Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #121

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This story is part of an Arc: "Death of Gwen Stacy and Norman Osborn"
     Part 1 / Part 2

This story is part of a Lookback Series: Absolutely Amazing

This review was first published on: 2007.

Background...

Peter has just returned from a photo assignment in Canada where he photographed (and ultimately fought) the Hulk. This was a cover for some personal business involving a telegram for Aunt May from Jean-Pierre Rimbaud, a Canadian attorney. Before Rimbaud could discuss the ultra-secret information mentioned in the telegram, he was gunned down by an unknown assailant. Rimbaud took the secret to his grave as no hard copies of this information were found.

In between the Hulk and Rimbaud, Peter calls Gwen to see if Harry's condition has improved. Harry mysteriously collapsed on the street in Amazing Spider-Man #119. She tells him that he's returned to drugs to help him cope with some undisclosed problems his father Norman is experiencing.

In Detail...

"The Night Gwen Stacy Died"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #121
Jun 1973 : SMURF 121.500 : SM Title
Summary: Death Gwen Stacy By Green Goblin
Arc: Part 1 of "Death of Gwen Stacy and Norman Osborn"
Editor:  Roy Thomas
Writer:  Gerry Conway
Pencils:  Gil Kane
Inker:  John Romita, Sr., Tony Mortellaro
Cover Art:  John Romita, Sr.
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 Reprinted In: Marvel Tales #192
 Reprinted In: Marvel Tales #98
 Reprinted In: Essential Spider-Man #6
 Reprinted In: Death of Gwen Stacy (TPB)
 Reprinted In: Spider-Man vs. Green Goblin (TPB)
 Reprinted In: Spider-Man Annual (UK) 1984 (Story 1)
 Reprinted In: ToyBiz: Marvel Legends - Masterworks Series 1: Spider-Man vs. Green Goblin
Articles: Green Goblin I (Norman Osborn), Green Goblin II (Harry Osborn), Gwen Stacy, Jameson, J. Jonah, Mary Jane Watson-Parker, Robertson, Joe "Robbie"

Peter's first stop after returning from Canada - via Spider-Man express - is Osborn's townhouse to check on Harry. As he peers in the window, he sees Harry's physician discussing his condition with Gwen and Mary Jane. He informs the ladies that Harry has taken a significant amount of LSD and is showing signs of schizophrenia. The doctor voices his concern that Harry should be in a hospital for proper treatment, but Norman insists on this course of action.

Peter has heard enough and changes to his street clothes to visit Harry in person. Once inside he runs into Norman, who is behaving erratically, blaming Peter for Harry's current state. At this point Gwen and MJ leave Harry's room and are kicked out along with Peter. They are all puzzled at Norman's behavior and wonder what possessed Harry to fall back into this. MJ is unusually quiet during this time; her downcast eyes indicate that she knows something but isn't ready to discuss it.

Inside Norman is on the phone with his financial consultant. His stocks have fallen an additional 13% and he is sweating profusely at the thought of bankruptcy. As he stares pensively out the window, Harry stumbles into the room wondering what he was talking about - or if he was talking at all. In a rare moment of genuine concern, Norman tries to convince his son to return to bed and not worry about him. Harry collapses again and Norman frantically calls for the doctor.

Later after saying good-bye to Gwen and MJ, Peter heads to the daily Bugle to sell his pictures of the Hulk to Jonah. While en route, he begins feeling ill and realizes that he must have caught a virus while in Canada. Undeterred he proceeds to Robbie's office. While reviewing his photographs, Robbie suggests that Peter may have contracted the flu. Jonah overhears their conversation and kicks him out of the office for fear that other employees will get sick. Peter complies and asks Robbie to mail him his payment. Feeling the full effects of the flu, Peter is desperate to get home ASAP. He changes to Spider-Man and wobbly swings back to his apartment.

After the doctor leaves, Norman begins to blame everyone - including himself - for Harry's current condition. He has delusions of a large conspiracy involving his business rivals trying to ruin him. This is followed by a hallucination of Spider-Man sitting on top of a table "gloating" at his misfortune. Norman lunges for "Spider-Man" who quickly vanishes along with Norman's last shred of sanity.

His memories comes rushing back to him as he finds himself leaving his townhouse and running down the street to the Lower East Side. In a trance-like state he unlocks an abandoned building that serves as one of the Goblin's secret hideouts. It's only after he puts on the full costume does he begin to speak in complete sentences. With his full memory restored, he sets out to take revenge upon Spider-Man for what he's done to the Osborn family. His first stop is Peter and Harry's apartment. Parker isn't at home now, but Gwen Stacy is.

A few blocks south, Peter is desperately trying to keep the buildings in focus as he swings home. He arrives home barely able to determine which room is his. Loathe as he is to enter his apartment in costume, potentially exposing his identity to Gwen, he has little choice. Upon entering he sees signs of a struggle as well as a pumpkin bomb on top of Gwen's purse. He knows exactly what has happened: Norman has snapped and turned into the Goblin again.

Fighting off the flu, he desperately searches for Gwen, eventually finding her unconscious on top of the George Washington bridge with the Goblin standing over her. Spider-Man lands on one of the main cable near them and asks the Goblin what he wants. His response is quite simple: either Spider-Man dies or Gwen Stacy will take his place.

The gauntlet thrown, Spider-Man responds that neither is going to happen. He's tried to be sympathetic to his situation in the past, but this time he's not holding back. Osborn smiles broadly as he directs his glider toward Spider- Man.

Aware that a prolonged fight will not only endanger him but Gwen as well, Spider-Man webs the Goblin, pulls him in closely, and hits him full force, knocking him off the glider. He then makes his way toward Gwen, who is still - thankfully - unconscious.

Spider-Man underestimates how weak the flu has made him as the Goblin is able to remotely direct his glider toward him and stops his fall. He boards the glider and heads toward Spider-Man and Gwen. He reaches Gwen before Spider- Man does and knocks her off the bridge with his glider.

Spider-Man reacts instead of acts, giving Gwen a three second lead as she plummets toward the river. Knowing she'll die if she hits the water, Spider- Man stops Gwen's descent by webbing her right leg. Relieved that he stopped her fall, he is horrified to discover that the sudden stop has broken her neck. The Goblin adds insult to fatal injury by taunting him with the fact that a fall from that height would kill anyone before they hit the water. She would have died had she hit the water. In the event she wasn't dead before he caught her, the sudden stop killed her. But he promises that they'll be reunited very soon.

As he cradles Gwen's body in one arm he defiantly screams at the circling Goblin that he's going to kill him for what he's done.

In General...

While the significance of many issues of Amazing Spider-Man (or any other spider-title for that matter) may be debated, there are very few that fans agree on without question. This is one of those issues. Some may not like the outcome of this issue, but they can't debate the impact this issue has on our favorite character.

To say that this is a landmark issue is an understatement. Prior to this issue, all "damsel in distress" situations were resolved easily and the status quo was returned. Not here. The tragic ending to a standard storyline involving Osborn returning to his Goblin ways was something nobody expected. The shockwaves from this issue continue to be a source of discussion to this day.

Some experts agree that this issue - along with specific issues from other publishers - marks the end of the Silver Age of Comics and the beginning of the Bronze Age. The Bronze Age is noted for an increase in real-world issues that were previously banned by the Comics Code Authority. With this type of event, you can see why.

There are those that wonder why the decision was made to kill Gwen. For that I would refer you to Wikipedia.org "The Night Gwen Stacy Died" or use the resources available on this site. There's a lot of information on this subject and trying to distill this down to a few objective paragraphs is next to impossible.

Overall Rating...

5 webs. There may be a few inconsistencies in the story, but quite frankly they don't matter. This is one of the key events in Spider-Man's history that hasn't been retconned out of existence or undone by bringing her back from the dead. Well there was that Jackal storyline in Amazing Spider- Man #144 but that was completely different. [*Nudge*, *wink*, read the review]

Footnote...

The vast majority of this review was completed while I was waiting in line to have my car's emissions tested (it was a very long line). Nothing really significant about that, just an amusing little anecdote.