Monday, February 20, 2006


NOTE: Unsurprisingly, various trolls have tried to post...less than encouraging...comments...about this blog, some even posing as former Spider-Man writer Roger Stern, as well as Gail Simone. This kind of behavior is totally impermissible, and please note that all comments are moderated by myself before being posted here.

So, if you don't have anything nice to say, rest assured, your comment will be rejected (with pleasure). Of course, intelligent and constructive criticism is always welcome, but vile spam and insults are not. That said, enjoy the essay.










For those of you just joining us...

In 1962, writer Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko revolutionized the comic book genre when they produced the first Spider-Man story in Amazing Fantasy # 15. In the story, a high school student named Peter Parker is bitten by a radioactive spider, which gives him spider-like powers. He designs a costume and web-shooting devices and becomes a television star. However, he later learns that a thief he allowed to run past him was the same man who subsequently murdered Peter's beloved Uncle Ben. Spider-Man eventually decides to use his powers to help the innocent instead of using them for personal gain. That final issue of Amazing Fantasy was very successful, and so Spider-Man received his own book, The Amazing Spider-Man, in 1963.

To keep things clear for those unfamiliar, the publishing history of Spider-Man can be broken down into several eras:

1. The Classic Era: After the success of Amazing Fantasy # 15 (1962), Spider-Man was given his own title, The Amazing Spider-Man (1963). In 1968, Marvel experimented with giving Spidey a magazine, as well (The Spectacular Spider-Man), which only lasted two issues.

2. The Post-Classic Era: After Stan Lee ended his run as writer of Amazing Spider-Man, a new title, Marvel Team-Up (1972), began. The book was originally intended to feature team-ups between Spidey and the Human Torch, but soon featured Spidey teaming up with a different Marvel character in each issue. Also in 1972, Marvel Tales, (which began in 1964) a book that reprinted older stories from various Marvel titles (including Amazing Spider-Man), became a Spider-Man-only reprint book (beginning around issue # 37) which occasionally featured new content and back-up stories. Then, Gwen Stacy was killed in ASM # 121, and everything changed.

3. The Stagnant Years: In 1974, Spidey Super-Stories (a non-continuity book aimed at young children) began. Also that year, after a one-issue run in Giant-Size Super-Heroes, Spidey starred in Giant Size Spider-Man, which lasted 6 issues. After Gerry Conway's run on Amazing Spider-Man ended in 1975, a succession of writers took over, and not a lot happened. A secondary Spidey book, Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man, began in 1976.

4. The Creative Revival: In the early 1980s, Spidey got a shot in the arm with exciting new storylines, which included the Hobgoblin saga and the introduction of the alien costume (later to become Venom). Spidey Super-Stories was cancelled in 1982 after issue # 57. In 1985, Marvel Team-Up was cancelled with issue # 150 to make room for a new Spidey book, Web of Spider-Man.

5. Unification: After the marriage of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson, the various Spider-titles were made to interact with each other even more than in the past, beginning with "Kraven's Last Hunt" (1987), which crossed over into Amazing, Spectacular, and Web. Soon after, "Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man" became "The Spectacular Spider-Man", and the cover logos of Spectacular and Web were refashioned in the same style as Amazing Spider-Man's logo. In 1990, a new Spidey book, the "adjectiveless" Spider-Man, was introduced.

6. The Clone Saga: In 1993, the Spider-Man Unlimited series began. Spider-Man Classics was also introduced at this time, reprinting the earliest Spidey stories and lasting 16 issues. Spider-Man Megazine, which reprinted several Spidey stories per issue, lasted 6 issues, from 1994-95. In 1994, the much-maligned Clone Saga began, with the massive storyline weaving through all of the main Spidey books. The Spidey books also received newly-designed cover logos in the same style as the logo for the new Spider-Man animated series. The animated series was adapted in comic form via the "Spider-Man Adventures" series, which lasted 15 issues and was continued in The Adventures of Spider-Man, which lasted 12 issues. For a time, Amazing Spider-Man and Spectacular Spider-Man were devoted to the adventures of Peter Parker, while Web of Spider-Man and Spider-Man were devoted to the adventures of Peter's clone, Ben Reilly. Marvel Tales was cancelled in 1994 after issue # 291. In 1995, Untold Tales of Spider-Man, which featured new stories set in the Lee-Ditko days, began. Meanwhile, all of the main Spidey titles were briefly put on hiatus and replaced by The Amazing Scarlet Spider, The Spectacular Scarlet Spider, Web of Scarlet Spider, Scarlet Spider and Scarlet Spider Unlimited before resuming when Ben Reilly took over as Spider-Man. Web of Spider-Man was cancelled in 1995, after 129 issues. In 1996, a new title, The Sensational Spider-Man, began, lasting 33 issues.

6. Post-Clone Saga: In 1996, with the end of the Clone Saga in Spider-Man # 75, the book was retitled "Peter Parker: Spider-Man". In 1997, Untold Tales of Spider-Man ended after 25 issues.

7. The Reboot: In 1998, Spider-Man Unlimited was cancelled after 22 issues. Also that year, Spectacular Spider-Man was cancelled after 263 issues. Indeed, all of the main Spidey titles ended at this point, and John Byrne's 12-issue Spider-Man: Chapter One series revised Spidey's origin and early adventures. After that, Amazing Spider-Man and Peter Parker: Spider-Man were both restarted at issue # 1. In 1999, Webspinners: Tales of Spider-Man, a new anthology series, lasted 18 issues until its cancellation in 2000. Also in 2000, the alternate universe book, Ultimate Spider-Man, began.

8. The Present Day: In 2001, J. Michael Straczynski took over Amazing Spider-Man, and the series went back to the original numbering scheme with issue # 500 (Volume 2 # 59). A new anthology series called Tangled Web was introduced, lasting through 2003. Also in 2003, a second volume of Spectacular Spider-Man began, lasting through 2005. In 2004, a new Spider-Man Unlimited series began, as did the Marvel Knights Spider-Man series. The kid-oriented Marvel Age Spider-Man lasted from 2004-2005, and a similar series, Marvel Adventures Spider-Man, began later in 2005. In late 2005, the new Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man series began.

Besides all this, Spider-Man has appeared in numerous mini-series and one-shots, countless guest appearances, and much, much more.

And the man's name is "Spider-Man", not "Spiderman" or "Spider-man". It always "bugs" me to see so many people get it wrong. Get it right or take a hike. Show some respect for the character.

The primary purpose of this essay is to examine the life and times of Gwen Stacy and Norman Osborn, the Green Goblin, and how I (and many, many others) feel these characters (as well as Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson-Parker) have been blatantly defiled by writer J. Michael Straczynski's "Sins Past" storyarc in Amazing Spider-Man # 509-514 (which revealed that Gwen Stacy had a fling with Norman Osborn and secretly had his children before he killed her).

It's also designed to dissect and debunk Sins Past, and show how the numerous retcons and mischaracterizations that appear in the storyline are simply not possible. I feel that consistency of character is more important than strict continuity, but since JMS and the gang have insisted on dredging up the past and retconning it, I will show, point-by-point, how the events depicted in this story are not possible. This essay is designed to be THE one-stop resource for information on this topic, as well as other subtopics related to the downfall of Spider-Mam, Marvel, and the superhero genre. There are many sub-issues that have emerged from Sins Past that I'll also address, such as the controversial return of Norman Osborn, the controversial aging and marriage of Peter Parker, the gradual destruction of everything that has made Spider-Man a great and iconic comic book character, and the creative and moral disintegration of the superhero genre itself!

The final purpose for this essay is to serve as something of a history lesson for novice fans, and as a trip down memory lane for older fans.

I've taken my time in this essay, both for the sake of thoroughness and to show off the fruits of the kind of research and care that the current regime at The Thing that Used to Be Marvel is totally incapable of. Indeed, this whole enterprise is the result of over a year of concentrated research and hard work.

Certainly, my own personal opinions figure in a great deal here, but I've cited lots and lots of cold, hard facts to back up those opinions. Still, art is subjective, and anyone is free to agree or disagree with my observations. I'm not here to whine and moan (too much). I'm head to (hopefully) shed some light on these matters, and maybe change a few people's opinions and open some eyes. Someone has to step up and fight for these characters that have touched so many over such a long period of time!

Please not that words in bold (for emphasis) in this essay's quotations from the original comics are just as they were in the original printings.

Also note that this essay is no substitute for the original issues. Please, go out and read them! USE THEM to determine whether or not you agree with what I have to say. If you do have the original issues (or reprints) handy, then have fun following along. If you don't, well, don't worry. This essay is designed to be easily understandable and detailed enough for those who don't have the stories to refer to.

Since I began this essay, much has happened to drag Spider-Man and the industry even further into the gutter, and this will also be discussed.

Most of all, though, this work is a loving celebration of one of popular culture's greatest fictional characters, the ever-amazing Spider-Man, and to examine the sorry state he's in right now...and how painful it is to witness that state.



(Note: the proper spelling of Norman's name is "Osborn". It irritates me to see fans and professionals call him Norman "Osborne" or "Osbourne".)

The Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) # 14 (1964): We are introduced to a new villain, the Green Goblin. His true identity is a mystery, but he's clearly very intelligent and devious (much as his successor, the original Hobgoblin, was shown to be).

The shadowy villain is introduced working on his "flying broomstick" vehicle in a secret basement workshop:

Page 2, panel 1:

THE GREEN GOBLIN: "There! My flying broomstick is finished at last!! Now to put on my costume and test it out!"

The Goblin convinces movie producer B.J. Cosmos to make a movie starring Spider-Man ("The Spider-Man Story"), and convinces Spider-Man himself to star in it. In New Mexico, the Goblin and his new henchmen, the Enforcers (leaderless since the arrest of the ganglord known as the Big Man in ASM # 10) reveal their true motive: they want to kill the web-slinger. However, with a little unwitting help from the Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man escapes. After returning to New York, the Goblin reveals his own motivations:

Pg. 22, panel 3:

GOBLIN (thought balloon): "Once the Enforcers had helped me defeat Spider-Man, I intended to organize a worldwide crime syndicate with them as my lieutenants!"

Pg. 22, panel 5:

GOBLIN: "But, my true identity is still my own secret--and my power is still undiminished! So I'll wait for my next opportunity and strike again! The world hasn't heard the last of--The Green Goblin!"

And so, it is made clear that the Goblin chose Spider-Man as a target so he could prove his worth to the underworld.

ASM # 17: the Goblin reappears, having prepared for several months for his next encounter with Spider-Man. This marks the first appearance of his bat-shaped jet glider (replacing the "flying broomstick" from ASM # 14).

Almost certainly unintentional on the part of Stan Lee or writer Gerry Conway, but this line from Pg. 2, panel 4--

GOBLIN: "I've even redesigned my jet-powered Goblin Glider, making it still faster and more maneuverable!"

--foreshadows the Goblin's growing obsession with beating Spider-Man, and his death as a result of being impaled by the souped-up glider in ASM # 122. Note that in ASM # 14, the Goblin said he'd made the controls of his "flying broomstick" simple enough to avoid a fatal error, but is now throwing caution to the wind with his redesigned Goblin Glider.

Pg. 2, panel 5:

GOBLIN: "Ah, yes! When next we meet, Spider-Man will find that the mysterious Green Goblin is more than a match for him and his own puny powers!"

Later on, Peter Parker walks past the Goblin (in street clothes), and his spider-sense goes off, but he doesn't know who is triggering it. The caption says:

NARRATOR'S CAPTION: "But, why should Peter recognize the one dangerous man in the crowd? He's never seen him without his Green Goblin mask before!"

This implies that Peter has never met the man behind the Goblin's mask.

Later still, the Goblin attacks Spider-Man at a meeting of the Spider-Man Fan Club, and the Human Torch intervenes.

Pg. 16, panel 8:

GOBLIN: "The Human Torch, eh? Well, I'll teach you not to interfere with your betters!"

Soon after, however, Spider-Man leaves when he learns that his Aunt May is in the hospital, and since the Goblin has no interest in beating the Torch--

Pg. 17, panel 6:

GOBLIN (thought balloon): "I've got to get rid of the Torch quickly so I can turn my attention to Spider-Man!"

Pg. 20, panel 2:

GOBLIN: "I've no reason to fight the Torch!"

--because his grudge against Spider-Man is getting more and more intense. And so, the Goblin leaves.

ASM # 18-19 marks the first appearance of Daily Bugle reporter Ned Leeds, Peter's new rival for Betty Brant's affections (...and reportedly Ditko's choice for the true identity of the Green Goblin. Ironically, years later Ned would be a suspect in the mystery surrounding the original Hobgoblin's identity, and was eventually revealed as the Hobgoblin...several years before Hobgoblin creator Roger Stern came back and revealed that the Hobgoblin had "really" been Roderick Kingsley, Stern's initial choice.).

In ASM # 23, the Goblin tries to take over Lucky Lobo's mob.

Pg. 2, panel 1:

GOBLIN (to Lobo's gang): "But, under my leadership, we could take over every racket in the city!"

Pg. 3, panel 5:

GOBLIN: "Taking over Lucky Lobo's gang is only the first step! After that, all the mobs in the city will fall into line! I'll control the entire underworld!"

Pg. 3, panel 6:

GOBLIN: "'The Green Goblin, King of Crime'! I like that! It has a nice ring to it! And it'll happen sooner than anyone suspects!"

Clearly, control of the underworld is still the Goblin's primary motivation at this point.

Later, a member of the gang gives the Goblin a list of Lobo's holdings, which will get Lobo in big trouble with the government.

Pg 6, panels 3-6:

GOBLIN: "Now, I must make sure this list is made public--and I know just the way to do it!"

We then go to the Midtown Business Executives Club, where J. Jonah Jameson is a member. Bugle employee Frederick Foswell (formerly the Big Man) gives the list to JJJ (the Goblin has clearly decided to leak it to the press).

And who else is in the background at the club? A smiling man with an unusual hairstyle. That's right; this is the first unofficial appearance (Pg. 6, panels 7-8) of Norman Osborn (who doesn't "officially" appear until ASM # 37). It is generally accepted that this character is Norman due to that unique Ditko hairstyle and the fact that later on it would be established that JJJ and Norman were friends and fellow club members. It also adds a nice layer to the story that the Goblin is in the room at the very moment JJJ gets the incriminating list. The Goblin (in costume) also eavesdrops outside police headquarters on Pg. 7, panel 4 as Jameson gives the information to the police.

Anyway, the Goblin later lures Spider-Man to Lobo's headquarters so Spidey can do the dirty work for him, and they end up fighting.

This next line is rather interesting, since it actually becomes a reality in ASM # 39, when the Goblin reveals himself to Spider-Man:

Pg. 17, panel 2:

GOBLIN (to Spider-Man): "No one will ever know my true identity until I choose to reveal it!"

The Goblin manages to escape, only to learn that the police have arrested Lobo and his entire gang. His plan has been ruined.

Norman Osborn (unnamed) also has a one-panel, non-speaking cameo in ASM # 25, Pg. 3, panel 5, as he's seen buying an advertisement in the Daily Bugle from Jameson:

PETER (thought balloon): "I hope ol' skinflint buys my photos! Oh, he's with someone! Must be someone important..J.J's smiling!

JAMESON (to Norman): "Don't worry about a thing! I'll take care of your ad personally, and I'll see you at the club tonight!"

ASM # 26: The Goblin tries to team up with the Crime Master. It is revealed that each knows the other's true identity (although, years later, in Kurt Busiek's Untold Tales of Spider-Man, it is shown that the Goblin "revealed" himself to be J. Jonah Jameson--via a rubber mask--to avoid exposing his real identity to the Crime Master). The Goblin and the Crime Master end up battling for control of the city's gangs, and the Goblin eventually captures Spider-Man to prove that he should be in control.

Prior to this, on Pg. 8, panel 6: We see the second unofficial appearance of Norman Osborn, in which he speaks for the first time (to JJJ at their club):

NORMAN (unnamed): "One of your reporters is this fellow Foswell who used to be a big-time criminal himself! Is it wise for you to employ such a notorious character?"

Prior to this statement, the club members were speculating about the true identities of the Crime Master...and the Green Goblin!

ASM # 27:

We begin where we left off, with the Goblin displaying the captive Spider-Man to the Crime-Master and his gang:

Pg. 1:

GOBLIN (to the Crime-Master): "I warned you that I'd never let anyone else take over as ganglord of the city! Even the Crime-Master shall serve the Green Goblin!"

Spider-Man regains consciousness and escapes from the Goblin, and the Crime Master is soon killed by the police before he can reveal the Goblin's true identity. Later, we see another early unofficial appearance of Norman Osborn (Pg. 18, panel 1), as he speaks to J. Jonah Jameson:

NORMAN (unnamed): "However, it's too bad the Daily Globe managed to get those exclusive photos!"

At the end, we see the Goblin in street clothes (his face obscured by shadow) angrily tearing up a newspaper:

Pg. 20, panels 4-5:

GOBLIN: "Once again my brilliant plans have been thwarted by Spider-Man! He has proven to be my greatest threat--my most dangerous enemy! I'll never rest till I've destroyed him! But, I'll lay low for a while! I'll wait till he's convinced that I've given up my crime career--till he's virtually forgotten about me! And then--when he least expects it--I'll strike!"

Clearly, the Goblin's motivation is changing. He's less concerned now about being a leader in the underworld as he is about getting revenge on Spider-Man. He also vows to wait until Spider-Man has forgotten about him before he strikes again.


(Note: The correct spelling of Gwen's full name is "Gwendolyne Stacy". It irritates me to see both fans and professionals call her "Gwendolyn Stacey".) Please note, however, that the occasional misspellings of her name in the quoted material below are just as they appeared in the original comics.

In high school, Peter Parker had a crush on classmate Liz Allan (or Allen), but she didn't really reciprocate until after Peter was already involved with his first girlfriend, Betty Brant, secretary to Peter's employer at the Daily Bugle, J. Jonah Jameson. Liz and Betty became rivals for Peter's affections for a time. Peter and Betty's relationship had some serious ups and downs, since Betty had grown to hate and fear Spider-Man after her brother had been accidentally killed in a scuffle between Spidey and a criminal. Peter realized that he could not reveal his secret identity to Betty, and they eventually drifted apart (but became close friends later on).

In Amazing Spider-Man # 31 (1965), Peter began attending college at Empire State University. In this issue, several people who would be very important in the book later on would first appear; ESU student Harry Osborn, ESU bio-chemistry Professor Miles Warren, and...a platinum-blonde co-ed named Gwen Stacy. Harry is first seen introducing Gwen to Flash Thompson, Peter's old high school nemesis. Gwen and Harry already knew each other since they had attended high school together. Due to his Aunt May falling ill (as a result of a transfusion using Peter's own irradiated blood in ASM # 10), the preoccupied Peter went through his first day of college in a daze. Harry and Gwen mistakenly believed that their new classmate was snubbing them.

As first depicted by Steve Ditko, Gwen was very sultry and exotic-looking (as befits a former high school beauty queen), and not at all the Gwen most people think of today (the John Romita Sr. version with that infamous headband). The first impression she gives is that of a socially adept preppie. Since she's a freshman (along with Peter and the others) at this point, she's probably around 17-18 years old here (ASM # 60 says she's 18). She also seems to flirt with Flash Thompson a bit when we first see her.

From Gwen's first appearance in Amazing Spider-Man # 31:

Pg. 8, panels 5-6:

HARRY OSBORN: "Heard a lot about you, Flash! I'm Harry Osborn, and this little lady is the ex-beauty queen of Standard High, as if you couldn't tell!"

GWEN STACY: "The little lady has a name, Flash! It's Gwen Stacy and I've followed your football career all through high school!"

FLASH THOMPSON: "You should have let me know, Gwen! I'd have given you all the facts in person!"

GWEN: "Do you think you'll be as successful with collegiate football, Flash?"

FLASH: "With someone like you watching, I won't even need the other ten players!"

Soon, a distracted Peter Parker walks by the trio.

Pg 8, panel 7: Gwen sees Peter for the first time:

GWEN: "Isn't he the boy who won the science scholarship to E.S.U.? He must be brilliant!"

Page 9, panels 2-3:

After Peter absent-mindedly ignores them, Flash and Harry are angry, but Gwen is more open:

GWEN: "He seemed nice enough! Perhaps he didn't hear you!"

We soon get a hint of Gwen's first impression of Peter:

GWEN (thought balloon): "He's not as husky as Flash...but he's brighter...and very attractive!"

Despite Peter's state of mind at the time, Gwen is still somewhat attracted to the nerdy bio-chemistry student. From the very start, we see that Gwen is more than just a pretty face who dates jocks. Peter's somewhat mysterious nature intrigues her.

Soon after, irritated by Peter's seeming snobbery, Flash and Harry decide to pull a prank on him, and ask Gwen to distract him.

Pg. 10, panel 2:

GWEN (to Harry and Flash): "I think we should mind our own business!"

Gwen reluctantly agrees to distract Peter while the boys fiddle with Peter's chemicals to cause trouble.

Pg. 10, panel 4:

GWEN (thought balloon): "I still can't help feeling attracted to him! Well, I guess I can't back out now!"

GWEN: "Pete! Pete! Don't you hear me? Peter Parker! I asked if I could borrow your pen!!"

PETER (without even looking at her): "Huh? Oh, sure...if you want my pen, here...take it!"

GWEN (thought balloon): "I've never met a boy like him! He didn't even give me a glance!"

GWEN (to Peter, angry): "Thank you very much, Mister Parker, but I changed my mind!"

Pg. 11: After his chemical experiment goes up in smoke, Peter gets in trouble with Professor Warren. The gang decides to apologize to him by offering to buy him a soda, but he distractedly brushes them off so he can go see his Aunt May in the hospital.

On the second day of class, the gang sees Peter outside ESU:

Pg. 13, panel 7:

GWEN (to Harry and Flash): "I still have the feeling that he's really not a bad sort deep down!"

After class, Gwen resolves to talk to Peter:

Page 15, panels 8-9:

GWEN (thought balloon): "Peter Parker is the only boy I've ever met who hasn't given me a tumble! And that's a challenge no girl can resist! He's leaving the lab now! This is my chance to get to know him better!"

And no, "give me a tumble" does NOT have a sexual meaning here.

Unfortunately, Peter wants to get to the hospital as soon as he can so he can visit Aunt May longer.

GWEN (to Peter): "Hel-lo there, Peter! I'm glad I bumped into you! Do you have a minute?"

PETER: "I'm awfully sorry! You'll have to excuse me! I'm in a real big hurry! Can't stop now!"

Pg. 16, panel 1:

GWEN (thought balloon, angry): "Why--the unmitigated nerve of him! Nobody gives Gwen Stacy the brush-off that way! You, young man, are going to regret that--I promise!"

As we can see, Gwen has taken Peter's lack on interest as an insult to her ego. She is determined to get him to pay attention to her.

ASM # 34:

At ESU, we see five male students each asking Gwen to be their date for a football game, but she teases them and brushes them off.

Pg. 5, panels 1-5:

GWEN (to the boys): "Sorry, lads...I've got to rush to class now! But I promise to think about it!"

She goes to her locker, and accidentally drops a textbook.

GWEN (thought balloon): "It's strange! Peter Parker is the only boy who hasn't paid any attention to me!"

Peter sees Gwen drop her book, and, wanting to play hero without switching to Spider-Man for once, goes to pick it up:

PETER (reaching for book): "Allow me, fair maiden!"

GWEN (steps on book to stop him, angry): "You! Don't you dare touch my book!"

PETER (confused by her reaction): "Huh??!"

Harry Osborn arrives, and chews Peter out for acting like a snob around them. Peter begins to realize why everyone thinks he's such a jerk. However, Peter is beginning to come out of his stupor now that his Aunt May has been cured of her illness (back in ASM # 33)

Pg. 6, panels 1-3:

In class, Harry and Gwen chat about the encounter in the hallway:

HARRY: "I guess we told that egghead where to get off, eh, Gwen?"

GWEN: "I guess so, Harry! But, I wonder why I feel a bit ashamed of myself! After all, he has cold-shouldered all of us ever since he came to E.S.U.! And yet...perhaps he had a reason! Perhaps we just don't understand...!"

PETER (thought balloon): "That Gwen is a knockout! If, what's the use?!!"

GWEN (thought balloon): "But he couldn't care less! Look at him bending over those test-tubes! He doesn't even know I exist! Well, Mr. Parker...just you wait!"

ASM # 35: Peter finally gives up on his strained romance with Betty Brant.

ASM # 36: Page 5, panels 1-7: Classmate Sally Green chats up Peter to prove to Gwen she's wrong about him, and is somewhat successful, much to Gwen's irritation:

GWEN (thought balloon): "I don't understand! I never thought they'd hit it off so well! She must have said the secret word!"

However, Peter brushes Sally off when he realizes that he doesn't want to be seen as just an egghead, which Sally implied. Sally is confused by Peter's abrupt change of heart.

GWEN (to Sally): "Welcome to the club, Sal! Now you're one of us!"

Pg. 8, panels 5-6: Gwen sees Peter on the street as he goes into a space exhibit.

GWEN (thought balloon): "That looks like--oh! It is! It's Peter Parker! I wonder if this is fate! It could be my chance to really get to know him! I could accidentally bump into him inside! I'll do it!"

Pg. 9, panels 1-2: Inside, Gwen watches Peter as he walks through the exhibit:

GWEN (thought balloon): "I hoped he'd see me and come over to me--but he's studying those displays like they're pin-ups!"

GWEN (thought balloon): "Darn! I can't tell whether he saw me and is ignoring me, or whether he just hasn't noticed me!

Gwen then sees Peter run away like a coward when the Looter breaks in (he's actually leaving to change to Spider-Man).

Pg. 9, panel 5:

GWEN (thought balloon): "Why--the unmitigated coward! He's running away! He's frightened!"

Later, in page 14, panels 2-4, Peter runs into Gwen after the excitement has died down:

PETER (thought balloon): "Say! I know her! She's Gwen Stacy! She's a freshman at E.S.U. also!"

PETER (to Gwen): "Hi, Gwen! Enjoying the exhibit!"

GWEN (angry): "I was--until now, Parker!"

PETER: "Huh? Wait--What's wrong? What did I do?"

GWEN: "Perhaps it's what you didn't do!"

GWEN (thought balloon): "You didn't stay and try to help!"

PETER (thought balloon): "How can anyone so pretty be such a nut?"

GWEN (thought balloon): "And yet, it's hard to believe that anyone so manly-looking could be a coward! If only I hadn't seen him with my own eyes--!"

The next day, at ESU, Flash Thompson asks Peter if he wants to play football with the gang.

Pg. 15, panels 3-6:

PETER: "Can't stop now, Flash! Anyway, if I out-threw you, you'd have a fit!"

GWEN (icy): "Peter Parker out-throwing Flash! That's the funniest thing I've heard all day!"

PETER: "Tell me, Gwen, what did I do to become number one on your hate parade?"

FLASH: "Yeah, let us all in on it, gal!"

GWEN: "Maybe I will some time! Right now, I'm too busy laughing!"

PETER: "Well, don't let me stop you!"

PETER (thought balloon): "Why do I always get interested in girls that can't see me for dust?!!"

ASM # 37:

Pg. 5, panels 3-7:

Outside ESU, Peter sees Gwen and wants to find out if she's still mad at him:

PETER: "Hi, Gwen! We're both heading for the same class--Mind if I join you?"

GWEN: "What are you doing, Mr. Parker--slumming? Usually you're too stuck up to say hello to anyone!"

PETER: "Well, at least I'm not a temperamental female who drools over a fella one day and then acts like an icicle to him the next!"

PETER (thought balloon): "Drat that crazy temper of mine! Now I've really put my foot in it!"

GWEN (angry): Even if you are E.S.U.'s newest science scholarship whiz-kid, nobody talks to me that way..."

PETER: "C'mon, Gwen--simmer down! Let's bury the hatchet, huh?"

GWEN: "You think you can say what you want to me, and then--owww!"

Gwen then tries to slap Peter in the face, but he painfully blocks her hand with his own.

PETER: "Anyone ever tell you you're gorrrrgeous when you're angry?"

Flash Thompson then arrives and says he saw Gwen and Peter fighting. He angrily wants to fight Peter, who declines, and Flash then calls him a coward.

Pg. 6, panel 3:

GWEN (thought balloon): "I'd bet my bottom dollar that Peter Parker wasn't the least bit scared of Flash!"

Later, in class...

Pg. 6, panels 4-5:

HARRY: "I saw what happened, Gwen! Parker gives me a swift pain, too!"

GWEN: "Oh, you haven't any use for anyone who's smarter than you are, Harry! Peter's never bothered you!"

GWEN (thought balloon): "What's the matter with me?? I'm actually starting to defend him!"

Meanwhile, one Professor Mendel Stromm (first name revealed years later, in Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man # 68) is released from prison, and goes about getting revenge on the man who sent him there...Norman Osborn. The first official appearance of Norman is on Pg. 10 panel 6, as he and his son, Harry, survey one of Norman's factories, burned down by Stromm:

NORMAN: "Don't believe everything you hear, Harry! It wasn't Spider-Man! Someone else was behind this!"

HARRY: "But--who?"

NORMAN: "None of your blasted business!"

Norman then thinks to himself about how he cheated Stromm out of his inventions and had him sent to prison. He also insults Harry and wonders aloud if he ever shuts up (Pg. 11, panels 1-3) before J. Jonah Jameson arrives on the scene (and JJJ is established as a friend of Norman's and a fellow club member, which jives with Norman's early, unnamed appearances).

Jameson tells Norman that Harry will "go far", and Norman says, "He should! He should!".

Later, Spider-Man saves Norman from one of Stromm's robots (Pg. 15), and Norman thinks:

NORMAN (thought balloon): "I hope the robot finishes him off! He's becoming too *dangerous* to my plans!"

Pg. 16: Norman knocks Spidey out from behind while Spidey is distracted by the robot.

Pg. 19-20: Spidey confronts Stromm, only to see the barrel of a gun pointed at them from above. Stromm has a heart attack and dies (well, he was dead until he was brought back 30 years later, but we'll get to that), and the sniper disappears before Spider-Man can get to him. Later, it is revealed that Norman Osborn was the gunman.

Pg. 21:

NORMAN (thought balloon): "Spider-Man almost ruined everything for me! But, it won't happen again! Now that his suspicions have been aroused--he must be disposed of!"

ASM # 38: Peter Parker and Ned Leeds argue over the missing Betty Brant. Was Ditko trying to set up the reveal of Ned as the Green Goblin here?

Pg. 9: Norman in disguise (glasses and a fake beard) hires a gang of criminals to kill Spider-Man for $20,000.

ASM # 38 was Steve Ditko's last issue. According to most accounts, he and Stan Lee had been arguing over the direction of the book, as well as the Goblin's true identity. Ditko reportedly wanted the Goblin to be either someone completely unknown (as it was with the unmasking of Electro and the Looter) or Daily Bugle reporter Ned Leeds (which would also have been repetitive, since in ASM #10, Bugle reporter Frederick Foswell was revealed to be crimelord known as the Big Man). Stan Lee wanted to go for the shock value of the Goblin being someone the reader already knew. Eventually, Ditko left the book, and was replaced by Daredevil artist John Romita, Senior.

From the interview with John Romita in Comic Creators on Spider-Man (Titan Books, 2004, interview conducted by Tom DeFalco):

Pg. 29-30:

TOM DEFALCO: "You began your run on Spider-Man with Amazing # 39, and that was also the issue that finally revealed the Green goblin's secret identity. Coincidence or planning?"

JOHN ROMITA: "I'm not sure. I could never get a straight story from Stan. I don't know if he had me do that particular story because he was worried that sales would fall off without Ditko and he wanted a big event, or because he really wanted to cut the cord with Ditko. Stan wouldn't have been able to stand it if Ditko did the story and didn’t reveal that the Goblin was Norman Osborn. Me, I didn't know there was any doubt about Osborn being the Goblin. I didn't know that Ditko had just been setting Osborn up as a straw dog. I just accepted the fact that it was going to be Norman Osborn when we plotted it. I had been following the last couple of issues and didn't think there was really much mystery about it. Looking back, I doubt the Goblin's identity would have been revealed in Amazing # 39 if Ditko had stayed on."

Anyway, back to ASM # 38...

Pg. 10, panels 1-8:

At ESU, we see Gwen, Harry, and Flash think Peter is protesting with some other students, but when he says he isn't they all turn on him...except for Gwen.

GWEN (thought balloon): "No matter what the others say, there's something so strong--so proud about Peter Parker--!"

After the others mock Peter, Gwen still feels differently from the rest of the gang...

Pg. 11, panel 8:

GWEN (thought balloon): "I can't help feeling sorry for Pete! I wish they'd all stop riding him!"

After this, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's partnership on the book ended, and John Romita, Sr. took over as the regular artist of Amazing Spider-Man with issue # 39.

ASM # 39: The Green Goblin finally reappears, totally obsessed with killing Spider-Man. He feels that enough time has passed, and that he's now ready to strike. This is the first appearance of Romita's definitive version of the Goblin, a slight departure from Ditko's own version.

Pg. 2, panels 1-4:

GOBLIN: "I've waited long enough! There will never be a better time to destroy my most hated enemy than now! Everything is in my favor! I have the power--the skill--and the priceless element of surprise! But, merely destroying him--simply crushing him like a worm--will not give me enough satisfaction! I must do still more than that! First, I'll toy with him--outsmart him every step of the way--as only the Goblin can! Then, before delivering the final stroke, I'll administer the most humiliating blow of all--I'll learn his secret identity, and reveal it to all the world! Then--and only then--I'll finish him--forever!"

Pg. 5, panels 1-4:

At ESU, the gang sees Peter, but he ignores them because his Aunt May is sick again and he's distracted. Gwen reminds the gang to be nice to him. We also see Norman Osborn being rude to Harry as he drops him off at ESU. Depressed, Harry begins talking to Peter, and their friendship begins.

Pg. 6, panel 1:

Harry says to Peter:

HARRY: "Now take my dad--we were always real pals--till a few years ago! Then he started to change! I know he's been having tough sledding in business--but why take it out on me?"

Gwen is shocked to see Harry and Peter talking.

Pg. 6, panel 3:

GWEN (thought balloon): "If Peter Parker becomes one of our crowd, it'll be just wonderful--for me!"

Later, Spider-Man is unknowingly exposed to a gas that weakens his danger-warning spider-sense, just as the Goblin planned. The Goblin proceeds to follow Spider-Man around town, and learns his true identity, the fact that he works at the Daily Bugle, and the location of the Parker home in Queens. Peter defends himself from the ego-driven maniac when he finally attacks outside the Parker home.

Pg. 16, panel 5:

GOBLIN: "The great Spider-Man--nothing more than a callow youth--a pathetic stripling! It is almost an insult to my own great powers for me to battle one as outclassed as you are! But, how you shall now pay--to make up for the many times you've escaped me in the past!"

He then defeats and captures Peter and takes our hero to his warehouse hideout. Ranting and raving about how his past defeat were only “accidents” and totally confident of his victory, the ego-driven villain reveals himself to Peter (and the readers) as Norman Osborn.

Pg. 20, panels 3-5:

GOBLIN (removing his mask): "And now, before you meet your end, I've one final surprise in store for you--! Since you'll never live to betray me to another soul, it's only fitting that you learn the identity of the one who has beaten you! And so, at long last--the Green Goblin will introduce himself--Take a look, Parker--a good, long look--It's the last face Spider-Man will ever see--It's the real face of the Green Goblin--the face of Norman Osborn!"

ASM #40: Peter is still in the Goblin's clutches.

Pg. 1 through Pg. 2, panels 1-3:

PETER: "I should have known it would be you, Osborn! Anyone who'd have a son like Harry..!"

GOBLIN (sans mask): "Harry?? You know my son?!! You shouldn't have mentioned Harry! Why did you remind me of him? I mustn't think of him, do you hear? I must forget...forget! He thinks I'm just a simple businessman! He must never know the truth...never!"

Trying to stall for time (and noting that Osborn is a "certified lunatic"), Peter plays on his ego and asks how he became the Green Goblin.

Pg. 2, panel 6:

PETER (thought balloon): "Osborn is obviously a psychopath!"

On the edge, Norman reveals that Harry's mother died when Harry was very young, and how Norman had to raise his son by himself. Norman says he was the best father he could be (although the *objective* flashbacks run counter to Norman's *subjective* narration, as they show Norman treating Harry very poorly, trying to buy his affection with gifts, and never being around when Harry needed him because he was always too busy with work). Norman soon became obsessed with amassing wealth and power.

Eventually, he learned that his business partner, Mendel Stromm (from ASM # 37) had embezzled funds from their company (which he fully intended to pay back).

(By the way, the company has been called "Osborn Industries", "Osborn Manufacturing", or Osborn Chemical" at different times. The name "Oscorp" first appeared in the 1995 Spider-Man animated cartoon series, and was also used in the Spider-Man feature films).

Osborn seized upon this opportunity to have Stromm arrested and sent to prison. Now in full control of the company (and Stromm's inventions), Osborn soon discovered some "strange new formulas" of Stromm's. Testing them out, the resulting solution turned green and exploded in Norman's face.

Spectacular Spider-Man Annual # 14 states that Harry got mad when Norman blew off his school's open house event, so he switched some of Norman's chemicals around, which led to the explosion. But then how could the original Hobgoblin have recreated the formula from Norman's journals if Norman didn't know which chemicals were *really* used?? In Spectacular Annual # 14, Spidey finds a device which Harry has recorded his memories onto, memories Spidey then experiences. It's possible that Harry had insanely convinced himself that *he* was responsible for Norman's accident, and thus it may not have "really" happened the way it's depicted here, with Harry tampering with the chemicals.

Norman was in the hospital for weeks as surgeons labored to save his life. They detected brain damage, but there was nothing they could do to repair it. Subsequently released, Norman became much more aggressive, and tells Peter that the accident had made him "more brilliant" than ever before.

We also see Norman getting even crueler towards Harry, and more confident of his own superiority:

Pg. 5, panels 4-6:

NORMAN: "How did someone like me ever have a sniveling weakling of a son like you?"

NORMAN: "You're a spineless everyone else!"

NORMAN: "I'm stronger...smarter...tougher than anyone else! And I have all sorts of scientific devices in my chemical company that I can use! I could become the greatest costumed criminal of all time!"

See, it's not a case of Norman wanting an heir to carry on his's the fact that he thinks badly of Harry, and thanks to his pumped-up ego, he can't believe that such a "disappointment" came from him.

Norman then formed a plan: with his company's inventions he could become the greatest costumed criminal of all time and amass incredible wealth and power. To this end, he designed a costume and weapons, and became the Green Goblin!

(In ASM # 40, Norman says he made the costume green because it was his favorite color. However, later writers picked up on the fact that the formula turned green before exploding and said *that* was why Osborn chose green.).

Pg. 6, panel 5:

PETER (thought balloon): "He was just a greedy, ruthless businessman before his accident...but the chemical changed him...for the worse!"

Norman then reveals that he chose Spider-Man as his first target because Spidey's defeat would impress the underworld. He also recounts all of their old battles, claiming that Spider-Man never beat the Goblin; he was just lucky.

We can also see how much Norman is driven by his ego:

Page 10, panel 2:

GOBLIN: "No one is as great as the Green Goblin!"

Page 10, panel 6:

GOBLIN (to Peter, regarding their previous battles): "Not only did you fail to stop me, but you were lucky that I let you escape with your life!"

Soon, the Goblin sees that Peter is struggling against his bonds, and, insanely confident of his victory, breaks him free so they can fight:

Pg. 11, panel 5:

GOBLIN: "It would have been an empty victory to defeat a foe who is helplessly shackled! Therefore, I'll set you free! I'll prove I'm your master!"

During the fight (which causes a raging fire), the Goblin is knocked back into some beakers and live wires. The resulting electro-chemical shock wipes out his memory of the last few years.

Pg. 17, panel 5:

NORMAN: "Why am I wearing this strange costume? Where am I? I...I must see my son! I have to help him with his bio...!"

SPIDER-MAN (thought balloon): "It's incredible! He thinks Harry is still in high school! His memory of the last few years is completely gone! He has no knowledge of being the Green Goblin!"

Important fact there: Osborn has partial amnesia, *not* multiple personality disorder. He simply *can't remember* the circumstances that led him to become the Green Goblin, nor his motivations as the Goblin, nor his hatred of Spider-Man (or Spidey's secret identity), nor his experiences after the explosion that drove him mad. From ASM # 14-39, Norman and the Goblin were the same guy (post-accident Norman). After Norman loses his memory in ASM # 40, it's just a matter of his "Goblin" memories trying to reemerge after that, *not* split-personalities battling for dominance. Even in "Norman" mode, he's still a bit of a creep. However, both the 1995 Spider-Man animated series and the movies (likely because the filmmakers' "research" consisted of watching the cartoon instead of reading the comics...) both depict Norman as having a split-personality. Bah!

In future appearances, the Green Goblin is totally obsessed with killing Spider-Man. ASM # 250 reveals that Norman's last personal journal entry regarded his plan to uncover Spider-Man's identity (from ASM # 39) (Also note the fact that Norman kept journals, which is a symptom of his excessive egotism). He never wrote any entries after ASM # 40 because he'd lost his Goblin memories, and when he did become the Goblin again on three later occasions, it was only for very short periods of time (In ASM # 261, Harry Osborn tells the Hobgoblin that the last entry in Norman's last surviving journal is dated a week before he died, but that's not possible, because Norman only regained his Goblin memory *hours* before he died in ASM # 122. Harry was probably just trying to placate the Hobgoblin in that instance, since his wife and unborn child were being held captive.). Also, in Spectacular Spider-Man # 200, Harry says the super-strength formula he used on himself was one that Norman was working on just before he died, but this isn't really possible either.).

Anyway, at the end of ASM # 40, Spider-Man burns the Goblin's costume, and leaves Osborn with the fire department and police, saying that Osborn is a hero who helped him defeat the Goblin (the Goblin is presumed killed in the warehouse fire). After that, Harry and Norman begin to reconnect in the hospital.

ASM # 41: Betty Brant returns from a lengthy absence, and Peter discovers that whatever chemistry they once had is gone.

Peter subsequently buys a motorcycle (which impresses the gang) and also starts to really notice Gwen Stacy. This shift in Peter's social status and personality (in which he goes from the unpopular nerd in the Lee-Ditko days to a popular guy with a motorcycle) is something of a departure from the character as originally conceived. Many years later, writer Roger Stern would "explain" this tonal shift by saying that Peter was just a "late-bloomer".

Pg. 19, panels 8-9:

PETER (referring to his new motorcycle): "How do you like 'er, Gwen?"

GWEN: "A knockout, Pete!"

PETER (thought balloon): "Just like you are, Gwendolen! Was I ever so wrapped up in that Betty that I couldn't see this living pinup under my nose! Something tells me my luck is about to change!"

However, Gwen seems a bit upset by the fact that Peter is fighting against being the brainy guy who goes against the rest of the crowd...

GWEN: "Actually, I never thought of you as the motorcycle type before, Pete!"

PETER: "You didn't? Why not?"

GWEN: "Oh, I don't know--"

PETER (thought balloon): "She--almost looks--disappointed!"

Pg. 20, panels 1-2:

PETER (to Gwen): "Lady, there's a lot you don't know about me! But stick around--I'm planning to educate you!"

GWEN: "Peter Parker! What on earth has changed you so?"

PETER: "Nothing, Gwen! Maybe the real me is just beginning to break thru!"

PETER (thought balloon): "Those eyes! Those lips! She's too much!"

As Peter leaves...

FLASH (to Gwen): "Say, doll--what's with Mr. Bookworm these days?"

GWEN: "Whatever it is, Flash, why don't you get friendly with him? Maybe some of it will rub off on you!"

GWEN (thought balloon): "The way Pete looked at me--like he was seeing me--for the first time!"

In ASM # 42 (as drawn by Ditko's successor, John Romita), we see Gwen with her infamous black headband (as opposed to Ditko's "scoop" hairstyle) for the first time (although her bangs aren't showing they way they do in later issues). Also, Peter turns down an invitation from Gwen to attend a party at her home, since he already has a prior obligation...

During the last few years of the book (ever since ASM # 15), Lee and Ditko had introduced a running subplot: Peter's Aunt May was trying to set him up with Mary Jane Watson, niece of their next-door neighbor. However, Peter feared that such an arranged date would prove to be very bad, so he did everything he could to avoid it.

Stan Lee had decided that Peter and Betty Brant were going to break up, and he introduced Gwen as a new love interest. Mary Jane was then brought in later on to shake things up, and to give Peter a choice of girlfriend (the "Betty and Veronica" syndrome):

ASM # 42:

Pg. 8, panels 3-7: The gang is outside ESU.

GWEN (to Peter): "How about coming to a party at my house Sunday, Pete?"

PETER: "Love to, Gwen!"

But then, Peter remembers his prior obligation to Aunt May: they're having dinner that night, and Peter is finally going to meet Mary Jane Watson.

PETER: "Gosh, Gwen...I'm sorry! I just realized..."

GWEN: "No need to explain! Attendance isn't compulsory!"

PETER: "But I don't want you to think I'm just making up an excuse..."

GWEN: "I'm sure that what I think won't bother you, Peter!"

FLASH: "Haw! Good ol' Parker..the strike-out king!"

HARRY: "Pete's probably got his reasons!"

FLASH: "If you ask me, he's waiting till there's a party for he can be guest of honor!"

GWEN: "Flash Thompson, it so happens that nobody asked you!"

FLASH: "Say! Don't tell me that Puny Parker puts you on, Gwen? Not a chick like you!"

GWEN: "Don't worry, my fatuous friend...I won't tell you!"

FLASH: "Fatuous??"

GWEN: "Forget it, Flash! It's more than one you wouldn't understand!"

Pg. 20, panels 1-4: Peter sees Flash Harry, and Gwen in a car at night on his way home. He wonders if Gwen will put in the good word for him with the gang.

And so, after Peter turns down Gwen's party invitation in order to appease his Aunt May and finally meet Mary Jane, he is stunned to discover that she is absolutely gorgeous and a real party girl!

ASM # 44:

Pg. 10, panels 2-3: At the Silver Spoon coffee house, the gang sees Peter come in from the rain. Flash jokes that the rain might make Peter melt.

GWEN: "Come off it, Flash! You're as funny as a toothache!"

GWEN (to Peter): "If you'd like a fill-in on what you missed in the lab today, I'll be glad to review it with you, Pete!"

But then Mary Jane shows up. Everyone is shocked to see that Peter knows such a beautiful, vivacious girl.

Pg. 11, panel 1:

MARY JANE (to Gwen): "So you're Gwen Stacy! I've heard Peter mention you!"

GWEN: "How nice!"

Peter decides to decline Gwen's offer of study to leave with Mary Jane. He wonders if Gwen is jealous of MJ (she is), or whether it's because MJ flirted with Flash when she arrived.

Pg. 11, panel 5:

GWEN: "I don't know what's gotten into Pete! Even a scholarship student like him can't afford to let his studies slide!"

FLASH: "Aww, come off it, Gwen! That's not what's buggin' you! You didn't like seeing that new chick wrap him around her little finger! But don't worry, kid! Any gal whose taste is that bad can't be any competition for a doll like you!"

He puts his arm around Gwen, whose own arms are defensively folded.

GWEN: "Flash, do me a favor..?"

FLASH: "Sure, baby! Name it!"

GWEN: "Stop breathing on me!"

ASM # 45:

Pg. 6: Harry Osborn tells Peter that his father could use a science major as a part-time helper (a job offer Peter considers much later on, in ASM # 96). Peter also wonders why he's been thinking about Gwen so much, considering they never even dated before Mary Jane came on the scene.

ASM # 46: Peter moves into an apartment in Manhattan with Harry Osborn (an apartment provided by Norman Osborn), and Aunt May moves in with Anna Watson.

Pg. 10-11: Peter sees Gwen dancing while out on the town with Mary Jane.

ASM # 47: This issue features Peter's first date with Mary Jane Watson, and establishes that no exclusive couples have emerged from the circle of friends yet.

Meanwhile, Kraven the Hunter seeks vengeance on Norman Osborn, who hired him to attack Spider-Man (the battle depicted in ASM # 34). Norman posed as the middle-man for the Green Goblin, claiming he merely worked for the Goblin when he hired Kraven. Now, Kraven seeks revenge on Osborn for not giving him his money (since the Goblin is presumed dead). Unfortunately, due to his partial amnesia, Norman has no memory of his deal with Kraven.

Pg. 5-6: Norman Osborn visits Peter and Harry in their new apartment (which Norman put them up in). Peter is happy to see Norman acting normally, without a trace of his Goblin persona, and shakes his hand.

Pg. 5, panel 1: Some boys at ESU are talking to Gwen about Flash Thompson's impending departure (Flash is about to enter the Army).

BOY # 1: "Who's gonna take his place with you, doll?"

GWEN: "Looks like I'm up for grabs, lads!"

BOY # 2: "That'll be the day!"

Pg. 6, panels 1-6:

Harry and Peter have overheard the conversation:

HARRY (to Gwen, joking): "Who are you kidding, Gwen? You never dug Flash in the first place! Why won't you admit that I'm the secret love of your life?"

GWEN: "Because it wouldn't be a secret any longer if I did, Harry!"

PETER: "Touche, Miss Stacy! Say, has anyone ever told you that you get prettier every day?"

GWEN: "Only my mirror, Mr. Parker! Whoops..sorry! I've been listening to Mary Jane too long! Oh, speaking of Mary Jane...if you'd like to bring her to the party, you may!"

Peter feels badly that Gwen didn't give him the chance to ask *her* first. He then asks Gwen to grab a soda with him after class.

GWEN: "Sorry, Pete! I'll be busy getting things ready for Flash's party! I'm sure Mary Jane can help you brush up on your notes."

Pg. 11: Peter ands Harry pick up Gwen in a car, and Gwen forgets Peter's name when she greets them, referring to him as "impetuous one" to cover the slip. Peter laments the fact that back when Gwen actually dug him, he was too busy fighting battles as Spider-Man to reciprocate.

Soon, they arrive at the party. Gwen sees MJ and Peter dancing together, so she begins to dance herself, drawing attention from the boys. MJ is jealous.

Pg. 13, panel 1:

PETER (thought balloon, seeing Gwen dancing): "And that's the gal I never had time to date! Hooo, boy!"

Then, Kraven breaks in, planning on grabbing Harry to use as a hostage against Norman Osborn. Spider-Man manages to defeat the Hunter and rescue Harry. This marks the first time Gwen has seen Spidey in action.

ASM # 48:

Gwen's hairstyle is closer to Mary Jane's (and this is noted in the dialogue). It has been said that Gwen was given MJ's hairstyle by Lee and Romita to help make her more visually interesting and sexy. This also plays into the idea that Gwen is competing with MJ for Peter's attention. Also, MJ's hairstyle was altered later on, in issue # 64 (perhaps to differentiate her from Gwen), but she went back to her original hairstyle soon after.

Pg. 7, panels 4-5: At ESU, Peter sees Gwen's new look.

PETER: "Hi, Gwen! sure look great wearing your hair that way!"

GWEN: "Why, thank you, Pete! It's just a casual little style...which took all morning to arrange!"

HARRY: "Say! No wonder Peter likes your hairdo, Gwen! It's more like the way Mary Jane's been wearing hers!"

GWEN (embarrassed): "Oh, that's right! I...hadn't thought of that!"

Peter is angry at Harry for throwing a wrench in his chat with Gwen, and is also upset that he's not feeling very well, health-wise, just as Gwen's being nice to him.

ASM # 49: This issue marks the first appearance of Gwen with MJ's hairstyle while she's wearing that infamous black headband of hers.

Gwen and Mary Jane stop by Harry and Peter's apartment while Peter is sleeping (he's now feeling very ill). After learning of Peter's condition, they depart with Harry, and Gwen tells Peter's visiting Aunt May to let him know they stopped by.

ASM # 50:

Pg. 13, panels 4-5:

Gwen sees Peter on his motorcycle, and tells him that she got a letter from Flash Thompson. Peter asks her about the nature of her relationship with Flash:

PETER: "He really turns you on, doesn't he, Gwen?"

GWEN: "Face it, classmate...How many blushing blondes would find a hip, handsome football hero totally repulsive?"

PETER: "I'm sorry I asked, pretty girl! How was the party?"

GWEN: "A disaster area...without you!"

PETER: "Y'know...I kinda wish you meant that!"

GWEN (thought balloon): " lovable, blind goof!! Can't you see I do?!!"

Peter gives Gwen a ride on his motorcycle, and they later flirt at ESU, with Peter voicing his concern that Gwen and Flash are an item.

Pg. 15, panels 5-6:

PETER: "How about a soda, sandwich, and spin after class, woman?"

GWEN: "Love it, man..but I've a date with Harry tonight!"

PETER: "You two..aren't pinned or anything..are you?"

GWEN: "First Flash--now Harry! You're always trying to pair me off! How come you haven't asked if I've got a maaaaad crush on a bashful, black-haired bike-rider?"

PETER: "C'mon! We both know nice guys finish last! Forget it lady!"

GWEN: "You said it, Peter...I didn't!"

ASM # 51:

Pg. 10, panels 6-8: MJ, Gwen, and Harry see Peter ride by on his motorcycle without seeing them. MJ was hoping for a ride home.

MARY JANE (to Gwen): "I know why you're smiling, Gwen! It bugs you when I'm alone with Petey...doesn't it?"

HARRY: "In case you haven't noticed, lady...Gwen is my date!"

MARY JANE: "Sure, because Mr. P.didn't ask her first!"

HARRY: "Good ol' Mary Jane! Anything for a laugh, eh?"

MARY JANE: "Do you think I'm being funny, Gwendolyne?"

GWEN: "I think...perhaps it's time we were getting home!"

ASM # 52:

Pg. 12-13: Flash Thompson comes home from the war in Viet Nam on leave, and is greeted by the gang (minus Peter, who's off battling the Kingpin as Spider-Man). Flash is surprised by the pro-Peter Parker sentiment among the group, and jokingly accuses Gwen of brainwashing everyone into liking Peter.

ASM # 53:

Pg. 4-5: Peter talks to Professor Warren, who offers him two extra tickets to a science expo. Excited, Peter runs into Gwen.

PETER: "Gwen!! Just the one I'm looking for! Are you doing anything special tonight, pretty girl?"

GWEN: "Everything I do is special, Mr. Parker!"

Harry Osborn walks by.

PETER: "What I meant was--oh, there's Harry! Hi, roommate! How's it goin'?"

HARRY (icy): "Hello, Pete! Flash said he'll look for you after class, Gwen!"

Harry leaves. Clearly, he's perturbed and jealous of Peter for hanging around with Gwen.

PETER: "What's with him? Why the big freeze?"

GWEN: "Your unexpected comings and goings seem to be shaking him up, laddie! But, Greedy Gwendolyne is more interested in what you had in mind for tonight!"

PETER: "It's the science expo! Maybe it's not your cup of tea, but--"

GWEN: "Silly boy! I thought you'd never ask! In case you've forgotten, your little blonde buddy is a sci major, too!"

Later, after school, the pair meets up with Professor Warren.

(I must say that in light of later retcons regarding Professor Warren's romantic obsession with Gwen, this next line--and the fact that he's with Peter and Gwen on their very first date--is very, very creepy.)

Pg. 5, panel 4:

WARREN: "You're bringing Miss Stacy? I certainly admire your choice, Parker!"

Pg. 5, panels 5-7: When the pair encounters Flash in the hall, Gwen has to break up an argument between him and Peter.

And so, we see Gwen and Peter's first real date on their trip with Professor Warren to see the science exhibit. However, Doctor Octopus arrives to steal the Nullifier (a device featured at the exhibit), and Peter switches to Spidey to stop him. Gwen is very worried, and hugs Peter when he reappears after the fight.

Pg. 15:

GWEN (hugging Peter): "It doesn't matter where you were, Pete--as long as you're back! I never realized you were so habit-forming, man-child--like being hooked on pistachio nuts!"

Also note that Gwen's feelings towards Spider-Man will change a great deal in the future...

Pg. 16, panel 1:

GWEN: "It's a shame you missed Spider-Man, Pete! He was simply wonderful!"

Peter is relieved to see that Gwen isn't upset about his sudden disappearance:

PETER (thought balloon): "She's the only girl--who's never asked me--for any explanations!"

But this will change.

Pg. 16, panels 2-4: Gwen and Peter see the rest of the gang at the Coffee Bean. MJ says that she just loaned Peter out to Gwen, and Peter notices a look of jealousy on Harry's face.

ASM # 55:

Pg. 6: Gwen is very happy to interrupt Peter and Mary Jane as they examine a hole in the wall of May Parker and Anna Watson's home (a hole made by Dr. Octopus in ASM # 54).

ASM # 56 features the first appearance of Gwen's elderly father (whom she lives with in a brownstone); retired police Captain George Stacy (who still serves as an advisor to the NYPD). Captain Stacy is much respected in the community, and it is clear that he and Gwen come from a refined, morally solid background. Whatever became of Gwen's mother is not revealed at this point (she presumably died, and didn't run out on the family like the Ultimate Spider-Man version of Gwen's mother did). A tombstone seen in Spectacular Spider-Man # 149 reads "Martha" Stacy, and this may have been intended to be the name of Gwen's mother at that time. Later on, however, her late mother's name was firmly established as "Helen" Stacy (in the one of the 1997 "Flashback" issues, Spider-Man -1).

Pg. 7: Peter Parker has gone missing (he's actually suffering from amnesia, and has become the partner of Dr. Octopus), and Gwen is worried for his safety. This page also marks the first appearance of Captain Stacy.

Pg. 8, panels 2-4: Gwen calls her father at police headquarters.

CAPTAIN STACY (on phone): "Gwen? Is anything wrong, dear? Are you..? What? Peter Parker? Yes...I've heard you mention him! He's missing? Since when? Well, I wouldn't worry, dear! But I'll check the accident reports if you like!"

GWEN (on phone): "Thanks, dad! It would make his aunt feel better!"

CAPTAIN STACY (on phone): "Only his aunt, Gwen?"

ASM # 57:

Pg. 9-10: Spider-Man goes to police headquarters to try and sort out his memory problems, and Colonel John Jameson (the son of Jonah Jameson) and Captain Stacy are there. After he arrives, Gwen bursts in to see her father, having heard on the radio that Peter Parker may be a victim of Spider-Man. She's shocked to see the web-slinger when she enters the room. This is Gwen's first face-to-face encounter with Spider-Man.

GWEN (crying, hitting Spider-Man): "I heard the radio report! What have you done to Peter Parker? Where is he??"

Spider-Man feels as if he knows Gwen, and recognizes her perfume.

After Spidey leaves, Gwen hugs her dad, crying, and wonders if Peter was hurt by Spider-Man.

ASM # 59:

Pg. 6: His memory restored, Peter talks to Captain Stacy at the Stacy home, who informs Peter of his interest in Spider-Man. He's made it a hobby of studying Spidey, and is trying to figure out his true identity and his motivations.

Pg. 6, panel 6: Just then, Gwen comes in, and is thrilled to see Peter alive and well. She hugs him passionately. This issue marks the first true appearance of the "classic" John Romita look for Gwen Stacy, the one fans envision of when they think of her (MJ's hairstyle with bangs/headband).

GWEN: "Peter! You're here! If only I'd known--I'd have gotten here sooner!

Pg. 7, panels 1-4:

GWEN (hugging Peter): "Oh, Pete--I never realized--how much I missed you--!"

PETER (embarrassed): "Gwen! You--Your--dad! I-I mean--!"

CAPTAIN STACY: "It's all right, son! Even an old police war-horse like me was young once myself!"

GWEN: "Sorry, Mr. P! Didn't mean to embarrass you! But it's so wonderful seeing you again! We were all so worried--!"

CAPTAIN STACY: "We were worried, Gwendolyn?"

Soon, Peter and Gwen go to the Coffee Bean to see Harry Osborn.

Later, we learn that MJ has gotten a job at the Gloom Room a Go-Go, and Peter, Gwen, Harry, and Captain Stacy go to see her there. However, the club is really a front for the Kingpin of Crime, who is using it to brainwash prominent citizens, including Captain Stacy!

Pg. 12-13: At the dance club, Peter and Gwen flirt, and Captain Stacy is brainwashed by an unknowing Mary Jane, who is using a hypnotic device disguised as an ordinary camera.

ASM # 60: At the beginning of the story, Gwen worries about the absent Peter, who is off fighting the Kingpin as Spider-Man. Captain Stacy then shows up, having also been missing (he's actually been getting instructions from the Kingpin). He asks Gwen who she's worried about.

Pg. 1, panel 6:

GWEN (to Captain Stacy): "About you, you handsome creature! About the most wonderful father any fortunate female ever had!"

But Peter is still absent, and Gwen is still worried.

Pg. 10: Peter goes to the Stacy home, fearing Captain Stacy has been brainwashed. Gwen answers the door.

GWEN: "Peter! I...never expected..! Where've you been? What happened to you?"

PETER: "It's a long story..! Is your dad home? May I come in for a minute?"

GWEN: "It's not very flattering to me...if you only want to stay a minute!"

PETER: "Wouldja believe...forever?"

GWEN: "Try me, Mr. Parker!"

Pg. 10, panel 7: Gwen goes to make coffee, and reveals her age:

GWEN: "Time was when the groovy young gents came to see Gwendolyne! To think that I've become an eighteen-year-old has-been--alas!"

Pg. 11-12: Gwen walks in just as Peter is defending himself from the brainwashed Captain Stacy, who attacks him (suspecting that Peter is close to the truth about the Kingpin's scheme). What Gwen sees, however, is Peter knocking her father to the floor, seemingly without provocation. Captain Stacy also claims it was unprovoked. Peter tries to tell her that things aren't as they appear.

Pg. 12, panels 2-3:

GWEN (to Peter, crying, holding her father): "You...You tell me not to believe...what I see with my own eyes! You struck my own old man...the dearest...the gentlest man who ever lived!"

PETER: "No,!"

GWEN: "Then deny it! Let me hear you deny it!"

PETER: "I--I can't!"

GWEN: "How? How could I ever have thought...that I cared for you--?? Get out, Peter...Get out! And never come back! I never want to see you again---ever!"

He leaves. Gwen is devastated. Later on, she thinks:

GWEN (thought balloon): "I just couldn't bring myself to call the police! But, I'll never forgive him! Never!"

Later, mulling over this depressing turn of events, Peter comes to the realization that he's in love with Gwen.

Soon after, Peter ends up taking a photo of Capt. Stacy stealing files from police headquarters for the Kingpin, a photo published on the front page of the Daily Bugle! A photo that Gwen sees in the paper on Pg. 20, panels 6-7!

ASM # 61:

Pg. 2-3: A crying Gwen confronts her father with the newspaper photo. He's confused, and tells her that he has to obey orders. She resolves to help him, no matter what.

CAPTAIN STACY: "But, Gwen...I don't want you to become...involved!"

GWEN: "I'm your daughter! If there's danger ahead..we'll face it together!"

Pg. 8, panel 5: Norman Osborn sees a newspaper ad for "The Legend of The Green Goblin", a TV documentary special, which upsets him.

NORMAN: "The Green Goblin! Why does his picture disturb me so? Every time I hear that name, it sends shivers up my spine!"

Pg. 11, panels 4-5: Harry Osborn visits his father in his office. Norman doesn't look well, and has his head in his hands.

HARRY: "Is anything wrong, sir?"

NORMAN: "Huh? Oh, Harry! Come in, son...come in! I'm just...not quite myself today! It started when I saw the name Green Goblin in the paper! I don't seem able to get him out of my mind now!"

HARRY: "I never did understand how you helped to destroy him, dad!"

NORMAN: "That's the trouble, son...I can't remember!"

A specter-like image of the Goblin fills half the panel as Norman tries to sort out his thoughts in panel 5.

Pg. 12, panels 1-2:

NORMAN: "My memory of that event is almost a total blur! I know there was a fire which started during Spider-Man's battle with the Goblin!...The battle in which the Green Goblin lost his life! When I awoke in the hospital I was told that the webslinger credited me with helping him to beat the Goblin...But, I can't remember! I can't remember any of it!"

HARRY: "Don't worry, dad! It'll come back to you some day...I'm sure it will!"

Pg. 14, panel 1: At the airport, Gwen tells her father that--

GWEN: "Running away has never solved anything!"

An odd choice of words for a girl who allegedly cheated on her boyfriend, had another man's children, and left them in France, eh?

However, the Kingpin soon captures both of them to use as bait to lure Spider-Man into a trap. Norman Osborn's plant is being used as the Kingpin's hideout, a fact Osborn soon discovers.

Pg. 18:

Norman walks in on the resulting melee, and sees Dr. Winkler (an Osborn employee and inventor of the brainwashing device) training a gun on the Stacys, threatening to kill them if Spider-Man doesn't surrender:

NORMAN: "I thought I heard..WHA--??!"

NORMAN (thought balloon): "Has Winkler gone mad? I've got to do something--!"

Osborn tackles his own employee, Dr. Winkler. The gun goes off, and the brainwashing device is destroyed. The explosion kills Winkler.

NORMAN (thought balloon): "I tackled him...without if it's the most natural thing for me to do!"

After the explosion, a battered Osborn picks himself up:

Pg. 18, panels 4-5:

NORMAN (thought balloon): "I--I'm hurt! My head...throbbing...pain getting worse...! Winkler...dead! Explosion killed him! I help, but...might have made things...worse!"

Clearly, Norman's Green Goblin persona is slowly beginning to reemerge. The explosion and the stress intensifies Osborn's throbbing headaches, which will lead to his becoming the Goblin once again.

Pg. 19, panels 1-4: Meanwhile, Spider-Man manages to save Gwen and Captain Stacy from a massive vat that is about to crush them.

SPIDER-MAN (seeing the danger, horrified): "Gwen!! GWEN!!"

Osborn tells Spider-Man that the Kingpin went up to the roof, where Norman's private helicopter is. But it's too late, and the crimelord gets away.

Pg. 20, panels 3-5:

Gwen says this regarding her father's innocence:

GWEN (to Captain Stacy): "They'll realize you're innocent now! Mr. Osborn can testify! He saw what happened! As soon as the brainwashing machine exploded, dad became himself again! Mr. Osborn...and Spider-Man...helped to save us!"

Meanwhile, a police officer asks Norman if he's all right, and Norman says his headache has subsided for now.

GWEN: "If only I could thank...Spider-Man! We owe him our lives!"

Clearly, Gwen isn't even on a first-name basis with Osborn, and probably only knows him superficially, through her high school/college friendship with Harry, Norman's son. This is their first real interaction in the series, with Norman helping to save the lives of Gwen and her father. I'm *SURE* that Gwen did NOT proceed to have sex with Norman when she visited him in order to thank him for saving her life (unlike Madgoblin will tell you in his well-written but flawed "Deflowering Gwen" essay-- There's *no* evidence whatsoever that she went to thank him. The fact of the matter is that Gwen Stacy, even as established only up to this particular point in time, wouldn't have a one-night stand with an older man she barely knew, and wasn't even on a first-name basis with.

Besides, Norman has to be at *least* 36 years old (assuming he was 18 at the youngest when he got married and when Harry was born). However, it's very likely he's *much* older than Gwen, perhaps even 2 1/2 times older, since he's probably a contemporary of J. Jonah Jameson (who appears to be in his 40s-50s-60s). Indeed, Mark Millar, one of those overly popular "rock star" comic writer, stated in his Marvel Knights: Spider-Man run that Norman is currently 55 years old. Using the ridiculous notion of "Marvel Time", that means Norman was probably around 45 at the time of his alleged little fling with Gwen (who was probably around 20 at the time). Ughhhhh.

As an experiment, Marvel published a magazine called The Spectacular Spider-Man in 1968, which would feature all-new stories. It was cancelled after two issues, however. The first issue (in black-and white, the second being in color) dealt with a corrupt politician named Richard Raleigh and his campaign to become Mayor of New York City.

Although the story in Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine # 1 is something of a stand-alone tale (ostensibly aimed at new readers who might be willing to pick up a Spider-Man story in magazine form), the writers/researchers of The Official Marvel Index to The Amazing Spider-Man # 3 attempted to figure out how both issues of the magazine fit into Spider-Man's chronology. Here's what they came up with for the first issue:

The Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine # 1:

The story interweaves with pages 4-12 of ASM # 59 (In SSMM # 1, Capt. Stacy already knows Peter Parker, but first met him in ASM # 59. Also, in SSMM # 1, Gwen is not yet angry with Peter for attacking her father in ASM # 60, and she isn't on speaking terms with him until ASM # 64, when MJ has her new hairdo).

Pages 1-12 of ASM # 59 (cover dated April, 1968) take place over about 3 days, as does the story in Spectacular # 1 (cover dated July, 1968).

SSMM # 1:

Pg. 17: Peter goes to the Stacy home to pick up Gwen and take her to a dance-in at the town hall (in support of Richard Raleigh), and promises Captain Stacy he'll have her home by midnight. Gwen and Peter flirt.

An interesting observation about Gwen:

Pg. 17, panel 4:

CAPTAIN STACY (thought balloon): "He's a nice boy, that Parker. Although I thought Gwen would prefer the more rugged type."

And another, regarding Gwen's fashion sense, thanks to MJ's rivalry with her:

Pg 18, panel 1:

MARY JANE: "I just adore that dress you're wearing, Gwen. And for all we know, it may come back into style some day."

Soon, though, the ceiling fixture begins to collapse (as a result of Raleigh's manipulations), and Peter secretly uses his webbing to stop it. Gwen later teases him about the webbing on his sleeve, causing Peter some alarm, only to then say that everyone got some on them (and thus she doesn't suspect his secret).

Pg 28: At ESU, Peter is distracted in class, covers by saying he has a bit of spring fever, and then he and Gwen flirt (with a hint of sexual innuendo):

GWEN: "If you can use a soft shoulder and a sympathetic ear..."

PETER: "I sure can, lady...if the eyes and lips go along with them."

GWEN: "Well, you may be under the weather...but at least you're still alive!"

Pg. 37-39: Peter picks Gwen up on his motorcycle, and Capt. Stacy approves. However, a monster under Richard Raleigh’s control attacks George (who suspects that Raleigh's up to something), and Peter disappears so he can switch to Spidey and save him.

Pg. 43: After George Stacy is saved, Gwen rushes up to him:

GWEN: "Nothing long as you and Peter are safe."

However, when Captain Stacy says that Peter is missing, Gwen is terrified by the thought that he may be dead:

GWEN: "No! It can't just can't!"

Peter later turns up, but we don't see a reunion between Peter and Gwen.

After that, Raleigh ends up getting killed by his own monstrous henchman.

In ASM # 62 (pg. 3), a depressed Spider-Man notes that Gwen currently likes Spider-Man (for saving her life in ASM # 61) and hates Peter Parker (for seemingly attacking her father in ASM # 60), and wishes it were the other way around. Ironically, his wish would come true in a nightmarish way some 29 issues later (after the death of Captain Stacy in ASM # 90).

Pg. 6, panel 5 through Pg. 7, panels 1-4: Peter visits the Stacy home.

GWEN: "Peter! I...wouldn't have'd have the come here!"

PETER: "'ve got to let me explain!"

GWEN: "I don't have to do...anything!"

GWEN: "When dad and I...needed a friend...when neither of us knew where to turn...that was betrayed us!"

PETER: "But it wasn't what you thought! You've got to listen to me...!"

GWEN: "Oh, Peter...I want to believe you! I'll listen! But...listen to what?"

PETER: "I...don't know! I don't know explain!"

Gwen then closes the door, leaving Peter with these thoughts:

PETER (thought balloon): "She did want to believe me...I know it! She's heartbroken about what I am!"

In panels 3-4, we see George Stacy recovering in bed. He asks Gwen who was at the door.

GWEN: "It was Peter Parker, dad! I sent him away!"

CAPTAIN STACY: "You did? What on earth for? I felt he was the boy!"

GWEN (crying): "I did, dad...I did!"

Gwen is still devastated about her problems with Peter, and clearly wants him to explain to her what really happened when he "attacked" her father. But Peter can't explain the real story, for fear that his secret identity would be revealed!

Given all this evidence about Gwen's emotional state at the time, I think it's MORE than safe to say that she did NOT screw Norman Osborn at this point (as Marvel's JMS-clean-up crew has since established). It's been stated that Gwen went to thank Norman for helping to save her life in ASM # 61, and that's when their sick little tryst occurred. Since Norman is having severe headaches and then goes missing by ASM # 62-63, and since Gwen and Peter reconcile in ASM # 66, the only time this could possibly have occurred is between ASM # 61-62. And all the evidence in those issues shows that it *couldn't* have, because Gwen is clearly still pining for Peter (and is already deeply in love with him), and she's also busy nursing her father back to health (Because she *cares* about him. Because that's who Gwen Stacy was!). And if she did have a fling with Norman (which she didn't), then how DARE she get on a moral high horse with Peter!!! No matter how big the shoehorn, the retcons of Sins Past DO NOT FIT!!!! Square peg, round hole!

Pg. 8-9: We see Norman Osborn and J. Jonah Jameson at their club. Jonah is doing his usual anti-Spider-Man ranting, and Norman gets a headache, tells J.J.J. to shut up, and then storms out. He's having visions of the Green Goblin and a helpless, unmasked Spider-Man (whose face Norman can't see) from ASM # 39-40, and can't get them out of his mind. He wonders if he's going mad, and also wonders who will take care of Harry if he really does go out of his mind.

Clearly, Norman's primary concern at this point would be his own mental condition. He's certainly not thinking about the college student he recently banged...

Peter then meets up with Harry, who is shocked to hear that Gwen and Peter are having problems.

Pg. 20: Mary Jane gleefully tells Peter that she heard he and Gwen are on the rocks. But then she sees just how sad Peter is, and thinks to herself:

MARY JANE (thought balloon): "Well, pierce my ears and call me drafty! He really misses her!"

By the way, this is the one and only thought balloon Mary Jane Watson has had, and she won't get another until the mid-1970s, after Gwen's death!

Amazing Spider-Man Annual # 5 takes place in-between ASM # 62-63, during the summer vacation between Peter's freshman and sophomore years at ESU (he's said to be a sophomore in ASM # 70). Gwen and Harry Osborn make a background cameo in the Annual on Pg. 14, panel 7.

ASM # 63:

Pg. 6:

Harry and Gwen see Peter at ESU, and Harry calls out to Peter.

GWEN: "Please, Harry...don't call to him! I'd prefer not to see him!"

HARRY: "Look, Gwen...I don't get it! Everyone figured you and my gloomy-roomie were a real item! And now..!"

GWEN: "Let's just say they all figured wrong, shall we?"

Pg. 7, panels 1-3: in Professor Warren's class, Peter is deeply distracted, and longs for Gwen, but she seems to ignore him. However...

GWEN (thought balloon): "Oh, Peter...if only you had one word of explanation! I'd believe anything you tell me! Nothing seems to matter any more...without you!"

Clearly, these are *not* the thoughts of a woman who just had sex with another man while on the outs with her boyfriend...

Pg. 10-11: Peter calls the Stacy home, and speaks with George Stacy, asking if Gwen is there:

CAPTAIN STACY (to Peter, on phone): "Sorry, Peter...she's out tonight...on a date, I suppose."

He then offers to take Peter to lunch the next day, and Peter wonders if Stacy suspects his secret.

I wonder why George says he thinks Gwen is out on a date. Could it be than Stan Lee intended for that line to mean George was subtly prodding Peter to fight for Gwen (by making him jealous)?

And no, Gwen was *not* on a date with Norman Osborn...

...because an angry, confused Norman shows up at Peter and Harry's apartment, insisting that Peter let him in to see his son.

Pg. 10, panel 7:

NORMAN (thought balloon): "Why does my mind return to the Green Goblin whenever I see Parker?"

Harry tends to Norman and tells him to rest, and Peter becomes terrified at the thought that Norman's memory may be returning...along with his knowledge of Spider-Man's secret identity!

ASM # 64 features a battle between Spider-Man and the Vulture.

Pg. 12, panel 5 introduces a new, short-lived hairstyle for Mary Jane (presumably an attempt by Lee and Romita to differentiate MJ from Gwen, or vice versa).

Pg. 13, panels 4-6: Gwen learns that her father's memory of being brainwashed (and his memory of Peter defending himself from the brainwashed Captain) has finally come back, and George then clears Peter's good name. Gwen is in seventh heaven, with tears of joy streaming down her cheeks.

CAPTAIN STACY: "Do you want to believe it, Gwen?"

GWEN: "More than anything ELSE--in the WORLD!"

CAPTAIN STACY: "It's true, darling!"

Gwen is overwhelmed, with tears of joy streaming down her cheeks.

GWEN (smiling, crying): "Then Peter didn't betray us! He didn't!"

Pg 14, panel 1:

CAPTAIN STACY (to Gwen): "I called the lad--to tell him I understand--but he wasn't home! Nor was his roommate, Harry!"

GWEN: "They might both be with Harry's father! Mr. Osborn hasn't been *well lately! But tell me more about Peter!"

CAPTAIN STACY: "First tell me what's wrong with Norman Osborn, dear! I wondered why I hadn't seen him at the club lately! It's nothing serious, I hope!

GWEN: "I don't know, dad! Harry thinks it might be a nervous breakdown--due to overwork! But, he's been acting very--Oh! Look!"

Gwen stops when she sees the crowd watching the Spider-Man/Vulture battle.

Clearly, though, Gwen still isn't even on a first-name basis with Norman Osborn (and social customs of the era would dictate that the kids refer to him as "Mr. Osborn" as a gesture of respect), and she seems to have learned about his condition only from chatting with Harry (much as she did in ASM # 62). Also, she wants to hear more about PETER, *not* Norman. If she had found out that she was pregnant by Norman at this point, she'd surely want to know about the mental state of the father of her children. And she'd also probably be very worried that in his unstable condition, Norman might spill the beans about their tryst (to Peter and to her father and to everyone else).

The pair then talks to Ned Leeds and Betty Brant, and learns that Peter is there on the scene to take photos of the battle, but is missing (since, in reality, he's fighting the Vulture as Spider-Man at that very moment). Gwen is deeply worried that Peter has been hurt, and cries.

Meanwhile, Spider-Man has fended off the Vulture, but now lies unconscious in the middle of a crowd...and they want to unmask him!

ASM # 65:

Pg. 2-3: As the crowd surrounds Spider-Man, Captain Stacy tells them to back off, as Spider-Man still has rights. A worried, crying Gwen looks for Peter.

Pg. 3, panel 3:

GWEN: "Oh, dad--I know I shouldn't get so emotional--but I couldn't bear it--if something happened--before we had a chance to make up!"

Soon, Spider-Man is taken to a prison infirmary (as he's wanted by the police), but there's a jailbreak, and Captain Stacy is taken captive.

Pg. 10-12: Harry looks for the missing Norman Osborn.

Eventually, Spider-Man foils the jailbreak and saves Captain Stacy's life.

ASM # 66:

Pg. 9, panels 3-5:

Peter is walking down the street and Gwen sees him.

GWEN: "PETER! I've been searching all over for you! I was afraid I'd never find you!"

PETER: "Gwen! I don't get it! I--I thought --you were thru with me!"

GWEN: "Oh, no Peter--NO! Dad explained everything--how you weren't to blame for what happened!"

They hug, and tears of joy stream down Gwen's face.

Pg. 10, panels 1-4:

PETER: "All this time--I've been feeling sorry for myself--unwilling to admit--I was just carrying a king-sized torch for YOU!"

GWEN: "Oh, Peter--Peter--it was as though my whole world had come to an end! But, not any more--!"

PETER: "Suddenly--with YOU in my arms again--everything seems right again! No matter what happens now--no matter what new problems come along--they won't mean a thing!"

GWEN (crying, smiling): "Don't talk that way, Mr. Parker! Just hold me--so you won't see me cry!"

They proceed to go out for coffee, very lovey-dovey!

PETER: "I can't let you go so soon, Gwen! How about some java--at the Coffee Bean?"

GWEN: "It'll taste like nectar with YOU--man o' mine!"

Some other kids ask Peter and Gwen to join them, but they're ignored, as the pair has eyes only for each other:

PETER: "Do you hear anything, Gwendolyn?"

GWEN: "Only the pitter-patter of my happy heart, joy boy!"

PETER: "Would you believe I'm nuts about you?"

GWEN: "Try telling me--and see!"

We then see a meeting between Captain Stacy and Robbie Robertson, in which they discuss their mutual interest in Spider-Man and his secret identity.

Pg. 11: Later, Peter meets up with Harry and learns that Norman Osborn is still missing.

Pg. 12, panels 1-3: Harry and Peter decide to go check Norman's factory to see if he's there, only to learn that no one's seen him. We then see Norman--dressed as the Green Goblin (sans mask) peering out a window at them. This scene ostensibly takes place between panels during Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine # 2. We see that Norman's memory hasn't fully returned at this point and also that his insane ego is in full swing:

NORMAN (seeing Peter and Harry below): "The fools! Did they think Norman Osborn wouldn't have a dozen ways to enter his own factory without being seen? As the multi-powered Green Goblin, I can glide over any fence or gate! Hah! If that lily-livered son of mine ever suspected who I really am--! But, let him search for me--him--and that holier-than-thou roommate of his! His roommate! Why does the mere thought of him make my blood boil? I won't be in the dark much longer! My memory gets clearer with each passing second!"

Spider-Man later becomes involved in a battle with Mysterio, which continues in:

ASM # 67:

Pg. 15, panel 4 through Pg. 16, panel 1:

A joyous Gwen receives a phone call at the Stacy home, hoping it's Peter, but it turns out to be Robbie Robertson (calling to speak to her father).

Around this time, Marvel published the second and final issue of the Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine series (this one was in color), featuring a battle between Spidey and the Green Goblin (the seeds of which had been planted in ASM # 61-66). Unlike SSMM # 1 (which was a stand-alone tale), this story is firmly rooted in mainstream continuity (we see Norman gradually crack up and become the Green Goblin again in Amazing Spider-Man # 61-66, and the resolution of that subplot is here, in Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine # 2).

The "Comments" section for this issue's entry in the Official Marvel Index to The Amazing Spider-Man # 3 attempted to figure out where in Spider-continuity this story took place. Here's what they came up with:

The story in SSMM # 2 interweaves with ASM # 66-67. Part 1 of SSMM # 2 (pg. 1 through pg. 17 panel 1) takes place in-between page 7, panels 1-2 of ASM # 66 (...where J.J.J. chews Peter out for not getting pix of the Vulture in ASM # 63-64. Peter also still has his motorcycle at the beginning of SSMM # 2, the motorcycle that he sells on pg. 7 of ASM # 66). Norman Osborn's memory does not fully return until pg. 13 of SSMM # 2, but we saw that he had partial memories (he knew he was the Goblin, but couldn't remember who Spider-Man really is) in ASM # 66. SSMM # 2 must follow ASM # 65, since Captain Stacy is fully recovered from being brainwashed. Norman Osborn is noted to have been missing since ASM # 63, but the writers of the Index assume he must have returned so he could invite Harry and Peter to Captain Stacy's slideshow.

Part 2 (Pg. 17, panel 2 through Pg. 20, panel 2) comes after Peter and Gwen make up in ASM # 66, but before Harry and Peter visit Norman's factory (in-between Pg. 12, panels 3-4 of ASM # 66).

Part 3 (Pg. 20, panel 3 through Pg. 58) follows the Spider-Man/Mysterio battle in ASM # 66-67.

Pg. 1: We begin at the Midtown Business Executives Club, where Captain Stacy is holding a slideshow/presentation on the History of Super-Villains (Peter Parker, J. Jonah Jameson, and the Osborns are attending). Upon seeing a slide of the Green Goblin battling Spider-Man, Norman Osborn breaks out into a sweat. Captain Stacy notes that the Goblin is still believed to be dead (from the fire in ASM # 40), and that Norman was cited for heroism by the police at the scene of that incident.

Pg. 3, panel 2:

NORMAN: "This seems to happen...every time I hear the Goblin mentioned."

Harry reassures him that he's probably just flashing back to the warehouse fire. Peter, however, is deeply worried. He remembers his prior battles with the Goblin and wonders if Norman's memories--of the Goblin and of Spider-Man's secret identity--are beginning to return.

Pg. 7: Norman's head is pounding; he collapses, and is sedated and hospitalized.

Pg. 12-13: Later, in his private room, Norman suddenly remembers!

Pg. 13, panels 1-3:

NORMAN: "It's like a fog beginning to lift...slowly...inexorably...despite the ache...despite the head is clearing...It's all coming back to me now...AT LAST...I know! The Green Goblin ISN'T dead! He NEVER died! I AM THE GOBLIN!"

Pg. 14-15: Having dressed, Norman storms out of the hospital like a man possessed, violently shoving Harry and his doctor out of the way. This is the one of the only real hints that the Goblin possesses super-strength:

Pg. 15, panel 2:

HARRY: "He pushed us if we were puppets. I never dreamt he had such strength!"

Norman proceeds to return to one of his many secret hideouts, assemble his Goblin-gear, and vows vengeance on Spider-Man, his ego in full gear!

Pg. 16, panel 3:

GOBLIN: "I'm stronger...wiser...more unbeatable than I was in the past! And, most important of last I have a mission...REVENGE!"

Pg. 17-18: Peter meets up with Gwen Stacy, who tells him that Harry is staying with Norman.

Pg. 18, panel 3:

GWEN: "He's staying with his dad until Mr. Osborn is back to normal again!"

Hardly the words of a woman who allegedly screwed Norman...

After they go to class, they visit Harry and learn that Norman's missing.

Pg 18, panel 4:

HARRY: "It was as though he'd gone berserk! He ran out of the building...shouting like a madman...pushing people aside like tenpins! His strength...seemed unbelievable!"

Gwen notes Peter's stunned reaction to this news:

GWEN (thought balloon): "Poor Peter--he looks like he's seen a ghost!"

Pg. 19, panels 1-2: Peter walks Gwen home.

GWEN: (thought balloon): "Not having a father of his own, Peter is probably empathizing with Harry...and taking it twice as hard!"

*That's* Gwen Stacy. Compassionate and insightful. But she doesn't know the real reason Peter's upset...

GWEN: "Do you think it'll take them long to find Mr. Osborn?"

Once again, words of compassion (she's trying to help Peter feel better by raising his hopes that Norman will be found). And she's STILL not on a first name basis with Norman! She doesn't care about Norman's welfare nearly as much as she does Peter's!

Later, Spider-Man searches for the Green Goblin, but can find no trace of the arch-criminal.

Pg. 25: Norman shows up at his home, surprising Harry. Now he has a plan for revenge.

HARRY: "Gosh, dad...I...I don't know what to say..!"

NORMAN (thought balloon): You never did, you fatuous fool!"

Pg. 26: Harry calls Peter and tells him that Norman's back--and is throwing a dinner party. Peter is deeply concerned. He wonders if the Green Goblin is back, and whether or not he should risk the lives of Gwen and the others by attending the party.

Pg. 28: Peter picks Gwen up at the Stacy home. She's happy and sexy (not at all giving the impression of a girl who's about to visit the much older man she screwed and got pregnant by...). She and Peter are clearly enamored of each other to the exclusion of all else.

Pg. 28, panel 4: Here's a line that's taken on twisted new meaning in recent times...

PETER (thought balloon): "How can I subject this gorgeous creature to the Green Goblin?? And
yet...I must!"

CAPTAIN STACY: "When you youngsters see Norman sure to tell him how happy I am to hear that he's back home again...and feeling better!"

He then sees that Peter and Gwen only have eyes for each other.

CAPTAIN STACY: "Hmmm...judging by your reaction to what I just said...perhaps I'd better write him a letter!"

Pg. 29, panels 1-2: As they walk out the door:

CAPTAIN STACY: "Don’t bring Gwen home too late, Peter!"

PETER: "I won't, sir!"

As they leave:

PETER (to Gwen): "You're the greatest thing that ever happened to me, lady! I wouldn't trade your little finger...or one of your smiles...for all the..."

GWEN: "Whoa, lad! Better drop anchor while you can! Keep talking like that, and I'm liable to lead you to the preacher instead of the party! And I'm sure you wouldn't want that to happen...would you, Mr. Parker?"

Peter, however, is distracted at the thought of the coming encounter with Norman Osborn.

GWEN (smiling): "I notice you didn't answer me, young man!"

If Gwen really had a tryst with Norman, she would be concerned about seeing him again, especially given his mental problems of late. But she's not. She's the same sweet, sexy, fun-loving gal she's always been, and she is clearly in love with Peter.

Pg. 30-35: Our hero and his ladyfriend arrive at the party, and we get one of the best scenes in the whole Spider-Man vs. Green Goblin epic. Norman is insanely delighted to see Peter, and grips his hand hard enough to break it (another hint that he has super-strength), but for Peter's spider-strength. Peter now knows for certain that Norman's memory has been fully restored, and he's not sure what to do next. There is a distinct undercurrent of tension between Peter and Norman, tension that no one else at the party is aware of. Norman begins to subtly taunt and torture Peter in front of the gang by hinting at Peter's secret identity in front of everyone.

There is no tension whatsoever between Norman and Gwen. As far as Gwen is concerned, everything is fine, except for the fact that Peter seems jittery for some reason.

Unsure of what Norman will do next, and fearing the revelation of Spider-Man's true identity, Peter excuses himself and goes into another room. He pretends to talk to his aunt on the telephone while he secretly webs-up a roll of inflammable photo-film. He tosses the bundle into the fireplace, and the resulting smoke bomb leads everyone to think that there's a fire. Now free to confront Norman directly, Peter rushes out of the house. Enraged, Norman runs to his hideout and plans to strike at Peter's Aunt May first. The rest of the partygoers wonder what happened to Peter and Norman.

Pg. 35, panel 2:

GWEN: "Harry! What happened to Peter...and your dad?"

Spider-Man and the Green Goblin meet up outside the Parker home and battle. We see the Goblin's ego at work:

Pg. 36, panel 5:

GOBLIN: "The time has come for Spider-Man to face his inevitable the hands of the supremely powerful Green Goblin!"

The Goblin exposes Spider-Man to a "psychedelic pumpkin" he's invented, which causes Spidey to violently hallucinate. Shaking off the effects, he realizes what the key to defeating the Goblin is.

Pg. 51, panel 1:

GOBLIN: "You think I need my weapons to defeat you? You think I'm not your master, anyway??"

Pg. 52, panel 2:

SPIDER-MAN (thought balloon): "Everything depends on how much I've weakened him...and on the fact that he's mentally begin with!"

And so, Spidey, grabs the Goblin's bag of tricks, pulls off the Goblin's mask, and then forces him to breathe in his own hallucinogenic gas.

GOBLIN (seeing Spidey grab his psychedelic pumpkin): "No! It's mine! You can't have it!...Not THAT! It's my most brilliant weapon...the Goblin's masterpiece!"

Spider-Man then verbally induces Norman to forget his knowledge of Spider-Man and the Green Goblin, and to become deathly afraid of them at the very mention of their names. Norman passes out, and Spidey removes Osborn's Goblin costume and takes him back to the hospital.

Pg. 58: A weary Peter Parker goes for coffee with Gwen and Mary Jane, and although he puts on a happy face, he can't help worrying that the Green Goblin will return.

ASM # 68:

Pg. 7: Peter is at ESU. Someone playing "guess who?" comes up behind him and covers his eyes. He guesses that it's Mary Jane. It's actually Gwen.

GWEN: "Mary Jane? Is she the first girl you thought of?"

PETER: "Well, she's more the guess-who-ing type! Don't tell me I finally found the magic words to make gorgeous Gwendolyn jealous!"

GWEN: "Negative!! I don't have a jealous bone in my body! But mention her again, and watch the roof fall in!"

Pg. 8-9: The couple visits May Parker, who is feeling a bit ill.

AUNT MAY (to Peter): "I feel strong as a lion when I see you, dear!"

GWEN: "He has the opposite effect on me! He makes me feel weak as a kitten!"

AUNT MAY: "You two have been...seeing quite a bit of each other!"

PETER: "Not nearly enough to suit me!"

(Gwen appears to *blush* when Peter says this!)

AUNT MAY: Oh dear! I didn't mean to embarrass you, Gwendolyne!"

GWEN: Never mind me, Mrs. Parker! The important thing is...I hope you don't disapprove!"

PETER: "Disapprove of me latching onto the brightest, bounciest, most beautiful blonde in creation? That'll be the day!"

AUNT MAY: "You two sound as might be more even serious...than I thought! All I can say've made a silly, sentimental old lady...very, very happy!"

All of the above certainly is a strong *hint* of sexual intimacy between Peter and Gwen, don't you think? Hmmm?

Anyway, *THAT* is Gwen Stacy. Sweet, respectful, a bit shy at times, and very loving and honest.

Later, as Peter and Gwen walk down the street:

GWEN: "No wonder you're so slightly special, Mr. Parker! Anyone lucky enough to have an aunt like that!.!"

We soon learn that many students at ESU are protesting, demanding better student rights. One such protestor is Randy Robertson, son of the Daily Bugle's City Editor, Joe Robertson.

ASM # 69: Randy and several other protestors are arrested. Student demonstrators demanding their release rally outside police headquarters.

Pg. 6: Gwen arrives to visit her father, but can't get through the crowd. Then, several students recognize her.

STUDENT: "Hey! It's Gwen Stacy! Where's your chicken boy friend, lady? He hasn't the guts to take a stand with us!"

GWEN (angry): "You said Peter Parker doesn't have guts?!!"

STUDENT: "'s Parker I'm talkin' about!...And you better believe it!"

GWEN (EXPLODES IN ANGER, SLAPS HIM IN THE FACE): "You crummy, dim-witted loudmouth! He could be half the man he is...and still make ten of you!"

Fuming, Gwen is escorted in, and Captain Stacy sees that she's upset.

CAPTAIN STACY: "What's got you all steamed up?"

GWEN: "Just some feather-brained lunkhead outside!"

CAPTAIN STACY: "Did he get fresh with you?"

GWEN: "Him? He wouldn't dare! No...he said some rotten things...about Peter!"

CAPTAIN STACY: "Are you upset...because you think they may be true?"

GWEN (thought balloon): "I...wish I knew!"

Clearly, Gwen can be strong-willed and assertive. She doesn't just whine, "Oh, Peter...Peter!", all the time. Even if her reaction was an *overreaction* (due to her own doubts about Peter's courage), she's still clearly strong-willed.

ASM # 70:

Pg. 6, panel 5: Peter mentions that Harry is on a date with Mary Jane.

Pg. 7-8: Peter sees Gwen at ESU. She's upset because he hasn't called.

GWEN: "Too tired to pick up a phone, Mr. Parker? According to the other kids, you should be exhausted...from chickening out whenever it's time to take a stand for something! Sometimes I wonder if they aren't right!"

Peter worries that Gwen doesn't trust him, and also wonders how he could explain his behavior without revealing the truth of his double identity.

GWEN: "The least you could do is try to fumble for an excuse, man! Okay then...stand there chewing your cud! There must be a reason for that disappearing act of yours...and I'll wait till you level with me! Like I should have my head examined--but maybe I'm just too dumb to write you off!"

She begins to cry.

PETER: "Hey! You're crying! What brought that on?"

GWEN: "Skip it, Mr. Parker! It's just no fun...losing your stupid someone who's always making like...a coward!"

PETER: "A coward! You think I'm a coward??!"

GWEN: "Don't...make me answer that...Peter!"

ASM # 71:

Pg. 2-3: Harry comes home from a date with MJ just after Spider-Man comes home from a battle with the Kingpin. Clearly, Harry and MJ are beginning to go steady.

ASM # 72:

Pg. 1-3: The Kingpin had previously battled Spider-Man over an ancient tablet being studied at ESU. The tablet is reputed to hold the secret to immortality. After the Kingpin attempted to take the tablet, it was placed into the protective custody of Captain Stacy. And that's where we pick up, with the costumed criminal called the Shocker bursting into the Stacy home, seeking the tablet for himself. He stuns the good Captain with one of his vibro-blasts, horrifying Gwen. Captain Stacy is all right, though, and Gwen calls the police.

Pg. 13-14: Peter sees Gwen on the street. She tells him about the Shocker's break-in.

GWEN: "I've never seen anyone as menacing as the Shocker!"

PETER: "No? How about...Spider-Man?"

GWEN: "Spider-Man is...different! For all his power...his mystery*...he's somehow fascinating!"

As we will see, Gwen's opinion about Spidey will radically change in the months to come. And she also seems to have inherited her father's curiosity for the wall-crawler. But don't you *DARE* tell me Gwen is the type who is attracted to powerful mystery men (like Norman Osborn), or that she's attracted to Osborn because he reminds her of her father.

Soon, Peter and Gwen go for a soda, and run into Flash Thompson (back from Viet Nam). Peter gets jealous, and they argue. Gwen breaks them up.

PETER (ashamed at his outburst): "Gwen...I--I'm sorry!"

GWEN: "You should be, Peter! For a boy who's always missing when there's trouble...It's strange how hostile you can be to a man who's been in combat!"

ASM # 73:

Pg. 1-3: Spider-Man peers in on the Stacy home from outside and sees Gwen tending to Captain Stacy (who is still recovering from the Shocker's attack).

GWEN: "By the way, dad...I don't suppose Peter Parker has called?"

CAPTAIN STACY: "Why, dear? Were you expecting him to?"

GWEN: "Well, I did think that he...oh, why worry about that? He's not the only boy in the world! Anyway, I think he's still angry about his meeting with Flash Thompson yesterday!"

CAPTAIN STACY: "If he's not the only boy in the world...why do your eyes glow that way when you mention him, young lady?"

GWEN: "Just my luck to have a father who's an ex-detective! Nitey Nite, Mister Cupid!"

After she leaves, Spidey comes into the room to ask Captain Stacy for info about the Shocker (so he can track down the tablet).

ASM # 74: Spider-Man battles the crimelord known as Silvermane for the tablet.

Pg. 16-17: At ESU, Harry Osborn shows Peter his new Fu Manchu-style moustache. A distracted Peter blows him off.

Pg. 17, panel 2: Gwen walks up to Harry:

HARRY: "I'm beginning to think Flash Thompson's been right about that joker all the time!"

GWEN: "Then think again, Mr. Osborn! The man is uptight! He needs help--not hostility! If you're his friend...then act like one!"

*THAT* is Gwen Stacy. Compassionate, insightful, wise beyond her years.

Soon after, Dr. Curt Connors (a.k.a. the Lizard) is kidnapped by Silvermane to translate the writing on the tablet.

ASM # 75 features the end of the tablet saga. Silvermane is defeated, and Dr. Connors once again transforms into the creature known as the Lizard.

ASM # 76:

Pg. 6-7: Peter finally goes to see Gwen at the Stacy home to work out their problems (while worrying about having to go after Dr. Connors):

GWEN: "I don't know what's changed you these past weeks,'ve simply found somebody new...and can't bring yourself to tell me!"

PETER: "Gwen! You know that isn't so!"

GWEN: "Do I, Mr. Parker? Just how do I know? Your many unexplained absences have given me time to realize how blind I've been! All the sudden disappearances...the broken dates...and I never once suspected...that there might be another girl!"

PETER: "You're wrong, Gwen...I swear it! There'll never be anyone else for me...but you!"

GWEN: "Then what is your secret, Peter? What is the thing you won't speak of...that keeps us apart?"

PETER: "I want to tell you, Gwen...I want to more than anything else in this whole, crazy world! But this isn't the time...or the place! There's something I must do, honey...something important! If it works out...things will be different...and...and maybe then---!"

GWEN: "I'll be waiting, Peter...even if it takes...a lifetime!"

Clearly, Peter's secret is what is causing all the problems between them. If Gwen "really" did screw Norman Osborn, then how *DARE* she get on a moral high horse and accuse Peter of cheating on her!!!!

But she didn't screw Norman Osborn. Because that's NOT who Gwen Stacy was.

Soon after, we cut to Captain Stacy and Robbie Robertson, once again discussing their interest in Spider-Man's secret identity. Then enter the Stacy home and find Peter and Gwen there. After that, Spider-Man goes after the Lizard.

ASM # 78:

Pg. 4: Peter telephones Gwen, and we see that Flash Thompson (in his Army uniform) is with her.

PETER (on phone): "Hi, pretty girl! Guess who?"

GWEN (on phone): "Well, since Dustin Hoffman doesn't know my must be Peter Parker! What? You want to drop by in a few minutes? Oh, I'm sorry, Peter! I'm afraid I just can't see you tonight! I' attend to!"

That "something" is not what you JMS-boosters think.

Pg. 6-9: Spider-Man comes home and sees Harry Osborn talking on the phone. He wonders if it's Gwen (instead of MJ). Later, Peter tries to study, but can't stop thinking of Gwen. He leaves, and happens to walk past the Coffee Pot (An incorrect name for the Coffee Bean, or another coffee shop altogether?). Through the window, he sees Gwen sitting with Flash! He does not hear them, though.

GWEN: "I thought you might know something about him...something from the past, perhaps...that might explain his mysterious disappearances!

FLASH: "He was the same way years ago, Gwen! Whenever something exciting happened, he'd cut out! Most of the gang just thought he was chicken, and let it go at that!"

GWEN: "But he isn't! He's as courageous as anyone...I know he is! There must be another reason! I've got to learn the secret that he's hiding! He...means so much to me! If he's in trouble...I have to help him!"

Not having heard this conversation, Peter assumes the worst, and walks off, deeply depressed.

If Gwen "really" screwed Norman Osborn, got pregnant, and lied about it (a lie of omission), then how *DARE* she try to pry into Peter's life and force him to give up his own secrets!!!! That makes her a liar AND a hypocrite.

No, Gwen is just deeply concerned about Peter and fears for his safety, and is asking Flash for any clues as to how she can help Peter. THAT is Gwen Stacy!

ASM # 79:

In this issue, Spider-Man battles the Prowler, who is really a youth named Hobie Brown who decides to steal money as a costumed villain and then return it as himself, thus becoming a hero. Eventually, Spider-Man defeats the Prowler, learns his motivations, and decides to let him go. In the end, the two become friends.

Pg. 13: Gwen sees Peter at ESU and tries to talk to him, but, angry and sad, he brushes her off:

GWEN: "Peter Parker! This is me...Gwen Stacy....remember? If something's bugging you, I've a right to know what it is!"

PETER: "Sure, Gwen...sure! You've got your rights! And I hope you'll enjoy sharing them...with Flash Thompson! But it won't be at my expense...any more!"

This exchange indicates that, if the twisted, Sins Past version of Gwen hadn't been killed by the Green Goblin (and she'd been able to confess to Peter about her tryst with Norman Osborn and their children), Peter would have cut his ties with her for good (much the way he does here, at the merest hint of cheating).

Later, though, Peter feels bad for treating Gwen the way he did.

ASM # 80:

Pg. 1-3: Harry brings Flash over to his and Peter's apartment. Peter flips out, and actually grabs Flash and lifts him into the air, but Flash says there's nothing going on between him and Gwen. After cooling off for a moment, Peter calls Gwen:

GWEN (on phone): "Peter? Do I know a Peter? You must have a wrong number! The only boy with that name that I know seems to have crossed me off his list!"

PETER: "Okay, Gwendy...I guess I deserve that! But Flash just explained the whole thing! I feel like a real lunkhead, honey! How soon can I see you?"

GWEN: "Well, since I've always been foolishly partial to about now? I'm going to the new exhibit at the Midtown Museum!"

The exhibit Gwen is referring to is one featuring a series of priceless paintings (which her father is in charge of guarding).

Pg. 5-6: Peter meets Gwen at the Museum, and they go off and talk in private:

GWEN: "Why are you looking at me that way, Mr. Parker?"

PETER: "Maybe I just suddenly realized how much I've missed you, Gwendy.....or maybe--I just don't feel like--talking!"

As they lean in to kiss, they are interrupted by "Captain Stacy", who walks right past them (and triggers Peter's spider-sense). Soon after, Stacy goes missing, along with the paintings. In fact, "Captain Stacy" is Spidey's old foe, the Chameleon, who drugged the real Captain Stacy and impersonated him in order to steal the paintings. Soon, the real Captain Stacy is found at home, and is suspected to be the thief. It doesn't take long for Spider-Man to track down and defeat the Chameleon, thus clearing Stacy's good name.

ASM # 82: Aunt May has fallen ill as a result of finding a web-dummy in Peter's bed (which he used to sneak out and go after the Kangaroo in ASM # 81). Spider-Man has also managed to snag a spot on a late night talk show (and earn some much-needed money).

Pg. 2, panels 4-7: Mary Jane and her Aunt Anna visit Peter and ask about May. MJ then answers Peter's phone. It's Gwen, calling to remind Peter about Flash Thompson's farewell dinner (his military leave is ending):

GWEN: "Well, lover...I just wanted to remind you not to spend your extra money on frivolous things like yachts and Cadillacs! And remember...MJ is off-limits to Gwendolyn's guy."

Pg. 4: Harry shaves off his Fu Manchu mustache, and Peter wonders if Mary Jane wasn't impressed by it. Peter is also still depressed by all his recent problems.

Pg. 9-10: A morose Peter arrives at the Stacy home to pick up Gwen.

GWEN (opening the door): "Coming in, Peter...or do you just have a thing about ringing doorbells?"

PETER: "Oh...Hi, Gwen. Sorry, pretty girl. Guess I was a little preoccupied!

GWEN (holding him): "That's okay, Mr. P. A girl can't take too much of all this flaming passion, anyway!"

Captain Stacy talks to Peter about Spider-Man's television appearance, scheduled for that evening, but Gwen cuts in:

GWEN: "Sorry, dad. This scintillating lad is mine tonight!"

CAPTAIN STACY: "Hmmm...I suspected as much."

Peter feels bad about having to take Gwen to Flash's party on a bus (he can't afford cab fare).

As the couple arrives at the farewell party, Flash makes a rude comment about Peter, and Gwen defends him:

FLASH: "Hi, Gwendy. Couldn't get a date tonight, huh?"

GWEN: "Come off it, soldier. With Peter on my arm, I feel like a sweepstakes winner."

MARY JANE (to Peter): "Hmmm...If you're all that groovy, maybe you deserve Mary Jane."

GWEN (to MJ): "When would you like him, dear? Before or after I pull your hair out?"

Soon enough, Peter and Flash begin to argue, and Peter angrily leaves.

Pg. 11-12: Gwen catches up with Peter on the street. She thinks his bad mood is *her* fault, but in fact, it's Peter's financial woes that are causing all the trouble (he wants to be able to afford to treat Gwen like a queen):

PETER: "Why should someone like you be stuck...with a shnook like me?"

GWEN: "Don't say that! I don't care how much money you have! You're the best thing that ever happened to me."

With Gwen crying, they kiss passionately. Peter considers confessing the truth about his double identity, but can't bring himself to do it.

Pg. 12, panel 6: Later, the two are sitting on a park bench.

GWEN: "I'd rather be here with you...on this park bench right now...than anywhere else in the whole wide world."

PETER (thought balloon): "This is why I've got to amount to something someday. I've got to do it...for Gwen......for the most wonderful girl I'll ever know."

ASM # 83: Pg. 9-12: The gang (Peter, Gwen, Harry, and Mary Jane) is with Flash Thompson at the airport as he prepares to leave. MJ gives Flash a goodbye kiss on the lips. Gwen tells Peter to look away, and does the same. Peter is upset:

PETER: "I know you were just being friendly, Gwen...but..."

GWEN: "Friendly my eye! I was doing my darndest to get you jealous, man."

Harry and MJ go to the movies, and ask Peter and Gwen to come along, but Peter is glum, and Gwen steps in:

GWEN (to MJ): "Sorry, sweetie. I want the lad all to my greedy little self tonight."

PETER: "Glad you did that, Gwendy. I just wasn't in the mood. There's something...I've been wanting to--talk to you about..."

GWEN: "Then chomp those lips, lover. I'm listening away."

It very much seems that Peter is on the verge of *proposing marriage* to Gwen here, but then his spider-sense goes off just as a speeding car sideswipes a truck, sending the truck careening towards the couple. Peter pushes Gwen out of the way, and the truck flips over and nearly crushes them. Peter's spider-strength is the only thing that saves them, and Peter grabs a parking meter and uses it to brace the truck (making it appear as if the meter broke and stopped the truck from crushing them all by itself). Gwen is hurt, though. She's bruised and in shock (and unconscious), and is taken to the hospital. As it turns out, the truck was rammed by a car belonging to the crimelord known as the Schemer (actually the Kingpin's son, Richard Fisk, attempting to undermine his father's criminal operations).

Peter managed to get a spider-tracer onto the Schemer's car as it sped off, and so goes to pursue it as Spider-Man (he wants to nab the guilty parties for injuring Gwen). He ends up battling the Schemer and his men, and it ends in a draw. Later, Peter goes to the hospital to check on Gwen. He tries to talk to her, and she ignores him.

GWEN: "I hear you. I hear my ever-loving boy friend who cares so much about me that he stayed away until now. Dad, would you show Mr. Parker out? I wouldn't want to keep him from more important things."

Outside Gwen's room:

CAPTAIN STACY (to Peter): "Most females tend to think with their emotions, Peter...and you know how spirited Gwen is. I'm sure she'll see things differently in the morning."

As he leaves, Peter wonders if Captain Stacy suspects his secret identity.

If Gwen really was pregnant at this time, wouldn't the doctors have told her (if she didn't know) or her next of kin (Captain Stacy, who would surely have confronted Peter with the news)? Wouldn't Gwen be WORRIED about her babies' safety after being injured???

But none of that happens here.

ASM # 84:

Pg. 5-6: Peter visits the Stacy home. Gwen wonders about Peter's secret, and Captain Stacy wonders why Peter has no injuries from the truck accident (and just how a lone parking meter stopped the truck). Feeling the heat, Peter feigns illness in order to leave.

ASM # 85:

Pg. 3-5: Captain Stacy and Gwen visit Peter, who is worried about his lack of money, and the fact that Gwen's birthday is coming up. They wonder about how Peter is the only one who can get good photos of Spider-Man. Once again, Peter becomes worried that they're getting too close to the truth, and so he says that he needs to go to his darkroom and develop some photos. He then switches to Spider-Man, climbs out the window, and reappears in the window facing the Stacys. Spider-Man acts angry, and says he's looking for Peter. He says they have a deal (Spidey lets Peter take photos of him in exchange for money), and that Peter owes him money. The ruse works, and he then departs.

Pg. 5, panel 4:

GWEN: "Poor Peter! No wonder he sometimes seems so nervous--so fearful!"

The Stacys leave, and Spider-Man goes off to continue his battles against the Schemer and the Kingpin.

Pg. 11: Later on, the Stacys return to Peter's apartment to check on him, but Peter isn't there (Note that they enter when no one's home. Did Peter give Gwen a key to the apartment? Or was the door unlocked?). Gwen cries and worries that Peter may have been kidnapped by Spider-Man:

GWEN: "Peter might be his prisoner now! He might have taken him...anywhere!"

ASM # 86: Peter begins to feel very ill after the end of the Schemer/Kingpin debacle.

Pg. 5-6: Harry, Gwen, and Captain Stacy are waiting at Harry and Peter's apartment for him. A bruised and battered Peter finally shows up, and Gwen is overjoyed to see him. Seeing his bruises, Gwen asks our battered and weary hero if he's in some sort of trouble.

PETER: "I'm not in trouble! Why does everyone keep hounding me?"

GWEN: "Hounding you? Is that all you can say to people who worry about you...who want to help you? Is that how you feel...about a girl who...loves you?"

Pg. 7, panels 2-5:

PETER: "Gwen...forgive me! I didn't mean to snap like that! I...wouldn't hurt you...for anything in the world!

GWEN: "If you really mean that...I want you to make me a promise..."

PETER: "Anything---honey! Anything!"

GWEN: "Promise you'll never have anything to do with Spider-Man again! He's too dangerous! Those photos you take of him...aren't worth the risk!"

Soon, they leave. On the way out, Captain Stacy talks to Peter:

PETER: "Captain know how I feel about Gwen! I wouldn't hurt her for anything!"

CAPTAIN STACY: "I understand, son! But Gwen is a female...and like all females...she thinks with her heart! She feels you're keeping something from her! And that's hard to take...for a girl in love!"

Peter again wonders if Stacy knows the truth about him.

Later on, a weakened Spider-Man battles the Black Widow. After that, he comes to the mistaken conclusion that, given his recent symptoms, he's losing his super-powers.

ASM # 87: A delirious Spider-Man makes his way home, and, in his confusion and delusion, very nearly steals a set of pearls for Gwen's birthday (he forgot about her surprise party). (This must be Gwen's 19th birthday, since she said she was 18 in ASM # 59.). The sickened Peter tells himself that Spider-Man is finished.

Pg. 7-9: The gang is attending Gwen's birthday party. She's worried, since Peter hasn't shown up yet. She cries. Suddenly, a feverish Peter, holding Spider-Man's mask, enters the room, and reveals that he is Spider-Man! Upon hearing the news, Gwen is on the verge of hysteria. Presumably, the thought that Peter could be a guy with creepy powers who is wanted by the police (and seen as a criminal by much of the public) is why she reacts so strongly. Peter sees how stunned and upset everyone is by his revelation, and he quickly leaves.

Pg. 10:

GWEN (to Captain Stacy): "Dad! Tell me I didn't see it! Tell me I didn't hear it! Tell me it was all a horrible dream! It couldn't have been Peter! Peter!"

Harry then interjects by saying that he'd heard about the time Dr. Octopus unmasked Spider-Man, revealing him to be Peter Parker (way, way back in ASM # 12), and how no one on the scene believed it, and thought Peter was just trying to be brave by posing as Spidey. Harry then wonders if the same type of situation is what's going on here.

Pg. 11, panel 5: The group has come to the conclusion that either Peter really IS Spider-Man, or that there's something very wrong with him.

MARY JANE : Wow, sure can pick 'em! He's either a masked menace--or a psycho case! Take your pick!"

GWEN (angry, crying): "Shut up! No matter what he is...what he's done...don't you dare talk about him like that!"

MARY JANE: "Okay, tigress! He's all yours!"

Mary Jane's comment here is interesting. Applying the retconned idea that she knew Peter's secret identity all along, her reaction to his revelation is very telling. This is presumably a confirmation of what MJ already knows (and dreads), and so she then puts on her cool, collected, "party girl" facade and uses a snarky comment (at Gwen's expense) to laugh off her pain.

Eventually, Peter comes to his senses (it turns out he just had a bad case of the flu), and, as Spidey, asks Hobie Brown (the Prowler, from ASM # 78-79) to return his favor of not turning Hobie in to the authorities. He gives Hobie his costume, and tells him to use his Prowler gear to imitate Spider-Man's powers at a certain time and place.

Peter returns to the Stacy home to see the gang, and, as planned, "Spider-Man" arrives. With "Spidey" and Peter both appearing at the same time in front of everyone, Peter is cleared of any suspicion. Gwen is overjoyed.

Pg. 20, panel 2:

GWEN: "Oh, Peter...Peter! Having you back again is the greatest birthday present I could ever get!"

Peter then departs for home to get some much-needed rest. As he leaves:

GWEN (to Peter): "Keep cool, lover! The only time I want you delirious, is when I'm around!"

It's a happy ending, the last one the couple will have for a quite a while.

ASM # 88: In prison, Doctor Octopus mentally commands his tentacles (which have been removed from his body) to escape and then break him out.

Pg. 7-8: Peter meets Gwen at ESU, and we get a hint of sexual intimacy between them:

PETER: "Hi, Gwen, honey! How's my dynamite blonde this a.m.?"

GWEN: "Come a little closer and find out!"

PETER: "Hey, love o' my life...we're still in school!

GWEN: "Sure, sweetie...but I wanted you to know what you're missing!"

Peter then goes to see Professor Warren, who tells him his grades are slipping (due to his frequent absences). Later, Gwen playfully volunteers to tutor Peter.

Meanwhile, Doctor Octopus is on the loose, and Spider-Man battles him, but then Ock is presumed killed in an explosion.

ASM # 89: It turns out Doc Ock is still alive, and he proceeds to battle Spider-Man to a standstill.

ASM # 90: The battle between Ock and Spidey concludes with Ock escaping.

Pg. 6-7: A battered and dazed Peter Parker runs into Captain Stacy on the street, and collapses into his arms. He wakes up to Gwen's gorgeous face. They think Peter is still a bit sick from his bout with the flu in ASM # 86-87.

GWEN (to Captain Stacy): "He'd better stay here, dad--so I can look after him!"

CAPTAIN STACY: "I hate being a spoil-sport, Gwen--but I think he'll be perfectly okay after this! I've never known anyone with such amazing powers of recuperation!"

Peter's belief that Captain Stacy is on to him intensifies.

Soon after, Peter develops a special new web-fluid to use in his coming battle with Dr. Octopus. He also managed to slip a spider-tracer onto Ock during their last battle. He tracks Ock down, and they battle on the rooftops of the city. A crowd of police and onlookers have appeared below, Captain Stacy included. Spidey then uses his special web-fluid--which severs Ock's mental control over his mechanical arms. The tentacles go wild, and smash a nearby chimney. The debris flies off of the roof, and falls toward a small boy on the street below. Springing into heroic action, George Stacy hurls himself at the boy (shoving him out of the way), only to be buried under the debris himself.

Stunned, Spider-Man breaks off his fight with Dr. Octopus and rushes down to Stacy's aid. The onlookers think that Spider-Man himself caused the chimney to collapse. Detecting a heartbeat, Spidey desperately picks up Captain Stacy and runs back up the building, as he sees that there's a doctor in the next building over. However, once on the roof, Stacy tells him to stop, that it's too late.

SPIDER-MAN: "What is it, Captain? I'm--listening!"

CAPTAIN STACY: "It--It's Gwen! After I'm--gone--there'll be no one--to look after her--no one, Peter--except--you!"

SPIDER-MAN (thought balloon): "Peter! He--He called me Peter!"

CAPTAIN STACY: " Be good to her--son! Be good--to her--she loves you--so very--much---"

And then he's gone.

A devastated Spider-Man realizes that Stacy knew who Spider-Man really was, and that he probably knew all along (but never told anyone).

SPIDER-MAN: "Rest easy, sir--rest easy...I'll love Gwen--and cherish her--as long as I live! But, what if she ever learns----that you died--because of--me?"

And so, as he begins to mourn yet another man who was like a father to him, Peter Parker wonders just what will happen to his life with Gwen in the aftermath of this tragedy.

The death of George Stacy was a deeply powerful and important moment in Spider-Man's history. People tend to think that everything was fun and happy and goofy until *Gwen* died, but the TRUE death of innocence in Spider-Man's world began here, and culminated in Gwen's death. This marks the beginning of the break-up of the classic Spidey cast and also echoes the death of Ben Parker, another of Peter's father figures. And, as well shall see, Gwen's reaction to her father's death (and the difficult position it places Peter in) is not unlike Betty Brant's reaction when her brother was killed (way back in ASM # 11).

ASM # 91:

Pg. 1-3: We're at Captain Stacy's funeral. The whole gang is there (minus Flash Thompson, of course, since he's not on leave from the Army at this point). Gwen is crying. As the funeral concludes, we begin to see the devastating reaction her father's death has had on Gwen (and on Peter):

PETER (thought balloon): "Gwen is all alone now---except for---me."

GWEN: If not for Spider-Man--my father would still be alive."

PETER (thought balloon): "Oh, God--GOD! What would happen if she ever found out--that I'm Spider-Man? There was a time when I thought I might someday reveal my secret identity to her. But, that was before--this nightmare happened!"

Also at the funeral is Sam Bullit, a right-wing fanatic who is running for District Attorney in the upcoming election on a law and order ticket, and plans to use Stacy's death to his advantage (Bullit was once a police officer, and knew Captain Stacy).

J. Jonah Jameson grumbles that he regrets Stacy's death, but that Stacy was a bit too liberal for Jonah's tastes (especially regarding Spider-Man). He then vows to run a major anti-Spider-Man campaign in order to generate a strong public desire to bring Spidey in for Stacy's murder.

Then, we get yet another hint of sexual intimacy between Peter and Gwen:

PETER (thought balloon): "What can I do? What can I say to comfort her? How can I ever again look at her--touch her--without being tortured by pangs of guilt?"

As they depart by car:

GWEN (crying): "I was a fool, Pete. I see it now."

PETER: "Why, Gwen? What do you mean?

GWEN: "I didn't realize how old my father was--and how trusting. I didn't try to warn him against Spider-Man--while there was still time."

PETER: "Gwen, darling, no! You can't blame yourself. You mustn't!"

GWEN: "Spider-Man! Spider-Man! I'll hate him---forever! Whether he meant to or not--he killed my father! HE KILLED MY FATHER!"

Pg. 4-6: Gwen vows to help rid the city of menaces like Spider-Man, and thus volunteers to aid Sam Bullit's campaign (since he knew her father and is also making all sorts of generic promises about cleaning up New York).

On television, Bullit blames Spider-Man for Captain Stacy's death, and then makes a deal with J. Jonah Jameson: If Jonah supports Bullit's campaign, he'll deliver Spider-Man.

Bullit's goons then proceed to hassle Peter in order to discover his connection with Spider-Man (since Peter's the only one who can ever get photos of Spidey). After that, Spidey goes home, only to discover Bullit and Gwen there (Which again raises the question--does Gwen have a key to Peter and Harry's apartment?)!!!!

ASM # 92:

Pg. 1-2: Thinking fast, Spider-Man grabs the stunned Gwen and leaps out the window with her (in an attempt to throw Gwen and Bullit off the trail of his true identity). He then tells Gwen that Captain Stacy's death was an accident. Gwen is angry and crying, and Spidey then tries to get her even more upset so as to get Peter Parker off the hook.

On the street below, the mutant hero known as Iceman (a member of the mutant super-heroes known as the X-Men) sees Spidey "kidnapping" Gwen, and goes after them.

Finally, Spider-Man stops on a rooftop with Gwen when she stops struggling, and continues to try to throw her off the track to his true identity:

SPIDER-MAN (to Gwen): "Now that you're finally quiet, I've got some things to tell you--"

SPIDER-MAN (thought balloon): "And make it good, son! Make sure she never ties you in with Peter Parker again!"

SPIDER-MAN (to Gwen): "First about that dum-dum Parker--"

GWEN (angry): "You loathsome, arrogant savage! You aren't even fit to mention Peter's name! He's more man than you could ever hope to be!"

Soon, Iceman catches up to them and attacks Spidey, "rescuing" Gwen. Spidey escapes.

Back at the Daily Bugle, we then learn that Joe Robertson has done some research on Sam Bullit, and that Bullit is a racist affiliated with several hate groups.

Meanwhile, Bullit commends Iceman for his rescue of Gwen, and then sics him on Spidey. He also secretly has Joe Robertson taken prisoner, since Robbie is a threat to his plans. Spidey learns of this, and convinces Iceman that he's not a criminal. The two heroes then rescue Robbie, and Bullit is hauled off to jail.

ASM # 93: Pg. 1-3: We open with a crying Gwen, thinking about everything that's happened lately (and Peter).

GWEN: "I thought he loved me--as I love him. But, ever since Spider-Man killed my father--Peter has been acting so strangely--I hardly ever see him. Without dad--without Peter--my whole life seems so empty--so--The phone! Please--please let it be Peter."

The phone rings. It's Gwen's uncle Arthur (the late George Stacy's older brother) calling from London, England. Arthur and his wife, Nancy, heard about George's death, and want Gwen to move to London and live with them, so she can have a family.

(It's possible that George Stacy was British by birth, although it's just as likely that Arthur Stacy moved to England at some point. Indeed, when he became a supporting character in the Spider-books in the mid-1990s, it was revealed that Arthur was previously in charge of a private investigation firm in Hong Kong, indicating that he gets around quite a bit. It should be noted though, that in ASM # 95, Arthur uses some British-isms, such as "chap" and "bloomin'", so maybe the Stacy family really does come from England.)

GWEN (thought balloon): "It would be wonderful--seeing them again--but how can I go--and leave Peter? Unless--he no longer cares."

Then, Peter arrives. Gwen tells him about the offer from her aunt and uncle. He inwardly panics at the thought of losing her, and resolves to propose to her. He then kisses her.

PETER: No, Gwen--no! I want you to stay. I--I love you, Gwendy."

GWEN: "Oh, Peter--Peter...I love you, too. My love for you is even stronger than my hatred of Spider-Man."

Spider-Man. Peter forgot about that. He then feels a surge of guilt, and hesitates.

GWEN *crying): "Peter--what is it? What's wrong?

PETER: "It's no good, Gwen. I haven't--the right...I can't ask you--to stay here--to stay with me.

GWEN: "Can't? Of course you can. What you mean is--you won't It's all right, Peter. I--understand. I shouldn't have--thrown myself at you that way. I'm--very tired. Do you mind if--I don't see you to the door?"

Saddened, she politely asks Peter to leave, and so he does.

Later, Peter resolves to finally lay everything out on the table and reveal his true identity to Gwen. But just as he arrives as Spider-Man and peers in her window (she's crying), the Prowler (who thinks Spidey is a killer and must be brought to justice) attacks. Spidey forces the battle away from Gwen's home so she won't be hurt. Eventually, the Prowler is injured in the fight, and Spidey saves his life and takes him to the hospital. He then rushes back to Gwen's place, only to discover a new tenant moving in (Gwen has clearly decided to go to England). The female tenant tells him that Gwen went to the airport, and so Spider-Man rushes there, hoping to stop Gwen before she leaves. He switches to Peter Parker and dashes to the terminal, but arrives moments too late, and watches as Gwen's plane departs. A crushed Peter then leaves the airport.

ASM # 94: In this issue, Peter is consumed by his loss of Gwen. He is in agony without her. Meanwhile, Spider-Man saves Aunt May from the costumed villain known as the Beetle.

ASM # 95: Spider-Man can't forget Gwen, no matter what he does, and he can't afford plane fare to go see her, either. Depressed, Peter goes to the Daily Bugle and discusses his problems with Joe Robertson. Robbie sees how much Peter is hurting, and so he assigns Peter to go take some news photos in London (the Bugle will provide him with a travel voucher). Peter doesn't even know where in London Gwen is, but he resolves to find her.

As Peter's plane lands in London, a group of terrorists plants a bomb on the plane's underbelly. Spidey leaps into action and saves the plane. He then pursues the terrorists.

Pg. 12-13: At her aunt and uncle's home, Gwen sees Spider-Man swing past her window and passes out (thinking Spider-Man has come across the ocean to kill her as she thinks he killed her father). Her aunt and uncle help her. Prior to this, Spider-Man's spider-sense tingles when he unknowingly passes by the Stacy home, but he is unaware of how close Gwen is (This issue was published before Peter's spider-sense was firmly established to detect only potential dangers.).

Eventually, Spidey foils a plot to destroy the clock tower known as Big Ben, and then sees that his actions have already made the news. Realizing that Gwen would put two and two together when she discovers that Peter Parker and Spider-Man are both in London, a saddened Peter flies home without seeing Gwen.

Pg. 20: Learning of Spider-Man's heroic actions on television, Gwen's uncle Arthur says that Spidey's a hero.

GWEN (thought balloon, crying): "Even father used to say--he didn't think Spider-Man was really bad. I'm so mixed-up! If only Peter were here. I hoped--and--prayed--he'd love me enough to come after me. But I guess I was wrong--about many things."

And no, Gwen didn't leave so she could give birth to Norman Osborn's twin children in secret. Her motivations for leaving (the pain of her father's death, her aunt and uncle's offer to let her stay with them, and her problems with Peter) are very clearly spelled out.

ASM # 96 (Note: ASM # 96-98 are the infamous "drug issues". Stan Lee was contacted by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, which asked him to write a story to warn the readers about the evils of drug abuse. However, the Comics Code Authority refused to approve the three-part tale, and so Stan decided to publish the story without the Code's seal of approval, to rousing--and controversial--success.):

Peter has returned to New York, and is still low on money. When he delivers his photos of Spider-Man foiling the terrorists in London to Robbie, he wonders if Robbie knows his secret.

Pg. 4: Harry Osborn tells Peter about a musical that Mary Jane is performing in, and that his father's job offer (from ASM # 45) is still valid.

Pg. 7-8: Peter goes to see Norman Osborn at his office. Norman is just finishing a checkup with his doctor, who says Norman's blood pressure rises whenever he thinks of crime, super-heroes, or Spider-Man. Peter and Norman talk, and Norman says that Peter reminds him of someone. Thinking that working for Norman might be a bad idea (since it could trigger the Green Goblin's return), Peter says he'll consider the job offer and then departs. Soon after, Spider-Man saves the life of a young man who nearly falls to his death because drugs have convinced him that he can fly.

Pg. 14-16: At the theatre (which was once owned by Norman Osborn), where MJ's musical is about to start, the gang (Norman included) waits to go inside. Mary Jane flirts with Peter, much to Harry's chagrin. Randy Robertson then chews Norman out for not using his wealth and power to aid in the war against drugs. Norman becomes enraged, his ego flaring violently:

Pg. 16, panel 1:

NORMAN (furious): "Nobody's got a right to smart-mouth me!"

Harry holds Norman back and calms him down. The show begins soon after.

Pg. 16, panels 6-7: During the intermission, Harry talks to Norman about Mary Jane's performance (which featured her dancing around in a sexy outfit):

HARRY: "How about it, dad? Isn't she all I said she was?"

NORMAN: "Harry, my boy--if I were twenty years younger--"

And then he sees a locked door inside the building that gives him a cold chill.

But, more importantly, we see that although Norman is certainly attracted to Mary Jane here, he would never act on it (due to the inappropriateness and the age-difference). Thus, we have *CONCRETE* proof that Norman Osborn would never have a tryst with a college student, especially not Gwen Stacy!!!!!!!!!!!! And don't tell me that "the Goblin made him do it". As has been established (and will be further established soon), the Green Goblin has no visible interest in women (and he may even be misogynistic). He's interested in *wealth* and *power*, NOT pleasures of the flesh. This dialogue also indicates that Norman is somewhere around 40 years old at this point (that way, if he really were 20 years younger, he'd be right around MJ's age).

It's important to keep in mind that, despite his failings as a father and such, Norman (before his accident and then later on, after he suffered from amnesia), was not a *terrible* person. A bit of a creep, yes, but still a respected businessman who knew the boundaries of appropriateness regarding college girls!!!!

Anyway, after the show, Peter becomes worried. Norman seems obsessed with what's behind the mystery door at the theatre, and secretly goes after him as Spider-Man. But he arrives too late, for Norman has a key to the door, and enters (the room is the entrance to one of Norman's many hideouts). And as Spidey rushes in after him, he sees one of his worst nightmares come true: The Green Goblin has returned, and is promising to kill Spider-Man!

ASM # 97: Spider-Man battles the Green Goblin, and Spidey thinks about Norman's mental state:

Pg. 5, panels 3-5:

SPIDER-MAN (thought balloon): "'Cause I tried not to harm him---he thought I was scared. He didn't know the real reason--I knew he couldn't help himself! He's had brain damage! He's sick. And besides, he's my best friend's dad. Harry's father never wanted to be the Green Goblin. In fact, when he's rational, Osborn doesn't even know he's the Goblin."

Pg. 7: Spidey leads the Goblin to think he fell to his death. Believing he's triumphed over his foe, the Goblin's ego and ambition pump into overdrive:

GOBLIN: "But now I'm free to follow my destiny! With Spider-Man beaten, the Goblin is supreme."

Pg. 9-10: At home, Peter meets a shaky, angry Harry, who accuses Peter of moving in on Mary Jane. Peter says that MJ's probably just trying to make Harry jealous, and he also learns that Harry's been taking pills.

Pg. 11: At ESU, Mary Jane ignores Harry and compliments Peter's snazzy chains (his reply is that he got them from Gwen).

Pg. 14-16: Peter goes to Norman Osborn's office to look for him, and learns that he's missing. Meanwhile, MJ jilts Harry, sending him into a deep depression:

MARY JANE: "You've always been good for a few laughs, Harry--but don't let it go to your head. I'm nobody's girl but my own--and that's the way I like it."

Pg. 16-19: Later, Peter and Harry argue, and Peter leaves. As Spider-Man, he looks for the Goblin, but has no luck. Returning to his apartment, he finds that Harry has overdosed on pills and is in desperate need of medical attention. But then he sees that the Goblin is hovering outside the window, ready to attack!

ASM # 98 (Note: This issue, as well as several subsequent issues, was part of an experiment at Marvel. As a result, there's little punctuation in dialogue, except for the occasional exclamation point or question mark. The dialogue excerpted here reflects that style.):

Pg. 1-3: The Goblin crashes into Peter and Harry's apartment, and Peter holds the gravely ill Harry up for him to see.

GOBLIN: "That boy--in your arms! I--I know him But no--no! I won't be reminded! I--I don't want to remember"

It seems Stan Lee took a slightly different approach with the Goblin here, as he seems to not want to remember his life as Norman Osborn (sort of the opposite of Norman's anti-Goblin amnesia).

The Goblin flees, vowing to kill Peter another time, and Peter then calls an ambulance.

Pg. 4-5: Meanwhile, in London, Gwen Stacy can't get Peter out of her mind.

GWEN: "And now that I'm alone, no place can feel like home to me--if Peter isn't in the picture"

And later, as she walks down a street:

GWEN (thought balloon): "What right had I to be angry at Peter because he didn't propose marriage to me? I know he loves me--as I love him! I just know it A boy doesn't want to feel pressured--doesn't want to feel trapped by a girl Maybe I pushed too hard! Maybe I scared him away I was a fool to run off the way I did I let my grief--my hatred of Spider-Man--affect the way I felt about poor Peter But maybe it's not too late--to set things right again"

Hmmm. Not a single thought or regret about a fling with Norman Osborn or illegitimate children. Just love and concern for Peter Parker, the man who loves her. How odd...

Pg. 10-19: Spider-Man meets up with the Green Goblin again and they fight. Eventually, Spidey forces the Goblin to steer his glider towards the hospital where Harry is, hoping that the shock of seeing his son in such a grave state will shock him back to normal. It does:

Pg. 19, panels 1-4:

GOBLIN (crying): "Harry! My son--what is it? What's wrong? It's your father! Don't you know me? Harry--say something Nothing must happen--to--my boy Harry--Harry! My boy--my--unhhh"

He passes out, and Spider-Man then burns the Goblin costume and places Norman in his bed at home.

Pg. 20: As Peter calms down after these harrowing events, he thinks he hears Gwen's voice. And it's true! She's come home from England! They run into each other's arms and kiss passionately. It's a well-deserved happy ending.

And please note that Gwen was only gone for a very short time, probably no more than a week or two at most.

ASM # 99: (Note: This issue also has a distinct lack of punctuation in the dialogue.)

Pg. 1-3: A reunited Peter and Gwen walk happily down a street.

PETER: "You know, honey--a gal like you can be--habit-forming"

GWEN: "Are you trying to tell me something, Mr. Parker?"

PETER: "You know it, lady And you also know--what I'm trying to ask What I wanna know is--how will you feel after I ask it?"

Clearly, Peter wants to propose marriage to her.

GWEN: "What do you thin--oh!"

He kisses her passionately.

PETER: "I think you talk too much"

Soon, they part, and plan to have a date later that night. However, Peter knows he will need money to support a wife, and working for Norman Osborn would be too risky, since Peter's presence could once again trigger Osborn's Green Goblin memories. So, Peter goes to the Daily Bugle and demands a staff photographer’s job from J. Jonah Jameson (which he gets).

Soon after, there's a prison riot, which Spidey foils. He then gets an offer from a late night talk-show host (one suspiciously similar to Johnny Carson's) to appear on his show (and thus earn much-needed cash). However, at the taping of the show, the police show up and try to bring Spidey in for questioning in the George Stacy murder case (there's a warrant out for Spidey). Spidey escapes before getting paid, and a glum Peter then goes to Gwen's apartment to confess to her that he's broke. He tells her that he's sorry he can't afford to take her out, but her reaction surprises him:

Pg. 20, panels 4-7:

GWEN: "Peter Parker, you're an idiot"

PETER: "What do you mean?"

GWEN: "I'd no intention of going out! I spent all afternoon cooking dinner for us We're staying right here"

Pg. 20, panel 7:

We cut to an exterior shot of Gwen's apartment, with a symbolic image of Spider-Man's head looming over the New York skyline. There appears to be a spider-sense (or similar) effect around Spidey's spectral head, which may naughtily hint at impending sex between Peter and Gwen (much as the dialogue does)!!!!

GWEN: "This is one time I'm having you all to myself"

PETER (thought balloon): "Parker, you may have been a loser before--but it looks like you finally did something right"

ASM # 100: (This issue is also punctuation-challenged.) As we open, Peter has become bored with being Spider-Man. Last issue's reconciliation with Gwen has also changed his views of his life...and his future.

Pg. 6, panels 4-6 through Pg. 7, panel 1:

PETER: "I know what I want and Gwen Stacy is it"

PETER (thought balloon): "But, even though she doesn't talk about it anymore, she still thinks Spider-Man's to blame for her father's death It's tough enough to keep my secret identity from her now But, once we were married--the strain could be too great So, I can't put it off any longer I've got to give up being Spider-Man--forever"

This passage hints that Peter has actually considered keeping his secret from Gwen once they were married. Hmm.

Pg. 10: And so, determined to marry Gwen and lead a normal life, Peter drinks an untested potion he'd concocted years before to rid him of his spider-powers.

PETER: But any risk would be worth it--"


Peter then falls into a troubled, hallucinogenic slumber. He dreams of battling all his old foes, and at the end of it, he sees Captain George Stacy (A hallucination or the genuine article calling out from beyond?) telling him that his powers and responsibilities are both a blessing and a curse, one he must bear forever!

Pg. 27: And with that, Peter awakens to discover that something has gone horribly, horribly wrong. Not only has he NOT lost his powers, but four new arms have emerged from his torso!!!!!!!!

And with that, Stan Lee ended his consecutive, 100-issue run as writer of Amazing Spider-Man. Roy Thomas, Lee's hand-picked successor as Editor-In-Chief at Marvel, temporarily took over the reins of the book.

ASM # 101: We pick up where we left off. Peter's grown four new arms, he's in shock. Bitter and terrified, he resolves to find a way to cure himself. Then, Gwen calls:

Pg. 3, panels 4-8:

GWEN (on phone): "Peter? I was hoping I'd corner you at home. Now, don't say a word--just settle back and listen. This is your lucky night man o' mine. In honor of Betty Friedan's birthday, I've decided to play liberated woman and treat you to the R-rated flick of your choice. I should warn you, I've already seen "Love Story"--but I've got enough Kleenex left to sit thru it again. Or we could take in "I Am Curious (Yellow)". You could cover my eyes during the spicy parts."

For those who don't know, Betty Friedan is a noted women's rights activist, and author of The Feminine Mystique. Clearly, Gwen isn't just some weak-willed bimbo. And she's also a bit flirty here. And wouldn't seeing a spicy movie with Peter embarrass her if she'd had a tryst with Norman Osborn?

PETER (on phone): "Gwendy--I--Look, I may as well be frank with you. I can't see you tonight. Fact is, I'm gonna be out of town a while--maybe a long while."

GWEN: "Peter--you sound so strange. Is it something I did--?"

PETER: "Why? Got a guilty conscience? Well, I gotta go now--"

GWEN (sad): "Yes--I understand, Peter. I--won't bother you any longer. Good-bye..."

Clearly, Gwen is deeply saddened by Peter's brash, off-putting behavior, and thinks it's somehow her fault. And no, she DOES *NOT* have a guilty conscience because she HASN'T DONE ANYTHING WRONG (like screwing Norman Osborn or lying to Peter)!

Soon after, Spidey goes to Dr. Curt Connors' summer house in Southhampton to work on a cure for his little problem. Unfortunately, he ends up fighting the Lizard and Morbius, the Living Vampire!

ASM # 102: After being bitten by Morbius, the Lizard regains Dr. Connors' persona. He and Spider-Man theorize that they might be able to cure themselves of their respective problems by creating a serum based on an enzyme Morbius is carrying in his bloodstream. Meanwhile, at her apartment, Gwen ruminates on her phone conversation with Peter:

Pg. 26, panels 4-6, Pg. 27, panels 1-6:

GWEN (thought balloon): "...too late...for both of us...Oh, don't be so melodramatic, Gwendolyn. So Pete was a bit rude on the phone. That doesn't mean...he no longer loves you. Everybody has a bad day now and then. That was his. But then--why hasn't he called back these past two days? And, either he's not at his apartment...or else he's just not answering when I call. I wonder if his Aunt May...Of course. That must be it! When Pete said he'd be out of town for a while----he must have just meant he'd be visiting May Parker, in Queens. One phone call, girl--and you can trade in your crying towel."

She calls May, who says Peter's not there, and she's certain he'd tell her if he was leaving town. She asks Gwen if something's wrong.

GWEN (crying): "No...Nothing’s wrong, Mrs. Parker. And, I'm sure you're right. If Pete had told anyone he was leaving would have"

She hangs up, and cries (with her face in her hands) in two silent panels, all alone in her little apartment.

Soon after, Spidey and the Lizard battle Morbius and manage to cure themselves.

ASM # 103: Spidey is back home again, his four extra arms gone. Meanwhile, J. Jonah Jameson sees a guide in the portion of Antarctica known as the Savage Land (which has a tropical climate) on Johnny Carson's talk show, a guide who says that a bizarre, massive monster has been spotted in the area.

Pg. 6, panels 3-5: A reunited Peter and Gwen are walking down a street. Peter is keeping mum about his recent exploits in order to keep his identity secret intact.

GWEN: "I'm so glad you finally called me, Pete. I was really becoming paranoid about your little vanishing act."

PETER: "I wish I could tell you where I was, Gwendy--but I just can't".

PETER (thought balloon): "How do I explain I was hiding out with two extra pairs of arms----without blowing the whole secret identity bit?"

GWEN: "All right, Pete--I'll try not to pry. I've got you all to myself now, and that's all that--"

As they arrive at the apartment, the phone rings. It's Robbie Robertson, with an offer for Peter (J.J.J. wants Peter to go with him to the Savage Land to search for the mysterious monster).

Pg. 7, panels 1-4: Peter and Gwen discuss Robbie's offer, and Peter is eager to accept (for money reasons).

PETER: "Hear that, honey? I leave in a couple of days. This could be my big break--"

GWEN: "Yes, Mister Parker--I did hear--and I don't like it one bit! H-how could you say yes--now, of all times? I--I--"

PETER: "Don't cry, Gwendy. It means money--money we can use to get mar--"

He sees that it's no use trying to convince her with logic (or the promise of impending marriage), so he takes her to the Daily Bugle. Jameson suddenly gets the idea that bringing Gwen along would be a great idea (the "cheesecake sells papers" factor).

Pg. 8, panels 3-4:

PETER (to J.J.J.): "Sounds great to me, sir--but for Gwen--I don't know--"

GWEN: "Why, Peter Parker--what a male chauvinistic pig thing to say!"

JAMESON: "You tell 'im, young lady. A girl like you is just what my expedition needs. Gotta think of the women's angle. They buy papers too, y'know. Besides, a pretty face never scared gents away from the newsstand."

GWEN: "It's all very tempting. I could use the money too, and--"

She agrees to come, and Jameson is very excited.

And if Gwen were pregnant (or already had children) at this point, would she really risk her life for a few bucks????

Soon after, the trio takes a plane to Rio, then a lengthy boat ride to Antarctica.

Pg. 12, panels 4-5: After they've arrived by helicopter, we see that Gwen has changed into...a bikini!!!! And there's no hint of pregnancy whatsoever. She's uber-cute.

GWEN (to Peter): "Well? How do I look?...Mr. J thought it'd be great to transmit back a few pics right away."

PETER: "Wild! But, if and when we find that King Kong type----I want you back in the 'copter where you'll be safer."

GWEN: "Pete--will you stop trying to protect me?"

PETER: "When that day comes, honey, you can bury m--"

Jonah then interrupts them. But we can see that Peter is still taking his promise to the late Captain Stacy (to take care of Gwen) very seriously.

After that, a band of Savage Land natives attacks, and then the monster, an alien named Gog, arrives and knocks Peter into a river below. Gog then takes Gwen to Kraven the Hunter, who has befriended the creature, and now wants to take Gwen as his mate, intending to rule the Savage Land with his queen!

ASM # 104: Spidey and Ka-Zar, lord of the Savage Land, rescue Gwen and defeat Kraven. Peter is presumed dead, but miraculously shows up after things settle down. Gwen is thrilled to see him:

Pg. 21: panels 4-5

GWEN (relieved): "PETE! Oh, Pete--I knew you were safe. You had to be!"

She hugs him.

PETER: "Mmmm! I'd go thru it all over again for another welcome-home like this."

GWEN (smiling): "D-Don't you dare, Peter Parker! Don't you dare!"

JAMESON: "Alright you two--break it up! You're necking on my time!"

ASM # 105:

At this point in time, Stan Lee returned for a brief stint as writer (from ASM # 105-110).

Pg. 8-9: Harry Osborn is out of the hospital, and the gang is throwing a surprise welcome home party for him. Flash Thompson is also back in town, and there's friction between Flash and Peter.

Pg 8, panel 5:

GWEN (to Flash): "Bygones are bygones, hero! This time you two will be friends."

FLASH: "For you, Gwendy? Why not?"

Pg. 8, panels 6-7:

MARY JANE (seeing Gwen and Flash talking): "Poor little Petey! They always did dig each other. But don't worry--I still like you."

PETER: "Hey--hold it. Now look, M.J.--"

Before Peter can tell MJ to back down, Harry and Norman Osborn arrive at the party, and later, Spider-Man battles one of Spencer Smythe's Spider-Slayers.

ASM # 106 (written by Stan Lee):

Pg. 14-15: Peter arrives at home and talks with Harry, who is depressed because Mary Jane won't take him seriously. Soon, MJ and some other kids show up, and MJ is flirty with Peter. Once again, Peter brushes her off, saying he has a date with Gwen.

Pg. 16-17: Peter meets up with Gwen (who is very well-dressed) for their date:

PETER: "Gwendy! Do you haveta look so voomy? I'm only human!"

GWEN: "Don't fight it, man o' mine! You male--me female--that's the name of the game!"

PETER: "The name of the game is love, lady! I'm off my rocker over you!"

GWEN: "Careful, darling! I'll think you're trying to tell me something!"

Gee, either Gwen is a sex-maniac, or she's overcompensating because she feels guilty about her fling with Norman Osborn, or.........she's a wonderful young lady who's deeply in love with Peter Parker, and wouldn't dream of cheating on him. Which do YOU think is correct?

PETER: "Well, where'll we go tonight, ma'am? The Garden of Eden? The moon? You name it!"

GWEN: "I--thought we'd drop in and visit Flash! He hasn't looked well since he returned from Viet Nam."

PETER: "Flash? But--But this is supposed to be our date, honey!"

GWEN: "Oh, we've a whole lifetime ahead of us, Pete! I've been worried about Flash! And you be nice to him when he comes to the door, hear?"

Ironic words, that "whole lifetime" bit. And we can clearly see that Gwen is as kind and caring for others as always.

They go to see Flash, and Gwen asks if there's anything they can do to help him. He's hostile, and they leave. Later, they go to the movies, and afterwards, Peter is feeling jealous:

Pg. 17, panels 4-5:

PETER: "Gwendy, why are you so...interested in Flash?"

GWEN: "I'm not, Pete! I'm just worried about him! There's a difference, man! He's a friend, darling! Just like Harry--and Randy--and Mary Jane! If something's wrong with a friend, I'm unhappy about it! Aren't you?"

PETER: "Wow, Miss Stacy! I suddenly feel lower than a worm's belly! I used to think I just loved you for your looks--But, y'know something? Your soul's as beautiful as your face, and that's saying a--"

GWEN: "Oh, shut up, you chatterbox--and kiss me!"

And he does.

But examining the preceding exchange...either Gwen is a manipulative, hypocritical, lying SHREW, or....she's actually a GOOD person, one who deeply cares for Peter and all of their friends. Huh.

ASM # 107 (written by Stan Lee): Spider-Man has been captured by his old foe Spencer Smythe, operating one of his Spider-Slayers robots.

Pg. 5-7: We see Gwen at ESU, wearing a horizontal variant of her infamous black headband. She asks several students if they've seen Peter Parker.

Pg. 6, panels 4-5:

STUDENT: "Uh uh! Any message if we do?"

GWEN: "Sorry, group--the message I've got waiting for him can't be delivered by proxy!"

STUDENT: "Mmmmm--I like the way the lady talks!"

Clearly, Gwen is not above making a sexual innuendo regarding her boyfriend, Peter (whom she has very likely been sexually intimate with).

GWEN (thought balloon): "I thought Pete would wait for me after class so we could ankle home together. I hope Mary Jane didn't manage to reach him first! Shame on you, Miss Stacy! How can such a pretty little creature feel so jealous? Easy--when Pete's concerned!"

This look at Gwen's inner feelings shows that she's a bit jealous of Mary Jane, who has been angling for Peter's attentions for some time. It also shows how head-over-heels she is for Peter.

Soon after, Flash Thompson talks to Gwen to apologize for his rude behavior in ASM # 106:

FLASH (to Gwen): "Gwen! Can I speak to you for a minute?"

GWEN: "Wha--? Oh, Flash--it's you!"

FLASH: "I just wanted to apologize--for the way I acted yesterday--when you and Parker came to see me."

GWEN: "It's all right, Flash! You don't have to--"

FLASH: "I do have to! I want to! You know how I feel about you--"

GWEN: "I feel the same way, Flash! We're friends--I want us to stay that way.

FLASH: That's--not what I mean! You're more to me--than just a friend.

GWEN: What--are you trying to say? No--don't answer! Just listen. You know how Peter and I feel about each other! It's for real, Flash! But, I've a feeling there's something else--There's something you're not telling me!"

FLASH: "I can't, Gwen! I want to, but I can't tell you--can't tell anyone!"

GWEN: "If you're in trouble--if there's any way Peter and I can help..."

FLASH: "Peter and you! Peter and you! Wow--if only it were that simple!

This exchange once again shows just how faithful Gwen is to Peter, and how considerate is she of others' feelings. She won't even let Flash blurt out how he feels about her, because she knows the havoc that will cause amongst their relationships with Peter and the rest of the gang. Instead, Gwen stops him before he can say something he can't take back, makes it clear just how close she and Peter are, and then gently reinforces this by saying "Peter and I" will help Flash if he's in any trouble.

Pg. 21: After defeating Spencer Smythe, Spider-Man sees Gwen and Flash on the street below. A car pulls up, Flash gets in, and Spidey can see that Gwen is crying.

ASM # 108 (written by Stan Lee):

We pick up with Spider-Man trailing the car Flash had gotten into at the end of ASM # 107. Meanwhile, we get...ahem...a flashback from Flash, which reveals what happened to him in Viet Nam. Wounded, Flash was taken in by the residents of the Hidden Temple. There, he met and fell in love with a woman named Sha Shan. Unfortunately, U.S. troops subsequently bombed the temple, and those who lived there mistakenly thought that Flash had set them up and led the U.S. forces right to them. Now, Flash is being followed by enforcers from the temple who seek vengeance.

Pg. 14-16:

Harry and May Parker are at Harry and Peter's apartment. Peter arrives, and then a frantic Gwen arrives. Gwen explains that Flash is under guard at the Federal Building (Peter, as Spider-Man, took Flash to the authorities for protection before returning to his apartment). Peter and Gwen then leave to visit Flash.

Pg. 16, panels 2-3:

Peter and Gwen walk along the street:

PETER (to Gwen): "Wouldn't you know Aunt May would tell us to be careful crossing the street as we walked out the door!"

GWEN: "I guess she can't help worrying about you, Peter--just as I do. Here's the building. I hope we can learn something."

PETER (thought balloon): "What did she mean--about worrying about me?

Suddenly, Peter's spider-sense goes off. A beefy, Vietnamese chauffeur is waiting to attack Flash. Peter resolves to look into the danger, but must first make an excuse to get away from Gwen.

Panel 5:

PETER: "Gwendy, would you, eh, wait here for a minute? I just remembered--I have to, eh, call Jameson--about some photos!"

GWEN (worried expression on her face): "Sure, Peter,-if--it's important."

Peter gets into a fight (in street clothes) in the dark with the chauffeur, and then the chauffeur causes an explosion as a distraction. The Vietnamese get away with Flash, and Gwen meets up with a battered Peter, who wants to pursue his kidnapped friend.

PETER: "Gwen! Stay here! I've got things to do!"

GWEN: "No, Peter--no! Whenever there's danger--whenever there's trouble--you always leave and run off! Ever since I can remember--Flash and the others, have called you--a coward! I've tried to ignore it--to close my mind to it--but I'm begging you now, Peter--if you love me--stay with me! Whatever may happen--we'll face it together!"

Peter is badly torn by this. Gwen is clearly distraught, fearful for Peter's safety, confused by his disappearing act, and, perhaps, fearful that she'll lose him the way she lost her father. But Flash Thompson, an innocent person--who is also Peter's friend--is in deadly danger. Will Peter break Gwen's heart by leaving her to pursue Flash, or will he let an innocent person suffer?

ASM # 109 (written by Stan Lee):

Pg. 1-3: Peter has decided to stay with Gwen...or at least to give the appearance of it. Knowing he has to go after Flash (but afraid of hurting Gwen), he goes to the bathroom, telling Gwen he's going to wash up (he's covered with soot and debris from the explosion at the end of last issue). In the bathroom, Peter creates a web-dummy, which he dresses in his own clothes. As Spider-Man, he then swings off with the web-dummy in clear view of Gwen and other onlookers, making it appear that Spider-Man has kidnapped Peter Parker. His little escape plan works, but Gwen is horrified (and Peter feels lousy about leaving her in such a state).

GWEN: "Oh my God! Not again! Not again! It--It's my fault! If I hadn't insisted that Peter stay here--If I had let him go--"

This makes it pretty clear what an unselfish, sensitive young lady Gwen is, doesn't it?

Pg. 14-15: Later, a frantic Gwen goes to Peter and Harry's apartment, hoping to find her "missing" boyfriend. Harry tells her that he hasn't seen Peter, and Gwen loses it:

GWEN: "Then--he must still be a captive of--Spider-Man! Oh, it--it--it's horrible! That masked murderer seized him--took him prisoner--and vanished in the night!"

Suddenly, Gwen sees that Peter's Aunt May has been there the whole time, and has heard her say that Peter is missing.

AUNT MAY: "I was waiting for Peter! But--what happened to him? What happened to my poor, dear boy?"

Driven mainly by her own anguish and fear for Peter's safety, Gwen unwittingly lashes out at May, and in the process proves just how much she cares about Peter:

GWEN (to May, crying): "He's not a boy! He's not! He's a man! I know he's your nephew! I know how you love him--because I love him too! But it's Peter Parker, the man, that I love! When will you let him go? When will you--? Oh! I--I'm sorry! I shouldn't have spoken to you that way! I have--no right!"

AUNT MAY: "Don't--Don't say it, my child! You have every right!"

She hugs Gwen.

AUNT MAY: "You both love each other--and that gives you the right! Perhaps you've said something that--that should have been said before! Perhaps--a foolish old lady--lonely, and unthinking--can smother a person with love..."

This is an important moment for Gwen, to be sure. Out of her deep, powerful love for Peter and her concern for his safety, she explodes at Aunt May for being overprotective of Peter (something Peter himself has wanted to say on several occasions over the years, but hasn't been able to), but then pulls back and apologizes. And JMS (as well as other fans who support him) thinks Gwen was weak and had "no character". Maybe he should look at this scene and think about it a bit more before running his arrogant mouth off. I vastly prefer this classic moment to Gwen's display of "strength" in JMS' Sins Past.

Anyway, this moment will also have repercussions in future issues, as we shall see.

Soon after, Spidey bails Flash out of trouble, and can't wait to tell Gwen that Flash is okay. But he still wonders how he can compete with Flash for Gwen's affections, since Flash is now a romantically-available civilian again, while Spider-Man is blamed by Gwen for her father's death.

ASM # 110 (written by Stan Lee):

Pg. 10-13: Peter returns home, battered and bruised from his battle to rescue Flash Thompson. Gwen (wearing her normal vertical black headband) is elated to see him, and hugs him. Aunt May sees Peter's bruises.

AUNT MAY: "It's that horrible Spider-Man, isn't it? I heard how he attacked you! But why? Why, Peter?"

GWEN: "Mrs. Parker--you promised to stop treating Peter like a child--to stop babying him!"

Peter begins to feel a bit ill.

PETER: "Aw, that's okay, Aunt May!"

AUNT MAY: "No, Peter dear--it's not okay! Gwendolyn is right! I've been too maternal--too possessive all these years!"

She leaves.

PETER: "Gwendy, what is it? What's happened to Aunt May?"

GWEN: "It's my fault, Peter! I told her she shouldn't try to coddle you so much--But I didn't mean to hurt her--to make her feel guilty! I just did it for your sake because--"

Peter gets very tired and lies down. Gwen thinks the strain of Spider-Man's "attack" on him was too much.

GWEN: "Don't worry, darling! I'll look after you! Oh, Peter--Peter! It breaks my heart to see you like this! I love you so much--so very much!"

Then, Flash Thompson and Harry Osborn arrive. Flash makes a joke about Peter's condition and implies that he's weak, and Gwen is infuriated.

GWEN: "Stop it, Flash! It's nothing to joke about! Maybe he isn't a big, strong, rugged war hero like you, but--I don't mean to go getting all uptight, but--I just can't bear it when I hear people putting poor Peter down! Maybe he's not you're cup of tea--but he's all the man I'll ever want!"

Once again, this demonstrates just how much Gwen loves Peter, and what a lying, two-faced little piece of trash she'd be if she, y'know, cheated on him with Norman Osborn, had Osborn's children, and didn't bother to tell Peter about it. That would be just plain SILLY...

HARRY: "Look, why not let Flash take you home? I'll stay here with Pete! All he needs now is rest!"

GWEN: "I hate to leave him--but I guess you're right!"

FLASH: "He's a lucky guy to have a chick like you, Gwen!"

Pg. 13, panels 1-2: On the street outside the apartment, Gwen and Flash are beginning the walk to her place.

GWEN: "If only you and Pete could become good friends!"

FLASH: "If that's what the lady wants--that's what the lady'll get!"

GWEN: "Do you really mean it, Flash?"

FLASH: "Sure I do! You know how I feel about you, gorgeous! I'd do anything to make you happy!"

However, an exhausted Peter looks out his window and sees them leave. He fears that his suspicions about Gwen and Flash are right.

Pg. 14-15: Peter wakes up to Harry's smiling face 12 hours later, and calls Aunt May. There's no answer, but there is a note on her table with Peter's name on it when he goes to her home to see her.

ASM # 111:

At this point, Stan Lee departed once again, and 19-year-old Gerry Conway took over as the regular writer of Amazing Spider-Man, with John Romita working as artist and co-plotter. Indeed, out of deference to Romita, Conway asked to have Romita's name come first in the credit box of every issue.

Pg. 5-6: Picking up from last issue, Spider-Man has discovered a note with Peter's name on it in May Parker's home. It reads:

"Dear Peter,

I am going away for a while. I know it is best for all of us. Please do not worry about me. I will write as soon as possible.

Your loving aunt,


Peter blames himself for Aunt May's abrupt departure.

Pg. 15, panels 2-7: A tired Peter gets a phone call, and hopes it's May, but it's just Gwen Stacy.

PETER: "Hello? Hello, Aunt M--?'s only you, Gwen."

GWEN: "Only me? Thanks a lot, Mr. Parker. I hope I haven't interrupted anything----I just wanted to remind you about class today. You haven't--Peter, what? She--she's left? Oh, no, Peter--no!"

PETER: "I'm afraid it's true, Gwen...but you mustn't blame yourself. I's been coming for quite a while."

GWEN: "But, Peter----Peter, it is my fault, we both know it is. I shouldn't have criticized her the way I did...I must have hurt her terribly..."

PETER: "Hey, Gwen......don't go all guilty on me. I told you--it's been coming for a long time. Look, I'll talk to you later, okay?"

ASM # 112: May Parker is still missing. On Pg. 17, Joe Robertson confirms for Peter that the note she left him is authentic.

Pg. 22: Spider-Man looks for info on May's whereabouts, and is seen by Flash and Gwen. Spider-Man doesn't see that Flash is with Gwen.

FLASH: "How'dya like that? He didn't even see me!"

GWEN: "It's just as well, Flash. I don't think...I could have faced him."

FLASH: " don't still believe he killed your father, do you?"

GWEN: "It's not just that, Flash. It's Peter...and his aunt...I can't help feeling responsible...and somehow, when I see just reminds me of everything I've done hurt Peter...without thinking!"

FLASH: "Don't blame yourself, Gwendy...Parker draws trouble like a magnet!"

GWEN: "Flash, you promised not to ride Peter anymore. You know how much he means t--"

FLASH: "Sure, Miz Stacy. I'm just kidding. Parker's all right, I guess......though he's never gonna be a Spider-Man!"

Meanwhile, Spider-Man has become very ill (an illness which has been built up in the past few issues) right at the same time that a crime wave has exploded upon the city, and Doctor Octopus--the man who killed George Stacy--has come out of the woodwork.

ASM # 113: Spider-Man barely escapes during a battle with Doc Ock due to his mysterious illness.

Pg. 17-18: Peter goes home to rest, and later wakes up to Dr. Bromwell, the family physician (introduced as Aunt May's doctor back in the Lee-Ditko days of ASM), Gwen, and Harry Osborn. Peter learns from the good doctor that he's suffering from a duodenal ulcer. Gwen promises to take good care of him.

Meanwhile, Dr. Octopus and a new ganglord called Hammerhead have gotten into a full-fledged gang war, and Spider-Man is nowhere to be found!

ASM # 114:

Pg. 18-19: Gwen is at ESU, and Professor Miles Warren (who hasn't been seen in ASM in some time, since issue # 88) comes over to her. She's been worried about Peter, and hasn't been to Warren's class in a week. Warren says he heard about May Parker's disappearance, for which Gwen blames herself.

WARREN: "Now, mustn't blame yourself..."

GWEN (thought balloon): "Oh, mustn't I, Professor? If I don't...who do I blame? Peter's poor sweet Aunt May? Or Peter himself? No...I have to face the truth...I drove Aunt May away...and I only pray that Peter can ever forgive me!"

I must say...given later retcons regarding Professor Warren's obsessive interest in Gwen, this scene takes on a much creepier light. Also, Gwen's inner thoughts reveal that the thing she's MOST upset about is her belief that she's hurt Peter, and that it's her fault May left. Not, y'know, *cheating* on Peter, having twins, and then abandoning them in France.

Flash Thompson then arrives, and says Harry told him about Peter's ulcer.

FLASH: "He told me all about Parker's ulcer--what a laugh!"

GWEN (angry): "Mister Thompson--that's the last straw! You've been picking on Peter for years--I'd hoped that being in the Army had taught you something about maturity--But no! You're still nothing but an over-grown child! Peter's one of the nicest, sweetest men in the world----and one of him makes twelve of you! You promised me you wouldn't joke about him anymore--You should learn to keep your promises!"

She storms off.

Meanwhile, a weakened Spider-Man (now wearing a special harness he took from Doc Ock which boosts his strength and compensates for his illness), having gotten involved in the Hammerhead/Doctor Octopus gang war, is stunned to find Aunt May at Doc Ock's mansion--after she hits him in the head with a vase and trains a gun on him to protect Ock!

ASM # 115:

Pg. 11: Gwen goes to the Daily Bugle to look for Peter. Ned Leeds tells her that he's discovered where May Parker is via an employment agency--she got a job working as the housekeeper of Doctor Octopus! And so, Ned, Gwen, and Robbie Robertson rush off to Ock's mansion to find May.

Pg. 26-28: The trio arrives just as Ock is defeated by Spider-Man.

Pg. 26, panel 3:

GWEN (hugging May): "Oh, Mrs. Parker--we've all been so worried about you! You don't know how upset Peter's been----and--how badly I feel for ever telling you those terrible things--"

Pg. 27, panel 2: Although elated to find May safe and sound, Gwen is worried about Peter, and cries. Just then, he shows up. Aunt May tells him that she's been keeping house for Otto Octavius and that Peter just doesn't need her around anymore. Everyone is shocked by this, and none more so than Peter.

ASM # 116:

ASM # 116-118 are something of an oddity. Since many Spidey fans were unable to read or buy Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine # 1 in 1968, it was decided that the story ("Lo, This Monster!") should be reprinted in Amazing Spider-Man (The Green Goblin story from SSMM # 2 was reprinted a bit later on, in 1973's Amazing Spider-Man Annual # 9). However, the magazine was published in 1968, and things had changed quite a bit since then (most notably, George Stacy, who played a prominent role in the story, had since died). Another consideration was that readers who had experienced SSMM # 1 in its original printing would be bored for three months if it appeared as a straight reprint in ASM.

Thus, it was decided to reprint the story--with a twist. John Romita would revise and alter his art to make it fit in with the then-current Spider-Man continuity of 1973 (as well as providing brand-new pages to the story), and Gerry Conway would perform a similar facelift on the dialogue (as well as changing/updating topical references). And so, the story as presented in ASM # 116-118 begins with many references to the past few issues of Amazing Spider-Man. For example, at the beginning of ASM # 116, Spider-Man is still wearing the cheap, eyepiece-less, costume-shop replica of his mask he acquired during the gang war storyline of ASM # 112-115 (the real one was yanked off by Dr. Octopus, and subsequently found its way into Jonah Jameson's hands). John Romita simply added in Peter's real eyes peeking through the eye-holes in the cellophane mask, and a seam at the neck of Peter's costume to his original artwork from SSMM # 1.

This creates something of a continuity hiccup in Spider-Man's history. Did Spider-Man experience what is basically the same adventure (his battle against Richard Raleigh) twice? Which version of the story "really" happened?

In the version of the story seen in ASM # 116-118, Raleigh now has a costumed identity, in which he is known as the Disruptor (which, in this version, has the result of concealing the fact that Raleigh is "disrupting" his own campaign, a fact that was not hidden at all in SSMM # 1), and his unnamed monster henchman is now called the Smasher.

Also of note is that Richard Raleigh hired the criminal known as the Jester to kill the latest candidate for District Attorney, Foggy Nelson, in Daredevil (Vol. 1) # 42, in 1968, something of a crossover with Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine # 1 (also published in 1968). It's always possible that Raleigh ran for mayor twice, once around the time of Daredevil # 42/ASM # 59-60 (in 1968), and again during ASM # 116-118 (1973), but it's still a blip in continuity.

However, it should also be noted that in Marvel Team-Up (Vol. 1) # 8 (April, 1973), Spider-Man makes mention of his recent political troubles (referring the Raliegh election debacle) to the super-heroine known as the Cat, thus confirming that these events "really" did happen in ASM # 116-118.

Since the story was reprinted in the main Spider-Man title, some have said that trumps the earlier version, which shouldn't "count" as part of continuity. Supporting this idea is the fact that the story as originally presented in SSMM is rather stand-alone in nature, while the version that appears in ASM # 116-118 is tied in with then-current Spidey events (such as Aunt May living at Doc Ock's mansion).

Here's a nifty comparison of Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine # 1 and Amazing Spider-Man # 116-118, which describes all the modifications made to the original story (from, an excellent resource):

The following will cover the changes made to the original story that are relevant to this essay:

ASM # 116:

Pg. 14-15: Coming out of the end of last issue and the Doc Ock/Aunt May debacle, Spider-Man gets his real mask back from JJJ.

Pg. 14-15: Peter wonders if it's over between Gwen and him, since Gwen and Flash have been in each other's company quite a bit lately. He decides to ask Gwen once and for all if it's going to be him or Flash.

Pg. 27: In some newly-drawn/written pages, Peter, having called first, goes to Gwen's home to talk to her, and before he gets there, we see she's upset.

GWEN (thought balloon): "I feel so guilty...the way I spoke to Peter's aunt, told her how maternal she'd been with him...was it that which made her leave..? Am I the cause of Peter's misery?

Clearly, Gwen continues to be wrapped up in blaming herself for May's departure and Peter's woes. Still NOTHING about cheating on him or having twins...

GWEN (thought balloon): "The way Peter sounded on the formal. Does he hate me? I--I know he has a right to--"

At that moment, Peter arrives. Gwen is happy to see him.

GWEN: "Peter, I--"

PETER: "Please, Gwen--I just want to know one thing. Is there anything--anything at all--between you and Flash?"

GWEN: "Oh, Peter--you darling fool! There's nothing between Flash and me--we're friends--only friends, Peter! But don't answer. Just hold me----hold me--and don't let go!"

NARRATOR'S CAPTION: "But eventually, the surprised Mr. Parker does let go, and some thirty minutes later, the reinstated lovers arrive at an East Side hotel, where--"

We then get back into reprint material with Richard Raleigh's rally from SSMM # 1, as the couple meet up with the rest of the gang at the rally.

But this conversation between Gwen and Peter is quite important. Gwen openly states that there's no romantic relationship between her and Flash, much to Peter's relief (thus ending a subplot that's been dangling for many, many issues). This would be the last of the many reconciliations for the loving couple...before ASM # 121, and the tragedy held within that fateful issue.

Also, this little chat makes Gwen out to be an absolute liar and whore if you count the "fact" that she cheated on Peter and had Norman Osborn's kids. I can see it now...

GWEN: "Don't worry, Peter, darling, Flash and I aren't involved, and I'm sure that knowing that is more important to you than knowing that I cheated on you and had another man's children! Tee hee!"


Also, the narrator's caption makes a subtle indication of make-up sex between the two, as it mentions the passage of time (a whole 30 minutes) and refers to Peter and Gwen as the "reinstated lovers".

Anyway, back to the Raleigh rally. As in SSMM # 1, the ceiling fixture collapses, and Peter tries to keep it from crushing the crowd below with his web-shooters in the dark. But in this version, he fails (due to lingering pain from his duodenal ulcer)!!!!

As the fixture collapses and the issue ends on a cliffhanger, a disturbing (and extremely prescient) thought runs through Peter's mind (although he's five issues too early):

PETER (thought balloon): "I've blown it! And because I failed--Gwendy's going to DIE!"

ASM # 117: Fortunately, the ceiling fixture manages to hold long enough to allow everyone to get out safely before it smashes to the floor.

Pg. 5: Outside, Gwen sees Peter in the crowd.

PETER: "Gwen! I've been looking all over for you--I was worried about you--afraid you might be hurt--!"

GWEN: "You--were worried about me? Peter, you dear boy--when are you going to learn?

Peter then takes Gwen and Mary Jane home.

Pg. 14: Norman Osborn replaces Captain Stacy at J. Jonah Jameson's townhouse in a scene from Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine # 1. Jonah supports Raleigh, but, referring to Raleigh's mysterious nature, Osborn says Raleigh will have to be more specific in his campaign "before he gets Norman Osborn's vote". Robbie Robertson then decides to research Raleigh's background.

Pg. 21: Peter calls to check on Aunt May at Doc Ock's mansion, and then goes with Harry Osborn to the Raleigh youth rally, where they run into Gwen and Mary Jane. MJ offers Peter a chili dog, and Gwen reminds Peter about his ulcer (a chili dog could make it worse). Suddenly, the Disruptor and the Smasher attack, and the Smasher goes after Robbie Robertson (instead of Captain Stacy, as in the original version of the story). Peter sneaks off and changes to Spider-Man to battle the threat.

ASM # 118: Spider-Man battles the Smasher, who escapes. Soon after the action is over, Peter and Gwen reunite in some brand-new pages. Harry tries to talk to Peter and Gwen as they kiss, but can't get through to them.

MARY JANE: Forget it, Harry! Can't you see they're into a whole other world? Let them be, Harrykins----and maybe pay a little more attention to your own girl!

HARRY (angry): "Sorry, MJ--wasn't thinking!"

Although Gerry Conway was constrained by the fact that Harry and Mary Jane were still something of an item in the original Spectacular Spider-Man story (and thus they had to be together in the reprint), this ties in with the idea that even after his drug problems in ASM # 96-98, Harry and Mary Jane's relationship has still been on-again/off-again. Also, despite the fact that MJ was throwing herself at Peter in several issues after Harry's drug overdose, she's still admonishing Harry for not paying enough attention to her. This works well as dramatic buildup considering the fact that Harry will turn to drugs once again in ASM # 119-122.

Pg. 9-12: As in the original story, the Smasher goes out of control and turns against Raleigh, and in a new scene, he attacks the gang in their car. Peter leaves Gwen to fight the monster, and she gets terrified once again by his latest disappearance:

Pg. 12, panel 1:

GWEN: "Peter, where are you going? Peter? PETER?"

The story then ends pretty much the way it did in Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine # 1.

ASM # 119 (art by John Romita)

(Note: This story gets us back to brand-new material, as opposed to the modified reprints of the last three issues.)

Pg. 1-3: Spider-Man goes to check on his Aunt May at Doc Ock's mansion. He also has an urgent telegram to give to May, since it was sent to her old address.

Pg. 2, panel 3: Aunt May mentions the recent mayor's election from ASM # 118, cementing the modified reprint of Spectacular Spider-Man # 1 into then-current continuity. Sorry, JMS, no three-issue "gap" for your little retcons to slime their way into...

Spider-Man overhears Doc Ock's goons talking about the telegram (and how they've been waiting for it), and so he decides to hold onto it, since it seems important.

Pg. 3, panel 6: Spidey then sees May leave, and the caption notes that it's a "winter's late afternoon".

Pg. 5, panel 1: The mysterious telegram was sent to Aunt May and Ann Watson's home, care of Anna Watson.

Panel 5: Spidey thinks back to his recent battle with the Smasher in ASM # 116-118, once again tying the "reprint" into then-current continuity.

Pg. 6: Peter reads the telegram. It says:


Jean-Pierre Rimbaud
Montreal, Quebec

Ms. May Parker C/O Anna May Watson
124-05 24th Street
Queens, N.Y."

Pg. 6, panel 5: Peter leaves, but before he does--

PETER (thought balloon): "Better lock up my closet--not that I don't trust my longtime roommate----but Harry has been acting odd lately--"

Pg. 5, panels 6-8: Below, on the street, Peter sees Norman Osborn and his driver dropping Harry off at the apartment, and Harry then collapses in Peter's arms. Norman is irrational and furious, and steps out of his fancy car:

NORMAN (enraged): "Parker--UNHAND my son! Unhand him this INSTANT!"

Pg. 8:

PETER (to Norman): Mr. Osborn--he's pretty sick. You'd better get him to a doctor--!"

NORMAN: "I'm quite capable of handling that myself, Parker. I've had it with your incessant--meddling--"

NORMAN (to his driver): "Thomas--get my son into the car. And be quick about it."

Pg. 8, panel 5 through Pg. 9, panel 1:

Peter wonders about what's causing Harry's condition, and if Norman might be regaining his Goblin memories once again. He thinks that it might be a good idea to skip town and investigate the telegram if that really is the case (so his presence won't trigger Norman's memory any more than it already has).

PETER (thought balloon): "Could Norman Osborn be starting to remember--Is he already regressing, going back to what he was before--The Green Goblin? I wish I knew--because if he is, then he's also going to remember something else----the private identity of Spider-Man--ME! Well--that's another reason to get out of town--and go to Montreal--if only to protect both of us--from each other!"

Pg. 9: Peter sees on television that the ever-Incredible Hulk is in Canada, and realizes that this is the perfect excuse to go to Montreal to meet Jean-Pierre Rimbaud. He then convinces J. Jonah Jameson to send him to Canada to take photos of the Hulk, and dashes to JFK airport.

Pg. 11: A narrative caption states that Peter's flight to Montreal International Airport lasts one hour, and that the temperature is 16 degrees Fahrenheit (in other words, it's winter). A freezing Peter goes to Rimbaud's office to talk to him about Aunt May, but Rimbaud's secretary, Frances Delon, tells Peter that Rimbaud is out of town, and she then asks Peter to come back later for dinner.

In the meantime, Peter attends a press conference regarding the Hulk at a hotel. He meets up with the Hulk's old foe, U.S. Air Force General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross.

Eventually, Spidey gets into a fight with the Hulk, and the Hulk smashes the Maskattawan Dam. Spidey is caught under a pile of debris in sub-zero water!

ASM # 120 (pencils by Gil Kane, inks by John Romita):

The fight between Spidey and the Hulk continues where it left off last issue. Eventually, the Hulk leaves, and a frozen Spidey hitches a ride back to Montreal on a military helicopter. As Peter Parker, he then returns to Jean-Pierre Rimbaud's office.

Pg. 7: It's night (indicated both by the coloring of the pages and the time of day as indicated in the dialogue--Peter told Miss Delon last issue that he'd be back for dinner). Before going inside Rimbaud's office building, Peter decides to call home:

PETER: Wait a second! Before I go upstairs, there's something else I should do----call Gwen, in New York, and see how Harry Osborn'sdoing."

PETER (on phone): "Hey, Gwendy? Sorry I had to make this call collect, but I--"

GWEN (on phone): "Peter, you've got to come home--quickly! It's Harry...he must be back-flashing to that bad trip he had a few months ago..."

PETER (on phone): "'Backflashing'? What do you mean, Gwen...? Maybe there's a bad connection--"

GWEN (on phone, crying): "Peter, you're so naive. Harry's been into drugs again. Something about his father--some sort of pressure--"

PETER (on phone): "Okay, kid...I'll get back as soon as I can.

He hangs up.

Let's keep track of all this before we move on. Gwen is in NEW YORK when Peter calls her, and was also there right before Peter left for Canada (in ASM # 116-118). Even longer that that, really. Gwen appeared in virtually EVERY Spider-Man story published for several years, and the stories were all continuous, with little or no time in-between issues.

Anyway, on the phone, Gwen also isn't clear what sort of stress has gotten Harry back onto drugs, only that it somehow involves his father. Thus, Gwen DOESN'T KNOW what could possibly be going on in Norman Osborn's life to cause Harry distress.

PETER (thought balloon): Terriffic. So now what do I do? Gwen seems to think I'd be some help to Harry...but I don't see how. Or do I? Maybe what Harry's needed all along is a friend----someone to talk to----not a roommate who vanishes at sundown! I wonder-- is Harry's problem my fau--Huh?" My spider-sense--tingling!"

Peter's spider-sense detects someone tailing him. He evades the goon, switches to Spider-Man, and then pumps the man for information and webs him up. He's learns that the man works for Doctor Octopus. The man is about to spill the beans on Ock's interest in May Parker when General Ross and his men happen upon the scene, wondering where the Hulk is. Spidey takes off, changes back to Peter Parker, and goes to see Miss Delon. She tells Peter that she checked Rimbaud's files, and there's nothing regarding Aunt May, since Rimbaud wanted to handle the matter personally.

Soon, Peter and Miss Delon go to the old Expo '67 fairgrounds, where Jean-Pierre Rimbaud is at (he's representing a contractor working on a new building there), and they are followed by Doc Ock's men.

However, the Hulk then arrives, smashing Miss Delon's car. Spider-Man fights the Hulk, and the fairgrounds are totaled.

Pg. 18, panel 2: During his battle with the Hulk:

SPIDER-MAN: "It's almost nine o'clocknow. The last flight home leaves at midnight. I promised Gwen I'd get back as soon as I could--"

Pg. 26-28: Rimbaud arrives, wanting to talk to Peter Parker about Aunt May. Spider-Man is beaten by the Hulk, and army helicopters pursue him as the jade giant departs. Soon after, Peter meets up with Rimbaud, but Doc Ock's goon (the one Spidey encountered earlier) shoots and kills him in order to silence him.

Pg. 28, panels 5-7: At the airport, Miss Delon sees Peter off. As the plane takes off:

PETER: So long, Montreal. You won't be hearing from me again, for a while. No hard feelings--but I think it's time I got back to New York...It ain't much...but it's what I call home.

A nice, melancholy end to the story....but considering what's lurking just around the corner, Peter shouldn't be so eager to go home...

To recap: The events of ASM # 119-120 almost certainly take place in a *SINGLE DAY*. Peter goes to visit Aunt May in the "late afternoon", dashes to JFK to board the plane at the last minute--a plane ordered to be held up for Peter by J. Jonah Jameson--,takes a one-hour flight to Montreal, goes to Rimbaud's office and then to the press conference with General Ross at the hotel, rides on an Army truck for one hour to go after the Hulk, battles the Hulk, hitches a ride back to Rimbaud's, calls Gwen Stacy in New York, webs up Doc Ock's goon (and remember, Spidey's webbing dissolves after one hour), rides to the Expo '67 fairgrounds, watches Doc Ock's goon (the same goon he webbed up earlier) kill Rimbaud, and finally takes the midnight flight back to New York, leading right into the beginning of ASM # 121.

So, Peter was in Canada for a single day, and remember, Gwen was in New York before he left (in ASM # 116-118 and even longer before that), while he was there (when he called her on the phone), and after he got back (in ASM # 121).

And if you're wondering just what the telegram sent to Aunt May was all about, it would later be revealed that Rimbaud was trying to contact May to tell her of a nuclear power plant she'd inherited (which Doc Ock coveted) on a small Canadian island. Ock would later try to marry Aunt May in order to get his hands on said power plant in ASM # 130-131, but Spidey put a stop to that!

The last panel's caption advertising the next issue reads--

Next> The Green Goblin

--without a hint of what's really coming.

By this point, it was decided that something was needed to shake up Amazing Spider-Man and boost sales. Discussions eventually led to the idea that a member of the supporting cast should die. Aunt May was suggested at one point. Recollections have varied, but it seems that John Romita Sr. was the one who suggested that Gwen Stacy be killed of, since it would provide a great deal of shock, pathos and drama, just the kind of thing that Spider-Man needed. Writer Gerry Conway agreed, since he'd always felt that *MARY JANE* was the one Peter was destined to be with, and he'd been wanting to get them together for some time. It has been said that Stan Lee approved the idea of killing Gwen, but he doesn't seem to remember for sure.

Further, marriage between Peter and Gwen seemed absolutely inevitable by this point, since the couple had survived everything that had been thrown at them (and were truly, deeply in love), but marrying Spidey off was not something Marvel wanted at the time. Many of the fan letters of the era suggested that either Peter and Gwen should get married (from fans who wanted to see Spidey grow and change), or that Gwen should be taken out of the book somehow (from fans who were tired of the cycle of Gwen and Peter having problems and then making up without their relationship either progressing or ending). Supporting this idea was the general opinion that Gwen had fallen into the traditional superhero girlfriend’s role (the "Peter! Oh, Peter, my darling, I was so worried about you! Where were you when that awful Spider-Man showed up?" syndrome), and that she just wasn't as lively and exciting and vivacious as Mary Jane.

But the creators surely didn't expect the impact this decision would have, both in the short term and the long haul.

Back then, there was no Previews, no Wizard, and no Internet. Just dedicated Spider-fans going to the drugstore or newsstand to pick up the latest issue of their favorite book.

And no one, NO ONE saw it coming.

ASM # 121 (Written by Gerry Conway, Penciled by Gil Kane, Inked by John Romita and Tony Mortellaro. Note: Romita's artistic influence is very strongly felt in this and issue 122, and there's not as much of Gil Kane in the final product as there'd been in past collaborations, probably because the art had to be spot-on for such a crucial story.):

We begin with the cover (drawn by John Romita). In a surreal scene, Spider-Man swings toward portraits of his supporting cast (J. Jonah Jameson, Harry Osborn, Norman Osborn, Gwen Stacy, Mary Jane Watson, May Parker, Flash Thompson, Randy Robertson, and Joe Robertson).

SPIDER-MAN: "My spider-sense is never wrong! Someone CLOSE to me is about to DIE! Someone I cannot save! But who? WHO?"

COVER CAPTION: Not a trick! Not an imaginary tale--but the most startlingly unexpected TURNING POINT in this web-slinger's entire life! How can Spider-Man GO ON, after being faced with this almost unbelievable DEATH?"

COVER CAPTION # 2: "And don't dare miss this issue's shocking SURPRISE SUPER-VILLAIN!"

If one read the "next issue" caption at the end of ASM # 120, though, the identity of the "surprise" villain wouldn't be a surprise.

And for once, the cover copy is not exaggerated hyperbole!

Pg. 1 (Note that the page numbers in the annotations for issue also include the advertisements, as in the original printing. In terms of actual story pages, there are only 20, but the total page count on the bottom of each page exceeds that number. I'm going by the page numbering in the original printing, so if you're following along at home with a reprint of the story, try to keep up.):

NARRATOR'S CAPTION: "There are quite a few things we could say about this issue--but we won't. As for its title: that's something we'd like to conceal for a while, but we promise you this, pilgrim--it's not a title you'll soon forget!"

Right from the start, the situation is grim, the atmosphere one of impending doom. Spider-Man is clinging to the exterior of the Osborn townhouse and peering in the window as Mary Jane, Gwen Stacy, and the Osborn family doctor, Ray tending to the gravely ill Harry Osborn.

SPIDER-MAN: "Harry's in bad shape, all right. Looks like I'm back in New York not an hour too soon.

This indicates that as soon as he got off the midnight flight that departed from Montreal (which left on the one-hour trip back to New York at the end of last issue), he went straight to the Osborn townhouse. This implies that this first scene in ASM # 121 takes place in the middle of the night, possibly between 1:00-4:00 A.M.

Pg. 2:

RAY (to Gwen and MJ): "I've done what I can for the lad--though I'd rather he were in a hospital, instead of here, at his father's home. Still, Norman Osborn and I have been friends for many years. If he wants to keep this quiet--so be it.

The doctor then says Harry's been into drugs again, specifically LSD. It's interesting to note the progress Stan Lee made when he published the "drug issues" (ASM # 96-98) without the Comic Code Authority's approval. Now, a few years later, in ASM # 121, references to LSD, a *specific* drug, could be made in a story with the Code's seal of approval.

GWEN: "I knew Harry was a little flakey--but something like this--!"

The doctor says he has given Harry a shot of Thorazine to counteract the effects of the drugs Harry's taken.

RAY: "Perhaps if he hadn't been so depressed when he took the drug, it wouldn't have hit him so hard--but that can hardly matter now. You can see the result--total clinical psychosis. What a layman would call schizophrenia."

Spidey overhears all this and heads for the roof to change to Peter Parker.

Pg. 3: On the roof, Peter wonders what made Harry crack up and drop acid again. He enters the building from the roof---note that he's wearing the same clothes he wore during his one-day trip to Canada in ASM # 119-120, a suit and trenchcoat (although, due to a coloring continuity error, the suit was blue in ASM # 120, and it's now green in ASM # 121).

Pg. 3, panel 5-7: Before Peter can enter Harry's room, a furious Norman Osborn comes up from behind and grabs his arm.

NORMAN (enraged): "Just a minute, young man--I TOLD you not to go near my SON!

PETER (surprised): "Mr. Osborn!"

Pg. 5:

PETER: "Look, Mr. Osborn--I'm not out to hurt anyone. I just came to see if Harry's all right. That's all. If you want me to go, that's cool--it's your house.

NORMAN (seething with rage): "You better believe I want you to go, Parker----I don't want to see your face ever again! It's your fault Harry's ill--your fault these terrible things have happened to my son----Your fault! YOUR FAULT!"

Peter is extremely worried about Norman's erratic behavior, and wonders if the Green Goblin will return yet again.

Pg. 6: At that moment, the door to Harry's bedroom opens, interrupting Norman's tirade, and Mary Jane and Gwen step out into the hallway.

GWEN (surprised): "PETER!"

PETER: "Hey, pretty lady. I kind of figured you'd be here."

NORMAN (to Gwen): "Miss Stacy, you and your 'friends' are no longer wanted in this house. We can do quite well without your so-called help. You know the way out..."

NORMAN: (walking into Harry's room and then slamming the door): "...please take once."

It seems very clear that Norman is addressing Gwen and Gwen alone *ONLY* because his hatred of Peter is resurfacing, and that he also very likely blames Mary Jane's treatment of Harry for his son's condition. Thus, Gwen is the only one there who hasn't caused Norman and Harry trouble, from Norman's point of view, and is the only one he will address with a modicum of respect.

Pg. 6, panels 4-6: As the trio walks down the stairs:

PETER: "Come on,, too, Mary Jane. I'll buy you a Coke."

MARY JANE: "Thanks a lot, Petey."

GWEN: "Why was Mr. Osborn like that, Peter? We were only trying make things easier for him."

PETER: "Some people hate do-gooders, Gwen. What can I tell you?"

Then, outside the townhouse...

GWEN: "But--poor Harry! I feel so sorry for him, Peter. All his life he's been pampered--he's always had what he wanted, without ever having to work for it. What could have happened to him, to make him become so--so desperate?

PETER: "That's something we may never know, Gwen. What do you think, Mary Jane?"

MARY JANE (glum): "I don't know, Pete. I just don't."

It seems Mary Jane is disturbed by all this, likely because she blames herself and her shallow treatment of Harry for his grave condition.

And all Gwen is concerned about is Harry's welfare, which is perfectly in character for her. She refers to Norman only as "Mr. Osborn", and doesn't have a clue as to why he was so cruel towards them upstairs.

Pg. 7: Soon after, we see Norman Osborn on the phone, and he learns that his stocks are down another 13%. A shaky Harry then stumbles into the room, blames himself for Norman's business difficulties, and collapses in Norman's arms. Norman places a frantic call to the family doctor.

Pg. 10-11: The narrator's caption states that, two hours after Harry's collapse into Norman's arms, Spider-Man is headed towards a "late-day" appointment at the Daily Bugle. However, Spidey gets dizzy, and is clearly not feeling well.

Pg. 10, panel 2:

SPIDER-MAN: "Must've caught a virus when I was up in Canada--Not used to that kind of zero-degree weather!"

Spidey most likely got sick after he was pinned underneath sub-zero water by debris while fighting the Incredible Hulk in ASM # 119-120, and then continued to battle the Hulk in below-freezing temperatures.

Soon, Peter Parker, dizzy and coughing, delivers his photos of the Hulk in Canada to J. Jonah Jameson and Robbie Robertson. After that, he says he's going to head home for some much-needed rest.

Pg. 11, panel 7: Spidey swings back home, and feels terrible.

SPIDER-MAN: "It'll be nice to get back--have a nice long talk with Gwendy. It's been days since I spoke to her--and what with Harry's problems this morning--! Well, it'll be nice to have a talk."

Spidey clearly isn't counting his phone conversation with Gwen the day before (in ASM # 120), but still, this makes it clear she's been around town and has spoken to Peter in the recent past (as a score of previous issues of ASM will attest to).

Pg. 12: After receiving Norman's phone call, Ray comes back and does his best to help Harry, but is still wary of Norman's decision to keep the boy at home instead of taking him to a hospital.

RAY (to Norman): "He should be in a hospital, but at this point--it's still your decision."

Ray then leaves Norman alone with his own dark thoughts.

NORMAN (thought balloon): "Harry, I'm sorry. I failed you, in every way a father can. I should have realized those--those friends of yours----what they were doing to you! But how could I have known? Our enemies are trying to ruin me...corrupt you, my only son......enemies...surrounding"

Note that Norman refers to Harry as his *ONLY SON* here.

NORMAN (seeing a hallucinatory image of Spider-Man): "Spider-Man! So--you've come to gloat, have you? To see what wreckage you've made of my life--my hopes--I'll kill you for this--I'll KILL you!"

NORMAN (attacking the ghostly image, only to see it disappear): "No! You're vanishing! You can't do that to me! I won't let you escape me again--I WON'T!"

Pg. 14:

We then get a large panel of a screaming, horrified Norman Osborn, clutching his head in his hands, surrounded by head-shots of Spider-Man, Peter Parker, Flash Thompson, May Parker, J. Jonah Jameson, Robbie Robertson, Randy Robertson, Mary Jane Watson, Gwen Stacy, and a full-body shot of Harry Osborn, looking ill (and dressed as he was on the previous page).

NARRATOR'S CAPTION: "And then, all at once, the delicate tissues of Norman Osborn's memory collapse--and a flood of images, past and present, rush through his pressured brain----reminding him--tormenting him--until he can stand it NO LONGER!"

And, just like that, Norman Osborn snaps for good. Clearly, he's totally over the edge now (as his feverish sweating, ranting, and hallucination of Spider-Man indicated). More so than ever before, he's become totally egocentric, totally paranoid, totally obsessed, and totally insane. It is obvious that there's no way back for him after this, no convenient amnesia or reasoning that will cure Osborn or save Spider-Man's neck for the umpteenth time. No way out. This is one reason I hate Osborn's 1996 resurrection so much--because after that, he was depicted mainly as a calm, methodical planner who was in total control and just plain evil instead of being mentally ill--and that totally goes against his characterization here.

And so, Norman runs off into the night (as it states in a narrative caption, it's now in the evening) to one of his old hideouts. And so, the Green Goblin is reborn for the final time.

Pg. 15:

GOBLIN: "Spider-Man is my enemy--my mortal foe! Of all the men on earth, he is the one I most despise----for he is the man who keeps me from myself----he is the one who made my mind forget--that I am the GOBLIN----THE GREEN GOBLIN! "

On his jet-glider, the insane criminal flies off into the night, clearly on his way to find and attack Spider-Man:

GOBLIN: "And because of what he's done to me--and to my son--Spider-Man, the cursed Peter Parker--must die! DIE! DIE!"

Pg. 15, panels 5-6: Gwen is at Peter and Harry's apartment, waiting for Peter to get back.

GWEN (thought balloon): "Poor Harry...I wish there were something I could do to help him. If only Peter would come back...we could talk about it......and maybe understand what went wrong in Harry's make him what he is."

As she holds her head in her hand with her eyes closed, we can see the Green Goblin approaching through the window behind her.

To date, what happened next has never been depicted. Did the Goblin knock Gwen out with one of his weapons? Did his arrival shock her into unconsciousness? Did he reveal Spider-Man's true identity to her? Did he...KILL her? We may never know.

I'm sure JMS and the current regime at Marvel would say that at this point, the Goblin either raped Gwen, or they once again argued about their illegitimate children, right? Or both? Ugh.

But in the end, it's pathetically obvious that Osborn went to Peter and Harry's apartment (the apartment NORMAN HIMSELF put them up in years before) to confront and kill Spider-Man, only to find Gwen instead, who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Yet, JMS thought there was some sort of "mystery" as to why the Goblin abducted Gwen, and took it upon himself to "explain" why in Sins Past. If he really didn't understand why Osborn took Gwen, then he's simply doesn't understand the dynamics of the story or the characters, and should have left the past alone!!!!

Pg. 17: A dizzy Spider-Man heads home, and nearly falls to his death at one point as a result of his illness. He has a headache and blurry vision. Due to his condition, he decides to enter the apartment through the window (as Spider-Man), despite the risk that Gwen is inside. And then---

SPIDER-MAN (quietly): "Oh my Lord."

--as he enters, he sees that the place is a shambles. He finds a jack-o-lantern--the Green Goblin's calling card--resting on top of Gwen's handbag (which Spidey recognizes as the one Peter Parker gave to Gwen for Christmas).

SPIDER-MAN: "Osborn must have snapped...come here to find me......and found Gwendy instead!"

He leaves to track down the Goblin and the woman he loves.

SPIDER-MAN: "The state Osborn's probably in, he could do anything."

During his frantic search:

NARRATOR'S CAPTION: "Now it begins: what will soon become the most tormented quest of this young man's adventurous life, and a turning point in a certain costumed hero's tempestuous career!"

SPIDER-MAN: "It's just my luck. I disappear for a weekend in Canada--flit around playing international detective----and as soon as I get home, hoping for an evening alone with my girl----she gets snatched by a crazy businessman in seagreen long-johns! The question now is where--? All I've got to go on is my spider-sense--and it's leading me toward----the George Washington Bridge! It figures Osborn would pick something named after his favorite President. He's got the same sort of hangup for dollar bills."

Note: As the behind-the-scenes story goes, Gerry Conway said this battle would take place on the George Washington Bridge in the plot, but Gil Kane--inked by John Romita and Tony Mortellaro--drew the Brooklyn Bridge instead. Conway didn't notice the goof, and thus didn't change the dialogue to accommodate the art. Thus, it's never been 100% settled on in the years since which bridge this battle took place on, and both bridges have been named as the site in later issues. However, since the visual of the Brooklyn Bridge is so iconic and so tied into the story, visually, I'd have to vote in its favor.

Here's a nice page from that compares the original version of this panel (which mentions the Washington Bridge) with the version that has appeared in subsequent reprints (which changes the dialogue, substituting it for the Brooklyn Bridge), as well as real-life photos of both bridges:

Spider-Man sees the Goblin (and an unconscious Gwen) on top of one of the bridge's spires. Clearly, the Goblin chose a high place to wait so Spider-Man would quickly find them.

Pg. 19:

GOBLIN: "Spider-Man! Or should I say--Mister Parker! I have your woman up here, my friend--I trust you understand what that means?

SPIDER-MAN: "You tell me, Goblin."

GOBLIN: "It's quite simple, web-spinner...Your presence in this world has been a source of constant agony to me. I wish you to leave it--permanently. Or else...Gwen Stacy dies!"

If the Goblin had a grudge against Gwen and wanted to kill her (as JMS has asserted), he could have already done so. But no, he's using her as an *object*, as a bargaining chip he can use to force Spider-Man to surrender. He sees Gwen only as a weapon to use against his most hated enemy, not as a living, breathing person.

SPIDER-MAN (swinging up to fight the Goblin): "That cuts it, pumpkin boy. Up to now, I've been real friendly--considering your problems, and all that. But, Buster--when you start threatening my girl----the kid gloves are off!"

GOBLIN: "A most chivalrous attitude. Pity you won't live to enact it!"

Pg. 21-25: The Goblin and Spider-Man battle on and around the bridge. Spidey's dizzy, and his flu-like illness makes him realize that he can't afford a protracted battle. So, he plans to scoop up Gwen and run for it. He snags the Goblin with a web-line, then hauls him in so he can deliver one solid punch, a punch he puts all of his remaining strength into (in a dynamic, full-page splash panel). The Goblin then falls off of his jet-glider toward the water below.

Spidey then runs up one of the bridge's support cables to the top of the tower, where Gwen is (she's lying on top of the tower, eyes closed).

There appears to be a spider-sense effect drawn around Spidey's head as he approaches Gwen (perhaps indicating the fact that the Goblin will be on his way back up in a moment). Then again, it may just be the kind of standard "shock" effect we see in comics all the time, in the same vein as motion lines.

SPIDER-MAN: "And there's the lady now--out like a light. Good thing, too--if Spidey's to save his secret I.D.!"

But then, the Goblin reunites with his remote-controlled glider, and heads back up toward his foe.

SPIDER-MAN (examining Gwen): "Gwen! Looks like she's in a state of shock! I'd better get her to a hospital--have them give her a sedative of some kind--"

The Goblin flies right at them.

GOBLIN: "You cursed interloper! You'll never take that girl anywhere! She's doomed, do you hear me?"

The Goblin knocks his glider right into the couple with a resounding "WHAK!", knocking Spider-Man aside......and tossing the unconscious Gwen off of the bridge toward the water far below.

GOBLIN: "Doomed--and so are you!"

Pg. 26, panel 1: We get a lengthy panel that runs from top to bottom of the page, clearly showing that Gwen is falling several hundred feet to her imminent death.

SPIDER-MAN (absolutely horrified): "GWEN! NO!"

Pg. 26, panel 2: A stunned Spider-Man reacts instinctively, and fires a web-line toward his falling girlfriend (with the appropriate "fffftt" sound effect):

SPIDER-MAN (horrified): "I've got to catch her----stop her fall before she hits the water!"

Pg. 26, panel 3: We get a close-up of the web-line only inches away from Gwen's hand:

SPIDER-MAN (desperate): "I've GOT to! I'VE GOT TO!"

Pg. 26, panel 4: The web-line manages to snag Gwen's legs (with a "SWIK!" sound effect). There's are motion lines drawn around her body, indicating the sudden stop of her fall...and there is also a small, unobtrusive "SNAP!" sound effect placed inconspicuously near her head.


Pg. 26, panel 5: As he hauls Gwen back up, a relieved Spidey congratulates himself, as he has done so many times before after rescuing someone from certain death...(Also note that the art makes it appear that Gwen's head is lolling.)

SPIDER-MAN (relieved): "Spider-powers, I love you! Not only am I the most dashing hero on two legs--"

Pg. 27, panel 1: Spider-Man has pulled Gwen back up onto the tower, and is grabbing onto her (presumably to escape from the Goblin and take Gwen to the hospital). Note that her head is lolling lifelessly.

SPIDER-MAN (continued from last panel): "--I'm easily the most versatile. Who else could save a falling girl from certain dea-- Gwen?"

Pg. 27, panel 2: A close-up of Spidey looking at Gwen's motionless face (her eyes are closed).

SPIDER-MAN (nervous, seeing that something is wrong): "Hey, kid--what's wrong? Don't you understand? I saved you----You can't be--"

Pg. 27, panel 3: In close-up, Spider-Man hugs and cradles Gwen's body. All we see of Peter Parker's face is his usual expressionless mask, but it's quite obvious what his expression is UNDER the mask.

And this next moment is incredibly devastating...and poignant.

SPIDER-MAN (in denial, hugging Gwen's body): "No!Oh, no, no, no--Don't be dead, Gwen--I don't want you to be dead!"

Pg. 27, panel 4: In a bird's eye shot, a forlorn Spider-Man cradles and gently shakes his dead girlfriend's body in his arms.

SPIDER-MAN (quiet): "I saved you, honey...don't you see?"

SPIDER-MAN (dialogue in faint, tiny letters): "I saved you..."

Pg. 27, panels 5-6: Spidey sharply turns his head as he hears the taunting voice of the Green Goblin.

GOBLIN: "ROMANTIC IDIOT! She was dead before your webbing reached her! A fall from that height would kill anyone--before they struck the ground! But for you, my friend--death will come more quickly and more surely than the shock of a sudden fall!"

SPIDER-MAN: "Wrong, Goblin!"

Pg. 28: And so, we get to the stunning last page, a full-page splash image of a grief-stricken Spider-Man--cradling Gwen Stacy's lifeless body--waving his fist in the air and vowing to exact bloody vengeance on the Green Goblin. This is *easily* one of the most shocking and memorable last pages in comic book history.

SPIDER-MAN (furious): "YOU'RE the creep who's going to pay! I'm going to get you, Goblin! I'm going to destroy you slowly--and when you start begging for me to end it----I'm going to remind you of one thing----YOU KILLED THE WOMAN I LOVE--AND FOR THAT, YOU'RE GOING TO DIE!"

NARRATOR'S CAPTION: "At last, we can tell you the title to our tale, though it's one title we'd hoped we'd hoped we'd never see. We call it--THE NIGHT GWEN STACY DIED--and you can be sure the story doesn't end here! TO BE CONTINUED!"

This is a Peter Parker we've never seen before, transformed by hatred, willing to betray his morals for the sake of revenge.

Interesting moment on page 27, panels 5-6--the Goblin claims that the *shock of the fall* killed Gwen. However, she would have needed to be conscious in order to be scared to death (something readers pointed out in the letters pages in subsequent issues). However, if the Goblin saw that Spider-Man himself had accidentally killed Gwen by snapping her neck, then surely he'd rub that in, right? The way it's depicted, however, the Gwen's cause of death--and, more importantly, whether either combatant knows for sure how she died--is wonderfully ambiguous.

So, what exactly *DID* kill Gwen? There are several possibilities:

1. The Goblin killed her before Spider-Man arrived and was being deceitful about using his threats on her life against Spidey (although Spider-Man ascertained that she was in a state of shock when he arrived on the scene, it's not impossible that he was mistaken).

2. The shock of the fall (In more recent retellings of the story--i.e., issues written by JMS--Gwen has appeared to be CONSCIOUS during her fall, a direct contradiction of what is seen in ASM # 121, but which *would* lend some credence to this theory.).

3. The "SNAP!". This little sound effect is generally held to be the culprit, as first indicated in the letters page of ASM # 125, and later hinted at in Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross' MARVELS (1994), among other sources. Thus, when Spider-Man caught Gwen with his web-line, the sudden stop snapped her neck, killing her.

Unfortunately, the ambiguity has been utterly destroyed in subsequent years. Indeed, in Paul Jenkins' Peter Parker: Spider-Man (vol. 2) # 50 (January, 2003), Peter sits down with Aunt May (who...*sigh*... discovered his true identity during JMS' run on ASM) and tells her that he accidentally killed Gwen by snapping her neck when he caught her with his webbing, and May forgives him and tells him it wasn't his fault.


This kind of aging fanboy mentality, in which every little fanboy question must be definitively answered, is one of the things ruining the industry.

Now, Peter *knows* for sure that he snapped Gwen's neck when he caught her, and has moped about it and been forgiven for it. Examining the way ASM # 121 was written, it is clear that Gerry Conway wanted the fact that Spidey broke Gwen's neck to be something only the *READERS* knew, something a little ambiguous, one of those "open secrets" at Marvel (something every loyal fan knows, but which is never officially referred to in a story), something that would torture the readers. Indeed, in interviews since, Conway had confirmed that this was his intent. And now that's been totally ruined, along with every other aspect of the story.

But it must be said that, even if Spider-Man really did accidentally kill Gwen when he caught her, the Green Goblin is STILL the one who is actually responsible for her death. He was the one who set that terrible event in motion.

Another interesting point: If Peter had just done something to stop the Green Goblin for good in the past (such as having Norman Osborn incarcerated in ASM # 40 instead of telling the police Osborn helped defeat the Green Goblin), instead of just pinning his hopes on the notion that Osborn's amnesia would be permanent, then this nightmare would never have happened.

ASM # 122:

The cover (by John Romita) is a nice summation of the end of last issue, as it depicts Spider-Man, holding Gwen's lifeless body, standing on top of the Brooklyn Bridge as the Green Goblin lobs a pumpkin bomb at him. The cover copy reads:

GOBLIN: "Heads-up, wall-crawler! First, I finished off Gwen Stacy--and now--it's your turn!"

SPIDER-MAN: "Wrong, Goblin! You murdered the only girl I'll ever love--and today's the day you're going to DIE!!"


Pg. 1: We pick up where we left off last issue. Last issue, the coloring indicated that it was already night, but here, it appears to be sunset. The Goblin gleefully circles Spider-Man (holding Gwen's body) on his jet-glider, taunting him:

GOBLIN (happy): "She's dead, Spider-Man...The woman you love is dead! There's nothing you--or any other costumed interloper can do to revive her! But don't worry, my fine foe--you'll not be long apart--! Soon you shall join her--beyond DEATH!"

Pg. 2: Spidey, enraged, swings down to a nearby dock with Gwen's body, leaves her there, then swings back up to battle his insane foe.

Pg. 2, panel 2:

SPIDER-MAN (to Goblin, angry): "Maybe you think she deserved it, because she was stupid enough to love a guy named Peter Parker----and he was stupid enough to love back."

Spider-Man violently attacks the Goblin, locking his legs around the super-criminal's neck and pounding mercilessly on his head. However, the Goblin flies under one of the bridge's support cables, knocking Spidey off and sending him plunging toward the water below. Refusing to die the way Gwen did, Spidey manages to save himself with his webbing, but by then the Goblin is gone.

Pg. 5: Spider-Man sees that the police have arrived on the scene, and various onlookers are surrounding Gwen's body on the dock.

Pg. 6:

SPIDER-MAN: "They've found Gwen! That means there'll be reporters--people prying, touching her--! No! I won't let it happen! Not to her--not to Gwen!"

A furious Spider-Man swings down to the dock and tells everyone to back off. Two police officers, a Sergeant and a rookie, approach him. The anxious rookie wants to take Spidey in for Gwen's murder, but the older Sergeant can see that the web-slinger is in pain.

Spider-Man cradles Gwen's body, oblivious to the crowd around him.

SPIDER-MAN (to Gwen's corpse): "Hey, Gwen...don't worry, honey...I won't let them hurt you. Everything'll be okay. You'll see...Everything will be...just as it was before..."

Pg. 7: We then get a full-page splash montage of images from the past; Peter and Gwen kissing, Peter playfully chasing after Gwen, the death of Captain Stacy, etc., with a grief-stricken Spider-Man (cradling Gwen's body) in the middle of it all.

NARRATOR'S CAPTION: "Yes, he remembers: The sorrow, and the self-pity, the joy, the fear----and through it all, a part of it all--he remembers Gwen.

Pg. 10: We get another flashback panel, one which symbolically features Spider-Man standing between Peter and Gwen, pushing them apart, surrounded by headshots of Spidey, Jonah Jameson, Harry Osborn, Mary Jane, Robbie Robertson, and Aunt May.

NARRATOR'S CAPTION: "Gwen: As much a victim of Spider-Man's lifestyle as Peter Parker. Didn't his spectre keep them apart--? Wasn't it Spider-Man who stood between them and happiness--'till, in the end, he stood between Gwen and life? Well, HADN'T he? HADN'T HE?"

Then, the police Sergeant tells Spidey that the ambulance has arrived to take Gwen's body. Still in a daze, and blaming himself, Spidey lets go of Gwen's body (which is placed on a stretcher), stands up, and says:

SPIDER-MAN: "Ambulance? She doesn't need an ambulance, officer----She's dead--and Spider-Man killed her."

Pg. 11: This statement of guilt by Spidey is misinterpreted as a literal confession to Gwen's murder by the rookie cop, and the Sergeant reluctantly agrees to bring Spidey in for questioning. As the police advance on him, Spidey snaps out of his daze, and angrily escapes. Seething with rage, Spidey is obsessed with finding Norman Osborn and making him pay dearly for Gwen's death.

Pg. 12: As Peter Parker, Spidey goes to Osborn's townhouse to settle the any cost.

This is a Peter Parker we've never seen before, and the Gil Kane/John Romita version depicted here is a stark contrast to the version we'd known before: a pained and angry expression of his face, haunted eyes with dark circles under them--this is a portrait of a Spider-Man consumed by deep pain and rage.

It should be noted that Peter's flu-like illness, which played a big part in ASM # 121, is not mentioned at all in this issue. One can assume that Peter is going on auxiliary power and adrenaline at this point, but it adds a nice layer to the story when one considers that on what is perhaps the second worst day of his life (the first being the day Ben Parker died), Peter is physically ill while simultaneously dealing with incredible emotional pain.

Pgs. 14-15: Peter sees Harry Osborn, who is still tripping out (and is nearly insane with confusion). But there's no sign of Norman at the townhouse.

PETER (thought balloon, regarding Harry): "And you're absolutely no use to me at all. For that're not even much use to yourself. So long, Harry...I've got more important things to do than hold your hand."

As he begins to leave, Harry, terribly confused, begs Peter for help.

PETER (thought balloon): "So now it comes down to it, doesn't it, Peter? Do you stay--and help your friend? Or do you go find revenge--simple, vicious revenge? Not much of a there?"

Obsessed with finding Norman Osborn, Peter cold-bloodedly leaves his dazed friend behind.

Pg. 17: Spider-Man goes to the Daily Bugle, where a stunned Robbie Robertson has just read about Gwen's death. Spidey asks Robbie for two pieces of information:

1) If Norman Osborn has been seen around town within the past hour; and

2) If Osborn owns any unusual properties (such as theaters or warehouses).

Pg. 18: After making several phone calls, Robbie tells Spider-Man that Norman was seen at his warehouse on 23rd Street and Ninth Avenue some 40 minutes prior. Just then, J. Jonah Jameson walks in, accusing Spider-Man of killing Gwen Stacy. A fed-up Spidey webs J.J.J.'s mouth shut and takes off.

Pg. 19: At Osborn's dilapidated warehouse, we spy upon---

NARRATOR'S CAPTION: "A door slightly ajar----and a man slightly mad."

This sequence reinforces just how far gone Osborn is. He's obsessed with killing Spider-Man, he's paranoid, and his insane ego is in overdrive.

The deranged Green Goblin knows that Spider-Man will be coming after him, and is working on his weapons. He pushes back his mask to wipe his feverishly sweaty brow--the last time we ever see a living Norman Osborn's face--and he is also making plans for his next move after he's killed Spider-Man:

GOBLIN: "Once he's dead, I'll be free--free to conquer, to take what is rightfully mine! They think they can destroy me----that they can crush Norman Osborn with their petty finances. A few business reverses--what are they to a man with my power? Nothing! NOTHING! In a matter of hours, the world will cringe before--eh?"

Pg. 21: Just then, the Goblin notices that Spider-Man has arrived outside. He flies out the warehouse's side door, thinking to ambush his foe. Instead, Spidey ambushes the Goblin, kicking him off of his jet-glider and smashing it. The Goblin is enraged when his precious flying device is damaged, and Spider-Man in turn becomes furious when he sees that the Goblin holds an inanimate object so dear, but didn't give a second thought to snuffing out Gwen's life.

Pg. 22:

SPIDER-MAN (to the Goblin, angry): "Mister, are we living in the same universe? You killed my woman, Goblin----*and you're raging about a blasted bargain-basement TOY? Let's get our priorities straight, punk!"

He grabs the Goblin's bag of tricks, depriving the costumed maniac of all his weapons.

SPIDER-MAN (furious): "There's a big difference between a fancy gimmick--and a human life!"

Again, the Goblin shows what a psychopath he is ("psychopath" being defined as an individual with no superego or conscience, who has no concern for the welfare of others, and experiences no remorse or guilt as a result of his behavior). He also displays some misogynistic tendencies:

GOBLIN: "Life? You talk to me of life? What worth is there in the paltry existence of one useless female? A simpering, pointless girl who never did more than occupy space--while I--"

Before the Goblin can prattle on yet again about his own greatness, Spider-Man leaps at him, beating him senseless:

SPIDER-MAN (enraged): "That's IT, buster! That is IT!"

Pg. 23:

SPIDER-MAN (out of control, beating the Goblin): "You're talking about my lady, creep! Someone I love--I mean loved--! Do you know what that means? *Have you any IDEA what that MEANS?? I LOVED her, Goblin! And YOU--! YOU--TOOK--HER--AWAY! Filthy--worm-eating--SCUM!"

Pummeling the Goblin nearly to death, Spidey catches himself at the last second. Both men are dazed. The Goblin is sprawled on a crate, and blood trickles from his mouth, which he wipes away with his forearm.

Spider-Man turns away in disgust, holding his hand to his head. This moment really illustrates the difference between the two men, and why Spider-Man is a true hero. Despite what Norman Osborn his taken from him, Peter Parker will NOT allow himself to become a killer. He will do the right thing, and take the Goblin to the authorities. And *THAT* is heroism. THAT is what's missing from comic books (and Spider-Man) these days.

SPIDER-MAN (dazed): "Good lord...What in the name of Heaven am I doing? In another moment I might have killed him! I would have become like him--a--a--murderer!"

At that moment, the Goblin surreptitiously calls his battered, remote-controlled Goblin-glider towards them, and it sputters to life. The pointy bat-ears on the "head" of the damaged jet-glider are bent downward, and the Goblin intends to skewer Spidey from behind.

Pg. 26:

SPIDER-MAN (composing himself): "On your feet, Goblin. This is one time you're not escaping. You're for jail, Mister."

Spidey does not see the battered jet-glider silently approaching from behind, but the Goblin does.

GOBLIN (smiling): "I'm afraid...I cannot...permit that, my friend. I exceedingly pressing appointment...elsewhere."

And don't you dare tell me that "appointment" is to go after his and Gwen's children in France...

SPIDER-MAN: "Forget it, Goblin. In case you hadn't noticed--you don't have any choice."

GOBLIN: "On the contrary, my ambitious foe--my choices are unlimited. It is you who--"

Just then, Spidey's spider-sense detects the jet-glider's approach a split-second before it can stab him in the back (a factor the dazed and battered Goblin forgot to consider).

SPIDER-MAN: "My spider-sense--it's tingling! Something behind me--!"

Spider-Man ducks at the last possible second with his superhuman reflexes, and the jet-glider proceeds to impale its own master squarely in the chest with a resounding "CHUNK!" sound effect (and a hint of blood spurting out of the Goblin's chest, but nothing too gory).

GOBLIN (impaled by his glider): "YAAAAAAH!"

We then get a sequence of three panels:

The Goblin is smacked up against the warehouse wall by the glider.

NARRATOR'S CAPTION: "So do the proud men die:"

The Goblin writhes on the end of the glider (which is running out of fuel and sputtering).

NARRATOR'S CAPTION: "Crucified, not on a cross of gold--"

The Goblin dies (and his body goes limp).

NARRATOR'S CAPTION: "--but on a stake of humble tin."

The mention of a "cross of gold" is almost certainly a reference to a famous speech given by William Jennings Bryan on July 9, 1896, at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The speech dealt with the issue of whether or not to endorse the free coinage of silver at a ratio of silver to gold of 16 to 1. The speech ends with the words, "You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold."

Here's the full speech:

This reference is rather appropriate for a crazy businessman obsessed with wealth and power who dies a horrible death.

The narration in the Goblin's death scene elegantly sums up what has happened. Unrepentant to the end, the Goblin tries one last time to murder Peter Parker, but ends up killing only himself. The irony is that the deranged villain is killed by his own device (the same vehicle that allowed him to push Gwen Stacy off of the Brooklyn Bridge). A man driven by ego and delusions of grandeur suffers a grotesque, unglamorous death, and by his own hand, no less.

Pg. 27: The Goblin's jet-glider runs out of fuel, and the villain's body (the glider still embedded in his chest), slides down the wall to the ground and falls over with an undignified "Thump!".

Spider-Man stands there for a moment and ruminates on this whole experience.

SPIDER-MAN: "He's dead. Somehow...I thought it would mean more. When a man dies--even a man like the Goblin--it should mean something. It shouldn't be an accident...a stupid, senseless accident. It's got to have a it doesn't just mean...we live in vain. Funny. I thought seeing the Goblin die would make me feel better about Gwen. Instead, it just makes me feel empty......washed out......and maybe just a little bit more alone."

As he walks away, Spidey fails to notice a shadowy observer (revealed several issues later to be Harry Osborn) who has witnessed the Goblin's demise.

Pg. 28: We get a one-page epilogue as a broken Peter Parker returns home, only to find that Mary Jane has been waiting for him there for several hours (Does she have a key to Peter and Harry's apartment, as it appeared Gwen also did? Did Harry give her one, maybe?).

MARY JANE: "Hey, Petey--I heard about Gwen. I'm really torn up, Pe--"

PETER (angry): "You? 'Torn up'? Don't make me laugh, Mary Jane. You wouldn't be sorry if your own mother died. What do you care about straights like me and Gwen? Go on--get out here. I know how you hate sick beds. And believe me--I wouldn't want to spoil your fun."

He sits, weeping. Mary Jane also begins to cry, and hesitates for three panels by the door. Then, making her decision, she stays inside the apartment and closes the door with a "Click!". She knows Peter doesn't mean what he said (and it's even more painful in light of the later revelation that MJ's mother died after a hard, painful life), and so she resolves to stay and comfort him.

It's an ending...and a new beginning.

Article on the relevance of Gwen's death:

“'The Night Gwen Stacy Died:' The End of Innocence and the Birth of the Bronze Age”

This article intelligently dissects Gwen's death, and its impact on the comic book medium. The writer *understands* Gwen, and her place in comic book history.

For a long time after this story was published, the creators were understandably reluctant to talk about the how and why of what they did (Although a famous quote from Conway stated, "I thought Gwen was a stiff, actually".). For many years, the answers to certain questions, such as who exactly decided to kill Gwen and who placed that "SNAP!" sound effect in the panel she died in, were unclear. In recent times, however, answers have been more forthcoming. Here is a sampling of comments from the relevant parties in interviews from the past few years.

For the various collected editions of Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross' MARVELS (1994) mini-series, John Romita provided a commentary for issue # 4, which retold the tale of Gwen's death:

ROMITA: "My memory of it was a meeting with Gerry, myself, and probably Roy Thomas, in which we discussed giving the readers a 'wake-up call' kind of shock that we felt THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN book could use. I recall that Aunt May's death was one option, and I suggested it should be Gwen. That's what we ended up going with. To this day, others, like Stan, think I was wrong. But in the end, it had the effect we wanted. The event was designed to affect readers profoundly, but I was surprised by the quality of Gerry's writing, and still consider it some of the best storytelling, art, and writing that I can remember. Gil Kane's pencils were great. It was a turning point of sorts for all comics, and I don't think any character's death has so much affected so many readers since."

From an interview with John Romita, Sr. conducted by Roy Thomas, in Alter Ego magazine (Roy Thomas' fanzine), Vol. 3, # 9, July 2001.

Pg. 29:

ROMITA: "Stan used to accuse me of favoring Mary Jane over Gwen. He'd want me to make Gwen more glamorous. But Gwen was more serious, especially after her father [Captain Stacy] died. I kept telling Stan, 'Gwen's a lady- she's not the kind of airhead that Mary Jane is. I can't have her smiling all the time.' When he had me start putting Gwen in mini-skirts, I didn't feel it was right for her. Pretty soon it was hard to tell Gwen and Mary Jane apart. They were like Betty and Veronica- the same girl except for the hair color."

From the Stan Lee interview (the interviews with various Spidey creators were conducted by Tom DeFalco) in Comic Creators on Spider-Man (Titan Books, 2004):

Pg. 17:

TOM DEFALCO: "Is it true that you wanted Peter to end up with Gwen, but John {Romita, Sr.} preferred Mary Jane?"

STAN LEE: "We never really argued about it. I told John that I thought Peter should end up with Gwen. Though John went along with me, it's something we used to joke about. No matter how hard we tried, we couldn't make Gwen as interesting as Mary Jane. The characters seemed to have taken on lives of their own. Gwen was a sweet girl, everything about her was pure and wholesome and loyal and wonderful. I thought she'd be the perfect wife for Peter. On the other hand, Mary Jane was a real party girl. She was hip and cool. She was more exciting and therefore seemed to be more attractive than Gwen. The readers preferred Mary Jane to Gwen, and there was nothing we could do about it."

Pg. 20:

DEFALCO: "How did you feel about Gwen Stacy's death?"

STAN: "Gerry always says that he had cleared it with me. He told me that I had said 'okay', but I was still sorry that Gwen had been killed. After killing her father previously, it must have seemed we had a vendetta going against the poor Stacy family. Also, I would have enjoyed keeping both Gwen and MJ and letting them play off against each other."

From John Romita's interview in Comic Creators on Spider-Man:

Pg. 32:

DEFALCO: "Did you and Stan ever argue over who should be Peter Parker's girlfriend?"

ROMITA: "Mary Jane's first appearance made an immediate impact. We got a lot of mail from the fans because they wanted her to be Peter's girlfriend. Stan preferred Gwen Stacy. When I started drawing Gwen, I thought of her as an intelligent, responsible, level-headed and well-behaved young lady, kind of the opposite of Mary Jane. Stan started using Mary Jane to make Gwen jealous of Peter. In other words, Gwen would never have noticed Peter if Mary Jane hadn't started throwing herself at him. Stan decided to fool the readers and make Gwen the girlfriend. I kept trying to make Gwen more glamorous, I even gave her Mary Jane's hairstyle at one point, and I used to beg the colorist not to put any yellow in her hair. I wanted her to be a platinum blonde. But it didn't matter! No matter what Stan and I did, the fans always liked Mary Jane better."

DEFALCO: Is that why you eventually decided to kill Gwen?"

ROMITA: "Here's the way I remember it: Stan had left the book to become Marvel's publisher. Roy Thomas had taken over as the Editor-in-Chief, though I think we only called him the editor in those days, and Gerry Conway was writing Amazing. Roy and Gerry wanted to do something to shake up the book, and get people to pay attention. They were going to kill somebody in the strip for shock value and I think they settled on Aunt May. I didn't like that idea. If you kill Aunt May, Peter Parker's secret identity is not a problem anymore because there's no one for him to protect, and you'd lose the whole teenage nerd factor. It didn't matter how good-looking he was or how well he was doing if his aunt was still telling him to bring his umbrella whenever he went out in the rain. That's when I remembered Milton Caniff and his strip Terry and the Pirates. People in the street were shocked when Pat Ryan's girlfriend was killed in Terry and the Pirates. I thought we would really shake up the fans if we killed Peter's girlfriend. Gerry agreed and so did Roy. I think Roy even ran it by Stan, and got his okay. Stan claims that he was never in on it, but you know how bad his memory is. When the issue finally came out, the fans were outraged. They threatened me and Gerry and Stan. Here it is almost forty years later, and the fans are still talking about the death of Gwen Stacy- so I guess we made the right choice."

As we've seen, Gwen *had* started to notice Peter before MJ came along, but the rest of Romita's account is certainly true.

From Gerry Conway's interview in Comic Creators on Spider-Man:

Pg. 47-48:

DEFALCO: "'The Death of Gwen Stacy' story came only ten issues or so into your run. Was that a conscious decision to shake up the book?"

CONWAY: "It's certainly the Spider-Man story that I'll probably be remembered for, but it wasn't my doing alone. John Romita, Roy, Stan and I- we all talked about it, and we decided to do that story because things had gotten too nice. We wanted to shake things up. Well, killing off Spider-Man's girlfriend certainly shook things up, all right!

I've had this conversation with a number of people over the years: that two-part story seems to be a turning point in the history of comic books. Before those events, we had comics in which heroes were heroes, everything made sense and it was all for the higher good. In that story, we introduced fatalism and despair into the comics universe. With the inadvertent, but probably subconsciously intentional element of Spider-Man's complicity in Gwen's death, we presented a hero who is not only flawed, but may actually be responsible for the death of his girlfriend. It's a tremendous development. Uncle Ben died because Peter didn't use his power. Gwen dies as a consequence of Peter using his power. The rules have changed. Suddenly, we're forced to look at heroes in a different way. The good guys are as dangerous as the bad guys. After Gwen's death, superheroes are seen as fundamentally flawed- and that's something that's been part of our collective consciousness for about twenty-five years now. I think that one story led inevitably to Watchmen, and to the nihilistic approach to superheroes that was popular through most of the nineties. I wish that I could take credit for this, but I can't. Adding that 'SNAP' sound effect, at the moment Spider-Man's web caught Gwen, was a subconscious decision. I never thought about the ramifications when I wrote it, but- boy, a lot of other people sure have since!"

DEFALCO: "This has to be one of the most debated comics stories of all."

CONWAY: "You mean, was Spider-Man really responsible for Gwen's death, or was she dead before his web caught her? I wouldn't go to comic book conventions for many years because I kept getting asked that question. I knew that a lot of people were affected by that story, but it didn't hit me that it had such relevance until I read Marvels by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross."

DEFALCO: "In your mind, was Gwen still alive until her neck snapped?"

CONWAY: "Could be! Honestly, I don't know- I'm not sure why I added that sound effect, or what I meant to accomplish; as I say, it was the result of a subconscious decision. Consciously, I've always thought that she was already dead when Spider-Man caught her. But if that's true, why did I put that 'SNAP' in? What was the purpose of it? Spider-Man couldn't hear it. It was strictly for the audience. What was I trying to say? That 'SNAP' came from a pure artistic impulse. It was not calculated or part of a master plan to mess with the readers' heads. The fact that I don't know if Gwen was alive, and you don't know, is meaningful, because that's when a piece of art really lives-when a story means different things to different people on different levels. 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. That said, I'd sure like to believe she was already dead."

From a revealing Gerry Conway interview, entitled, "I Killed Gwen Stacy" (written by Pat Jankiewicz), published in the Starlog Celebrity Series Presents Spider-Man and Other Amazing Comics Heroes magazine (Comics Heroes # 3), September, 2004:

(CONWAY:) "Gwen's death was the first time in comics' history that a hero truly failed," Conway says. "It wasn't that Spider-Man arrived too late, it's that he didn't save her. There are moments in history where things happen because they're destined to happen. Killing her off the way we did was one of those insignificant decisions that life turns on. Just like Peter Parker, it affects your life forever."

Surprisingly, Conway doesn't have much sympathy for his victim. "I never liked Gwen Stacy as a character," he confesses. "I thought she was very white-bread, bland and boring. Not the sort of person who would be attractive to Peter. She was gorgeous, but Peter has this edge to him as a character, so he needs someone with an edge who can respond to that. What did Gwen really bring to the mix? She was the object of desire, but Gwen didn't offer anything in terms of storylines or conflict. She was quite beautiful, but she really had nothing going on!

"On the other hand, you had Mary Jane Watson, who had emotional issues, wouldn't commit and was perceived as a bit of a flake- all of which made her a much more attractive character to write and somebody interesting to play off of Peter. It was my feeling all along that Mary Jane should be Peter's girl friend. I didn't necessarily want to kill Gwen off, but I wanted Mary Jane to be Peter's girl.

"As a result, the idea came out [of a discussion] between John Romita, Roy Thomas and me. One of us said, 'if we're gonna make a big change and get Peter involved with Mary Jane, let's pay this off and kill Gwen!' And that's what we did. I can take credit for writing the story, but *not* for coming up with the idea. I don't really know how that came about. John, Roy and I always talked about the different ways we could amp up the book."

The brutality of Gwen's demise "was callow youth", he laughs. "If you're gonna kill off a major character, you have to make it pay off emotionally. I didn't want to do a story where she died heroically, because that wasn't her character. Gwen was a very passive figure- she cried a lot, was emotional and her father, Captain Stacy, had already died heroically, so an honorable death for her was definitely out!

"As I plotted the story, I had the Green Goblin capture Gwen, use her as a hostage to attract Spider-Man and then he throws her off the bridge. It was my intention that she die from the fall- a heart attack or whatever- but when I saw Gil Kane's artwork, [it showed] Spider-Man attempting but unable to save her. The idea was that, despite all his power, Spider-Man didn't have the ability to rescue the woman he loved during a crucial moment.

"Gil's drawing had Spider-Man webbing her foot," Conway continues. "I realized, 'Hey, it could well happen that in the act of saving her, he kills her. He could break her neck.' So I put in this tiny sound effect, "Snap!', as an afterthought. I thought that would be cool. My editor, Roy, looked at it and either didn't notice it or didn't think it was a big deal, so it went in."

That simple 'Snap!' sound effect "was a brilliant subconscious move on my part, because the whole essence of spider-Man's character is that he isn't a capable super-hero. He manages to succeed more through persistence and a willingness to take a beating than through brilliance and sophistication. And while Uncle Ben's death was the result of a core decision, Gwen's demise was just life. Peter couldn't have done anything differently, but his participation in her death through the snap of a neck held it all together."

The Green Goblin suffers an even nastier death- impaled by his own Goblin Glider. Willem Dafoe croaks the same way in the Spider-Man movie. "He had to suffer for killing Gwen," Conway points out. "It's also the flipside of Gwen dying at Spider-Man's hands; that power rebounds against you. Things that give us power will also crush us, which is why he's killed by his own glider."

Did Conway have any idea of the impact his story would have? "Oh God, no," he admits. "I would have saved a bunch of copies! We knew it was gonna be a turning point, but I don't think anyone expected it to be a huge deal. You don't plan on this kind of thing. My impression of Gwen was that she wasn't that strong of a character; so it didn't occur to me that people would be upset."

Reader reaction was explosive. "I got tons of hate mail. One letter began, 'Gerry Conway, you black-hearted scum.' I guess I was," he grins. "I was 19 or 20 and didn't grasp the potential ramifications. In retrospect, it was one of the motivating factors in the direction comics have taken in the last 25 years. Her death broke many unspoken rules in comics. Having a hero participating in the death of a good person and major supporting character hadn't been done before. The most you could have a hero do in leading to a death was inaction. like with Uncle Ben. What Gwen dying did was open the door to the dark side of this kind of power; that there are ramifications even to using power in a good way. Sometimes using your power to do good can also cause harm. You can go directly from there and draw a line to later stories exploring those dark ramifications- The Dark Knight Returns, The Death of Captain Marvel and Watchmen.

"I'm not saying those guys were inspired to do those stories because of my comic," he clarifies, "but that one issue broke the rules people had in the back of their minds about how heroes could actually function. My neuroses affected the entire Marvel Universe!"

Gwen's broken neck was so controversial that Marvel backpedaled, offering other explanations, like her dying from the shock of the fall. "Maybe she did," Conway shrugs. "Either way, her neck was broken. Now whether she was dead before that, who knows? She was lying there on the bridge and they never did an autopsy! Incidentally, in my original outline, I asked Gil to draw the George Washington Bridge, because that's the biggest bridge in New York. However, Gil drew the Brooklyn Bridge, but I didn't notice that when the art came in, so I still called it the George Washington Bridge! The movie got it right- the Queensborough Bridge looks the best!"

For the next two years, Spider-Man suffered from flashbacks of Gwen's death. "I did that because it was so traumatic for him," Conway says. "Also, this was done at the end of the Vietnam War. We were dealing with soldiers coming back from these traumatic experiences and who were suffering from flashbacks. It would have been unfair- given the effect of her death on his life- for Spider-Man not to think about and struggle with it. That was necessary.

"Gwen had to go because Peter was destined to be with Mary Jane. We know this because of the way she was introduced. For months, we built up the anticipation of meeting this young woman, MJ. She walks in, and there's that great moment: 'Face it, tiger. You just hit the jackpot!' How could we not fall in love with her? It was one of John Romita's first issues, and she was this fabulous babe!

"I never bought that Gwen was the love of his life," Conway comments. "For me, killing her off was clearing the path to getting back to where things were supposed to be with MJ. Peter has had six girl friends, including a crush on Betty Brant and a brief flirtation with Liz Allen. Mary Jane comes along- obviously the woman of his life- and then Gwen, this gorgeous girl, suddenly falls into his lap at college. How did that happen? This is a guy who never managed to score in relationships, and he ends up with this stunning girl! His destiny is Mary Jane, because they're two sides of the same coin: Peter's flippancy on the surface as Spider-Man, contrasting with his emotional reservoir of pain and anguish, ties in with MJ, whose own surface flippancy masks pain and anguish."

So, to sum things up: John Romita suggested Gwen be the one to die, Stan likely approved it, and Conway put the "Snap!" in to hint that Spider-Man accidentally killed Gwen.

The impact of Amazing Spider-Man # 121-122 cannot be overestimated. What began as a love story so many issues before ended as a bloodbath. Fans were stunned. The industry was stunned. The response was massive, with letters ranging from deep sadness to complete joy to utter rage. Marvel (and Gerry Conway, in particular) was accused of misogyny (and indeed, without this event, there would almost certainly be no stories dealing with the tragic deaths of female leads in comics, such as the "Dark Phoenix Saga" in The Uncanny X-Men or the "Elektra Saga" in Daredevil, stories which would also be accused of misogyny).

For the character of Spider-Man, the death of a major supporting female character (who died ONLY because of her relationship to the hero) seemed emotionally and thematically appropriate, but now it seems EVERY major super-hero has had that same moment of holding a dead girl and screaming (One classic example of this is the cover to DC's Crisis on Infinite Earths # 7, which featured the morbid image of Superman holding Supergirl's corpse and howling in image which was even made into a retail poster!). Gerry Conway and Stan Lee received all sorts of nasty letters and even death threats from irate fans who felt Gwen's death was unnecessary.

More than 30 years later, this remains one of the most controversial--and famous--moments in comic book history. It's not a stretch to say that Gwen's death is perhaps the most important death in the history of the medium (and one of the few deaths in comics that hasn't been magically undone). Ironically, the story designed to remove Gwen Stacy from Spider-Man's life immortalized her, and she is fondly remembered by many fans today, fans who still feel the tragic impact of her death. Both Gwen and the story detailing her demise have been dug up again and again and again over the years by writers trying to either honor it, such as Kurt Busiek (MARVELS), J.M. DeMatteis ("The Kiss"), or writers who undermine and pillage it, such as Bob Harras (by bringing Osborn back), Paul Jenkins (by having Peter confess that he killed Gwen by breaking her neck), JMS ('Nuff Said.), etc.

It is interesting to note that much of the controversy stems from the fact that a beloved character was killed off so suddenly and so shockingly (well, *two* characters, if you count the Green Goblin). This is a plot *development*, not a retcon, or something done to spit upon the work of others. People die. That's life. That's drama. But the key thing to note is that there were no major inconsistencies or mischaracterizations in the story. Gwen was sweet and innocent, the Goblin was crazed and homicidal. Some fans liked Gwen and were sad to see her die, others didn't like her and were glad to see her go. She definitely had *character*, no doubt about it, it's just that some people didn't her. Sins Past, on the other hand, is controversial because it involves *massive* retconning and altered characterizations, and no real plot developments (besides the dubious introduction of Gwen's illegitimate offspring).

You generally don't see people do a 180-degree turn and do things completely out of character. Will Sins Past be as remembered and talked about and loved and hated as much as the Death of Gwen Stacy in the years to come solely because it's controversial (as Marvel is likely hoping)? I say thee nay! I'm sure it will fall to the wayside someday, as all dreck eventually does. HISTORY is the one thing no shoddy work can stand against.

Some feel that the death of Gwen Stacy is one of the worst stories in Spider-Man history, as it firmly marked the end of the classic Spidey era, violently killed off two prominent, classic characters, and signaled the beginning of the "grim and gritty" era of comics. Others (myself included) feel that, taken by itself (without thought of what has it led to, both for Spider-Man and for the comic industry as a whole), it is one of the best, as it is a very-well constructed tragedy full of high emotion and sweeping changes that were necessary for Spider-Man to thrive. It is also very much in keeping with the themes of the book that were established in the very beginning. Power. Responsibility. Family. Love. Hate. Heroism. Peter's rotten luck and his angst.

But the door this story opened may very well have caused more harm than good in the long run. It really opened the floodgates for comics in terms of grim and gritty "realism". It seems to be no coincidence that violent anti-hero characters like the Punisher and Wolverine began to appear shortly after Gwen's death. Indeed, one of the themes of the story is the permanence of death, and the Punisher, introduced shortly after (in ASM # 129), personifies death. From this point on, there were fewer happy endings in comics, and more and more characters (women in general, super-hero girlfriends in particular) were killed off to be either relevant, realistic, or just to boost sales. Also, the line between heroes and villains became very muddled and unclear. Sins Past is a bastard grandchild of this story, the terrifying, revolting climax of what the death of Gwen Stacy began in 1973.

An inherent problem with the death of Gwen is that it created a very strong "tentpole" moment in Spider-Man's history, which writers persistently and consistently refer back to, and which has forcibly aged the characters (and diminished the story's impact). From ASM # 121-122-on, Spider-Man's history was firmly divided into "Before Gwen's death" and "After Gwen's death", instead of being one long stream of continuous Spider-Man adventures. The original Clone Saga (ASM # 145-150) was stated to have occurred "two years" after Gwen's death (which was also the case in the real-world's publishing history), and the second Clone Saga "five years" after that (although it was almost 20 years in real time between the first Clone Saga and the second). Now, Peter Parker is said to be 30 years old, a radical departure from what he was created and intended to be (a struggling teenager).

If Gwen had just gone away or broken up with Peter for good (a la Betty Brant), then it's very likely none of the radical (and destructive) changes that have affected Spider-Man in recent times would ever have happened. It's also likely that few fans would remember Gwen or enshrine her the way they do today. Really, the most memorable thing about Gwen Stacy is that she died. And consider this--if Gwen had NOT died, there wouldn't have been a Clone Saga (the 1970s original or the 1990s mess), Peter might not have married Mary Jane, and there would be no Sins Past or The Other or any of the other disasters that have beset Spidey in recent years. But the shocking death of his girlfriend (not the kind of thing that every reader can relate to, and not the kind of thing that someone--Spidey, in particular--could easily bounce back from) branded itself permanently onto the character.

Writers continue to pillage Gwen's death, referring to it whenever then need cheap sadness or pathos. Worse, over the years many writers have attempted to recapture the impact of Gwen's death, both in Spider-Man (by dredging up the story) and in other titles, by killing off characters and billing the stories as "EVENTS" that would boost sales and ensure that "Things will never be the same!" (A trend that has continued, with Quesada and JMS saying such things about every single upcoming Spidey storyarc.).

It seems now that every facet of "The Night Gwen Stacy Died" has been ruined (Peter knows for sure that he accidentally killed Gwen, Norman Osborn isn't even dead, Norman and Gwen had illegitimate kids, etc.).

The deaths of Gwen Stacy and Norman Osborn in Amazing Spider-Man # 121-122 are two of the most frequently requested stories in Marvel history, and have been reprinted many, many times:

ASM # 121:

Marvel Tales #98
Marvel Tales #192 (reprints both issues; Gwen's name is misspelled "Stacey" on the newly-drawn cover)
100 Greatest Marvels of All Time #5

ASM # 122:

Marvel Tales #99
Marvel Tales #192 (see above)
100 Greatest Marvels of All Time #2

Marvel also reprinted these issues in the Spider-Man: The Annotated Death of Gwen Stacy trade paperback (1997, not actually annotated), the Spider-Man Vs. Green Goblin trade paperback (1995), which reprinted Amazing Spider-Man # 17, 96-98, 121-122, and Spectacular Spider-Man # 200; and The Death of Gwen Stacy trade paperback (1999, reprinted under the "Marvel's Finest" banner with a new cover in 2002), which reprinted ASM # 96-98 and 121-122, as well as the backup story from Webspinners # 1, "The Kiss".

In these reprinted versions, Spider-Man's comment about the George Washington Bridge in ASM # 121 has been removed and replaced, and in the revised versions, he simply says, "...the Brooklyn Bridge!").

ASM # 121-122 were also reprinted in the sixth volume of the black and white Essential Spider-Man trade paperback series (2004, which reprints ASM # 114-137, Giant-Size Super-Heroes # 1, and Giant-Size Spider-Man # 1-2.). The copy in the Essential book's reprinting of ASM # 121 was modified *again* to recreate the dialogue the way it was in the original printing (for historical accuracy, with the reference to the George Washington Bridge once again included).

ASM # 123:

Pg. 1-2: We begin at Norman Osborn's warehouse, with Osborn's corpse (blood trickling from his nose) being carted into a waiting ambulance. J. Jonah Jameson and Robbie Robertson are on the scene, and Jameson accuses Spider-Man of murdering Osborn (since he went to the Bugle to ascertain Osborn's location last issue). The police have found traces of Spidey's webbing, as well as several of the Green Goblin's pumpkin bombs. Jameson dismisses this as false evidence planted by Spider-Man, and vows to bring in the web-slinger for Osborn's murder.

Pg. 3: The police say that Osborn's body was moved before they arrived. The shadowy figure from the end of last issue (later revealed to be Harry Osborn) watches from above, holding the Green Goblin's costume. It is revealed that the shadowy figure was the one who removed the Goblin's costume from Osborn's body, since the death of a criminal like the Goblin would have little impact. Norman Osborn's death, on the other hand, will cause a public outcry to bring Spider-Man to justice.

Pg. 5: Three days later. Dawn at a Long Island cemetery. It's Gwen Stacy's funeral. Among the attendees are Peter Parker, Mary Jane Watson, May Parker, Anna Watson, Flash Thompson, Betty Brant, Robbie Robertson, and Randy Robertson.

Pg. 6, panels 1-2: Aunt May wonders why someone so young had to die, while an old person like her continues to live. Peter tells her that these things just happen. Anna Watson tells may that Gwen's grandparents (paternal or maternal is unclear) want to meet her. Peter notices that one of Doctor Octopus' guards has accompanied May to the funeral.

Pg. 6, panels 3-4: A saddened Flash Thompson approaches Peter, and caps-off a long-standing subplot:

FLASH: "Say, Pete? Listen, pal...I just wanted to tell you, Gwen was the greatest. She always liked you...there was never anything between the two of us...capeesh?"

PETER: "Sure, Flash...I understand."

FLASH (sad): "I hope you'll forgive me--but right now, I don't feel very much like talking."

He leaves.

Soon, Peter, Mary Jane, and Robbie are the only mourners left. Robbie apologizes for Jameson's absence, and Peter comments that Jameson didn't give Gwen much regard in life, either, to say nothing of her death (Jameson is busy contacting Luke Cage, Hero for Hire, to promise him $5,000 in exchange for Spider-Man's capture).

Pg. 11: Spider-Man is reminded of Gwen everywhere. He feels deeply guilty for her death, even though he did everything he could to stop it. He worries about just who took the Green Goblin costume off of Osborn's body, and then considers quitting the super-hero business altogether.

Pg. 18-19: After encountering and battling Luke Cage, Peter returns home.

PETER: "The place doesn't seem right--now that Harry's not here--now that his father's dead. So much has happened to change everything. When Harry freaked out on drugs, the entire shape of our lives...twisted. That's what pushed Norman Osborn over the brink--the final nudge that made him go mad, kidnap Gwen--and, finally, kill her."

Truer words were never said. With the shocking murder of the loving, dependable, level-headed Gwen Stacy, the core Spider-Man supporting cast would be badly damaged and broken up for years to come. Harry Osborn was driven mad by grief and drugs (and became the new Green Goblin, which eventually led to his death years later), Mary Jane Watson became more down-to-earth and restrained, and soon began an on-again, off-again romance with Peter, and Flash Thompson got involved with Sha Shan when she came to the States (and he later had a romance with Betty Brant-Leeds). As for Peter, he found himself trapped in a pit of despair and self-doubt. This represented a major emotional shift in the book from the fun, goofy idealism of the early 1960s, in which Spider-Man was born, to the uncertainty and chaos of the 1970s.

Anyway, Peter suddenly notices that Harry is there in the apartment. He'd thought that Harry was still at Norman Osborn's townhouse, helping the lawyers execute his father's estate. Harry is angry, and gives Peter the silent treatment.

ASM # 124: The onslaught of letters from fans regarding ASM # 121 begins. There is an editorial comment on the letters page:


"Almost everyone was deeply moved and saddened by Gwen's death. But even those who wrote some of the most sensitive, sorrow-stricken, 'how could you'-filled missives had to conclude (are you ready?) that we did the right thing.

Of course, not everyone felt that way. Some promised never to buy a SPIDEY mag again. Others called us 'murderers', 'fiends', 'assassins', and a slew of unprintable epithets. And yet...the number of Marvelites who gave us a sort of quavering nod of approval frankly amazed us."

In ASM # 125, there are still more letters regarding ASM # 121-122, ranging from joy to hatred. And again, there is an editorial comment, and a shocking one, at that. One that was overlooked by fans for many years. It's clearly a defensive move against the torrents of hate mail, and on the letters page of ASM # 124, this editorial comment is advertised as---

"So NOW I Know Whom to Blame".

"And there you have it. Solemn acceptance. Fierce anger. Ebullient joy. A sampling of the maddening wide spectrum of response to the death of Gwen Stacy in *SPIDER-MAN* # 121.

At this point, we feel obliged to take a paragraph or two to explain a few points of contention:

First, for the many who wrote and complained that the fall alone could not have killed Gwen if she were unconscious (and therefore unable to be scared to death, the usual explanation for a person dying before hitting the ground), 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.

Secondly, the why of it all. We gotta be honest and admit that it wasn't Gerry's idea alone. Kip Hitz is very close when, in his letter above, he calls it "necessary". Gerry had been reading over the past few years' issues and had come to the conclusion that something was wrong - or, more accurately, missing. The relationship between Pete and Gwen had been through a lot of inconsequential ups and downs, and unless the two were to be married, there was nowhere else to take it. But marriage seemed wrong, too. Peter just wasn't ready.

So Gerry, Roy, and Stan debated the question long and hard...and it turned out that all had reached the same inescapable conclusion. Gwen's death was simply fated to happen.

We've said before that our stories seem to write themselves, that we often don't have any control over them. This was such a case. Events had shaped themselves in such a way that their only logical resolution was tragedy. And the rest, as they say, is history.

So don't blame Gerry. Don't blame Stan. Don't blame anyone. Only the inscrutable, inexorable workings of circumstances are culpable this time.

And no one regrets it more than we. It was a hard, hard story to write.

'Nuff said!"

This could be seen as an attempt by the creators to explain away the decision to kill Gwen as being "inevitable". More importantly, though, it CLEARLY singles out Spider-Man himself as the one who inadvertently killed Gwen (without his knowledge) by snapping her neck via the whiplash of his webline.

In ASM # 126, there's yet another editorial response to the latest torrent of letters:


"There were, of course, other questions asked, charges made, and points raised as well- including a non-negotiable demand by many readers that we bring Gwen back from the dead, no matter how illogical the means.

In a word: no.

We cannot. Life (and death) simply doesn't work that way. To somehow revive Gwen now would, in our view, be perhaps the single most tasteless act ever committed in comics. Think on it, and we believe you'll have to agree."

Subsequent to Gwen's death, Peter Parker was utterly devastated. For many issues afterward, he was moody, angry, and even suffered from visions/hallucinations of Gwen and flashbacks to her death. In ASM # 124-125, Spidey doesn't even care if he lives or dies while battling the Man-Wolf. In ASM # 127, the second Vulture (Dr. Clifton Shallot) drops Mary Jane from a great height, and a horrified Spidey calls her "Gwendy" when he catches her. In ASM # 136, after Mary Jane is injured in an explosion, Peter sees Gwen's face superimposed over MJ's in the hospital.

Writer Gerry Conway did a fine job of having Peter slowly work through his grief, and also planted the seeds for a romance between Peter and Mary Jane (one of the reasons Gwen was killed off in the first place). This allowed Mary Jane to thrive as a character and move beyond her "flakey party girl persona" (until this point, she'd had only a *single* thought balloon to her name--in ASM # 62-- since her first appearance in 1966). Note that the book didn't become immersed in a gritty morass after the horrific events of ASM # 121-122. Instead, it hit the ground running and went right back to telling good *Spider-Man* stories, with Spidey fighting Luke Cage, the Man-Wolf, the Kangaroo, and more. Peter didn't spend 12 issues moping about his life in every single panel of every single page.

However, despite the shot in the arm the book was given, the torrent of hate mail and death threats unleashed by Gwen's death convinced Stan Lee that Gwen should be brought back somehow. Thus, Conway crafted the *first* Clone Saga (ASM # 129-150), which serves to resolve the issues raised by Gwen's death. This actually worked very well, dramatically, since Conway had shown Peter slowly rebuilding his life, and tentatively entering into a romance with Mary Jane. What better way to create conflict than to bring Gwen back (sort of) and throw a huge dilemma into Peter's recently patched-together life?

In the introduction to the Spider-Man: Clone Genesis trade paperback (1995, which reprinted the original clone stories from ASM # 141-151), Gerry Conway provides the introduction. In said introduction, he describes how Gwen's death came about, and how the idea of killing her came from John Romita. Conway liked the idea, since it would provide a lot of emotion and pathos, and it would also enable him to pair up Peter and Mary Jane (whom he'd always preferred over Gwen). Conway also felt that Gwen's death tied in well with the theme of power and responsibility that has been with Spidey since the beginning. After Gwen's death, though, there was a deluge of angry responses, and while speaking at a college, Stan Lee tried to fend off attackers by saying that he didn't kill Gwen, Conway did (meaning that Conway wrote the actual story). Thus was born the fan legend that "Gerry Conway killed Gwen Stacy while Stan Lee was out of town".

Stan felt that killing Gwen had been a mistake after seeing the fan response, and wanted to bring her back. Steve Gerber, who was then editor of Marvel's Tales of the Zombie magazine, jokingly offered to give Gwen a feature in the mag entitled, "Graveyard Gwen". Conway eventually decided that any attempt to bring Gwen back would fail, and that's when it hit him to bring her back as a clone. The theme that he would weave into the new story was that while we should honor our memories, we shouldn't live in the past.

In ASM # 129, the first seed of the original Clone Saga is planted when a new, mysterious villain called the Jackal first appears, and hires the vigilante known as the Punisher to kill Spider-Man (the Punisher agreed to take the job because Spider-Man accused of murdering Gwen Stacy and Norman Osborn, and most people thought he was a criminal, anyway). The Jackal would proceed to torment Spidey for many issues to come.

ASM # 136-137: After Harry Osborn bombs the apartment he shares with Peter (more on this later), Peter takes his spare Spidey costume and web-shooters and leaves them on a nearby rooftop, so they won't be discovered by the police or anyone else during the ensuing investigation.

ASM # 140: On the letters page, a debate begins regarding the aging of Peter Parker and his cast, and whether or not he should move past college, grow up, get married, etc. The editorial response to the readers regarding whether Spidey should age is that "the decision is yours". A similar debate (and the exact same editorial reponse, which told the readers it was up to them) had also occurred early in the Lee-Romita era (when Peter went to college and became popular), and after Gwen's death it flared up again. This is a troubling harbinger of the aging fanboy mentality that has turned the industry into the mess it is today, with fans demanding "growth and change" to the point that classic characters become twisted, perverted, and unrecognizable.

ASM # 142: Peter gets a fleeting glimpse of a woman on the street, and is deeply unnerved by just who he thinks he sees.

ASM # 143: Peter sees the mystery woman again and later has his first kiss with Mary Jane at JFK International Airport before flying to France on an assignment with Robbie Robertson.

Well, gee...if Mary Jane knew all along that Gwen Stacy had children and had left them in France, and also knew that Peter was now going off to France for the Bugle, wouldn't she bother to TELL him the truth??? But no, she just kisses him and lets him fly off like a sap without bothering to inform him of that little factoid. What a b****!!!!

ASM # 144: After a few issues of teasing the readers with glimpses of a Gwen-look-alike, Conway has Peter finally encounter Gwen Stacy in his apartment. Or does he?

ASM # 145: Peter is confused and angry by Gwen's "return", and thinks she's an imposter. Later on, however (at the hospital where Aunt May is after the shock of seeing "Gwen"), Bugle reporter Ned Leeds tells Peter that he took "Gwen" to a doctor, and that her fingerprints match the real Gwen's, and the original Gwen's coffin hasn't been touched. Further, the new Gwen is missing Gwen's memories of the last two years (since just before the real Gwen died). Thus, there are two versions of Gwen, one alive and one dead. As a confused and frightened "Gwen" hugs Peter, Peter and Mary Jane share a look which indicates their fears as to what this development will mean for their own budding relationship.

ASM # 146: Peter and Gwen talk. Gwen is staying with Betty Brant for the time being.

Pg. 6, panels 1-5: As Peter drops Gwen off, she kisses him, and he's surprised. She sees his hesitation.

"GWEN": " do still love me, don't you?"

PETER: "Gwen, I--"

Upset, Gwen walks inside the apartment building.

PETER (angry): "Nuts. What do I say to her? 'Sorry, Gwen--but I'm not so sure these days'? 'There's another girl, somebody I've grown to care about'?"

Clearly, Peter has gone a long way towards getting over Gwen and her death, but just as he's started really falling in love with Mary Jane, Gwen "returns" to dig up those buried feelings of his.

"Gwen" also briefly appears in Giant-Size Spider-Man # 5, in which Spidey goes to Florida and encounters the Man-Thing and the Lizard.

ASM # 147: Mary Jane talks to May Parker, and says that she feels Peter has forgotten about her since Gwen's "return". Aunt May tells Mary Jane that she should be willing to fight for her happiness.

Pg. 14: After learning the results of a lab report from Ned Leeds which indicate that the "new" Gwen is a clone of the original, Spider-Man hallucinates an image of Gwen in a mirror he sees in a store window.

SPIDER-MAN (to the hallucination of Gwen): "No! You can't come back! You're DEAD! How many times are you going to die? How many times am I going to hold you--and feel you slipping away--forever? I won't LET you come back! I won't! I won't!"

He angrily smashes the mirror, then tries to pull himself together.

Soon after, Spidey is captured by the Jackal, who is working with the terrorist Spider-foe known as the Tarantula. Shockingly, "Gwen" is with them, albeit in a trace-like state. A chained Spidey is taken by the trio to the top of the Brooklyn Bridge (this time identified as such in the dialogue, correcting the error of ASM # 121), and is pushed off as a repayment for Gwen's death.

ASM # 148: Spidey narrowly manages to save himself after being kicked off of the bridge. Later, Peter runs into Mary Jane at his apartment, who says it's either "Gwen" or her. Peter, distracted by bigger issues, ignores her. Ned Leeds arrives later on, and Peter says that he thinks the clone of Gwen may have been created by cell samples taken in Miles Warren's bio-chemistry class at ESU. He also says that Gwen's clone has the real Gwen's memories, but her experience is several months out of date. Ned and Peter go and talk to Warren (who had become more and more prominent as a supporting character in ASM after Gwen's death), who says that the cell samples taken from his class for a project were stolen by his lab assistant, Anthony Serba, who disappeared several months ago. Spidey goes to find Serba, but is attacked by the Tarantula and the Jackal (who have captured Ned Leeds). The Jackal then reveals that he is none other than Professor Miles Warren!

In Starlog's Comics Heroes # 3 (2004), Gerry Conway said that he didn't know who the Jackal would be when he first appeared, and began looking at older Spider-Man supporting characters to find the Jackal's alter ego (so fans wouldn't complain that the character had never been seen before when he was finally unmasked). Conway finally tied it together and chose Miles Warren by asking some questions: Who had the ability to clone Gwen? A scientist! Why? Because he was obsessed with her! Why is he obsessed? Because she was in his class!

ASM # 149: Warren reveals his story to Spider-Man. He says that when he first saw Gwen Stacy in his biochemistry class, he'd taken a fatherly liking to her (although it is hinted at here that Warren's feelings were actually *romantic*, and he's just rationalizing them as being paternal), blamed Spider-Man for her death, and hated Peter Parker for being loved by Gwen (years later, in Spectacular Spider-Man # 149, Gerry Conway would explicitly state that the much older Warren's feelings for Gwen really were romantic, and that he recreated Gwen so she could be in his life once again). When Gwen died, he felt as if something had died in him, too. And so, he took Gwen's cell samples from his class and began the process of cloning her. When his lab assistant, Anthony Serba, discovered that Warren was cloning humans, Warren killed him to keep him quiet. The unbalanced Warren convinced himself that someone else had killed Serba, and, overhearing a teacher lecturing about the nature of jackals, told himself that someone called "the Jackal" had killed Serba. Warren then trained himself athletically and created a Jackal costume.

Soon after, "Gwen's" clone casket opened, and Warren tells Spidey that she was born "without the slightest *memory* of her last few hours of *life*".

Warren spent the next few months re-educating "Gwen" to reality, using hypnosis to bring out her intact but buried memories. He also commanded her to obey him whenever he called, and sent her out, with no conscious memory of her origin, as a psychological weapon against Spider-Man (whose true identity he had deduced).

The Jackal then leaves Spider-Man to prepare for their final battle (with Ned Leeds as a hostage), telling him to go to Shea Stadium at midnight. Spidey arrives, but the Jackal gets the drop on him, extracting a blood sample (which contains RNA--memory cells). When Spidey awakens, he finds himself staring at...himself! Warren has also created a clone of Spider-Man (equipped with the spare Spidey costume and web-shooters Peter discarded in ASM # 136-137, and which is now supplied with Peter's most recent memories, thanks to the RNA Warren extracted from Spidey).

Both Spider-Men think they are the genuine article, and battle over the right to save Ned Leeds from a time bomb the Jackal has tied the reporter to.

Pg. 23, panels 9-10 through Pg. 26, panels 1-3: The hypnotized Gwen Stacy clone, seeing the Spider-Men fighting, manages to break through her programming and screams at the Jackal:

"GWEN" (crying, hitting the Jackal): "You--you monster! You're trying to kill him! I see that now--you're nothing but a heartless fiend--and I hate you!"

She takes Warren's Jackal mask off of his head and rips it in half.

JACKAL: "Gwen...what are you doing...?"

GWEN: "Your hypnotic spell has worn off, Professor! I-I know you for what you are, now! A-A vicious, sick--jealous man! A murderer!"

The deranged Warren finally comes to his senses, and sees that Ned Leeds is about to die because of him. He cuts Ned free from the bomb just before it explodes, demolishing the stadium.

In the silence that follows, we can see that Warren--and one of the Spider-Men--are dead (Peter later tells the public that Warren died a hero so as to cover up the whole clone mess). Ned is unconscious, and only Gwen and the remaining Spider-Man are still standing. She asks Spider-Man if he's all right, and he's not entirely sure if he's the real Spidey or the clone.

Pg. 30: We get the first of two epilogues. At the real Gwen's grave, Gwen's clone and Peter prepare to part ways. The clone places flowers on Gwen's grave.

"GWEN": "I have to think of someone else, Peter. Someone I knew a long time ago, when we were both...very young. Was she the real Gwen Stacy...or am I? Now I know how Spider-Man felt last night...confused...frightened. Everyone has that moment when they wonder about themselves, Peter--about who they are, deep down. I think--I think it would be better, for both of us--"

She kisses him on the cheek.

GWEN (continued): "--if we didn't pretend to be the same people we were when Peter Parker loved Gwen Stacy--and she loved him. I wish I could know you the way she knew you, Peter--but I can't. Because I can't...this is goodbye."

PETER: "Gwen, maybe if we..."

GWEN: "Don't say it, Peter. Turn your head...and please, don't look back."

She walks to a waiting taxi. A single tear rolls down Peter's cheek, but he doesn't look back.

Pg. 31: We get a second epilogue, as a battered and emotionally drained Peter returns to his apartment.

PETER (thought balloon): "Losing a girl like Gwen once is hard. Losing her a second time--even if it's what you want is harder. Someday, someone is going to explain this world to me--how people can need each other---and still know they shouldn't have each other. Huh? Spider-sense tingling--?--Someone--in my apartment--? It's her! It's got to be her!"

(This issue was published before Peter's spider-sense was firmly established to detect only potential dangers.)

Peter opens the door to reveal Mary Jane, who's been waiting for him.

PETER: "Mary Jane! Lady, am I ever glad to see you."

MARY JANE: "Do you mean that, Tiger? For real?"

PETER (entering the apartment and closing the door): "Come here...and I'll show you."

The door closes with a "click".

And so comes the bittersweet end of the lengthy epilogue to Gwen's death...and perhaps this closed the door on the classic era of Spider-Man, too. Peter has finally had some closure with his memories of Gwen and is moving forward into a relationship with Mary Jane (it is hinted at the end of ASM # 149 that Peter and MJ consummated their relationship sexually). The ending of this issue strongly echoes the ending of ASM # 122, in which Peter discovered MJ waiting for him after he lost Gwen the first time. The ending to ASM # 149, however, is much more upbeat.

ASM # 149 was also Gerry Conway's last issue as writer. Archie Goodwin wrote ASM # 150, and then Len Wein took over as the new regular writer of Amazing Spider-Man with ASM # 151. Shortly after leaving Amazing Spider-Man, Conway became the first writer of the new Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man book, and once he left that book, he did not return to Spider-Man until the late 1980s (during his second run as writer of Spectacular, and as the writer of Web of Spider-Man at the same time).

On the letters page of ASM # 149, we get an editorial comment on the "return" of Gwen:


"For those of you who are not yet aware, the decision to bring back Gwen was made by none other than 'ol Smilin' Stan himself. After absorbing the deluge of mail that poured in after the now-classic epic of SPIDER-MAN # 121, and after much deliberation, Stan decided to yield to the pressures of Marveldom Assembled and bring back one of Marvel's most well-loved characters.

However, the batty Bullpen thought that it wouldn't be quite right to bring Gwen herself 'back from the dead' as it were, and we came up with the idea of making the returning Gwen Stacy a clone, not to mention all of the plot mechanisms leading up to that revelation and the entire SPIDER-MAN cast's reactions to it."

And so, the Gwen Stacy clone leaves for parts unknown, since she doesn't want to live a lie and pretend to be the real thing. Readers would wonder over the next few years if she'd ever return, and during his acclaimed run, writer Roger Stern pitched a plot idea about the clone in which she has become a nun, dying from rapid aging (which she suffered from due to the method Warren used to age her to adulthood in such a short timespan), but this idea was rejected by Amazing Spider-Man editor Tom DeFalco.

At no time did Gwen's clone (who possessed all of Gwen's memories up until just before the real Gwen's death) mention a fling with Norman Osborn during ASM # 145-149, nor did she mention any children left behind in France, nor did she go to France to see said children. Instead, after leaving New York in ASM # 149, she relocates to Lansing, Michigan, as a high school teacher, as seen later on in Spectacular Spider-Man # 142. Hmmmm.

ASM # 150 (written by Archie Goodwin): As the story begins, Mary Jane has just left Peter's apartment (and there's another *strong* implication they consummated their relationship sexually at the end of ASM # 149), and Peter can't help but wonder if he's the real Spider-Man or the clone created by the Jackal. He goes to Dr. Curt Connors and is subjected to a battery of tests. While waiting for the results, he is attacked by Spencer Smythe's newest Spider-Slayer. On the verge of death, Spidey realizes just how much he cares for Mary Jane (whereas the clone, created and conditioned by Warren sometime earlier, would have instinctively thought of *Gwen*, despite possessing Peter's most recent memories). This revelation gives Spidey the strength to beat Smythe, and, having found his answer, scatters the results of Dr. Connors' test to the wind, knowing that he is the real Spider-Man.

It's a great ending, but that nagging nugget of ambiguity (Spidey never actually READ the test results) would be the catalyst for the disastrous second Clone Saga some 19 years later.

Interestingly, it's likely that Dr. Connors read the report (since he compiled it and got it ready to give to Spidey), but never mentions the results in future appearances (Perhaps he didn't want to pry into Spider-Man's--or the Spider-Clone's--life.). Of course, history has shown us that the test must have proved that Spidey wasn't a clone (and thus Connors could have assumed that Spidey had actually read the confirmation of that in his report).

Afterwards, at the beginning of ASM # 151, Spidey disposes of his clone's corpse (still in the Spider-Man costume) in one of the smokestacks of an incinerating plant in Brooklyn, so as to avoid the problems that will arise if the world discovers that there are two Peter Parkers (one alive, one dead).

Years later, in Spectacular Spider-Man Annual # 8, Gerry Conway revealed that Warren's "clones" were no such thing, but rather innocent victims (ESU student Joyce Delaney and Warren's lab assistant, Anthony Serba) infected with a "genetic virus" that made them resemble Gwen Stacy and Peter Parker. Later still, during the second Clone Saga, this idea was undone, and "Joyce Delaney" was said to "really" be a bona-fide clone of Gwen Stacy, just as Ben Reilly was "really" a clone of Peter. Gwen's clone subsequently married a clone of Miles Warren (calling himself "Warren Miles” and the pair lived the life Miles Warren had always dreamed of (Web of Spider-Man # 125).

Looking at all this with the aid of hindsight, one can almost view Amazing Fantasy # 15 and Amazing Spider-Man # 1-150 as an incredible epic, one which ends when Peter and Mary Jane reunite in his apartment in ASM # 149, and the epilogue being Spidey's triumph over his identity crisis in ASM # 150. After that, a new era truly began.

Subsequent to Gwen's death, the romance between Peter and Mary Jane began to grow, and Mary Jane began to gain more depth and to move past the "airhead party girl" persona that fans were accustomed to. The "return" of Gwen caused some friction for the budding relationship between Peter and Mary Jane, but after she departed, their relationship became even stronger that before. After Gerry Conway left Amazing Spider-Man, their romance eventually fizzled when Peter asked MJ to marry him and she declined, saying she didn't want to be tied down. They had an on-again, off-again relationship for years and years until Stan Lee and Marvel Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter decided that they should get married. The marriage took place in 1987, in Amazing Spider-Man Annual # 21.

In Comic Creators on Spider-Man (Titan Books, 2004), writer Tom DeFalco and artist Ron Frenz revealed their original plans for the wedding: Full of doubts, Mary Jane was going to leave Peter at the altar. However, that plan was nixed when Stan Lee (who wanted Peter and MJ married in the Spider-Man newspaper strip he wrote) and Jim Shooter decided that Peter and Mary Jane really WOULD get married. And many have said that the decision to allow the marriage to take place signaled the beginning of the end for Spider-Man (and it appears that they were right).

Prior to this, it was revealed (in ASM # 257-259) that Mary Jane knew that Peter was Spider-Man, but how and when she found out was not disclosed for some time. This is a rather significant retcon!

ASM # 259, written by Tom DeFalco, finally laid out Mary Jane's history, which had been hinted at by Spidey writers such as Marv Wolfman and Roger Stern. It was revealed that MJ had been a deeply unhappy child whose family had been broken apart by her abusive father. Always hiding her sadness beneath her "party girl" facade (the MJ we'd first met in the Lee-Romita run), she abandoned her pregnant sister to live with her Aunt Anna in Queens...where later she met a boy named Peter Parker.

This was a huge moment in Mary Jane's evolution as a character. No longer a one-note, flakey party girl, MJ became a confidante to Peter/Spider-Man, and this led to their marriage soon after.

Finally, in 1989, Marvel published a Spider-Man graphic novel entitled "Parallel Lives". Written by none other than Gerry Conway, the story detailed the histories of Peter and Mary Jane, from childhood up through their marriage, and showed how similar they really are and why they were meant for each other (appropriate, since Conway was the one who really kicked off their romance). Their marriage serves as an emotional rock in an insane world, and it also symbolically takes the place of the marriage of Ben and May Parker that was ended by The Burglar's bullet in the very first Spider-Man story. When it comes down to it, Peter Parker and his supporting cast (with a few exceptions over the years) are all honest, decent, loving people, and Peter and Mary Jane's marriage is an affirmation of the ideas about love and family that have been in the series since Amazing Fantasy # 15.

Parallel Lives also made clear the idea that MJ is the opposite half of Peter Parker, a woman who hides her pain behind a facade, much the way Peter does as Spider-Man. Exactly when MJ learned Spider-Man's true identity is also revealed--the night Ben Parker was killed in Amazing Fantasy # 15. In other words, she knew ALL ALONG. This retcon makes for a few shaky continuity issues, but it does give MJ a strong motivation for being interested in a kindred spirit like Peter. Why else would such a popular party girl like Mary Jane care about a nerd like Peter? Gwen Stacy was attracted to Peter because he was intelligent and kind (like her), not just because he was cute.

Personally, I do like the marriage and believe Peter and MJ as a couple (Although I *deeply* mourn the loss of a bachelor Spider-Man, and think the idea of the marriage has betrayed the basic nature of what Spider-Man is: a teenage escapism fantasy. I think it would have been better to have them get married in the very *last* Spider-Man story ever, if such a thing will ever even exist...), and it does seem that these two were *always* meant for each other, right from the start (Their first meeting on the last page of ASM # 42, what with all the build-up, is the ultimate "Meet Cute".).

But that doesn't mean Gwen Stacy should be trotted out and dragged through the mud just to make her less appealing to older readers who won't let her be forgotten. And there have been a few clunky attempts over the years to make Mary Jane "the one" for Peter (and to say that she was "the one" all along). In reality, Peter dated a long line of girls before ending up with Mary Jane, and I think the version of Peter who was not tied down (and who had lots of problems with his girlfriends) is the one who is the most interesting and universally appealing.

Further, Spider-Man being married takes away from the character, since it gives him a stable romantic relationship (as opposed to Peter being the downtrodden, unlucky-in-love fella from the good old days), and it gives him a confidante, someone to tell all of his problems to (a job that had previously belonged to the READERS, and which has now been usurped by Mary Jane--and, thanks to JMS, by Aunt May, as well.).

For years and years after Gwen Stacy's death, writers have continued to focus on her. There have been *many* stories about (and references to) Gwen over the years. Usually, Gwen has been remembered when Peter has thought about all the people he's let down over the years, as well as his fears about potential girlfriends being killed because of him. Here are just a few of the *many* references to Gwen since her death:

In Marvel Team-Up (Vol. 1) # 28 (written by Gerry Conway), Spider-Man sees a girl falling to her death as a result of being thrown out of a window in the Empire State Building by an earthquake. He catches her with a webline, recalling how his similar actions killed Gwen. This time, he's successful. It's also mentioned that Gwen died from the "shock of the fall *alone*".

In What If? (Vol. 1) # 24 ("What if Gwen Stacy had lived?", written by Tony Isabella), we see the regular Marvel Universe Spider-Man sitting on the Brooklyn Bridge on the anniversary of Gwen's death (a place JMS would have you think Peter has avoided). The alien known as the Watcher then shows the readers an alternate universe, one where Gwen had lived. In this other reality, instead of firing a webline to Gwen as she falls off the bridge, Spider-Man leaps after her and cushions her fall into the water with his own body, saving her. He then reveals his true identity to Gwen and explains his origin/history--as well as how her father really died (a VERY cathartic and satisfying moment of explanation and understanding denied to readers--and to Gwen--in the "real" Marvel Universe). Peter and Gwen get married soon after, only to watch helplessly Peter's true identity revealed to the world by the vengeful Green Goblin.

In Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man # 25-31 (written by Bill Mantlo), a mysterious new foe called Carrion begins causing trouble for Spider-Man. Eventually, it is revealed that Carrion is the "unliving" clone of Miles Warren, and wants revenge on Peter Parker for the deaths of Warren and Gwen Stacy. Carrion reveals that before the climatic battle in ASM # 149, the Jackal set in motion the creation of a clone of himself, just in case he was killed in battle by Spider-Man. However, after Warren's death, the clone casket malfunctioned, and the clone became horribly desiccated and corpse-like (and gained bizarre powers), yet still remained "ailve". Released from the casket by an unwitting ESU student, the clone, taking the name Carrion, began his programmed assignment: kill Spider-Man. Eventually, however, Carrion is killed in battle with Spider-Man.

In Amazing Spider-Man # 207, Spider-Man hesitates to fire a webline at a hypnotized Daily Bugle employee about to jump off of the Brooklyn Bridge, remembering that Gwen's neck was broken under similar circumstances. Instead of catching the man with webbing, Spider-Man leaps after him and saves him, using a webline to swing back onto the bridge.

In Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man # 101, Peter gets depressed because Gwen's birthday (had she lived) is in a few days. He finds himself at the Brooklyn Bridge once again, and remembers her tragic demise. He later leaves a rose by her grave.

In Amazing Spider-Man # 275, Spider-Man remembers what happened to Gwen when the Hobgoblin throws his hostage (Flash Thompson's girlfriend, Sha-Shan) to her certain death. Spider-Man jumps down after her, using his webline like a bungee cord, saving her life.

Amazing Spider-Man Annual # 21 features the marriage of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson. However, doubts (and Gwen's ghost) hover around Peter.

Pg. 22: At Aunt May's home, Peter looks through an old photo album and sees pictures of Gwen. He remembers her death and can't help but wonder if Mary Jane will also come to harm because of Spider-Man.

Pg. 26, panels 4-5: Peter takes Mary Jane out swinging as Spider-Man in the middle of the night (after 1:00 am, as the narrative caption indicates). When they stop and talk, Peter points out how he likes to admire the sights when web-slinging, and mentions the Brooklyn Bridge.

MARY JANE: "Isn't that where Gwen--Oh. I-I'm sorry, Peter. I didn't mean to reopen old wounds."

PETER: "That's okay. That one's healed pretty well."


PETER: "Real well."

NARRATOR'S CAPTION: "More silence."

PETER: "Really."

Pg. 27, panels 3-7: After returning home, Peter sits alone in costume (sans mask) in his own apartment all night, staring at a photograph.

NARRATOR'S CAPTION: "However, while Mary Jane Watson slips between satin sheets, falling quickly into gentile slumber----Peter Parker finds sleep somewhat more elusive. His mind fixates, locking on a single track. And like a stubborn dog with its jaws clamped around a bone it doesn't want to lose--"

We see that he's fixated on a photo of Gwen.

NARRATOR'S CAPTION (continued): "--he won't let go. The past has cost him so much. And he can't help but wonder----what price the future?"

His brooding is interrupted by a phone call from Mary Jane at 9:00 am (as the caption indicates).

Pg. 35-38: Asleep, Peter has a bizarre dream which features Spider-Man and Mary Jane getting married, with various heroes and villains in the crowd. Flash Thompson (Peter's best man) can't find the wedding ring, and Gwen Stacy suddenly appears. She gives the ring to Spider-Man, kisses him on the cheek, and then fades away after saying goodbye. Then, all of Spider-Man's foes begin to attack, and he tries to keep them away from Mary Jane, but fails, and just then Peter wakes up from his nightmare.

Soon after, we see Spider-Man (sans mask) sitting on the Brooklyn Bridge at 3:30 am (with the photo of Gwen in his hands).

PETER (thought balloon): "I have to make a decision, Gwendy. I swore you'd be my girl. Always. And here I am about to marry someone else. But I love Mary Jane. 'Course, I loved you, too. And you died because of it. But it was your choice to be with me, wasn't it? You never complained. Oh, Gwen, I don't know what to do. What's right? What's fair? Help me..."

Eventually, Peter sets aside his fears, and he and Mary Jane are married. Prior to the wedding, an old flame of MJ's gave her plane tickets to PARIS, FRANCE and keys to a private villa in Cassis (the suburbs in the south of France) as an incentive not to get married. MJ instead used the tickets to go on a nice honeymoon, which is depicted in Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man Annual # 7. But the point is, Peter and MJ went to PARIS, FRANCE. Y'know, where JMS says Gwen's kids lived. Once again, Mary Jane had an opportunity to tell Peter about the kids (or even check in on them), and she DIDN'T. I must say, it's also very creepy and sick to think that Peter and MJ went on their honeymoon to the very city where the illegitimate children of Peter's beloved dead girlfriend were born and raised. Uhhhgghh.

And of course, right around this time, MJ suddenly became a supermodel and a soap opera star instead of a struggling actress/model, a development which has caused many problems over the years (and the constant, "Peter Parker, the ultimate hard-luck case, is married to a freakin' *supermodel*!" complaints).

Gwen Stacy received a profile in the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe (Deluxe Edition) # 19 (December, 1987), in one of the issues devoted to deceased characters. Here are a few relevant items from her entry:

1. It is stated that Gwen lived with her father during her first year of college.

2. It is also stated that the "shock of the fall" is what killed Gwen in ASM # 121.

Soon after Peter and MJ's wedding, Gwen Stacy's clone (from ASM # 145-149) began to pop up in a subplot building in Spectacular Spider-Man # 142-143 (written by none other than Gerry Conway). Having settled into a new life as a high school history teacher in Lansing, Michigan, Gwen's clone is forced to run when the High Evolutionary's agents pursue her (as part of the "Evolutionary War" Marvel annual crossover event). She desperately makes her way to New York, hoping that Peter can help her.

This leads into Spectacular Spider-Man Annual # 8 (also written by Gerry Conway), in which the clone runs into Spider-Man, and we see the emotional impact the clone's return has on newlyweds Peter and Mary Jane. Gwen is upset when she sees Spider-Man, and rushes to Peter's old apartment. When she learns that he doesn't live there anymore, she gets his new address from Betty Brant Leeds. Peter knows she's likely going to show up there, and looks at an old photo album featuring pictures of Gwen and the gang from the old days. He tells Mary Jane that he saw the clone.

Pg. 9:

PETER (narrative thought caption): "I wish I could say she doesn't matter to me anymore. I wish I could say the feelings were gone...I wish...she'd just stay dead."

Just then, "Gwen" arrives. She hugs Peter, but then sees the Spider-Man costume under his robe, and runs away. Peter wonders if he subconsciously wore the costume under his robe to scare her off.

Spider-Man goes after "Gwen", and ends up saving her from the High Evolutionary's tests. As they hug, Peter comes to a realization:

SPIDER-MAN: "...It's over. You're not the Gwen I knew. And even if you were, even though I still care for you......I'm in love with someone else."

He turns away from her.

The High Evolutionary then determines that "Gwen" is NOT a clone (the reason he wanted "Gwen" was to determine whether or not she was a genuine clone). Rather, she is an innocent woman who was altered into a duplicate of Gwen Stacy by a "genetic virus" Miles Warren created. The band of heroes known as the Young Gods are also on the scene, and a member of that group, Daydreamer, restores "Gwen" to who she really was, a woman whose name Spider-Man doesn't even know.

Pg. 40: Spider-Man returns home to Mary Jane, who is wondering if "Gwen's" return (and the effect it's had on Peter) has damaged their marriage.

PETER: "Gwen's gone, Mary Jane. She's been gone a long, long time."

MARY JANE: "I know. Even so, she's always been between us, Peter. Like a ghost in your heart. Do you still love her?"

PETER: "Of course. But I love you more than I ever loved her. I love her and I miss her and she's dead. Gwen was my past, Mary Jane. You're my future."

MARY JANE: "Forget the future. I'd rather live right now."

PETER: "Me, too. This moment is all we ever have. And it's enough. More than enough..."

They kiss.

And that seemed to be Gerry Conway's last word on the subject. He likely undid the idea of "Gwen" being a clone so as to help cement the marriage between Peter and Mary Jane. That way, the clone couldn't walk in and stir up trouble every few years. Better to let Gwen rest in peace and focus on the present (and the future).

However, this revelation about the clone opened up a can of worms that was addressed by Conway soon after, in Spectacular Spider-Man # 149 (Ironic, since Amazing Spider-Man # 149 marked the end of the original Clone Saga.), by asking, "If Gwen wasn't really a clone, then what about the Spider-Man clone? And what about CARRION?".

In the story, these questions are very much on Peter's mind. He soon discovers the journal of Miles Warren in Warren's lab (where the clone of Gwen was created and where Carrion died), the contents of which run counter to the story Warren told Peter back in ASM # 149.

The journal reveals that Warren was obsessively in love with Gwen Stacy (as was hinted at by Conway in ASM # 149), and not just paternally protective of her. Devastated when she died, Warren developed a "replicator virus" that could transform one person into a duplicate of another (each incarnation of the virus is based on the DNA of the person it's designed to replicate). Warren kidnapped a student of his named Joyce Delaney and turned her into "Gwen Stacy". Prior to this, Warren's assistant, Anthony Serba, was infected with the virus to turn him into "Peter Parker" (and who was used to battle the real Spidey in ASM # 149).

Peter can't let go of the past, and can't help but wonder why Warren lied to him in ASM # 149. And what about Carrion? If a genetic virus created the "clones", then who was Carrion? As he leaves to go investigate...

Pg. 16, panel 7 through Pg. 17, panel 1:

MARY JANE (thought balloon): "When he's like this, obsessed with Gwen's death, I get so frightened. It's as if he's stuck in a dream......and part of him doesn't want to wake up."

It is revealed that Warren left several clone-virus "traps" around ESU, designed to turn their victims into "Carrion" (complete with super-powers). One of them infected an unknown person years before, turning them into the original Carrion. And now, Malcolm McBride, a student at ESU, has been transformed into the new Carrion. Spider-Man battles Carrion, and is eventually defeated and taken to a graveyard (where the grave of Miles Warren is). In the graveyard, we also see the graves of Gwen Stacy, George Stacy, and Martha Stacy (who is presumably supposed to be Gwen's mother). Carrion intends to kill Spidey to avenge the deaths of Warren and Gwen Stacy, but Spidey manages to defeat him.

Pg. 30: Spidey stands at Gwen's grave after the battle.

SPIDER-MAN (thought balloon): "What was it I said about Professor Warren? 'He was a sick man, obsessed with a dead woman.' I wonder who else that description might fit? I've always felt responsible for your death, Gwen. I guess that's why I find it so hard to let go of you. I still have questions, but not every question needs an answer. Mary Jane was right. I have to put the past behind me sometime. Now is as good a time as any. As much as I once loved you, Gwen, this is finally..."


And so, the narrative caption concludes the story (and Peter's thought) with "...The End" as Peter walks into the dawn.

This was Gerry Conway's final word (story-wise) regarding the event that defined his career in comics. Conway made three attempts at showing Peter making peace with Gwen's death and moving on to a new life with Mary Jane (in ASM # 149, Spectacular Annual # 8, and Spectacular # 149), but subsequent writers have (*sigh*) continued to dig Gwen up and throw her like a rock (to paraphrase JMS...) at Peter and Mary Jane's marriage.

Amazing Spider-Man # 365 (The issue that celebrated the 30th anniversary of Amazing Fantasy # 15) gave us a wonderful eight-page story plotted by Tom DeFalco, scripted by Stan Lee and drawn by John Romita Sr. entitled "I Remember Gwen" (Pg. 54-61). It features Mary Jane looking at old pictures of Gwen and the gang in a photo album, and remembering/narrating both good and bad times, such as the death of Captain Stacy, the until-now-unrevealed moment when MJ subsequently helped smooth things between Peter and Gwen (Gwen was mad at Peter because he tried to explain to her that Spider-Man wasn't responsible for George's death), and Gwen's own death.

The story may not confirm to the letter of the law in terms of Spider-Man's continuity and chronology, but its heart is absolutely in the right place. It FEELS right. It also really shows how much MJ misses Gwen, too, and just how close they were. (Hmm, absolutely no mention of MJ hiding the fact that Gwen cheated on Peter with Norman Osborn and had twins that she abandoned in France...). I think this is actually a better story than the oft-reprinted "The Kiss" from Webspinners # 1. It really delves into the emotions of the characters from the good old days, and is a wonderful love-letter to Gwen's memory from the men who knew her best, Stan Lee and John Romita.

(Note that the page numbers referred to here include all the contents of ASM # 365, as it appears in the issue. Thus, "I Remember Gwen" starts on Pg. 54 of ASM # 365.)

Pg. 54-55: Mary Jane looks at a photo album featuring Gwen and the rest of the gang as they were in the classic Spider-Man era. We then flashback to a party (possibly Gwen's birthday party from ASM # 87, or another party in-between ASM # 88-89). Peter and Gwen are dancing, and MJ is attracted to Peter from afar.

MARY JANE (narration): "I'd have traded places with Gwen in a second!"

Pg. 56:

MARY JANE (narration): "But something happened the next night that changed our lives forever!"

She is referring to the death of Captain Stacy in ASM # 90, which is retold here.

Pg. 58: This next sequence is based on George Stacy's funeral from ASM # 91.

PETER (to Gwen): "I'll look after you, Gwen! I'll never leave your side!"

PETER (thought balloon): "She's not listening! That look on her face--I've never seen it before! Maybe if I tell her who I really am, it will help somehow--"

PETER (to Gwen): "Gwen! Look at me! Listen!"

GWEN (crying): "I hate him! I hate him! I hate him!"

PETER: "Who, honey? Who do you hate?"

GWEN: "Spider-Man! It was his fault! He killed my father! I'll hate him till the day I die!"

Pg. 58, panel 4: We get a series of vignettes showing Peter trying to persuade Gwen otherwise:

PETER: "But maybe he wasn't to blame!"

GWEN (crying): "Don't say that! Don't ever say that to me!"

PETER: "But, honey, you weren't there! You didn't see--"

GWEN: "How can I ever love someone who'd try to defend the man who killed my father?! Goodbye, Peter!"

(As she walks away, her pose is based on ASM # 93, Pg. 3, panel 5.)

Soon after, Mary Jane sees this as her chance to move in on Peter, and talks to Gwen in what appears to be the ladies' room.

GWEN (crying): "I never want to see him again!"

MARY JANE: "Right on, Gwendolyn! Lots of other fish in the sea! And you're a gal who's got all the right bait!

However, MJ sees just how heartbroken Gwen is.

GWEN: "Thanks, MJ! You're my truest friend!"

MARY JANE: "Then listen to your truest friend, Gwendy! You're mistaken about Peter! The guy is bonkers for you! He only spoke up for Spider-Man 'cause he didn't want you to spend the rest of your life being bitter! Because he cares for you!"

GWEN: "I--never thought of it that way!"

Gwen runs out of the room and hugs Peter, who is sitting nearby.

GWEN: Mary Jane Watson, you're the greatest! You really opened my eyes!"

MARY JANE (narration): "Minutes later, they were in each other's arms! I had practically handed Peter over to her on a silver platter! I knew it was a fool thing to do! So why did it feel so good?"

Pg. 60:

Then MJ remembers Gwen's death, and the effect it had on Peter (and how she was there to comfort him).

MARY JANE (narration): "To this day, I'm happy I helped bring them together, even for such a little while. Gwen was so sweet, so unselfish, that she deserved all the happiness she could get--because it was destined to end too soon, too tragically soon! Even now, after all these years, I can hardly bear to think about it! During a battle with the Green Goblin, once again Spider-Man suffered an agonizing loss! But this time I was there to comfort him--and love him."

She gets misty-eyed, and can't look at the photos any longer. Just then, Spider-Man drops into their apartment, and Mary Jane hugs him. Removing his mask, Peter is pleasantly surprised by the sudden burst of affection, and MJ explains that she just wants to make every moment count.

At the end, there is a caption which reads:

"This story is dedicated to the memory of Gwen Stacy."

In Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross' magnificent four-issue mini-series, MARVELS (1994), we see a retelling of Marvel history (from about 1939-1974, real time) from the point of view of photojournalist Phil Sheldon. Not only is this story packed with loving references to classic Marvel stories and characters, not only is it *very* well-researched in terms of continuity, but it also deals head-on with Gwen's death.

Issue # 4, "The Day She Died", features a retelling of Gwen's murder at the hands of the Green Goblin. Phil Sheldon goes to visit Gwen to interview her about her father and his death (Sheldon hopes to vindicate Spider-Man of George Stacy's murder). Gwen's characterization is pitch-perfect here. She's sweet and loving, and even says that she doesn't necessarily think Spider-Man is to blame for her father's death anymore. As Gwen and Phil are walking along a street, they come upon an Atlantean invasion fleet headed for the United Nations. Gwen is shown marveling at the surrealness and beauty of the vehicles, and Phil realizes that the "Marvels" don't exist to win acclaim or acceptance. They exist to save the innocent. To save people like Gwen (The stage directions in Busiek's script for this issue tell artist Alex Ross to make Gwen look like "the ULTIMATE INNOCENT" in this scene, which is *exactly* what she represents in comic book history; the innocent killed in the crossfire of a hero/villain battle. Indeed, Busiek has frequently stated his opinion that Gwen's death irrefutably marks the end of the Silver Age of well as the innocence of comics in general.).

Gwen's subsequent death is shown by Busiek and Ross as a turning point in the Marvel Universe; it's truly the death of innocence. After this, happy endings became far less prominent in comics. Witnessing Gwen's death, Phil Sheldon loses his faith in the "Marvels", the super-heroes, because Spider-Man failed to save Gwen (and may even have accidentally killed her himself). There are so many nice details here for longtime Spidey fans to appreciate. Gwen's innocence. Spider-Man gripping the bridge with his free hand so hard it cracks (as he fires his webbing at the falling Gwen). Spider-Man pounding the Goblin senseless after Gwen's death. The front-page story detailing Norman's Osborn's death. Everything that JMS and Sins Past does wrong, this story does right.

MARVELS: BOOK FOUR ("The Day She Died"):

The cover features a close-up of Spider-Man's eyepiece. Reflected in it is the Green Goblin, holding the unconscious Gwen Stacy (one of the proposed covers for this issue was very similar, and featured a reflection of Gwen's handbag with the jack o'lantern resting on it from ASM # 121--a chilling image, to be sure.). This is not a literal depiction of an image from ASM # 121, but it provides the same overall feel.

Phil Sheldon goes to visit Gwen to interview her regarding her father's death.

Pg. 24:

PHIL (narration): "I'd been afraid she might not agree to talk to me. The whole subject must have been so upsetting to her. But she couldn't have been more forthcoming. We talked for hours."

GWEN (to Phil): 'My father was a stern man. He had old-fashioned values. But you could tell--everything he did came from the heart----and you couldn't be in the same room with him----and not feel safe."

PHIL (narration): "It wasn't until the third visit that we talked about the day itself."

GWEN (to Phil): "They say he saved a boy--saved his life. He died doing good. That's my dad for you."

Later that same day...

GWEN (to Phil): "Spider-Man. I hate how he skitters. You look up and there he is, all--crouched. I wonder sometimes if there is a face behind that mask. I hated him at first. I knew it was his fault. But now I'm not so sure..."

Gwen tells Phil that her father kept a journal, and that it might contain the late Captain Stacy's thoughts on Spider-Man. Phil is pleased, and thinks that he'll be able to absolve Spidey from the murder of George Stacy. However, when he goes to Gwen's home on another day to talk to her, she's not there. Phil then goes to Peter Parker's apartment, thinking she might be there. On the street below, he is stunned to see the Green Goblin clamoring out of Peter's window with an unconscious Gwen slung over his shoulder. He hails a taxicab (John Romita, Sr. posed as the model for the cab's driver, and the license plate reads, "Jazzy"--a reference to Stan Lee's nickname for Romita in the good old days.), and frantically follows the Goblin to the Brooklyn Bridge. On the dock below, Phil watches Spider-Man arrive, and is horrified by his failure to save Gwen's life. The "Snap!" sound effect placed by Gwen's head as Spidey's webline catches her is given particular emphasis in this retelling.

Pg. 36:

PHIL (narration, seeing Gwen's death): "I tried to tell myself she was just unconscious......but a body looks one way alive and another way when it's dead. I'd seen enough of both in the war to know."

Phil is also on the dock with other the reporters and onlookers when Spidey violently defends Gwen's body (in ASM # 122). Phil's faith in the "Marvels" has been badly shaken by Spidey's failure to save Gwen. And of course, Phil doesn't even know that Gwen was really Spider-Man's own girlfriend.

Later, Phil is angry to see that Norman Osborn's death made the front page of the Daily Globe, while Gwen's death is given little attention. He goes back to the dock soon after and stares at the bridge.

Pg. 38:

PHIL (narration): "I swear I could still hear that flat crack, echoing across the water, echoing in my ears. I read later that it was the shock of the fall that killed her, but it sure looked like----it looked like--"

He is now looking at the spot where Spider-Man was when he fired his webbing at Gwen.

This powerful retelling of Gwen's death makes a strong implication that SPIDER-MAN himself killed Gwen by accidentally snapping her neck (though it's never stated outright in the story). Phil mentions that the official explanation is that the "shock of the fall" killed her (which was also the "official" explanation in the original story in ASM # 121). Wasn't an autopsy ever conducted?

Anyway, Phil also mentions "that flat crack", which seems to mean either the whiplash sound of Spidey's webbing catching Gwen, or the actual sound of her neck snapping (The latter goes against the idea that neither Spidey or the Goblin knew that Gwen's neck was broken--how could the onlookers on the dock hear it, but not the combatants?).

MARVELS went on to huge success, and won multiple awards.

Just prior to MARVELS, the second Clone Saga had begun in the Spider-Man books. The premise was deceptively simple: What if the Spider-Man clone from ASM # 149 had not actually died? What if he had been wandering the county, and would now reenter Peter Parker's life (and began operating under the costumed identity of the "Scarlet Spider")? This led to the return of the Jackal (it was revealed--retroactively--that it was "really" a clone of Miles Warren who had died in ASM # 149), and the eventual revelation that the clone, who had taken the name "Ben Reilly" (after Ben Parker and May Reilly Parker), was really the genuine Peter Parker!

In Web of Spider-Man # 118 (written by Terry Kavanagh), Peter's clone, Ben Reilly (who has all of Peter's memories up through ASM # 149) remembers Gwen's death when he goes to the Brooklyn Bridge. He then sees a jumper about to end her life, and even though she hesitates, she still falls. Reilly uses a web-line to swing to her and bring her back onto the bridge with his momentum (without killing her). This is the exact same trick Peter uses to save Gwen's clone in Web # 125, and the same trick JMS has Peter use to save Sarah in ASM # 513 (yet another redundant, stupid element of JMS' story).

In Amazing Spider-Man # 399 and (adjectiveless) Spider-Man # 56, the reborn and revitalized Jackal (who has spent the years since ASM # 149 in a special chamber, genetically altering himself so he now resembled a humanoid jackal) uses yet another clone of Gwen Stacy (whom he claims is the original Gwen) to further confuse and torment Peter Parker and Ben Reilly. The clone of Gwen suffers degeneration and disintegrates by the end of it all.

In Web of Spider-Man # 125 (written by Terry Kavanagh), we learn that the original clone of Gwen Stacy (from ASM # 145-149 and Spectacular Spider-Man # 142-143 and Annual # 8) is now married to a clone of Miles Warren (using the alias of "Warren Miles"), no longer believes herself to be "Joyce Delaney", and knows for sure that she's a clone of Gwen Stacy. Through a series of events, she ends up at the top of the Brooklyn Bridge, and falls off. Peter Parker (temporarily wearing Ben Reilly's Scarlet Spider costume) vows to save "Gwen" this time, and swings to her, catching her. (Thus, the "catharsis" devised by JMS in ASM # 512--where Peter saves Sarah Stacy--is a completely pointless retread.).

Scarlet Spider Unlimited # 1 (written by Glenn Herdling) had the task of dealing with some unresolved issues. The second Clone Saga was based on the premise that the clones of Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy were "really" genuine clones, which clashed with Gerry Conway's revisions to his original story (in Spectacular Annual # 8 and # 149). and so, Scarlet Spider Unlimited # 1 "fixed" this by revealing that Miles Warren had once worked with the High Evolutionary, and that the High Evolutionary had planted a false journal describing the "genetic virus" (the one discovered by Spider-Man in Spectacular Spider-Man # 149) which would keep the existence of cloning technology secret. Thus, the clones of Peter and Gwen were *actual* clones, NOT ordinary people exposed to a genetic virus. It is also stated that the Young God known as Daydreamer gave the clone of Gwen the false memories and false identity of "Joyce Delaney".

In Fox Kids' Spider-Man: The Animated Series (1994-1998), Felicia Hardy took the place of Gwen Stacy as the blond co-ed who was Mary Jane's rival for Peter's affections. In episode # 41, "Turning Point" (the title of which comes from the cover copy for ASM # 121), the Green Goblin kidnaps Mary Jane and brings her to the top of the George Washington Bridge (instead of the Brooklyn Bridge) and knocks her off. Unbeknownst to Spider-Man, the Goblin has acquired a device that can open up dimensional portals, and MJ *ahem* falls into another dimension (where she would remain for the rest of the animated series). Thinking that MJ fell into the water and died, Spider-Man violently attacks the Goblin, who opens another portal and commands his glider to ram Spider-Man. Spider-Man's spider-sense goes off, he ducks, and the glider knocks the Goblin into the portal, trapping him in another dimension.

Aside from the fact that MJ replaces Gwen, as well as the fact that no one actually dies (since this is a children's show), this is clearly based on ASM # 121-122. Indeed, after this, the first Spider-Man movie (2002) even ripped off this copy of a copy of a classic story as it also tried to shoehorn MJ into Gwen's role! That's Hollywood for you! They have to cram every fan's favorite characters and moments into a single super-hero movie, as well as change a bunch of stuff arbitrarily (at the expense of correct characterization and good-old-fashioned logic). So the result here is that the first Spider-Man movie climaxes with a watered-down variation of what is possibly the most powerful moment in the character's history. Thus, Mary Jane replaces Gwen on the Queensboro Bridge, we get a happy ending (Spider-Man saves her life), and we actually get a "laugh" moment as Norman Osborn is impaled (Norman's repsonse: "Oh.") by his own glider (And he actually appears to be hit by the glider in the *crotch* instead of the chest!).

The Spider-Man animated series also covered/skewered the Clone Saga with Peter marrying a clone of MJ in one episode, and later encountering several Spider-Men from parallel realities (including Ben Reilly, the Scarlet Spider) in the aptly titled episode #64, "I Really, Really Hate Clones!". Spider-Man even says, "This is starting to sound like a bad comic book plot!". In episode # 65 ("Farewell, Spider-Man", the last episode of the series), Spider-Man also meets the fiancée of a parallel universe Spidey...Gwen Stacy (in her first-ever non-comic appearance, voiced by Mary Kay Bergman). Spider-Man has trouble believing that his counterpart is engaged to someone Spider-Man himself has never even met!

Amazing Spider-Man Annual '96 gave us a lovely retro-type story by Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz (inked by John Romita, Sr.). In the story, Ben Reilly (who was operating as Spider-Man at the time, after Peter was "revealed" to be a clone and handed over the reins to Reilly) remembers the good old days, and a time when Kraven tried to seek revenge on Norman Osborn for not paying him in full for his attempt to kill Spider-Man (sort of a retelling of--or maybe sequel to--ASM # 47). It also details Peter and Gwen revealing their relationship to Captain Stacy, and the exact moment when Stacy discovered that Peter is Spider-Man. The story doesn't fit particularly well into Spider-Man's chronology (and this could be explained by the fact that this is a subjective narrative flashback by a CLONE of the real Peter Parker), but it's intended as an homage to the good old days, and as such, it works very well.

The story breaks with classic Spidey continuity by planting the seeds for Norman Osborn's return-- and the end of the Clone Saga--in (adjectiveless) Spider-Man # 75. It is discretely established here that there is a connection between Norman and Miles Warren, and also that Norman is working on establishing a world-wide empire (*Sigh*).

In the story, Harry Osborn asks Mary Jane to go steady, and she blows him off. Meanwhile, Peter and Gwen decide to tell her father about their budding relationship. At the Stacy home, Peter sees that Captain Stacy and Joe Robertson have been talking, and when a file folder falls on the floor, Peter catches it (while shouting "Heads up, sir!" to Captain Stacy). He notices that the folder is full of photos and news clippings of Spider-Man, and wonders if Robbie and Stacy are on to him.

Meanwhile, an angry Norman Osborn is having headaches, and when Harry tries to tell him to see a doctor, Norman declines. Harry then tries to tell Norman about his girl problems, and Norman tells him to grow up, or he'll never be able to inherit the "Osborn Legacy" (*Sigh*. More retconned Osborn Legacy" garbage.). Norman feels that Harry is too spineless to continue his legacy, and later decides to engineer an incident to force Harry to prove himself.

Soon after, Robbie and Captain Stacy speculate about Spider-Man's identity, and Stacy theorizes that Spidey may be a classmate or close friend of Peter Parker's.

As an aside, at the Daily Bugle, Betty Brant asks Ned Leeds why he's writing an article on the Green Goblin. "It's fascinating to research someone so determined to escape the restraints of society, Betty", Ned replies. This is a reference to a line the original Hobgoblin had in Amazing Spider-Man # 238 (his first appearance). ASM Annual '96 was published just before Roger Stern's "Hobgoblin Lives!" mini-series, which revealed that Ned Leeds was NOT the original Hobgoblin, so it seems Tom DeFalco was trying to give a hint that Ned may really have been the Hobgoblin after all (despite the new, "official" revelation that it was Roderick Kingsley in Hobgoblin Lives!).

Anyway, Peter soon realizes that he loves Gwen, and meets the gang (and, to his concern, Captain Stacy) at the Coffee Bean, but his spider-sense goes off, and he leaves. Soon, a group of thugs Norman Osborn has hired take the Coffee Bean patrons hostage (Norman's intention is for Harry to stand up to them and be a hero), but when one of them recognizes Captain Stacy as the man whose testimony sent him to prison, he breaks from the plan and decides to kill Stacy. Meanwhile, Spider-Man has gotten into a fight with Kraven the Hunter, the reason his spider-sense tingled (Kraven wants to strike at Norman through Harry). Spidey then arrives at the Coffee Bean, and saves Captain Stacy from the goon, shouting "Heads up, sir!" (as Peter did before at the Stacy home), which tips off Captain Stacy to his true identity.

Later, Kraven goes to Norman Osborn's office to kill him, and Norman offers him more money that he had previously owed Kraven. He tells Kraven that he's building a world-wide empire (*Sigh*. More retconned, "Norman as Kingpin-ish mastermind" garbage.), and that Kraven could work for him. The Hunter rejects Osborn's money and his offer.

At the end, Captain Stacy can see that Peter cares deeply for Gwen, but wonders if he should let his daughter get involved with Spider-Man. He decides to respect Gwen's decision, and will trust in Peter to keep Gwen from harm. He also resolves to keep Peter's secret until he dies.

In the second story in Amazing Spider-Man Annual '96 (another flashback tale, this one taking place just after Peter and Mary Jane got married), Spidey battles the Russian killer known as the Deadmaker. During their battle, they end up on....the Brooklyn Bridge. Trying to reason with the Deadmaker, Spidey tells him that he lost a woman he loved (Gwen) on the very bridge they're standing on (with a spectral, John Romita-ish image of Gwen appearing in the panel as Spidey says this).

In a backup story in the first issue of the short lived Webspinners: Tales of Spider-Man anthology series (1999-2000), Writer J.M. DeMatteis and John Romita Sr. gave us "The Kiss", the basic premise of which seems to be lifted from "I Remember Gwen" (ASM # 365). The story deals with the present-day Spider-Man remembering his last night with Gwen before he went to Canada in ASM # 119 (and before she died). The story may not conform to the letter of the law in terms of continuity (Harry Osborn is seen hale and hearty at the Coffee Bean, and Peter actually went to Canada right after he learned the Hulk was there--but it's possible that "The Kiss" deals with the night *before* Peter learned of that fact and decided to convince JJJ to send him to Canada--the night *before* ASM # 119), but it hits all the right emotional beats, and shows what Gwen and Peter were all about (and even has a hint of sex between them).

Pg. 1-3: Peter is looking at a photo album featuring photos of Gwen and the gang from the good old days (much the way Mary Jane did in ASM # 365). We flashback to his last day with Gwen before her death. Peter is at Gwen's home waiting for her to get ready for their date, and is thinking back to the losses in his life (his parents, Uncle Ben, etc.). Gwen sees his pain, and we get a strong hint of sex in some silent panels, as they look into each other's eyes and we cut to an exterior shot of the house.

Later, the pair goes to the movies, and then to the Coffee Bean to see the gang. Harry Osborn appears perfectly fine here (although the first sign of his drug problems--his collapse in ASM # 119--would ostensibly occur the very next day).

PETER (present-day narration regarding MJ): "But even after we met, she was still a mystery girl. It was almost impossible to get beneath that party girl facade. Maybe that's why I gravitated to Gwen. Mary Jane was too mercurial, too...I don't know...indirect. With Gwen, there was nothing hidden."

That's quite an observation. Too bad later revelations (Thanks, JMS...) would make Peter look like a moron for thinking that Gwen had "nothing hidden". Ugh.

Soon after, Gwen and Peter take a carriage ride in Central Park, and have an amazing kiss (or, as Peter wonders in his narration, perhaps he's just over-embellishing the kiss in his memory).

Pg. 9-10: present-day Peter wonders if he and Gwen would have stayed together if she'd lived.

PETER (narration): "Our every moment together was a priceless gift. And, as time passes, I see that the greatest gift Gwen gave me in her short time on this earth......was the courage to love. If I hadn't known her, opened my heart to her......I would have been a far lesser man. And I never would have been able to climb over those carefully constructed barricades......and into Mary Jane's arms. I like to think that Gwen--wherever she is right now--is happy about that. Correction: I don't think she is: I know it."

In Universe X: Spidey (a 2001 one-shot special taking place in Alex Ross and Jim Krueger's Earth X universe), written by Jim Krueger and penciled by Jackson Guice (with John Romita Sr., Al Milgrom, and John Stanici inking), we visit a possible future for Spider-Man some 20 years from the present. In this reality, baby May Parker did not die (or get kidnapped by Norman Osborn), and her father, the retired Peter Parker, is trapped in an illusion of a "perfect" fantasy life created by a villain called the Spiders-man. In this perfect world (glimpses of which are inked by classic Spidey artist John Romita Sr.), Norman Osborn was jailed before he could kill Gwen (by Captain Stacy, who was not killed by Doctor Octopus in this fantasy world), and as a result, Peter is married to Gwen Stacy, and Mary Jane to Harry Osborn (and Peter and Gwen's son, Ben, is Spider-Man). May tries to reason with Peter, reminding him that Gwen was already dead when the Goblin knocked her off the bridge in reality, and that Peter wasn't responsible for her death (Peter had lied to May about this when she was a child). Peter then glances at his web-shooters and tells May that he knows that *he* was the one who killed Gwen with his webbing. Eventually, May helps bring Peter out of the illusion and back to reality.

For Marvel's 40th Anniversary in 2001, fans sent in ballots to determine the 100 greatest Marvel comics of all time. The final list was released in a countdown format as each issue of the 10 issue 100 Greatest Marvels series was published. The top 25 stories were reprinted (4 stories per issue) in 100 Greatest Marvels # 1-5 (with the top 5 stories getting issues 6-10 devoted solely to them).

Non-reprinted Spider-Man stories on the list:

#96. Amazing Spider-Man # 101 (First Morbius)
#89. Secret Wars # 8 (1st chronological appearance of the Alien Costume)
#85. Amazing Spider-Man # 238 (First Hobgoblin)
#84. Amazing Spider-Man # 194 (First Black Cat)
#82. Amazing Spider-Man # 90 (Death of Captain Stacy)
#78. Amazing Spider-Man # 31 (First Gwen Stacy, Harry Osborn)
#67. Amazing Spider-Man # 13 (First Mysterio)
#57. Amazing Spider-Man # 298 (First Venom)
#52. Amazing Spider-Man # 2 (First Vulture)
#50. Amazing Spider-Man # 129 (First Punisher)
#45. Amazing Spider-Man # 50 (First Kingpin)
#43. Amazing Spider-Man # 6 (First Lizard)
#35. Amazing Spider-Man # 3 (First Doctor Octopus)
#27. Amazing Spider-Man # 14 (First Green Goblin)
#23. Amazing Spider-Man # 1 (First issue of Amazing Spider-Man, reprinted in 100 Greatest Marvels # 1)
#22 (Adjectiveless) Spider-Man # 1 (First issue in the Todd McFarlane written/drawn series, reprinted in 100 Greatest Marvels # 3)
#15. Amazing Spider-Man #33 (Conclusion of Master Planner trilogy, reprinted in 100 Greatest Marvels # 3)
#9 Ultimate Spider-Man # 1 (First appearance of Ultimate Spider-Man, reprinted in 100 Greatest Marvels # 5)

Amazing Spider-Man # 122, which featured the death of The Green Goblin (Norman Osborn), ranked # 19, and was reprinted in The 100 Greatest Marvels of All Time # 2.

Amazing Spider-Man # 121, which featured the death of Gwen Stacy, ranked # 6, and was reprinted in The 100 Greatest Marvels of All Time # 5.

And of course, Amazing Fantasy # 15, the very first Spider-Man story, ranked # 1, and was reprinted in 100 Greatest Marvels # 10.

Hmmm. That says a few things about ASM # 121-122, doesn't it? Don't see any JMS books on the list either...

Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's 6-issue mini-series Spider-Man: Blue (released in 2002-2003, because several issues were...*sigh*...late...) deals with Peter recording his recollections about how he and Gwen fell in love into a tape recorder "for posterity" (he speaks as though he's speaking to Gwen directly). It is also revealed that Peter leaves a single rose at the Brooklyn Bridge every Valentine's Day in memory of Gwen. The title of the series, "Blue", refers to Peter's emotional state regarding the loss of Gwen.

The mini-series retells the Lee/Romita stories from approximately ASM # 40-49, although it attempts more to capture the *spirit* of those issues than to stick strictly to continuity (if you want to explain that away, you could do so by pointing out that this is Peter's subjective account of events, and not necessarily an accurate depiction of the events in those issues as they occurred). It shows Norman Osborn during and after the accident which wiped out his memory of his life as the Goblin, it perfectly captures the early Peter/Gwen/MJ dynamic, and it even has a hint of sex between Peter and Gwen at the end of the story (throwing a big wrench in the workings of Sins Past, as does the fact that the present-day Spider-Man leaves a rose in memory of Gwen on the Brooklyn Bridge, a place which JMS seems to think Peter has tried to avoid).

Jeph Loeb has stated that he wrote this story as a love letter to Gwen Stacy, and it shows. The story perfectly captures Gwen's early characterization (and both story and art capture the feel of the early Lee-Romita stories). Gwen is shown to be both Ditko-sultry and Romita-sweet. It also captures the sense of loss that Peter still feels when he thinks of Gwen. This is a nice retro-style story (*not* RETCON-style) that respects the characters and the past, even though it doesn't conform to the letter of the law in terms of continuity (but it is, as I stated above, a subjective first-person narrative).

And at the end of the story, in the present day, Peter sums up his feelings for Gwen quite nicely:

Spider-Man: Blue # 6

Pg. 22, panel 4:

PETER (speaking into tape recorder): "And I long for a time when a girl I knew with an incredible smile and so much good in her heart made me can be great."

From a Cinescape interview at:

"While Loeb and Sale count themselves lucky that they've been able to do the kinds of projects for Marvel that mean something special to them, like the current SPIDER-MAN: BLUE miniseries, Gwen Stacy was anything but lucky way back in 1973. That was the year when her life was cut short during an epic confrontation between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin. All these years later, fans still carry strong memories of Gwen - Loeb thinks he knows why.

'I think she's a great character," says Loeb. "She was Peter's first love and a real departure from MJ, who was so much larger than life than anyone else in the book. I mean, 'Face it, Tiger, you just hit the jackpot!' is a great entrance line and one that set MJ in motion. Gwen was the 'straight man' to her, and we all have affection for that role. But mostly it was that Peter and Gwen had something fairly unique in Peter's life - a kind of happiness that went up until her death. [It was a] death [that] many readers still find very unfair, and so to see her alive again and vibrant is joyous.'

Joy is hardly an emotion that comes to mind when dealing with the Goblin and his civilian alter ego of insane industrialist Norman Osborn. For Loeb, the deeper meaning behind the eternal saga of the Spider vs. the Goblin comes down to the simple relationship between fathers and sons, a theme that takes center stage in the Spider-Man feature film as well.

'It's a fairly common theme in comics,' admits Loeb. 'Why that drives so many stories I don't really know. I know I'm responsible for carrying that torch further, and it resonates so well for me personally, but when you look at Peter's life and how the father figures were removed from the very beginning, having that relationship with Norman and Harry right in front of Peter is very emotional. Norman, at his core, is motivated by a need to prove to his son that he is worth admiring. This is manifested by his constant needling of Harry, but it is about Norman's need, not Harry's. Norman finds in Peter the perfect adversary since Peter is the perfect son.'

'Peter, on the other hand, is desperate to find a father figure, and Norman is the antithesis of what Peter is looking for. Norman is the aberration, and his destruction fuels Peter's need for a better father. Sorry to make it sound so 'psychobabble' - I could have just said that they have neat costumes and look cool when they fight too,' jokes Loeb."

Yeah, Loeb and Sale seem to understand Gwen. As for Norman, though, it looks like they subscribe more to the whole "Norman wants an heir" idea, which isn't so good. Although, the idea that Norman rode Harry constantly because he wanted to prove himself worth admiring is sorta egotistical, but doesn't quite jive with Norman as written by Stan Lee or Gerry Conway.

Gwen was also featured in Ultimate Spider-Man, Marvel's attempt to tell stories about a high-school version of Peter Parker without being encumbered by years of continuity--because they're lazy--until she was Ultimately killed by Ultimate Carnage in Ultimate Spider-Man # 62. Also, Ultimate Mary Jane fell off the Ultimate Queensboro Bridge during a battle with the Ultimate Green Goblin in issue # 25-26, but Ultimate Spider-Man Ultimately saved her.

Funny how, in no less than three continuities (Cartoon, Movie, Ultimate), *Mary Jane* is the one who falls off of that bridge...

In the much-maligned "House of M" crossover series (2005), the Avenger known as the Scarlet Witch suffers a mental breakdown and tries to change reality to bring back her lost children. In this altered reality, Ben Parker is alive and Spider-Man is a big media superstar. Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy (who was not killed in this reality) are married, and they have a son named Richie. Eventually, the true Marvel reality is restored, and everything is back to "normal" (although Peter remembers the alternate reality).

And Gwen Stacy is currently slated to appear in the upcoming feature film, Spider-Man 3, and Bryce Dallas Howard (daughter of filmmaker/actor Ron Howard) has been cast in the role. It's kinda funny that a blonde (Kirsten Dunst) was cast to play a redhead (Mary Jane), and a redhead (Howard) was cast to play a blonde (Gwen). Also, veteran actor James Cromwell has been cast as Captain George Stacy. Can't wait to see how Gwen's memory is further butchered...

Anyway, Gwen has become revered over the years. Some have even said that Gwen's death is more important to the Spider-Man mythos than Uncle Ben's, which is kinda absurd. Ben died because of Peter's inaction, and that death changed the course of his destiny. Gwen would have almost certainly died no matter what Peter did at that bridge (although she wouldn't have been there in the first place if not for him and his life as Spider-Man).

And let me ask you this: if Gwen had simply left the book or broken up with Peter instead of being killed, would anyone care about her they way they do today? No. She'd probably just be in the Betty Brant/Liz Allan club of ex-Parker babes.

Still, Gwen's death is one of the most moving, significant events in the history of the medium. Unfortunately, the story (and Gwen herself) has constantly been revisited, thus lessening its power (Not unlike the death of Jean Grey/Phoenix in X-Men # 137, a story that has been revisited again and again, as she's been brought back and killed off several times since. That story's power has been *badly* diluted.). If Gwen had been allowed to drift off into history after her death, then the story's power would probably have remained intact, and its legacy unsullied. Instead, idiotic fanboy writers have dredged her up again and again (Although, certainly, stories like "The Day She Died" and "I Remember Gwen" are excellent. It's stuff like the second Clone Saga and Sins Past that have caused all the trouble).

But still, Gwen's death has been replayed over and over and over and over again. Spider-Man has been to the Brooklyn Bridge many times since Gwen's death. Both he and Ben Reilly have saved people falling from the bridge many times. It seems that a month can't go by without Spider-Man either going to the bridge or moping about Gwen's death.

I think the train has long since left the station, people. The death of Gwen Stacy has been wrung out and chewed up for every last ounce of cheap pathos it will ever provide.



Regarding Norman Osborn, as stated previously, Marvel decided to kill two birds with one stone. Both Gwen Stacy and the Green Goblin had outlived their usefulness, and would be killed off. The Goblin had started out as an intriguing, mysterious villain, but the whole "convenient amnesia" concept had severely limited his potential and turned him into something of a one-note villain. Marvel could only do *so* many stories where Norman regained his memory, threatened to reveal Spider-Man's true identity, and would then miraculously lose his memory again. This thinking regarding the situation was very similar to the fan complaints about the repetitiveness of Peter and Gwen Stacy's relationship (she thinks he's hiding something from her, they have problems/break up, they make up, and then the cycle starts over again).

But how to kill the Goblin? The solution was ingenious. The Goblin would do something so heinous and so shocking that he *had* to die for it (though NOT directly by Spider-Man's hand, which would cross a moral line). Thus, in a fine example of serendipity, Gwen Stacy became the sacrificial lamb used to remove the Green Goblin from the series, just as the Goblin was used to eliminate Gwen, who was also regarded by some at this point as something of a one-note character. So, the third time being the charm, Norman regained his memory once again in Amazing Spider-Man # 121 and murdered Gwen Stacy!

After Norman's death, Harry Osborn went mad as result of grief and drugs. He discovered a cache of his father's weapons and equipment (at the warehouse where Norman died) and became the new Green Goblin. Harry tried to kill Spider-Man (whose true identity he had learned), but failed and was sent to therapy (ASM # 136-137). Harry's therapist, Dr. Bart Hamilton, learned all of the Goblin's secrets (and Spider-Man's true identity) when he placed Harry under hypnosis (he then instructed Harry to forget everything he knew about the Goblin and Spider-Man). Hamilton eventually decided to become the new Green Goblin, and imprisoned Harry while he began his reign of terror. Harry eventually escaped, and attacked Hamilton as the Goblin himself. Hamilton was killed in an explosion, and Harry again lost all knowledge of the Goblin and Spider-Man (ASM # 175-180).

Harry later took control of his father's company, married Liz Allan, and together they had a child, Norman ("Normie") Osborn. The first Hobgoblin (a mystery man, later revealed to be Roderick Kingsley, had found one of Norman's old hideouts in ASM # 238 and refashioned the Green Goblin's costumes and equipment for his own purposes) sent Harry copies of Norman's journals (proving he was the Green Goblin, a fact Harry had suppressed) in a blackmail scheme (ASM # 249). During another scheme of the Hobgoblin's (in ASM # 261) to acquire Norman's last surviving journal, Harry fought the Hobgoblin with his father's weapons (without wearing the Goblin costume).

Later, when the second Hobgoblin threatened his family (the Hobgoblin wanted Stromm's formula so he could gain super-strength), some of Harry's repressed memories emerged, and he battled (and defeated) the Hobgoblin (ASM # 312) as the Green Goblin. For a time, Harry considered acting as a *heroic* Green Goblin in an attempt to clear the Goblin's (and Norman's) name, but Spider-Man talked him out of it (Web of Spider-Man # 65-67). At this time, Harry's memory of Spider-Man's true identity also reemerged.

However, Harry's more negative repressed memories also began to reemerge. Having constant hallucinations of Norman's ghost speaking to him and urging him to take revenge on Spider-Man, Harry began to lose his sanity once again. His unresolved issues from his childhood (including his feelings of guilt regarding how he could never seem to please Norman) began bubbling to the surface, which led to a renewed hatred of Spider-Man (and Peter Parker), whom he believed killed Norman (and Gwen Stacy, who Harry may have secretly been in love with). Finally, Harry snapped, and began a series of merciless attacks on Spider-Man, hounding him both in costume and in his personal life, threatening to expose Peter's secret identity (Spectacular Spider-Man # 178-200). Harry even exposed himself to an experimental version of Stromm's formula, which made him stronger than Norman had ever been...and just as crazy (Spectacular # 188-189, 200).

J.M. DeMatteis' "The Child Within" saga (Spectacular # 178-184) is a well-crafted examination of the psyches of Peter Parker, Harry Osborn, and the creature called Vermin. It shows Harry being unable to escape Norman's cycle of abuse, and in effect, Harry becomes Norman (a fact Spider-Man makes note of several times). It also shows that Norman's blind lust for power and lack of compassion is what damaged Harry's soul so deeply, and that is why Harry subsequently vows to be a Green Goblin who won't leave his family behind.

Incidentally, In Spectacular Spider-Man # 200, Harry kidnaps Mary Jane and takes her to the Brooklyn Bridge, the site of Gwen Stacy's demise, to tell her that he won't hurt her (he's just after Spider-Man). He then waxes poetic about how innocent they all were in the past, but Mary Jane points out that they weren't all innocent and pain-free. She NEVER mentions Gwen, nor the "fact" that Gwen had children by Norman (a revelation that might have deterred Harry from his homicidal course of action).

Finally, Harry renovated Norman's old townhouse (the one featured in ASM # 121-122) into the headquarters for the Osborn Foundation, a charitable organization which would clear Norman Osborn's name (Harry had convinced himself that his father was a good man who had been framed by Spider-Man for Gwen's death). In fact, this was a ruse to lure many of Norman and Harry's enemies to the townhouse and blow them all to bits. However, Harry, as the Goblin, got into another fight with Spider-Man, drugged him, and left him in the building with the bomb activated. Confronting Mary Jane Watson-Parker outside, Harry suddenly realized he was about to kill his best friend, and went back inside, bringing Spider-Man out just before the townhouse was destroyed (it mistakenly appears intact in Kurt Busiek's "Legacy of Evil" one-shot). Then, succumbing to the effects of the improved Goblin formula, Harry died, having finally made peace with Peter Parker, his best friend.

After that, the second Clone Saga began (as described above). This storyarc was intended to bring Spider-Man back to being a hip, fun-loving single guy by reintroducing the Spider-Clone from ASM # 149 (who was shown to have died and whose corpse was then thrown by Spider-Man into an incinerator in ASM # 149-151). The storyline was supposed to last about SIX MONTHS, but stretched out into nearly FOUR YEARS. It's a period in Spidey's history that many fans would like to forget. Eventually, in what became a huge slap in the face to fans (much like Sins Past), it was revealed that the Peter Parker we'd known since ASM # 149 (1974), the one who had married Mary Jane Watson, had really been a clone all along, and that the "clone" was the genuine article (and had been wandering around America for five years). The "real" Peter (who had taken the name Ben Reilly) then took over as Spider-Man, and Peter left with the pregnant Mary Jane to start a new life.

For all the nasty (and perversely fascinating) details on the Clone Saga (both the comic stories themselves and the behind-the-scenes info), I *highly* recommend this extensive, 40-part series of articles:


Fans were unhappy and even enraged by this turn of events, and it was decided to restore Peter Parker as the one, true Spider-Man, and reveal that Ben Reilly had "really" been the clone all along. But how? Many story ideas were tossed about. It was eventually decided that there needed to be someone in charge of the whole Clone Saga. At one point it was thought that Harry Osborn, back from the dead, might be revealed as the string-puller. He was also a candidate for the identity of Gaunt, who worked for the as-yet-unrevealed mastermind, but...*sigh*, the long-dead Mendel Stromm (from ASM # 37) was pointlessly brought back to life for that revelation.

Eventually, Marvel Editor-In-Chief Bob Harras decided that the only way to end the Clone Saga was to bring back Norman Osborn, who had the knowledge of Spider-Man's identity and the hatred and the resources to allow him to pull off such a grand scheme. The reaction from Marvel staffers wasn't exactly joyous. Even Howard Mackie, who was slated to write the story detailing Norman's return (Peter Parker: Spider-Man # 75), felt (and still feels) that Norman's return would be a *huge* mistake. This would be undoing the conclusion of one of the greatest Spider-Man stories of all time: the Death of Gwen Stacy. Resigned to their duty of pulling this off, Assistant Editor Glenn Greenberg came up with the idea that Stromm's formula had given Norman an accelerated healing factor that allowed him to "get better" after being impaled by his glider in ASM # 122 (Despite the fact that we saw his body wheeled into the meat wagon in ASM # 123, and despite the fact that the Green Goblin appeared in Avengers Annual # 16 as one of the Grandmaster's "Legion of the Unliving", a group of deceased Marvel characters "selected from the realm of death" to fight the Avengers. And don't tell me that was supposed to be Bart Hamilton instead of Norman Osborn!).

An important aside: the nature of Mendel Stromm's formula has been retconned *many* times. These days, it's the equivalent of water from the Holy Grail (by way of the Indiana Jones films, that is).

In the beginning, (the original Green Goblin origin story in ASM # 40), Norman was shown to have discovered some "strange new formulas" that Mendel Stromm had been working on. Experimenting with them, the resulting solution turned green and exploded in Norman's face. Norman claimed that the formula had made him "more brilliant" and more powerful than ever. Stan Lee may have originally intended this as a way of showing how crazy Norman was, NOT as an implication that Norman had gained any kind of super-powers.

Later on, there's some evidence of the Green Goblin possessing super-strength (such as Norman getting out of the hospital by force in Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine # 2, and Spider-Man's observations about how strong the Goblin was in the same issue), but nothing definitive.

In various editions of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe (Original Edition # 13, 1984, Deluxe Edition # 17, 1987), it is stated in the deceased Green Goblin's biographical entries that Norman may have possessed super-strength, and that if he did, such strength only made itself apparent when he became enraged (as in the aforementioned Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine # 2). It is also stated that Norman's intelligence was increased as a result of the explosion (though not to superhuman levels) and that Stromm's formula was expressly designed to bestow super-strength and intelligence upon the user.

In ASM # 245, the original Hobgoblin, having acquired Stromm's formula from Norman's journals (Norman presumably wrote the formula down in his journal after his accident), orders hired goon Lefty Donovan to recreate it. The solution turns green and explodes, badly burning Donovan. Later, acting under the Hobgoblin's post-hypnotic commands, Donovan dresses in a Hobgoblin costume and battles Spider-Man (so the real Hobgoblin can see the effects of the formula in action). Donovan is shown to possess super-strength during the battle (Exceeding that which Norman was ever shown to possess, which doesn't really make sense. Apparently, writer Roger Stern felt that Norman must have had super-strength, which would explain how the Green Goblin could stand up to Spider-Man as many times as he did.). Having seen the proof of the formula's power, the real Hobgoblin then kills Donovan, and (in Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man # 85) immerses himself in a modified version of the formula (which does not explode and does not cause the Hobgoblin to go insane, but which does grant him strength far superior to Norman Osborn's).

In later issues (and in the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe), the Hobgoblin's strength level is said (and shown) to be roughly equivalent to Spider-Man's own strength level--that is, he can lift (press) about 10 tons.

Later on, Harry Osborn immersed himself in an experimental version of the formula, which he said Norman had been working on "before he died" (Spectacular Spider-Man # 188, 200). This untested formula greatly increased Harry's strength (and he claimed that his strength would continue to increase as time went on), but it also drove him completely over the edge, and eventually led to his death as a result of its toxic effects on his body.

In Kurt Busiek's Legacy of Evil one-shot (1996), a plan Harry had set into motion before his death was enacted. Harry and Liz's son, Normie Osborn, was to be exposed to Stromm's formula, thus continuing the Goblin Legacy (the first real appearance of that goofy, overused concept), but Spider-Man managed to put a stop to that.

During the second Clone Saga, it was revealed that the mysterious villain Gaunt was actually Mendel Stromm, who (*sigh*) had taken an experimental version of the formula before he died (back in ASM # 37), which had kept him alive, even though his body had become desiccated and, well, gaunt.

Glenn Greenberg wrote a one-shot book, The Osborn Journal, in order to tie up all the loose ends of the Clone Saga and detail Norman's post-resurrection activities. The one-shot takes the form of Norman writing in his journal about all his schemes in preparation for his all-out attack on Spider-Man in Peter Parker: Spider-Man # 75. It reveals how he came back to life, how he went to Europe and became leader of the Scriers, and how he engineered the Clone Saga (It also says that he had no involvement in Aunt May's death and that Harry Osborn was his only son, statements that have both been "proven" to be untrue in recent years. Why would Norman lie in his own journal?).

And let me ask you this: If Norman really did have children with Miles Warren's beloved Gwen Stacy, wouldn't that have prevented Warren (Whose primary motivation was his obsession with Gwen, remember?) from ever working with Norman to engineer the Clone Saga (if he'd *known* he was working for Norman, that is)? Oh, let's say Warren didn't know. Suuure.

And so we come back to Norman's "resurrection". It had been decided that Stromm's formula had also given Norman a healing factor. As a result, he began to heal right after his glider impaled him in ASM # 122. Waking up on the coroner's table, he saw Harry trying to bribe the coroner to fake an autopsy report. Pleased with Harry's show of strength, Norman left, and then killed a drifter of similar body type, who was buried in his place. Norman then went to his warehouse hideout and saw Harry testing out the Goblin equipment in preparation for his own revenge scheme against Spider-Man, and Norman decided to let him have his chance (and would allow the world to believe him dead). He then departed for Europe to become a major player on the crime scene. All that time, he was also secretly manipulating Peter Parker's life by engineering the Clone Saga. When Harry died, he decided to return to America to take vengeance on Peter personally.


First of all, I still think this was a very bad idea, a short-term solution to a big problem that would eventually cause even more catastrophic damage in the future. There must have been some other way to bail Marvel out of the Clone Saga. Combine Norman's resurrection with the events in Sins Past, and everything that worked so well in ASM # 121-122 is completely thrown off the brid--uhhh, er--out the window.

Norman, as seen in ASM # 121-122, had gone *completely* over the edge, clearly with no chance of return (or any kind of fortuitous memory-loss). Yet, by the time he came back, he'd become a cold, *relatively* sane master planner (which many have called a Lex Luthor or Kingpin knockoff). The first thing Norman would have *really* done had he come "back to life" was hunt down Spider-Man and launch an all-out attack for the indignity he'd suffered.

The whole point of the Death of Gwen Stacy story was to dispose of two characters who had outlived their usefulness. The death of Norman Osborn was justified by his killing Gwen (and it's still one of the most memorable comic book deaths ever, one that was even copied--badly--in the first Spider-Man film in 2002). Bringing him back greatly dilutes the power of that story. So Peter Parker's innocent girlfriend can die horribly and tragically, but the evil psychopath who killed her gets to come back hale and hearty? No!!!! At the end of ASM # 122, that evil was finally extinguished, and there's at least *some* sense of victory for Spider-Man (however empty).

In a strange way, though, Norman Osborn had a much longer and more viable shelf-life as a character after he died. He became a haunting specter, a painful memory that tormented Peter Parker for years and years (primarily because he'd killed Gwen Stacy and ruined Harry Osborn's life). His life (and death) also led to the creation of the various other Green Goblins and Hobgoblins, and led to the death of his own son.

Norman was around from 1964-1973 (9 years), was dead for 22 years, and has been back for some 10 years as of this writing. But little good has been done with him since he came back.

After Spider-Man (*ahem*) attempted to kill him in Peter Parker: Spider-Man # 75, Norman returned. He returned as a cunning, powerful mastermind, who had seemingly planned every bad event in Peter's life, and amazingly managed to convince almost everyone in the city that he was framed for the Green Goblin's crimes by the "real" Goblin, whom he vowed to bring to justice. Ugh.

I HATED this new interpretation of Norman (and still do), which depicted him as the guy always in control of everybody and everything, against whom Peter could do nothing and was totally helpless, and who was responsible for Peter's every misfortune and stubbed toe since ASM # 122. *Sigh*.

I much preferred the private war between the nervous young teenager and the egomaniacal madman who knows his true identity. THAT was drama.

In Spectacular Spider-Man # 248-250 (written by J. M. Dematteis), Norman re-opened Harry's Osborn Foundation and publicly claimed that he was never the Green Goblin. He then videotaped Spider-Man attacking him and leaked it to the media to make life that much harder for Peter Parker. Norman also enlisted the services of a new, fifth Green Goblin (...originally intended to be a brainwashed Phil Urich, who was the fourth, heroic Green Goblin introduced during the second Clone Saga, but was later revealed in Peter Parker: Spider-Man Vol. 2 # 18 to be a clone...of nobody!) to help "prove" that he was never the Goblin (and whom Norman claimed had soiled his reputation).

In Spectacular # 250, during the party celebrating the reopening of the Foundation, Norman sees Peter in the crowd, shakes his hand, and takes evil glee in torturing him in front of everyone (while still maintaining a good public face). He reminisces about the "good" old days:

Pg. 20, panels 2-5:

NORMAN: "Harry was dating a wonderful girl named Mary Jane--who has since become Peter's bride----and Peter was dating an extraordinary young woman named----Gwen. Gwen Stacy----who was later murdered by the Green Goblin."

NORMAN (a single tear running down his cheek): "Such a sad, such a terrible, end--for such a lovely young woman. And that's why I intend to dedicate my life to finding this maniac in the Goblin mask. Not just for myself, not just to sweep away the lies he's spread about me. I'm also doing it--

For. Dear. Gwen."

These words enrage Peter, who has to be calmed down by Robbie Robertson.

Clearly, Norman is enjoying the opportunity to rub Gwen's murder in Peter's face. It also makes it clear that he didn't care about Gwen at all. He just killed her to hurt Peter, and continues to rub the salt in Peter's wound with that little factoid.

Norman also threatened and blackmailed J. Jonah Jameson into giving him a controlling interest in the Daily Bugle (a Spider-villain taking control of the Bugle is something that was *already* done several years earlier with Thomas Fireheart, a.k.a. Puma, during Gerry Conway's 1980s run on Spectacular Spider-Man).

In Peter Parker: Spider-Man # 88, a thug called Joey Z was killed as a result of Norman's machinations and Spider-Man was framed for it (leading into the "Identity Crisis" arc, where Spidey developed four new costumed identities so he didn't have to operate as Spider-Man).

Norman then offered a $ 5 million bounty on Spider-Man's head during the "Spider-Hunt" storyline (Sensational Spider-Man #25, Amazing Spider-Man #432, Peter Parker: Spider-Man #89, and Spectacular Spider-Man #255), and sent the new Green Goblin to kidnap Liz and Harry's son (and Norman's own grandchild), Normie. He also hired Flash Thompson as a personal assistant (and Flash stupidly became a big Osborn-booster).

In Glenn Greenberg and Roger Stern's "Goblins at the Gate" storyline (Spectacular Spider-Man # 259-261), we *finally* got a confrontation between the original Green Goblin and the original Hobgoblin, and their ensuing mental chess game was lovely to see. The story opens with Norman's autobiography being a best-seller, and Roderick Kingsley forming a plan to get out of prison. He gets word to Norman that he knows the location of Norman's last surviving journal (which will prove to the world that Norman was the Green Goblin and thus ruin his plans). Norman has the new Green Goblin break Roderick out of prison in exchange for the journal, but then reveals that he knows there isn't any journal, and that Kingsley lied about it in order to get broken out of prison. Norman also reveals that he's taken over Kingsley's company. Eventually, the Hobgoblin, the Green Goblin, Norman, and Spider-Man get into a fight, and Kingsley escapes to the Caribbean.

In the second-to-last story arc before the Spider-books were all cancelled and rebooted, "The Gathering of Five" (Sensational Spider-Man # 32, Amazing Spider-Man # 440, Peter Parker: Spider-Man #96, Spectacular Spider-Man # 262 and Sensational Spider-Man # 33), which many have called one of the worst Spider-Man stories ever, Norman plans on using five magical rocks to gain incredible power...but if he draws the wrong straw, so to speak, he'll get insanity instead. Which he the next storyline, "The Final Chapter". Except...he's *already* insane! Or at least he was until he miraculously came back from the dead...

The gathering of the rocks for the Gathering of Five ceremony which didn't actually take place during the "Gathering of Five" storyline (*whew*) leads into "The Final Chapter" (Amazing Spider-Man #441, Peter Parker: Spider-Man #97, Spectacular Spider-Man #263 and Spider-Man #98), in which the ceremony takes place. Got all that? Good. The participants will each gain immortality, wisdom, power, madness, or death. Norman gets insanity instead of power. It's also revealed that *sigh*, Aunt May has been alive all this time and has been held captive in a scheme of Norman's that was never realized and that a genetically-altered actress died in her place in ASM # 400 (despite the fact that in the Osborn Journal one-shot Norman says he had no involvement in Aunt May's death). *Whew*! Still with us? Good. Or maybe not so good.

Anyway, Norman resumes the identity of the Green Goblin (in a new John Byrne-designed costume that was only used a few more times after this), and it is revealed that the trigger for a "DNA bomb" of Norman's is located inside Aunt May's brain. Uhhh, yeah. Okay. In the end, the device is removed from Aunt May, Norman insanely believes he's killed Spider-Man (and is locked up, only to be rescued by the Scriers), and Peter burns his Spider-Man costume and quits. Again. The End. After that came John Byrne's controversial revamping of Spidey's early days (Don't bash Byrne. His forum, , is a safe haven for fans of old-school comics who loathe today's dreck), and then the relaunching of the Spidey books.

Norman Osborn and the Green Goblin also appeared in the Ultimate Spider-Man series. It is a testament to the Goblin's impact on Spider-Man's history that the Goblin would be interwoven into Ultimate Spider-Man's origin and would be his first foe.

In this alternate universe, a bite from a spider infected with an experimental drug at Norman Osborn's company turns Peter Parker into Spider-Man. Osborn then tests the formula on himself, but turns into a savage, Hulk-like monster (who barely resembles the classic Green Goblin at all). The brute hunts Spider-Man, and they fight...only to end up at (*sigh*) the Brooklyn Bridge. The Goblin is shot by police and falls into the water, and is presumed to be dead (but he comes back later on).

Meanwhile, back in the regular Marvel Universe, Roger Stern's Revenge of the Green Goblin four-issue mini-series depicted Norman as being under the care of the Scriers (now called The Order of the Goblin). He is given a drug that cures him of his insanity, and he *ahem* falls in love with his nurse, Kolina. He then exposes Spider-Man to a gas that deadens his Spider-Sense, and exposes him to...mind-controlling toothpaste and CDs. He then resolves to...*sigh*....make Spider-Man his heir (C'mon, Sterno! You can do better than that!).

Generally speaking, most super-heroes' arch-enemies don't turn around 180 degrees after years and years of vicious attacks and decide to put their most hated foe in charge of the family business. You just don't see that kind of behavior in a major psychopathic villain. Huh.

This absurd idea was also used (to a lesser extent) in the first Spider-Man feature film (2002), which itself is a pastiche of character stereotypes and is a copy of a copy of a copy of the original conception of Spider-Man in the comics. And it seems the entire outside world (which couldn't care less about the comics) now thinks is what the world of Spider-Man is "really" like (and how the comics "should" be). Bleh!

Anyway, the story continues in Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 2) #25 and Peter Parker: Spider-Man (Vol. 2) # 25 (written by Howard Mackie and Paul Jenkins, respectively). It features Norman kidnapping the drugged Spider-Man and trying to brainwash him into becoming heir to the Goblin Legacy. He then tries to get him to drink the Goblin Formula (Patent Pending), but Peter refuses, and they fight. Eventually, the Goblin escapes, and promises he'll be back.

And back he is, during the "A Death in the Family" storyline in Peter Parker: Spider-Man (Vol. 2) # 44-47, written by Paul Jenkins, and in a new costume, designed by Humberto Ramos. The Goblin continues his attacks on Spider-Man, and forces him to watch a faked video of Gwen Stacy's death that Norman released to the media, one that shows the Goblin swooping down to save her, only to see her killed by Spider-Man's webline when her neck is broken. He also engineers an accident that leaves Flash Thompson comatose. Norman then states that little Normie Osborn is of no further use to him, and that he intends to kill him, provoking Spider-Man into a murderous rage of his own. This is exactly what Norman wants, because if Spider-Man kills him, he'll...*ahem*...turn to the dark side.

Peter tells the Goblin about a dream he keeps having, which features Spider-Man swinging across the city and seeing a plane going down in flames (The plane that Mary Jane supposedly died on several months earlier, in ASM Vol. 2 # 13. Don't worry. She came back.). The plane crashes and when Peter digs through the rubble, he thinks he sees Mary Jane, but then discovers Gwen Stacy (this implies that Gwen is Peter's one true love, NOT Mary Jane). Peter then tells Norman about Gwen, and how if Norman had actually known her, he would have stopped his evil ways because Gwen's loving personality would heal him. He says that not a day goes by where he doesn't think about killing Norman for murdering Gwen, but he never will, because he doesn't hate the Goblin. Peter believes that if he refuses to hate the Goblin for what he's done, and then Gwen's memory will live on forever.

(Nice. JMS can't even respect a *recent* story, albeit a flawed one.)

Spider-Man then leaves, and later, Norman considers suicide.

In Brian Michael Bendis' The Pulse # 2-5, Norman returns (and wears the classic Goblin costume), and is finally outed as the Goblin and imprisoned for his crimes. And Spider-Man ISN'T the one who finally nabs him. *cough*

In June, 2005, a new Spidey title, Marvel Knights: Spider-Man, began. The first storyarc (issues # 1-12) was written by Mark Millar. Behind bars since the storyarc in The Pulse, Norman Osborn has nevertheless masterminded a plot to escape (with Spidey's help) by arranging the kidnapping of May Parker. After this, Spider-Man battles the Sinister Twelve, a group of his greatest enemies (the Vulture, the Shocker, Hydro-Man, the Sandman, Electro, the Chameleon, Hammerhead, Tombstone, Boomerang, the Lizard and Venom III---a.ka. Mac Gargan, the Scorpion. That's right; the Scorpion is the "new" Venom. Can we say "Uuuhhhghhhh"?) led by the Green Goblin (wearing yet another new costume).

The Goblin....*SIGH*....reveals that he had secretly financed many of these villains' origins. He then abducts Mary Jane, taking her to the....*SIGH*....Brooklyn Bridge as a hostage, but Spider-Man is able to rescue her. It is revealed that since the 1950's, big businesses have feared that super-heroes will find out about their various rackets, so they invested in super- villains. Specific heroes were written into the villains' contracts, which is why the same villains keep showing up in certain heroes' lives. Norman Osborn, a favorite of these mystery groups, is a liability because he could blow the whistle on the whole deal, implicating some top-level people in the process. And so, Norman finds himself battling Doctor Octopus, who has been brainwashed and sent to kill the Goblin by an unknown party. Eventually, the two villains fall into the river. Doc Ock is eventually discovered to be alive and well, and then, Peter manages to save Aunt May, who has been buried alive in the grave of Ben Parker. Soon after, a letter Osborn mailed to Peter Parker before the fight arrives, in which Norman thanks Peter for helping him to escape, and that he doesn't hold a grudge against Peter. He just enjoys their battles, since it makes his normally boring life as a businessman enjoyable (WHAT THE $%^&???????). Osborn likely survived the battle and is once again at large.

Big mistake, bringing Norman back. Catastrophic mistake. Whoever this guy is, he sure isn't the Norman Osborn from the good old days. And it gets worse. Much, much worse. But we'll get to that.

In the beginning, the Green Goblin was just another Spidey villain. Many fans felt (and still feel) that Doctor Octopus was and is Spider-Man's greatest foe, but when the Goblin discovered Spider-Man's true identity, that began to tip the scale in his favor (mind you, at this point, Osborn was the ONLY person in the entire world to know Peter's secret, unlike today, where EVERYONE seems to know.). After he murdered Gwen Stacy, the Goblin--despite being dead--was catapulted into the Number One spot--though only after some time had passed (and fanboys/writers had blown up the Death of Gwen Stacy storyline to mythic proportions by utterly refusing to let it go and by regurgitating it constantly).

Years after Norman Osborn died, the Green Goblin maintained a presence in Spider-Man's world. In 1975, a Green Goblin 8" doll/action figure was released (along with Spider-Man and other heroes and villains) as part of MEGO's "Comic Action Heroes" line. In 1980, a mini-version of the Goblin was released in the "Pocket Super Heroes" line. While it could be argued that these toys were intended to represent the Harry Osborn or Bart Hamilton versions of the Goblin, that seems highly unlikely.

The Norman Osborn incarnation of the Goblin also appeared in various Spider-Man cartoons years and years after he'd died in the comics. He appeared in such shows as Spider-Man (1981), Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends (1981), and the later animated series titled Spider-Man (1994).

And of course, the Goblin's twisted persona has lived on through later incarnations and successors:

1. Green Goblin II (Harry Osborn): After his father's death, Harry went mad and became the Goblin himself (wearing the traditional Goblin costume). Eventually, he was cured, but years later went totally over the edge, and died as a result of using his father's stength-enhancing formula.

2. Green Goblin III (Bart Hamilton): While treating Harry Osborn for his insanity, Hamilton learned all of the Green Goblin's secrets, and decided to become the Goblin himself (wearing the traditional Goblin costume). He was killed by one of his own bombs while battling Spider-Man and Harry Osborn.

3. Hobgoblin I (Roderick Kingsley): After discovering one of Norman Osborn's old hideouts, a mystery man adapted the Green Goblin's costumes and equipment to become the Hobgoblin and gain incredible wealth and power. The modified costume is reminiscent of the Green Goblin's but the color scheme and details are very different. The Hobgoblin was seemingly killed after he was "revealed" to be Bugle reporter Ned Leeds, but years later, it was discovered that Leeds had been brainwashed into acting as a Hobgoblin stand-in by the real Hobgoblin, fashion mogul Roderick Kingsley.

4. Hobgoblin II (Arnold "Lefty" Donovan): A thug brainwashed into posing as the Hobgoblin by Kingsley in order to test the effects of Norman Osborn's strength-enhancing formula. The real Hobgoblin subsequently killed Donovan to keep him silent.

5. Hobgoblin III (Ned Leeds): Brainwashed into acting as a stand-in for the real Hobgoblin, killed when his identity was leaked by Kingsley in order to fake the Hobgoblin's demise.

6. Hobgoblin IV (Flash Thompson): Framed by the real Hobgoblin, later cleared of all charges.

7. Hobgoblin V (Jason Phillip Macendale): Formerly the mercenary known as Jack O'Lantern, Macendale hired the master assassin known as the Foreigner to kill the Hobgoblin after they became rivals. The subsequent murder of Ned Leeds (who was brainwashed and set up to die by the real Hobgoblin) led to Macendale taking on the Hobgoblin persona himself, and gave the costume a more ragged appearance and souped up the glider and weapons. After adopting a slightly different costume and getting some cybernetic implants, Macendale was killed in his prison cell by Roderick Kingsley (the original Hobgoblin), who came out of retirement to kill Macendale for disgracing the Hobgoblin's name.

8. Demogoblin: After Jason Macendale made a deal with the otherworldly creature known as N'Astirh to gain more power, he ended up with a hideous, goblin-esque face, as well. Eventually, Macendale was taken over by this demonic persona, which later separated itself from his body. The creature, which Spider-Man dubbed the "Demogoblin", originally wore Macendale's tattered Hobgoblin costume, but later switched to a variant with a different color scheme. The creature eventually died in combat with Spider-Man.

9. Green Goblin IV (Phil Urich): Some time after Harry Osborn's death, young Phil Urich, nephew of Daily Bugle reporter Ben Urich, stumbled onto Harry Osborn's secret Green Goblin headquarters when he and his uncle were evading some criminals, and accidentally spilled the Goblin Formula onto himself. Knowing that his uncle was still in trouble, Phil grabbed a prototype Green Goblin costume and glider and saved Ben from the thugs. Phil soon became the Goblin for kicks, and was even heroic from time to time. Eventually, during a battle with a mutant-hunting Sentinel robot, Phil's Goblin costume was irreparably damaged, and he decided to quit.

10. Green Goblin V (Nobody!): After Norman Osborn's return to power, he employed a mysterious new Green Goblin (dressed in the classic costume) to both secretly work for him and clear his name by "proving" that the Goblin was clearly not Norman. Eventually, Spider-Man unmasked the Goblin, only to discover that he was a clone...of nobody! (Actually, the original plan was that the new Goblin was to be a brainwashed Phil Urich, whom Norman was angry with for sullying the Goblin's name, but this idea was nixed.).

11. The "Gray Goblin" (Gabriel Stacy): The less said the better. Bastard love-child of Gwen Stacy and Norman Osborn, accelerated aging, injected Goblin formula into himself, kinda crazy. Wears a gray version of the original Green Goblin costume.

The Green Goblin (dead or alive) has become Spider-Man's primary foe in the comics, the movies, and other media.

And really, it's all because he killed Gwen Stacy, and no one can let go of that fact.

So, what do we have here? What does all this mean? Who ARE these people that we've spent so much time talking about?


Gwen was a strong-willed, deeply loving and intelligent young woman, whom Peter Parker was lucky to have in his life. First and foremost in Gwen's own life was her concern and caring for her family and friends. She served as the kind and compassionate cooling rod in a somewhat unstable social group on the verge of meltdown from time to time (due to problems between Peter, Mary Jane, Harry, and Flash). When she first met Peter, she was irritated by his seeming snobbery and lack of attention to her, but gradually warmed up to him, and they fell deeply in love. They became soulmates, and marriage between them was inevitable.

Virtually all of the problems and setbacks in their relationship were caused by *PETER* and his lack of honesty regarding his secret identity (A notion which ties into a classic male fantasy in popular fiction--the male hero pines for the unreachable, perfect woman, whom he places on a pedestal, only to have his own inadequacies cause problems between them. Despite this, he constantly strives to be worthy of her love.). Gwen's tragic death was solely the result of her love for Peter Parker and that love being used as a weapon against him, nothing more. Her only crimes were that she loved Peter Parker, and perhaps that she was too good, too pure, and thus unable to see the flaws in those around her.


Norman started out as a ruthless businessman, one who was not above treachery. After his chemical accident, his mind became warped, and he became more and more ego-driven (and insane). The Green Goblin's sole motivation was the pursuit of ultimate wealth and power--absolute power over everything and everyone. He placed no value on any human life, save his own...and, to a much lesser extent, his son's. To him, people were merely tools to be used to further his own mad and grandiose ambitions. He had no visible interest in women, and in his supreme male egotism, may very well have been violently misogynistic. He also viewed his OWN SON, Harry, as a spineless weakling, and could not believe that such a "disappointment" could have come from someone as glorious" and powerful as himself.

After losing his memories of his life as the Goblin, Osborn reverted back to what he had been before, a ruthless businessman and a respected member of the community (with his dormant memories always threatening to break free). Eventually, his son's drug problems and his own hatred for Peter Parker caused Osborn to snap for good, and so he plunged fully over the edge into undiluted, psychopathic, megalomaniacal insanity, triggering a series of events that led to his own gruesome death.

I think that's all very accurate and obvious, wouldn't you say? And there's LOTS and LOTS of evidence to back it up.


As stated above, after the Clone Saga the Spider-Man books were cancelled and restarted with # 1 issues (although later, the issue numbers as they would have been had the initial volume of Amazing continued would also be featured on the covers). Spider-Man's early history was also revamped by John Byrne in the controversial Spider-Man: Chapter One series, which has since been swept out of the official canon (as Sins Past will hopefully be). After a long run on Volume 2 of Amazing Spider-Man, in which Mary Jane was seemingly killed off, artist Byrne and writer Howard Mackie left, and MJ was brought back soon after.

By the way, the pre-and post-reboot period also introduced Gwen Stacy's cousins, Paul and Jill (who had a bit of a crush on Peter), and reintroduced her uncle, Arthur (who made a very brief cameo way back in ASM # 94-95, when Gwen went to England). At no point did Mary Jane ever mention to them that they have relatives in the form of Gwen's illegitimate twins. Surely, she would think that the twins and the aforementioned Stacy family members would be happy to know about the existence of still more members of the family?

After the Clone Saga, it was a difficult time for Spider-Man. The books went through the aforementioned stories, but not a lot actually happened. It was as though stagnation was better than any radical changes, changes which could lead to something worse than the Clone Saga. Well, that something came soon after the reboot, and it came in the form of someone who was hailed as a "savior" to Spider-Man early on in his run.

In 2001, after the post-Byrne/Mackie era, J. Michael Straczynski (of Babylon 5 fame) took over The Amazing Spider-Man with issue # 30 (471 by the old numbering). Although JMS was a "celebrity" writer, I had hopes that he might get Spider-Man back on course. Indeed, those first few issues were pretty decent, and JMS was hailed as Spider-Man's "savior". ASM Vol. 2 # 30 even brought back the classic Amazing cover logo (replacing that jagged monstrosity from the Clone Saga). He also reunited Peter and Mary Jane, who had been separated for a while. However, it has become clear to me that he's very much in the vein of most writers these days: trying to write the book in his own style, with little regard for what has come before, and trying to shoehorn himself into the character's history. And he's made a mess that someone else will have to clean up down the road. There are two breeds of comic book writer: the writer who wants to tell good stories in *service* of a character (and using the characters' personalities as launching pads for stories), and the writer who wants to *use* the character as a tool to tell *their* stories. Guess which category JMS fits into?

All in all, JMS' run has featured an abundance of mystical foes and conflicts (Magic has never worked well in the Spider-Man books. He's more of a science-fiction/soap opera-lite kinda guy.), and a lack of attention to the works of previous writers, preferring to completely rework the characters' history and make it all his own. JMS' version of Spider-Man is constantly swearing, fighting magic-powered foes, and making jokes that aren't really his style.

Speaking of swearing, the sheer number of swear words in Amazing Spider-Man has gone up considerably since JMS took over. Now, the use of such foul language may be seen by some micro-brained aging fanboys as more "realistic", but it pulls the book into a different tone. Also, Spider-Man has rarely sworn in 40-some years, and all of a sudden he's become a pottymouth. Sure, the censorship of the Comics Code Authority had something to do with the lack of swearing all that time, but you can't just take something that's been established--Peter Parker rarely swears--and turn it on its head (Well, if you're JMS, you think you can...). It feels deeply, deeply wrong to me, and totally inappropriate for what SHOULD be an all-ages character. Sure, proanity has become a staple of our culture, but that doesn't make it right. Fact of the matter is, anyone can swear. It takes intellect and class (traits which Peter Parker used to possess) to conduct oneself without resorting to foul language to get one's point across.

From ASM # 30/471-514 (a span of 43 issues and 3 years), there have been an astonishing 88 instances of foul language, a *major* change from 40 years and 470 issues with little-to-no swearing (if you counted up all the swear words in Amazing Spider-Man from 1962-2001, you'd probably get only a handful). I would have included the present-day stuff in this tally, but I quit after ASM # 514.

The JMS/Amazing Spider-Man Swear Word Tally:

"Hell": 39 times
"Damn" or "Damned": 36 times
"Ass" or "Asses": 4 times
"Bastard": 4 times
"Bitch": 1 time
"Pissed": 1 time
"Chrissakes": 1 time
"Thweet Jethuth!" ("Sweet Jesus!"): 1 time

And, of course, how could we forget an incomplete "Shi--": 1 time.

A whopping 43 of these occurrences have come from Peter Parker/Spider-Man himself. Hardly the character several generations of readers grew up with. The guy who was intelligent and kind, but who could still be a total wiseguy when in costume. But he didn't have to resort to foul language.

Fact of the matter is, Spider-Man DOES NOT SWEAR (with very rare exceptions in the past).

Also, the thought balloons that Spidey and writer Stan Lee made so popular in the old days are mostly gone, replaced with pseudo-Frank Miller first-person narrative captions. The thing about thought balloons is that they give the reader a window into the character's immediate thoughts (although the balloons can be clunky, especially when used for exposition). With captions, it's as if the character is talking directly to the reader and leading the reader through the events, sort of (Except it's in present tense--for example--"He hits me hard, so I hit him harder"-- that kind of thing.). Spider-Man was the character who really popularized thought balloons in superhero comics, and now he's been stripped of them.

He's also been stripped of his supporting cast. Once upon a time, Spider-Man had the best supporting cast *ever*. Aunt May, J. Jonah Jameson, Flash Thompson, Betty Brant, and on and on. To be fair, JMS inherited this problem, but he hasn't even made an attempt to give Spidey a supporting cast, or bring back any old cast members. In interviews, JMS has said that he felt Spidey was being crowded out of his own book by the cast, and while this is a danger, I feel that as long as the balance is right, the supporting cast is integral to the book. If a lonely guy (whose is surrounded only by his wife and his aunt) is running around playing superhero, where's the heart? The supporting cast and the very pro-friends/pro-family feel of the book has been a vital component of Spider-Man's success from the beginning. Many of the very best Spider-Man stories deal with the supporting cast's human dramas and conflicts, which are just as interesting as the super-heroic aspects of the series. Spider-Man is not a lonely vigilante like the Punisher. He has friends and family and co-workers. He has arguments and reconciliations. He's a real person, with real problems!

Here's a rundown of what I feel are the big errors/problems in the first chunk of JMS' run (some are personal opinion, some are cold, hard fact):

Amazing Spider-Man # 30/471:

Pg. 5, panel 1:

SPIDER-MAN (thought balloon): "The FF have pockets in their uniforms. Reed Richards' alone are huge!"

To my knowledge, the Fantastic Four don't have pockets in their uniforms.

Pg. 9 shows us a never-before-seen diner (the 4-Star Diner) that Peter used to hang out at (Retcon! Why not the Coffee Bean or the Silver Spoon?). We see a flashback of young Peter (with glasses, so he's still in high school), Flash Thompson...and Harry Osborn and Gwen Stacy (who Peter didn't meet until college). To be fair, this may be the error of artist John Romita Jr.

We also see Peter going back to his high school, PS 108, which, until now, was always known as Midtown High.

Spider-Man later meets a man with powers similar to his named Ezekiel, who makes Peter wonder if his powers came from something other than a radioactive spider bite (the spider may have been trying to give him the powers, only to be zapped by radiation). This is JMS' pointless idea that the spider that bit Peter needed an origin and motivation (I can see it now--"The Adventures of the Amazing Spider, Before it Bit Peter Parker".). Seems to me like JMS thought, "Gee, a radioactive spider bite isn't realistic enough--and I didn't come up with that idea, therefore it sucks--so let's make Peter Parker the latest in a long line of Spider-Men, worshipping at the eight feet of the almighty Spider-Totem." UHHHHGGGHHHH!!!!

This is symptomatic of the new breed of "professionals" running the industry today. These are the fanboys who have all sorts of irrelevant and irreverent questions to ask which just aren't what superhero comics need to be about. These are the people who really don't give a flying fig about the characters and their history, or the work that has preceded them. They just want to be "revolutionary", make their "mark" on the characters, or do it in their own "style". Who cares if Spider-Man had a definitive origin, powers, cast, and history, as envisioned by his past creators, right?

This issue also introduced Morlun, a vampiric new villain with incredible strength and stamina who...*sigh*...feeds on the energies of "totem"-powered heroes. And his next target is Spider-Man.

From a Newsarama interview with JMS:

NRAMA: "Any changes to the status quos of the iconic heroes of Marvel and DC comes with it criticism from fans who don't like anyone messing with established canon. With your earlier revelations about the nature of Peter's powers and the animal totems and now further mystical goings on in the “The Other”, you seem to almost rewriting Peter's simple "radioactive Spider" origin.

First of all, why the change and introduction of the mystical elements? Did you also have reservations about Spider-Man's original origin, despite its almost revered nature?"

JMS: "I've never had a problem with Spidey's origin. My job, in coming into the book, was to try and look at things in new ways without actually changing anything or disrespecting the work of those who came before me. The question I asked was...was Peter destined to be bitten by the spider? Was it an accident or was it fate?

Is that a mystical element, or a philosophical one? It's not like I introduced some wacky idea that nobody's ever heard of before. Notions of predestination and fate are as much a part of our culture as the air we breathe. I sometimes see people complaining about "all this mystical crap", but that's really a misnomer, and I don't see that radical a contradiction. In one of the last Ezekiel stories, the shaman Peter meets says, "You can tell me all the reasons WHY the sun rises in the morning, all the laws of thermodynamics and celestial rotation...and I can tell you that the sun rises in the morning because it is DESTINED to rise in the morning.” Is that really such a contradiction?" I didn't think so then, and I don't think so now.

The notion of the spider as part of his consciousness is also not that far a reach given that he has all these other's as though some people said, "Okay, he can take 18% of what a spider is but 20% is completely out of line." Why? Why not 20%? Or 25% as long as it stems from and is consistent with what happened in the first place. And the totemistic aspects of the story are elements that Peter has never really bought into. He sees them as metaphor, and an interesting aspect of all this, but he's never, ever signed off on them as being the end-all answer. Nor have I.

So no, I've never had a problem with the origin, it's one of the classic origins of all time, and I have no desire to muck about with it. I might tilt the mirror a little, to get some different ways of looking at it, but change it? No. Never."

NRAMA: "We make it a point never to assume online criticism represents the majority of readership, but in a case where you're are changing something so familiar to people, do you accept it, expect it, ignore it? All of the above?"

JMS: "Again, I disagree with the premise of the question. I don't think I've actually changed anything that couldn't be reversed or reconsidered later. I've added to the filigree around it, but not changed it. As to the reactions online...I'm very cautious in what I take in from that environment. There was a great cartoon published years ago in, I think, the New Yorker, where a kid hasn't spoken for his whole life up to age six, then one day at breakfast he says, "The eggs are cold." The parents are astounded...why hasn't he spoken before? "Because until now, everything was fine."

People are always more quick to say what they don't like than to put forth or defend what they on balance you're always going to find more negative than positive discourse on just about any topic.

More specifically to this...again, you have to be very careful to give proper weight to what you see. Are there ten different complaints on ten different boards, or ten complaints from three people who go to every board covering that character and say essentially the same things, over and over, giving the sense of greater numbers than there actually kind of an echo-chamber effect? I've seen too many cases online when someone says they don't like something - any book, really - and someone says, "No, I liked it," and the others shout him down, deriding his opinion until they basically drive out everyone except those who want to sit around chewing on people.

Now, is that an all-encompassing statement? No, of course not, there's a lot of valid and well-considered criticism out there. Is the preceding statement true more than it is false? Yes. And that's the irony, by the way...critics feel free to criticize you and your work all they want, but the moment you turn around and criticize them, that's behaving out of line, that's being intolerant of criticism, when it has nothing to do with criticism and everything to do with trying to maintain a level playing field. There are a very small but very vocal bunch of guys who love to punch everybody else, but if you punch back, they go crying back to mama and screaming foul. Sorry, but the street has to go both ways if it's going to work properly.

Most online fans (certainly the folks reading this on Newsarama) don't fall into this category; they love a certain book or character, they have a proper and vested interest in seeing that character treated properly, and they can be your best allies if you wander off the road. They understand what all of us who work with Marvel understand - that the only reason we write these books is that we're fans as well. And fans can disagree. That's the nature of fandom. The key is to be open to all kinds of ideas, whether you (or I) initially agree with them or not.

Poisoning the well a bit is the degree of disinformation out there, which gains currency through repetition. For instance, there's the myth that I told fans who didn't like the 9/11 Amazing Spider-Man issue to move out of their parents basement and stop breeding. Not true. There was one specific person who was pissed off because he didn't understand why Marvel was making such a big deal out of 9/11 when Galactus and the Sentinels have destroyed New York many times over.

I'm sorry, but if you actually believe that attention should not be paid to a real-life disaster because it's been done in the comics, then you do need to move out of your parents' basement. But what a few of the online critics did was to take that out of context and say I said it of all fans. Never happened. Never said it. But because a few people are determined to make trouble, and stir the pot, and make me (or somebody else) look bad...they put it out there, and people read it, and think that's what happened, and think, "Boy, that JMS is a jerk," which would be absolutely true if I actually said it.

Finally...and I hope this will be the last of it for a bit...I've learned over the years that any time you do any kind of writing, you're going to have a bell-curve shaped response. Some people will love it uncritically, which doesn't really serve you any more than the similar number of people who will hate it uncritically. The majority of people will be somewhere toward the middle. As long as you keep most of the people in the middle, or slanted slightly toward the like-it end of the spectrum, you're doing what you're supposed to be doing. Because you can't do anything worthwhile without honking off someone. It's simply not possible.

Though it's a bit harsher than how I come at this, on balance I tend to side with what Teddy Roosevelt said: "It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause, who at best knows achievement and who at the worst if he fails at least fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."

So, what I take from the online discussions is a sense of the room, and a tendency to look for actual, well-founded criticism. If someone says just "It sucks," then I have to ignore that because you can't do otherwise, you can't argue matters of taste. If someone says, "I didn't like it because B did not proceed logically from A, this aspect over here doesn't make sense," and performs what every writing instructor understands as constructive criticism, my heart leaps up in happiness because I love to learn from informed criticism. If someone can punch an actual logic hole in what I've just written, I love it, and I learn from it, and I will move heaven and earth to correct that flaw in my writing. But there's a difference between matters of personal taste and a flawed work, and there are always a few folks who don't get the distinction."

Well, well, well.

JMS says that "the only reason we write these books is that we're fans as well".

That's saying a lot. There was once a time when writing comics was a JOB, a PROFESSION, something done to PAY BILLS, NOT a fanboy jerk-off contest. Certainly, in order to write something, a writer must LIKE what they are writing about and must be knowledgeable about it (hence, a "fan"), but it is still a JOB, not a HOBBY. Thus, it requires at least a small degree of professionalism.

And the man's hubris knows no bounds. He did not "tilt the mirror" on Spider-Man's origin. He shattered it. This new interpretation is not something Peter Parker sees as a "metaphor" or a "possibility". As of The Other (which we'll get to below), all the "mystical crap" has proven to be 100% true. Peter's powers now have a spiritual side (even a voice from beyond that speaks to him), and he's retroactively had this bizarre "Totemistic" spider-presence inside him all along (cuz he's the latest in a long line of Spider-Men chosen by the Spider-God), but has "refused to embrace it"...until now.

But no, that's NOT a departure from an accidental radioactive spider bite, is it? That's NOT disrespecting the past works of others, is it??? He still got bitten, right??? No one cares about the details, right????

The man is either delusional, or he is a liar. Take your pick.

JMS: "My job, in coming into the book, was to try and look at things in new ways without actually changing anything or disrespecting the work of those who came before me."

....this is a flat-out LIE.

In ASM # 31/472 (Pg. 3, panel 3), we see Gwen Stacy once again in a flashback to Peter's *high school* days.

ASM # 32/473: Ezekiel says that Peter's animal-inspired enemies (Dr. Octopus, the Lizard, the Rhino, etc.) are also powered by "Totems", and that's why they're always after Spider-Man. Bleh! Most of Peter's foes started out with their own agendas, and didn't even care about Spidey until he busted up their operations. There's no mystical energy field that controls their destinies! It's all a lot of simple tricks and nonsense! Totally absurd.

Pg. 17, panel 4 has a flashback to Spidey's origin. The dialogue as the Burglar runs past him here is:

GUARD: "Stop! Thief!"

SPIDER-MAN: "Not my problem."

Additional dialogue also reinforces the idea that Peter was 15 at the time of the spider bite ("I was 15 years old."). Keep that in mind.

ASM # 35/476:

Morlun and Spidey battle, as the vampiric villain wants to drain Spider-Man of his energy. Spidey notes that he's never fought anyone as strong as Morlun, and that he hits harder than the Hulk (if this were so, Spidey would be a bloody smear on the ground). After nearly getting killed, Spidey injects his blood with radiation, and as a result, Morlun gets deathly ill when trying to feed on him (since this dilutes the purity of Spider-Man's "totemistic energies"). Uuuggghhh.

Later, a battered Peter goes home and falls asleep. Soon after, Aunt May walks in and discovers Peter's shredded Spider-Man costume, and finally learns the truth...and Peter's spider-sense never goes off (as it has before in similar situations, even when he's been asleep). This also radically alters the tone of the series, and changes Aunt May's character (not that she's done well since she came back from the dead...).

In ASM # 36/477 (The September 11th issue, Pg. 9), we see several super-villains in New York at Ground Zero...and Doctor Doom cries. I'm aware this was a special issue, but Victor Von Doom would *never*, ever do that, even under those circumstances. And JMS has the audacity to imply that the terrorists' actions on that horrible day were somehow the fault of these United States of America (not unlike Bill Maher, whose talk show, Politically Incorrect, was cancelled by ABC as a result of his similar rantings).

ASM # 38/479 deals with Aunt May's knowledge of Peter's secret. They have a long talk, and all the issues between them are dealt with...

...completely undercutting 40 years of history. This is the kind of closure that might be okay for the very *last* Spider-Man story ever, but that's not what this is. Spider-Man is motivated by his guilt of Ben Parker's death, his sense of responsibility in using his powers for the good of others, and his fear that May will learn his secret (and maybe die from the shock). That is the core concept of his character. So, what does JMS do? He eliminates two out of those three vital elements.

Also, we get another flashback to the incident at the TV studio, but this time, the dialogue has changed:

Pg. 10, panel 2:

GUARD: "Stop him!"

SPIDER-MAN: "Why? What's in it for me?"

Pg. 12-13: We get a retconned account of Uncle Ben's death. Any fan who's read ASM (vol. 1) # 1 or # 200 knows that Ben and May were together in the Parker home when Ben was shot and killed, and he died in her arms. Well, in this new version, Ben and May have an argument, he leaves the house, and she "never saw him again" (presumably, this is an echo of the first Spider-Man film, in which Ben is killed outside the New York Public Library by a carjacker). Now MAYcan feel guilty about Ben's death so Peter doesn't have to? Totally absurd.

ASM # 45/486: JMS actually pokes fun at fan complaints regarding his whole "the spider that bit Peter needs an origin" idea with a discussion between Mr. Devereaux, the producer of the Lobster-Man movie (which MJ is working on), and Mr. Fettes, a writer. How..."funny". *koff* Is a "professional" comic book really the place to poke fun at the fanbase's criticism of one's writing?

Pg. 4, panel 7 through Pg. 5, panels 1-2:

FETTES: "They don't like the Lobster-Man origin. They said it was stupid and improbable and not deep enough. What the hell does that mean?"

MARY JANE: "How was he created?"

FETTES: "By a bite from a radioactive lobster."

DEVEREAUX: "Here we go again..."

FETTES: "*They* want something bigger, like he was summoned to the job by...get this...some kind of Giant Lobster God!"

DEVEREAUX: " reasonable..."

FETTES: "Reasonable? It's moronic. Everyone on the internet who heard the rumor about this thinks it's stupid."

DEVEREAUX: "People on the internet thing everything is stupid until they see it...then the next thing you know they're having it tattooed on their butts. Look Fettes...radiation is passe. It is so last-century. We have to move on, create new myths for a new audience. Besides, if it's a Lobster God rather than a one-time-only accident we can have all kinds of sequels...Lobster-Boy and Lobster-Girl and the Evil Lobster-Man, you name it. We have to deal with the real world here, Fettes."

JMS really shouldn't be using The Amazing Spider-Man as a forum to defend his stories. And the fact that he's dumping on the work that came before him is really insulting. ACCEPT THE CONCEITS OF THE CHARACTERS, RADIOACTIVE SPIDER BITE AND ALL, OR FIND ANOTHER JOB/HOBBY.

ASM # 47/488 (Pg. 3, panel 1):

PETER: "If my teachers hadn't taken the time to see something of value in me, and encourage me in science and photography, who knows where I would've ended up."

Wrong. Peter stumbled into photography quite by accident, since he needed money and saw that Jonah Jameson wanted pictures of the Vulture (ASM vol. 1# 2). In fact, his dual life as both Spider-Man and a photojournalist has often *prevented* him from working in the field he should be in, science.

Pg. 13, panel 4: While fighting Shathra (Or is that "Sh**hra"?):

SPIDER-MAN (thought): "For the first time in my life, I want to kill something."

Wrong-o, JMS. Spider-Man has been driven into a murderous rage many times over the years (Remember when he nearly beat the Green Goblin to death in ASM # 122? Remember when he crippled Stan Carter in Spectacular # 110? Remember when he wanted to kill Vermin in Spectacular Spider-Man's "The Child Within"? Remember when he violently attacked Ben Reilly in Spectacular # 226 after finding out he was "really" a clone? Remember when he tried to kill the Green Goblin in Peter Parker: Spider-Man # 75?Need I go on?).

In ASM # 52/493 (Pg. 21), Peter drives a car. Great, except he's never been shown to be a good driver...and he DOESN'T HAVE A DRIVER'S LICENSE (although he presumably got a motorcycle license when he bought his cycle back in the old days)! Remember the Spider-Mobile fiasco from the original Clone Saga?

ASM # 54/495 (Pg. 5, panel 7): "There are moments I'm glad I have a spider on my chest. The heavy embroidery is the only thing keeping my heart from exploding."

Unless Peter's changed the material his costume is composed of, this is wrong. The colors, symbols, and web-pattern on his costume have always been *silk-screened* (with colored dyes), not embroidered.

On the last page of ASM # 54/495, it is revealed that Peter donated a large sum of money to PS 108, with the result being a plaque stating that an adjoining building is the "Future Site of The Gwen Stacy Memorial Library, Funds Provided by Anonymous Donor". Nice. JMS showed a little respect to Gwendy, with no hint of the horrors to come.

ASM # 58/499: As Spidey gets lost in time, he goes back to his origin. There, we see Flash Thompson, Harry Osborn, and (presumably) Liz Allan in the crowd at the science exhibit. First of all, the beginning of Amazing Fantasy # 15 shows Peter going to the science demonstration *alone*, as Flash and the others take off to party. Second, Harry Osborn did *not* attend high school with Peter!

For ASM # "59", the numbering system finally goes back to that of the original volume, so this is ASM # 500. Good.

Pg. 2, panel 1:

SPIDER-MAN: "I'm looking at me at 17, as the irradiated spider falls toward my hand."

Gee, it's been well-established that Peter was *15* years old at the time of the spider bite, not 17. JMS is contradicting himself. This is neither the first nor the last time this will happen...), because in ASM # 32/473, Peter (correctly) said he was 15 at the time.

Pgs. 12-19 feature Spider-Man traveling through time and having to relive some his first battles with the Sandman (ASM # 4), the Vulture (ASM # 2), the Lizard (ASM # 6), and Electro (ASM # 9).

Aside from the fact that as portrayed here, the battles are not in chronological order, the circumstances and the villains' dialogue do not match the originals.

Pg. 20 recounts "Bennet" (JMS spells his name wrong here. It's "Bennett") Brant's death from ASM # 11, and has different dialogue for Betty than what appeared in the original story.

Pgs. 21-22 show Spidey's first battles with Mysterio (ASM # 13) and the Incredible Hulk (ASM # 14). The same problems as on pages 12-19 apply, as well as the Hulk saying "Hulk Smash!" (Which he never said in ASM # 14 because it wasn't his catchphrase yet, and because he wasn't that dumb yet.).

*Sigh*. Pages 24-25 recount the death of none other than Gwen Stacy in ASM # 121.

First of all, Gwen is *conscious* in this skewed version, unlike in ASM # 121.

Second, she screams, "Help!", and then "Heeeelllp!" as she falls of the bridge. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

On pages 35-38, Dr. Strange gives Peter a birthday present: Five minutes with the dearly departed Uncle Ben Parker. This feels *deeply* wrong. It brings a sense of closure to the series that shouldn't be there. This might be okay if it were the *last* Spider-Man story ever, but it isn't. The whole *point* of the series is that Peter lost someone he can never get back because of his own selfish actions. Getting a chance to be forgiven by Ben's ghost (or whatever) eases his guilt. Between this and his heart-to-heart with Aunt May in ASM # 38/479, he might as well give up being Spider-Man, because one of his primary motivations--guilt--is gone (or lessened a great deal). He also swears in front of Ben and even calls him "Ben" instead of "Uncle Ben". Does all this seem right to you?

Pg. 36, panel 2: We get an account of Ben's death from Ben himself (or his ghost or whatever):

BEN: "I was just coming back to May, we'd had a fight, and I was walking in the door..."

This implies that Ben simply walked in the door and was shot (this sorta jives with the whole "your uncle surprised him" line from Amazing Fantasy # 15, but not with anything else), but we saw the circumstances of Ben's death in ASM # 200, and this doesn't match. Retcon!!!!

ASM # 501 (Pgs. 21-22) shows a "mass" grave marker for the Parkers. Richard and Mary's (Peter's parents) and Uncle Ben's names are on this singular marker, with one open spot (presumably for Aunt May). Wrong. They've all been shown in the past to have separate graves/markers (such as Ben and May's side-by-side markers in ASM # 400, and Richard and Mary's markers in Spectacular Spider-Man # 183).

ASM # 504 (Pg. 1) Spider-Man and Loki (the megalomaniacal Asgardian God and the Mighty Thor's evil stepbrother) sit on a roof and eat hot dogs. Totally absurd. Even Wizard magazine cited this as one of the weirdest comic book moments of 2004 (and that's saying something).

ASM # 506 revisits the Spider-Totem origin nonsense, and tries to explain Peter's spider-sense along those lines. More pointless quantification and "realism" injected into what is supposed to be a fun fantasy book.

ASM # 507: (pgs. 16-17) Flash, Liz, and Harry are again shown at the science demonstration from Amazing Fantasy # 15 in a flashback.

It is also revealed in this issue that Peter was chosen by the Spider-Totem to receive spider-powers because he was an underdog who was full of rage, and who could lash out at his tormentors instead of trying to capitalize on his power like others might. Uhhh...yeah. Sure. Could you remind me just *who* exactly became a television star for several weeks (maybe even months) after he was bitten by a radioactive spider? What's next? Will it be revealed that the Spider-Totem somehow *arranged* Ben Parker's death in order to get Peter onto the right track????

ASM # 508 *finally* ends the whole Totem/Ezekiel arc. It also shows the retconned mass Parker grave from ASM # 501, and again shows Harry Osborn in a flashback to Peter's high school days. It also cops out and says that the "Totem origin" for Spider-Man's powers may or may not be the correct one (Can't stand by your convictions, JMS?). Bleh.

The thing about this whole "Totem" idea is that it's more mystical claptrap (Spider-Man has always been a *science-fiction*-based hero, like most of the other classic Marvel characters), and it also means that Peter Parker wasn't an 'everyman" who was *accidentally* bitten by that spider. Marvel's classic heroes have almost all been *ordinary people* who accidentally became superheroes (a high school student, a surgeon, a lawyer, a doctor, a group of teenagers from different backgrounds attending a special school, etc.), whereas most of DC's classic heroes were either aliens, demi-gods, scientists, test pilots, cops, or millionaire playboys. This is just one more thing in a long line trying to make Spider-Man unique instead of universal.

So, to review, in his run prior to (and during) Sins Past, JMS gave us, among other things:

A Ramirez-type character (from the Highlander films) to mentor Peter.
A bizarre new origin for Spider-Man, which is supposed to be more "realistic" and "deeper" than an accidental radioactive spider bite.
Morlun, the one-note vampire-rip-off who has a boring name and whose fashion sense isn't very flashy for a Spider-Man villain.
Shathra, another boring, mystical character.
A new version of Doctor Octopus.
A Maffia version of the Hulk.
The Gray Goblin and Gwen Stacy Lite.
Norman Osborn being behind everything. Again.

So basically, just a bunch of villains who either died, or were rip-offs of other characters.

And immediately after Sins Past, a new villain who was basically a rip-off of the Molten Man. A rip-off that took up four issues. *Four*.


Okay, here we go. The whole frickin' point of this essay: a little monstrosity called "Sins Past". I was planning on quitting Amazing around this time ASM # 509 came out, as I'd grown sick and tired of JMS' run. Still I decided to pick up Sins Past and give him one more chance. What a mistake that was! Rest assured, I have not bought a single first-run Spider-Man comic (or Marvel comic) since ASM # 514.

Still, I don't agree with all the petty and spiteful attacks that have been made against JMS and his personal life. Be critical of the *work*, not the *man*.

Anyway, to warm things up, here is a collection of quotes and interviews with JMS and Quesada (with my own comments throughout):

JMS post, 12/29/2003:

I always try to break up criticism into fair and unfair, productive and counter-productive, and I think that's a fair criticism. When I came onto the book, it had been angst ridden and kind of a downer for so long that one of the things I wanted to do was make it a fun book, the kind of book you feel good about reading.

Of course, the trouble with this is that it necessitates less ambitious stories because you only get the big stories by putting your character up a tree and throwing really big rocks at him.

Having said that, though, I think I'm nearing the limit of what I can handle on primarily fun stories...I think it's about time to start throwing rocks at him again.

We all come up snake-eyes sooner or later, y'know....


So he visualizes the process of telling "ambitious" stories by imagining he's throwing rocks at a classic character? Bah. As we'll later see, JMS describes Gwen Stacy as "the biggest rock I could find".

How "respectful". How "dignified". That's not drama. That's not suspense. That's *attacking* the characters and the conceits of their world. Ugh!

And how has he made Spider-Man "fun"? Bloody battles with Shathra and Morlun? Lots of swearing? A mentor, Ezekiel, who turns out to be a Spider-God-worshiping villain? No supporting cast? Peter being mutilated and then turning into a murderous spider-totem-monster???




Here are some of Joe Quesada's comments from an interview at Newsarama:

NRAMA: "What was your initial response when JMS pitched that idea?"

JQ: "Well, you'd have to start a bit before the idea. One day Joe and I were discussing Spidey's future and what approach to take. Should we plan a big event in 2004, what kind of event would it be?? I mentioned to Joe that from what I could see having now been in comics almost 14 years, memorable Spider-Man events are constructed differently than X-Men events. To me, the best X-Men events are very much event driven for lack of a better word, big blockbuster movie type stuff. The best Spider-Man events have been more soap opera driven, "soap opera" in a very traditional Stan Lee sort of way. Stan was and to this day is a very big advocate of keeping things stirred up so I asked Joe to think along those lines. As we spoke about this I could see Joe's evil genius going to work which is pretty impressive since we were discussing it over e-mail. It was only a short time later that I had an e-mail from Joe laying out the seeds of this idea he had that at it's core was a Stan Lee-esque soap opera like no other. I was blown away."

Yeah, sure. Sins Past is *just* like a Stan Lee story. Sheesh.

JQ: "Internally I mention the concept to our editorial staff, there was two basic reactions. One was people blown away; the other was shock and awe. The shock and awe was the same exact thing that I saw when we first mentioned Origin nearly four years ago, “You can't do that!" I knew right at that moment that we had a hit on our hands. What's funny is that I've seen that look within the office at least three other times when discussing our plans for 2005 and 2006, man it's going to be a great couple of years for all our True Believers!"

Would these be the same "True Believers" about whom Quesada has laughingly relished the thought of "pissing off" more than once?

JQ: 'Sins Past' has more than delivered everything that it promised and thanks to Joe's genius, it's laying the seeds for some incredible Spider-Man stories yet to come."

Stories like "Sins Remembered", which is quite awful in and of itself?

NRAMA: "At the same time though, there are fans out there that are literally angry at the changes those who feel betrayed by the return of a dead character, likewise by the revelations about Gwen; and angered by the death of their favorite characters. From your chair, how do you deal with that? Is it a good thing to treat characters in a manner that some readers will see as “disrespectful?"

JQ: "These are characters in a fictional world, they have been created by us flesh and blood folk to serve as tools in helping us convey stories that entertain, anger, sadden, enlighten, etc, etc. It's my job as Marvel EiC to keep Marvel fans on the edge of their seats, to make sure they don't know what to expect next, to make sure that the Marvel U is and exciting and unpredictable world and to do it with the best creators in the world. It's not my job to keep the status quo; someone else can have that job! Fans will always complain, it is part of being a fanatic, but as I've often said before, think of all the great moments in comics, think of all the watershed moments, what do they all have in common? A radical change to the status quo.

Yes, that's the ticket, Quesada! Radical changes always mean a sales boost! Look at the spectator boom (and the Clone Saga)! Oh, wait. Those were *temporary* sales spikes, and the books were left gutted and the characters mangled. Yup. Those fanatics are idiots to complain. Yessiree.

NRAMA: "So, killing Aunt May (for real) would be off limits, given both her importance to the mythos and her continued presence in the films…but after that? Obviously, Gwen’s history was something that could be used as an element?"

JQ: "Yes. Changing some of the Gwen backstory does little to affect the Peter/Spider-Man world outside of watching Peter grow as a character and the cast grow as people. It changes our way of thinking about Gwen, but she's been deader longer than many of our readers have been alive. Also, I think that when the story is finally told it makes her that more human to us and especially to Peter. I don't think he'll love her any less in the end if anything, this just brings her closer. In many ways, the goal behind our comics is for us to convey many heroic or valuable lessons, they are modern day morality plays to some extent. Peter forgives and understands what happened with Gwen, yet some readers can’t seem to get past it, I find that interesting but hopefully some people find it enlightening. I can’t tell you how many women I talk to that find it completely engaging and telling."

Little to affect Peter and his world? LITTLE???? The fact that his girlfriend cheated on him with his worst enemy and had his children and now those children are on the loose and MJ lied to Peter for years and years doesn't change anything????

Spider-Man has always been about people, emotions, and consequences. This dreck is saying that there are no consequences regarding Gwen's indiscretion and no emotional consequences for Peter discovering this little factoid. Bah!

And Gwen *was* human. It seems Quesada and JMS feel that being "more human" means having to cheat on one's true love and make all sorts of other "realistic" mistakes. Would Captain America be "more human" if he suddenly became a Communist? Would Reed Richards be "more human" if he spontaneously became a drug addict? Would Jean Grey be "more human" if she quit the X-Men and became a porn star? Believe it or not, there are genuinely good people out there in this world, and comic book super-heroes are supposed to represent the BEST in us. But I guess the best of us aren't "realistic" enough to be represented in the Marvel Comics of the new millennium. Bah!

And just what is the moral "lesson" of this story? To instantly forgive a cheating girlfriend? To stay with a cheater no matter what?

And that whole "I can’t tell you how many women I talk to that find it completely engaging and telling" thing seems like total B.S. to me.

And from an interview with JMS at Fanboyplanet:

Fanboy Planet: "Judging from internet reaction to the latest storyline in Amazing Spider-Man, you’ve alienated almost as many fans as you brought onboard in the first place. Did you know you’d be causing such an uproar? How do you respond to fans so angry they claim they’re dropping the book?"

J. Michael Straczynski: "I don't buy the premise behind the question. The thing about the internet is that you have to be careful not to confuse volume with numbers.

There are some folks who are very visibly and audibly perturbed at the storyline, and they are all over the place registering their annoyance. You see the same people -- sometimes under the same names, sometimes under alternate names -- posting the same messages on different systems. If 6 people leave 30 messages apiece in different places, it seems like there's something big going on...but there isn't.

Over on the Marvel newsgroup, you've got maybe about ten to twelve people who are bugged at the story and continuing the discussion. Ditto for the forum, and most of the others. And again, there's a lot of overlap. This out of a readership of well over a hundred thousand per issue.

And for every bugged reader, two or three more come out of the closet -- most publicly, a few privately -- to say that no, they like what's being done. The problem, of course, is that you will always hear more from those who don't like something than from those who do. That's as cold certain a fact as you can ever find, and any person with a background in public opinion measurement will tell you that. So I really don't put a lot of stock in it, and I think your assumption isn't supported by the numbers. Three people shouting in a room of thirty makes for a loud room...but again you have to separate volume from numbers."

This is all true. There's no way to accurately gauge how many people like or hate this story based solely on Internet reactions. Perhaps the best way to do that is through sales...except that the Direct Market drives the industry now instead of newsstands and drugstores, and so those results are just as skewed. The only real answer, then, is *TIME*, the one thing no shoddy story can withstand. We'll see just how beloved this story is in five or ten years...

JMS: "What's significant, perhaps more significant, are the sheer number of people who have come back to the title, drawn in by the Sins Past storyline. A lot of folks have said publicly, and privately (more the former than the latter, which is good) that they'd kind of lost interest over the years because nothing was really being done with the characters, nothing was changing, and they were glad to see somebody actually doing something with the characters that showed them in a new light. Retailers are increasing their orders."

This is the kind of "controversy spike" that the big events of the Spectator Boom brought in. As stated, only time will reveal the truth. And time seems to be proving me right, as sales for Amazing seem to have undergone only a temporary spike, and have gone down since Sins Past.

JMS: "And for good or bad, for the first time in a long time, people are talking about the title and arguing about it...and that's a positive thing."

True. But the subject matter and the nasty infighting between bitter fans is so awful, I'd almost rather avoid it all. And, y'know the fact that a bunch of people have quit Spider-Man (and even quit Marvel altogether) doesn't seem so "positive"...

JMS: "Storytelling means you have to take chances. Look over at the competitors...what was done with Jason Todd, or Hal Jordan over the years, or others there and at Marvel...if you don't shake things up once in a while, the book stagnates. Yeah, you could do a book just for the core fans, for people who don't want to see any changes at all...but you'd be selling maybe fifteen thousand books a month, and it would go out of print instantly. If you don't take chances and try things, you're just telling the same story over and over...yeah, the costumes change, but it's all just fights."

*Ahem*. Superman, Batman, and Captain America, among others, stayed basically the same (in terms of artwork style, personalities, villains, and supporting casts) for some 20 years during the Golden Age of Comics. And sales were phenomenal. By building up an iconic character and maintaining that character, generations of readers can enjoy it. Knocking out the foundation of a character's world every few years for a short-term sales boost runs counter to that.

And writers like Stan Lee, Roger Stern, John Byrne, etc. are very good at providing the *illusion* of change by altering surface details (like costumes, supporting casts, etc.), but leaving the core concepts of the characters (as originally created) intact. A comic book can use the same basic formula for years and years without long as there's a good writer at the helm, one who will not strip-mine the past for his own aggrandizement. And the whole Hal Jordan thing is a fine example of what *not* to do to freshen up a book (totally betraying the basic nature of a classic character in order to introduce a newer, younger, "hipper" character). Fans complained so much about DC's disgraceful treatment of Hal Jordan for ten years that DC finally relented and brought Jordan back as Green Lantern and redeemed him, just as will almost certainly happen with Gwen Stacy, given enough time (not bringing her back, just redeeming her).

JMS: "And you can't make just safe changes because a) it's not a change, and b) there's no such thing. Lots of people who said they didn't like the Gwen aspect said they'd prefer it if it had happened to MJ...and the MJ fans arose with torches and pitchforks to put down THAT idea. It becomes a matter of whose oxen are being gored.

And I will say that some of the criticism is itself, in my opinion, out of line in terms of the rage directed not against me but against Gwen. Do a Google search for Gwen's first name and the words slut, whore and tramp. Some of these people, who claim she is an important character, someone they care about, were the first ones to go right to calling her a whore because she had sex. To call someone -- ANYone -- a slut, a whore, or a tramp because she had sex (apparently just the one time) shows some deep underlying psychological issues that need to be addressed, which have nothing to do with what's inside the book and a lot to do with what's in the minds of those readers. As I said elsewhere, I've heard about the madonna/whore complex, but I've never seen it played out on this magnitude before."

I don't agree with the people calling Gwen a tramp, etc., but I understand where that *emotion* is coming from. If you were Peter, how would you feel if your significant other cheated on you behind you back and had children with your worst enemy? Wouldn't such a shock result in some angry name-calling? Wouldn't you feel betrayed and angry? And for the fans who cared about Gwen, who liked her, then wouldn't they feel just as betrayed as Peter should have felt? Frankly, the version of Gwen presented in Sins Past (who bears no resemblance to the Gwen of yore) is not a very likable person. She's very flawed, very stupid, and very selfish.

JMS: "We all make mistakes...that's part of what's at the core of Sins Past. The question is how we deal with our mistakes -- as Gwen dealt honorably and strongly with hers -- and how others deal with our mistakes -- as Peter never stops caring for Gwen even though he knows what happened. Isn't that a good message to send to people? That we can own up to our mistakes and take responsibility and try to make things better? That those we love can see our mistakes and still care for us afterward?"

Yes, it's a good message. But, JMS, you sure picked the *wrong* carrier pigeon to deliver it!

Fanboy Planet: "Are you implying that Norman Osborn has some sort of hypnotic power, or is his force of personality just that strong that he could overcome the previously virginal Gwen?"

JMS: "He has always been portrayed as a charismatic, strong-willed guy."

Strong-willed, yes. Charismatic, no.

JMS: "But look, can we get real here for a moment? Anybody out there who hasn't known at least one young woman who -- in or out of a relationship with somebody else -- hasn't made a mistake and slept with an older, possibly charismatic guy...raise your hand.

I suspect there are very few raised hands right now.

That's kind of the amusing thing, but also the shocking thing, about some of the reactions. There were people trying to come up with ways that these could be Gwen's kids, and they were suggesting -- as probable, workable solutions -- time travel, parallel dimensions, clones, a host of such ideas.

When it was suggested that she had them in the old fashioned way, by having sex, they said "THAT'S IMPOSSIBLE!" Alternate worlds and parallel dimensions and time travel and cloning are possible...but the latter is not?

We handled the aging thing by indicating that the solution Norman used to become the Goblin, which gave him an accelerated healing factor, also affected his DNA, and in turn his children's DNA, in ways consisted with accelerated biology."

Are there basically good people out there who occasionally make mistakes and lie and cheat? Yes. Problem is, Gwen was a well-defined character who just didn't have such behavior in her. She didn't do it until JMS made her do it, y'dig?

Superhero comics shouldn't deal head-on with issues like this. It's just totally inappropriate for the subject matter of the genre. These issues should be dealt with through larger-than-life metaphors, not cold, hard realism.

And the whole accelerated aging thing (JMS has brought up the medical condition known as Progeria several times to justify this shaky plot device) is a really convenient bit of writing. So now Stromm's formula bestows super-strength, intelligence, healing, and rapid aging????

JMS: "When this came out, the same small group went online to say that it would have been better if she had been raped than seduced. Better for a young woman to be raped? In what parallel universe does THAT rule exist?"

Once, again, an extreme and emotional response from a minority of the fandom that I can certainly understand (but one I don't agree with). It's not so much that it would have been "better" had Gwen been raped. It's the fact that fans *know* that Gwen Stacy wouldn't in a million years have had *consensual* sex with Norman Osborn, and so they have desperately turned to other, slightly more plausible (though just as deplorable) alternatives.

I am convinced that ONLY reason some fans have suggested that Gwen being raped by Norman would be "better" or would "fix" the story is because THAT IS MORE LOGICAL (though no less horrid) THAN THE STORY AS PUBLISHED.

JMS: "A lot of this is about guys feeling guy-power threatened...the girlfriend who chooses to have sex with another guy...the woman who chooses to have sex rather than having a man impose sex on her...the woman who, once having become "damaged goods" (in the words of some posters) is now a whore, a tramp, and a slut."

So Gwen is "strong" because she gave in to temptation, cheated on her boyfriend, and declined to even take care of the illegitimate offspring?? Call me old-fashioned, but I would think the "strong" thing do would be to...not cheat!!!!

JMS: "A lot of people who fell in love with Gwen -- and I'll admit to being one of them -- did so when she first appeared back in the 60s. But a lot of time has passed, and we're now writing for a different audience in the 2000s. Some folks want a character who doesn't change, about whom we can never learn anything new, no surprises...someone frozen in amber for all time in a state of perfection. For thirty years. Nothing new about a character in three decades. The dust is an inch thick at that point."

Gwen is dead. She's been dead for 30-plus years. Let her go. There's no need for "change"...except in the eyes of writers who keep digging Gwen up and spitting on her.

JMS: "At risk of getting long-winded...and I think it's too late...let's go back in time for a moment and return to the roots of Spider-Man and Peter Parker that some of these fans are talking about. What made Peter, and Spidey, popular, especially to geeks like me, was that he was not a perfect person. He screwed up, he got colds, he made a mistake and Ben died because of his error...perfection was anathema to the Spidey universe, and that's what made it so relevant to the rest of us who aspired to perfection but could never achieve it."

Exactly. Except that the way things are now, Peter's life is so imperfect and so full of over-the-top tragedies and identity crises that he's lost much of his appeal (and JMS isn't helping).

JMS: "Gwen was not a perfect person as Lee/Ditko (and later Lee/Romita) portrayed her. She had an on-and-off relationship with Peter, she was a flawed person...who became perfect after her death in the minds of many fans. And in some ways, she has become almost irrelevant to anyone outside Peter."

The classic creative teams treated Gwen as a person. A good person, but not without the occasional flaw. And really, it was *Peter* and his secret identity which caused most of the problems in their romance. But to have Gwen act so radically out of character by making huge "mistakes" does not fit in with that original conception of the character, no matter the rationalization.

JMS: "We have a real problem now with teen pregnancy, with people being unable to talk to each other, with relationship better to make the book relevant to a modern audience -- which was always the intent of ASM -- than to put one of our characters in that situation? The few who have a problem with the Gwen aspect tend to be over 40. That is a diminishing audience. What about the next generation coming in? Don't we owe them someone they can relate to in ways other than nostalgia?"

Gwen is dead. Use a character who is still *alive* to be relevant. And I'm in my early 20s, JMS. Are you referring to the next generation of Aging Fanboys, or the children whose parents will not buy your comics because of inappropriate content and extended, head-scratching storylines?

JMS: "The subtext of Gwen's death -- which, incidentally, triggered far more protests than this has -- was the death of innocence. It was portrayed in really the only way it could at that time, under the Comics Code. You could kill somebody off, sure, but to show anything more intimate was taboo. Now we can confront that metaphor a little more openly and honestly."

And salaciously.

JMS: "Whenever I write something, I bring kind of a social consciousness to it...not in the sense of trying to write in morality, because I don't have any morality to give or to teach...but in the thematic sense. B5 was about choices, consequences and responsibility. Supreme Power is about the use, and abuse of power. The theme, for me, in Spidey is the need for people to talk to each other, and that we can accept more than those who love us think we can accept.

When Peter came out of the metaphorical closet, he discovered that Aunt May could handle his secret without dying. It became a metaphor for a lot of people who are afraid to tell their loved ones the secrets we all think they can't handle. The situation with Gwen is much the same. The one person we think could not be able to handle this -- not the fans, not the editors, not the writer, but Peter -- is able to handle this information and accept that it happened, and deal with what follows. Peter's character, as written, never says about Gwen what some of the fans who claim to be her fans say about her. He does not call her a whore, or a tramp, or a slut. He loves her...and takes on the responsibility of trying to save her kids because they are a piece of her, the ONLY surviving pieces of her.

If you find a better definition of a hero, let me know."

This idea about people being able to take more than you think they can is a theme that *JMS* has injected into the book (the real question is, "How much can the fans take?"). Using an example of your own work to prove a point isn't exactly helpful, JMS.

And a "hero" would have resisted the temptation to cheat!

Fanboy Planet: "With all this concern, was Gwen really previously virginal?"

JMS: "We never address that issue directly, and I don't plan to do so here."

But that's what's implied, JMS. That's what's implied!!!! It's implied that Norman was the first (and only) man to shoplift the candy.

Fanboy Planet: "Why, over the years, has Norman not thrown this one in Peter’s face?"

JMS: "Because as stated in part 5, they were initially considered to be his contingency plan, to be used against Peter if Norman should fall or die. It makes no sense to warn somebody about a plan like that. Kind of undercuts the intent."

Ohhh, so *that* explains why Norman referred to Harry as his "only son" so many times (even in his most private moments/thoughts, and why he never rubbed that particular salt in Peter's wounds in "A Death in the Family".

Fanboy Planet: "By giving Norman a specific grudge against Gwen, are you lessening the impact of her death upon Peter?"

JMS: "No. Peter's loved one is dead. Does Norman having one additional reason for murdering her make her any the less dead? Does it make him grieve any the less? When he absently turns to say something to her, does it make her less gone from his life?

What it does do, in my admittedly subjective view, is to give her death more meaning. As written before, he could've picked anybody...Gwen, MJ, was utterly random. But if there was a secondary reason underlying it, then it has more subtext, more meaning."

You couldn't undermine the death of Gwen story more if you tried, JMS. It was all about the innocent caught in the crossfire of the war between Peter and Norman, and now it's about a war between Norman and Gwen (Crowding the unsuspecting Peter out of his own book!). It didn't *need* more meaning. It was supposed to be meaningless. And Gwen was not picked at random. She was coincidentally at Peter's apartment when Norman came to attack Peter, and Norman knew how lucky he was to have such a valuable hostage fall into his lap like that. *That* was his motivation.

Fanboy Planet: "You’ve sort of redefined Peter’s powers in your run; does this, then, do something to redefine the sense of his heroism?"

JMS: "Again, I kind of don't agree with the premise. His powers are the same ones he's always had. I haven't added any new ones, or taken away any of the old ones. The Ezekiel thread questioned where some of them may have come from, but never in a definitive way.

In terms of his heroism, I don't think it redefines it so much as adds another layer to it. As noted above, we see that Peter loved her enough to accept something about the woman he loved that others, apparently, could not. Something that Gwen did think he could handle, because she was ready to tell him, and would have, had she not met her untimely end."

How convenient.

JMS: "To me, when you learn that somebody has had sex once with somebody, if you call that person a whore, a tramp or a slut, that person is not a hero. That person is beneath contempt."

Gwen didn't have sex once with "somebody". She *CHEATED* on Peter with his *worst* enemy. That's slightly different than, say, learning that one friend had sex with another friend.

And here are some random quotes:

QUESADA: "I'd like to thank everyone at Marvel for the vote of confidence and I also want to thank all of our creators and fans, because without them I could never have achieved what I have."

Sure, pal.

QUESADA: "I've had nothing but a blast my first three years here at Marvel but what really gets me juiced is the fact that we've only just begun this long amazing journey. There is no greater job in the world and I promise that the next few years are going to be historic! What you've seen the first three years is just kid's stuff compared to what I've got up my sleeve. It only gets better from here."

Gee, I can't wait. I'm sure you're anxious to drive away still more readers by screwing over the real, classic Spider-Man and enshrining your Ultimately Recycled Spider-Man.

Quesada has done a fabulous job of alienating loyal readers, dumping on classic characters, and stamping out any trace of professionalism, all for the chance of a slight increase in sales. That's certainly something to be proud of, right? Right?!?!

BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS: "Joe is an amazing editor and an amazing human being. It's an honor and privilege for me to work with him. We can all look forward to a very, very bright future for the entire industry with Joe at the desk he was born to sit behind."

...says Quesada's lapdog, the man who almost single-handedly created the "wait for the trade" mentality that helping to bleed the comic book industry dry. And who created all those lovely, regurgitated, "Ultimate" books.

J. MICHAEL STRACZYNSKI: "This is the best news possible. I came to Marvel specifically to work with Joe Quesada, based on his reputation and his creative instincts, and I'm happy to see that this relationship will continue. Joe is the best in the biz, willing to take the kinds of chances that other major publishers won't. He's done an exemplary job in turning Marvel around and once again making it a place friendly to creators."

Yes, very friendly. Too friendly. That's the problem. Marvel has become a safe haven for lazy, unprofessional, Aging Fanboy creators who feel it is their right to dump on classic characters in order to "make them theirs", while the Marvel Bullpeners who *are* professional and respect the characters are booted out in favor of Quesada’s Hollywood Celebrity pals. And Quesada is praised as a "genius" and a "visionary" for causing this to happen!

Well, enough fun with the men in charge. Time to put our gloves on, get out our crap-shovels, and dig into this abomination...

ASM # 509: "Sins Past, Part 1" (Or, as I like to call it, "...And Now, The Goblin Twins!")

(Note: This issue was released in two versions: the standard edition and a "Director's Cut" edition, which includes the script and other bonuses. Just another marketing ploy in the vein of holo-foil, die-cut, polybagged variant editions...)

To start with, this is the first issue in JMS' run that wasn't drawn by John Romita Jr, who left to work on other projects (Or was it because he wouldn't help defile a character his father immortalized?).

This issue also marks the return of the Ugly Jagged Amazing Logo from the Clone Saga (the first issue of JMS' run brought back the classic Amazing logo), which is fitting, since the issue marks the beginning of a new low in Spidey history (And I'm sure the classic logo would be out of place here...and ashamed!).

Peter receives a mysterious letter (but only the first page of it) from France which was written by Gwen Stacy before she died (but was mailed to Aunt May's home recently). It reads:

"Dear Peter--

I know you were kind of surprised when I took off for Europe so suddenly four months ago, but I needed some time to think things over. I know, you're probably thinking, what things? Something's happened, Peter. Something I didn't expect. Something I didn't plan for. Something...

God, Peter. I don't know what to do, how to tell you this. I'm so afraid that when I tell you, you'll hate me, never want to see me again. I've written this letter six times, but I never seem to find the right words. I tried to call you, but your aunt says you're in Canada for the next few weeks on a story for the Bugle and she doesn't have a number for you.

So I'm sending this to you in care of your aunt so you will be sure to get it when you come home, because if I know you, you'll go there first thing. You've always been so good to her, and to me.

For what I'm about to tell you, Peter, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."

Pg. 7: Gwen's letter from France is addressed to May Parker's home ("Peter Parker c/o May Parker") which makes NO SENSE, because Aunt May was *not* living in the Parker home at the time Gwen ostensibly sent the letter. She was living at Doctor Octopus' home and serving as his housekeeper, a fact Gwen was *absolutely* aware of (Gwen was *there* when May announced she'd be staying at Doc Ock's place in ASM # 115, and she also mentioned her knowledge of that development in ASM # 116, in one of the brand-new pages added to the Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine # 1 reprint).

Pg. 8: (Gwen's letter) "I know you were kind of surprised when I took off for Europe suddenly four months ago." "I tried to call you, but your Aunt says you're in Canada for the next few weeks on a story for the Bugle".

First of all, there's *no* point in Spider-Man's chronology during which Gwen could have gone off to Europe for an extended period (remember, she went to ENGLAND in ASM # 93-98, but Peter knew about the trip, and it only lasted a short time). Second, Peter was only in Canada for a *days* (MAYBE two days, at the very, very most) in ASM # 119-120, and Gwen *knew* he was there (And taking Webspinners # 1 into account, she was with him the night before he went and probably knew all about it even then!).

This also implies that Gwen sent the letter to May's house because she knew Peter would go there when he got home, but since May wasn't even living there, this is not likely. Why not just send it to Peter's *apartment*?!?! You know, where he *lives*?!?!?!?

Pg. 9, panels 4-5:

PETER (to Mary Jane): "Gwen had gone on vacation between semesters without any warning, and I ended up in Montreal talking to an attorney there, trying to find out why Doc Ock was so interested in Aunt May all of a sudden."

PETER: "Right in the middle of it all, I ended up in a knock-down with the Hulk and barely got out with my skin."

Uhhh...okay, did Gwen go to Europe 4 months *before* Peter went to Canada, or did she go while he was already in Canada? Or was she in France all that time (which isn't possible, since we see Peter call her in New York in ASM # 120)? And how long was she gone? Weeks?? Months???? The dialogue here and later in the story indicates that Gwen left "four months ago", and returned just before she was killed by the Green Goblin. So she was gone for four months?

Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy.

In The Official Marvel Index to Marvel Team-Up # 1 (1986), the comments section for Marvel Team-Up Vol. 1 # 3 theorizes that Peter, Gwen, and J. Jonah Jameson's trip to Antarctica in ASM # 103 *must* have taken place in the summer between Peter and Gwen's sophomore and junior years at ESU, since a cruise to Antarctica can take up to several weeks, and they weren't shown to have any college classes to miss at this time. This is ostensibly the same summer vacation in which JMS would have you believe Gwen went to Europe. Nope. Wrong-o. Instead, she really went to the Savage Land with Peter, and even wore a bikini! Sorry, JMS.

(I'm sure JMS would explain this away by saying that Gwen went to Europe *after* the Antarctica trip--except that she was in New York right after that adventure in ASM # 105-- he'd also probably tell you that Gwen was chain-smoking to lose weight and hide her pregnancy. Or that it wasn't during the summer, but rather it was in-between the fall/winter or winter/spring semesters. Riiiiight. She went to France and had babies--when she didn't even *look* pregnant, mind you--during a week or two off from school. Suuuurrrrre.)

Pg. 10, panels 2-3:

PETER: "She'd barely gotten back when Harry Osborn OD'd and his father's empire was falling apart".

So when did Gwen leave, and when did she get back? (Answer: She didn't.) This makes no sense, as Gwen was around for virtually *every* Spider-Man story for several years (which all basically flowed from one to another with little or no time in-between), including the Hammerhead/Doc Ock/Aunt May debacle (ASM #112-115), the Richard Raleigh reprint story from Spectacular magazine #1 (ASM # 116-118), and of course she was in *New York* when Peter called her from Canada in ASM # 120.

In ASM # 119, Peter goes to Canada to find out why Doc Ock is interested in Aunt May, under the pretext of going to take photos of the Hulk (whom he ends up fighting). This trip lasts no more than a single day (two at the very most). And he calls Gwen in New York at the beginning
of ASM # 120. She tells him to come back home quickly, as Harry Osborn is in bad shape (In ASM # 119, Harry passed out in Norman Osborn's arms in front of Peter before Peter left for Canada).

At the end of ASM # 120, Peter takes the midnight flight back to New York.

Relevant dialogue/thought balloons from ASM # 121:

Pg. 11, panel 7:

SPIDER-MAN: "It'll be nice to get back [to his apartment]--have a long talk with Gwendy. It's been days since I spoke to her--and what with Harry's problems this morning--!"

This clearly implies that Peter got home from Canada sometime in the early or late morning. He goes to see Harry, then later goes to the Bugle to drop off the pix he snapped in Canada. That evening, Gwen is kidnapped by the Green Goblin.

SPIDER-MAN: "I disappear for a weekend in Canada--flit around playing international detective--"

This confirms that Peter only spent a few days (probably 2-3 at most) in Canada.

The Webspinners # 1 backup story, "The Kiss" (reprinted in the Death of Gwen Stacy trade paperback), details Peter and Gwen's last night together before his trip to Canada.

Relevant dialogue:

PETER (narration): "It was, after all, our last night together. The next day I'd be off to Canada for a photo-shoot. And within 24 hours of my return...Gwen would be dead."

This "last date" implies Gwen was fully aware of Peter's trip to Canada (which was presumably the next day), and did not discover it by calling Aunt May (at the Parker home, where May wasn't even living at the time). It's most likely that the events depicted in "The Kiss" took place the night *before* he learned the Hulk was there and asked JJJ for the assignment (In other words, it takes place just before ASM # 119.). Surely, he would have told Gwen he was going that day he left (since she was with him the night before, she sure wasn't in Europe).

PETER (narration): "Did we sense that Norman Osborn would shatter both our lives within a matter of days?"

Days. Not weeks. Not months.

ASM # 509, Pg. 10, panel 4: The Green Goblin is depicted holding a *conscious* Gwen in a flashback to ASM # 121. Probably artistic license, but it's still wrong.

Pg. 21: We see that Gabriel looks JUST like *Peter*, since the original idea was that Peter (not Norman Osborn) fathered the twins. When that idea was rejected (as the whole STORY should have been at that point), Norman Osborn was selected.

ASM # 510: "Sins Past, Part 2" (Or, as I like to call it, "The Night Gwen Stacy's Virtue Died")

Pg. 3: We see that Gabriel and Sarah approached Aunt May and MJ on the street just to show Peter how easily they could kill them...but why didn't MJ notice that Sarah is a dead ringer for Gwen?

Pg. 13-15: Spider-Man approaches a dummy of Aunt May with a bomb attached. The bomb explodes, injuring Spider-Man. Why didn't his spider-sense warn him of the danger? (Answer: JMS doesn't understand even the most basic elements of Spider-Man, or rewrites them at his whim to serve his stories.).

Pgs.19-20 feature a VERY skewed flashback to the events in ASM # 121. The timeline and the events themselves at the Osborn townhouse in have been drastically and arbitrarily altered to fit JMS' own story.

Let's compare these two versions of the story:

ASM # 121: Peter has come home from Canada, and peers into the Osborn townhouse as Spider-Man, seeing Ray (the Osborn family doctor), Gwen, and Mary Jane checking on Harry. He goes to the roof and changes clothes. He then enters, walks up the stairs, and encounters a furious Norman Osborn, who warns him to keep away from Harry. He turns to see Gwen and MJ emerging from Harry's room (interrupting Norman's tirade). Norman orders them all to leave. Peter, Gwen, and MJ walk down the stairs and go outside, talking about Norman's odd behavior and worrying about Harry.

SINS PAST (ASM # 510/512 flashbacks): Peter walks up the stairs in the Osborn townhouse and meets Gwen and Mary Jane. Gwen asks Peter if they can leave. MJ goes back for her "purse" (actually, to slap Norman). Outside, Peter tells Gwen he ran into a half-crazed Norman "on the way in" (*before* he ran into Gwen and MJ). Gwen gives Peter the whole "do you love me" speech before Mary Jane comes out of the building, and they then depart.

See any differences? And don't give me any of that "it's a subjective first-person flashback" stuff. JMS wants the readers to believe that this is a historically accurate depiction of the events in ASM # 121, even though he's rewritten them completely to fit into his own twisted little story.

There's also the matter of everyone being on a first-name basis in the "Sins Past" flashback, when they weren't in ASM # 121 (Norman calls "Ms. Stacy" "Gwen", Peter calls "Mr. Osborn" "Norman", etc. Can you imagine a 20-year college student old calling a creepy, 50-year old businessman by his first name?). Just an example of how different social norms are today when compared to yesterday, a time when customs dictated that young people not refer to older people by their first names as a gesture of respect. That, and no one present is particularly friendly with Norman. Especially not Peter (or Gwen)!

Anyway, as stated, in the Sins Past version of events, Peter meets Gwen and MJ after encountering Norman (Pg. 19, panels 1-2):

PETER: "I should talk to Norman--

GWEN: "No...Peter, don't."

PETER: "But--"

GWEN: "Please. It won't do any good. And I just...I can't face him right now.

What lovely foreshadowing. Too bad this conversation never really happened. Not in the REAL Marvel Universe, anyway...

And then, on Pg. 20, panel 1:

GWEN: "Peter----do you love me?"

PETER: "What kind of question is that? Of course I love you."

GWEN: "Would you love me no matter what I told you? No matter what may happen between us?"

More foreshadowing. More bad soap opera dreck.

There's no hint of Gwen's whole "do you love me" ("...even if I cheated on you with Norman Osborn, had his children, and abandoned them in Europe?") thing in ASM # 121. In the original story, she was concerned about *Harry's* well-being (Because that's who she was! A caring, kind individual!), not her own selfish needs.

JMS has turned Gwen into a bad stereotype, a weak-willed woman who cheats on her boyfriend, lies to him, finally gets some guts (to face down Norman), and then worries about finding a man to cling to (Norman implies that Gwen needs a man, and that no one will want "damaged goods" like her and her kids.).

And JMS calls her "heroic" and "strong" by having her cheat on her boyfriend (for no reason other than "it just happened") and by having her decide not to abort her godforsaken, illegitimate progeny (Yeah, abandoning them in a foreign country is *sooooo* much better, right? RIGHT????).

No, in *reality*, Gwen's very last thought balloon in ASM # 121-- (the panel where she's holding her hand to her face, eyes closed, as the Green Goblin approaches the window of Peter's apartment)--the very last time we heard her thoughts--was *concern for Harry Osborn's well-being*. Because that's who Gwen Stacy was. As we'll see, in ASM # 512, JMS and Deodato revisit/ruin this classic panel and treat it as though Gwen is "really" upset about the situation with Norman and her kids.

On Pg. 22 of ASM # 510, we get more fragments from Gwen's letter (thanks to police analysis, which managed to decipher some words written by Gwen's pen on the next page of the letter, which left impressions on the page that was sent to Peter):

"I'm sorry, Peter",

months ago",

"should have told you after I found out",


"I was pregnant",

"had to get away, decide what to do",

"you were in Canada, and",

"the babies came a month early. I have two children, Peter. A boy and a girl. Gabriel and Sarah."


Hmm. So Gwen was or wasn't in Europe when Peter was in Canada? Make up your mind, JMS. Oh, wait. She wasn't in Europe *at all*, according to ASM # 120.

ASM # 511: "Sins Past, Part 3" (Or, as I like to call it, "In the Grip of the Goblin Twins!")

The cover features Spider-Man unmasking one of his mystery foes, only to reveal...Gwen Stacy???? (Actually Sarah, wearing that infamous headband.). What a teaser, huh?

Pg. 2, panels 2-4:

PETER: "Even if she did have kids, they'd still be children, they wouldn't have aged enough to--Unless they weren't born normal kids to begin with. Unless..."

The age of the kids is a cheap little bit that also ties into the crazy ideas about Spider-Man's gradual aging. As it stands now, it's been about 6-8 years since Gwen died (in...*sigh*..."Marvel Time"). Thus, we have the magic of Norman's Goblin formula which has miraculously caused the kids to suffer from accelerated aging (like Robin Williams' Jack in the film of the same name, or Seth Brundle's son, Martin, in The Fly II) so they can be old enough to fight Spider-Man in goofy ninja costumes, without Spider-Man seeming too old (except now it's been stated that he's 30 years about editorial inconsistency...). This also makes avoids the notion of Spidey beating up two little kids. Anyway, these kids are nothing more that unliving plot devices. Plot devices who swear and wear ninja costumes. I feel no sympathy for them. They aren't characters (much as JMS as has said about Gwen herself).

Pg. 5: MJ: "Because that's what I do. I keep people's secrets".

Foreshadowing here, except...what "secrets"? Aside from the retconned fact that MJ knew Peter's secret identity all along, what "secrets"??? Can we say, "mischaracterization"?

Pg. 6: Peter goes to Gwen's grave and stabs her body (tight through the ground and her coffin) with a rod to get a DNA sample. And a better visual metaphor for what this story has done to Gwen Stacy there could not be!!!!

Pg. 18: Sarah is revealed to look just like Gwen, complete with that infamous headband.

Pg. 21:

PETER: "I swear to God, MJ, they're not my children. Gwen and I didn't...we never--"

This statement blatantly indicates that Gwen and Peter *never* had sex. Okaaaay, here we go:

When was Peter's first sexual experience, and with whom? Sexuality is a growing-up issue that everyone has to deal with, and were it not for the censorship of the time (and the fact that Stan Lee and the gang knew that superhero comics *shouldn't* deal with sex head-on), we would doubtless have gotten some stories about Peter grappling with his sexuality, and whether of not he should have sex for the first time (I wouldn't be surprised if Bendis' Ultimate Spider-Man did something like this eventually).

So, to whom did he lose his virginity? When?

Liz Allan? Very unlikely. Peter and Liz had flirted a bit in the old days, and also had a broken date or two, but they weren't really an item.

Betty Brant? Possibly. She was Peter's first real girlfriend, and an older woman. But there's no real evidence to support this. There was a hint or two of hanky-panky much later on during ASM # 182-195 (when Betty and Peter sorta got back together while she was separated from Ned Leeds).

Gwen? *VERY* likely, since she and Peter were deeply in love and on the verge of marriage. However, since both Gwen and Peter were depicted as upstanding young citizens with strong moral backgrounds, you have to wonder if they'd engage in premarital relations, even if they *were* planning on getting married. Still there's *definitely* a hint or two of sex between them, such as when Gwen and Peter reunited after she came back from London (ASM # 98-99), and the implication made in "The Kiss" in Webspinners # 1 (when Peter is feeling glum at Gwen's home, and then they look in each other's eyes and we cut to an exterior shot of the house). Also, there's a *strong* hint of sex between Peter and Gwen during a flashback to the Lee-Romita era at the end of Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's Spider-Man: Blue mini-series (this may be when Peter--and/or Gwen--was deflowered).

As for Gwen's first time? Hard to say. If it were anyone *at all*, it would almost certainly be Peter. AND...NOT... NORMAN...OSBORN...(as Peter wonders in ASM # 512).....!!!!!!!!

Mary Jane? Possibly. Peter and MJ's romance budded after Gwen died, and there's a *VERY* strong implication of sex between them at the end of ASM # 149 (written by Gerry Conway) and the beginning of ASM # 150 (after Peter has just parted with Gwen's clone). Peter comes home, sees MJ waiting for him, and excitedly closes the door after they enter. The "Birth of a Spider-Man" backup story in Spectacular Spider-Man # 217 (written by J.M. DeMatteis) shows the Spider-Man clone (Ben Reilly), still thinking he's the genuine article, returning to Peter's apartment at this point only to look in the window and see Peter and MJ kissing inside. The first page of ASM # 150 (written by Archie Goodwin) picks up shortly after Mary Jane has left, and the narration states that Peter had "lost himself in her, in their closeness, in their mutual need".

In ASM # 150, Peter also realizes that he's the real Spider-Man (and not the clone) due to his thoughts of MJ when he's about to be killed by Spencer Smythe (whereas the clone, created by the Jackal some time earlier, would have instinctively thought of Gwen), and this gives him the strength to beat Smythe. But why would he allow MJ to deflower him (what with their shaky romance) and not Gwen, the love of his life, the woman he was going to marry????

There were also some hints of sex (or some sort of hanky-panky) between Peter and co-eds Deb Whitman and Marcy Kane. And maybe even the Dazzler (at the tail end of ASM # 203)!!!!

And then there was the Felicia Hardy, a.k.a. the Black Cat. First appearing in ASM # 194, the Cat started out as a villain, but eventually reformed and became Spider-Man's ladyfriend (she always called him "lover" or "Spider"). Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man # 84 shows Peter in just his Spider-pants in the Cat's apartment, with her asleep in bed, as they've been out crimefighting at night and then returning to her place (And he comments that not even Captain America and Bucky could claim to have a partnership like that!).

Incidentally, writer Bill Mantlo had allegedly wanted Peter to have an illegitimate child with the Black Cat during their romance, but that plot idea was rejected (as Sins Past should have been, after the notion of Peter being the father of the twins was rejected).

Writer Kevin Smith, in his horrid Spider-Man and the Black Cat: The Evil that Men Do mini-series (2002-2006, because Smith is one of those celebrity writers who can't even finish a five--oh, wait--SIX-issue mini-series during the *year* it's supposed to be released in. "Professionalism? What that? Never heard of it..."), had the Cat explicitly state that she and Spider-Man used to do "the nasty". Also, in the 101 Ways to End the Clone Saga one-shot (a humor book that made fun of the mess Marvel had gotten into), one of the many proposed ways of ending the Saga was to have Peter and Ben Reilly reveal the truth about Peter being the clone and Ben taking over as the real Peter while the clone and MJ move away. The Black Cat is listening, and is grossed out at the thought that she had sex with a clone (Sometimes three or four times a night!), not the real Spidey.

And lest we forget, Kevin Smith "revealed" in his Black Cat mini-series-that-took-years-and-years-to-publish that Felicia Hardy was raped when she was a teenager (and that this somehow motivated her to become the Black Cat, which COMPLETELY goes against everything we know about her and her past). Ughhh. Sick. Rape does NOT belong in mainstream superhero comics. Comics can deal with adult issues METAPHORICALLY, but to blatantly (and lasciviously) deal with it head-on in this sort of way is a fine example of the kind of fanboy jerking-off that is running the industry into the ground. Why not have Wonder Woman get raped while we're at it?

In Spectacular Spider-Man # 129, the master assassin known only as the Foreigner (who became the Black Cat's lover after she and Spider-Man broke up) says that Felicia made "comparisons" between himself and Spider-Man, and that Spider-Man came up a bit...short.

But then, it's always possible that Peter saved himself for his wedding to MJ, right? And vice versa? And Gwen, too?

Really, I shouldn't have to even *ask* these kinds of questions. It's not appropriate for the subject matter. But JMS and the maniacs at Marvel have forced me to. These Aging Fanboy writers who want to answer all their fanboy questions when they break into comics are not professionals. A *professional* does not write stories just to answer their fanboy questions and definitively prove whether the Hulk or Thor is stronger than the other, or what Doctor Doom's face really looks like, or whether it was Betty or Gwen or Mary Jane who deflowered Peter, or whether the whether the Thing can have sex or not. A professional writes stories to *serve the characters*, not themselves and their own needs.

There's a very tangled web of sexuality for the unprofessional writers to play with. But they shouldn't. Follow along...

Aunt May dated Johnny Jerome, married Ben Parker, dated and almost married Dr. Octopus, and was engaged to Nathan Lubensky (...and got pregnant by a guy named Richard--the brother of a guy named Ben--in the Trouble mini-series, not that that series was "really" about the Parkers, right....???? Blecchhh.).

Peter dated Betty Brant, and may have slept with her. Betty married Ned Leeds, and she very likely slept with Flash Thompson when she and Ned were having marital woes.

Flash Thompson once lived with Sha Shan, who was once married to Ackmed Korba (Brother Power), and he also later dated Felicia Hardy (the Black Cat), who had previously been Peter's lover.

Peter had a brief flirtation with Liz Allan (who had dated Flash Thompson and possibly slept with him) before they graduated from high school (They could have done the deed, right?). Liz later married Harry Osborn, and they had a son, Normie. Liz later dated Foggy Nelson, who was once married to Debbie Harris.

Gwen Stacy dated both Harry and Flash early on, and could have slept with both, in theory. And of course, she was on the verge of marrying Peter, and there are hints that they slept together. And....*sigh* JMS will tell you, Gwen slept with Norman Osborn, who was married to the late Emily Osborn, and had his children, Gabriel and Sarah. Sarah now has the hots for Peter.

Mary Jane dated Harry and Flash, and could have slept with both. She later married Peter, and got pregnant by him.

Peter dated Deb Whitman, who was married to Mark Whitman, and who was also very close with Biff Rifkin. Peter also had a romantic moment or two with Marcy Kane, who was involved with Jack Hart (a.k.a. the Jack of Hearts).

Peter later became the lover of the Black Cat, who slept with the Foreigner, who was once married to Silver Sable.

They say when you sleep with someone, you're sleeping with everyone that person every slept with. Well, then. It's only a matter of time before JMS and Marvel give *everyone* in Spider-Man's supporting cast a heapin' helping of venereal diseases, illegitimate children, and incestuous relationships, in the tradition of the very worst soap operas and talk shows. Bah.

Anyway, back on topic...

Now, by this time, many fans had guessed that Peter was the father of the twins, and if not him, then most likely someone else we knew. *Many* (including myself) said it was either Harry or Norman Osborn, so it wasn't much of a shock to learn the "truth". Not very suspenseful to figure out the twists and turns of a story weeks in advance, is it? And of course, magazines like Wizard and Previews tend to ruin things months in advance. But the destructive force known as the Internet Fanboy--the Fanboy who decries and picks apart books *before* they even hit the stands is the worst of all. I'm not defending the content of the books. I'm saying that because the fans are so judgmental these days and know everything that's going to happen months in advance, the creators are bending over backwards to appease the fans, instead of focusing on telling good stories that honor the characters.

The fact of the matter is, every incarnation of Spider-Man (or any other comic character) is *somebody's* favorite. If one tries to appease the fans of one version of Spider-Man, fans of another version will get upset. The creators just can't please everyone, so they MUST focus on the CHARACTERS and the HISTORY. Being true to the *core concepts* of the characters will provide the books with creative integrity and good, character-driven storytelling. Continuity of character is more important than shock value changes. True, not every fan will be happy, but at least the characters and the works of past creators would be respected.

ASM # 512: "Sins Past, Part 4" (Or, as I like to call it: "The Grotesque Sexual Adventure of the Green Goblin".)

Okay, here we go. Perhaps the worst issue of Spider-Man *ever*, right up there with books like Spectacular Spider-Man # 226 (the revelation of Peter as the clone) and the entirety of "The Other", in my oh-so-humble opinion. Although, any issue of The Other is also a candidate for the spot, right? But this was first, you know, like Norman Osborn might have been the first to boink Gwen Stacy, right?

Pg. 1: And so we learn that Mary Jane has been lying all these years to Peter, and that she knew all about Gwen's indiscretion and her children this whole time. Huh. That's a cheap shock if I ever saw one...

Are you telling me that ALL the times Peter and MJ talked about Gwen (like when her clone returned after Peter and MJ were married), MJ never thought to mention this little factoid? Indeed, it's been hinted at by some writers that MJ fears that Peter will always love Gwen more than her, that Gwen's ghost will always be between them. Are you telling me that JMS' new, lying, selfish version of MJ wouldn't take the opportunity to knock Gwen's memory down a few pegs in Peter's mind by spilling the beans? And she has actually had the audacity to rail on Peter and his double life and his secrets? That makes her a selfish hypocrite.

Before all this, fans complained that MJ was selfish in her complaints about Peter's double life (Does a firefighter or police officer's spouse complain when he or she risks his or her life to save the lives of many others? Don't all the lives Spider-Man has saved count for something in MJ's eyes?). If JMS thought this little twist would endear us to MJ, he's wrong. Oh, wait. He's probably just trying to make her more "realistic" and "flawed" (in other words, unlikable).

And what about Norman and his "return from the dead"? Didn't MJ think it might be *wise* to mention to Peter that Norman and Gwen had kids, and that there was a very real possibility that said kids would be used in one of Norman's schemes?

And wouldn't she want to tell Peter for the sake of the kids? Wouldn't she tell him that they were abandoned in Europe and that there was a good chance they'd be in danger?

I don't see any sort of logic or responsibility here. Just a bunch of lying, moronic strangers.


Pgs. 4-13 pick up on the JMS-skewed version of the events in ASM # 121.

Pg. 4:

MARY JANE: "Gwen had barely gotten back into town when we found out that Harry Osborn had overdosed on LSD, and his father wouldn't take him to the hospital for fear of the scandal."

Well, first off, we *know* Gwen was in *New York* during the events of ASM # 116-118 (the modified reprint of the Spectacular Spider-Man #1 story), we *know* she was in *New York* the night before Peter went to Canada for the weekend (Webspinners # 1--"The Kiss"), and we *know* she was in *New York* when Harry fell ill, since Peter called her there and she told him to come home quickly (ASM # 120).

Yet, according to JMS in ASM # 509:

GWEN'S LETTER: "I know you were kind of surprised when I took off for Europe suddenly four months ago." "I tried to call you, but your aunt says you're in Canada for the next few weeks on a story for the Bugle".

So Gwen was in Europe for four months, and didn't get back until Peter was already in Canada? Nope. Sorry. Wrong. It was well-established that she was in New York all that time, and that she knew Peter was in Canada (he presumably told her *himself* just before he left--probably via phone right after he got the Bugle assignment in ASM # 119). And of course, we've already established that it was impossible for Gwen to send a letter for Peter to Aunt May's house (Well...that, or she's really, really, REALLY stupid...), since she *knew* that neither May nor Peter were living there at the time (See ASM # 115).

Anyway, in the flashback, we see a retread of the stupid "Norman wants an heir" idea, as he tries to convince Gwen to give him the kids.

Pg. 8, panels 2-6:

GWEN (to Norman): "I'll die before I let you lay a finger on my children. Do you hear me? I said, do you hear me?"

NORMAN: "Yes...I hear you......and you should be careful...what you wish for, Gwen...very, very careful."

NORMAN: "And if you should decide me from this terrible scandal...who do you think will take you with two children? Who would be willing to accept you like that? No one. No one."

And then we get this lovely little tidbit from Gwen:

GWEN: You're wrong. Peter loves me, and I love him. I'll tell him the whole story. He'll accept me, and them. He's the only man fit to raise these children as their father. Not you. Never you."

So this whole mess also gives Norman an excuse for killing Gwen: she wouldn't give him the kids (and he was jealous that she chose Peter over Norman to raise them), so he killed her. Pathetic!!!! Bad writing!!!! Mischaracterization!!!!!

The whole mother-lovin' POINT of "The Night Gwen Stacy Died" was that Gwen was an innocent caught in the crossfire of the Spidey-Goblin war. Norman knew just how much Peter loved Gwen, and used that love as a weapon against him. THAT was his motivation. That and that ALONE!!!!

The moronic mentality of today's creators, who strip-mine the past and make everything "realistic", has really and truly screwed over the original story and the medium. The whole idea is laughable. Norman had a grudge against *Gwen*? That's the "real" reason he killed her? *Spider-Man* himself was the "innocent" caught in the crossfire of a *GWEN-GOBLIN* war??????? Totally absurd. And totally insulting.

And so Gwen selfishly believes that a hard-luck, working-class college student (and superhero) will instantly forgive her for cheating on him and lying to him for months (a lie of omission is still a lie), and then (presumably) strain his resources to support her and her bastard offspring? That's a bit of a stretch. And it sure ain't Gwen Stacy. And Peter Parker is no sap. He'd never trust her again, and probably wouldn't accept her and her ill-conceived offspring. The whole thing is wrong!

And now it's been hinted at that Norman was jealous of Peter for being Gwen's choice to raise the kids. Ohhhhh, my.

Pg. 9, panels 2-3:

GWEN (to Norman): "The twins were born 2 months early, in France, while I was trying to figure out what to do, but----but they were born fully grown. As if they'd aged nine months in just seven. Do you have any idea what would cause such a--"

Well, I think it's already been well-established that Gwen could never have gone to France (and she went to *England* for a brief time after her father died), had babies, and then hung around for two whole months before abandoning the kids and heading back to the good ole US of A.

This whole chronology thing is weak. When did Gwen go to France? When she was two months pregnant? Three? Did she stay in France after the twins were born? When exactly in Spider-Man's chronology did she go on this little trip to France???

But none of these perplexing questions are answered, or have been answered subsequently. NONE of them.

NORMAN: "It's what I said earlier. They have Osborn blood. And Osborn special blood. And they......they will be special children. My legacy. My true legacy."

Norman is *clearly* referring to the Goblin Formula in his bloodstream being passed on to the kids. How could he know about that? At this point in ASM # 121, he was still in "Norman" mode. He didn't snap, regain his memories, and revert to the Goblin until later on. In fact, this whole frickin' scene plays like Norman is *already* in Goblin mode, and he's acting like the manipulating, master planning, Kingpin/Lex Luthor knockoff he became only after his "resurrection" in 1996. In ASM # 121-122, he was on the verge of a total breakdown, full of rage and pain and confusion, *not* cold, calculating clarity.

And can someone *please* try to explain to me where and with whom Gwen left the twins in France? Did she hire someone to take care of them? Did she leave them on a doorstep? Take them to a hospital or homeless shelter? Did she throw them in a trash can???? And how could a hard-working 20-ish college student even *afford* to go to France and then leave her twin children there in the care of an unknown person or persons????

This has yet to be explained by JMS or anyone else. I guess it wasn't as "important" as getting to the juicy details of Gwen's sick little tryst with Norman.

GWEN: "You're insane."

NORMAN: "Oh, no. I'm not the one's who's insane. That would be you. And that fool, Parker. Romantic fool."

This is almost certainly a reference to the Green Goblin calling Spider-Man a "romantic idiot" after Spidey realized that Gwen was dead in ASM # 121.

Pg. 11:

Gwen leaves Norman's office and sees that Mary Jane had overheard the whole thing. They hug.

MARY JANE (present-day, to Peter): "It was...she was......God, Peter..."

PETER: " did it happen? Did she--"

MARY JANE: "She said she'd gone to see him some seven months earlier on something else, and found him upset, sad, almost broken--"

That "something else" was never revealed. Only later did Marvel's clean-up crew steal Madgoblin's theory that Gwen went to thank Norman for saving her life in ASM # 61.

GWEN: "--and I felt so badly for him, but at the same time, under it all, there was this strength, this magnetism--as though there was the person I knew on the outside, and deep inside, this other person, so powerful, yet so mysterious. I didn't intend for it to happen, but it was as if there was something inside him that was so strong, I couldn't walk away, I just happened."

And that is the *only* explanation JMS has given for Gwen's behavior. Gwen cheated on Peter (and even if it took place while they were on the outs from ASM # 60-66, it's STILL cheating) and had (presumably) unprotected sex with the creepy father of Harry Osborn (a man twice her age) because Osborn was "magnetic" and "it just happened".

Disgusting. And sloppy.

Not only does JMS radically alter the backstories and personalities of several classic characters, but her can't even provide a real *reason* for Gwen's indiscretion. It's no really wonder some fans said it would be "better" if she was brainwashed or raped. The "explanation" given by JMS (that things like this "just happen") has no logic at all . And it's badly, maddeningly out of character. Oh, it just "happened". True, that is realistic. Some people do impulsive things like that without a real reason. But NOT Gwen Stacy (or Norman Osborn)!!!!

In the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Book of the Dead 2004 (and the OFOTMU Spider-Man 2005), other writers tried to play clean-up for JMS by stating that Norman was conflicted about his dual identities (around the time of ASM # 61, when his Goblin memories began to reemerge) when Gwen came to visit and thank him for helping to save her.

"It just happened". So out of character, it's sad. It's sick.

The real Gwen was smarter than that. And Norman sure wasn't charismatic enough--or stupid enough--to endanger his reputation by having a fling with a college student.

Pg. 12: In the flashback to the events at the townhouse, MJ says she's going back for her purse, but in reality, she's going to slap Norman in the face.

If MJ *really* knew that this Gwen-Norman thing had happened, wouldn't she have been suspicious when both of them turned up dead less than 24 hours later? Wouldn't she have thought to tell Peter about it ("Hey, by the way, Tiger, Gwen and Norman had kids, and now they're both dead all of a sudden. Isn't that weird?")??? What a selfish little shrew she's become.

Pg. 14:

PETER (to Mary Jane): "It makes sense how. It all makes sense now. When he changed to the Goblin, he was focused on coming after me, but he would've had to approach it that way. He could never admit to himself that he wasn't just after me...he was after Gwen as well. He couldn't admit to himself the horror of what he was going to do. Nonetheless...that's why he took Gwen. There were so many others I cared about that he could have gone, Aunt May...but he specifically went for her."

So JMS is trying to use Peter himself to justify his appalling retcons by having him say, "it all makes sense now". Nope. Sorry. It doesn't fit. Here's why:

The Goblin never seemed to have any qualms about hurting or killing people (though, to be fair, the only person he killed on-panel before he died himself was Gwen). Back in the old days, Marvel villains tended not to kill too many people (what with the CCA and good taste being in charge), but the potential for murder was clearly there in many of them.

In ASM # 121, Norman snaps, and immediately focuses on defeating/killing Spider-Man, his most hated foe, the one man who has opposed him and frustrated him time and time again, the one who has caused his bouts of amnesia, the one who befriended his son, the one he blames all of his problems on. Thus, he went directly to PETER PARKER'S APARTMENT, when Gwen Stacy just *happened* to be at the time (wrong place, wrong time). He didn't *plan* to abduct Gwen. He had no malice towards Gwen (Save that she could be used to lash out at Peter, and perhaps that he partially blamed Peter's friends for Harry's condition.). And he couldn't likely have gone after Aunt May (whose jeopardy would also hurt Peter deeply), since she was living at Dr. Octopus' home (and being protected by Ock's guards), a fact Norman might not have even been aware of.

No, Norman went to Peter's apartment to kill Peter, and Gwen just happened to fall into his lap (Though not in the way JMS would have you think...).

Seeing the opportunity laid before him (the beloved girlfriend of his most hated foe), the Goblin kidnapped Gwen and took her to the Brooklyn Bridge, a very visible location where Spider-Man would be sure to find them quickly. He planned on using Gwen as a bargaining chip/hostage (demanding that Peter leave Norman's life, or else Gwen would die). Not playing by the Goblin's rules, Spider-Man attacked, and in retaliation, the Goblin knocked Gwen off of the bridge.

Until now, there was never a question of why the Goblin abducted Gwen (except to morons), never anything that didn't "make sense". I cannot believe that anyone, anywhere has *ever* asked why the Goblin kidnapped and killed Gwen. JMS has provided an "answer" to a question that has never been (or needed to be) asked.

If Norman had a beef with Gwen--and given the fact that he may very well be misogynistic--he would easily have killed her if he wanted to. He wouldn't have to justify the act by thinking that he was trying to kill *Spider-Man*, not Gwen. He would have killed her in the apartment, then gone after Spider-Man.

Before, Gwen's only crime was that she loved Peter Parker, and she died because of it. Because of PETER. That created a sense of guilt (one of Spider-Man's primary motivations) which gave Amazing Spider-Man a shot in the arm in the 1970s.

And now, with this little twist, Gwen has become an easily manipulated liar who paid the ultimate price for cheating on Peter with his best friend's father. So now it's *her* fault that she died. "That stupid little girl! Let's take her down a few pegs, huh?" So now Peter's conscience can rest easy, right?

It's all so very, very wrong.

Pg. 15: The idea that the twins have both accelerated growth and a healing factor is touched upon.

Also, JMS rewrites Norman's motivation for going to Europe after his "death". Originally, he went to Europe to build a crime empire, muck with Peter's life from afar, and keep anyone in the USA from knowing he was alive. Now, the reason given is that he went to get Gwen's kids.

PETER: "Did he go through her papers? Find her letters to me?"

HUH?!?! What?!?! Is JMS saying that Gwen had a house/apartment in Europe? Or did she leave some of her possessions in a hotel, and the cleaning staff was just really, really incompetent??? Why would she leave letters and personal effects overseas? Did she think she'd be going back to France after leaving her kids there???? And *WHAT* letters to Peter? Letters written, but unsent????? BLEH!!!!

Pg. 17:

And away we go. Get out the puke-buckets...

We see a flashback panel of Gwen saying, "I love you" to Peter.

Then, a distraught, present-day Peter:

PETER (to MJ): "Did she say....Did she say if she'd ever...if he was the first man to--"

PETER: "No...I--I can't....No--No--"


This dialogue is laid over gut-wrenching images (close-ups of their faces, nothing too racy) of Gwen Stacy and Norman Osborn getting to know each other in the Biblical sense (Objective narrative flashback images, or images from Peter's imagination? We're never told.). And Gwen is wearing that blasted black headband in the midst of intercourse (Is that thing glued to her head? Does JMS think it's some sort of kinky sex-toy?).

We see a panel of Gwen Stacy kissing Norman Osborn as he's on top of her.

We see a three-panel "panning" shot of what appears to be Gwen's "orgasm" face.

We see a panel featuring the smiling face of Norman Osborn (Who is wearing a shirt, unlike in the previous panels.)

We see a panel of the Green Goblin's face in place of Norman's.

A question about these last two panels: Are they just "stock" shots of Norman and the Goblin from Peter's memory, or is this supposed to by Peter imagining Norman (and the Goblin) thrusting into Peter's beloved girlfriend (possibly from Gwen's point-of-view)?

Note: Some fans mistakenly think that this is Peter's dialogue being laid over the panels ("No...I can't", etc.) was supposed to be *Gwen's* dialogue as she was being *raped*. Interestingly, artist Mike Deodato Jr. once referred to this as the "rape scene" in an interview, though from what I understand, he may have misunderstood what the scene was supposed to be or used the wrong word when being interviewed (apparently, English isn't his first language). No, the dialogue is *clearly* meant to show Peter being sickened at the thought of Gwen and Norman being together...and the possibility that Norman actually *deflowered* Gwen.

Anyway, this all builds until, we get a full-page splash (Pg. 18) of an anguished Peter screaming, "OSBORN!" I'm sure many readers felt the same...towards JMS. And then he angrily smashes furniture until MJ tells him to stop.

And that's all she wrote on that front. Peter doesn't hunt down Osborn in a rage (As he hunted down Ben Parker's killer in Amazing Fantasy # 15, as he hunted down the ISO-36 serum in ASM # 31-33, as he hunted down Kraven the Hunter after being buried alive in Kraven's Last Hunt, he hunted down the Green Goblin after the Goblin killed Gwen in ASM # 121-122!!!!) or curse his name or anything. No anger, no regrets, no horror, no *nothing* for the rest of the story (or subsequent issues).

Instead, Peter instantly forgives and forgets where Gwen and MJ's lies are concerned. Y'know, Peter and MJ have had bigger blow-ups over a lot less than this, but here, Peter acts as if MJ accidentally spilled some coffee on his spider-costume. No biggie, right? And Peter still acts (here and in subsequent issues) as if Gwen 's memory is completely untarnished in his eyes.

Indeed, Peter blames NORMAN, not GWEN, for mistakes that GWEN chose to make. The man who is so devoted to responsibility doesn't give Gwen's actions a second thought. Instead, he appears to childishly blame Osborn for beating him to the punch with Gwen, sexually. Peter seems to view Gwen more as a trophy than an old girlfirend who made a mistake. Compare that to The Goblin's psychopathic beahvior in ASM # 121-122, where he treated Gwen merely as an object, something to be used against Peter.

Thus, it now seems Peter has the morals of a VILLAIN.

Peter then devotes himself to finding Gwen and Norman's bastard offspring, whom he believes will soon die due to rapid aging. JMS would call all this "heroic" (and I suppose it is, since Peter sets aside his own feelings to help the rapidly aging kids).

I call it sick. The whole thing is sick.


That's how I felt when I saw this for the first time. It's how I *still* feel, just as strongly as I did the first time I saw it. And I'm not just referring to the behavior of the characters. I'm talking about the people at The Thing That Used to Be Marvel who crafted this abomination.

Now, I don't usually get too emotional about events in comics. But this one did it. In all my life, I don't think I've ever been so disturbed and enraged by an event in a comic book. Not even Hal Jordan turning evil. But this... my blood pressure rises and my rage bubbles over when I think about this whole mess. And I think it's because Spider-Man really and truly *means* something to me, and Gwen Stacy meant something to *him*. This whole thing feels so very, very *WRONG* to me, both emotionally and intellectually. It makes me feel dirty. It takes me to a place I never wanted to associate with Spider-Man. Every atom in me *SCREAMS* that it's wrong. To take something that was good and pure and decent (not just Gwen, but Spider-Man and his history) and to so blatantly defile it and so recklessly abuse it...I'm stunned. I'm beside myself. I'm devastated. Not only that, but Sins Past is clunky, illogical, and does not fit into Spider-Man's history, no matter how big JMS' shoehorn is. Sins Past is one of the biggest "slap the fans (and the characters) in the face" moments in comic book history. And nothing, NOTHING, will ever change that!

Maybe you're saying that I'm too serious about all this. That I should lighten up. That I should get a life. But the whole point of fiction is to entertain *and* get the reader to invest emotionally in the characters. Without emotion...*REAL* is dead. And I'm not talking about the artificial, contrived emotions Sins Past and other such dreck try to create. If the readers can still get emotional about stories and characters from 30+ years ago, but not *today's* stories, then what does that say? It seems the only emotions Marvel can provoke today are apathy (with their usual stories) and shock/sadness/hatred (with stories that mangle history, like Sins Past).

The fact that readers, even longtime "fans" would either accept these events with a shrug--or even proclaim Sins Past to be an instant, all-time classic Spider-Man story leaves my jaw hanging. It goes to show how numb and jaded the Fanboys are these days. I am utterly stunned. Just goes to show how far gone the creators *and* readers are these days, how low the standards are. It's unbelievable. Sure, everyone has the right to an opinion. Sure, some people may say they like this story, and that there's nothing wrong with it, in their opinion. But just because everyone has the right to an opinion doesn't mean an opinion can't be WRONG....


It's just mind-numbingly unbelievable.

And really, when could this indiscretion possibly have happened? Let's examine Peter and Gwen's entire relationship and point out the strongest and weakest parts of it, shall we?

Okay, so Peter and Gwen met at ESU in ASM # 31. He was distracted, and her ego was bruised when he ignored her. An attraction developed between them, but they remained somewhat antagonistic (ASM # 31-42).

Eventually, Gwen and Peter warmed up to each other (despite Gwen's minor rivalry with--and jealousy of--Mary Jane Watson), and they began dating (ASM # 43-53). After Peter went missing after temporarily losing his memory (ASM # 54-59), Gwen was terrified for him, having developed strong feelings for him.

However, just after they were reunited, Gwen fell under the mistaken impression that Peter attacked her father without provocation, and was heartbroken. She told Peter she never wanted to see him again (although she still deeply cared about him and prayed he could somehow explain that there was some other explanation for what he'd seemingly done to her father), and spent the next few issues nursing her father back to health (ASM # 60-64). After her father revealed that Peter was innocent, Gwen was overjoyed, and the couple reunited, closer than ever, and even sought approval of their relationship from May Parker (ASM # 65-68).

Despite their renewed affection, the couple encountered more stormy seas when Gwen began having doubts about Peter's courage and her fear that he might be cheating on her (due to his many unexplained absenses), and Peter became jealous and paranoid when Flash Thompson came home on leave from the army (ASM # 69-80).

Working through these problems, the couple became even closer after Flash's military leave ended and he left town. Also, Peter began to think long and hard about his future with Gwen (and even considered revealing his secret to her), but felt badly about his lack of money, since this made him unable to treat Gwen like a queen. Unfortunately, just as Peter was on the verge of proposing marriage to Gwen, she was injured when a speeding car caused a truck to careen out-of-control, nearly killing Peter and Gwen. An angry Peter left the unconscious Gwen behind in the care of medics, and then went after the guilty parties as Spider-Man. However, when he visited Gwen in the hospital later on, she was angry with him for running away and seemingly not caring enough about her to go to the hospital sooner (ASM # 82-85).

Eventually, Peter set Gwen up to believe that Spider-Man was hounding him for money (so as to protect his secret identity), and a fearful Gwen tried to get Peter to promise that he'd stay away from Spider-Man. Soon after, a delirious Peter arrived at Gwen's birthday party and announced that he and Spider-Man were one and the same. Gwen was crushed. Fortunately, Peter managed to convince Gwen and the rest of the gang that he "really" wasn't Spider-Man, and all was once again right with the world (ASM # 86-87).

Sadly, however, Captain George Stacy died shortly after, and Spider-Man was blamed for his death by Gwen. A guilt-ridden and grief-stricken Peter could not possibly bring himself to reveal the truth about his identity to Gwen after that (and even "kidnapped" her as Spider-Man to futher distance himself from his alter-ego in her eyes). A devastated Gwen wondered if she should take up her aunt and uncle's offer to live with them in England, but hesitated because of her relationship with Peter. However, when a conflicted Peter learned of this, he resolved to propose to Gwen, but then he remembered his overwhelming guilt over Captain Stacy's death, and could not bring himself to ask Gwen to stay for his sake. A saddened Gwen then left for England (ASM # 88-93).

After a short time apart (and a failed attempt by a heartbroken Peter to see Gwen in London), Gwen realized that she could not deny her feelings, and had to return home to Peter. And so, the couple reunited, stronger than ever (ASM # 94-99).

Eventually, Peter decided to give up being Spider-Man so he could marry Gwen, and drank an untested formula to rid himself of his powers. This backfired dramatically, however, and Peter instead grew four extra arms. After being gruff to Gwen on the phone, Peter left town to cure himself (and left Gwen very sad). After succesfully curing himself of his extra limbs, Peter and Gwen reunited, and despite the fact that he wouldn't tell her where he'd been, Gwen decided to trust him. Soon after, Peter got an offer by the Daily Bugle to go on an assignment to the Savage Land in Antarctica, and Peter jumped at the chance to earn some money he and Gwen could use to get married. However, Gwen wasn't thrilled by the prospect of Peter leaving her again so soon, and so she went with him (ASM # 100-104).

After that, Flash Thompson returned, and Peter felt jealous again, especially when Gwen insisted that they visit Flash to see what had been bothering him recently. Meanwhile, Gwen also had to contend with Flash, as he very nearly declared his love for her before Gwen stopped him from actually saying the words. Soon after, when Flash got kidnapped and Peter wanted to rush off and rescue him, Gwen begged him to stay with her, fearful for Peter's safety. Pained by the thought of abandoning the emotionally vulnerable Gwen yet again, Peter concocted a ruse to make it seem that he'd been kidnapped by Spider-Man in order to go after Flash. A terrified Gwen then ended up chastising May Parker for being too overprotective of Peter. After a battered and increasingly ill Peter returned, Gwen was deeply relieved to see him safe. However, as a result of being chewed out by Gwen, May Parker left town (ASM # 105-110).

When Gwen learned of May's abrupt departure, she was deeply upset and blamed herself. Meanwhile, Gwen had become increasing annoyed with Flash Thompson's constant ribbing of Peter, and angrily told him off. After that, she learned that May Parker had been staying with Doctor Octopus, and had also decided to stay at Doc Ock's mansion while he was in prison. Soon after (in the new pages added to the reprint of the story from Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine # 1), Peter and Gwen finally had a chance to talk, and Peter reassured Gwen that May's departure wasn't her fault, while Gwen reassured Peter that there was absolutely nothing going on between her and Flash Thompson. After that, the lovers were back together for the last time (ASM #111-118).

Soon after, Peter and Gwen went on a date, had a romantic carriage ride in Central Park, and shared a spectacular kiss (Webspinners: Tales of Spider-Man # 1).

Subsequently, Peter went to Canada to investigate Doctor Octopus' interest in Aunt May, but a few hours after he arrived, he received a frantic phone call from Gwen, telling him to return to New York as soon as possible. As it turned out, Harry Osborn had once again been taking drugs, and was on the verge of death. Returning home the next day, Peter learned just how grave the situation was, but he and Gwen were still elated to see each other. While Peter went to drop off the photos he'd taken in Canada to the Daily Bugle, Gwen waited in his apartment for him to return, so they could have a nice, long talk about recent events.

Unfortunately, Norman Osborn had snapped, and as the Green Goblin, he kidnapped Gwen and used her as a hostage against Spider-Man. Gwen was unconscious the whole time, and, when Spider-Man tried to save her after the Goblin Knocked her off of the Brooklyn Bridge, she died senselessly and tragically.

The End.

As you can see, Gwen was around in Peter's life almost constantly after her first appearance, with no opportunity to leave town for an extended period (although she went to England for a short time in ASM # 93-98, but we KNEW what she was up to while she was there).

The strongest points of Peter and Gwen's relationship:

1. After they first got together, but before Peter seemingly attacked Captain Stacy in ASM # 60.

2. After Captain Stacy told Gwen that Peter was only defending himself, the couple became extremely close (ASM # 64-69).

3. Just before Gwen was injured during the truck crash, when Peter was on the verge of proposing marriage (ASM # 82-83).

4. After Gwen returned from London, and the couple were very much planning on getting married (ASM # 98-100).

5. After Gwen stated once and for all that she and Flash Thompson weren't romantically involved, and Peter reassured Gwen that his Aunt May's departure wasn't her fault, just prior to Gwen's death (ASM # 116-121).

The weakest points of Peter and Gwen's relationship:

1. The beginning, when Peter and Gwen were somewhat antagonistic towards each other (ASM # 31-42). However, Gwen and Norman's sick little tryst couldn't possibly have occurred during this period, since Norman didn't become lose his memory until ASM # 40, and after that, he was in the hospital for a while. Not long after he got out of the hospital (his release wasn't actually depicted; he was referred to a few times, and then began showing up again beginning with ASM # 47), Peter and Gwen started getting serious (ASM # 48-53).

2. When Gwen believed Peter attacked her father (ASM # 60-64). This broke Gwen's heart, but she still secretly hoped that Peter could explain to her what had really happened, and was also busy caring for her recovering father until his memory fully returned and he told her that Peter was innocent (and Gwen became overjoyed when she heard the news). She and Peter quickly reunited, closer than ever before. The claim has been made that the tryst occurred when Gwen went to Norman Osborn to thank him for saving her life in ASM # 61 (AND REMEMBER, THIS EVENT WAS NEVER DEPICTED IN THE COMICS. THE IDEA THAT GWEN WENT TO THANK NORMAN IS A FAN THEORY THAT WAS MADE INTO A "FACT" BY THE CREW PLAYING CLEAN-UP FOR JMS IN THE OFFICIAL HANDBOOK OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE: SPIDER-MAN 2005!!!!!!!!), but this is very unlikely, because Gwen was too busy caring for her father and secretly pining for Peter before Norman went missing and his Goblin-memory returned (in ASM #65-66 & Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine # 2). Just prior to reuniting with Peter, Gwen had learned that Norman hadn't been feeling well lately, but this was second-hand information she received from Harry Osborn.

3. When Gwen wondered if Peter was a coward and Peter wondered if Gwen was cheating on him with Flash right before Gwen gots the mistaken impression that Peter didn't care about her (when he failed to visit her in the hospital) and Peter feverishly revealed his true idenitity (ASM # 82-87). There's no way the tryst could have occurred here, since Gwen and Peter were very much up-and-down without actually breaking up at this point.

4. The aftermath of George Stacy's death (ASM # 90-98). Despite the fact that Gwen chose to go to England when Peter didn't ask her to stay with him in New York, she still pined for him and hoped he would come to see her. After a short time there, she decided to return home and work things out. Around this time, Norman Osborn was having mental problems (and reverted to the Green Goblin once again), but Gwen was out of town when this happened, and only returned after Osborn had reverted back to "normal", and she and Peter got back back together right after she came home.

5. Various other problems (ASM # 101-118). After Gwen returned from England, the couple was plagued by some nagging issues, most notably Peter's continuing suspicions regarding the nature of Gwen and Flash's relationship, and Gwen's fear of abandonment, her fear for Peter's safety, her suspicions about Peter's secret, and her guilt over May Parker's departure. However, at no point during this period did the couple have an actual falling out or breakup. Their relationship became strained at times, but they always recovered and reaffirmed their love for one another.

So, to sum things up, Peter and Gwen were deeply in love (and on the verge of marriage), and most of their problems were caused by PETER and his lack of honesty regarding his dual-identity.

It would be EXTREMELY hypocritcal and selfish of Gwen to cheat on Peter and suddenly run off to France for a time without any explanation, when SHE so often became angry with PETER for running off and leaving her without explanation. It would also seem DEEPLY selfish and manipulative for Gwen to insist to Peter that there was nothing going on between her and Flash Thompson...while at the same time secretly hiding the fact that she'd had a fling with Norman Osborn and given birth to his twin children. UGH!

No, people, these retcons DO NOT WORK AND DO NOT FIT. This "story" is an utter and absolute BETRAYAL of everything we know to be true about Gwen Stacy (Or Peter Parker, or Mary Jane Watson-Parker, or Norman Osborn, for that matter.).

ASM # 513: "Sins Past, Part 5" (Or, as I like to call it, "Bring Back My Goblin Twins to Me!")

Pg. 2: In an inappropriate bit of crude humor, Spidey is swarmed by media when he calls a press conference to tell the twins to meet him at the place where their mother died, and then swears angrily (and "humorously") at the cameras (I count eight bleeps).

Pg. 6, panel 1: And so, he goes to the Brooklyn Bridge:

SPIDER-MAN: "I swore, long ago, that I'd never stand up here again."

Yeah, sure. Despite the fact that he's been back to that bridge many, *MANY* times (In What If? Vol. 1 # 24, ASM # 207, Spectacular Spider-Man # 101, and Web of Spider-Man # 125, among others.). Sorry, JMS. Nice try.

Pg. 9, panels 2-3: JMS has said that a real disease, Progeria, provided a real-world basis for the twins' aging. Great, if they had a genetic malfunction. But since when does the Goblin formula cause rapid aging or bizarre genetic disorders?

Pg. 18-19: Sarah is accidentally knocked off of the bridge by a gunshot from Gabriel, and Spidey swings down after her and saves her. Thus, JMS has finally given Spidey a catharsis: he saved Gwen's daughter from the same fate Gwen herself met. What great, original, superb writing--



We've already seen it before. Spidey did (*yawn*) the EXACT SAME THING with Gwen's CLONE in Web of Spider-Man # 125. And Ben Reilly saved another woman attempting to commit suicide by jumping from the top of the bridge in Web of Spider-Man # 118. Hmm.

Nice rip-off, JMS.

Yet another insulting, unoriginal aspect of this storyline.

ASM # 514: "Sins Past, Part 6" (Or, as I like to call it, "How Gray Was My Goblin!")

Pg. 1: We see a secret hideout of Norman's, which contains lovely Goblin costumes intended for Gabriel and Sarah. Funny...unless this hideout was built by Norman *after* his death (While Norman was in...Europe? Huh. Gotta love that long-distance construction power he has...), then why wasn't it plundered by the original Hobgoblin, who systematically raided *all* of Norman's old lairs (and don't tell me this one wasn't listed in Norman's journals)?

And when was this whole contingency plan of having the kids become cute little Goblins formed? After Norman "died" but before he went to Europe. BEFORE he "died", when he didn't even *remember* being the Green Goblin? Bleh.

Pg. 7: Somehow, Spider-Man knows that a transfusion of his own blood will save Sarah. Huh. Even if Peter and Gwen had the same blood type, there's a very good chance that, if Norman had a different blood type, his type would be dominant, and would thus be inherited by the kids. So how did Peter know it would work at all????

And wouldn't Peter be worried about repeating the horror of years past, when he gave Aunt May a blood transfusion way, way back in ASM # 10, only to see the radioativity in his blood begin to kill her later on (In ASM # 31-33)?

Pg. 9: We see what is apparently a flashback of Norman (naked) *injecting* himself with the Goblin Formula. Huh. Well, unless Norman gave himself another dose later on, this is totally wrong. We all know that Norman (a *fully-clothed* Norman) was working with vials of chemicals that exploded in his face.

In his pre-recorded message to the kids, Norman says his frequent amnesia in the old days was a *side effect* of the Goblin Formula. WRONG!!!! RETCONNED GARBAGE!!!!!!

Norman suffered amnesia for these reasons:

1. In ASM # 39, Spider-Man knocked the Goblin into some chemicals and live wires. The resultant electrochemical shock caused his amnesia (perhaps by causing minor brain damage).

2. In Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine # 2, Spider-Man forced the Goblin to breathe in his own hallucinogenic gas, and while the Goblin was thus affected, Spider-Man commanded him to both forget and fear Spider-Man and the Green Goblin.

3. In ASM # 98, Spider-Man forced the Goblin toward the hospital where Harry Osborn was hospitalized as a result of his drug overdose. The shock of seeing his son in such a bad state caused Norman to revert back to "normal" (to his prior state of partial amnesia).

Pg. 13: We are introduced to Gabriel, the newest Goblin. *Yawn.* This Goblin wears a gray version of Norman's old Goblin costume. How original. The fans began to call this Goblin "The Gray Goblin", and lacking any better ideas, Marvel decided to make that his official name months later.

"Boring, stupid, insulting, and repetitive." This must be JMS' (and Nu-Marvel's) mantra.

Pg. 20: After the Gray Goblin is defeated (by a gun-wielding Sarah), we get a flashback of Gwen and Peter outside what appears to be a house. Where and when does this take place (it appears to take place after they leave the Osborn townhouse in ASM # 121)? Are they at the Parker home (Which *wasn't* where Aunt May was living when Gwen died. And besides, in ASM # 121, after leaving the townhouse, Peter went to the Daily Bugle to sell the pix he shot in Canada.)? Gwen's home (Doesn't look like it. There's grass around the building, and Gwen lived in an old brownstone with her father before he died, presumably in the city.)??? Why does Peter seem hesitant to do whatever it is that "won't take long"? And why is Gwen waiting outside while Peter goes in? Or is Peter even going in at all? In panel 5, it looks like *GWEN* about to go in.

GWEN: "I'll wait here for you, Peter."

PETER: "Thanks. This...shouldn't take long."

GWEN: "Good. Then we can have a chance to sit and talk. It's been a long time, and I have a lot to tell you. A lot to talk about."

PETER: "Great."

GWEN: "Peter? Do you believe in destiny?"

PETER: "I...don't know. Why?"

GWEN: "It's's funny...there are times I feel as if I've known you for longer than I've known're that much a part of me. And yet----and yet when I try to look ahead, I can imagine you coming home from a hard day's work, putting your head in my lap to sleep...but I can't see my face. Isn't that odd?"

Pg. 20, panels 1-5:

PETER: "Not at all. After all, if you're inside your own head, how can you really see yourself? Your lap is all mine, Gwen. And the rest of you ain't bad either.

GWEN: "You're such a--"

GWEN: "I love you, Peter."

PETER: "I love you..."

And then we cut back to a dazed Spider-Man in the present, still wrapped up in his memories, being tended to by Mary Jane.

SPIDER-MAN: "...I'll always love you..."

MARY JANE: "I know. Sleep now."

In a *deeply* ironic twist, Gwen's "I love you, Peter" was badly printed in my copy of ASM # 514, making it barely legible (it's very faint). A sign from above, maybe?

Anyway, this whole scene is supposed to be touching, but it's clumsy and cloying and ugly. I can't help but wonder if, had she not stopped herself, Gwen would have said, "You're such a moron, Peter. I'm dropping all these clues that I cheated on you, and you're too thick-headed and self-involved to see them. Hah! You don't have that groovy Osborn coiffure. You could never slam it to me the way Norman could. Now hurry up, will you? I need you to take care of me and my illegitimate kids for the rest of our lives".

The idea that Gwen kept saying, "Do you love me?", "We need to talk?", "Would you love me no matter what I told you? No matter what may happen between us?", etc., is really, really dumb. There's no hint of it in any of the original stories, and Peter looks like a total fool for:

A: Not connecting the dots and realizing Gwen cheated on him; and--

B: Not even about wondering what Gwen wanted to say to him after she died.

All of this makes Gwen look like a selfish, amoral hussy.

And of course, we get the cheap sentimentality of Gwen's bizarre premonition of her own death (which she alludes to when she says she doesn't see herself with Peter in the future). Pathetic and sloppy.

Finally, we get yet ANOTHER moment where, *sigh*, it's indicated that *Gwen* will always be Peter's one true love, and Mary Jane again gets the shaft (what with having Gwen's ghost come between her and Peter again and again and again and again). JMS says he thinks *MJ* is the one for Peter, and then pulls this hackneyed, overused stunt? Bah!

At the very end of the story, Gabriel, his Goblin costume burned off, washes up on a beach with no memory of who he is (this clearly trying to set him up as the new Goblin, since he's inherited the outfit and the amnesia).

A pathetic, tired ending to a wretched, insulting story.

In an attempt to shoehorn these appalling retcons into the official canon, Marvel included a revised (Or is that "butchered"?) entry for Gwen Stacy in the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Book of the Dead 2004. Here's the relevant alteration:

"Gwen visited Norman Osborn and, drawn to his inner pain (over his conflicting identities) as well as an underlying power, succumbed to a moment of passion that would have major consequences. Gwen became pregnant and traveled to Europe to have the children in secret; though born prematurely her twin children were physically full term. Upon returning, Gwen planned to tell Peter, but she never had the chance. Recovering his memory of Peter's identity, Norman, the Green Goblin, burned with a desire for revenge against Spider-Man and Gwen for keeping him from his heirs, the Goblin kidnapped Gwen, and Spider-Man was unable to stop him pushing Gwen off of the Brooklyn Bridge."


In the context of the full entry, it's implied the indiscretion between Gwen and Norman took place after George Stacy's death in ASM # 90 (which simply isn't possible). It also implies that her absence (when she went to France) took place during the reprint story in ASM # 116-118 (which also isn't possible).

The whole "drawn to his inner pain (over his conflicting identities)" bit seems to be a poor attempt to explain why the indiscretion occurred. It's more of a reason than JMS ever gave us, but it *still* doesn't fly.

In the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: Spider-Man 2005 (written by Al Sjoerdsma, Mike Fichera, Sean McQuaid, Ronald Byrd, Heather Buchanan, Kerry Wilkinson, Eric Engelhard, Jason Godin, Barry Reese, Bryan Thiessen & Jeff Christiansen), the entry for the Stacy twins states that Gwen visited Norman to thank him for saving her life in ASM # 61, and that was when they had their little fling. Hmmmmm....sounds an awful lot like what Madgoblin theorized in his "Deflowering Gwen" essay. It's sad to see a bunch of people whom I've never heard of playing clean-up for JMS by "borrowing" a theory developed by a devoted FAN in order to justify and explain a badly-written story that hadn't been thought out at all. *That* is a case of the tail (the fans) wagging the dog (by informing what is officially canon).

The Official Handbook also refers to Gabriel as "The Gray Goblin", a name that the *fans* came up with. Pathetic!

It's the epitome of bad writing when the readers have to do the writers' job for them by thinking out plot details and trying to make everything fit. It's even worse when the writers take what the fans have said and use that as an official explanation.

A good story should provide all of the necessary information required for readers to understand the details (although there's still wiggle room for things like metaphor and ambiguity). If the readers have to start filling in plot holes and trying to explain how the story could fit into previous continuity (in other words, doing the writer's job for them), then the writer has FAILED, and the story is flawed.

The fact of the matter is, it DOESN'T MATTER if the story is "good" or "entertaining" or "well-written" (to name but a few of the defenses the JMS-apologists have brought up).

The story may be a "good" or "well-written" story, but it is NOT a "good" or "well-written" *SPIDER-MAN* story, a story that does honor to, and builds upon, decades of previous history and characterization.

And THAT, my fellow Spidophiles, is inept, insufficient, and inexcusable.

The CENTER DOES NOT HOLD, and things fall apart (And they HAVE fallen apart, make no mistake.).

THE BOTTOM LINE is that this "story" is clunky, repetitive, illogical, salacious, unnecessary, painful, and deeply insulting and embarrassing to Spider-Man and his history.

Sins Past was billed as a big event for Spider-Man. Sales temporarily spiked, but went down right afterwards. Here are the sales figures for Amazing for 2004:

Jan Amazing Spider-Man #503 - 87,341 ( -3.5%)
Feb Amazing Spider-Man #504 - 84,064 ( -3.7%)
Mar Amazing Spider-Man #505 - 83,613 ( -0.5%)
Apr Amazing Spider-Man #506 - 83,152 ( -0.6%)
May Amazing Spider-Man #507 - 81,944 ( -1.5%)
Jun Amazing Spider-Man #508 - 82,268 ( +0.4%)
Jun Amazing Spider-Man #509 - 101,632 (+23.5%)
Jul Amazing Spider-Man #510 - 86,181 (-15.2%)
Aug Amazing Spider-Man #511 - 88,118 ( +2.2%)
Sep Amazing Spider-Man #512 - 88,628 ( +0.6%)
Oct Amazing Spider-Man #513 - 89,615 ( +1.1%)
Nov Amazing Spider-Man #514 - 87,121 ( -2.8%)
Dec Amazing Spider-Man #515 - 83,637 ( -4.0%)
Jan 05 Amazing Spider-Man #516 - 79,842 ( -4.5%)
Feb 05 Amazing Spider-Man #517 - 78,584 ( -1.6%)
Mar 05 Amazing Spider-Man #518 - 77,025 ( -2.0%)
Apr 05 Amazing Spider-Man #519 - 79,668 ( +3.4%)
May 05 Amazing Spider-Man #520 - 76,143 ( -4.4%)
Jun 05 Amazing Spider-Man #521 - 74,117 ( -2.7%)
Jul 05 Amazing Spider-Man #522 - 73,130 ( -1.3%)
Aug 05 Amazing Spider-Man #523 - 72,046 ( -1.5%)
Sep 05 Amazing Spider-Man #524 - 71,065 ( -1.4%)
Oct 05 Amazing Spider-Man #525 - 91,707 (+29.0%)
Nov 05 Amazing Spider-Man #526 - 81,348 (-11.3%)
Dec 05 Amazing Spider-Man #527 - 79,261 ( -2.6%)

Not exactly an explosion of new readers, eh? Sales for Amazing Spider-Man ended the year lower than they'd been in quite some time (Lower than they'd been when the year started, in fact.). Back in the Golden Age of comics, many books (such as Superman) sold a million copies per issue. Granted, those numbers went down quite a bit in subsequent years, but in the 1970s-1980s, Marvel's cancellation point for a book was if it sold fewer than 100,000 copies per issue. 200,000 was considered healthy, and a big hit was 400,000. As can well be seen, Spider-Man is far from being a bit hit, and is below the old 100,000 cancellation point (Today, a book is considered "healthy" if it's selling 40,000 copies per issue....not a good sign, eh?), and dropping.

And it should be noted that the best-selling issues of "The Other" crossover (from Oct. 2005-Jan. 2006) still sold lower than the lowest selling issues of Sins Past.

In Wizard Magazine # 167 (August, 2005), MARVELS artist Alex Ross let his thoughts on JMS, Sins Past, and the whole "Gwen Stacy thing" be known. And I must say, I'm very pleased to see that some high-profile creators are not afraid to take a public stand for what's right:

ROSS: "Once I saw the Gwen Stacy thing, I got rid of my entire run from the issue he [JMS] took over. It's not that I'm so in love with Gwen Stacy, but if you don't know a character that much, you have no right to manipulate them to that degree. Much as I loved John Romita Jr.'s artwork, I'm going to pretend like this sh-- never happened."

Good man. I may not agree with him on everything, but it's nice to see him take a stand for what he believes in. Some have said that dumping JMS' ENTIRE RUN (whether Ross sold the books or literally trashed them is unknown) was an extreme reaction. I would say it's akin to learning that a movie star you're a fan of kidnapped, raped, and murdered your child. You then proceed to remove all of that actor's movies (on DVD or VHS) from your home, since you can't stand the thought of that person's actions, or having a constant reminder of those actions in your home. Okay, that's a very *extreme* example, but you get the idea, yes?

And, as an aside, regarding the second Spider-Man motion picture:

ROSS: "I was upset last year when everybody kept saying 'Spider-Man 2' was the best comic book movie of all time. Because I kept thinking, 'Oh guys, you don't realize how dumb this movie is.' You're not going to be able to say that in five years. This is a really dumb script. The things these people are saying to each other are dumb. You need some perspective."

That sounds about right to me.

Shortly thereafter, Alex Ross did something that really touched me in a profound way. After signing on with Upper Deck Cards to provide artwork of various characters for their comic-based collectible card games, Ross painted a very powerful image, one which was also used on the cover of Comics Buyer's Guide # 1610 (November, 2005).

The painting features a John Romita Sr.-style Spider-Man standing in front of a fearful Gwen Stacy (dressed in the clothes she died in during ASM # 121). They are up against a brick wall, and a pair of purple hands (presumably the Green Goblin's) are reaching towards them. Here's the cover (via,comics_buyers_guide,1610.jpg

At first glance, it would seem that this is a symbolic image of Spidey protecting Gwen Stacy from the Green Goblin, but there's more to it than that. He's protecting Gwen from those who would truly harm her. From people like JMS.

In the interview with Ross advertised on the cover of CBG # 1610, he describes what an exciting--and scary--time it is for comics. There's also a sidebar to the article, entitled "Alex Ross on sins past...and present", in which he describes the truth behind his the Spider-Man/Gwen Stacy painting:

"I also did the art for the Upper Deck Employee 'bonus cards,'" Ross told *CBG*. "I've lamented the fact that not enough people are going to see that and know what that represented to me. The Spider-Man and Gwen Stacy art on this card was a *direct* reaction to the recent brutalizing of the Gwen Stacy character [in the 'Sins Past' storyline in *Amazing Spider-Man*.] I wanted to show my support for Spider-Man protecting her memory from the damage that was being done to her.

"I took that in particularly strong offense, so, when the offer came to do a Spider-Man card, I asked if I could do a piece like this. I didn't expect that it was going to shake the world's foundations- but I wanted to throw my statement out there; I just don't like it when people get rude with the characters. It's an unfortunate trend, one of the things that I don't like about comics these days.

While I said it was an exciting time in the comic-book industry, it's actually exciting and *terrifying* at the same time, because it seems like there's no standards for decency. I think decency applies even when you are brutalizing a character that, albeit fictional, is something that existed for decades and is embraced by so many people."

Ross is one of the few creators in the industry today who really shows a genuine love of the past works of others and who wants to honor the characters. And the fact that he created such a lovely painting that perfectly sums up how so many Spider-Man fans feel about this travesty...well, that just warms my heart. Thank you, Alex Ross.

Thank you.

Also, comic fan/scribe Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer (among other characters and series) had this to say:

WHEDON: "Every character, yours or not, new or very old, has a list of rules. You always know which ones not to break. For example, Gwen Stacy would never have sex with Norman Osborn and give birth to super-powered twins (Obviously). But the fun is always examining the rules and seeing which ones will bend, because that’s where the character’s true dimensions lie."

Score two for the good guys....

And here are some of JMS' defenses of the story from rec.arts.comics.marvel.universe, posted after the explosion of fan outcries (with my comments):

JMS:" aside to those who suggest that MJ could never keep a secret like this from Peter...bear in mind that for years she kept the secret that Peter was Spider-Man from *her mother-in-law*, Peter's mother, who you would think would have one hell of a right to know. One can now argue the reasons for keeping the secret, but the fact is that she *kept* it. From someone she loves.

We all keep secrets."

Except that Mary Jane and Peter are *married* and have gone through numerous ups and downs (and some of the low points were the result of *PETER* keeping secrets from Mary Jane), and to think that this dirty laundry was never aired during ANY of their many reconciliations makes MJ look like a terrible person and a liar. The reason why Peter never told Aunt May the truth about his identity is because he feared the shock would kill her (a fear MJ no doubt also had). Apparently, the only reason MJ didn't tell Peter about Gwen is because she didn't want to hurt him. That's quite a step down from causing him to die from shock. I think he could handle it. Nice try JMS, but no No-Prize for you!


"1) The kids are Norman's.

2) We know that Norman is the Green Goblin (properly established).

3) We know that the Green Goblin became that way because of the serum (properly established).

4) We know that the serum affected his biology (properly established)

5) We know that the serum gave him an accelerated healing capacity (properly established)

6) We know from the Marvel universe (and some measure of biology) that some acquired traits can be passed on genetically to the next generation (properly established).

7) We know, from real life, that glitches in DNA can cause children to age prematurely at a frightening rate. The disorder is called Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria syndrome (HGPS).

I quote from one of many reference sources:

"The disease, also known as Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria syndrome (HGPS) occurs once in approximately 8 million births. It affects both sexes and all races."

"Children with HGPS appear to age at a rate that is 5 to 10 times the normal rate."

"According to researchers, Progeria is caused by a single-letter misspelling in a gene on chromosome 1. They found 18 of 20 children with classic Progeria had the exact same misspelling in the Lamin A gene. Lamin A is a protein that is a key component of the membrane that surrounds the cell's nucleus."

"The studies showed that almost half of the Progeria patients cells had misshapen nuclear membranes."

So this has been properly established IN THE REAL WORLD.

8) The healing factor (properly established) which was passed on to the kids (simple genetics) is the only thing that has allowed them to survive even this long.

What part of this progression escapes you?

What part of this comes "out of the blue?" It's ALL either a logical extension of continuity or of the real world. can say you don't like it, that's one thing...but you *cannot* say that it's not properly established, and you *cannot* say it is therefore by ANY definition a cheat.

Saying it doesn't make it so.

Sorry. I *did* my homework."

"Homework" done to justify a shaky and forced plot point, but NOT to study past stories and characterization to make his own story fit smoothly into the established canon? Now THAT'S what I call a mismanagement of time!

JMS: "Y'know what I love? I love it when people start going for comparisons, because you know that's when the argument has effectively degenerated to the point of being over. "When so-and-so did X it's just as if he was doing Y!" where Y is always defined in terms easier to attack than X.

For discussing whether or not Gwen, a college-aged woman, would have consensual sex with an older, more charismatic business man, a big corporate guy, tphile says:

Is it possible that Batman could be a pedophile or a murderer? Could Mother Teresa be a thief, hooker?

The first batch of which are criminal, degraded acts, the latter of which are of dubious morality but also patently illegal.

So you are equating a woman of legal age choosing to have sex out of marriage with criminal acts of degradation, with murder and pedophillia and the like.

Have you considered counseling? I hear it can help with this sort of thing.

And something else, while I'm at it.

Here is everybody stomping on Gwen for having sex when she was in-and-out of relationships with Peter.

What about Peter and the Black Cat? He has apparently gone horizontal with her while he was on-and-off with MJ...does the same rule not apply to him?

I don't remember anybody calling Peter a whore, a tramp and a slut...or comparing his actions to murder and the like

Why's that, I wonder?

Could it be because he's a guy, and those who are most upset at Gwen are guys, and it's okay if a guy does it but NOT okay if a gal does it?

If you're going to compare, then compare apples to apples, not apples to oranges.

What if Batman had a fling with Catwoman? (Which some argue he did.)

What if Superman at some point in the past had a fling with Wonder Woman? (Which some argue he did.)

What if Spider-Man had a fling with Black Cat? (Which looks like he did.)

Why is it that only when a WOMAN does this do some guy fans go berserk?

No, wait, never mind, that's's a guy thing.

Because if it's NOT a case of double standards, show me the usenet threads and web sites that called Peter a whore, a tramp and a slut (or the guy equivalents of those) for messing with the Black Cat while he was on-and-off involved with MJ."

Wrong-o, JMS. At no point was Peter involved with the Black Cat and MJ at the same time. Peter had a thing going with Betty Brant after MJ turned down his first marriage proposal (in ASM # 182-183) and dumped him. MJ went to Florida, and Peter later hooked up with the Cat. Peter and the Cat broke up (in Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man # 100), and Peter and MJ became confidants (with no *real* romance going on, except a kiss before he went to Berlin in the 1986 Spider-Man vs. Wolverine one-shot) after she revealed that she knew his secret. Peter and the Cat got together for one more brief fling, and then she left the country to avoid the wrath of the Foreigner. Peter and MJ got close again immediately following that, and they were married soon after. And one could *still* argue that there weren't any sexual relations between any of these people, unlike with Gwen and Norman.

Also, Peter and Gwen only REALLY broke-up twice. After he seemingly attacked her father in ASM # 60, and when she went to England after her father's death.

And I'm sick of JMS bringing up rantings of the "Gwen's a slut/whore/tramp" crowd as his one and only argument/defense over and over and over again ("Hey, I have no real defense, so look at these guys instead of me! They're really upset about my story! Isn't that stupid? Doesn't that show how right I am?"). Bleh.

USENET POSTER: "'s been obvious Marvel wasn't going month to month as the comics
were. ASM 97-122 all run concurrently with no "monthly" gaps as you mentioned. I've relooked at the issues and there no room or timeframe available for this JMS folly."

JMS: "You *do* realize that 116-117-118 were reprints from Spectacular, right? So there's three months right there unaccounted for."

That is a weak excuse. First of all, real time (the publishing time between each issue) does not equal comic-story time. If a story ends on a cliffhanger, and the next issue (published the next month...hopefully...) picks up on the same moment the previous story was left at, does that mean one month passed in the context of the story? No. In theory, a whole bunch of issues could be done over a year or two, and span only a few days (maybe less) in the story's chronology.

Further, if JMS had *really* done his homework, he would see that ASM # 116-118 was *not* a straight reprint of Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine # 1, since it was heavily altered to reflect then-current Spidey events (and is thus *arguably* canon for the time period between ASM # 115-119). And taken as a whole, the events of ASM # 116-118 take place over about 3 *days*, not 3 months.

JMS: "What you also have to remember is that I'm a *fan*. I grew up reading Spidey. I, too, had (and still have) tremendous affection for Gwen's character. Deciding to take on this story was very difficult for me."

Sure, JMS, sure.

JMS: "But I felt it was in the end the right decision, and still do. Yeah, I could leave the characters exactly as they were, and have them not change for another five or ten years, however long I'm involved with the book...but would I *really* be doing my job, or just cashing checks?"

Leaving a mess for later writers to clean up is *not* JMS' job. Respecting the characters and maintaining their well-being for future generations *is*.

JMS: "Anybody who hasn't changed a whit, who hasn't grown or shown surprises as a person, in 30 years, as Twain said, is dead and rotten and should be shoved down a sewer."

This is, perhaps, the stupidest thing I've EVER read.

Gwen is dead. A stiff. A corpse. Wormfood. She's been gone for almost 35 years. She needs no "development", retroactive or not. The very notion of a DEAD character needing "growth" and "change" is laughable. Or it *would* be, if the circumstances weren't so grave. In fact, the crazed fanboy mentality that *living* comic book characters "need" to grow and change and evolve is also laughable. All that is required for a book to thrive and remain self-renewing is the *illusion* of change. Change the window-dressing, but don't demolish the building.

And I thought JMS said, "My job, in coming into the book, was to try and look at things in new ways without actually changing anything or disrespecting the work of those who came before me."

Well, gee...which is it, JMS? Have you or have you not changed anything?

But, gee...JMS also said, "I don't think I've actually changed anything that couldn't be reversed or reconsidered later. I've added to the filigree around it, but not changed it."

So he DOESN'T think he's actually changed anything, but then he says he HAS changed things that can be "reversed or reconsidered later"????

Can we say, "backpedaling"?

Interestingly, after working for some time to defend his sad little story in interviews and on Internet newsgroups, JMS later shifted into a "blame editorial" mode with comments like these:

“It’s Joe Quesada’s fault, actually, Straczynski answers. He then reveals what his original intent was for the storyline. “I wanted to do it as Peter’s kids, but they said ‘We’ve aged Peter where he can’t have kids who are running around as adults, make it someone else. How ‘bout Norman? I said, ‘Will the fans be okay with that? ‘Oh, they’ll be fine.

“I’m recovering from that now. Everything’s fine.

Having a lot of faith in the talents that Bendis and Straczynski bring out in the work on their books, rarely has Marvel out rightly dismissed a pitch. What have they said no to? “Except for Peter being the father of the Stacy twins, says Straczynski, “nothing.

“When I first came to them I said, look, I’m a pain in the ass to work with, and I’m gonna want my own way a lot because I plan to fail a lot. Seriously.

“The military says they push people and machines until they fail to find out what the parameters are and how to adjust and correct them. So I’m gonna push this to the wall, and a lot of times I’m gonna fall on my face. And if you’re okay with that, promise me you will not change my words at all. And they said yes.

“Since that time, except for that one Peter Parker ‘dad' thing, I have not heard the word ‘no' from Joe or from anybody over there. They say, ‘Do what you’re gonna do with it, and we’ll trust you, which is a tremendous compliment.

So now JMS is blaming Quesada? Hmmm. Gee, wasn't JMS the one who claimed he'd done his "homework"? Wasn't he the one who claimed it all "worked", continuity-wise? Wasn't he the one who seemed to pridefully claim FULL responsibility for the story while it was still in the process of being published? Wasn't he the one who claimed to have made Gwen the mother of the twins instead of, say, Mary Jane or the Black Cat because she was the "biggest rock" he could find to throw at Spider-Man? Wasn't he the one who blamed the "small minority" of *fans* for getting mad at *his* story and then called proceeded to call them "sexist"?

*Now* he claims his original intent was to make PETER the daddy of Gwen's offspring. This would have been *catastrophic* for the Spider-Man mythos (albeit much more logical than what we got), to be sure, but the "Plan B" JMS allegedly came up with (Norman as the father) is just as bad (and probably even worse). Or maybe JMS is blaming Quesada (who is already hated by many) to explain Amazing's slipping sales and to try and appease fans ("Don't blame me! I had another idea, but it was rejected by Quesada, so I was *forced* to come up with the idea you hated!"). Bleh. Nice try, JMS...but your comments, and the comments of Quesada and others have already proven *exactly* what you guys think of the story, the characters, and the fans.

So it looks like the original version of the story went like this:

Gwen ran off to France after Peter unknowingly got her pregnant, and had the babies in Paris. Before she could tell Peter about it when she came back to the USA, she was killed by the Green Goblin. This is revealed to Peter in the present day when the two "adult" kids begin to attack him after being raised by Norman Osborn in secret. Thus, we have the horrid idea that Peter and Gwen's children were raised by the Green Goblin and are now Spider-Man's enemies (yet another sick example of Osborn being the mastermind who makes Peter's life a nightmare time and time again).

This is only a marginal step-up from the story as published.

It's still incredibly awful.

The fact that JMS and Marvel could so easily transplant the identity of the father in the published version shows how shallow and badly thought-out this "story" really is. If Sins Past was an honest, well-thought-out, character-driven story (like in the good old days), then it would have *completely* fallen apart when a major plot element was altered. Cookie-cutter plots that involve replacing "Tab A" (Peter) with "Tab B" (Norman) for insertion into "Slot C" (Gwen) do not a good story make.

And, aside from allegedly nixing the "Peter-as-father" idea, letting JMS run wild with everything else is a major sign of editorial dysfunction and stupidity, not "confidence". So..."they'll be fine" was editorial's thought on the matter at that time? "Fine" with the idea that Gwen Stacy would screw a man later established to be 35+ years her senior rather than her boyfriend, the man she wanted to marry???? Yeah. Fine. Surrrre.

Also, JMS has said that he prefers MJ as Peter's love interest, not Gwen. Combine that with his statement about Gwen being the "biggest stone" he could throw at Peter, and it seems that one of the reasons he wrote this story is so Gwen would be "ruined" in the eyes of the fans, and Mary Jane (or at least JMS' VERSION of Mary Jane) would be more appealing.

So to sum things up, by retroactively making Gwen Stacy into a cheater and a liar, JMS was "really" trying to show us that she was, in fact, a courageous, strong-willed and independent woman (yet despite being so "strong-willed", she was somehow unable to resist the alleged charisma of a creepy businessman who was more than twice her age).


Is there something wrong with this picture?

A real hero is someone who does the right thing when it would be easier not to. And I'm not talking about media celebrities who are hailed as heroes. I'm talking about real heroes, like firefighters and policemen. Super-heroes represent the best of us. Spider-Man uses his powers to enter dangerous situations and save the lives of others's the *right thing* to do, and he knows it! Why is that concept so difficult for today's writers to understand?

Comic books are escapism. They feature superheroes who are *better* than most people, who fight to make the world a *better* place. They are a funnel for the best in us, for all our dreams and hopes and potential. They do the right thing when they don't necessarily have to. They are mythic. They represent all that is good and decent in society. They battle the evils of the world and come out stronger for it.

Spider-Man, in particular, is a good person struggling to overcome both the standard woes of life while battling super-villains and fighting for the greater good. His supporting cast (even J. Jonah Jameson, who is a crusader for civil rights and who also battles against crime and corruption) is comprised of *good* people, of *family*, of *love* and *devotion*.

And now, fanboys and professionals insist on dragging super-heroes down, by making them deeply fallible, by mocking them and having them make horrible mistakes and do terrible things.

And now, Peter Parker seems to fight primarily for himself. He fights foes who have personal scores against *him*, foes who threaten *him*, not the rest of the world. He used to battle external threats, foes who threatened innocent people. Now he seems to deal almost exclusively against foes who target him and his loved ones. How selfish.

And now, Gwen Stacy was not a good person, retroactively. Now, she is a cheater, a liar, and very, very selfish.

And now, Spider-Man's world is full of pain and hate and anguish and lies and broken families, instead of optimism and his traditional, "fun" problems (like girls, work, and school).

And that hurts.

It hurts a lot.

Now, we must discuss the sad, much-loathed follow-up to Sins Past......Sins Remembered (Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 2 # 23-26). As stated, I haven't bought a single first-run Spider-Man comic (or Marvel comic) since Sins Past, so I've been following developments in the books primarily via the Internet and by occasionally flipping through the books on the rack (and cringing all the while).

Sins Remembered was written by Sara Barnes, a novice comic writer who is said to be a protégé of JMS. Working from the plotline developed by JMS and Editor Axel Alonso in ASM 509-514, Barnes brought back the Stacy twins.

Since I can't possibly bring myself to buy the actual issues, a synopsis of each (as opposed to the detailed annotations seen elsewhere in this essay) will have to suffice. I wouldn't even want these issues for FREE! I feel bad enough having JMS' run (and Sins Past) in my collection...whenever I've dug those issues out to analyze for this essay, I've been *sorely* tempted to tear them up and spit on them.

Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 2) # 23:

Sins Remembered: Sarah's Story Part 1:

Several weeks after the events of ASM # 514, Peter gets a late night call from a hospital in Paris, France, telling him that Sarah Stacy is ill and that she listed him as a reference. Peter flies to Paris (he tells MJ he wants to go alone, which upsets her, since it hints that he sees his beloved Gwen's kids as more of a priority than his life with her) and goes to the hospital, where he's told that Sarah apparently tried to commit suicide with drugs. He soon learns that the drug overdose was an accident (she took too many pills while trying to control the headaches that are a side effect of her rapid aging). Peter explains the bizarre circumstances of Sarah's story to the doctor, and how he gave her a blood transfusion. After Sarah gets out of the hospital (and she's still wearing that black headband, just like Mom's...), Peter agrees to stay a while so he can get to know her. They take a cab to the Stacy Estate (Wha--?), where Norman raised the twins, and we see that a mysterious man has been following them. Sarah asks Peter to stay at her home rather than getting a hotel room, and Peter agrees. Soon after, Peter calls MJ and *LIES* to her, saying he's at a hotel. Feeling guilty, Peter goes out web-slinging, and Sarah takes even more pills. After Spidey gets involved in a "crime" that turns out to be a lovers' quarrel, he returns to Sarah's home, where she gets a phone call that indicates she's involved in something bad.

Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 2) # 24:

Sins Remembered: Sarah's Story Part 2:

We begin with Peter poking around Norman Osborn's study in the Stacy home. Sarah finds Peter there, and tells him that Norman treated her and her brother well, but also flashes back to Norman's lies and manipulation (and his insistence that they must kill Spider-Man and Peter Parker). She then gets Peter to spend the day out on the town with her. Back in New York, MJ and Aunt May are talking about the situation. Mary Jane is worried about Peter spending a lot of time in a foreign county with a girl who is a dead ringer for Gwen Stacy, and so she goes to France to find him. Meanwhile, Peter and Sarah go to a cafe, not knowing that they are being spied on (Uhhhhh...shouldn't Peter's spider-sense be going off?). As the day goes on, Sarah secretly continues to pop pills, and soon, Mary Jane arrives in Paris. Peter and Sarah go to the subway, and Sarah makes an excuse to leave Peter for a few minutes in order to go to a drug dealer and get more painkillers. However, several thugs arrive and take her pills, saying that they'll serve as interest on a debt owed them by her brother. A fight breaks out, and Peter saves Sarah with his webbing. On a subway car, Sarah thinks about the romantic feelings she has for Peter. Later, Sarah gets a phone call, and is told that Mary Jane is in the city.

Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 2) # 25:

I must point out the absolutely grotesque cover (which caused quite a stir when first seen on the Internet). It features Spider-Man (his mouth uncovered) carrying Sarah Stacy in his arms and kissing her in with the Eiffel Tower in the background:,spiderman_spectacular_v2,025.jpg

Although this scene does not appear in the story proper, it's still revolting. Spider-Man kissing the look-a-like daughter of Gwen Stacy, his dead girlfriend. A daughter who is physically an adult, but is chronologically only about EIGHT YEARS OLD chronologically (in Marvel Time). Excuse me while I go puke...

Sins Remembered: Sarah's Story Part 3:

Peter and Sarah are picnicking when Peter's spider-sense goes off. A sniper is about to kill Sarah. Peter manages to save Sarah's life. Sarah then makes a flirtatious comment, and a flustered Peter swings off in pursuit of the gunman. Meanwhile, having arrived at the airport, Mary Jane is being observed by an unknown person. Later, Sarah and Peter sneak back into the Stacy home through an underground tunnel. She says that the gunman was only trying to scare her, but Peter doesn't believe her. At the airport, Mary Jane meets Luc Beldron, who says he can take her to the Stacy home. They leave in a taxi. Meanwhile, Sarah is telling Peter about her childhood, and reveals that she and Gabriel got involved with some criminals. They used their super-strength and stamina in the service of a man named Dupres, and used their payments on painkillers for their headaches. Eventually, Gabriel decided to double-cross their employer by stealing Dupres' drugs and selling them himself. Sarah didn't agree with him, but after Gabriel went missing at the end of ASM # 514, Dupres and his goons came after her.

Soon, the men following MJ and Beldron track them to the Stacy Estate. Peter and Sarah are arguing, and Peter calms her down by telling her how much he cares about her. Just as Sarah kisses him, Mary Jane walks in. All three are stunned. Peter explains to Sarah that he loves her like a sister and then goes after MJ. Peter tries to explain that there's nothing between him and Sarah, but after MJ discovers that Peter has been staying at the Stacy home (and that he lied to her), she angrily leaves. Sarah is angry at Mary Jane for ruining her romantic moves toward Peter. She enters a secret room to see check on her brother, Gabriel, who's been in the house the whole time. Gabriel is suffering from the same headaches that plague his sister, and doesn't even recognize her at this point. She is forced to restrain him. Meanwhile, Peter goes looking for MJ, who is having dinner with Luc Beldron. However, when he makes romantic advances toward her, she sneaks out the bathroom window. Spidey manages to confront the mystery man lurking outside the Stacy home, and discovers that he is an Interpol agent named Francois Benoit. They agree to talk, and drive off. Soon after, MJ goes back to the Stacy home, and finds the pained and enraged Gabriel.

Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 2) # 26:

The cover features an image of Spider-Man holding the unconscious/dead body of Sarah Stacy (this image intentionally echoes the death of Gwen Stacy).

Sins Remembered: Sarah's Story Part 4:

We begin where we left off, with Gabriel Stacy threatening Mary Jane, demanding to know where his sister is. When MJ says that she doesn't know, the confused and pained Gabriel comes to the conclusion that Mary Jane is really Sarah, and carries her up to her room. Meanwhile, Spider-Man and Francois Benoit arrive at Interpol Headquarters. They tell each other what they know about Sarah's activities and Spidey says that rather than arresting Sarah for her crimes, they should ask for her help in nabbing Dupres. They are interrupted by the news that Mary Jane is at the Stacy home, and that she's with someone else. Spidey determines that the other person in the house must be Gabriel Stacy, and rushes to the house.

Meanwhile, Sarah is planning on killing Dupres. She goes to his home and easily defeats his bodyguards, but is forced to flee when additional men arrive. Soon after, Spider-Man arrives at the Stacy Estate and finds Mary Jane. Gabriel is still under the delusional impression belief MJ is Sarah, and keeps Spidey away from her with Green Goblin-type weapons. The two battle, but Spidey is able to get MJ outside, with Gabriel pursuing on a Goblin Glider. After Gabriel asks Mary Jane to come with him and she refuses, he flies away (and Spidey just stands there and lets him). Spidey then rushes to Dupres' home, only to find Sarah training a gun on the crimelord (while snipers outside take aim at her). Spider-Man manages to talk her out of killing the criminal, and then the police arrive and arrest Dupres. Soon, it is revealed that Interpol will drop the charges against Sarah in exchange for her help in building a case that will put Dupres away, and they'll also help her with her rapid-aging problem. Sarah and MJ chat, and forgive each other. Peter and Sarah say their goodbyes, and Peter gives Sarah an old photograph he'd found of Gwen in the hospital with her newborn twins. Peter and MJ then fly back to New York.

So to sum things up, MJ is deeply insecure (And NOW she's wondering if Peter will love Gwen's *illegitimate, eight-year-old daughter* more than her!!!), Peter is naive and stupid and irresponsible (and has strange, vaguely pedophilic feelings about Sarah), and Sarah Stacy, eight-year-old-drug-user/mob-enforcer-in-a-body-identical-to-Gwen's, has the major hots for Peter (haven't we already played the "Gwen's relative has the hots for Peter" game before, when Jill Stacy arrived on the scene in 1996?).

Unbelievably awful.


And that's my final word on that.

As I'd guessed, after Sins Past the Spider-Man books have gotten worse and worse and worse.

1. The Parker home was burned down (Amazing Spider-Man # 515-518).

2. Then, Spidey joined the (ugh) New Avengers, and Peter, MJ, and Aunt May moved into Avengers Tower. Oh, and Wolverine hit on MJ, and there was some flirtation between Aunt May and Edwin Jarvis, the Avengers' butler (New Avengers # 1-3, Amazing Spider-Man # 519-524).

And Amazing Spider-Man got a new, bland logo that doesn't suit the character at all.

Clearly, the crew at (what used to be) Marvel doesn't understand the fact that Spider-Man is NOT a team player.

3. It was revealed that Dr. Curt Connors had been lying for years and years, and has full control over himself when he is the Lizard. He just uses the Lizard persona as an excuse to do all sorts of terrible things (a horrid example of mischaracterization).

4. Electro is now gay, or, at least, "bi-curious". Ugh.

5. Prior to Sins Remembered, Spider-Man was mutated into a giant spider, and then "gave birth" to himself, in the form of a new body for Peter Parker, complete with...(*groan*, shudder) web-shooters (Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 2 # 17-20) and the ability to telepathically communicate with insects.

And really, the whole thing seems derivative of the Roger Stern story that turned the original Spidey-foe called the Tarantula into...a giant tarantula (ASM # 233-236), or when Spider-Man was turned into a giant, vaguely humanoid spider-creature by the Savage Land mutates (Marvel Fanfare Vol. 1 # 1-2).


It doesn't get much more ridiculous than that, folks. But it DOES get much, much worse...

...which means I'm about to describe The Other, the storyline which may actually be worse than Sins Past (In my mind, they're both a tie for "Worst and Most Insulting Spider-Man Story of All Time).

6. The 12-part "The Other: Evolve or Die" (published from Oct. 2005-Jan. 2006) storyline was billed as...*sigh*...another "huge", "shocking", multi-issue crossover "event" (with a crapload of variant covers, each of which shows a different look Spidey's had over the years), which would "change Spider-Man's life...forever!". And what better way to begin a new Spider-Man book (Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man) than by having the first issue be the first part of this violent, multi-title crossover? gets better.

Act One: written by Peter David (Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #1, Marvel Knights: Spider-Man #19 and Amazing Spider-Man #525).

Act Two: written by Reginald Hudlin (Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #2, Marvel Knights: Spider-Man #20 and Amazing Spider-Man #526).

Act Three: written by J. Michael Straczynski (Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #3, Marvel: Knights Spider-Man #21 and Amazing Spider-Man #527).

Act Four/The Finale: each book written by their regular writers (Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #4, Marvel Knights: Spider-Man #22 and Amazing Spider-Man #528).

Peter begins showing symptoms of an unknown illness (with his powers also disappearing from time to time), and ends up getting shot while trying to apprehend a new foe, Tracer. Going to a doctor recommended by his teammate, Captain America, Spider-Man takes a blood test, and learns that he's dying. Throughout, we see that Morlun (from JMS' early run on Amazing) has been watching these events (and who has been resurrected with NO EXPLANATION WHATSOEVER). Peter then goes to various experts to try to find a cure, with no success. Eventually, he encounters Morlun, and nearly kills him in his anger. After that, Peter begins to prepare for death.

Oh, and Mary Jane tells Peter that it's obvious why he constantly risks his life as Spider-Man: he has a death wish and wants to join Uncle Ben in the afterlife as penance for his role in Ben's death (as opposed to, y'know, wanting to help people and do the right thing). She also provides "evidence" of this by saying that Peter didn't even have indicator lights on his mechanical web-shooters to tell him when they were running dry (which isn't even TRUE--he installed warning lights when he updated his web-shooters in ASM # 296-297, back in 1988).

This is a great example of how today's writers want to be "revolutionary" by saying that everything we know is "wrong" and by revealing some great "epiphany" regarding a character's basic nature. This is very much in line with Mark Millar's "explanation" in Marvel Knights: Spider-Man as to why certain heroes always fight certain villains. It also shows the contempt today's writers have for the most basis conceits of the genre, and how everything has to be "realistic".

Soon after, we see Aunt May and Mary Jane wearing suits of Iron Man armor (courtesy of Tony Stark), as they go with Peter to Latveria to use Dr. Doom's time platform to visit various moments in Peter's life.

Think about that for a moment.


Yes, it's as stupid, contrived and inappropriate as it sounds.

Then, Peter and Mary Jane go to Las Vegas, where Peter uses his spider-sense to cheat at blackjack and tries to win enough money for MJ and Aunt May to be taken care of after he's dead (Really responsible and heroic behavior, huh?).

Later, they go into orbit in one of Tony Stark's space pods to enjoy the view.

After that, Peter stupidly goes web-slinging to clear his head, despite the fact that his powers could go out at any time, causing him to plunge to his death, and then encounters Morlun. Their battle is bloody and brutal (and which also includes Daily Bugle employees unrealistically making nonchalant comments about the battle raging in front of them), but Spider-Man is easily defeated. And he's defeated at ESU, where Peter says he was bitten by the spider years before (and the art depicts a room similar to the one at Columbia University when Peter is bitten in the first Spider-Man film, which makes NO SENSE whatsoever), despite the fact that it was well-established by Roger Stern that the bite took place at the General Techtronics Lab.

And then MORLUN RIPS OUT SPIDER-MAN'S LEFT EYE AND EATS IT, proclaiming it "delicious":

Morlun then beats Spider-Man to a bloody pulp (with the Lord's Prayer in the captions), and the last page shows a broken Spider-Man lying on the cracked pavement (which seems like a rip-off of the Death of Superman from 1992).

Throughout his history, Spider-Man's world has been one of high emotion and melodrama. At the same time, there's been a giddy sense of wacky comedy and fun, which balances the two tonalities perfectly.

Seeing our hero brutally mutilated and becoming a victim of cannibalism doesn't quite fit with either of those tonalities, eh?

And of course, the guy who does the dastardly deed is a D-list nobody, a Morbius-Lite phony billed as the Next Big Thing" by JMS, but whom history will eventually cast off into oblivion.

This barbaric act seems to be an attempt to either justify this awful storyline by making it "serious", or perhaps it's an attempt to outdo the shock value of the graphic rape/murder of Sue Dibny, which generated a lot of talk (and sales) for DC's wretched Identity Crisis series.

Or perhaps it's yet another attempt to "get people talking about Spider-Man", no matter what kind of "talk" it is.

Or maybe it was seen as "acceptable" because Spider-Man is later reborn (with a brand-new eye), "better than ever", which sends the message to readers that there are no consequences for the dangerous and adventurous life Peter leads, and that there's nothing to worry about, because Marvel was "just kidding".

There is no redeeming message or morality in this. It's just cheap shock value and barbaric violence for its own sake. And that's wrong. Who wants to see their favorite hero brutalized in such a fashion? Not I.

But, no, Spider-Man obviously needed to be taken down a peg or two, right? Right???

Spider-Man may lead a dangerous life, but the tone of the character makes implicit (at least for *SMART* readers) that we don't ever have to worry about seeing our hero maimed, his wife getting gang raped, etc. Because that's NOT what Spider-Man (or super-hero comics in general) is about.

Certainly, there have been dark and/or violent stories in Spider-Man's history (such as Kraven's Last Hunt and the Death of Jean DeWolff), but these have been rare exceptions, not the norm (which, along with the fact that these stories still respect certain boundaries, makes them acceptable.

But now, grim and violent is the norm, and the boundaries have been breached on every front.

I find it very telling that ASM # 526 (Chapter 6 of The Other, where Spidey's ****ing eye gets ripped out!!!!) was rated "T +" for "teens and up", while the next chapter, Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man # 3 (Which features a hideously mutated Peter violently killing Morlun. Not very "friendly", eh?), was rated "A" for "all ages". Isn't that sending mixed signals?

And what kid (or parent) looking at these books on the rack would even know at first glance what the ratings MEAN??? "A" could very well mean "adult", not "all ages". The rating system caters only to fans who ALREADY KNOW what the letter ratings stand for!!!!

Anyway, before Morlun can finish feeding on/killing Spider-Man, the police show up, and he flees. Peter is so badly injured as to be unrecognizable. He is taken to the hospital (where the New Avengers and Mary Jane then come to visit him), and when Morlun arrives to finish what he started, Mary Jane tries to stop him, only to have her arm broken (which is totally forgotten in subsequent chapters, an error Quesada admitted was accidental).

Then, "Peter" wakes up, and his "Other", his spider-side, takes over. Sprouting fangs from his mouth and Wolverine-esque, spike-like "stingers" from the undersides of his wrists (Uhhhh....spiders don't have stingers.), he ferociously attacks Morlun. Pinning Morlun to the floor by impaling his arms with the stingers, "Peter" viciously bites into Morlun's neck and feeds off of his "totemistic" energy, KILLING HIM.

That's right. Spider-Man kills someone. Violently.

As this grisly scene occurs, we get a "lovely", Alan Moore-esque, "Hucchhh...ohmygod...ohmygod..." from Mary Jane (Aren't "realistic" gagging and vomiting sounds in comics "great"???? Aren't they?!?!?!!!!!?!????), and some "fascinating" narration in the captions:

NARRATIVE CAPTIONS: "Now, the spider finds itself at last. It stings. It strikes with the fury of vengeance incarnate. The power of the spider fully unleashed for the first time. It stings again. And when the spider bites...when the spider always starts at the head."

That's just lovely. It's also a fine reminder of the horrid "I am the Spider" stuff from after the deaths of Peter's "resurrected" parents (actually artificial constructs created by the Chameleon and Harry Osborn to screw with Peter), and just before the Clone Saga (the period when Spider-Man became violent and grim, declared that "Parker is dead. I am the Spider.", and even wrapped himself in a cocoon of his own artificial webbing).

They say that those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it. We'll, here's history in action, folks. Spider-Man's now even worse off than he was in 1993.

Reverting to normal, Peter has a few last words with Mary Jane and then DIES in her arms. Iron Man takes custody of his body, so the world won't know that Spider-Man is dead. Soon after, Peter's body goes missing, and all that's left is his shed skin.

It's interesting that Spider-Man's "death" went virtually unpublicized. It just sort of slipped under the radar of fans and the general public. Compare that to the death of Superman in 1992, which was a huge event that made headlines worldwide (likely because the general public didn't think he'd ever be brought back to life). Why didn't Marvel bother to advertise this development? Was it because they didn't want negative publicity when it was revealed that Spider-Man was to be brutalized, cannibalized, and left a bloody pulp? Or was it because they knew he'd be coming back to life right afterward?

Or maybe it's because the fans are so desensitized and jaded that they simply DIDN'T CARE.

This demonstrates just how far gone things are. Back in the good old days, the death of Spider-Man (even if it were only temporary) would have had a HUGE impact on the fanbase and the industry. Today, it's just a small blip on the radar. No one cares, either because the fans have been so utterly brainwashed by the notion that NO ONE ever dies for good in comics these days, or because they're so utterly jaded and bitter that they can't even muster up any emotion for such a shocking event.

As he continues to transform, "Peter" webs himself into a cocoon (uhhh...spiders don't use cocoons)....BENEATH THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE (Good God, that particular horse is atomized, already! Stop flogging it!).

Several days pass, and in the cocoon, Peter hears a voice (which represents....*sigh*....the "spiritual" aspect of his powers) which tells him that he has never fully embraced the spider part of himself, and that Morlun only killed his human side. It also explains that spiders can shed their skin once in their lifetime and be reborn ( they can't! And wasn't Peter similarly "reborn" just prior to this, back when he mutated into a giant spider and "gave birth" to himself????). Agreeing to accept both elements of himself, the spider and the man, Peter is thus reborn. After seeing Aunt May and Mary Jane at Avengers Tower (who don't seem particularly surprised by any of these developments), Peter examines his shed skin, and takes back his wedding ring. He recalls the final warning of the voice he heard in his cocoon before going to bed:

VOICE: "Are you the man who dreamed of being a spider? Or the spider who dreamed of being a man? Are you the one...or are you THE OTHER?"

This seems to be a pathetic rip-off of a great bit of dialogue ("I'm saying I'm an insect who dreamt he was a man, and loved it. But now the dream is over, and the insect is awake.") delivered by mutating scientist Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) in writer-director David Cronenberg's classic 1986 remake of The Fly.

Peter later undergoes a medical examination, and learns that all of his injuries (old and recent) have healed (he's even regrown the teeth he lost as a child). Also, it seems that he's always had these spider-stingers in his arms...which makes no sense. Meanwhile, at Stark Tower, a colony of sentient spiders have started to consume Peter's old body. When Spider-Man returns from web-slinging, he finds the top of the Tower covered in webbing. Inside, the spiders are using Peter's old body as a body of their own. In the ensuing battle, the stingers Peter used before against Morlun reappear. Eventually, the spider-corpse amalgam creature escapes, and forms a cocoon in a church.

Flash Thompson also awakens from his coma (with no memories of his life since high school), and tries to get a job at Midtown High or PS 108 or whatever it's called these days.

Soon, Spider-Man follows the bizarre spider-colony creature inhabiting his old body (an entity which may or may not be “The Other”), and it eventually tells him that they are both parts of the same tapestry. A Spider-God known as “The Great Weaver" believed that Peter’s death was premature and saved him. With this revelation, Peter feels that he is at the center of a metaphorical web, and he is unsure if he is the predator or the prey.

The final chapter of the storyline (ASM # 528) caps things off. There's also another reference to The Fly (as there was earlier in JMS' run, during the first follow-up to the Spider-Totem story), as Peter tells MJ that his memories of that film scared him near to death the night after he got his powers (which COMPLETELY goes against Peter's original characterization in Amazing Fantasy # 15, which showed us that he was in total acceptance of his powers and anxious use them to make money). He says that he was horrified by the result of the genetic fusion of man and fly, and wondered how much worse a man/spider combination would be (Note that the art here depicts a flashback to the original 1958 version of The Fly, in which scientist Andre Delambre and a houselfy swapped their heads and left arms. It was only in the 1986 David Cronenberg remake that fly and man were actually fused at the genetic level. Either JMS or artist Mike Deodato is to blame for this minor error.).

Actually, this whole mess seems to be an attempt to turn Spider-Man into a monstrous rip-off of Cronenberg's version of The Fly, one of my all-time favorite films, mind you, but that is TOTALLY inappropriate for Spider-Man.

And speaking of Peter's original characterization, in the old days it was abundantly clear that he ENJOYED being Spider-Man. He did it because it was FUN (as well as the fact that he'd realized that using his powers to help people was THE RIGHT THING TO DO). Being Spider-Man wasn't some huge, mythic burden on him, or some kind of "curse" he was destined to put up with. Sure, being Spider-Man often played havok with his personal life (and Spidey also had lots of problems getting the public to trust him), but overall, it was ESCAPISM for him (as it was for the readers).

In fact, it's a popular misconception that immediately following Ben Parker's death, Peter became a crimefighter due to his terrible burden (some retellings of the origin, such as Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine # 1 and Amazing Spider-Man # 94 feature this notion). In reality, he tried to continue his TV career in order to make money to support himself and Aunt May, and after that failed, Peter then instinctively chose to attempt to rescue John Jameson's out-of-control space capsule because IT WAS THE RIGHT THING TO DO. After that, he tried to join the Fantastic Four, mistakenly thinking that their members received salaries. Spidey was later duped into being the fall guy for the Chameleon, but nabbed him because IT WAS THE RIGHT THING TO DO (and to clear his name). After that, he went after the Vulture and Dr. Octopus because he initially wanted to take news photos of them and make money, but ended up nabbing them because IT WAS THE RIGHT THING TO DO. As time went on, nabbing crooks became a habit for him.

Spider-Man became a crimefighter gradually, and did so because he really got a kick out of being Spider-Man and because catching criminals was the right thing to do.

But really, when was the last time in recent years that Peter's life as Spider-Man was depicted as being FUN???? Seems to me that in recent years it's been a real nightmare, one that's shredded his life to pieces.

Anyway, this finale to The Other features Peter discovering the new powers that his rebirth has provided him. In addition to the stinger-spikes in his wrists, he now has night vision, he can detect very sensitive vibrations with his webbing (and appears to have some bizarre psychic link to his organic webbing), and objects can cling to his back (in addition to his hands and feet).

Wow. That's amazing.

Oh, by the way, it was established YEARS ago that Spidey can will any part of his body to stick to stuff (but he mainly just does it with his hands and feet). So it's not a "new" power by any means.

And did I mention that Mary Jane gives J. Jonah Jameson *THE FINGER* (although the offencing gesture is obscured from the readers' view by a passing bird) as she and Spider-Man swing past the Daily Bugle building? What a classy dame. Certainly not the Mary Jane I know...

Anyway, at the end of the story, there's a preview of the new "Iron Spider" costume being introduced in the next issue (ASM # 529), and a smug, self-congratulatory editorial from Joe Quesada, in which he describes the incredible "success" of The Other, and tells readers to look forward to the (*sigh*) NEXT BIG CROSSOVER.

Regarding the new costume, after Peter's death, Tony Stark and Mary Jane destroyed all of Peter's Spider-Man costumes except one (for his burial). So, Tony Stark designs a new costume for Peter, and when Peter objects to the red-and-gold colors, Stark replies, 'My design, my colors.' (Something that Tony Stark would NEVER say.). This will tie into the "Civil War" crossover, and it's been said that Peter's new look will help indicate his allegiance to Tony Stark and Stark's side of the conflict.

The "Iron Spider" Costume (designed by....*sigh*....Joe Quesada):

JOE QUESADA: "The Iron Spider design- as I like to call it- came to me during a Spider-Man story meeting we were having, we were talking and I was involuntarily sketching on a pad. It's inspired by a sketch that Chris Bachalo did that showed a new Spidey costume with . I thought that was brilliant, especially since it echoed one of Spidey's greatest villains, and I took the idea and imagined it as though seeing it through the eyes of Tony Stark. The sky's the limit with respect to gadgetry when it comes to Tony inspired costumes."

The "classified" bit refers to three mechanical spider-like arms coming from the new costume's back (Shouldn't that be FOUR arms?), similar to the mechanical tentacles of Doctor Octopus. But really, this seems to be more likely a rip-off of John Byrne's similar design for both the evil Spider-Woman and the Mattie Franklin version of Spider-Woman. Also, the colors of the costume (while evoking Iron Man's colors) are the same colors as the first Spider-Woman's (Jessica Drew's) costume (Who is also a member of the New Avengers. Yay! Now the Spider-people have matching costumes! Sheesh.).

The new costume also has some built-in abilities, such as eyepieces which allow Spider-Man to zoom in to objects and can record what they see, underarm webbing which can retract and which can allow Spider-Man to FLY or glide on air currents (yet another parallel to--or rip-off of--the original Spider-Woman), reinforced body armor, a Global Positioning System, a built-in communicator, and the three retractable mechanical arms on his back (which also serve as video cameras which transmit images into his eyepieces).

From a Quesada interview on Newsarama:

NEWSARAMA: "Okay, first off, you first announced it with the liberal use of question marks. Is this an indication that it might not be the actual next Spidey costume? Can you say definitively for the record that this the red and gold “Iron Spidey” costume his new costume for some sort of extended period?"

JOE QUESADA: "It is indeed a new Spidey costume! By the way, Brian Bendis just came by and whispered in my ear, 'What can be better than one Avenger’s book?' I just asked him what that meant and he walked away cackling…"

NRAMA: "Oh brother… Focus, Joe, focus…

Can you give us some insight as to how long this costume will be part of the Spider-Man mythos. Some fans and retailers have astutely pointed out that with a movie coming out in mid-2007, it’s more than likely Peter will be back in familiar duds by then? Thoughts?"

JQ: "Now that the Spider movies at are #3 it’s less and less important and there are plenty of trades with the blue and red. That said. JMS has a definitive plan as to when the costume appears and leaves. It’s his decision."

NRAMA: "In that same vein, you’ve talked to us a couple of times about how you expect Civil War to garner significant mainstream attention, any concerns having Spider-Man appear in this new costume in Civil War will leave more mainstream observers and new readers wondering who that guy is and where the Spider-Man they know and love is at?"

JQ: "Don’t worry, we have a plan [laughs]…

Whoa, hold the presses. JMS just passed me a note. Joe simply says:"

“Between the physical changes to Peter that follow the aftermath of The Other, he gets a second power upgrade courtesy of the ‘Iron Spider’ suit from Stark. What he will discover is that with great power comes not just responsibility but one heck of a price tag. Peter will have to decide if he can pay that price in loyalty to Tony, when the loyalty may cost him things he holds dearest. He will find himself caught in the middle of the Civil War, seeing all sides of the argument, but will be eventually forced to make a decision that will change both his life and the whole Marvel Universes.”

NRAMA: "So with that said, any more insight into the creation of the costume and how it came about, creatively mean we mean? How was Chris Bachalo’s involved for example?"

JQ: "Well the current extra tech arms is a new development, isn’t it? The idea behind the design was to keep it simple like the black costume while keeping it looking like something that Tony Stark would design himself. Chris submitted a bunch of sketches and the extra mechanical arms was his idea, which I thought was brilliant."

NRAMA: "In a macro sense, any time you alter an iconic costume like Spider-Man’s, there is more going on that just a story development called for it. Big picture view, why a new costume for your most recognizable corporate icon and why now?"

JQ: "It really is more story-driven than anything else. Joe had this great story and it involved Tony building new gear for Spidey. Besides, it’s always fun from time to time to give iconic characters new duds just for the fun of it.

By the way, it really seems to have struck a chord. Our sales department has just received reports from retailers of fans adding Spidey to their pull list because of this next story arc. So love or hate the costume it is drumming up interest."

NRAMA: "We never make the mistake of assuming Newsarama readers speak for the majority of comics fans, but we know you read the reactions to Marvel stories here too, and this costume has received what could be at best described as a mixed or lukewarm reaction… perhaps partially due to it debuting via such a raw sketch…

Your thoughts on fans (and retailer) reaction thus far?"

JQ: "Absolutely expected it. What would have been bad would have been no reaction whatsoever".

Yep. A bad reaction is better than no reaction. That seems to be a mindset JMS and Quesada have in common.

And please forgive the vulgarity of this next bit, but I think it applies here:

To quote Winston Wolfe (Harvey Keitel) in Pulp Fiction (1994): "Well, let's not start sucking each other's d***s just yet."

And yippee, yet ANOTHER multi-part storyline that will "change Peter's life and the Marvel Universe as we know it".

The thought of whatever is coming next sends chills down my spine. We can only wait and see what new horrors this ongoing Voyage to the Bottom of the Sewer will bring next.

Anyway, The Other is a VERY strong contender for the worst Spider-Man story EVER (Sins Past being the other leader in the race to the bottom). Although it sold well, it was a critical failure. Some common complaints from fans and critics regarding The Other included: a lack of logic or consistency, the story being spread too thin over too many issues, and a lack of exploring the effect Peter's (and Spider-Man's) death would have on his friends and family.

Oh, and, y'know, completely betraying and destroying every last remaining facet of Spider-Man's world, personality, and powers.

Now, Spider-Man is a New Avenger who was chosen by The Great Weaver to be bitten by a magical spider (whose powers were diluted by radioactivity) and who has gross-out powers and a high-tech costume.

Even if you take the stance that his powers were still caused by a radioactive spider bite, at this point, it really can't be disputed that that event was sent into motion via mystical means.

So now, all the "mystical Spider-Totem" crap that was somewhat ambiguous before has been hammered and shoehorned into being the new "official" origin and powers for Spider-Man.


These maniacs just DON'T GET IT. Spider-Man's traditional personality, supporting cast, villains, origin, costume, and powers are what MAKE HIM SPIDER-MAN. Change those elements (or bludgeon them with the eight arms of the Spider-Totem-God, in this case...) and he's NOT SPIDER-MAN anymore. He's someone else. He's a stranger. He's a guy in a red-and-yellow costume who stabs his enemies with stingers and bites their heads off.

Yes, Spider-Man's costume has been changed before (temporarily or even "permanently"). Such changes have been something of a staple in the series. But he's always gone back to that classic Steve Ditko design (the VERY BEST costume in comic book history, bar none).

And sure, it's been indicated by Marvel that this new costume is only temporary, but it's still yet ANOTHER big step away from the real Spider-Man (There have been so MANY of these "steps" in recent years that it's turned into a marathon run.). And that is exactly what we DON'T need these days.

And yes, Spider-Man's original powers are not particularly realistic. Spiders don't have an ESP-like ability to detect danger (as far as we know, although it's been theorized that Peter's spider-sense was invented by Lee and Ditko to "represent" the expanded field of vision spiders' eight eyes give them), and Spider-Man's "proportionate strength of a spider", as well as his speed and agility, are greatly exaggerated. But it doesn't MATTER if his powers don't adhere to science as we know it because they WORK, and they've worked for over 40 years.

And spiders *definitely* don't have spike-like "stingers", shed their skin, or regenerate inside cocoons.

"The Other" co-writer Peter David (who just loves to write "realistic" stories and make fun of the absurdities of comic characters) has defended the recent radical changes to Spider-Man's powers by stating how unrealistic his old powers are. He's missing the point. The classic powers have worked perfectly for 40 years. It took a little while for them to be refined and to become what we know them as today, but they WORK, despite the fantasty elements that make them unrealistic.

But that doesn't give lazy writers an excuse to TRULY depart from science/reality by giving Spider-Man any sort of crazy powers they want to and turn him into a hideous mutant.

Originally, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko had difficultly selling Spider-Man to publisher Martin Goodman because Goodman felt that people would be creeped out by a "Spider-Man". So, they made Spidey very friendly and accessible and fun (and gave him powers that weren't creepy or gross, such as bristly hairs on his hands and feet to climb walls or organic web-shooters or eight limbs or fangs). Lee and Ditko designed Spider-Man's super-powers to simulate the abilities of a spider without turning him into a *monster*.

Today, JMS and the head honchos at Marvel are going in the extreme opposite direction with the character by emphasizing, enshrining, and even GLORIFYING the bizarre, predatory, and disgusting elements that make spiders creepy and frightening to so many. If the Spider-Man appearing in comics today were published back in 1962, he would have been considered gross, disturbing, and perhaps even pornographic (Not necessarily in a sexual way......but then again, given the sort of content seen in Spider-Man comics these days, yeah, probably sexually, as well.), and the book would surely have been cancelled (or, more likely, never even seen print).

But if the Spider-Man of 1962 were published for the very first time NOW, I am SURE he would still have been a runaway success. Of course, if he HADN'T first appeared in 1962, the entire shape of the superhero genre would be radically different today. Who knows what it would be like?

Back in the day, Spider-Man was a comic book-only character, and so the only way to experience his adventures was the comic books! Today, he, along with many other comic characters, has transcended those humble roots and has become a movie, television, and video game star. It seems clear that Marvel feels they have now carte blanche to do whatever they want with the original comic book version of Spider-Man, because there are many other incarnations for fans to enjoy if they don't like what's being done (and they're making all their money from the *ancillaries*, like the movies and the toys). That's been the standard excuse being spouted by Marvel (and even some fans) for a while now: "If you don't like what's happening to the regular Marvel Universe Spider-Man, read Ultimate Spider-Man or watch the movies and stop complaining".

Some have also said that fans of the classic version of Spider-Man (or other characters) just need to sit it out and "let it ride", and that these changes will eventually be reversed and things will eventually get better or go back to "normal" (And this mentality is what ALLOWS writers to dump on the characters--because "someone else will change it back later", a very dangerous line of thought.).

Well, by my count, it's been at least 14 years since I could really relate to or like Spider-Man before he got "broken" (and really, the last time the character was done "right" was probably before his marriage to Mary Jane in 1987, during the days of Stern and DeFalco). And really, I think Marvel itself began to fall apart (right after a resurgence of great creativity in the early 1980s, mind you) around the time of the first Secret Wars maxi-series in 1984 (which marked the beginning of the "huge, multi-part crossover that will change everything forever" mentality that runs the industry today).

And it hasn't gotten any better since Spidey was "broken".

It's gotten worse and worse and worse.

Marvel has tried time and time again in recent years to put a fresh coat of paint on the house while knocking out the foundation simultaneously, thinking that such methods will fix everything.

They think a new origin, a new costume, and new powers, and telling us everything we've known about the characters is "wrong" will magically fix everything and pump up sales.

Well, that's akin to one putting a band-aid on the bloody stump where one's head used to be.

Let's face it. The Thing That Used to be Marvel is now comprised mainly of aging fanboys who can and will do anything to jerk-off and hedonistically indulge even the very least of their fanboy whims.


Spider-Man, Marvel Comics, and the superhero comics industry itself have become glorified FANZINES.

Can't we just pretend that that virtually all the Spider-Man stories published in the last 15 years or so have been "What If?" stories?


Now, this whole mess brings up the issue of what is proper in a mainstream superhero comic. Not to seem prudish, but I don't feel excessive language, violence, or sexuality have a place in mainstream superhero comics. Regardless of what Joe Quesada will tell you, comics were originally created and intended for *kids*, and if the stories are reader-friendly, they will come. Not to say that writers should write down for kids who aren't there, but rather that the stories should be for ALL AGES (with a few different levels of sophistication to them). Of course these days, the excuse is that comics shouldn't be written for kids who aren't there. Problem is, this way of thinking is WHY the kids left to begin with.

The industry has been stealthily (and completely) taken over by aging fanboys who insist that characters age along with them and become "relevant" (because they refuse to grow up and leave comics behind for the next generation of children), and by creators whose works are copies of copies of copies of the old-timers' stuff. Just because a creator (or fan) has always wanted to see something happen in a book doesn't mean it *should* happen. A creative team should serve as custodians of the character(s), and respect them. Today, comics are full of "celebrity" writers who just want to make their mark on a book (And there is *no* excuse for late books. NONE! Late books are a sign of professional laziness, NOT quality.). They often end up leaving a huge mess for later writers to clean up. Indeed, Brian Michael Bendis has stated that Peter is currently 30 years old, which is FAR away from what Spider-Man was created and intended to be (the ultimate *teenage* escapism fantasy).

As stated previously, a fine analogy for this way of thinking is that these creators are putting a shiny new coat of paint on the house to distract the masses....while knocking out the foundation at the same time.

It's as if everyone has forgotten the past. When I was a kid, reading my first few comics got me so hooked I wanted to know *everything*. I wanted all the old issues, I wanted to know how these comics were made, and I wanted to know the history of the medium. Today, no one seems to care. If I were lucky enough to be chosen to write Spider-Man, I'd immerse myself in the character's history and try my darndest to be true to the legacy and write stories that honored the characters. Today, it's all about what's "hot". It's all about instant gratification. It's all about "writing for the trades" by stretching out stories (that would have once taken one or two issues, max) into six-issue arcs (so a nice trade paperback of every single storyline can be published every 3-4 months). Indeed, at my local comic shop, I often see people ask for a specific book, only to be told it is (*sigh*) late, and then reply by saying they'll just "wait for the trade".

Remember the days when anyone, anywhere could pick up a single issue of a comic book and be entertained by a complete story (beginning, middle, end) that didn't require the reader to be intimately familiar with years of cluttered history?

Anyway, entire pages of today's comics are either "money shots" of the characters (which serve only as a showcase for the art, not the story), or take 20 panels (all of which use the same piece of artwork and 18 of which have no dialogue) to say two sentences (Bendis is a whiz at this method of "storytelling"). Back in the day, nearly every page of every issue of say, Fantastic Four or The Mighty Thor or The Incredible Hulk was crammed with exposition, characterization, drama, and action, and Stan Lee (as well as subsequent writers) made an effort to connect to the readers in a friendly way. Today, it's a miracle for three issues of a series to contain as much story content as *one* issue did in the old days (the whole "decompression of comics" syndrome).

Back in the day, it took about three panels in Amazing Fantasy # 15 for Peter to explain that he was inventing mechanical web-shooters and to describe how they worked. Today, it would take three *issues*, and that only would be to justify why *organic* web-shooters are soooo much more "realistic" (Translation: "better". Bleh!) than mechanical ones. Expanding that idea, consider that the first Spider-Man story in Amazing Fantasy # 15 took a mere 11 pages to almost completely set up the characters, origin, and mythos that has lasted for over 40 years. In contrast, it took Brian Michael Bendis' overly-praised Ultimate Spider-Man SEVEN ISSUES to retell the same basic story for "modern" audiences, and it did so with a lot of pointless detours and bloating.

And of course, today's covers are also almost *all* "money shots" of characters (With absolutely no hint of the story contained within. Remember when the *covers* sold books by advertising the stories?), designed solely to create art for posters, t-shirts, etc. Now, though, Marvel's policy is to have solely "money shot" covers.

From a Newsarama interview with Quesada:

NRAMA: “In recent years, there has been a trend to favor vague generic covers. Most noticeably in books such as Amazing Spiderman, Avengers and Ultimate books.

“These covers will simply feature a pose shot of the title character(s) rather than showing any insight into the content of the issue.

What’s the main reasoning for these covers occurring over traditional style covers? Is it simply to allow flexibility in printing by not tying covers down to specific issues or is it more an attempt to allow the covers to seem more mature??"

JQ: "There are several reasons and it’s a philosophy that began with Bill Jemas.

First, lets differentiate between the two styles of covers we talk about most. There is the “storytelling cover which features action from inside the book, we can bunch “metaphor or “representational covers into this category as well. Then there is the “iconic" cover that features a posed or single iconic character or visual or a character or an item or prop. “Representational also sort of fits in here but lets not complicate this too much. "Iconics" are what appear as much simpler layouts.

What Bill had preached and I can’t say that he’s completely wrong is that iconic covers stand out on the stands more than storytelling covers. Back in the day when the newsstand was big, storytelling covers and cover blurbs and dialog were very important. It truly helped people identify the next issue of a series. Bill’s theory was simple, go to a large magazine store, look at what modern publishers are doing with their magazines, 99.9% of the imagery is iconic, 70% of it a scantily-clad supermodels. If the comics biz is ever to move into the mainstream it has to modernize and its overall look has to change and that begins with covers. While we don’t have supermodels at our disposal, we do have superheroes.

Now since Bill is no longer here we have eased up on that policy somewhat. We still prefer iconic imagery but every third cover or so we’ll do a “storytelling" cover.

See the inherent problem with “storytelling" covers is that from a distance they don’t read, they don’t anchor the eye. Now, there are exceptions, but many of those exceptions are because the design was created within an iconic layout anyway. The cover to Amazing Fantasy #15 shouts out to me as a classic iconic.

Also, when you look at some of the greatest cover artists of today, they all have one thing in common, the know how to design “iconicly". Almost every image created by Alex Ross is iconic because even within his most complex layout, he’s using the same simple principles."

This is a prime example of the creative bankruptcy dragging the industry down. Covers are supposed to sell the stories. A bunch of "money shot" covers just leads to...a bunch of generic covers. How is anyone supposed to recognize what issue they're looking at? Some of the most memorable Spider-Man covers advertise the stories within, and some of the most memorable stories have memorable covers. Blah. And, almost every classic Spider-Man cover shows our hero in trouble against a foe, shows him as the *underdog*. In nearly all modern covers, he's swinging or crawling triumphantly in a "money shot".

And need we mention the garish coloring techniques applied to comics today? Everything is dark, muddy, and full of shadowing/lighting effects that drown the original artwork and make everything over-detailed. How I long for the days of solid, blocky, FOUR-COLOR COMIC BOOK COLORS!!!


It's as if the aging fans are drug addicts who can't deal with the fact that they read kiddie books featuring people in costumes. Fans will continue to collect every single issue of a series even if they *hate* the stories contained therein (so they can have a "complete collection"). What is the "point" of collecting a book you HATE just to bag it and board it and never even read it? Does that make ANY sense at all???? Where's the fun?

Whatever happened to the days when being a fan meant you LIKED something?????

Still, today's "fans" whine about the current state of a book, but can't miss an issue, cuz the issue they miss *might* be good, except that since they're actually buying the issue, they'll whine about it anyway. It also seems they have to mock and laugh at the characters so they won't be perceived by their friends as the immature louts they are ("Hey, guys--I don't really care about this stuff! I just read these stupid books just so I can laugh at them with you!"), joking about costumes and powers and making jokes about Batman being a homosexual or why Superman "wears his underwear over his pants".

And in terms of the creators, well, in the old days, producing comics was a *job*, a means to providing for one's family. Many writers and artists worked in the comic book field because they were either just starting out in the world or couldn't find work writing/drawing "real" books. Indeed, many creators were *embarrassed* to be working on "kiddie books". Working on comics was not revolutionary or trend-setting or glorious, and did not make one a celebrity. Stan Lee started out as an intern at Timely (later Marvel), and hoped to write The Great American Novel one day, but ended up getting stuck in the comics industry.

And today, that industry is deeply unhealthy. Back in the old days, there was no "fandom" and few "collectors", just "readers". No one really cared who created the books or how, only that the books were good ("good" meaning entertaining and consistent with what had gone before in terms of characterization) and that they were shipped on time. There was no inside information given to the fans about office politics, or about how creators occasionally disagreed (for example, the circumstances of Steve Ditko's departure from Spider-Man didn't come out until several years after he left). All that mattered was *STORY* and *CHARACTER*.

Of course, a slight irony would be that one of the revolutionary elements that made the Marvel Age successful---Stan Lee talking to the readers with cover copy, narrative captions, and letters pages (thus making them feel like members of a special club)---was likely what started the interest in just WHO was producing these comic books, and how. There were no magazines like Wizard or Previews, which spoil stories weeks or months in advance and feature interviews with creators who toot their own horns. The only way to learn what would happen next issue (and to see if characters would live or die) pick up the next issue and read it!!!! There was no built-in expectation that a superhero could survive anything thrown at him because he HAD to appear in next month's issue. Books could be cancelled suddenly, without notice, without months of speculation from *fandom* on whether or not they would be cancelled due to low sales, or why they would be cancelled, or without any office politics that would lead to cancellations. And back in the day, it mattered that books came out on time. It *mattered* that the stories were good and that the books came out on time!!!!

And speaking of the "club" mentality, well, that has now mutated into something horrible. Now, instead of being accessible, all-ages entertainment for everyone, comics have turned into something that only hardcore, anal-retentive fanboys could possibly love or understand. Fanboys squabble amongst themselves interminably, and outsiders--such as new readers--are shunned for their lack of knowledge about every single character and storyline from the past 40 years. This new breed of fan is very well-personified by the infamous Comic Shop Guy on The Simpsons----the arrogant, basement-dwelling troll who knows every excruciating detail of minutiae in comics history and will lord it over anyone who challenges him, and who doesn't have a real life, except to complain and to mock others.

Another revolutionary element of the Marvel Age, the notion of guest appearances and crossovers (which led the sprawling, interconnected mythology which we know today as the "Marvel Universe") has also grown way out of control. The way things used to be, virtually every book was an entity unto itself. Superman had his books, and Batman had his. Neither referenced events nor characters in the other's books. Now, things are so tightly interwoven in comics, few books can work as stand-alone entertainment. There are a gazillion Spider-Man books, and he's constantly running into other characters and having crossovers and guest-starring in other books and being depicted inconsistently in each book.

Today, many comic writers come from Hollywood (and elsewhere), and have already established themselves outside the comic book business (Ex: JMS and his Babylon 5, and Kevin Smith and his films.). They tend to look upon their assignments in the comic industry as hobbies or amusing detours, not JOBS. They are driven by the "Fanboy" mentality, *not* the "Professional" mentality. They want to put there stamp on the characters for a while, and do all the things they *want* to do, to answer all their Fanboy questions, to write stories based solely on the premise of, "Wouldn't it be cool if....?", or, "I've always wanted to see....".

Their excuse for this methodology is that, "No matter WHAT I do, it can and will be changed by someone else later on". This way of thinking is VERY reckless and VERY dangerous, because there is the distinct possibility that some of the changes these writers so carelessly make will become branded onto the character for eternity. These writers also make fun of the characters and the most basic conventions of the comic book genre instead of respecting them or adding to them. And Marvel, Quesada, and everyone else, despite their rotten treatment of classic characters, make piles of money from *ancillaries*, like toys and games and clothes and movies. Bah.

Hollywood is in the toilet, and now Hollywood has taken over comics. Think about it. Does that mean comics will get "better"? No. Quite the opposite, in fact.

And really, do any of today's "creators" actually CREATE???? No, they prefer to lazily reach into the past and tinker with past works recklessly, instead of trying to break new ground. There's no originality or creativity or fun there. Just the ugly and distasteful rape of classic stories and characters by a bunch of snotty hotshots who think they and their "stories" are better than (and should supplant) everything else that came before them. Very few stories these days are wholly original. Instead, most of them are based on past events, and "put a new spin" on them.

It doesn't take any effort to destroy or undermine something. But it does take effort to CREATE something, and to create it well.

Indeed, in the days of Stan Lee, the writers and artists at Marvel often said that the characters almost "wrote themselves". In other words, the characters were so well-defined and so beloved by everyone that the stories flowed naturally out of who the characters were and how they would react in a given situation.

Although Stan and the gang wrote stories that THEY would enjoy, and which were tailored with their own sensibilities in mind, they DID NOT write stories at the expense of the characters.

And that is RADICALLY different than whipping up an ill-conceived story that completely goes against 40 years of established history and then shoehorning the characters into it against their will.

Most of JMS' run on Spider-Man has dealt with rewriting the character's origin and history, retconning past events, or changing the nature of Spidey's powers and his costume and his motivations. He's ADDED very little to the mythos, but he's CHANGED OR DESTROYED a ton of stuff.

Oh, wait.

He says that he hasn't "changed" anything.

My mistake.

I'll just shuffle off and take my eight-legged beating from the Spider-God now, and say hello to the Stacy twins on the way there.

Whatever happened to the days when writers would have fun during their run on a book, but then make SURE to leave the characters exactly as they found them in preparation for when the next writer comes along???

Today, it's all about making a mark on the characters and throwing out or changing as much of what's been established as possible (and getting praised for "freshening things up" or "putting a new spin on the characters"). As opposed to, y'know, *keeping* as much as possible and working to expand the mythos and do honor to what has come before without imitating or repeating it.

Now as for content...well, there's certainly a place in the market for adult-oriented comics (and I don't mean superhero comics that are done in an "adult" style, I mean actual adult comics, such as "Road to Perdition" or "From Hell".). However, Marvel's books have traditionally been all-ages friendly. In the 1960s, the Comics Code Authority was in full force. Comics couldn't depict sex or drugs, and violence and language were strictly limited (Marvel broke off from the Code in 2002, claiming they could govern themselves, and instituted a comic ratings system similar to the one used by the Motion Picture Association of America for rating movies. How sad is it that Marvel's rating system currently has most issues of Amazing Spider-Man classified as "T+: 9+ years old, Appropriate for most readers, parents are advised they may want to read before or with younger children" instead of "All Ages"????). The stories in the days of Stan Lee were "realistic" and "believable", but they were still recognizable as fictional flights of fancy intended for all ages. The Marvel Universe was the world outside your window, but it was still a fantasy world.

Also, writers like Stan Lee and Roy Thomas knew that *kids* were the target readers, so the subject matter was always appropriate, and Stan even used his stories to try and occasionally impart some good morals and life lessons to the audience. You never saw Peter Parker and the gang smoking, drinking, or engaging in illicit sexual activities in the old days. Now, some would saw that's because of the CCA's censorship, but I say it's because Stan had good taste, and because the characters just weren't *established* as being like that--not even off-panel. When Harry Osborn was shown to have a problem with LSD, it was done solely to warn readers of the dangers of drugs, not to be "realistic" or "hip" or to "shake things up" (and it was also very-much in-character for Harry, who had been toyed with by Mary Jane time and time again, and was emotionally fragile). If comic book characters had off-panel lives (as JMS would have you believe in the case of Gwen Stacy), then Batman and Robin are indeed homosexual lovers, as Dr. Fredric Wertham claimed in the 1950s. But they AREN'T. Anyone who thinks Batman and Robin have anything other than an idealized father-son relationship is an idiot, and should find another hobby to mock. They're looking too deeply into the abyss, trying to find hidden, adult meanings that just aren't there.

And it seems today's creators' (and fans') idea of "maturity" in comics is to feature an excessive amount of sex, language and violence (Which is actually *immature*.). They think "maturity" is to have the Thing say "F***!" instead of "Aw, crud!".

And of course, because everything has to be "relevant" and "realistic" these days, it seems like characters often just sit around for issues at a time a discuss (and mock) the absurdities of their world over coffee. Call me crazy, but I prefer classic Marvel action and adventure to all this psychobabble and shop talk. Superhero comics are about action and adventure, not sitting around drinking coffee or watching supporting characters getting anally raped.

Certainly, the fact that the classic Marvel Age of Comics dealt with characterization on a newer, deeper level was a huge part of its appeal, but now that's become the focus of everything. Superheroes aren't supposed to sit around and discuss life, pop culture, and how goofy or stupid their early adventures were. Give me Spidey slugging it out with Dr. Octopus any day rather than him sitting and around wondering if the spider that gave him his powers did it on purpose. Sheesh! Superhero comics are supposed to be about all the things readers *can't* do, like fly or bench-press a car or crawl on walls. If super-heroes just sit around and tell fart jokes and talk about their sex lives, where's the fun in that? Where's the fantasy?? Where's the escapism???

To say that Gwen Stacy cheated on Peter Parker behind his (and the readers') backs off-panel, to say that *every single time* we ever saw her (and read her personal thought balloons) in the old days were just the "occasional moments" when she "wasn't thinking" about the cheating and the twins, is totally absurd and a *major* cop-out. And it is a fine example of the "storytelling" the morons running the industry into the ground think is so "great" and "revolutionary".

Motivation is everything in good storytelling. Clear characterizations and motivations were established for Spider-Man and his supporting cast, and those characterizations were reinforced and expanded upon over a long period of time. Sure, writers have changed or stretched things from time to time over the years, but to blatantly defy everything we *know* to be true about a character solely to provide shock value in a story is the absolute epitome of bad writing. A writer establishes character. A character as established by a writer will act in a particular way, and will react in a particular way in a particular situation. Mischaracterization is when a writer has a character do or say something that is not within the reasonable bounds of how that character has been established. Certainly, there is leeway in how a character can be depicted (this is where character *development*--the addition of layers of complexity and shading to a character--comes in), but there should still be limits.

Sure, there have been major retcons in comics, even good ones. Remember when Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch were revealed to be Magneto's children, and how well that fit? That's because what had been done before in older stories was examined, and it was just a matter of connecting the dots. It seemed as though it had been planned that way from the very start. It flowed naturally from what had come before. On the other hand, it there was also the retconned "revelation" that Magneto had once been a friend of Professor Charles Xavier and had lost his family in a Nazi concentration camp during the second World War (which was supposed to provide his "motivation" for wanting to rule the world and enslave mankind, as opposed to, y'know just being an evil mutant who wanted power, as it was when he was originally created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby), a "revelation" that has informed every incarnation of the character since.

In the case of Spider-Man, there is absolutely *nothing* that would ever, *ever*, *EVER* lead one to believe that Gwen Stacy (who was clearly established as smart, sweet, loyal, and *totally* in love with Peter Parker) and Norman Osborn (who was established as an egomaniacal creep who had no visible interest in women, and who may even have been misogynistic) would have a one-night stand. Not even if it were to take place during a period when Gwen and Peter were on the outs. Not even by calling it a "mistake" or "something that just happened". It's blatantly and sickeningly out of character, plain and simple. It's the epitome of bad writing. The characters depicted in Sins Past are *not* Gwen Stacy and Norman Osborn. And those other strangers sure as heck aren't Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson.

Some fans have suggested that a way "out" of Sins Past would be to say that Gwen's clone, who hasn't been seen since the 1990s, was the one who "really" had kids with Norman Osborn. Sorry, no. Not even a *CLONE* of Gwen would do that!

Certain comic characters (such as the Hulk and Superman, for example) took some time to evolve visually (and in terms of super-powers, in Superman's case) into the classic versions we all know today. HOWEVER, the basics of the *characterization*, *origins*, and *personalities*, the CORE CONCEPTS, were all there from the very start. Everything we need to know about the Hulk is right there in The Incredible Hulk # 1. His skin color, intelligence level, and what triggers the metamorphosis are just minor details. Everything we need to know about Superman is right there in Action Comics # 1. Rocketed to Earth from the dying planet Krypton. Raised by a kindly couple. Has super-powers and a secret identity. Works at a newspaper. Fights for truth and justice. Lois Lane pines for him. But it took time for a lot of elements (physical appearance, supporting cast, etc.) to develop for many classic characters.

Spider-Man's origin, powers, personality, and world, on the other hand, were about 95% established in Amazing Fantasy # 15. The *only* elements not introduced in that story were his job at the Daily Bugle, various members of the supporting cast (such as J. Jonah Jameson), his colorful cast of villains, and the setting of New York City (the location where Amazing Fantasy # 15 takes place is never actually named in the story).

The fanboys who argue endlessly over semantics are the ones who don't get it. These are the fanboys who have become the "professionals" of today. Variations in powers, costumes, and supporting casts don't matter. It's the *characters* that matter. It's the simple charm of the *characters* (and the loyalty from their readers that charm has brought to them) that allows them to survive even the most horrid changes inflicted upon them.

JMS has rewritten Spider-Man's history. He introduced and reinforced the absurd idea of a Spider-God choosing Peter to be the next in a long line of Spider-Men. He changed the circumstances of Uncle Ben's death. He showed his total lack of understanding in Aunt May learning Spider-Man's true identity. He showed his lack of respect for characterization and decency with Sins Past. But I digress...

Anyway, as comics became more liberated over time, issues such as sex and drugs were dealt with a bit more freely, but never *too* directly. It's best to deal with such issues in comics only sparingly, and then only through metaphor (with rare exception, such as the Harry Osborn/LSD storyline). Now, though, it's all-out chaos. Would you really want an eight- or ten-year-old child to read about Peter Parker's first true love cheating on him with a much older man (and his worst enemy) and having his illegitimate twins? Would you want your child to see Spider-Man's eye ripped out, and then watch him turn into a hideous monster and murder a villain by nearly biting his head off???? Is that appropriate for The Amazing Spider-Man, which is supposed to be Marvel's flagship book?


It's a sign of the moral degeneration of society as a whole and the professional degeneration of the comic book industry. It seems *anything* goes these days in terms of sex, language, and violence (Sue Dibny's rape and subsequent murder in DC's Identity Crisis series being a prime example. In fact, misogynistic acts against classic female characters seem to be a disturbing and prevalent trend in comics these days.). Can comics deal with mature subject matter? Absolutely. But there should be a line. It should be done sparingly and tastefully and metaphorically (or as a special issue that takes place out of normal continuity, such as the Spider-Man/Power Pack one-shot from 1984 that was aimed at kids and dealt with child molestation). In this case, that line has been crossed. Just WHAT are the moral lessons of Sins Past or The Other? This isn't like Harry Osborn overdosing on LSD so that kids can see the dangers of drugs. These are the kinds of stories that are done because they *can* be done, not because they *should* be done. Their sole purpose would seem to be to appeal to the prurient interests of the aging, deviant majority of the readership (that's right, what used to be the "lunatic fringe" now seems to be the majority).

Sexualizing villains such as Norman Osborn opens up a big can of worms. Is it more realistic that criminals would want sex, and would likely include rape and such among their usual crimes? Absolutely (Indeed, in ASM Vol. 2 # 6, during the Mackie-Byrne run, it was hinted at--*HINTED AT*--not shoved in our faces--that Doctor Octopus "acquired" the lady who became his evil Spider-Woman by "visiting" a fashion model who was moonlighting as a prostitute.). But is that appropriate for mainstream superhero comics? NO. Forcing blatant sexuality into an inherently absurd children's genre takes things into a different (and inappropriate) tone. Traditionally, comic book villains, Spider-Man villains in particular, have been interested in money and power (it's a twist on the whole "power and responsibility" theme that Spidey lives by). Sex adds a whole new level to things, a more disturbing and adult level. Is that appropriate for a children's genre? Is it?????

Comics used to be fun. Now, it's all about being "deconstructionist" and "fresh". Instead of using characters as established to tell *stories*, writers are telling "stories" that deconstruct and *destroy* what has been established. Said deconstruction does not bother to involve the inherently necessary *reconstruction* that SHOULD leave things *better off* than they were before. If it ain't broke, why break it? Is it a coincidence that many of the problems with the Spider-Man books in the last decade or so have been the result of writers trying to alter or rape the past (Anyone remember the Clone Saga, which tried to replace Peter Parker with an unmarried, "hip" Spider-Man and also brought back Norman Osborn? Chapter One, which made a valiant but doomed attempt to update elements of the original Lee-Ditko stories? Mark Millar's "Trouble" mini-series, which featured the sexual escapades of some people named May, Ben, Richard, and Mary, and which also featured May getting pregnant by Richard????) No, it isn't.

Certainly, comics have changed to match the times (in terms of complexity, clothes, hairstyles, and topical references), but to so radically and dramatically betray the characterizations of iconic characters to make things "more realistic" is just plain wrong. Would Lois Lane have a love child with Lex Luthor? No. Would the Invisible Woman cheat on Mr. Fantastic with Doctor Doom because of his "nobility" and "charisma" (which she's made note of many times in the past)? No. Why should things be any different with Gwen Stacy, sacrificial virgin lamb of the Marvel Universe?

Superheroes were created for kids. That's the rock-bottom truth of it. They are inherently absurd. If one tries to inject too much reality into comics, one question (such as "How does Spider-Man crawls on walls?") leads to another ("How could a radioactive spider give someone super-powers? Wouldn't they just get sick and maybe die?"), and then to another, and so on and so on, until all the absurdities of the characters are exposed. And then those inherent absurdities are mocked by the aging fanboys and the *CREATORS*, both in the comics themselves and even in comic-based movies (such as the derisive joke about Wolverine's yellow spandex costume from the comics in the first X-Men movie, or the Human Torch asking the Thing why he doesn't have ears in the Fantastic Four movie).

Superheroes are absurd. They are fun. They are mythic. If you can't accept the most *basic* conceits of the genre (such as colorful costumes and super-powers) without mocking them, then go and find another hobby or job. Go watch The Sopranos or South Park or play Grand Theft Auto. Grow up. Or at least, find something else to mock. Today's "professionals" love to throw around words like "deconstructionist" and "post-modern" to give their stories the appearance of being intelligent and well-thought-out, and to make themselves and their fans seem to be above the "goofy" superhero comics of the past, but that's just a self-congratulatory pack of lies.

And really, it seems that the one and only idea of "growth" and "maturity" these days in the industry is to talk about--or show--super-heroes and super-villains having sex, which is totally inappropriate for the genre. No, the *real* trick is being able to write good, multi-layered adventure stories for ALL AGES, and showing respect to the characters and the medium. But it seems all that matters these days is milking the cash cow with hype, shock-value stunts, and endless merchandising (which is where the REAL money in comics is made these days).

I've often argued with patrons at the comic book shop I frequent. Every time I try to explain that superhero comics should not be aimed ONLY at adults, they get arrogantly defensive and say comics have "evolved". That seems to be the buzzword for this way of thinking. In other words, comics have been forcibly changed to suit the whims of the aging fanboys, who have turned a general market product intended for everyone (kids in particular) into a niche market intended only for them.

Like John Byrne has said (and I TOTALLY agree, so don't bother to Byrne-bash), a fine metaphor for this is situation is that these aging fans essentially want to turn a sleek sportscar into a station wagon with room for the wife and kids in back (which it was not created to be), so THEY, and they ALONE, can continue to enjoy comics as they age. I can't help but notice every week in the comic shop that a solid 90-95% of the customers are males aged 20-45. They are few (if any) young children. And if there ARE children, they usually go straight to the "kids" section of the store and look at the latest issue of Archie or Sonic the Hedgehog instead of Spider-Man or Batman, which I find DEEPLY sad.

And mind you, I rarely even buy anything (and *certainly* nothing first-run from Marvel) at the comic shop I frequent. It's become a weekly ritual: I go to the shop, briefly glance at new issues (and shake my head disparagingly), observethe age, gender, behavior, and shopping choices of the other customers, chat/argue with the clerk on the state of the industry, and then leave.


Does it make ANY sense at all for the major comic companies (namely, Marvel and DC) to suck comics out of places where the general public will see them and buy them (like drugstores and newsstands)???? Does it make sense to change the content in comics so that they will appeal ONLY to a specific demographic/age bracket????


There are two main factors that are killing the industry. There's simply no denying it.

1. The aging fans (and aging creators who think like the fans) who selfishly insist on "growth and change", mocking the conceits of the genre, and shoehorning blatantly adult material into a juvenile medium.

2. The Direct Sales Market taking over as the ONE and ONLY source for buying comics (it was originally created as an outlet for fans who wanted back issues, NOT as the primary source for new stuff). So today, in order to buy comics, people pretty much have to seek out a COMIC SPECIALTY SHOP. And that's something many people won't do (and by "people", I mean the general public, not the fanboys), partly because of the effort (as opposed to looking at a spinner rack while shopping at the drugstore) or because of the hostile "club" mentality of anal-retentive (and aging) comic store employees and their customers. Worse, the comic book companies themselves refuse to try to expand distribution back into traditional marketplaces like supermarkets and bookstores, for fear of getting the Direct Sales retailers mad at them. So, they think it's better to appease the retailers and maintain the smaller sales they currently have, rather than take a risk by expanding the marketplace back into its traditional and rightful position, a move which would almost certainly boost sales and demographics across the board.

Back in the day, many writers (such as Gerry Conway, Steve Englehart, Roger Stern, John Byrne, and Roy Thomas) drew from and incorporated material from the past into their stories, both out of respect for those creators who worked on classic stories, and because those stories are a wellspring of rich material that gives a character a sense of history. Today's writers treat classic stories--well, anything published before THEY took over, really--as outdated garbage that exists only to be superseded or "improved" upon by the latest hotshot writers and artists. Today, all that matters is telling "good" stories, no matter that they aren't appropriate to the characters. No matter that they ignore the characters' personalities and histories. No matter that they aren't logical or all ages-appropriate. All that matters is that they're "good" and "revolutionary" and win awards, right????

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (and the others in the classic Marvel Bullpen) had fun *with* their characters (in great stories such as "A Visit with the Fantastic Four" in Fantastic Four Vol. 1 # 11). Today's writers mostly have fun *at the characters' expense* (Such as JMS--dropping the quality/appropriateness of the humor down a few notches from Mark Waid's run-- by having the Thing running through Fantastic Four headquarters to use the toilet and later immaturely faxing an image of his posterior to Bill Gates in FF # 527, his first issue as FF writer. That is inappropriate grade-school bathroom humor, and not at all worthy of The World's Greatest Comic Magazine.).

And did I mention that JMS has also "tweaked" the FF's origin in the same crappy, "revolutionary", "tilt-the-mirror" vein as the Spider-Totem garbage? That he has "revealed" that the cosmic rays which gave the FF their powers were really a type of communication device used by an exiled alien who hoped to ride the thoughts of the universe in search of others who sought out the various truths of existence?

Good God, that's awful.



Sadly, history is repeating itself in the superhero comics industry. The Spectator Boom of the 1990s (during which comics were viewed as collectible investments--hence multiple "# 1" issues and "gimmick" covers and "events") is repeating itself, except the pendulum is swinging to the opposite extreme. Instead of too much focus on celebrity *artists*, the focus is now on celebrity *writers* (and the multiple covers, multiple "# 1" issues, and other such events/gimmicks are making a big comeback, too). Fans (and magazines like Wizard) kow-tow to "hot" writers, saying things like "Anything with Brian Michael Bendis' or Kevin Smith's name on it is pure gold!" and such. Back in the old, OLD days, readers barely knew writers and artists existed, and focused on the quality (or lack thereof) of the *stories*.

Until recently, Marvel had even done away with the letters pages that were so integral to its success in the 1960s. Back then, letters were read and printed, yes, but rarely did creators take suggestions from readers and incorporate them into the stories. Rather, the letters pages served as a forum for readers to express their opinions, and for creators to make readers feel like part of a very special and exclusive club. Now, creators often tend to bow to the wishes of the aging fanboys, as if they can't even stand by their own convictions.

And on the opposite end of the spectrum, there are times when writers do things so abhorrent, so vile, that longtime readers are infuriated, and said writers refuse to do anything about it (Joe Quesada has often been quoted in regards to events like "Sins Past", laughing about how various stories will upset or "piss off" readers. Not quite how Stan Lee ran things, eh?). It also seems today's fans are no longer derisive of bad stories, and will lovingly follow the crowd and embrace mediocrity. And fans who actually DO have logical critiques and strong, well-thought-out opinions of their own (and stick to them steadfastly) are attacked.

That's right, fans who demand *quality* and books that ship *on time* are attacked.

The classic era of Spider-Man (and Marvel Comics itself) has often been described as being very "soap opera-ish". This of course refers to positive aspects of soap operas, such as high drama and the ongoing mini-serial format of the stories. Today, that label has taken on new meaning, as it now refers to the very *worst* aspects of the *worst* soap operas. Storyarcs last forever, are confusing and inconsistent, and often feature blatant mischaracterizations and stupid plot developments. And of course, a tangled web of sex and violence.

Many have said "If you don't like the current Marvel Universe Spider-Man, go read Ultimate Spider-Man". Sorry, but Ultimate Spider-Man is not like a time machine that can transport one back to the character's glory days.

I don't see the Peter Parker I know and love in THAT book, either.

That character is long since gone.

And his corpse is being inhabited by a total stranger (or a colony of sentient spiders, take your pick).


If a reader picked up a Batman comic in 1941, 1951, and 1961, the basic format would be the same, because when readers got older, they tended to grow up and move away from comics, and a new generation would come aboard (and were thus learning about the characters for the first time). The only things that really changed were topical references, and there were almost no references to any time having passed over the years (For example, if the last time Batman fought the Joker was discussed in a story, it would be said to have occurred "a while ago", not "2 years, 6 months, 8 days, 7 hours ago".). The trick is having every story appear to take place in a present-tense context. The stories simply ARE, and they are NOW. It doesn't matter if Batman fought the Joker in 1939, 1949, or 1959. For this month's issue, he's fighting the Joker NOW. All that's really needed is an indication that NOW is not the very first time he's met and fought the Joker.

From month to month, a story should have few lasting effects. The only "continuity" that's really needed is continuity of *character* and *theme* (For example, the Hulk hates Bruce Banner every issue, Spider-Man worries about Aunt May every issue, and the Thing and the Human Torch bicker every issue) and, say, if Spider-Man broke his arm last month, it should be in a sling this month (and maybe with a reference explaining how he broke it). One does not need to read a dozen, or even a hundred back issues to figure out where things stand. Just keep things consistent without stagnating.

Today, aging fanboys and creators (who read books for 10, 15, 20 years and beyond) insist that comics be written to pander to their maturing tastes (and seem to believe that the character didn't even *exist* until the time when *they* started reading the book), and as a result we have absurdities like "Marvel Time" and "the 10-year rule" (the idea that 10 or so years have passed since the dawn of the Marvel Age in Fantastic Four # 1. It used to be the "7-year-rule", and I'm sure it's gonna be the "15-year-rule" before long, and then the "20-year-rule" after that. Are we seeing a pattern here?).

The lack of fresh blood in the form of new, young readers is a leading factor in the decline of the industry. Most stories today are either aimed at the aging fanboys or are simply incomprehensible to new readers. And instead of stocking up on back issues and being places where people can explore the past in an accessible fashion (the way they *should* be), the Direct Market (and its attendant comic shops) is solely focused on everything new, including multiple covers and dealer incentives, as well as sucking comics out of traditional marketplaces like drugstores and newsstands where your Average Joe 7-Year-Old can be easily exposed to them.

And unfortunately, most fans treat the characters as if they are REAL, and that everything from the character's inception has been part of one lengthy, planned-out history. The fact of the matter, however, is that comics are created by many different people over a long period of time, and some of those people take the characters in awful difections, directions that are far away from the core conceptions. But these changes are blindly accepted by many because it's just "another stage in the character's evolution" or "someone will change it back someday". They're not viewed as the mistakes and bad storytelling that they are.

Stan Lee said it best:

Never give the fans what they *think* they want. Give them what they need.

Now, mind you, Spider-Man (and most other Marvel characters) have not necessarily been "reset" characters (where you can pick up a book at any time and the basics will be *exactly* the same, like with Bugs Bunny or Dick Tracy), but the kinds of *radical* changes that have occurred in recent years are just too much. As the old saying goes, "Marvel characters don't need to be revamped; we got 'em right the first time". "Consistency" does *not* equal "stagnation". Consistency is victory! Spider-Man started out as a lonely high-school student, dealing with everyday problems like work and trying to afford to pay his rent. Today, he's an immature adult who lives in Avengers Tower and is married to a lying, selfish supermodel and he constantly swears and has major issues like his baby being stolen, learning he might be a clone, learning that his dead girlfriend had children with his worst enemy behind his back, having his eye ripped out, and mutating into a hideous spider-monster.

The first few years of the Marvel Age basically took place in "real time" (Spider-Man graduated from high school nearly three years after he was introduced, in real time), probably because Stan and the gang thought they were just producing some fun comics that wouldn't last very long. Then the fanbase really began to build up, and Marvel realized that they'd caught lightning in a bottle. And so the chronological brakes were applied. Whereas Peter Parker (a high school sophomore when he became Spider-Man, as later established by Roger Stern and others) graduated from high-school in some three years of publishing time, he didn't graduate from *college* until 1978 (after 13 years in college, real time). After that, the plan was to leave him in graduate school and have him forever remain in his early twenties, but that didn't last. Now he's 30 years old and out of school. I can't wait to see him turn 40 and get grey temples like Hal Jordan did....and...*sigh*...then he'll be disgraced and replaced as Spider-Man by a 20-year-old, hip-talking kid in a fancy new costume. Ugh.

Now, even with time moving slowly, it still doesn't work. Characters still age. The key to a character's immortality is creating a perfect situation (such as Spider-Man in high school---or maybe even college) and then leaving them there until the end of time, which will make them universally appealling to subsequent generations of readers. A lack of change (having the basically the same powers, costume, job, cast, personality, villains, etc.) is actually what has made many characters (like Superman or Batman) the icons they are today. Superhero comics worked perfectly for decades without any "growth" or "change" (look at the original Dick Grayson version of Robin, who remained a 10-12 year-old "boy" wonder for some *30 years* of publishing time...but then they decided to turn him into an adult, and then into Nightwing...while Batman somehow remained EXACTLY the same age--as ads iconic--as he always was. And ask anyone on the street, and they'll tell you that Robin is still Dick Grayson. The original incarnation of the character is the one that is ingrained in the public's collective consciousness).

The target audience for comic books was supposed to turn over every 5-7 years, and so they didn’t stick around long enough to notice or care about characters aging or growing. But once the Marvel Age began to change everything (by creating characters so *memorable* and so *great*, readers couldn't them leave behind as they grew older). "Growth" and "continuity" became the buzzwords, and sales dropped considerably over the next few decades. The Direct Sales Market accelerated this, with fanboy comic shop owners intimidating potential new readers with their knowledge of decades of accumulated continuity and lore and useless trivia (and the caveat that one had to be familiar with, say, 30 years worth of X-Men stories in order to understand or enjoy the latest issue).

The *illusion* of change is what's key (and something Stan Lee was a master of). Change the window dressing of a house, not the foundation. And don't demolish the house and put up a strip club in its place. Even when he went to college, Peter Parker still acted basically like Peter Parker (albeit a more extroverted, more popular Peter Parker). When Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Girl were married (and after, when they had a child), the relationship between the happy couple and the overall group dynamic of the Fantastic Four remained *exactly* the same as it had been since its inception. When Ant-Man became Giant-Man, his personality and his relationships with the Wasp and the Avengers remained the same.

Ideally, EVERY SINGLE ISSUE of a book should be a jumping-on point for new readers, and should subtly showcase the basics of the characters and their universe (via narration, monologues, flashbacks, and other tried-and-true storytelling devices). If Average Joe seven-year-old picks up an issue of Spider-Man for the first time, he should know everything he needs to know about Spidey (his powers, personality, etc.) by page 10. But the whiny fanboys who've been reading the book for 30 years would complain that this is boring and repetitive every month. And that's the whole problem. These selfish fans (and creators) are blocking the doorway that will let new readers in.

Answer me this: Why in the world would Marvel (or any other company) establish a winning combination of elements for a character/book, and then proceed to tinker with and change those elements until there's almost NOTHING of the original concept left? Why change a winning formula? Why drastically alter characters/books that had tremendous sales back in the Good Old Days? Why turn superheroes into a niche market, one intended solely for hardcore, life-long fans?

Steve Ditko himself has said that moving Spider-Man out of high school was a mistake, that the last time a person can really screw up--and get away with it--is around age 16. As a teenager, Peter Parker was a hard luck case. He was the "lovable loser", the "Superhero who could be YOU". He was heroic because he struggled with his mistakes and his problems without giving up. As an adult, he's just a LOSER who constantly screws up in the SAME WAYS HE DID AS A TEENAGER. Back in the day, children and teenagers could relate to the classic teenage version of Peter Parker, and adults who were once teens could, too. As created, Spider-Man was a PERFECT adolescence metaphor (and the perfect teenage escape fantasy). Today, only aging, immature fanboys could possibly relate to what the traditional "Marvel Universe" Spider-Man has become (and at this point, maybe not even *they* can). Spider-Man is no longer "everyman"--or should I say, "everyteen". Today, there's nothing left of the original Lee/Ditko Spider-Man. He's no longer fun to read. He's a stranger.

I don't want to see the rug painfully pulled out from Spider-Man's life every month. I'm sick of life-changing revelations and changes. I just want to see Spidey have exciting adventures, and I want him to be accessible to future generations of readers, who deserve to love the same classic character as much as I do. Instead of constantly trying to reinvent the character and the mythology, Marvel should USE the character who has been so well-established over the decades and TELL STORIES with him.

We don't need to see Spidey discover that Norman Osborn has retroactively manipulated his life in some horrible way yet AGAIN.

We just need to see Spidey face a powerful foe and come out on top by using his wits and tenacity.

What about all the kids who will never have a chance to read about Spider-Man the way he was originally envisioned? Most fans will agree that the purest, most potent version of the character would be the original Lee-Ditko version. The teenager who never got a break, and had to juggle high school, a job, and super-heroics. Not to say that the later incarnations are terrible (I also love the college-age Peter Parker, up through the Stern/DeFalco era, mainly), but the initial concept of Spider-Man is surely the strongest (as it is with most comic book characters). Most kids today don't know any better, though. They're just force-fed whatever crap Marvel dishes out and thinks that's the "real" Spider-Man. It's been said that every comic book is someone's first. What kind of an impression does little Average Joe 7-year-old get when he picks up Amazing Spider-Man and sees Gwen Stacy boffing Norman Osborn, or Spidey getting his eye ripped out?

Spider-Man (and the rest of Marvel--or DC, for that matter) was not created to be finite. The basic structure was designed to be infinite, like Sherlock Holmes or James Bond ("evergreen" characters who will last forever...unless their books are cancelled). Yet the fans and "professionals" keep trying to *make* it finite, by aging and changing the characters, to turn the story of Spider-Man (and the stories of many other characters) into a lengthy epic with a beginning, a middle, and, theoretically, an end (and end that they keep pushing him closer and closer to).

Ideally, though, superheroes should just have a beginning (an origin) and a never-ending middle. The only "end" is cancellation. There are no actors who will age and die in comics. These are *fictional* characters who do not need to obey the rules of time and space. There is no grand, epic timeline. One simply picks up a Spider-Man story to read about Spider-Man, not to wonder how old he is or how long he's been Spider-Man (although, details like that can sometimes enrich the reading experience, when used sparingly) or to chart out his life history.

Unfortunately, things have been changed and perverted SO much and SO gradually over the years that it may be *impossible* to get Spider-Man "back to basics" without a cosmic time warp or some other such ugly and clunky plot device. The character started to stray when he went to college (before Stan Lee put the brakes on his aging), and then Gwen died, then he got married, then he learned he was a clone, and then blah blah blah. It wasn't really until the Clone Saga when things spiraled *totally* out of control. Things are so convoluted and twisted now that getting back on track would be a Herculean task.

But then, all it takes is one good writer. One who truly understands Spider-Man.

It's terribly sad that, at a time when two *very* successful Spider-Man movies (which I think did a fairly decent job capturing the goofy and charming *feel* of the old Lee/Ditko stories...but overall, the details are all wrong, and the movies have been dumbed down for the masses) have greatly opened up the character's exposure to the outside world, is a time when the comic book version has never-- NEVER--been further away from where he started. Instead of a return to Spider-Man's roots in celebration of his his leap to the silver screen, we got organic web-shooters. Y'know, like in the movies. And heavily modified powers. And membership in the New Avengers. Bleh.

And speaking of the organic webs...they don't work. They are stupid. They are a clunky attempt to make an inherently fantastic character more "realistic" (By, amazingly enough, making him even more *unrealistic*!).

Spider-Man's costume, powers, and equipment have remained basically the same for some 40 years. Because they work. Because they are PERFECT. The web-shooters were an ingenious, elegant solution to a problem Stan Lee and Steve Ditko had back in 1962: If they had given Spider-Man organic web-shooters, he would have been perceived as even creepier than he already was (Remember, Lee's publisher, Martin Goodman, predicted that Spider-Man would fail because most people hate spiders and think they're disgusting and frightening.).

The web-shooters also serve a thematic purpose in the origin story in Amazing Fantasy # 15. When the shy-but-brilliant Peter Parker gains super-powers, his buried creativity (and ego) are unleashed. He ultilizes his underappreciated genuis to come up with a stage name, design and create a flashy costume, and build web-shooting devices ALL ON HIS OWN, with no outside help or inspiration. Because that's who Peter Parker is!

Compare that to the Peter Parker of Ultimate Spider-Man, who was given the costume for his wrestling job (he only added the web-pattern and spider symbols), and whose late father invented the web-fluid formula, which Peter perfected.

Compare that to the Peter Parker of the Spider-Man movies, in which the web-shooters are a natural part of his super-powers, in which the name "Spider-Man" comes from an outside source, and in which the Spider-Man costume pops up with NO EXPLANATION whatsoever (We saw Peter's first homemade costume in the wrestling ring, and it was pathetic.). Maybe he got the ornately detailed costume--which cost $100,000 to make in real life--from a costume shop? Yeah, that's it. Sure.

In the 1990s, writer-director James Cameron was attached to the troubled development of the first Spider-Man movie. In a story treatment he wrote, Cameron gave Peter Parker organic web-shooters, using them as a not-so-subtle metaphor for adolescent development (In the treatment, Peter awoke one morning covered in sticky white webbing. That's right. He had a..."web dream". Ahem.).

When director Sam Raimi was attached to the project, he decided to keep this concept in his Spider-Man film. Raimi stated in interviews that it made sense because it would give Peter one more thing to be ashamed about. Huh? In the original origin story, Peter is enamored of his powers, and doesn't at all feel like a freak.

Anyway, more importantly, Raimi chose to keep the organic webs because he, Raimi himself, could not have invented web-shooters and web-fluid when he was Peter Parker's age.

Let me repeat that.

He said that Spider-Man would have organic web-shooters in the movie because he, *Raimi*, could not have invented mechanical web-shooters at age 16.

*Ahem*. As established in the comics, Peter Parker is a scientific genius. He's just stuck in a crappy local high school because of his family's financial situation, and can't become a scientist because he's just too darn busy trying to make ends meet while also being Spider-Man. The guy in the Spider-Man movies ain't Spider-Man! He's just a regular teen who happened to win a science scholarship (and who also whipped up a $100,000 costume with no explanation...).

From an interview with Raimi:

RAIMI: "The main reason was, it was an idea that James Cameron came up with in a treatment. It was just a subtle riff on Stan Lee's original concept anyways, whether he shoots web mechanically or organic. Finally, in a nutshell, the strength of the movie was always going to be for us, as it was in Stan Lee's comics, was Peter Parker is one of us. It's what made Spider-Man a unique story, a unique superhero. He's a kid like us. We soar with him when he becomes this hero. So, we decided to do everything we could to keep that concept alive and real and potent to the audience. We wanted him to be someone we really identified with, so that when it came time to talk about the story aspect where he could create the web-shooters and have the technological ability to create such a mechanical device in his little Queens bedroom and have the ability of a chemical engineer to the degree that he could create this incredible substance that doesn't really exist in our world, we felt that Cameron's idea would be better for the movie. I'm not saying for the comics. I love Stan Lee's idea, but for the movie, to make him a real person, to stick to that theme and stick with it through the course of the picture, we felt that was a change we had to make."

The classic Peter Parker of the comic books may be the "Everyman's Super-Hero", but he's also larger than life at the same time. He is US (the everyman who has to deal with work, school, and girls), and he is also BETTER than us in many ways (his intelligence, his moral drive, his compassion). This unique dichotomy gives us both a hero we can see ourselves in AND look up to at the same time.

Anyway, in Spider-Man 2, at least, Peter's intellect is given more focus. Yet, how come he can talk about the highly technical details of a cold-fusion reactor with Dr. Otto Octavius (which no normal college student would be able to comprehend), yet NOT be "smart enough" to build mechanical web-shooters? Sheesh.

It's called "suspension of disbelief", people!

And therein lies the problem of many (if not all) comic-to-movie adaptations: the writers and directors and producers apply *their* vision to the characters instead of *translating* the vision of the men who created the comics into movies. Indeed, it seems Hollywood has been mandated to make all sorts of arbitrary changes just because they *can* (like changing Bruce Banner's family hiistory in the Hulk movie, like changing Daredevil's origin--he doesn't get blinded while saving someone's life in the movie--, like making Doctor Doom a businessman who was also exposed to comic rays along with the Fantastic Four, etc.).

And by the way, here are a few other reasons organic web-shooters--developed as a result of mutated DNA--*don't* work:

1. Spiders *spin* webs. They don't fire them out at high pressure, so how can Spider-Man?

2. Spiders spin webs out of their posteriors. How could Spider-Man magically develop spinnerets in both of his wrists, and in such convenient spots?

3. Where does the webbing come from? Where is it stored? Another dimension? How is it generated? (At least with the mechanical web-shooters you can say that the web-fluid is pressurized in replaceable cartridges--well not the *fluid* part, but surely there are *dry* chemical components contained within the cartridges that can be pressurized...). In all reality, the movie version of Spider-Man should either look like a guy with massive fatty tumors in his forearms, or he should look...pregnant. And he would always be ravenously hungry, needing to eat lots of food to generate all those webs.

5. And how does he change the form of the webbing (going from a webline to a net to a paste, etc.)? The mechanical ones are designed to vary the form of the webbing when Peter taps the trigger for certain amounts of time.

5. And of course, the mechanical web-shooters have all sorts of dramatic ability built into them (the potential of the shooters getting damaged, Spidey running out of refill cartridges, etc.).

Clunky and stupid, yessiree.

And a sidebar about comic book movies: Why make them at all if the characters and stories are going to be so heavily altered? A character has certain, well, CHARACTERISTICS. Change or remove those characteristics, and the character's just not that character any more.

To date, only three comic book movies (movie serials from the 1930s/40s/50s notwithstanding) have been truly faithful to (and respectful of) the source material and the characters (with only minor flaws or character/story changes):

Superman (1978), Frank Miller's Sin City (2005), and Batman Begins (2005).

I'd include Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993) in the list, but that's an animated movie, and I'm referring to live-action comic book films. That said, Mask of the Phantasm and the rest of Batman: the Animated Series is by far the best and most reverent depiction of a comic book character in a medium outside of comics, EVER. No contest!!!!

On the flipside, we've gotten Wolverine and his Amazing Friends (the X-Men movies), Bennifer and their pleather suits (Daredevil and Elektra), the Not-So-Fantastic Five (the fifth member being some unrecognizable businessman in a metal mask), and the Brooding King Kong Hulk, among others.

And of course, how can we forget the Whiny-Spider-Guy vs. the Mean, Green Power Ranger, followed by the Whiny-Spider-Guy vs. the Kindly Scientist Who is Under the Control of His Evil, Sentient Tentacles.

I have yet to see a Marvel movie that is actually *about* a Marvel character. All I've seen are a bunch of imitations with the same names.

Why is it that Hollywood, which prides itself on accurate recreations of historical events and adaptations of famous books in films, can't make a comic book super-hero movie faithful to the source material and the characters? Why all the pointless changes and contempt towards the source material?

If I go to a Spider-Man movie and *Spider-Man's* not in it, then that's false advertising, yes?

Anyway, back on topic:

As I've said, back in the day, the average span of a reader's reading life was about 5-7 years, and then they would move on from comics and grow up. They accepted the conceits of the medium and merely picked up the books for their most basic entertainment value. But then came the "lifers", the long-term readers, who stay with comics for 20-30 years (or more). These are the fans who demand that characters mature and change along with them, to become something they're not (and yet, oddly enough, these fans will whine and whine and whine if the characters change in a way they don't like). These are the fans who want to whittle down a product intended for everyone into one made specifically for them, and them alone. These are the fans who are embarrassed by costumes. These are the fans who think Superman is "too good" (and thus better than the rest of us----which he *IS*) and needs to be more "realistic" or, even worse, "taken down a peg". These are the fans who have become the "professionals" of today (Quesada, Bendis, Smith, etc.).

Indeed, in the Bravo Channel's televised countdown of top movie/comic/TV super-heroes (and, I might add, the list of characters was horribly arbitrary and stupid), "Ultimate Super-Heroes" (which featured various celebrities and comic book professionals commenting on each character listed), Joe Quesada basically said that Superman uses the Clark Kent identity so that he can relate to humanity.

QUESADA: "He actually has to downplay his abilities so that the rest of us can actually relate to him. Because really, at the end of the day, if he was just Superman, I'd hate this guy. Every girl would want Superman. He'd be getting laid all the time!"


He said that about Superman.


Think about that. That's how Joe Quesada shows "respect" for a bona fide American icon.

And so, the madmen have taken over the asylum, and are now actually creating the kinds of stories and changes they have clamored for, with no thought as to the consequences. History has shown that "growth" and "relevance", when forced onto a book or character will almost always equal a drop in sales (Remember when Denny O'Neil and Neil Adams' "relevant" Green Lantern/Green Arrow series was cancelled due to low sales? Remember the steep decline in sales when Ben Reilly took over as Spider-Man, seemingly forever?). Is it any wonder that the industry is in a tailspin? Is it any wonder that today's sales can't hold a candle to the sales of the Golden Age (and even the Silver Age), back when characters were accessible and their core concepts didn't change? But today's creators don't care if they're killing the industry, as long as they can do what they want and get praised for it.

But kids don't CARE how many decades old a character is the way aging fanboys and creators do. They just want fun stories (and, that said, it is the creators' *responsibility* to tell those fun stories while being true to the core concepts of the characters that kids are oblivious to).

Those readers who stick around too long and who are, as a result, bored with the characters (and the most basic conceits of the characters and the genre) should grow up and MOVE ON.

I myself am guilty of staying a comic book reader past the recommended age, but the difference is that I understand and respect the medium, and what it's intended for. I don't demand that characters be written to pander to my demands for "change" and "relevance". I just want Spider-Man to be...Spider-Man. The real one. The one who's been gone for a long time.

Spider-Man's unique sense of humor used to be Stan Lee. That's who Spider-Man was. He made fun of his enemies and their grandiose egos, and was self-deprecating as Peter Parker. That corny, Stan-trying-to-be-hip humor really made Spidey's personality pop. Now, under writers like JMS (who indulges in a pseudo-Peter David style of humor), Spider-Man is much more bitter, much more insulting, and his unique brand of humor has been replaced by Seinfeld-esque observations that mock the absurdity of his world, as well as melancholy rantings.

Aging fanboys have insisted that everything has to be "realistic" these days in comics, and the people in charge have embraced that idea. Except...this is fiction. This is fantasy. This is imaginary. Comics have lost their sense of grandeur and fun and those elements have been replaced by the mundane and the lewd. Comics don't have to be realistic. If you're going in expecting detailed scientific reasons for a man crawling on walls, then this genre isn't for you. Comics just have to be believable. Superheroes should only be *so* realistic and then no further. Just enough to make them believable and create a suspension of disbelief in readers (which is easy for kids, but not for Aging Fanboys, because as they get older and more jaded, they insist more on more realism so they don't look immature because they read "kiddie books").

Let's examine some of the elements of Spider-Man as he was when originally created by Lee and Ditko:

1. THEN: In Amazing Fantasy # 15, teenage high school student Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider. The spider's irradiated bite mutated his body chemistry and gave him the ability to climb walls, super-strength, amazing agility and balance, and a danger-warning spider-sense (although the spider-sense was introduced later on, in Amazing Spider-Man # 1). He designed and created a colorful costume and built web-shooting devices all on his own (with the aid of his underappreciated scientific genius). Peter's equipment, identity, and motivations as Spider-Man all came from how he eventually chose to use the gifts that had been accidentally bestowed upon him.

NOW: Adult high school teacher Peter Parker was bitten by a magical spider that happened to be exposed to radioactivity. Peter was chosen by a mystical Spider-Totem-God to be the latest in a long line of Spider-Men. He has the ability to climb walls, has super-strength, amazing agility, a danger-warning spider-sense, the ability to telepathically communicate with insects, organic web-shooters, night vision, spike-like "stingers" in his wrists, and a high-tech armored costume made by Tony Stark.

2. THEN: Spider-Man's motivation as a crime-fighter is his guilt over the fact that he inadvertently allowed his Uncle Ben to die, and that he won't let innocent people suffer as long as he can help it. His guilt over Ben's death, along with the paralyzing fear that his frail and elderly Aunt May would die of shock upon discovering his secret (as well as the fact that he caused Ben's death), is why he keeps his identity secret. During battles, Spider-Man uses his wicked sense of humor both to mask his insecurities and to cut his egotistical foes down to size.

NOW: Peter had a brief chat with what was apparently Ben's ghost, who eased his guilt and told Peter he was proud of him. Aunt May (who is no longer frail) discovered Peter's secret identity, coped with it, and is now a big booster of Spider-Man's (and is capable of wearing Iron Man armor...). Also, Peter seems to have a death wish, and wants to join his Uncle Ben in the afterlife as punishment for his role in Ben's death.

Motivation? What motivation? And it seems that every single hero, villain, and civilian in the Marvel Universe knows Spider-Man's supposedly "secret" identity. Also, Spidey doesn't joke much anymore. And when he does, it's either crude and vulgar or not funny.

3. THEN: Peter is a high school student who has to deal with life as a student, a freelance position at the Daily Bugle, and fighting crime as Spider-Man, with all the other problems teenagers have (girls, money, high school tests, etc.). He is feared by much of the public, is often wanted by the police, and solves his problems by using his brain. Spider-Man is an imperfect super-hero who is making it up as he goes along, and is usually the underdog during a battle who outsmarts his foes while insulting them with his jokes.

NOW: Peter is a high-school teacher married to a supermodel, and is a full-fledged member of the New Avengers, with all the perks both of those bring. He usually solves his problems by punching them, whining about them, or stabbing them with his stingers and biting their heads off. He is also a very capable, experienced super-hero.

4. THEN: Spider-Man had a colorful and memorable supporting cast, including Aunt May, J. Jonah Jameson, Betty Brant, Flash Thompson, Mary Jane Watson, and many, many more.

NOW: Aunt May, Mary Jane, and the New Avengers. That's it.

See any differences?

And speaking of the supporting cast, I've always thought that, at its bare minimum, it must be a TRINITY. Peter (our hero, the bad-luck teen), Aunt May (the loving mother figure who doesn't have a clue about Peter's adventures), and J. Jonah Jameson (the gruff, surrogate father figure who rails against Spider-Man). Others may come and go, but I think Spider-Man's world needs these three characters, in particular.

Anyway, if Spider-Man appears in say, three different books bearing his name per month, those books should feature Spider-Man, not three different writers' and artists' "interpretation" of who they think Spider-Man is (or who they want him to be). I tell ya, these rock star writers who want to put their stamp on classic characters are getting way, WAY, WAY too much freedom.

And of course, there are so many different versions of Spider-Man running around right now that one needs a scorecard to keep track of them all. There's the traditional Marvel Universe version (however far off course he is), which also ostensibly includes Marvel Knights Spider-Man (Intended for adults--or is that Aging Fanboys?), New Avengers Spider-Man and Marvel Team-Up Spider-Man, and then there's Ultimate Spider-Man (a different character/universe with a different history, Marvel's equivalent to DC's Earth-2), Marvel Age/Marvel Adventures Spider-Man (Spider-Man stories for the kiddies), and Movie Spider-Man.

Where's the character in all this? The consistency? Is he a teenager or an adult? Is he married to a supermodel or is he single? Does he have organic web-shooter, or mechanical ones? What's his "real" origin? Who is in his supporting cast? What's his personality? What's his motivation?

It used to be so simple. Now, the mythos and the character is fractured, perhaps beyond repair.

There should be one Spider-Man. Just like there's one Mickey Mouse or one Bugs Bunny or one Kermit the Frog or one Dick Tracy who makes appearances in various kinds of media, but is consistent in physical appearance, history, and personality. And there used to be one Spider-Man. But not any more.

The much-maligned and infamous Clone Saga was at least trying to restore Spider-Man to his roots (by attempting to make him hip, single, and fun again). Although it failed miserably, the creators at the time were always thinking ahead, to the future. Today, thinking usually doesn't go beyond more than one storyarc (and each successive arc is always billed as one that will "shock" readers, "blow their minds", or "change everything forever"). Major, damaging changes are being wrought, with no regard for future creators who will inherit a book (and the mess left behind), or, more importantly, for future readers.

And where does it go from here? In the 1960s, Marvel became the leader of the superhero comic book industry. It's been coasting on that reputation ever since. Today, it's no longer the "House of Ideas". No new ground is being broken, and instead, old ground is being defecated on. And crap is being praised as "art", "art" that is "better" than anything produced before it.

Quesada and his cronies aren't running Marvel into the ground. That's already been done. No, they're running the Company That Used to Be Marvel through the sewers now.


Do Sins Past or The Other add anything to the Spider-Man mythos? Have the characters been expanded or improved upon, and are the events in the stories logical? Are the stories serving the characters, or using the characters to serve the story? Do these stories *explore* the characters (as classic Marvel stories did), or are they using the characters to explore the stories? Do the characterizations seen in Sins Past work when compared to previous characterizations? Do old pieces of characterization suddenly "click" and fit together as a result of the story, or are elements of the classic stories being ignored and even rewritten?

If you answered 'No", "No", "remolding", "the story is using the characters", "no", and "no" (in that order), you are correct.

In all reality, Spider-Man should be a struggling student, his identity should be a secret, he should be single, and he and his supporting cast should stay in character. And there should be the *illusion* of change (changing the "window dressing" or making changes that are reversed at the end of a story or storyarc). That's how it was for a very long time, and it worked extremely well. But that's not how it is these days. There are fans out there who are long-time readers and think nothing's wrong, that Spider-Man is just as great as he's ever been. Yes, art is subjective, but I say those people are wrong. There are also the morons out there who use the notion that a subjective opinion can't be "wrong" to say all sorts of stupid things.

I pity those who continue to collect the books even when they hate them. If classic Spider-Man was Coke, and today's Spider-Man was New Coke, and you thought today's Spider-Man/New Coke sucked, wouldn't you quit in protest? Wouldn't you pressure Marvel/Coca Cola to bring back the formula that made the old version so great? The strongest way to show one's love for everything that once made Marvel and Spider-Man so great is to stop reading the books and demand change.

To paraphrase Max Schumacher (William Holden) in Network (1976):

It's too late, Marvel. There's nothing left in you that I can live with. Your characters have become soulless inhumanoids. If I stay with you, I'll be destroyed. Like Peter Parker was destroyed. Like Gwen Stacy was destroyed. Like everything you and the institution of Nu-Marvel touch is destroyed. You're Sins Past incarnate, Marvel: Indifferent to suffering; insensitive to joy. All of life is reduced to the common rubble of banality. Sex, murder, betrayal are all the same to you as bottles of beer. And the daily business of life is a corrupt comedy. You even shatter the sensations of time and space into revisionist history and endless trade paperbacks. You're madness, Marvel. Virulent madness. And everything you touch dies with you. But not me. Not as long as I can feel pleasure, and pain... and love.


So what does it all mean?

You might have read all this and thought, "He's wasted his time and my time", or "He's just another nut, ranting about crazy stuff".

Well, I don't feel that way.

I NEEDED to do this. I NEEDED to get this out in the open. Hopefully, it will open some eyes and maybe even change the world as we know it, but I must say, in the end, it's been very therapeutic to both confront and purge my pain regarding these matters.

And I AM in pain, have no doubt.

It's almost gotten to the point where the very thought of Spider-Man brings pain and disgust to mind for me. But then I crack open a classic issue from the Good Old Days and it all falls away and everything is right again.

In fact, my extreme reaction to Sins Past was to go on a mad, obsessive quest after virtually every Spider-Man comic published from 1962-1994 (before things really went downhill). I have virtually everything now, save the earliest issues of Amazing (which are harder to find and much more expensive). I have every issue of Amazing (and annuals) from about 1966-1994, every issue of Marvel Team-Up Vol. 1 (and annuals), Giant-Size Spider-Man # 1-6, Web of Spider-Man # 1-100 (and annuals), Spectacular Spider-Man # 1-200 (and annuals), and much, much more.

I did this partly because I needed research material for this essay, partly because I'd always wanted to do it (but didn't have the emotional motivation Sins Past gave me), and partly because at such a dark and desperate time, I NEEDED to embrace the classic era of Spider-Man and prove to myself that The Thing that Used to Be Marvel hadn't won; that I was even more of a fan of the REAL Spider-Man than ever before.

And, I must say, I've really, really, really enjoyed going through Spidey's rich history, and I was surprised at how much I found myself emotionally investing in Peter and Gwen's doomed relationship all over again.

Further, this whole thing has proved to me that there's just NO WAY that dreck like Sins Past or The Other even takes place in the same universe as, say, Amazing Spider-Man # 1, 31, 121, 231, 331, or even 441.

And really, I think a qualification for anyone who's going to write Spider-Man would be doing the same thing and reading through the character's entire history the way I have. See what worked and what didn't, what stuck and what didn't. Or at the VERY LEAST, read Amazing Fantasy # 15 and Amazing Spider-Man # 1-150.

It is NOT a coincidence that some of the greatest writers to succeed Stan Lee as writer of Amazing Spider-Man (like Gerry Conway, Roger Stern, and Tom DeFalco) looked back to the character's early days for inspiration, while at the same time taking Spidey in new and innovative directions that were still tonally and thematically consistent with the character that had been so well-established.

I don't read first-run comics anymore (with rare exception--and certainly NOTHING from The Thing that Used to Be Marvel). Well, that's not necessarily true. I still read the wonderfully simple and fun daily Spider-Man newspaper strip, which has been written by STAN LEE HIMSELF for nearly 30 consecutive years. A reasonable fascimile of the real Spider-Man (albeit a watered-down, more accessible version) can still be seen in the newspaper.

Anyway, I now see myself more as a historian, someone who studies the rich past of comics with nostalgia and longing. I embrace the classic Spider-Man era even more today than I ever did before, as I now see just how precious and rare it is. I won't get rid of my classic collection because of what's going on in the books these days. And certainly, I still love superhero comics (the good, OLD ones, and a select few of the new ones that are done right), and Spider-Man, the REAL Spider-Man, is still a big part of my reading life. But I cannot and will not buy into what's going on today. I will not be a Marvel Zombie who allows the wool to be pulled over his eyes and still slavishly buys every single issue, not matter how bad it is or how much it's hyped.

I love Spider-Man dearly. And the best way to show that love and to support him is to quit the current books and demand the restoration of the mythos, as I have.

And you wouldn't believe how easy I found it to quit. It was as though a weight had been lifted from my soul.

I've also seen many other veteran fans quit and move on. Really, it seems that the majority of the fanbase at this point (all 70,000-90,000 of them) are either the hardcore Marvel-Zombie addicts, or the aging fanboys who have turned Spider-Man and Marvel and the comic industry into what they are today.

Now, I'm NOT saying that those fans who love and embrace the stuff currently going on aren't as much Spider-Man fans as anyone else, but I do think that those people either don't understand the character that was originally created in 1962, or are just casual readers who aren't emotionally invested in Spidey or his world.

Indeed, the sad fact of reality is that today's generation is consumed by apathy and rudeness and vulgarity and amorality. In this era of cookie-cutter movies/television/video games, things like character and theme are being tossed out the window in favor of mindless violence, sex, and instant gratification. And that's sad and terrifying all at once. Stories that are utterly repulsive and descpicable and demeaning to the characters are praised as "art" and "good storytelling". And that's wrong.

I read a good metaphor for my feelings on this matter some time back. It's like being in a long-term relationship that ended a long time ago. Although you've moved on, you can't help but feel pain when you see that your ex is making horrible mistakes and is wallowing in misery. So, even though I'm finished with the present-day Spider-Man, it's still deeply painful to see the state he's in, and to know that his legacy is being sullied so horribly. Even though I (and many, many others) have quit and moved on, we can't quite deal with the horrors inflicted upon Spider-Man in recent years, and we don't want to see him damaged. We want to know that he's doing all right, and will last forever, even if we're not regular readers anymore. We want to know that his legacy is in good hands, so that future generations can enjoy the character, and the clean, simple, stunning purity of the character that was created in 1962 and captured the imaginations of so many.

We fans still look on from afar and still worry and still care about what happens to Spider-Man because it's the right thing to do. IT'S WHAT PETER PARKER WOULD DO.

I think the reason that I (and so many others) care so much about Peter Parker (and have been so painfully hurt by these recent events) is because Spider-Man has always been the most intimate of superheroes. The readers have been privy to his inner thoughts and feelings, his triumphs, his tragedies, his very life, for a long, long time. The rest of the Marvel Universe may distrust or fear Spider-Man, but his legions of loyal fans know the man behind the mask, and know him intimately. Peter Parker and his friends feel like family to so very many of us. We've been so close to them for so long, it's impossible not to think of them that way. THAT'S why it hurts so much to see them defiled so cruelly.

I really don't get it. For some 20-30 years, Spider-Man was, perhaps, the most specifically defined character in the superhero genre. His personality, morals, and innermost thoughts and fears were like an open book. It was really, really clear and obvious who this young man was.

And now, nobody seems to know who he is, or care who he is.

Now, idiot writers and idiot fans just want "good stories", with no thought given as to whether or not the stories fit the character.

It hurts to see Spider-Man, an icon of my childhood (and the childhoods of so many others) be broken down and destroyed, piece by piece.

And he has been destroyed, so make no claims to the contrary. I'm not saying this because the current Spider-Man isn't the same one I grew up with in the late 80s-early 90s. I'm saying this after detailed analysis of over 30 years of Spider-Man comics. I'm saying that it is a cold, hard fact that the most basic core concepts and conceits of the character and his world have been gradually eroded and defiled. That is a FACT. Spider-Man is a long, long way from where he started or where he SHOULD be today.

Maybe you think all the extensive details and issue annotations I've provided in this essay are pointless, and that all that "really" matters is whether or not readers enjoy today's stories on a basic entertainment level. Well, that's true. Being anal-retentive and detail-oriented proves nothing. In fact, the anal-retentive nature of the hardcore fanboys is one of the reasons the industry is in a tailspin (cuz the companies often bend over backwards to appease the arrogant, know-it-all fanboys).

An obsession with making sure that every detail of today's stories fits in with a story from, say, 1943, is NOT IMPORTANT. What IS important is that SPIDER-MAN acts like SPIDER-MAN and that a book with the name SPIDER-MAN on the cover actually features SPIDER-MAN in it.

And it's not that the problem is, say, that there isn't room in Spider-Man's chronology for Gwen Stacy to have gone on some mysterious trip to France and had children. No, no. It's the absurd, insulting, disgusting notion that GWEN STACY SCREWED NORMAN OSBORN AND HAD HIS CHILDREN BEHIND PETER'S BACK.

Tinkering with chronology and timelines from time to time (heh) is all good and fine, but to blatantly defy all that we know about a well-loved character for shock value is absolutely wrong.

But the fact of the matter is, all the facts and quotes I've listed serve to illustrate just how far away from the core concepts and characters the Spider-Man books are these days, not to prove that some crazy, cohesive, "Master Timeline" of Spider-Man's history has been violated.

And if you can't see that those core concepts have been violated, then you really are lost, and my mission has failed.

Also, I hope all the information provided has helped to demonstrate just how much affection I have for Spidey and his world.

Not to say that I'm an obsessive nut who worships with the "Cult of Gwen", or the "We Hate JMS Club". I'm just a very concerned fan who has taken it upon himself, in his spare time, to craft this essay as a testiment to the strength of these characters, and to decry what has been done to them. I have tremendous affection for them, and I know that many, many others do, as well. These four-color drawings have touched so many people for so long, I feel it's only fair that I give something back to them. That's why it's so important to treat them well, to preserve them for future generations. To honor them and take them seriously (taking them seriously paradoxically allows us to have fun WITH them, not make fun OF them).

But I hope I don't sound like a nut. I'm just passionate...and deeply concerned. You'll have to forgive me if my own personal anger and outrage over recent events has seeped into this essay.

But, hey--art without passion is dead.

Further, although it's certainly all right for casual fans to enjoy what's going on today on a basic entertainment level, I feel it is the job of the more hard-core fans (such as myself), and, more importantly, the job of the CREATORS, to serve as custodians of the characters and make sure they aren't drifting away from who they are and what they should be. The casual readers shouldn't HAVE to worry about whether or not creative integrity is being maintained, but that should the primary focus of the creators (and, when they drop the ball, as they have in recent times, it should be the focus of concerned fans, whose duty it is to point these things out).

We can't just goose-step in line with the other Marvel Zombies. If necessary, we must go against the grain, fuffle the feathers, fight against complacency and conformity.

In the end, "continuity" isn't about keeping track of decades of obscure details. It's about maintaining the decency and integrity of all these great characters and stories days gone by, always being mindful to embrace all the good elements of the past, and to ignore the bad elements. If a character or book drifts too far away from its most essential core concepts, then that damage must be undone and repaired before it's too late.

And it can be undone. It MUST be undone. This whole Gwen Stacy thing--and the Spider-Totem Garbage, in particular, must be UNDONE. Not ignored or swept under the rug. It must be dragged screaming into the light and eradicated. And all it will take is a good writer. Maybe Norman Osborn (or, preferrably, another villain, like Mysterio--and not some "realistic", suicidal, Kevin Smith-written version of Mysterio, either...) devised an elaborate hoax to muck with Peter's life by "revealing" that Gwen cheated on him and had twins. Or maybe it was all a "What If?" story!

Personally, I'd be thrilled if the Gwen Stacy thing was undone, and all the Spider-Totem garbage was eradicated, and if Norman Osborn was revealed to have "really" been dead all these years (with an imposter/clone seen running around since 1996). That would be a big step towards restoring and repairing the mythos.

Unfortunately, you can't unring a bell once its rung, and these embarrassing, painful detours will now be a part of Spider-Man's history until the end of time. But their impact can still be diminished. The legacy can yet retrieve its luster.

However, we may soon be reaching a point (if we aren't there already) where it is NOT POSSIBLE to fix Spider-Man, as hard to believe as that may be. Writers have been halfheartedly trying to repair the mythos since the Clone Saga, and Spidey has just sunk deeper and deeper into disrepair. And it's gotten to the point where the current crop of creators DON'T EVEN THINK THERE'S A PROBLEM AT ALL.

But really, it wouldn't necessarily take a cosmic time warp or some other such device to reboot Spider-Man. A good writer could subtly and slowly take the character back to his thematic and emotional roots. Here's are a just a FEW things that I think Spider-Man could use in order to be restored to a semblance of his former glory...

(...but in all reality, it's very unlikely that many of these things will ever happen.)

1. Bring back the classic powers, personality, and origin. Also restore Peter's sense of guilt, and Aunt May's classic characterization as the unknowing-but-loving mother figure.

2. Bring back the classic supporting cast (and hey, bring in some new people, while we're at it) and Peter's job at the Bugle.

3. Bring back the classic villains (while coming up with new ones), and do honor by them.

4. And, if it were possible to do this in a convincing way, make Peter young again! (And perhaps find a way to either deal with the marriage head-on, or negate it retroactively--like maybe with a time warp or something--without resorting to divorce or estrangement, which is just ugly).

5. Stop mucking with the most basic foundations of Spidey's life. Instead, put him in interesting situtations and moral dilemmas to illuminate his character by showing how he reacts to them. Retcon the really BAD stuff (like Sins Past and The Other) so that it never happened, at least, not the way it appeared to happen.

6. Make Peter an everyman and a loner who is feared by the public once again. And mystical/cosmic stories do not a Spider-Man story make. Spidey has always thrived by living in New York and dealing with street-level crime and costumed goons. Leave the heavy stuff to the Avengers or the Fantastic Four.

7. Pare down the number of Spider-books, and make Spidey's characterization consistent in every appearance in every book.

8. Begin a cheap, monthly (or even bi-weekly) reprint book (like the old Marvel Tales) for new readers who can't afford or seek out more expensive reprint volumes, which will help new readers learn about and appreciate Spidey's history. Add some extras, like historical commentary or the original letters pages for each issue reprinted, to appeal to long-time readers.

9. Bring back the letters pages (unlikely that this will ever happen, since most of today's fans prefer to anomyously spew out garbage and then press "enter" instead of writing well-thought-out paper letter) so fans can read other fans' opinions without the Internet flame-wars that are so pervasive among comic book fans.

10. Stop trying to tear Spidey down or shoehorn inappropriate/adult material into his world. It's FAR more fun and interesting to see Peter try to make the rent or keep his job than it is to see his entire life collapse around him in ever more hideous ways each and every month.

12. Embrace and respect the past, but keep an eye to the future.

12. Ditch the grim-and-gritty junk and make Spider-Man FUN and accessible to readers of ALL AGES once again.

And really, when was the LAST time Spider-Man (or superhero comics in general, for that matter) was FUN?

It seems that for a long time now, it's all been about obsessed fanboys and creators asking destructive and pointless questions that damage the characters. Is that "FUN"? It also seems that's it's all about obsessively collecting and speculating and grading and pricing and bagging and boarding. Is that really "FUN"? Aging fanboy creators pandering to their own selfish needs and the needs of aging fanboy collectors, instead of the needs of the characters and the next generation of readers???? Is it? IS IT????

Instead of creators producing great stories that honor the characters (which fans can then spirtedly discuss), we get dreck that results in bitter and brutal infighting among detail-obsessed fans. And that's sad.

For now, I implore everyone to vote with their wallets. Don't allow an addiction or a vain hope that things will "turn around" to control Spider-Man's future. If massive amounts of readers quit, then perhaps Marvel will receive a wake-up call, and start working to repair this catastrophic damage.

But I've a feeling that won't happen even THEN, what with the nature of the "professionals" currently running the show. I am sure that Quesada and JMS and Brian Michael Bendis (who has been made out to be the All-Knowing Master Creator of the Marvel--or is it "616"?--or is is "Ultimate"?--Universe) and all their ilk will never admit that they are wrong. Even if Spider-Man's sales drop to 10,000 copies per issue, or even 5,000, they'll still say Spidey is "better than ever" and "sales are great".

And Spider-Man will have been dragged along and forced into becoming something he isn't by aging fanboys.

Future generations will not know anything of SPIDER-MAN.

They'll only be familiar with a married, middle-aged Spider-Monster who worships the Spider-Totem and who bites people's heads off, and who is married and works with the Avengers, and with whatever horrid changes lie in store for our one-time friendly neighborhood web-spinner.

"To thine own self be true." - William Shakespeare (inspired by Socrates)

In the end, CONTINUITY OF CHARACTER is the most important thing of all.

I much prefer the "I have to defeat Dr. Octopus and get Aunt May's medicine to her before she dies" Spider-Man to the "I'm mutating into a horrible spider-creature while being manipulated by a mysterious Spider-Totem-God" Spider-Man.

Amazing Fantasy # 15 still holds up, and is still one of the best comic book stories of all time. Spider-Man writers just need to be true to the core concepts of that story and those characters.

I find it sad that so many fans and "professionals" know Spider-Man's mantra--"With Great Power, There Must Also Come Great Responsibility"--and can recite it by heart, but do not understand it or practice living by it in their professional (and maybe even personal) lives.

Interesting note: That famous phrase originated, of course, in the last panel of the first Spider-Man story in Amazing Fantasy # 15. But really, how many times has it actually been used or spoken in the comics over the years? Very few. And now, in recent years, that phrase has somehow mutated from a piece of omniscient narrative exposition into some mythic piece of advice that Ben Parker gave Peter before he died (as seen most prominently in the 1994 Spider-Man animated series and in the live-action Spider-Man movies), and which Peter failed to give heed to until after Ben was killed. HUH????

In the end, this essay is about about respecting Gwendy's memory. And respecting Spider-Man past...and holding out hope for his future.

It's also about the sad and deeply painful death of love, the death of fun, the death of innocence.

But as long as there are those out there who still believe that power and responsibility go hand in hand, then those who would defile all that is good and pure and fun about Spider-Man and his world will never win.

And, on a personal note:

I wrote this essay on behalf of Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy, and for Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, and for all the creators and fans who have made Spider-Man such an enduring and iconic myth, and I dedicate to them.


Amazing Fantasy # 15, Amazing Spider-Man # 1-150 (either the original issues, or the much cheaper reprints, such as Marvel Masterworks--in color--or Spider-Man Essentials--in black and white.). The two issues of the short-lived Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine have also been reprinted in the Marvel Masterworks series.

Or, for quick reference, The Death of Gwen Stacy trade paperback.

There's also the 40 Years of The Amazing Spider-Man 11-disc CD-ROM set, which includes scans from Amazing Fantasy # 15, every issue of Amazing Spider-Man from # 1-500 (as well as in-house ads, letters pages, and more).

And, if you can possibly stomach it, Sins Past (Amazing Spider-Man # 509-514, or the Sins Past trade paperback), and The Other (the original issues hardcover and trade paperback forthcoming).

And here are a few great resources for Spidey fans:

- Greg Kirkman,

Concerned Spidophile