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CSBG Archive

A Year of Cool Comic Book Moments – Day 163

Here is the latest cool comic book moment in our year-long look at one cool comic book moment a day (in no particular order whatsoever)! Here‘s the archive of the moments posted so far!

I actually wasn’t planning featuring today’s moment any time soon, as I liked the subtly of the earlier moment in this issue better than the big dramatic moment later on, but someone reminded me of a later moment that I DID want to feature, and I sort of need to get this one out of the way for THAT one to work.

So, enjoy a sad trip by Spider-Man up a bridge, courtesy of Gerry Conway and Gil Kane…

Enjoy!

When last we saw our hero, he realized that Norman Osborn was nuts again and was back to his old tricks as the Green Goblin. Spidey also realizes that his girlfriend, Gwen Stacy, has been kidnapped by Osborn, who is holding her on the George Washington Bridge.

You have to give Osborn credit – he WAS true to his word.

After a little tussle, the fight really begins

Wow, what’s “the” moment here? The snap or the big speech at the end?

I guess the snap, but the speech seems more significant in the context of the story itself – the snap just became bigger after the fact.

31 Comments

Bernard the Poet

June 13, 2009 at 2:16 am

I think the “snap” was edited out when this story was reprinted in Britain – or I missed it . Either way, I was completely bewildered as to what exactly had killed Gwen. I kept reading and re-reading Goblin’s line about how a fall from that height would kill anyone before they struck the ground, but couldn’t make any sense of it. Spiderman had saved dozens of people who had fallen from great heights, why was this any different?

Now that I’m thirty years older, I can see that it is quite artful to have Spiderman (and the readers) think that he’s saved Gwen, only to reveal that he hasn’t, but as a eight-year-old, I thought it was “bloody stupid”.

I think … once he’s through bragging to himself about saving her and then realizes it … that’s the moment.

Beautiful work by Conway and Kane here. 36 years later and it still holds up. Timeless, touching stuff. I think the Silver Age truly ended with this story.

Bernard it was believed at one time that if you fell from a great height you would suffocate because the air was rushing past you head too fast to inhale (it was also believed that anyone who drove more than 60 miles an hour would also suffocate for the same reasons). Needless to say that line of thinking was disproven a long time ago.

When I read this story a bit ago I found myself wondering, “What evidence do we have that Gwen is even alive before the Goblin knocks her off?”

Spidey assumes she’s still alive, but that could just be hope on his part. I think it would have been more interesting if Gwen had been dead that whole time & the Goblin was just jerking Spidey around with the possibility of saving her.

I hated Gil Kane’s art on Superman in the Eighties, but his style here is totally different. I like it. Was it a difference in inkers or did he make the poor choice of changing his style when he moved to DC?

The various suggestion for what killed her are:

1. She was dead anyways
2. The sudden stop in velocity broke her neck (in any case, later Spiderman would improve his technique for rescuing falling people, by shooting more webbing to provide support across the entire body.)

Bob, I might attribute Gil Kane’s change in style to aging. His prime was with DC in the Silver Age on Green Lantern, where his art was incredible. His stuff on Superman and, like, Sword of the Atom were relatively late in his life. I don’t know exactly what caused the shift, though. I think it might have been Joe Giella that usually inked Kane on Green Lantern? He inked himself a lot later in his career I think.

Was it a difference in inkers or did he make the poor choice of changing his style when he moved to DC?

Gil Kane also co-created the Hal Jordan Green Lantern. Those issues have some of the slickest art of the Silver Age.

The later work of a lot of Silver Age greats was worse than their earlier stuff. As a kid, the first artist I remember disliking was Carmine Infantino. Year later, I saw his early Flash stuff and was stunned by how amazing it was. I couldn’t believe it was the same guy. I had the same experience with Ditko.

My feeling is that it was a result of simple economics. Comic book artists are paid by the page. The faster you can crank out an acceptable age, the more money you make. Back in the sixties, I am sure the page rate was pretty horrible. So, the artist was always forced to find corners to cut to produce pages faster. Over time, the work suffered.

I find it oddly humorous that the page where Gwen Stacey dies has a trailer at the bottom advertising an upcoming book called Tales of the Zombie. Totally unconnected, I know, but I can’t help think of it as something along the lines of “Miss Gwen already, true believers? Well stay tuned for her new title…”

I noticed the Zombie plug at the botom of the page but didn’t connect it with the story, M Bloom. I just thought it was a little crass, but after reading your comment, it’s hilarious. From one Bloom to another: salut!

Gil Kane inked his own stuff very often in the 80s and beyond, and he was using markers instead of pens or brushes IIRC, so it’s quite different than his older stuff. Also, his style eccentricities became more pronounced it seemed. (That under the nose shading thing is reeeally Gil Kane-y.)

I thought mostly everyone thought that “Snap Heard ‘Round the World” was what killed her. But who knows, comics have such different physics. I’d almost expect her leg to pop off from the way Spidey snagged her by the calf.

Gil Kane’s art was always good.

As for the “snap,” yes, it’d be terribly tragic for Spidey’s savior effort to actually kill her, but I think the narrative would be equally strong if she’d been dead the whole time and Osborn was just screwing with him. “A fall from that height would kill anyone!” is a bunch of malarkey.

Didn’t Cronin do a legend on the “snap?” At any rate, the snap was mentioned in a documentary on Spider-man technology on the History Channel. The doc. showed how a broken neck was the most likely outcome of Spidey’s attempt to save Gwen and how the way MJ was saved from a similiar fall in one of the movies was much better from a physics standpoint.

And yes, Gil Knae’s early work on Green Lantern was also good, but his later work on Superman was an eyesore IMO.

I’d still like to know how often this scene has been repeated in subsequent Spidey comics. It always involves some female falling from a great height, and Spidey thinking back to Gwen’s death.

Case in point: http://www.spiderfan.org/comics/reviews/spiderman_web/125.html; and here: http://www.spiderfan.org/comics/reviews/xman/038.html.

i think that it is quite in line with the ‘storytellling engine’ of Spidey to have Gwen’s death be from Spidey’s webbing and sudden jerking. Mark Waid stated in an interview recently that writers have a job at putting as much crap on Pete as they can. So, killing your first true love in the process of trying to save her from your worst enemy fits the engine for Spidey. So tragic, so much fun to read….
DFTBA.

oh and Gil Kane’s art was always GREAT!
DFTBA

that moment to me shows why the green goblin is spiderman’s joker plus it made spider man feel that he is curse and finaly figure out that he can not save everyone. not to mention for so long readers thought gwen died when her neck shapped from spider mans catch. a chilling moment even after all this time

The third possibility is that Gwen was killed when the glider struck her.

Being dead before the fall doesn’t seem in the spirit of the era the comic was produced, ie The villain does his evil deeds on panel rather than implied between panels.

The larger issue with this event has been that all later deaths under Spidey’s watch, particularly those of Ned Leeds, Jean DeWolfe, and to a lesser extent Nathan Lubinsky, have fallen into the shadow of this one. It’s like the Spider-man franchise (such as it was) blew it’s load in 1970 and had nowhere to go but downward. The only thing to top it would have been to kill off Aunt May :-). The endless narrative nature of comic books like Amazing Spider-man make them more structured like soap operas that slowly dole out the drama but never get too far ahead of themselves. Gerry Conway really had no idea about the long term effects of this story — it’s really the prototype for the event driven sales tactics used today, without all the pomp and circumstance.

Eliot Johnson

June 13, 2009 at 3:20 pm

Yeah, later Kane really was just a very exagerated version of early Kane. I still liked his art a lot. Even up through that little short back-up story he did for GL #81.

Well, if you will excuse a bit of shameless promotion

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kuVpwjYgvgg

addresses the physics behind the neck snap.

Based upon my readings – the writer and artist knew exactly
what they intended to be the cause of Gwen’s demise. A editorial
comment a few issues later on the letters page in reply to readers reaction
to Gwen’s death makes this clear.

After over 120 issues, Peter had pretty much gotten over
Uncle Ben’s death, and it was considered time for another major
demonstration of “the old Parker luck.”

And the bridge is identified as the George Washington Bridge, but
what is drawn is clearly the Brooklyn Bridge. In 2004 Stan Lee
took responsibility (to go with his great power) for the error. In recent
reprints I believe the bridge is now identified as the Brooklyn Bridge.

Cheers from Your Friendly Neighborhood Physics Professor,

Jim

“The” moment for me would probably be the moment where Spidey’s talking to Gwen even after he realizes she’s dead. It’s played perfectly; if he’d said anything more, it would have become a bit pathetic, but Conway balanced it juuuuust right.

Interesting that we don’t see Qwen’s face before she is knocked off the bridge. She sure looks dead.

Gil makes her neck look broken when Spidey cradles her after hauling her up by the way he draws her head.

Conway has never impressed me much, but this is good work.

My Spidey knowledge is failing me a little here, but did Peter ever reveal to Gwen that he was Spider-Man, or did she die not ever knowing that they were the same person? (Didn’t Peter always want to tell Gwen but was afraid because she blamed Spider-Man for her father’s death?)

I never really understood Green Goblin saying “a fall from that height would kill anyone” either. Surely he’s heard of parachuters? It’s as if he wants to make Gwen’s death a bit more easier to Spider-Man by offering an alternate explanation that doesn’t involve Gwen’s neck breaking due to Spidey’s web save. But why would he do that?

@DavidM: Peter never revealed that he was Spider-man to Gwen, but it wouldn’t be the first time Peter thought his secret was secure only to find out that someone already knew (MJ, Deb Whitman, Aunt May at one point until that got erased TWICE :-). Peter always seems to miss the forest for the trees in that respect.

@Tuoman: It does seem odd that the Goblin would say that but I’ve always taken it as the Goblin trying to motivate Peter to fight him. It works, because Peter temporarily stops blaming and feeling sorry for himself and turns to face Osborn.

I had little problem with the Spider-man movie, but if they started off with Gwen Stacy as Spider-man’s GF and ended with her death, the movie would have been to such a dark, incredible start. I think this is a definitive moment of Spider-man’s history. OK, so a lot of people think that, but so do I.

To me, the big moment is always that last page, with Spider-Man swearing vengeance on the Green Goblin and the title of the story finally being revealed as “The Night Gwen Stacy Died”. It’s so atypical of the book up to that point; Spidey might have gotten ticked off at a bad guy or two, but this is the first time he’s ever threatened to kill anyone…and more to the point, you feel like he could really do it. The caption then lets the readers know that no, this isn’t “a dream, a hoax, or an imaginary story” (as they say.) There’s not going to be a miraculous resurrection, or some sort of storytelling cheat to bring things back to “normal”. Gwen’s just dead, because that can really happen. (Kurt Busiek dates the end of the Silver Age to this moment. I agree.)

The next issue, of course, shows Spider-Man pulling back from the brink, which is absolutely necessary to the character; Spider-Man, in a nutshell, is about Peter being true to what’s right, even when it’s hard. Even when it’s impossible. But for it to have as much meaning as it did, it needed this moment to happen. You need to understand that Peter really, really wants to kill the Goblin in order to understand just how important it is that he doesn’t. (And I would nominate that moment, too…not necessarily his walking away, but the moment right after the Goblin’s accidental death, where Peter realizes that it didn’t help him any. It just made him feel empty inside. Strikingly mature scene.)

You know, I never noticed this before — look at the cracks on the top of the bridge in the last panel of the last page. It surrounds Peter and Gwen like a broken picture frame, and Peter is stepping on a crack in the lower right.

What’s that old superstition about stepping on cracks again? Brrr!

I would vote that the moment is when he says, scared and innocent “Gwen?”

The most famous -snap- in comics.

It’s powerful the way when Spidey realizes that Gwen is dead, Gil Kane pulls back for a long shot (I saved you honey…) Really well-thought-out.

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