Aug 12, 2020

Spider-Rama: Amazing Spider-Man #122

Welcome to Spider-Rama! Every Monday and Wednesday, Ben and Duy will look at a Spider-Man issue from the very beginning, in chronological order, and answer questions for various categories, inspired in large part by one of our favorite podcasts, The Rewatchables by The Ringer. Our goal is to make it to Amazing Spider-Man #200. Will we make it? Grab your Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus or crank up your tablet to Marvel Unlimited, and then tune in every Wednesday to find out!

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #122
by Gerry Conway, Gil Kane, John Romita, and Tony Mortellaro

With Gwen Stacy dead, Spider-Man goes after the Green Goblin!


POINTLESS TRIVIA

BEN: Villain appearance count:

  • Doctor Octopus: 15
  • Green Goblin: 13
  • The Kingpin: 12
  • Kraven the Hunter: 8
  • The Vulture: 7
  • The Lizard: 7
  • Mysterio: 6
  • Professor Smythe/Spider Slayer: 6
  • Sandman: 4
  • Hammerhead: 3
  • Electro: 3
  • The Enforcers: 3
  • The Rhino: 3
  • Man Mountain Marko: 3
  • Silvermane: 3
  • The Chameleon: 3
  • The Schemer/Richard Fisk: 3
  • The Ringmaster: 2
  • Scorpion: 2
  • Molten Man: 2
  • Shocker: 2
  • The Beetle: 2
  • Morbius: 2
  • The Gibbon: 2

DUY: The "death" of Norman Osborn.

WHAT'S AGED THE BEST?

BEN: Spider-Man would officially be wanted by the police for quite a while because of this.


DUY: The entire issue has aged well, but I want to call out Spider-Man not holding back, because that's always struck out to me, just how easy it is for him to kill him if he wanted to. I actually have printed out panels from this sequence and put it on my wall.


BEN: He is pretty unstoppable if a writer wants him to be. Strength, speed, danger sense. Spider-Man not holding back is always an eye-opening experience.

DUY: I also want to call out the last three panels, because Conway showed a lot of restraint there by not putting in any words. You know he wanted to, since that was kind of his thing back then, trying to apply literary prose. But take a look at the original layout. I would argue what they went with is much better. More ambiguity. Is she staying to console him? Yell at him? Sleep with him?



BEN: When I was a kid I assumed sleep with him, but I didn’t understand grief. But yes, the evolution of Mary Jane begins.

DUY: He very clearly does not sleep with her as we'd find out in a later issue, but I'm sure people wondered it at the time.

BEN: And lest we forget, here's a classic death scene.


WHAT'S AGED THE WORST?

DUY: The easy answer is Gwen getting fridged. Women in refrigerators, for those not in the know, is a trope used to signify when a female character has been killed or had otherwise bad things happen to her simply for the evolution of the male protagonist.

BEN: It’s a byproduct of a mostly male hero roster, but nonetheless a bad look after years and years of it. Gwen was the first though, yay her.

NITPICKS

DUY: I don't really think the Goblin needed to die, to be honest. Feels like a Comics Code thing.

BEN: They spent what, 10 years trying to replace him?

DUY: They did their best...

BEN: Even Hobgoblin only filled the hole for a few years.

FAVORITE PANEL

BEN: Mine:


DUY: Mine:


WHO WON THE COMIC?

BEN: Mary Jane Watson.

DUY: Undoubtedly Mary Jane Watson, and her legion of future internet fans.

IMPACT

DUY: 121 gets the historical impact, but I would argue that this one was more important.

BEN: Gwen Stacy’s death casts a long shadow, but the “death” of Norman created so many different things.

DUY: It's not even just the death of Norman - this has the repercussions of Gwen's death, the fallout, Peter getting angry and just wailing on the Goblin, the last scene. 121 gets you in the last couple of pages because it's shocking. 122 drives home that it's real.

BEN: Good point. There were probably still some fans who thought it would be okay after 121. Has there ever been two issues that had a bigger impact on a character that wasn’t an origin? Like a marriage? Superman got over his death pretty quick.

DUY:   I don't know. This was a legitimate game changer. It's not even impact on a character, it's impact on the whole industry. The only other single issue (not two issues) would be The Killing Joke. I do feel there is a Daredevil issue or two in the running.

BEN: Waid tied back to Karen’s death but that was closer to a retcon. She didn’t loom over the series for 20 years.

DUY: From the letters page of 125: probably the earliest instance of the "Marriage was the next step and Peter shouldn't marry" explanation.

BEN: I know I had read that in several places. I’m not smart enough to make that up. So Conway thought she was too perfect, and yet Roger Stern thought she was too imperfect:


BEN: What I take out of that is that Conway and Stern didn’t like Gwen, and as fans turned pros their personal opinions will carry more weight over the years than most others, so opinions become truth. But if the fans hated Gwen so much, why was there such a passionate backlash to her death?

DUY: Yeah, I definitely disagree. I don't think she needed to die, and as you mentioned yesterday, it's unfair to say she "wasn't stable." You'd go nuts if you had to date Peter Parker too. And quite frankly, I loved Gwen at the start, and I loved Gwen at the end. I didn't particularly like her in the 60-90 range, but guess what? I didn't particularly like the book in that 60-90 range.

BEN: Still, Conway and Stern are two of the best Spider-Man writers ever.

DUY: Hey, didn't we rank them yesterday?

BEN: Oh yeah, we did. People should watch that.

DUY: That's it for Spider-Rama this week.

BEN: Thank you, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko—

DUY: —for telling us we aren't the only ones.

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2 comments:

Arthur S. said...

The backlash over Gwen's death had nothing to do with her as a character and more to do with the fact that her death made Spider-Man look bad, and look sad. It was also the fact that Spider-Man as a comic wasn't one with a reputation for violence at the time, nor in fact many comics, and the death of Gwen was staged in a violent fashion. So readers felt that their hero or guy they care for lost or was made to look bad. Conway's First Clone Saga (which you will be covering in some time) was metaphorically about that fan reaction. There's a reason why the in-page voice for bringing Gwen back and blaming Peter for her death was some creepy old professor and necrophiliac, because that's how Conway saw most of the fans behind the backlash and most of the people upset about Gwen's death. Because nobody knows or remembers the Gwen who existed before.

If you read Conway's interviews and see Goblin's dialogue at the start of ASM#122, where Goblin calls Gwen a useless woman who occupies space, it's quite obvious that Conway put his opinions in Norman's mouth and that Spider-Man was meant to represent the audience whose fight against the Goblin at the end is metaphorically the fight of the reader against the author. The great part of the epilogue is that, the perspective of the author, and the reader, shifts to Mary Jane, and she becomes the audience surrogate in the last page and remains so for the rest of Conway's run, becoming the emotional center of the overall franchise.

As for "future Internet fans" I will point out, as you will read in the letters that follow, that Mary Jane had plenty of fans in that time too, and will retain them in the following decades before the proliferation of the internet.

Fred W. Hill said...

Before Gwen, there was Una in Captain Marvel; Janice Cord in Iron Man; and Lady Dorma in Sub-Mariner. Gwen was just the most popular of them and died in Marvel's bestselling comic and so got the most attention, but Marvel had been doing the Women in Refrigerator bit for about 4 years by this point.

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