were shaded in 1979 by a desire to stick up for his friend Gerry Conway (as well as for himself and John Romita), while in 1998, he was influenced by an understandable desire not to contradict his old boss in a face-to-face setting (at least not any more than he absolutely had to).  Or perhaps he just remembered things more accurately on one occasion than the other; if so, then I think it makes sense to go with the version of things offered twenty years closer in time to the events in question.

Let’s move on to the testimony of John Romita, whom as we’ve already noted — and as Thomas’ comments above confirm — was as involved as anyone else in setting the direction for Amazing Spider-Man during this era, regardless of his official credit on any given story.  Romita has gone on the record on the subject of Gwen Stacy’s demise a number of times over the decades, and his account has remained remarkably consistent, as far as I’ve been able to determine.  The following comes from an interview published in Back Issue #18 (Sep., 2006):

Well, we had decided we were going to kill somebody.  The original thought that was brought to us was that Aunt May would die.  I remember telling Gerry that Aunt May was too important to Peter’s secret identity for us to kill her.  I know she was a pain in the neck to a lot of readers, but she was a good foil and as long as Aunt May was around, Peter was going to be a kid.  I suggested that if we were going to kill somebody, it should be Gwen or Mary Jane.  [This was] based on Milton Caniff’s trick. Caniff used to take very important female characters in Terry and the Pirates and knock them off regularly every four or five years.  As a young kid, I was very much into Terry and the Pirates and I remember when Pat Ryan, who was the main hero, lost his girlfriend, there were people on the street the next day talking about how Raven Sherman had died.***  I thought, “This can’t be! I thought I was the only guy who thought of these characters as real people!”  It stuck in my mind that if you’re going to kill somebody, kill somebody very important, make it a real shock…

The death of Raven Sherman. Milton Caniff’s Terry and the Pirates, October 16, 1941.

…That was the only suggestion I made to Gerry when we were plotting this.  I thought if somebody was going to die, it should be Gwen. I thought she was so important, [the readers] imagined she would never die.

So that’s the Romita version.  We’ve now heard from him, Roy Thomas, and even Stan Lee (sort of); and since Gil Kane doesn’t seem to have been directly involved in the conception and planning of “The Night Gwen Stacy Died”, that just leaves Gerry Conway among the principal suspects.  As the creator who — fairly or not — has gotten the most grief for the story over the years, his account should carry a great deal of weight in helping us understand how it all went down, half a century ago.

But here, we have a problem; because Conway’s recollections, as recorded both in interviews and in his introduction to the Marvel Masterworks volume reprinting the story, find the writer contradicting himself on important details.  For example, in that 2010 intro, entitled “Turning Point”, the writer — after first acknowledging that he’s “looking back through the distorted rearview mirror of memory” to reconstruct his version of events —  goes on to recount the following:

When I first started scripting Amazing Spider-Man, I was Padawan to John Romita’s Jedi Master…  John taught me how to structure a Spider-Man story, balancing character development, plot, issue-to-issue continuity, and action.  He also taught me, the greater the emotional stakes for our heroes, the more impact a story had.  At that point John had worked on Spider-Man longer than anyone except Stan. He understood the characters better than anyone.


And he wanted to kill Aunt May.


John felt — we all felt, Stan and Roy Thomas (then editor-in-chief), and yours truly — that Spider-Man’s life had become too placid, too safe, too…normal… It was time to shake things up. John believed somebody had to die, to remind the reader (and Peter) that the world was a harsh place, heroes couldn’t save everyone, and sometimes death could not be escaped.


Killing Aunt May, John thought, would accomplish all those goals.  And he was right: Aunt May was the logical choice, by reason of age, and because her constant near-bouts with death had become a cliche.  Killing May would be unexpected: fans would be surprised we finally pulled the plug on the old lady.  Tears would be shed.


And life as Peter knew it would go on.


See, that bothered me: killing Aunt May, while upsetting for Peter, wouldn’t shake things up.  Peter would still have a fairly normal life.  Old people do die, after all.  There’s nothing unusual about that.  Sad, yes.  Tragic, no.


And Peter Parker, in my view, was all about the tragedy.


So I offered up a different victim, one whose death would be even more unexpected than May Parker’s: Peter’s girlfriend, Gwen Stacy….


The general reaction around the office was the editorial equivalent of a shrug; sure, sounds fine, let’s do it.

Here, Gerry Conway has offered essentially the same account as that of John Romita — only with the roles of the two men in the “Aunt May vs. Gwen” discussion more or less reversed.  But here’s the kicker; the 2006 Romita interview passage I quoted from earlier actually comes from a joint interview conducted with both Romita and Conway — and the direct lead-in to the Romita quote is the following statement by Conway himself:

As I remember, John, I think it was originally your idea to kill Gwen Stacy….

As the Crusty Curmudgeon so aptly put it in a recent blog post (a follow-up of sorts to his 2014 Gwen Stacy opus):  “How did Conway’s memory do a complete flip-flop in just four years?”

Frankly, your humble blogger is no more inclined to accuse Gerry Conway of conscious dishonesty than anyone else involved in this business.  So let’s just say that the writer’s self-described “distorted rearview mirror of memory” may have a few more cracks in it than those of his fellows, and allow that while his recollections may be slightly more reliable in this instance than those of the self-admittedly forgetful Stan Lee, that’s about as much as can be claimed on their behalf.

Well, that, and perhaps also the veracity of one other assertion on which Conway has been consistent pretty much every time he’s talked about these events (and about his time writing Amazing Spider-Man in general):  He had always preferred Mary Jane Watson to Gwen Stacy as a romantic interest for Peter Parker.  So, sure, you can say he had the motive to kill Gwen off.  But that doesn’t prove it was his idea in the first place — just that he was unlikely to object, once it came up.

Based on the evidence we have, I’m inclined to think that the account that Roy Thomas gave in his letter to The Comics Journal forty-four years ago is probably as close as we’re ever likely to come to the reality of what went down at Marvel’s offices six years earlier.  But I don’t expect that there will ever be incontrovertible proof, one way or the other; and I think it’s perfectly reasonable for others to arrive at different conclusions than I have.

Having explored the question of “Who killed Gwen Stacy?” in the real-world sense of who made the decision at Marvel Comics that led to the character’s demise, we now move to a second controversy that has dogged Amazing Spider-Man #121 since the day it arrived on newsstands: the matter of how and when Gwen died — and even who was ultimately (if only technically) responsible — in the story’s own fictional context.  Call it “Who killed Gwen Stacy?  The in-universe version”, if you like.

Of course, it can hardly be argued that anyone other than the Green Goblin, Norman Osborn, could ever be held culpable for the willful murder of Peter’s beloved.  It’s the Goblin, after all, who kidnaps Gwen, puts her in harm’s way atop the bridge tower, and then purposefully knocks her off the tower with his glider — a sequence of events that directly leads to her death.

But the devil is in the details; and that “SNAP!” is an awfully large detail that simply can’t be ignored.  As I’ve already stated, the panel in which it appears wasn’t at all ambiguous to me as a fifteen-year-old fan reading this story when it first came out in March, 1973.  That sound effect (lettered smaller and less colorfully than the “SWIK!” made by Spidey’s webbing, certainly, but hardly easy to miss), combined with the details of the drawn image, could mean only one thing — the abrupt end to her fall had caused Gwen Stacy’s neck to break.  And since it was Spider-Man’s webbing that had arrested Gwen’s fall so suddenly, that made our hero’s effort to save her the immediate cause of her death, technically speaking.

But if that was in fact the case, then what was the meaning of all that blather from the Goblin to Spidey about Gwen being “dead before your webbing reached her” because “the shock of a sudden fall” had killed her — as it would allegedly have killed anyone “before they struck the ground!”  As I’ve previously noted, that statement was nonsensical on the face of it.  But if we readers did choose to give that claim credence — as Gerry Conway’s script definitely seemed to — then it naturally followed that the “SNAP!” on the preceding page was meaningless, and had no business being there, other than to needlessly confuse the reader.  Why would Marvel’s storytellers do such a thing on purpose?  And if it hadn’t been done on purpose, how did it happen?

Here, it’s important to remember that this comic was created under what’s commonly referred to as “the Marvel method” — meaning that it was plotted and drawn before it was scripted.  For any given story so crafted, the plot from which the artist worked might be no more than a few sentences delivered by the writer via a phone call — or it might be a detailed page-by-page (or even panel-by-panel) synopsis.

We don’t (and probably never will) know just where within that broad range of possibilities the plot for Amazing Spider-Man #121 fell, although some comments Gerry Conway made around 2004 to interviewer Tom DeFalco for the latter’s book, Comic Creators on Spider-Man, may give us a clue.  Responding to a question about the length of his written plots (called “outlines” here) during this time, Conway said:

They ran about four pages, a paragraph for each page of the final story.  The outlines got longer and more detailed after John [Romita] left, until Ross Andru came on.  Ross and I would talk about the story, and he would just go off and break it down…  Gil [Kane] had a good story sense, but he tended to get lost in detail. Unless you told him that a specific scene should be two pages long with five panels per page, he could turn it into eight pages.  It would be brilliant and look great, but the story’s pace would go all haywire.

Issue #121 was Conway’s first full AS-M collaboration with Kane (who’d pencilled #120 over rough breakdowns by Paul Reinman, according to the Grand Comics Database).  Kane remained on the title only through #124, after which Ross Andru began his run.  So, assuming that Conway’s memory is more or less accurate on this matter (admittedly a large assumption), a written plot for “The Night Gwen Stacy Died” of four or more pages seems likely.  Even so, we don’t know exactly how much detail Conway’s outline went into in regards to the actions taken by both the Green Goblin and by Spider-Man in the story’s final scene.  Or to put it another way — we don’t know what was in the mind of Gil Kane when he drew those pages.  As indelible as those images are, without reference to the accompanying text, we can’t even tell when Gwen Stacy died, let alone how.  Was it when she was snagged by Spidey’s webbing?  Or did it happen a few moments earlier, when she was struck by the Goblin’s glider?  Could it be that she was already dead before our hero even arrived at the bridge?  After all, she was unconscious (or at least appeared to be so) throughout the entire scene.

By his own account(s), Gerry Conway himself wasn’t sure about the technical specifics of Gwen’s death.  At least, not until after he’d spent some time perusing Kane’s pencils.  And maybe not even then.  Or maybe he’d thought he knew before, but then changed his mind.

Here’s what he told the audience for a San Diego Comic Con panel in 2013:

When I looked at the artwork as Gil [Kane] had drawn it, it had this arch of the body flipping as Spider-Man catches her in the web. From an aerodynamic point of view, that is exactly what would have happened, that she would have swung in that direction. I guess Gil had drawn it in such a way that it seemed pretty obvious to me that Gwen’s neck was being broken by the catch, so I just added the sound effect.

Conway has offered a similar account on other occasions (including in the 2010 introduction to Marvel Masterworks — The Amazing Spider-Man, Vol 13 that I quoted from earlier).  But back around 2004, he told Ton DeFalco that his adding the “SNAP!” was a result of a subconscious decision.  Asked by DeFalco whether he believed that Gwen Stacy was “still alive until her neck snapped”, the writer replied:

Could be! Honestly, I don’t know — I’m not sure why I added that sound effect, or what I meant to accomplish; as I say, it was the result of a subconscious decision.  Consciously, I’ve always thought that she was already dead when Spider-Man caught her.  But if that’s true, why did I put that ‘SNAP’ in?  What was the purpose of it?  Spider-Man couldn’t hear it. It was strictly for the audience.  What was I trying to say?  That ‘SNAP’ came from a pure artistic impulse.  It was not calculated or part of a master plan to mess with the readers’ heads.  The fact that I don’t know if Gwen was alive, and you don’t know, is meaningful, because that’s when a piece of art really lives — when a story means different things to different people on different levels.  It’s one of a very few inspired moments in my career when my subconscious mind made a choice that meant so much more than my conscious mind ever intended.  That said, I’d sure like to believe she was already dead.

To be perfectly honest with you, I find Conway’s ruminations about the artistic value of ambiguity, etc., to be fascinating — compelling, even.  Nevertheless, the assertion that he added the “SNAP!” in a moment of inspiration, without consciously considering what it meant, is a long way from his later statements that it was a “pretty obvious” call to make based on what Gil Kane had drawn.

Besides which, in neither the “obvious” nor the “subconscious” explanations for the sound effect does Conway attempt to justify the Green Goblin’s “no, really, it is the fall that kills you, not the sudden stop at the end” rationale for Gwen’s death.  That nonsensical claptrap remains an orphan, as it pretty much has ever since March, 1973.

To my mind, all of Conway’s comments on this specific aspect of AS-M #121 sound suspiciously like someone trying (quite sincerely, in all probability) to manufacture a recollection of doing something that they don’t really remember doing, but figure that they must have, because, well, it was their job.  And at Marvel  in 1973, adding sound effects to a comics story after it was drawn was indeed the job of that story’s writer — under normal circumstances, at any rate.

But such a thing could have been done by someone else — someone in the Marvel offices, that is, such as editor-in-chief Roy Thomas, or art director John Romita — if that person determined, right before AS-M #121 was due to go to press, that the “shock of a sudden fall” explanation for Gwen’s death didn’t really hold water.  Even if that person didn’t remember doing so, in later years and decades.

Intriguingly, in an introduction to a 1999 reprinting of this and related stories (Spider-Man: The Death of Gwen Stacy), the editor of Marvel’s “Spider-Man” line of books at the time, Ralph Macchio, wrote:  “No one seemed to know who added the telltale ‘snap’ sound effect in that critical panel.”  Really?  No one knew?  Even in 1973?  That, frankly, is more than a little hard to believe.  On the other hand, if what Macchio meant is that by 1999, no one from that era still working for Marvel could remember any longer who came up with the “SNAP!” — well, yeah.  That I can see.

In the end, it seems to me that the ambiguity surrounding Gwen Stacy’s fate — the myriad of interpretations that are available to any given reader, which in Gerry Conway’s view has helped “The Night Gwen Stacy Died” to remain a vital work of art for all these years — may well have been less the result of subconscious inspiration than of sloppy writing and hurried, last-minute editing.  Though perhaps that distinction doesn’t really make a whole lot of difference, in the long run.  The work remains what it is, regardless of how it came to be.

Here’s a confession, however.  When I talk about the ambiguity regarding exactly how, when, and by whose specific action Gwen Stacy died, it’s not an uncertainty I myself have ever experienced… or at least not since July 10, 1973 or thereabouts.  That, you see, is the date that Amazing Spider-Man #125 went on sale.  And in that issue, Marvel Comics told me what had happened… and I believed them.  Why wouldn’t I?

In that issue, near the end of a second consecutive letters column devoted to fan correspondence over issue #121, the editorial staffer responsible for answering said correspondence — almost certainly Roy Thomas in this instance — stepped in “to explain a few points of contention”.  Prior to addressing the already fraught questions of who at Marvel had made the call to have Gwen die (“Gerry, Roy, and Stan debated the question long and hard…”) and why (“…it turned out that all had reached the same inescapable conclusion.  Gwen’s death was simply fated to happen.”), the anonymous Bullpenner offered this:

And that was that, as far as my sixteen-year-old self was concerned.  No, this explanation didn’t account for why the story’s climax had been originally crafted in such a way that reader confusion was almost sure to follow, but it did clarify the “facts” of what had happened in that final scene to my immediate and, dare I say it, lasting satisfaction.  Would it have been better to do this within the pages of an actual story, rather than in a lettercol?  Perhaps, but a direct and unequivocal statement on the letters page of Amazing Spider-Man itself, offered a mere four months after #121’s release, was official enough for me then, and remains so to this day.

But I get that it hasn’t been that way for everyone.  And, in the end, who am I to say that they — or you, if you happen to fall into that camp — are wrong?

I began this post by describing how, just prior to the publication of Amazing Spider-Man #121, my younger self seemed to be losing interest in the series, to the extent that I’d passed on buying #119 and #120 off the stands.  I suspect that it will come as a surprise to no one reading this that after being hooked by #121’s cover, and my subsequent purchase and consumption of that issue, I came right back in a month’s time to find out what would happen next, in issue #122.

But would I stick around after that?  Well, I suppose I’ve already given away that I kept buying at least through #125… still, if you’re curious to know just how long a new lease on life this “Turning Point” brought Amazing Spider-Man on your humble blogger’s “buy list”, be sure and come back in four weeks, at which time I’ll be happy to tell you.  Obviously, we’ll be looking at “The Goblin’s [not nearly] Last Stand!” then, as well.  And, naturally, I’ll also be sharing some further musings about the legacy of the whole two-part “Death of Gwen Stacy” storyline.  I hope to see you then.


*The story’s second inker, Tony Mortellaro, had actually been contributing to the art on AS-M for quite some time before actually receiving a printed credit in the books.  As John Romita explained in his 2010 introduction to Marvel Masterworks — The Amazing Spider-Man, Vol. 12:

[Inker] Mike Esposito… suggested I take on a “background man.”  Lots of artists in our craft have used this practice, virtually since the very beginning.  I would pencil the full story and ink just the figures, then hire someone to ink the backgrounds (a tougher chore than you think).


I agreed, and Mike recommended a Marvel artist working in the Bullpen who needed extra freelance income, named Tony Mortellaro.  I paid him out of my own pocket and assumed the saved time would make it pay off.  I tried it for a year or so, but after a few issues we noticed many fans were asking who “Tony Mort” was.  Other mail would ask who this “Tellaro” was. We soon traced this curiosity to Tony’s tricks in my backgrounds.  He was lettering in numerous billboards, signs and windows snippets of the phrase “Backgrounds by Tony Mortellaro.”  He had caught the interest of our ever-curious readers and promoted himself shamelessly.  I didn’t mind it, and that led to his getting credits like “inked by John Romita and Tony Mortellaro.”  Fans accepted it and I never cared…

(Just for the record, your humble blogger never caught a single one of those hidden signatures.)

**There was an even earlier precedent at Marvel — namely, the death of Nick Fury’s beloved Pamela Hawley, as chronicled in Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #18 (May, 1965).  But in addition to that story having first come out before I even started buying comic books, it had appeared in a war comics title; and since I generally avoided that genre, even when the story was reprinted in 1970 (in Sgt. Fury Annual #6), I’d missed it.

***Mr. Romita has misremembered one important detail here; Raven Sherman was the lover of a secondary character named Dude Hennick, rather than of the strip’s main man of action, Pat Ryan.  But given that this storyline was 65 years old at the time of the artist’s Back Issue interview, I think we can cut him some slack.


  1. frednotfaith2 · 14 Days Ago

    Nice synopsis, Alan! I’d read Crusty’s own takedown on this momentous tale several years ago and he did a great job too. Anyhow, although I had been haphazardly collecting AS-M for years by 1973, my regular collections, without major gaps, really started with the previous issue, 120, the 2nd half of the Hulk story. As I recounted in the Marvel Masterworks Board, I do remembe r purchasing 121 but for the life of me can’t remember my specific immediate reaction to the story — perhaps my still 10 year old mind was too blown by it all. And I well remember the dominant fury of the fan mail subsequently printed in The Spider’s Web pages. including one suggesting Gerry be thrown off a bridge himself! Years later, perhaps after reading Crusty’s posts, I re-read the story, and actually found myself crying, over a fictional character killed off in a story in a comic I’d read decades earlier. Maybe a good thing my only housemates are cats so I didn’t have to explain myself! Sometimes I do get rather melancholy.
    As to “who to blame?”, Romita’s explanation seems the most likely, with Thomas’ initial version more closer to the truth than the later one, when conversing with Lee (I think Thomas would be much too polite to argue face to face with Lee over something contentious). I could very well imagine Lee being initially enthusiastic about such an “exciting” storyline that was sure to get a lot of attention, without considering that a lot of that attention might be negative. And being more or less put on the spot by negative attention while on the speaking circuit, Lee likely developed a counter-memory of either not remembering discussing the story at all before it was written and drawn, or only reluctantly agreeing to it.
    This was the first comicbook story I recall reading in which a major character was killed in the “present” time — that is, in an entirely new content comic I was reading when it was new, rather than either a reprint or a recap of long past events, such as the murder of Uncle Ben recounted in AS-M #94 (which I had gotten when it was new, but that was among the comics thrown out when my family moved to Salt Lake City). Decades later, as I delved more into what was going on at Marvel in the years before I started collecting regularly, I realized there had been a rash of superheroes’ girlfriends being killed off over the past few years at Marvel, with Iron Man, Captain Marvel as well as Subby all struck by tragedy. But, of course, none of them had the stature of Spider-Man. In the worst way possible, Spider-Man had failed to save the day. But then, one of the reasons I grew to enjoy Marvel Comics over their Distinguished Competition was that their characters were more relatable to me, they had distinct personalities and were fallible, rather than stoic, imperturbable god-like beings. At least that was my perception built by what I’d read from both companies over the prior few years at that point. Certainly, most Marvel comics had a great deal more heavy drama. And with this issue, Gerry, Gil, Johnny & Roy had delivered one of the most dramatic superhero yarns ever published. Like it or loathe it, a true milestone and most readers of 50 years ago recognized it as such by the time they got to the end with that rare last page splash, Spider-Man’s enraged vow, and, finally, the story title at the very bottom. Actually, now, I do remember my feelings on that first reading. It was of being stunned — and very anxiously awaiting the next issue. Fortunately, it’d be well over a year before there’d be another gap in my AS-M collection (entirely due to my not finding it at my usual comics source), which was 141, wherein began the subplot of Gwen Stacy’s “return”.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Steve McBeezlebub · 14 Days Ago

    I bought this at my usual drug store and remember reading it while waiting for the bus. Not the place to be reading something that disturbed and shocked me as much as this issue did! I doubt I read Dorma’s death yet so it was a first for me. Of course, Sub-Mariner writers were way too kill happy with major characters who had years of story left in them so my reaction would have been much different.

    I’ve read in more than one place (don’t remember where. My mind can recall things like that but not citations) that a key element to offing Gwen was there was nowhere to go with the relationship besides marriage and that was off the table. Since then, I’ve always wished they had just had her find out Peter was Spider-Man, the man who she thought responsible for her father’s death and have her leave him and the title. (Maybe Spider-Writers were just as kill happy, eh?)

    Liked by 4 people

    • Joe Gill · 14 Days Ago

      I think you hit on a better ending for the Peter-Gwen saga! That would have been dramatic and also opened ended, leaving perhaps future writers to add some later pieces even years later.

      Liked by 2 people

    • frednotfaith2 · 14 Days Ago

      It was a response (by Thomas?) in one of the letters pages that used as one of the reasons for killing Gwen that the relationship “had nowhere to go” except for her and Peter to get married but they felt Peter wasn’t ready for that. Which sounded bogus to me back then. More lilkely, Roy, Gerry, et al, felt that having Peter marry Gwen would negatively impact Spider-Man’s popularity with its readership and otherwise wreck the standard formula of Peter as a smart and brave guy who also happened to have a lot of bad luck, and had to keep his identity a secret. Killing off Gwen was much easier than having to figure out how to write Spider-Man as a married man. Of course, much later, after much change in the staff, they did go that route, but even later they went through ridiculous hoops to undo Peter having ever been married. I’d stopped directly reading Spider-Man’s exploits long before that, but reading about Peter making a deal with Mephisto to save Aunt May and accept the world being redone so that he and MJ had never been married just struck me as incredibly stupid.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Steve McBeezlebub · 14 Days Ago

        I agree. It took Superior Spider-Man to get me back reading but I stopped again when the current writer took over.


  3. Chris A. · 14 Days Ago

    Great issue, beautifully drawn and with a decent script, but #122 is the stunner: very hard-hitting story, especially for a pre-teen reader (which I was at the time), and it holds up. #123 was pretty heavy as well, and serves as a strong denouement to this storyline. #124, except for one page of Peter Parker venting about Jameson’s accusations of Spider-Man being a killer, was otherwise back to business as usual.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. DontheArtistformerlyknownasfrodo628 · 14 Days Ago

    I remember being quite upset at the death of Gwen Stacy. I was very much a Pete/Gwen “shipper” and prefered her greatly over Mary Jane. I’ve also heard the story that Gwen was killed “because they had run out of directions for the character to go,” and while that may have been true, given the practices of the time, it such lazy story-telling that I can’t believe they’d actually admit it.

    For me, the Death of Gwen is a missed opportunity. The Goblin kidnaps her and somehow manages to knock her out. We don’t question this because, how else is Peter going to protect his secret identity unless Gwen is out like a light? And she remains unconscious all the way to her death. But Gwen was going to die! It didn’t matter if she found out Peter’s secret. I think it would have been a better, far more seminal story, if Gwen had been awake and discovered Pete’s secret through the Goblin’s ranting and if Conway had found a lull in the battle for them to discuss it and work some things out. Having Gwen forgive Peter for what happened to her dad (as well as what was about to happen to her) would have been a powerful way for Gwen to make her exit and it’s a shame no one took Gwen seriously enough in those days to grant her a little agency in her own demise. PLUS…if you’re talking about giving Gwen new options and a new direction for the character, knowing that Pete was Spidey would have been a HUGE new exploration for the character! Not as exciting perhaps as killing her off for no real reason, but it just goes to show that “new directions” were there to find if anyone had been looking at all.

    Of course, the real crime in regard to ASM #121 is that Romita’s inks are so heavy over Kane’s pencils that most of the time you can’t recognize that Kane was the penciller to begin with.

    Thanks for the analysis, Alan. If anyone needs me for the rest of the day, I’ll be over at the Crustymud blogsite, making my way painstakingly over his massive dismantling of all the BTS of this same issue.

    Liked by 3 people

    • crustymud · 14 Days Ago

      Thanks Don, I certainly appreciate the traffic!

      I think Kane’s work certainly remains recognizable, but you’re right—Romita really contributed a ton to the visuals here. I think it was in either the appropriate Masterworks volume or in the Romita book Twomorrows put out a while back (or possibly both) that they reprinted Kane’s original pencils and you can see how much Romita did. Personally, I think Romita improved on Kane’s work, so I’m not complaining. And I think Kane did a great job to begin with, so one thing I will never negatively criticize regarding ASM #121 is the art; it’s superb.

      Liked by 3 people

      • DontheArtistformerlyknownasfrodo628 · 13 Days Ago

        Nothing against the over-all quality of the artwork, Crusty. But as a former penciller-wannabe myself, it really bugs me when you’ve got a genuine visual stylist like Kane and you bury him under the heavy inks of another artist. I remember DC once had Jim
        Aparo ink Walt Simonson on a Batman story and it just looked like Aparo’s usual work; not a trace of Simonson to it at all.

        Liked by 2 people

        • crustymud · 13 Days Ago

          Sometimes a heavy-handed inker can be a blessing; other times a curse. I certainly understand where you’re coming from, Don.

          Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t know why I never noticed it before, but you are correct: Gwen is unconscious for her entire death scene. I don’t know if the fault of Gil Kane for penciling her as passed out, or if Conway’s plot specified it (Alan’s correct, the “Marvel Method” can really make it difficult to pin down who’s responsible for what) but either way it’s a bad call, making her completely passive in her own demise. She doesn’t even get to learn why any of this is happening or try to fight back against the Goblin. That’s not good writing.

      Liked by 3 people

      • DontheArtistformerlyknownasfrodo628 · 13 Days Ago

        It is bad writing. If Gerry had just let Gwen have a voice in her own death, he could have opened up several of these “new avenues” for her character to take. The whole idea that Gwen could find out Peter was Spider-man and then leave him over the death of her dad (and possibly come back later when she realized it wasn’t really his fault), would have been a phenomenal avenue to pursue. I think the one admission that Thomas or Conway or Romita were never able to make is that they figured the only way to “shake up” the book was to kill someone and never really considered any other option for writing Gwen out of the book.

        Liked by 3 people

        • frasersherman · 12 Days Ago

          If they’d done that there’d be grumbling that “Stan already did that with Peter and Betty! Conway can’t come up with his own ideas!”


          • Alan Stewart · 12 Days Ago

            But Betty *didn’t* find out that Peter was Spidey — at least, not on Stan Lee’s watch. Or was that not what you meant?


          • frasersherman · 12 Days Ago

            No, I was confused — I was thinking of her hating Spider-Man for her brother’s death and Peter realizing they could never be together.

            Liked by 1 person

  5. frasersherman · 14 Days Ago

    I wasn’t a Spider-Man fan back then so while Gwen’s death was a shock, it didn’t have much emotional impact. Rereading now, I still find the death of Norman the next issue and Peter’s sad reaction move me more. But that’s me. I can’t say I’m much of a Gwen fan either — she’s always seemed to me like a typical Lee love interest (no disrespect intended to the many people who feel passionately about her).
    Total agreement with Romita. It’s very disappointing to read a Somebody Dies issue and go “Oh, it was only X.” Though in the 21st century even that would be more emotion than I can usually summon up — too many resurrections.
    What If 24 (What If Spider-Man Saved Gwen Stacey?) assumes that yes, he could have caught her without the impact killing Gwen. Which would mean that letter column observation is wrong and Peter really blew it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chris A. · 14 Days Ago

      That What If? issue was superb, and showed a dramatic direction the regular series could have explored.

      Liked by 1 person

    • frednotfaith2 · 14 Days Ago

      Another aspect Conway didn’t explore was the guilt Peter would have felt because Gwen was murdered (even if it her death was specifically caused by Peter’s attempt to save her, it was Norman Osborn who purposely put her life in danger, so legally he was the murderer; in a famous real life instance, when Charles Guiteau shot President James Garfield, the bullet wound itself did not kill Garfield – instead, it was the efforts of the medical professionals who kept stupidly poking into Garfield’s wound with unwashed fingers and unwashed instruments, heedless of existent medical info that doing so would spread harmful micro-organisms, that caused the infection that ultimately killed Garfield. Guiteau tried using that fact in his defense, which didn’t work because he had shot at Garfield intending to murder him and it was that attempt that resulted in his death, even if indirectly). Still, Norman only kidnapped Gwen because he found her while seeking Peter, whom he hated because Peter was Spider-Man. And it was Peter who made the decision on three previous occasions to not reveal Norman’s alter ego as the criminal Green Goblin. Of course, in the funnybook world, whether Marvel or DC, or whichever, no top baddie ever stays in jail or even dead for long. By now, the Joker has probably been imprisoned or institutionalized well over 100 times but keeps getting loose again and again to commit murder and mayhem again and again.
      After AS-M 122, Norman Osborn seemed permanently dead and stayed that way for a good long time, but eventually it was determined he was more profitable alive than dead by the real gods of the Marvel universe, mainly whoever the top dogs and current writers are at the moment. While they’re in charge, they can change the past, present and the immediate future — at least until they’re gone and someone else takes over and changes everything yet again.

      Liked by 3 people

      • frasersherman · 13 Days Ago

        I know that wouldn’t have worked for me (the guilt bit) even though it makes sense: as a teenager I found Peter’s moping over Gwen insufferably tedious. Now that I’m an adult and married I’m way more sympathetic, though I won’t know if Conway’s handling of grief works unless I read them again.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. Chris A. · 14 Days Ago

    Of course, what “really” happened is that Gerry Conway was watching television late one night in early 1973 and saw Star Trek: City on the Edge of Forever where Joan Collins/Edith Keeler dies while Kirk is helpless to save her (without ruining the future of mankind, no less), followed by On Her Majesty’s Secret Service where James Bond, having finally tied the knot with Diana Rigg/Tracy, watches her die in a drive by shooting, courtesy of Spectre.


  7. frasersherman · 13 Days Ago

    Since you mentioned Pamela Hawley — I read the issue relatively recently on the Marvel app — I’m really surprised nobody’s ever done more with her or her family other than a brief appearance in Dr. Strange. I’d have figured Roy would use her in Invaders (which takes place well before the Howling Commandos are formed) or something but no.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Chris A. · 13 Days Ago

    Alan wrote: “Some (though not, I must confess, your humble blogger) would even go so far as to call this issue the precise dividing point between the Silver Age of Comics and the Bronze.”

    I would say the death of Captain Stacy in Amazing Spider-Man #90, cover dated November, 1970, would be a better contender for Marvel’s entry into the Bronze Age. However, DC had prior landmark issues in 1970, such as Detective Comics #395, cover dated January, 1970 which was the first Denny O’Neil/Neal Adam’s pairing on the Batman character, and their work on Green Lantern/Green Arrow began with #76, cover dated April, 1970.

    Liked by 1 person

    • frasersherman · 13 Days Ago

      We debated the boundaries of the Silver/Bronze Age over at Atomic Junk Shop a while back so I’ll link to it:

      Liked by 1 person

      • Chris A. · 11 Days Ago

        Thanks! I’ll check it out. As for collectors, there are golden, silver, bronze, and “modern” age milar bags. Wouldn’t it be funny if the final arbiter were the size of the comics in relation to the bag? As you know, over the years not only did the page count decrease in U.S. comics, but the horizontal width of the covers and interior pages as well.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Mike W. · 13 Days Ago

    I was only a year old in 1973, so I obviously didn’t read this issue then. But I did read the Marvel Tales reprint in late 1978, which I think had the exact same cover. I remember the debate about asphyxiating while falling was still going on then, as I asked a friend of mine if that was true and he said yes. (I was six years old and he was two years older than me, so I assumed he knew everything.)

    I was always an MJ fan anyway, so Gwen’s death didn’t bother me too much. In hindsight, I think (as others here have pointed out) that Stan had basically written Gwen into a corner; she’d become rather insipid compared to the firecracker she’d started out as, and there was no way she and Pete could get married with her hatred of Spider-Man, so she had to go.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I have to be honest, I wasn’t especially looking forward to this one because it’s such a depressing issue that has continued to affect the Spider-Man stories & characters to the present day. But at the same time, I am interested in reading it. As I’ve said before, I started reading comic books regularly in the late 1980s, so for mew Gwen Stacy was always dead, always Peter Parker’s girlfriend who was brutally murdered by the Green Goblin. And she is one of the very, very few Marvel characters to die and stay dead. So whenever I read any older stories in which she appeared, in the back of my head I always thought of her as someone who was fated to die. So it was interesting to read the thoughts of someone such as yourself who was already following Amazing Spider-Man for several years when this issue came out, because for you Gwen was a fixture of the series, and your perspective on this was very different.

    As to the in-story question of “Who killed Gwen Stacy?” The answer is absolutely, positively the Green Goblin. It was the Goblin who knocked Gwen off the top of the Brooklyn Bridge. Gwen would absolutely have died if she hit the water. The fact that Spider-Man tried to save her and seemingly caused her neck to snap, killing her, is beside the point. If he hadn’t acted, Gwen would definitely have died anyway.

    I am not a legal expert by any means, but this feels akin to felony murder. As per the Cornell Universe website:

    “The felony murder rule is a law in most states and under federal law that allows anyone who is accused of committing a violent felony to be charged with murder if the commission of that felony results in the death of someone.”

    The Goblin was in the middle of committing numerous felonies: kidnapping, assault, attempted murder on Spider-Man. The Goblin knocked Gwen off the bridge, setting in motion the events that led to her death. Legally he is responsible, and no one else.

    Of course, the unfortunate fact is that Peter Parker, who already blames himself for Uncle Ben’s death, would going forward now also blame himself for failing to save Gwen, for putting her in danger in the first place, for not thinking clearly enough to try a safer method of catching her. I mean, it’s not his fault, the poor guy had a terrible head cold when this happened, there’s no way he could be thinking clearly, but unfortunately human emotion is almost always going to trump logic.

    Anyway, with the benefit of hindsight some fans have come to regard Gwen’s murder as one of the earliest examples of “fridging,” of killing a female love interest to create tragedy & drama for a male hero. Is it? I don’t know. All I can say is that by the standards of the early 1970s this story probably seemed perfectly reasonable, but in 2023 it is not something that a lot of creators or fans would be comfortable with. Time marches on.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Stu Fischer · 13 Days Ago

      You are exactly right in how the matter would be perceived legally. A similar real-life scenario is when an EMT or Good Samaritan tries to help out a victim of a crime and accidentally makes the situation worse. The legal blame still goes to the perpetrator who created the situation.

      That said, it certainly doesn’t make it easier for Peter Parker knowing that his rescue attempt caused Gwen to die immediately. While I hate the fact that Gwen was killed (as I write at length in my own comment) setting the situation up so that Spider Man would be tortured in this way was a masterstroke of story-telling.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Oh, poor Peter! Marvel’s creators really put the guy through the physical & emotional wringer.

        I guess it shows just how effective Lee, Ditko and Romita were in developing Peter that we feel such empathy for a fictional character.

        Liked by 2 people

  11. Stu Fischer · 13 Days Ago

    Alan, as usual, I’m behind in reading your blog posts (the super-hero ones I follow) and even further behind in commenting on them, but I had to drop everything to read this one and make my comments. As you probably remember, if no one else, I’ve been itching to get at this one ever since I found your blog. So many comments to make, I apologize in advance.

    First off, back in 1973 when I read this as a 12-year-old, I was shocked, furious and, yes, mournful. I suspect that a big reason that Gwen’s death affected me strongly, more so than the deaths of Dorma and Una (Captain Marvel) is that the characters involved were so much easier to really connect with.

    After all, the true secret to Spider-Man’s runaway success, certainly in the beginning, was that it’s easy to relate to an ordinary teenager with ordinary relationships and ordinary personal problems. Namor is an obnoxious, insufferable prince of an undersea kingdom. He was born a prince and his wife, Dorma, was not like anyone you would meet in real life. Captain Marvel and Una were part of an alien invasion force (even if they weren’t as warlike as the rest of them). Since one of the prior commenters mentioned Iron Man, Janice Cord was a human being, but she was the rich daughter of an industrialist and Tony Stark was a millionaire playboy (plus Janice Cord wasn’t a longstanding character).

    On the other hand, Gwen Stacy could have been a young reader’s big sister or (in my case) baby-sitter or camp counselor. She was pretty, intelligent, fun, KIND AND CARING (cf: Mary Jane Watson). She and Peter, to use the parlance of the time really dug each other. Of course, what I didn’t realize at the time was that Gwen was written like most of the Marvel female love interests of the time (hero or “normal person”): highly emotional, impulsive, clingy, worried and dependent. Sadly for me, this portrayal of women gave me a skewed version of how girls/women were in the real world as I went on in life, but enough about me.

    Oddly (and jarringly) years later when I read Steve Ditko’s early Gwen issues, I was shocked to see that the character was originally drawn as an imperious, stuck up, nasty co-ed that treated Peter coldly. One of these days I’ll have to read in MU how and when that changed. Anyway, the Gwen Stacy who died was someone that I think all readers could identify with as someone they knew and maybe even were able to feel for Peter as they felt that it might happen to them (I just realized today that my friend in law school who suffered the murder of his girlfriend when he was in college and Peter Parker were alike in terms of the general horrific loss).

    Adding to my anger, was the fact that Mary Jane then moved in to be Peter’s love interest. I hated Mary Jane. To me she was a vacuous, flighty, unserious party girl who did what she wanted and didn’t care about anyone else. As Alan pointed out, the most notorious example of this was when she dumped Harry Osborne leading to Harry becoming addicted to drugs. However, Alan left out the worst part of this in this blog post. Breaking up with Harry Osborne isn’t cruel in itself, however Mary Jane then started hitting on Peter IN HARRY’S PRESENCE. Aside from the disgraceful tackiness and meanness in general, Pete was Harry’s roommate and Pete was obviously serious with Gwen (nice way for MJ to treat Gwen). Peter angrily told Mary Jane to knock it off more than once, but she wouldn’t.

    Rereading issue #121 this weekend, I just ruefully realized that poor Gwen suffered for Mary Jane’s sins. Early in the issue, Norman Osborn blames Harry’s friends for Harry’s addiction and promises revenge. Now if Norman had kidnapped Mary Jane and threw her off the bridge to her death, that would still (obviously) be wrong, but it would be karma.

    For the last few years, in my comments to your various blog posts, I have trashed Gerry Conway, calling him “The Man Who Killed Gwen Stacy”. Truth be told, I did not feel that way specifically back in 1973. Back then, I blamed Marvel in general, even though it would have made sense for me to blame Conway, not knowing at the time (or for another 40 plus years) about the Marvel method. Speaking of the Marvel Method, how ANYONE (myself included) could think that Gerry Conway came up with this and executed (sorry) this on his own is puzzling. Gil Kane and Roy Thomas would have to have been deeply involved in the issue at least. As it turns out, as you pointed out, John Romita was calling a lot of the shots behind the scenes as well. So Conway may have pulled the trigger but he clearly wasn’t the mastermind and ringleader of this (in any event, since this is a visual medium, Gil Kane and John Romita might have been said to have pulled the trigger).

    What led me to start dumping on Conway was that in 2014 I read the Sean Howe book “Marvel Comics: The Untold Story”. That was the first book I ever read about the making of comic books from back in the time I first read them. While I really enjoyed the book, I now realize how Survey Course 101 it is. Regarding ASM #121, the book pretty much points the finger at Conway, including what I consider infuriating comments about how much he hated Gwen Stacy as being boring and found Mary Jane to be much more exciting and a better love interest for Peter. Howe also includes how Stan Lee claimed that he had never heard about killing off Gwen until after it happened and then was upset and said he would have stopped it if he knew. So I believed for a few years that Conway had hated Gwen Stacy so much that he deliberately got through a story killing her off that Stan Lee knew nothing about, just so that he could replace Mary Jane as Peter’s love interest.

    Since then, I have read three Stan Lee biographies, “Slugfest” (thanks Alan for the recommendation a few years back) and your blog posts and realize that there is much more to the story and that Gwen Stacy actually was the victim of a “conspiracy”. Unlike you Alan, I believe that Stan (as usual) deliberately shaded (twisted?) the truth about his involvement in Gwen’s death to preserve his popularity. That said, I do find it highly plausible that Stan, having left editing for publishing and being eager to leave the day-to-day production of comic books behind, told Roy and the others that it was up to them to do as they saw fit whether Stan liked the result or not. Anyway, bottom line, while I still hate Conway for his thinking on Gwen vs. Mary Jane, I now know that he is not the John Wilkes Booth of this story. P.S. Yes, I have always preferred Mary Ann over Ginger and Betty over Veronica.

    Regarding the manner of Gwen;s death, I must disagree with you Alan on how Gwen’s death from Spider-Man’s web would be obvious. Granted that I was 12 years old at the time and really did not pay attention to specific sound effects. Nonetheless, I still don’t think it would have been easy for me to catch the “snap!”. There are two sound effects in the panel, a medium sized “SWIK!”, which represents Spider-Man’s webbing and a much smaller “snap!” crowded at the edge of the panel, in white, set off near Gwen’s similarly colored hair. Even if the attention grabbing larger “SWIK!’ wasn’t there, I submit that many readers apart from myself would have missed the smaller “snap!” sound effect. Interestingly, the later discussions about this that you cited all capitalize “SNAP!” as if it were easy to see in the original. I don’t think that it was. I know that I didn’t think that Spider Man’s web catch broke Gwen’s neck until I saw the same Roy Thomas explanation you read in the letters column for ASM # 125.

    In any event, that definitely became the canon response for what happened to Gwen and how she died because several times after that (I’ve now read all of the Spider Man books through February 1995) Spider Man remembers not to stop someone from a long fall with his webbing so what happened to Gwen does not happen again.

    I’ve taken up to much of your blogspace already, I probably could go on about this almost as long as crustymud (maybe even more, and I’ll be digging through his extensive comments tomorrow on the actual 50th anniversary of the issue coming out) so I’ll stop for now. I’ll close by saying that, despite the fact that she’s a fictional character, I strangely feel as strongly upset today about her death as I did in 1973. I watched the MCU version of Gwen’s death in the theater with a sick feeling in my gut waiting for it to happen and then actually teared up when it did. Perhaps it has to do with the death of a realistic innocent (and the photographer in Marvel’s outstanding “Marvels” miniseries in 1994 had the exact same reaction to Gwen’s death).

    Finally, regarding killing off Aunt May, by coincidence, in my never-ending project to read all the Marvel books from after I stopped reading in October 1979, I got to Spider-Man #400 yesterday. I read them in order and it really did come up next. :O

    Liked by 3 people

  12. brucesfl · 13 Days Ago

    For me personally, while your review was very good, this was a tough one to relive. I was also 15 when this comic came out. I also thought when I saw the cover that I had no idea who would die and didn’t really believe the hype anyway. Well. of course I was wrong and thoroughly shocked and upset by the ending. I started reading Spider-Man with #53, and was a fan of Gwen from the beginning of reading Spider-Man. She was the perfect girl friend and the kind of girl friend anyone would dream of having. I did write a letter to Marvel (the first letter I ever wrote to Marvel, but it would not be the last). It was polite but of the variety of “how could you…” I don’t remember the details but, no it did not get published. I do remember the letter columns that came out over the next few months and the explanations that came out from Marvel editorial. Some were like what was commented on by others above. There was also: “Gwen and Peter had been through lot of inconsequential ups and downs over the past few months and unless they got married nothing else would make sense but Peter is not ready for marriage so this was the only choice that made sense…it was a hard decision to make….” Some of this is paraphrasing but that is the gist of it. I think I sort of accepted it at the time, but looking back on it now, as others have pointed out, did they really have to kill Gwen off? And in a manner that as you Alan, have pointed out, is somewhat confusing (is it Peter’s fault? fully the Goblin’s? not really clear). They could have broken them up. But it’s clear from interviews that they wanted to “shake up” the book. [Side note: Not clear why they felt this way because in 1973 Spider-Man was Marvel’s number 1 book. although I believe at this time Superman still sold the biggest numbers…believe it or not… I have seen interviews where Conway and Romita said they wanted to shake up the book because it had gotten “too comfortable.”] It is interesting to speculate what might have happened had Stan stayed with the book. Despite whatever Stan has said in later years about Mary Jane (whose personality changed completely when married to Peter), it is clear that Stan loved Gwen and it is unlikely Stan would have killed her off. In fact, in interviews Gerry speculated that the reason Stan liked Gwen so much is that Stan saw her as a representation of his wife Joan. As others have pointed out here or in various columns, there was also insufficient buildup to Gwen’s death. Gerry had only written Spider-Man for about a year and had not written many scenes with Gwen (and even more problematic was the reprints in 116-118…yes there were a few new scenes added…but not much) or Gwen and Peter. As has been noted, she was passed out and not even able to react to what was going on with the Goblin. Poor Gwen. The other sad point was that while Gwen was the perfect girl friend, Peter was not a great boy friend. He never explained to Gwen his constant disappearances in a way that made any sense, rarely was there for her when she needed him, and immediately jumped to false conclusions that she was dumping him for Flash…and yet she always defended him! In retrospect, this makes him look pretty bad….and makes her look even better! I am aware of the criticisms of Gwen but that’s the way Stan wrote her. I thought she was a great character and I’m still sad she’s gone. She was kind and unselfish. I’ll have some comments next month about Mary Jane. The problem with MJ was how she was written, especially by Stan. One last additional comment about the art. I have seen original uninked pages by Gil Kane for 121, 122 and 123. It is very clear that John Romita did a tremendous amount of work on those pages and it is incredible and stunning work. Gil Kane is great but so is John Romita and the combination of the two is truly classic and amazing. Alan, thanks for another excellent analysis, but it was a sad and difficult remembrance for me.

    Liked by 3 people

    • frasersherman · 13 Days Ago

      From some comments I’ve made, I think part of the issue was that Spider-Man had built its rep as a series where characters changed — which might be harder to do with a marriage — and also where Peter rarely came out on top (the same argument has been made against being married to MJ).
      I sometimes wonder how much of it is that as few heroes are married, writers don’t have much practice writing married-people drama. Lots of standard single-person tropes are off the table (first date, you fall in love but she doesn’t, he has dark secret and you have to break up, etc.). Plus marriage is so often treated as the end game rather than a new set of challenges.
      When I read it as a teen I never once thought of Peter as having ultimate or even proximate responsibility for her death. It’s Norman all the way. I still think so.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Okay, I’ll comment on the credits, as well, specifically John Romita’s credit.

    It’s unfortunate that Romita did not receive a co-plotting credit for this issue. Well, that’s true for any of the others to which he significantly contributed to the plot, but especially in this case as this is such a pivotal moment in Spider-Man continuity.

    Looking at the artwork, yes, it appears to be much more Romita than Gil Kane. I’ve seen some of Kane’s “Preliminary Original Art” on the Heritage Auctions website, and it is VERY loose, just breakdowns, but I don’t know if Romita then did finishes over that, or if there was an interim step where Kane did full pencils based on his prelims and Romita then worked over those. Either way, it does feel like Romita would nowadays be credited as a “finisher” or “embellisher” for his work here.

    As for Tony Mortellaro, it’s long been a common practice for assistants to do background inking. It’s how a lot of artists actually started out in the comic book biz. It’s not too often that the background inkers get a credit, though, so it was good of Romita to give Mortellaro one.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Chris A. · 10 Days Ago

    When John Romita took over Spidey with #39 his drawing became the new “look” of the book in short order, whether he was inked by Mike Esposito, Jim Mooney, or himself, or whether he was inking Gil Kane. Even when John Buscema pencilled a few issues, inked by Jim Mooney, it had that overall Romita flavour (though Kane and Buscema tended to draw figures in more ambitious and unconventional poses than Romita). And all of the inkers seemed to be working with some of that Joe Sinnott feathered “sheen” which became the Marvel house style for more than a decade. Neal Adams and Tom Palmer on X-Men and Avengers were exceptions to the rule.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Lar Gand · 9 Days Ago

    Two things I find interesting about this cover:
    1) Although the main copy blurb reads like typical over-heated hyperbole, it’s actually 100% honest. It really is an unexpected turning point for Peter Parker. It really is almost unbelievable. And “How can he go on?” really is a fair question.
    2) If you accept the cover copy at face value, there is only one possible answer to the question of “Who?” Axing Jameson — a regular character since day one who was still a vital part of the series (as opposed to Flash, for example) — would be a shock, but I think Spider-man would somehow find a way to soldier on. Losing Aunt May would be devastating for Peter, but — if someone’s gonna die — almost expected. Only Gwen checks all of the boxes.
    So, like any good mystery when considered in hindsight, the answer seems logical and obvious.

    Liked by 2 people

    • frasersherman · 9 Days Ago

      I’m not so sure. If Harry died because Peter failed to save him that would be traumatic enough — and more probable than losing the Great Love. Though I didn’t bother thinking it through that much when I saw it.

      Liked by 1 person

    • crustymud · 9 Days Ago

      How Pete goes on might be the thorniest question raised here, and I got into it in great detail in my own post, which Alan so generously linked. If you want to skip ahead to this part of the discussion, it’s on page 3. But here’s the gist of it:

      “Just consider how Spider-Man got his start: It all began with the death of Uncle Ben, who died because Spider-Man failed to act. Now Gwen Stacy has died precisely because he *did* act; because Spider-Man fought the good fight, which led to his rivalry with the Goblin, which led directly to her becoming a target and dying. With Gwen’s death comes the awful, existential conclusion that nothing Peter does matters. Whether he acts or fails to act, he loses either way—so why go on? The two deaths are the perfect bookends of his career as Spider-Man. In the first, he learned a lesson; found some meaning that enabled him to carry on. In the second, the only conclusion he could possibly draw is that there never was, nor could there ever be, any meaning to his absurd existence.”

      Liked by 1 person

      • Chris A. · 8 Days Ago

        When various writers take the character(s) into conflicting directions, “absurd existence” takes on a new meaning – which is why I called it a day with Spidey by #200, though I could have done so by #123. And now with all these “alternate universe” characters like Spider-Gwen, Marvel has found new ways to milk a long-dry cow.

        Liked by 2 people

  16. John Minehan · 8 Days Ago

    The “title on the last page” thing was also used in another well-remembered Gil Kane comic, Green Lntern #47 (1966), in which the title was “Green Lantren Lives Again.”

    I wonder if Gil Kane came up with it (either time)?

    Liked by 1 person

    • frasersherman · 5 Days Ago

      One issue of Captain Carrot parodies the Last Page Title by announcing they’re a Serious Book that does arty things like that, then admitting when they get to it that the title kind of sucks.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Cornelius Featherjaw · 7 Days Ago

    Though I agree with the other commenters here that Gwen was robbed of her agency by having her unconscious for her death, I think perhaps the intention of the writers was to attempt to make the already traumatic story a little less distressing by at least not having Gwen plunge screaming to her death.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. lordsinclair · 6 Days Ago

    The only way the “shock of a fall from that height would have killed anyone” claim would have made even marginal sense is if Norman was blaming a shock-induced heart-attack, and even then you couldn’t apply it universally as some folks are made of sterner stuff. In no way could it apply to Gwen as she was unconscious at the time. It’s hard to be terrified of a situation you’re not even awake to experience.

    I think the reason the dialog doesn’t match the action is simple: someone got cold feet at the last minute when they realized it was Spidey’s action that sealed the deal. Killing off a girlfriend is safe territory — it happened on Bonanza at least once a season — but to make the hero’s actions responsible? No way; we can’t have our heroes making mistakes like that.

    What’s amazing, given the general direction of the book, is that Marvel DIDN’T have Spidey see what he’d done and then milk it for all it was worth. By this point, Uncle Ben was so far in the past many readers only knew him as a long-dead corpse and were ready for Peter to forgive himself and move on, but whoa, now he’s contributed directly to the death of his true love. Think of all the months and years of self-pity and recriminations we could’ve gotten out of that; Peter waking up in horror every night to dreams that go “Snap!” and dissolving into a blubbering wreck whenever anyone eats a bowl of Rice Krispies…

    I choose to believe they just ran out of room for word balloons and Norman’s “A fall from that height would kill anyone…before they struck the ground!” was supposed to be followed by, “It doesn’t matter what causes the sudden stop at terminal velocity! Aren’t you supposed to be a science major?”

    Of course if we’re going to acknowledge real-world physics, then we’d have to explain all the times Superman catches Lois Lane after a high-altitude fall by sticking out a pair of arms that are harder than diamond. She should be in at least 3 pieces.

    Liked by 1 person

    • frasersherman · 5 Days Ago

      I’m not sure moving on from Uncle Ben really mattered — Brian Cronin has pointed out how little Uncle Ben came up in that era. Captain Stacey’s death was more recent and treated as a bigger deal — in Peter’s fever-dream in Spider-Man #100, it’s Stacey who gives him the Don’t Give Up message.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Chris A. · 4 Days Ago

    If the “snap” display lettering had not been put there at the last minute (if it really were a last minute addition, that is) then Gwen would have evidently been dead before Spidey’s webbing caught her, with the implication she was already dead *before* the Green Goblin knocked her off the bridge. If that were so, why would he tell Spidey a fall like that would kill anyone before hitting the ground? Because mind games were a large part of his barrage of attacks upon Spider-Man. And even with the “snap” Gwen *still* may have been dead already. I actually like some of the unintentionally open-ended ambiguity of this key Bronze Age comics event…even though it was awful to kill off such a lovely character.

    Liked by 1 person

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