April 17, 2010

Ye Olde School Cafe’: The Death of Gwen Stacy pt 1

Greetings everybody, and welcome back toYe Olde School Cafe’! This week I’m going to continue with a Spider-theme and present my favorite Spidey story of all time: The Death of Gwen Stacy! I’ll break this one into two separate parts to make it less of a monster to keep up with. This story was a real ground-breaker for its time (1973) and the pioneers behind it are nothing less than spectacular. Stan Lee and Gerry Conway wrote this tale, and John Romita Sr. and Gil Kane gave it visual life. This week I’ll be presenting Amazing Spider-Man #’s 96-98. This fantastic story had some elements to it that some people may not know or remember. For one, it wasn’t approved by the Comics Code Authority because it depicts drug use. This was something Stan Lee wanted to do with or without the CCA label on it. He wanted to show the dangers of it and also the consequences. We also obviously see a death, which was something rare for a lead character. That is enough of an intro for sure, so let’s get to the story.

Our story begins with Peter on his way home from a trip to London. He was sent there by the Bugle to get pics of a terrorist ring and he did, along with some Spider-Man pictures, naturally. When he arrives in NYC, he goes straight to the Bugle to show Robbie his latest pics. Peter gets worried when Robbie asks a few questions about the trip and Spider-Man. He’s a little paranoid that someone might figure out his secret identity. Peter leaves the paper, but immediately runs into Harry Osborn. He and Harry have been roommates for a while now, and Harry is also currently dating Mary Jane Watson. Harry tells Peter that MJ is performing tonight and everyone is going to see her. Peter decides to change into Spider-Man and do some

web-swinging to clear his head. At this point, Spidey thinks back to his confrontation and subsequent battle with Harry’s father Norman when he was masquerading as The Green Goblin. Peter then, at the behest of Harry, goes to see Norman about a job. Quick side-note here; Norman discovered Spider-Man’s secret identity, but when he cracked up he lost some of his memories while under the influence of The Goblin formula. Peter overhears a doctor telling Norman to take it easy and not to get too excited or his health could get worse. Peter and Norman then have a talk about a job, and they come to an agreement.

After running into Aunt May and Anna Watson (MJ’s Aunt), Peter then sees some police cars zoom by with lights and sirens going off. He decides to investigate from a higher perspective. He finds a kid at the top of a building who’s stoned out of his mind and trying to fly like a bird. Suddenly, the kid jumps off of the building to certain death. Spider-Man quickly swings down and saves the kid from crashing on the streets below. Spidey makes a fast exit and heads for the show. The gang is already there and waiting for Peter, with Harry gloating about his father’s building. MJ starts to get a little chummy with Peter, and Harry doesn’t like it one bit. Peter doesn’t even understand why she is doing it to Harry. All of a sudden, Randy (Robbie’s son) pulls up and gets into a heated argument with Norman about drugs and whose responsibility it is to help clean up the streets.

As the show begins, we see Peter noticing that Norman is still shook up from the argument with Randy. The show goes well for MJ, and then she tells everyone afterward how great she was. Peter seems to be getting all of her attention, but still focuses his eyes on Norman. All of a sudden, Norman walks by a door and starts to sweat profusely. Just then, Peter’s Spider-Sense goes wild, but he can’t figure out why. Later, after everyone has gone home, Norman decides to go back to that door and see what’s inside that is compelling him to do so. Meawhile, Spider-Man is also back at the theater and follows soon after Norman. Just as Spidey opens the door, he’s attacked by The Green Goblin!

Spidey wasn’t prepared for a confrontation, so The Goblin gets the upper-hand initially. He kicks Spidey in the face and flattens him. Spidey then webs The Goblins Glider, and he falls off. The Goblin then pulls out a pumpkin bomb, but little does Spidey know, that it’s actually a gas that sends him on a wild trip. The Goblin then punches Spidey in the face, momentarily knocking him loopy. After Spidey recovers, the two tangle more, but Spidey is always ending up on the losing side. Eventually, Spidey clings underneath an overhang, making the Goblin think he fell to his death. Spidey is left wondering, how he can not only stop the Goblin, but also how can he protect his secret identity as well? Peter goes home, but on his way is contemplating why he always ends up hurting the people he cares about. After he’s done feeling sorry for himself, he vows to help Norman and to stop feeling this way all the time.

Back at the apartment, Peter is still thinking about the Goblin, when Harry shows up. He starts blaming Peter for MJ’s actions, but Peter tells him it isn’t his fault. Harry then starts acting as if he’s having a headache, so he starts popping pills. Peter notices Harry’s habit and tries to talk to him about it. Harry ends up passing out from all the pills, and Peter is left wondering how he got all these pills. The next morning, Harry and Peter are walking down the street, when May Jane makes an appearance and starts to swoon over Peter again. Peter tells her to quit hurting Harry, but she blows him off. While this is going on, Harry gets angry and walks away. He’s then approached by a dealer who convinces him to try some pills to help with his grief. The next day, Harry is on cloud nine from his pills, and he runs into MJ and tells her that he’s willing to forgive her indiscretions. She tells him that she’s breaking up with him, and then exits quickly. Back at the apartment, Peter is taken off-guard when Harry returns and blames him for the break-up with MJ. The two argue, and Harry tells Peter to move out of the apartment at first, but then recants after he thinks about it. Peter tells Harry he looks sick, but he tells Peter he just needs to rest. After Peter leaves, Harry goes right for the bottle of pills.

Peter does a little web-swinging to clear his head and to try and formulate a plan to stop the Goblin. When he returns to the apartment though, he finds Harry barely breathing and needing medical attention. Just as he is getting ready to call an ambulance, he hears a laughter from the window. The Goblin is there taunting him, and then crashes through the window to kill him. Peter, who is now holding Harry, shows the Goblin, who then flies away on his glider because he doesn’t want to remember that part of his life. After the Goblin leaves, Peter calls the ambulance and they rush Harry to the hospital. While there, Peter starts to think about Gwen, and if she is missing him as much as he misses her. Little does he know, that across the Atlantic Ocean, she is having those same thoughts about him.

The next day, Peter is walking around and runs into the dealer who sold Harry the drugs. Peter confronts him and his goons. They try to rough him up, but in the dark alley Peter uses his strength and fighting prowess to kick the crap out of all three of them easily. He then changes into Spidey and swings around the city for some relaxation. The swinging doesn’t last long though; all of a sudden he’s attacked by the Goblin. This time the Goblin seems intent on killing him, or being stopped permanently himself. The two battle it out tooth and nail, until Spidey realizes he isn’t going to be able to stop him unless he changes his tactics. Spidey sees that they are fighting right by the hospital where Harry is being treated. He grabs the Goblin in a choke hold and forces him to see his own son in the hospital hanging on to his life. This causes the Goblin to realize he’s really Norman Osborn, and then he passes out from the choke. After taking Norman home, Spidey changes back into Peter, and is shocked to be greeted in the streets by his lost love Gwen!

Well true believers, that’s it for part one of this epic story, but don’t dare miss next week’s finale. Will Harry come out of his coma? Will Peter and Gwen live happily ever after? Don’t miss out on the biggest heartbreak in not only the life of Peter Parker, but in comic book history!

Billy Dunleavy



  1. Eli

    Thanks for not breaking my heart this week Billy. I miss Gwen, I mean, MJ was cool and all, but I just think Gwen got a raw deal. Nice recap!

  2. Kristin

    Wow, Mary Jane was kind of a whorish bitch….

  3. Billy

    @Eli- This was the one true love of Peter’s life…MJ just got him on the rebound.
    @Kris- Yeah, back then, pretty much. lol

  4. I don’t think I’ve ever read issued 96 & 97 of this arc. But it would seem like a HUGE coincidence that Peter AND Spidey just happened to be in London at the same time, dumb move Pete lol

  5. Billy

    @Speech- lol, yeah, they make reference to it and Petey even says that is why he ran out on Gwen so fast. He thought she would piece it together and also she was hating on Spidey at the time because she thought he was responsible for the death of her father, Captain Stacy. 🙂

  6. Marie

    Nice look into the life of Spidey. We forget there was another women.

  7. […] back to the conclusion of The Death of Gwen Stacy in Ye Old School Cafe‘. This week we will bear witness to the most emotional day in the life […]

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