Amazing Spider-Man #121-122
Issue(s): Amazing Spider-Man #121, Amazing Spider-Man #122
He takes her to the Brooklyn Bridge. Spider-Man follows, and the Goblin knocks Gwen off the bridge. Peter tries to save her but when he reels her up, she is dead. Spider-Man swears that he will kill the Goblin. The Goblin escapes but Spider-Man hunts him down at his warehouse with help from Robbie Robertson. Peter backs off from killing the Goblin at the last minute but the Goblin is then impaled by his malfunctioning glider.
This was a pretty bold move for Conway's third solo issue. He started at Marvel at around the age of 16 and was only 19 when writing this story. Conway's earliest stuff is terrible, at least when sampled randomly, but this story is quite good. I've read a lot of criticism of the choice to kill Gwen Stacy, and you can argue about that choice if you want, but the execution here is pretty good for Marvel at this time.
There's a lot of debate about how exactly Gwen died, whether she was dead to start with, if she died due to the shock of the fall (as the Goblin claims) or if it was because Spider-Man tried to catch her by snaring her leg with his webbing, causing her neck to crack. The brutal SNAP! sound effect convinces me that it is the later, especially due to the way Spider-Man is depicted. While he's upset about the Goblin bringing Gwen into this, at this point he is still thinking about his secret identity and joking and acting like the typical Spider-Man. Even reeling Gwen up he is talking about what a hero he is for rescuing her. The implication that it could have been possible for Spider-Man to save her if he had just been a little faster or handled things a bit more seriously is intentional, in my opinion. In the end it doesn't matter; the Green Goblin was ultimately responsible for her death, not Spider-Man.
Another great scene is the very end, where Peter returns to his apartment to find Mary Jane, who has heard about Gwen's death. She says that she's upset about it and Peter snaps at her, telling her that she wouldn't be upset if her own mother died and telling her to get out. This is totally in line with MJ's depiction so far as an airhead, but the silent scene where she goes to leave and instead closes the door to the apartment with her still inside is brilliant character development.
An ulterior motive for this plot probably had a lot to do with the situation Marvel attempted to resolve with One More Day (and previously tried to resolve with the Clone Saga): Peter and Gwen had gone just as far as you can go in a relationship and at that point, if they wanted to keep the soap opera drama that is an integral part of the Spider-Man series going, as opposed to letting them marry and live happily ever after, they either had to contrive a reason to break them up or kill her. I don't necessarily agree with that line of reasoning, but there it is. At least it resulted in a good story.
Many people point to this book as the end of the Silver Age and the beginning of the grim & gritty modern age.
Reactions to this issue are in Amazing Spider-Man #127. They are evenly split between people who thought it was an instant classic and people who were upset by it. My favorite letter is:
"Somebody ought to throw Gerry Conway off the George Washington Bridge to see if the fall kills him before impact."
Here is an ad advertising this event. Story specific ads were still pretty rare in these days.
Quality Rating: B
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Marvel Tales #192
Inbound References (43): show
How could u possibly not mentioning both issues not having the comic code, but marvel printed anyway. Insane.
Posted by: John | June 21, 2012 12:36 AM
These two issues were code-approved, as the covers show:
You're thinking of Amazing Spider-Man #96-98, covered here, with discussion of the code:
Posted by: James | June 21, 2012 3:30 AM
ASM 121 & 122 are the two greatest comic books, respectively, of all time. And Gerry Conway secured his bust at the Hall of Fame!
Posted by: Jack | June 4, 2013 9:07 PM
The debate over what actually killed Gwen seems to be a comparatively recent development. Fans who read the book when it was published seemed to have made up their minds quickly. For example, Amazing Heroes #105-106(10/86) both state matter-of-factly that Gwen died due to whiplash from Spidey's webbing, and nobody writes in to dispute.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | May 9, 2014 5:47 PM
Back in the day before comics soared to ridiculous prices, Spider-man 121-122 were the 2 comics you had to have. If you were lucky to find them in the old comic shops then all was good in the world. I remember these costing a few dollars (if you missed them at a mere 20 cents) before the collecting prices went out of control and mostly unaffordable for a kid with limited income. And I have to trump that B grade you gave them - a reasonable rating compared to many of your others - with an A+. These were top notch.
Posted by: Mike | June 17, 2014 9:42 AM
A part of me wishes this was a three parter, some parts feel rushed. Other hand, maybe it is best that Peter's fights with the Goblin are so one sided once he gets angry.
Posted by: david banes | June 17, 2014 1:19 PM
Also I believe Peter snapped Gwen's neck but truly it is the Goblin's fault for all this.
Still, Goblin killing Gwen first then pretending she is alive just to sadistically mess with Peter certainly fits very well with modern Norman.
Posted by: david banes | September 12, 2014 8:52 PM
For the first time, my link to my name goes to a specific post, rather than just my blog. That's because that post specifically references these issues, and indeed, fnord's own comments above about a possible story-telling reason for killing off Gwen. I also throw a shout-out to you fnord, for this website as a whole.
Now, on to this story. Well, it's one of the few times that I'll actually argue the grade - I agree with Mike, this is an A+, one of the very best two-part stories Marvel ever did. It's not only the way Gwen's death was handled (very well), but how Peter thinks he's saved her (when he actually likely killed her - though she would have died anyway if he hadn't tried) and then vows revenge, and then how it actually plays out, with Peter forgoing revenge, only to have the Goblin die anyway. Two absolutely brilliant issues. The Green Goblin was, in my opinion, hands down the best Spider-Man villain of all-time and I refuse to believe he ever came back from the dead. Not to mention that these stories are part of the inspiration for Spider-Man: Blue, one of my favorite all-time books.
Also, credit to the moviemakers at Marvel who managed to use two brilliant moments from these two issues in what were essentially two different franchises (the use in Amazing Spider-Man 2, which I won't explicitly mention for those who haven't seen it really stunned me - I couldn't believe I hadn't heard about that in advance).
Probably my two favorite Spider-Man issues of all-time.
Posted by: Erik Beck | February 27, 2015 11:44 AM
Ted Newsom, a screenwriter for the proposed 1990 Spider-Man movie, claimed in Comics Interview #85 that Stan Lee was out of the country when the decision was made to kill Gwen, didn't find out until he came back, and was reportedly "irate".
Posted by: Mark Drummond | May 29, 2015 8:41 PM
Comics Interview #89 stated that Mortellaro did strictly background inks here, but I don't know if that's true of all the "Backg Mort" issues.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | June 26, 2015 9:31 PM
In "Comics Creators On Spider-Man", Romita says Roy and Gerry were considering killing Aunt May for shock value, and he instead suggested Gwen, on the basis that "People in the street were shocked when Pat Ryan's girlfriend was killed in Terry and the Pirates." This seems plausible as Romita mentions his obsession with Terry and the Pirates twice more in the same interview. Regarding whether Stan approved it, I'm pretty sure he did. Romita says "I think Roy even ran it by Stan, and got his okay.", and points out Stan's infamous bad memory, while Conway remembers talking about it with Romita, Roy and Stan. Conway also mentions Stan gave him the Spider-Man job "with a certain amount of trepidation", so I'd think they'd still have got Stan's okay at this point.
Posted by: Jonathan | June 29, 2015 1:45 PM
I think fans and creators over emphasis the need for soap opera drama in Spider-Man, or at least in regards to his love life. Spider-Man works with or without romantic conflict and there is no obligation for it to be there, or even for it to be his own personal love life in the first place.
@David Banes: I think you can equate this to someone pushing someone in front of a moving car. The killer is the person who did the pushing not the car driver. So Peter’s actions resulted in Gwen’s death but truly it was Norman’s fault.
Posted by: Al | October 25, 2015 12:43 PM
I have started to read Marvel 3 years ago in publication order from FF1, and though I obviously already knew that Gwen Stacy would have been died, reading the story was still thrilling.
In my opinion the way Gwen died it's very in step with Ptere Parker's life in general: if he had not tried to save her, she would have died. He tried to save her, she died anyhow.
Furthermore I appreciate the courage of the choice. The first issue of the story "promises" a death of someone close to Peter, and we see the faces of Gwen, Mary Jane, JJJ, Flash, aunt May and the Roberstons'. Whit these premises, and the past caution, who would have bet on Gwen's death?
From the Historical Significance Rating I assume the Goblin isn't dead, and that's a real shame. This story could have represented the "turning point" even in that: Peter Parker's love dies, his nemesis dies, Spiderman has to go on. Further more, the story depicts this apparent death as a very ultimate one, like a curtain that falls. Reviving Norman Osborn was a betrayal toward those days' readers.
Posted by: JTI88 | July 9, 2016 3:46 PM
Norman stays dead until 1996- that's a relatively long time.
Posted by: Michael | July 9, 2016 5:54 PM
Back in 1975, I met with a schoolmate to trade some comics in the school auditorium. I had 5, he had 5. One of the 5 had was Spidey #122. I kinda gasped at that, since even then, it was kinda a holy grail to own. I asked him "Are you sure you wanna trade this? This is whole Gwen Stacy/ Green Goblin storyline. It's really important." He said sure, since he read it a few times already and was bored with it and wanted new stuff to read. I said okay, and the trade went through. Still feel bad about it after all these years. Never got #121, though I did read a friend's copy (powerful stuff at the time).
Posted by: GreggM | November 5, 2016 3:29 AM
For me, one of the most overlooked scenes in this story is Peter coldly walking out on Harry as Harry begs him not to. It's played very clearly as Peter choosing revenge on the Goblin over compassion for a friend.
Indeed, that's something of a theme in this and the last couple of issues: Peter isn't there for Harry because he's doing his Spider-Man bit in Canada, he's not able to save Gwen because he's still sick from that adventure, and he doesn't save Gwen because he's treating it all like superhero games instead of something deadly serious. Peter Parker really fails as a friend, a romantic partner, and a person because of his escapist sense of the Spider-Man persona here.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | January 10, 2017 1:39 PM
No mention yet of how the text indicates the George Washington Bridge (thus the reference in the letter) but it's clearly the Brooklyn Bridge that Gil Kane drew. Apparently that was Stan Lee's mistake as editor and he confessed to it later. The new Epic Collection "The Goblin's Last Stand" has the original George Washington Bridge text that is often changed which was what made me notice it.
Posted by: Erik Beck | September 11, 2017 4:36 PM
Where was the add in this article pobliched?
Posted by: Roney lundell | January 31, 2018 10:38 AM
It's in some of the Jul 73 cover date books, but the lower profile ones. I found it in Hero For Hire #11 and Red Wolf #8, but it's not in Avengers, Fantastic Four, Captain America, Hulk, Daredevil, or Spider-Man.
Posted by: fnord12 | January 31, 2018 2:30 PM
Hmm. Sounds like Marvel was able to sell all the ad space in their top-tier books, but had left-over pages in the B-list.
Posted by: Andrew | January 31, 2018 3:44 PM
I'm inclined to think that Gwen was dead before Spidey even reached her at the top of the bridge, but the first time that he can see she is dead is after he has pulled her back from the fall.
Posted by: Mike Teague | February 1, 2018 4:25 PM
That's interesting to me about the first UK printing, as this is one of the first Marvel stories I ever read in the 1983 UK Spider-Man Annual. And it's still one of my all-time favourite stories.
Posted by: Dave77 | February 2, 2018 9:02 PM
Two of my favorite comic scenes of all time: the ending with Mary Jane and Peter, and the death (at the time) of the Goblin. In each instance, the strength comes from the lack of dialogue--the MJ scene showing her silently closing the door but no declaratory statements, and the Goblin scene where the story is told by narration and the art.
Posted by: Michael Cheyne | February 23, 2018 1:45 PM
Thank you fnord12! I want to frame it and put in on my wall and the original comic is way to expensive.
Posted by: Roney | April 9, 2018 9:39 AM
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