Like many of the greatest heroes, Spider-Man grew out of the tragedies he endured throughout his life. When we first met him in AMAZING FANTASY #15, he lost his beloved Uncle Ben. Over the next several years he’d face more trials and tribulations, but in 1973’s AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #121, the bottom fell out of his world thanks to the Green Goblin.
Gerry Conway, Gil Kane and John Romita worked together on that issue as well as its follow-up which started heavy and just got more intense. Peter had gone to Canada in the previous installment to snap pics of The Hulk, but came home to his roommate and friend Harry Osborn in his sick bed. It turned out that his friend had taken another bad LSD trip that could potentially lead to schizophrenia.
Harry’s dad Norman took all this very hard and blamed Peter as well as his girlfriend Gwen Stacy and their friend Mary Jane Watson. At this point, the elder Osborn’s Goblin persona had been buried along with the knowledge that Peter Parker filled out Spider-Man’s suit. The stress of his son’s sickness built up the breaking point, leaving Norman a mess. He eventually found his way to an old warehouse that held his Goblin gear. Wanting revenge on Peter, the villain grabbed Gwen and left a pumpkin bomb waiting in his apartment.
Off his game thanks to a wicked head cold, the Web-Spinner swung out into the city to find the Goblin who had set up shop on the top of the George Washington Bridge. During the ensuing fight, the emerald-hued baddie skimmed past the unconscious Gwen and sent her toppling off the side of the bridge. Instead of jumping after her, Spidey sent out some webs which did grab her around the legs, but that didn’t stop a sickening “Snap” sound from letting out. As he pulled her back up to him, Spider-Man quickly realized that she had died. Even the Goblin tried easing his enemy’s guilt by saying the fall—not its abrupt conclusions—killed the young woman, but that didn’t seem to help much.
In the following issue, an enraged Peter looked all over town for Norman, eventually getting some information about the warehouse from Robbie Robertson. During the battle, Spider-Man damaged the Goblin Glider, which Osborn attempted to use against the Web-Slinger, but Spidey leaped out of the way and it lodged itself into the villain’s own chest. Even with his girlfriend’s killer dead, Parker felt no relief from the pain. An old friend, namely Mary Jane, helped Peter deal with his grief.
A Tangled Web
Even though he repeatedly referred to Gwen Stacy as “boring” in the 2007 introduction to the DEATH OF THE STACYS trade paperback, writer Gerry Conway recognized that the character became far more interesting after her death. One of the cases he specifically pointed out in that intro came in the form of 1994’s MARVELS #4 by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross. While trying to prove Spider-Man’s innocence in the death of Gwen’s dad Captain Stacy—originally published in the pages of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #88–92—the series’ star Phil Sheldon befriended the young woman. Through the course of their meetings, the jaded photographer realized that the heroes surrounding them “were here to save the innocent.” He went to meet her the day she died at the hands of the Goblin; the incident left him crushed and even led him to quit the photography game.