After reading the debut of Galactus I was in the mood for some more classic comic book action. One story I’ve certainly been aware of but haven’t had the chance to read cover to cover yet was the issue of The Amazing Spider-Man where Gwen Stacy was killed.
Here is a summary of the story. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Night_Gwen_Stacy_Died)
There is a lot to love about this issue. In many ways this issue brought us the comic industry the way we know and love it today. It had previously been unimaginable for such a beloved character to meet an untimely fate until this issue. To call the decision to kill her brave is quite the understatement. The drama it brings to the story, the drama it brings to the character of Spider-Man would give creators much more to deal with in terms of story creation for future work.
One great thing about this issue is the fact that this issue felt self contained. It had references to the previous issue with regards to Spider-Man being in Canada facing off against The Hulk which ended up giving Peter Parker a cold which ended up affecting his abilities. This was the perfect way to reference backstory and have that backstory affect the issue we were reading without the prerequisite of the reading having to have actually read that story to fully understand what was going on. (Which admittedly I haven’t.)
I also enjoyed that for the most part, the dialogue felt natural. While there were still instances of stilted dialogue that make older comics a little hard to read today the dialogue was pretty well done. You could realistically see Peter Parker saying what he does to The Green Goblin after he realizes Gwen Stacy is dead.
This is one time where I don’t have much in the way of complaint about the issue. As I mentioned before the dialogue is not always up to par but that is NOT the result of bad writing. This is simply how comics were written then. Today we’re used to more natural dialogue, the type of dialogue you’d expect to hear on the street or in movies today. So while it sometimes took me out of the moment judging said dialogue on today’s standards is not really fair. That would be like judging the origin comics of Captain America, Superman, or Batman based on today’s comic standards. The comics in question are hard to read and frankly garbage based on today’s standards but the important part is that without those comics, we would not have the heroes we have today. Seeds were planted with those early issues. They may not stand the test of time but they do have their value.
It’s not really fair to judge this issue due to its importance. While you can critique the story and come up with minor issues, without this issue the comics industry would look quite different today. The chance they took in killing off a character who was so important to the story could have resulted in some major backlash if it were not executed properly. Gerry Conway and John Romita Jr. (as well as the others involved in the creation of this issue) should be applauded for their work in creating a masterpiece. This issue is very much like the Mona Lisa of comics.