Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #42!
This is the forty-second in a series of examinations of comic book urban legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous forty-one.
NOTE: The column is on three pages, a page for each legend. There’s a little “next” button on the top of the page and the bottom of the page to take you to the next page (and you can navigate between each page by just clicking on the little 1, 2 and 3 on the top and the bottom, as well).
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Gerry Conway did not intend to include the “snap” in the death of Gwen Stacy
One of the most controversial issues in comic book history was Amazing Spider-Man #121, which featured the death of Peter Parker’s girlfriend, Gwen Stacy.
One of the most controversial aspects of the comic was HOW Gwen died. As seen in the following panel, there was a tiny snap when Spider-Man attempts to snare her after she has been tossed off a bridge by the Green Goblin.
It is not clear in the comic whether she was actually killed by the snap to hear neck or shock from falling. In fact, the Green Goblin actually argues that it WASN’T the snap that did her in, yelling to Spider-Man, “Romantic idiot! She was dead before your webbing reached her! A fall from that height would kill anyone-before they struck the ground!”
In fact, in a bizarre event rarely seen in comic of the day, Marvel took the letter column of #125 to specifically address the death of Gwen Stacy (also, to defend Stan Lee and Gerry Conway). Part of the piece was, in a way, a comic book autopsy. The column reads,
it saddens us to have to say that the whiplash effect she underwent when Spidey’s webbing stopped her so suddenly was, in fact, what killed her. In short, it was impossible for Peter to save her. He couldn’t have swung down in time; the action he did take resulted in her death; if he had done nothing, she still would certainly have perished. There was no way out.
However, the snapping action is different than literally having her neck snap.
In some reprints of the story, the little “snap” noise has been excised. Stan Lee (in Comic Buyers Guide #1277) even expressed some unease with the idea of her neck snapping, “I wasn’t aware of that. To me, that’s a little too – I don’t think we have to know her neck snapped, you know what I mean?”
Therefore, perhaps BECAUSE of this unease, for awhile, different creators involved with the issue, from artist Gil Kane to letterer Artie Simek even to Art Director, John Romita, were rumored to have added the little “snap” sound effect.
However, at the end of the day, Gerry Conways admits that it was part of his initial story idea.
In Tom DeFalco’s book of interviews, Comics Creators on Spider-Man, Gerry Conway speaks of including the snap, and how “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.”
So, if you want to blame, or praise, someone for the snap, blame/praise Gerry Conway.
On the next page, did the real-life inspiration for Kitty Pryde have to change her name because of the character?