Long Box Tuesday: The Death of Gwen Stacy

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There aren’t many comic books that have endings as powerful as Amazing Spider-Man #121, where Gwen Stacy dies, especially when you’re ten years old:

Amazing Spider-Man v1 121 Page 28

I remember going to see Spider-Man 2 in the cinema with my parents and my mother was in one of her rare moods where she was interested in some comic book trivia. Somewhere along the way, I talked about how it looked like the ending of the first Spider-Man movie was going to mimic the death of Gwen Stacy, and how interesting it would be if the franchise had killed Mary Jane Watson instead.

And then I explained how Gwen Stacy’s death had affected me as a child and that Peter Parker should’ve been with Gwen, not M.J., and during this long brief monologue, I realized how crazy I was sounding. But that’s the power of those old Marvel comic books, especially when Spider-Man was new and it felt like anything could happen.

The genius behind Stacy’s death was how she died, with Spider-Man trying to rescue her. It fit so well with the thematic aspect of the character, and worked as yet another item to compound Parker’s guilt. Another “What if?” for Spider-Man to wrestle with as he looked down from the rooftops to brood.

As a child, reading a reprint of this book, the death had bothered me tremendously. Maybe because Stacy’s appearances in the book felt more honest and reassuring than Watson’s, or maybe because her presence brought something different out of Parker that wasn’t there before. It’s hard to tell, especially since I haven’t revisited the material is years. But there was certainly something there that I responded to.

Anyway, I wanted to share this page. It’s still a powerful image, with words by Gerry Conway and smooth art by Gil Kane and John Romita Sr. A home run on every level.

And yes, I don’t care what you say, Peter Parker should’ve ended up Gwen Stacy.

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