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PEOPLE WHO DIED: Character Deaths Between AF#15 to ASM#122

Spider-Man during the Silver Age of Marvel Comics has been examined from many angles, i.e. portrayal of teenage angst and group dynamics, as well as gender dynamics in its use of romantic triangles. It’s been examined, here and elsewhere, on issues of authorship and collaboration. What’s been under-examined is the representation and portrayal of violence in these comics. This post has been in the works for months, isolating and jotting down each and every death between AF#15 and ASM#122. I am going to look at each of the issues with character deaths, those that occur on-screen and those that are teased, and comment on every scene.

NOTE (APRIL 24, 2024): I have made updates and corrections on receiving feedback. The Updated sections are clearly indicated with [UPDATED] signaled as indicated.

I am only going to be cover comics from Amazing Fantasy#15 to Amazing Spider-Man #122. Spider-Man fans can recognize those numbers and know that my net is cast between Spider-Man’s Origin and the Death of Gwen Stacy, which is the so-called “Silver Age” Spider-Man. Going beyond that would require a bit more research than I am able to commit to at the moment. When I say violence, I mean fatal violence. That is to say violence associated with death and murder. That means I am not going to cover the punches, kicks, bludgeoning by objects, being knocked unconscious, and so on.

For the most part this isn’t a topic that comics scholarship have covered historically. None of the interviews with Lee and other creators in Comic-Creators on Spider-Man address violence and its depiction. The only story instance which has commentary is the Death of Gwen Stacy, but aside from that most of the information has to rely on close-reading. And that’s going to be what I rely on in this post.

THE BODY COUNT

Now when listing deaths in superhero comic books and Spider-Man in general we need to run over certain asterisks:

  • I am listing in this sheet all characters who are reported to die. Some deaths are off-screen or off-panel. Some are only to implied to occur on-page. There are of course direct on-panel unambiguous deaths.

  • By name characters I mean name characters. A henchman or a one-panel character who is named before death counts.

  • Some of the characters have subsequently resurrected decades later, while some implied-deaths turn out to be fake-outs and teases within the original run. I’ve included all deaths regardless marking out the status of characters below each entry.

  • I have included only the deaths of named characters, rather than implied deaths as a result of collateral damage much of which is often conjectured by fans (take the “Endor Holocaust” example from Star Wars fandom). I have also excluded retroactively introduced deaths such as backstory that might come later in publication history which insert details in the background.

  • The following list only includes the 616 Amazing Spider-Man comics and Amazing Fantasy #15. I have eschewed Marvel Team-Up (which entered the picture near the end of this period), as well as Spider-Man appearances outside his own titles in this time-frame.

I have done this list personally, so it might mean that the numbers you see below are limited by my perceptions or a mis-step on my part. That said, I did in fact have some input and help with this list. Still, this is my research and I welcome anyone to run my numbers.

With that out of the way here’s the list of all character deaths between AF#15 and ASM#122.[UPDATED]

SPECIAL THANKS TO ALEX GALUCKI (from the Amazing Spider-Slack), DAVID WALTON (old friend of this channel) and KAITOU B. KID for peer-reviewing this data and offering input and suggestions. [UPDATED] As well as u/Philander_Chase on reddit and Menshevik at Alvaro’s Comicboards

Over 122 ASM issues, 8 Annuals, 1 story in Amazing Fantasy #15 not including Spider-Man appearances in Marvel Team-Up, non-ASM cameos, and other titles:

  • [UPDATED]
  • 27 Character Deaths in 18 issues.
  • 3 Deaths are Teases
  • 8 became resurrections
  • TOTAL CURRENTLY DEAD: 16
  • END OF [UPDATED]

STURDY STEVE’S SKELETONS

In the Steve Ditko era, between AF#15 to ASM#38, there are five deaths. Of the lot, two have been resurrected subsequently.

Amazing Fantasy #15 – Uncle Ben
DEAD

The first Spider-Man story is as mentioned before not a very happy story. It has a mix of genres going from a high school story to science-fiction, to film noir. It shows Peter in various aspects as a teenager, a scientist, a wrestler, a performer on showbiz, and finally a crime fighter.

ASM Annual #01: Peter flashes back to a scene he wasn’t a personal witness to. The POV of his Uncle as he’s shot by the Burglar.

It also has a death of a name character, but in AF#15 this death is shown off-screen. We never see Uncle Ben die on-panel in AF#15, all we see is Peter returning home and being informed by the police that his Uncle is dead.

At the same time that’s not the end of the story. In Amazing Spider-Man Annual 01, also by Lee-Ditko, there’s a brief flashback to Spider-Man’s origins, and while two panels show images from AF#15, one panel is brand new. This panel shows a scene Peter wasn’t a witness to. It’s a shot of the burglar in the Parker home pointing a gun directly to a person. The implication is that this is Peter imagining Ben’s death from the victim’s POV. Psychologically, it makes sense that Peter on hearing the coroner’s report from the police and from talking to Aunt May could have reconstructed Ben’s death and go over it time and time again.

ASM #200. We finally see Ben get shot. Yay?

It wouldn’t be until ASM#200 that we see Ben’s death on-panel. This story which features the “rematch” between the burglar is an example of comics continuity at its worst, where the decision to revisit moments and dramatize stuff left off-screen leads to something that’s artistically inferior. Keeping Ben’s death off-screen felt far more violent since the reader like Peter himself was often led to imagine it in their own mind. But the direct on-page depiction completely severed that.

ASM#11 – Bennett Brant –
resurrected

The first on-screen on-panel death in Spider-Man publication history is Bennett Brant. Bennett is older brother of Betty, who has become a mob lawyer. Blackie Gaxton puts the screws on Bennett to get Doctor Octopus to free him. Eventually, there’s a big fight between Spider-Man, Otto, gangsters with Betty and Bennett caught in the middle.

ASM#11 – The first time Spider-Man is “blamed” for death. While there’s an element of culpability and negligence in other cases, in this scene Spider-Man is absolutely blameless and Bennett died on account of being an idiot when there’s a gun in the room.

Contrary to popular belief, Doctor Octopus has nothing to do with Bennett’s death. Whenever fans bring up Otto’s credentials as an arch-enemy there are claims that he was involved in the first death of a Spider-Man character but Otto was no more involved in Benett’s death than Spider-Man himself. The true villain of this story is the gangster Blackie Gaxton. He’s the one who hires Otto out to free him and Otto is essentially his “muscle” in this story. It’s Gaxton who actually shoots and kills Bennett. The actual panels showing Bennett’s death doesn’t even feature Otto in the room. He’s knocked out right before.

We see Gaxton fire a gun and while Spider-Man tries to get it off him he shouts at the Brants to stay in cover but Bennett peeks out in a senseless attempt to “shield” Betty and gets shot instead. So we see the first on-panel shooting and death of a character in ASM publication history.

Venom Vol.2 Issue 1 (2011). We missed you Bennett Brant, said no one ever.

Still Bennett Brant came back from the dead, and that makes him both the earliest death in ASM and the earliest dead character to be resurrected, though his happened decades after others had gone and come back before him.

ASM#20 – Farley Stillwell
DEAD

Jonah the writer of sensationalist news buys into sensationalist news. Never get high off your own supply folks.

Farley Stillwell is the scientist who comes up with the process that converts Mac Gargan into the Scorpion. That’s his function in the story. He also dies in the first issue he appears in.

The origin of the Scorpion has always been controversial because it poses a major problem for the character of J. Jonah Jameson.

Jameson was presented and introduced as a comic relief character and that has how he’s been remembered and featured in adaptations but in ASM#20, we see Jameson go into a borderline heel turn. He seeks out a scientist, Stillwell, who advertises in his paper, a process of animal mutations. Jameson then pays Mac Gargan, a sleazy private eye he had hired to tail Peter Parker to see how he gets the exclusive photos of Spider-Man, to serve as a human test subject. There’s no getting around the fact that Jameson is culpable for the creation of a supervillain and the collateral death of a scientist.

At the same time, the fact is that Gargan and Stillwell volunteered willingly, and Jameson paid them money to participate, so it’s not like Jameson forced them to get involved in something they didn’t want to. There’s also the fact that Gargan is revealed to be a psychopath upon getting the powers and the Scorpion suit. He goes beyond the mission of beating up Spider-Man, to taking over the city much to Jameson’s horror, making Jonah the locus classicus of the “Leopard Eating People’s Faces Party”.

Stillwell grows a pang of conscience and whips an antidote to cure Scorpion and offers it to Mac Gargan. This action cements Gargan and Scorpion as truly villainous. Whatever justified anger they might feel towards Jameson, the fact is that upon being offered a cure he turned it down saying clearly that he doesn’t want to change back. In this moment, Gargan shows agency and choice and the blame from Jameson shifts firmly to him.

Farley Stillwell is the scientist who feels remorse and foolishly chases after Scorpion by climbing a building after him and Gargan actually tells him to stop before he slips and falls down, and then he does. Stillwell in his last moment actually hurls the chemical container at Gargan in the hope that it’ll take away his powers but it doesn’t work and Spider-Man’s a bit too late to catch him. We see Stillwell fall and we see a small gaggle of crowd in the panel with Spider-Man in the middle row as he swings and attacks Scorpion.

Notice how Jameson’s eyebrow has the same curve shape as Peter in AF#15 to indicate distress and guilt.

Stillwell’s death is a case of panic-driven accident though legally Scorpion is responsible for not taking the cure, and doing nothing to stop the scientist from climbing or helping him down. On the level of conscience, Jameson is of course responsible for starting this whole mess on a harebrained vendetta that obviously ballooned out of his control and beyond his intentions. To his credit, Jameson on hearing of Stillwell’s death feels a pang of conscience and expresses remorse at his actions in a panel that’s strikingly similar in expression and mood to the penultimate panel of AF#15.

Yes anyone with too much power such as a bigtime media baron/editor who has established zero accountability for his actions…oh….well get me pictures of Spider-Man, dammit.

In fact the entire story of The Scorpion is a kind of inverted remake of AF#15, where we see that an average person (Mac Gargan) gets powers and it immediately goes to his head to the extent that he prefers being a mutant and turns down a cure, which implicitly shows Peter’s fundamental moral goodness since when given power even at his most selfish he didn’t go criminal at all. We also see Jameson and the scientist Stillwell express their responsibility (and yes the word is in balloons in this comic) and try and make up. Jameson gets to be like Peter, and live with his guilt, though happily not enough to actually change and turn completely.

It’s a very good comic, but in the long run, probably not the best decision for Jameson’s character and the attempts to present Jameson as a heel is always a subtractive move for this important transformative character.

ASM#27 – Crime Master
DEAD

In terms of pure superhero fun, the best story of the Lee-Ditko run might be ASM#26-27, aka the Crime Master story. This has Green Goblin team up with a gangster with the imaginative name of the “Crime Master” (who turns out to Nick ‘Lucky’ Lewis, based on the Italian-American mafioso Lucky Luciano). The Crime Master and Goblin work together to stop Spider-Man but their partnership gets upset because Goblin wants to take credit for Spider-Man’s capture and win the loyalty of the underworld, which ultimately sets them apart leading Spidey to break free.

The police give chase to Crime Master and corner him, leading to a shootout though we only hear the gunshots in the distance.

Given that Crime Master’s back is turned to the cops, this does look a little sketchy and cowardly on the part of NYPD. Of course he’s a gangster and the reader sees him reaching for a gun but it doesn’t feel right. In terms of story it would make more sense if Crime Master was killed by Green Goblin instead. In fact, the panels right after this has Crime Master in his final breath almost mentioning Goblin’s secret identity, which he takes to his grave.

It’s not terribly satisfying to read in retrospect that Green Goblin’s identity was nearly revealed and kept under wraps by pure dumb luck, namely Crime Master wasting his last breaths and stringing too long sentences rather than “Goblin is Norman Osborn”.

When we look at the deaths in Spider-Man so far, we can see a pattern. None of them are deaths directly doled out by the supervillain themselves. Spider-Man has a rogues gallery of villains with destructive powers but they don’t actually kill anyone on-screen or on-panel. A random burglar killed Uncle Ben, a random gangster killed Bennett Brant, Farley Stillwell fell to his death in a foolhardy self-own, while the police kill a fleeing Crime Master who dies with the secret of the Green Goblin.

Of course things change a bit with the next death, which is also the penultimate issue of Ditko’s run on ASM.

ASM#37 – Mendel Stromm
resurrected

From his first appearance in ASM#14, Green Goblin came to be the most dangerous, resourceful, and cunning enemy in Spider-Man’s rogues gallery. Despite appearing relatively late in Ditko’s run at 14 issues (only Kraven and Scorpion among the classic villains are younger in publication history), by the time of Ditko’s final issues, Green Goblin had made 8 appearances as a villain (6 as the Goblin, 2 as Norman), the most by any rogue, a clear indication of the great interest Ditko had in him. Ditko was also building a mystery of his secret identity and Norman Osborn was already making background appearances in ASM#26-27. When Peter graduated and went to college, Harry Osborn was his classmate, and Harry was named before Norman was even if Norman appeared first chronologically.

In his final two issues, Ditko properly sets up Norman as a character. We see Norman midway into ASM#37. Mendel Stromm, a former colleague has become the Robot Master and gone supervillain and attacked one of his factories. We first see Norman in this issue when he and Harry survey the wreckage.

Norman is wearing Green Suits. Hmm I wonder if that’s a hint?. And yes Harry should shut up. Tell him Gobby.

Norman’s thought bubbles reveal him to be a crook. Someone who embezzled Stromm though Stromm proves no better. Eventually Spider-Man interferes and comes in between him and Stromm.

Sniper at a window hole two stories up, JFK reference, anyone?

Then we have what is frankly a bizarrely staged death scene. We see Spider-Man corner and confront Mendel Stromm. Mendel apparently is set to blab out something about Norman (presumably him being Green Goblin) but the Spider-Sense goes off and Spider-Man interferes with the sniper shot. Spidey goes up to investigate only to find that the opening is a thin ledge and whoever’s there has vanished (or perhaps flew off-screen via glider).

Just call him Lee Harvey Osborn

Then it turns out that Stromm died of a heart-attack out of the shock of the missed sniper bullet. So we have Norman Osborn use a sniper rifle to murder Stromm but he misses his shot, but Stromm dies anyway. That’s essentially Coen Brothers black comedy as far as deaths go. It doesn’t make sense in story and tone, and clashes with the art. I have no way of verifying this but if I were to guess I think Ditko intended Norman to snipe Stromm to death because the way the art is done makes sense with that. But either Lee misread Ditko’s intentions, or he lost the plot and wrote in a death by heart-attack instead. Or he censored Norman from actually becoming a murderer even if the art clearly shows a ruthless, cold, manipulative and malicious figure. Maybe Lee as editor/writer felt uncomfortable and so slipped in a death by heart-attack which technically doesn’t make Norman a murderer. If so it’s a deeply harebrained save and one that doesn’t make any sense in terms of staging.

Norman Osborn is the first character in Spider-Man to be shown on-panel as a cold-blooded murderer. He premeditated, planned, and personally manned the rifle to murder another human being. A mere technicality lets Stromm slip from his personal body count. But he still ends the issue getting away with it, with Peter nowhere close to him.

Mendel Stromm returned again in Spider-Man comics during the Clone Saga. He was also featured in Spider-Man 1 where Raimi shows him die horribly at the hands of Norman Osborn, just as originally intended.

JAZZY JOHN’S BODY BAGS

Ditko shrugged and “Jazzy” John Romita Sr. stepped in as artist/co-plotter from ASM#39. Among Spider-Man fans, it’s common to speak of the Lee-Romita era as a unified entity from #39 to #110. But in fact, several of these issues near the end was penciled by Gil Kane, including notable stories such as ASM#89-90 (the Death of George Stacy), ASM#96-98 (The “Drug Trilogy”). Likewise, Roy Thomas wrote ASM#101-104. That said, Romita Sr. still did the covers, and was often an inker. Furthermore both Kane and Thomas worked inside the status-quo set up by Lee-Romita Sr. so it makes more sense to see them as under the Lee-Romita banner then as separate runs.

Given the longer period that Romita Sr. worked on compared to Ditko it’s no surprise that far more characters die in the Romita era than the Ditko era.

ASM#48 – Adrian Toomes/Vulture I
TEASE

In ASM#48, Lee-Romita introduced a legacy character for Vulture, Blackie Drago who takes over and becomes Vulture II (i.e. legacy fan term, not called that in story). As part of the setup, Drago is established as a protege of Toomes. Toomes is on his deathbed and Drago finagles the secrets of using the Vulture suit from the dying man.

Then we see a large square panel (not a splash) that shows Vulture on his deathbed. The captions claim that Vulture is seeing his eyes flash before his eyes. He’s described as a “dying man”. Vulture’s “final thoughts” has him hopeful that Spider-Man will die at Drago’s arms. We don’t see Vulture actually “die” we don’t see a funeral or mention of his death. But the art is certainly done in a manner that suggests that Toomes was really supposed to die.

Perhaps the idea was to launch Drago, a younger Vulture with a more menacing design and have him replace Ditko’s original. But eventually a decision was made to hedge the bets and so they left behind a backdoor.

Vulture’s death qualifies a tease. A death scene that might’ve been legit had Drago proved popular or lasting. Instead in ASM#63, the opening panels and captions reveal that Toomes is back.

ASM#63 : What do you mean by “we”? It was you guys who wrote yourself into a corner with Vulture’s eyes flashing before his eyes.

ASM#52 – Frederick Foswell
DEAD

#48 was testing grounds for whether Lee-Romita would kill a Ditko minted character. In #52 they take the plunge and whack Frederick Foswell. Foswell appeared in ASM#10 and was one of the more interesting supporting characters, a gangster posing as reporter who eventually came to like journalism so much that after doing time, he came back to Jonah and got a second chance. Foswell was the only Daily Bugle character who got along well with Peter (not including Betty with whom he had a relationship) and was nice to him.

So his death at the end of ASM#50-52, aka “Spider-Man No More” definitely packs a wallop.

Considering that Foswell died because of A)Spider-Man Quitting leading to Kingpin making a play for power, and B) Jameson publicizing Spider-Man quitting, this one is something both should jointly share guilt custody over.

This happens at the end of a three part story that introduces the Kingpin, envisioned here as a kind of James Bond villain type. Kingpin is established as a gangster and yet he’s not the one that kills Foswell, it’s his henchmen that does it. There’s a general reluctance in actually having the main supervillain kill civilians or supporting characters, it’s always random henchmen and mooks who do the shooting and killing in the Silver Age Spider-Man.

Foswell is a character I like a lot, and in terms of characters who I wished stuck around and didn’t die too early, he definitely is in that list. At the same time, ASM#52 also introduces Joe “Robbie” Robertson and he’s a much more important character in the grand scheme and he fills the role of the “Daily Bugle journalist who’s actually somewhat chill to Peter” better. So I imagine Foswell was iced to make way for Robertson. That makes sense and Foswell’s death is a case of “kill your darlings” and the fact that his death hasn’t been undone (there have been clones but never the real deal) proves that this was the right call in the end.

ASM#61 – Gerhard Winkler
DEAD
[UPDATED] resurrected

ASM#59-61 is another three-parter revolving around the Kingpin (as a new Romita created villain, he shows up a lot in ASM between 50-87, but then disappears for more than 50 issues afterwards). Reading the early Kingpin issues makes you appreciate what Frank Miller did for him. Against Daredevil, Fisk can be menacing and dangerous, and the threat he represents as the embodiment of organized crime has teeth to it, but Spider-Man can’t ever deal with organized crime without changing the domestic-comedic setup, so most of the organized crime stuff in ASM, especially in the Silver Age feels unbelievable. It might as well as be on the order of Guys and Dolls or 60s Batman villains.

Amnesiac Norman Osborn saves the Day.
This is why only Spider-Man gets to be the hero. When other characters get drama, they start sounding just like him. One is enough thank you.

In this story, Kingpin hires a slimy scientist Gerhard Winkler who works for Norman Osborn (currently under amnesia). This story is pretty ironic if you take the long view because the climax of this story has Norman stopping someone from killing George and Gwen Stacy and becoming a hero, while under the amnesia. Yep, in issue #61, exactly 60 issues before he kills her, Norman Osborn saves Gwen Stacy’s life. An action that at the very least vindicates Peter sparing his life in ASM#40 for the time being. At the same time we also see Norman Osborn accidentally kill a person. Winkler, Kingpin’s hench-scientist dies when Osborn’s tackle discharges his pistol causing an explosion that kills Winkler.

Norman Osborn under Ditko was established as a cold-blooded murderer who tried to murder Mendel Stromm only for the dialogue to have him die of a heart attack at the last moment. Here we see Osborn accidentally murder Winkler, who’s like a Stromm knockoff. Norman’s thought bubbles also has him think stuff that could read like Spider-Man’s own angsty narration complete with blaming himself and feeling he made things worse in trying to help. This could be a case of Stan Lee’s rote dialogue where an attempt to write an angst-ridden person ends up sounding like Peter.

[UPDATED] On reddit, Philander_Chase, brought to my attention, the fact that Winkler had seemingly returned, without explanation, in Mark Millar and Terry and Rachel Dodson’s Marvel Knights: Spider-Man Issue #4.

Marvel Knights: Spider-Man #4. Art by Terry and Rachel Dodson, Text by Mark Millar.

This completely took me by surprise. It was an error of omission. One I regret. My defense is that the character appeared very briefly in this comic and didn’t appear again. No explanation was offered by Millar as to why a] This extremely minor character was revived, b] How exactly did he fake his death in ASM#61. More importantly, no other writer has followed and picked up this thread. Here’s hoping they make him a twin and make the death in 61 stick. All they mentioned was his surname Winkler with no inkling he’s Gerhard. Though he does in fact look like him.
END of [UPDATED].

ASM Annual #05 – Karl Fiers/The Finisher
resurrected
[UPDATED] Richard and Mary Parker (flashback)
DEAD

Among Spider-Man fans and writers, Annual #05 is very polarizing. This Annual is titled “The Parents of Peter Parker”. The fact that Peter Parker was raised by his Aunt and Uncle and him being an orphan was part of the setup but never elaborated until this issue. Going in, it was a gap that could have used filling in. On paper it might have been interesting.

Instead, Stan Lee decides that Peter’s parents – Richard and Mary Parker – are actually SHIELD spies who were framed by agents of the Red Skull. For many this story innovation undermines Peter’s everyman appeal by hinting that heroism or adventuring is somehow in his blood. It also doesn’t do anything since Peter’s parents are an effective dead-end (at least until the arrival of Teresa his supposed “sister” but that’s for another day).

[UPDATED] I had previously neglected to highlight that in this comic we see the deaths of Richard and Mary Parker.

The reason why I neglected Richard and Mary’s death is simple omission. As a reader I never really processed them as characters. Their deaths were the implicit foundation of the series as a whole. And for me it’s like listing President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s death, and other major political figures before him, since that’s also implicit in ASM and Marvel being a post-war comics creation. But Menshevik, one of my longtime online friends whose knowledge of Spider-Man lore guided me to the deeper truths of Spider-Man had occassion to point this out and bring it to my attention.
END of [UPDATED].

This annual is especially controversial for the fact that it technically shows Spider-Man maybe sorta killing someone. Spider-Man tracks down The Finisher/Karl Fiers, an agent of the Red Skull with information on his parents. He chases down a limo and Fiers uses a missile launcher in the car (Lee-Romita must have seen a lot of Bond films) that sends rockets after Spider-Man. Spider-Man webs away one rocket down into the water. The Finisher then launches another rocket and this one is too fast for Spider-Man to web up, and so we see Spider-Man consciously directing the missile to attack the limousine itself.

Leading a missile into a street with a car could cause collateral damage but somehow that’s not an issue right now for the guy who’s entire career was built on avoiding that.
This feels like another angle to Action Comics #1 somehow. Beautifully penciled by Romita Sr.

The missile strikes the limo and causes a big explosion, rendered beautifully I must say. Spider-Man does check the explosion for survivors. The driver high-tails it but Finisher is still alive and Spider-Man extracts a deathbed confession from him.

Finisher tells Peter that his parents were heroes and before he tells more, he ends up croaking.

Yep, death by collateral damage doesn’t matter to Spider-Man all of a sudden.

The way this action is staged is ambiguous. Because yes, the missile was launched by a clearly bad person and Spider-Man is acting in self-defense but the thought bubbles have Spider-Man narrating that he intentionally directed the rockets to the limo, which clearly gives him agency for this action. When he finds the wreckage and removes Fiers he doesn’t take him to a hospital or tries to staunch his bleeding but instead pumps him for information, and when Finisher dies, Spider-Man is drawn in the triumphant “legs wide, hands on hip” pose of macho assurance.

It’s the casual nonchalance to violence, that you might see in a late 1930s and early 1940s superhero comic, or a James Bond movie (Pre-Craig), but it’s certainly not in keeping for a character who’s not supposed to be indifferent to the deaths of others. Legally I don’t know if this qualifies as guilt or homicide in the first degree, but don’t quote me for legal advice. Morally though, it definitely presents Spider-Man as somewhat brutal. Not helping is that Finisher’s drawn crumpled much like a real corpse, unlike the deaths we see before where the bodies aren’t shown on-panel or generally not shown in such a degraded way.

ASM Vol. 5 #69

Perhaps it’s for the best that Nick Spencer in his run, brought Finisher back from the dead, confirming that Spider-Man did not in fact kill him. Though as with everything dealing with Peter’s Parents, it might have been better to let sleeping dogs lie. Or alternatively find a way to retcon things so that Peter’s parents were never spies and were simply regular people’s whose lives and identities were hijacked for some deep cover thing (North by Northwest did it).

 

ASM#75 – Silvermane
resurrected

ASM#68-75 is an eight-issue story arc and the longest in ASM until that time. It revolves around several gangsters looking for the Petrified Tablet, that apparently has the secret of a magic elixir that can recapture youth.

The Petrified Tablet is a story that has been mined for “lore” in Spider-Man but it’s also an example of a story that’s on the whole quite silly and dated. The conclusion of the story adds a kind of EC Comics twist that feels discordant with Spider-Man and as always you have gangsters shown without any credibility whatsoever. It exemplifies the often uneven nature of the Lee-Romita story where the most interesting and lasting stories come in select patches (ASM#39-52, #87-98). The middle stories aren’t “bad” and have good moments of interest but they are a huge dip in consistency.

The cover of ASM#76 by Romita Sr. is a beauty but the emotions feel entirely off since it seems to communicate the death of an important character rather than Silvio Manfredi aka “Silvermane”, a mob boss who shows up in ASM#73 and who we barely have time to get to know. In #75, Manfredi drinks the elixir and regains his youth and for some reason is drawn to look like a double of Peter Parker.

You could swap the bubbles and balloons and put this in a Clone Saga retro-gallery and nobody’d tell the difference.

This is likely a case of limited artistic style on the part of Romita Sr. and a case of limited deadlines so he didn’t have much to distinguish Manfredi from the other “man in his early twenties” that shows up in ASM’s pages. Eventually however, Manfredi hits upon one of the standard twists of the ‘fountain of youth’ trope, it makes him young but keeps doing so continuously, making him age backwards.

There’s an allegory about Peter Parker’s constant infantilisation in the Spider-Man franchise waiting to be plucked with this especially since teen Silvio in the right-most panel looks a bit like Tom Holland in Homecoming.

In the end, Silvermane ages into nothingness, leaving behind his clothes, while Spider-Man makes a pithy moral comment about how all is vanity.

The art and panel breakdown is lovely, the colors in the reprints are sparkling, but the story is nutty. Silvermane is treated as if he’s a tragic scientist with a vision when he’s a greedy mobster. Spider-Man’s mourning action implies a closeness and connection that isn’t there, and the straining after some kind of big theme feels entirely pretentious and unearned. It’s also the weirdest death scene in the Spider-Man comics so far, a reaching into fantasy of the kind that Ditko would never have countenanced.

Eventually, Silvermane was brought back from the dead, which considering the way he was introduced and killed, kinda makes sense.

ASM#90 – Captain George Stacy
DEAD

Another three-part story ending with a death, and this one is certainly the biggest since Ben’s death, and the biggest before his daughter Gwen.

George Stacy was a fairly interesting character in the Lee-Romita run. He was presented as a Commissioner Gordon-type, the ally on the force who could put a good word for Spider-Man, who doesn’t take Spider-Man’s reputation as a given. He’s also the father of Peter’s girlfriend and someone who approves of his daughter’s suitor moreover.

The story of Spider-Man was settling, it likely seemed, into the stable status-quo you might see in DC where Superman/Clark and Batman/Bruce’s hero-civilian balance is aided in part because he has a supporting cast that aligns with both (Daily Planet, Gordon). Yet this stability led to fairly dull stories and the entire period building to George Stacy’s death and his aftermath (#87-98) was a defibrillator charge the title needed.

Art by Gil Kane.

The story starts with Doctor Octopus hijacking a plane and holding it hostage in an allusion to real-life terrorist hijackings of the ’70s. Spider-Man foils him but this leads to a lengthy duel across the city. In #90, the final part of the duel is shown. This time Spider-Man comes up with a compound that can fuse Otto’s arms and give him an advantage. Eventually Spider-Man and Otto battle each other on a rooftop and Spider-Man uses the compound on Otto’s arms. The compound however fries the AI of the arms and they end up attacking each other causing Otto to lose control.

Otto stumbles around and hits a chimney which causes it to loosen sending debris to the city streets. Captain Stacy is in the streets below and he sees the raining debris is about to hit a child and he heroically sacrifices his life to save the child.

Spider-Man removes the debris, finds Stacy still breathing and takes him to another rooftop just so he listens to his dying breaths.

The impact of the Death of George Stacy has been undermined thanks to the death of his daughter. Had Gwen lived then the ghost of the Captain likely would have remained a constant thing in their later interactions, but with Gwen’s death, the Captain’s death became a continuity dead-end.

Still in terms of comics storytelling and writing, this is a much more interesting story I’d argue. For one thing this is a purely tragic death. While one can blame Spider-Man for collateral damage as he himself will do, the fact is that Doctor Octopus was a rampaging terrorist in this story and Spider-Man was the only one who could stop him. Otto loses control of his arms and the fallen debris is simply one of those accidents that really can’t be foreseen and George Stacy as a dedicated heroic policeman would sacrifice his life for a random child. Stacy sacrificing his life gives him agency and heroism, and so when Spider-Man exchanges dying words Stacy doesn’t blame Peter in the slightest.

George Stacy’s death has echoes to Uncle Ben but this isn’t a remake by any means. For one thing, this is a death Peter’s a witness to and he gets to share and listen to George’s last words, unlike Ben’s. Spider-Man had seen death in action before but never someone so emotionally significant (Foswell comes close but even they were work buddies). And where Peter lost Ben without any closure and catharsis, he gets both from George. In his last breaths, George reveals he knew Spider-Man was Peter, he approves of his relationship with Gwen, and then loses his breath, so Peter gets paternal validation but the irony is that it comes at a moment when it has no meaning, because Peter has no way to communicate to Gwen George’s last words, no way of sharing this, and Gwen who was distrustful of Spider-Man will grow even moreso. So it’s a great way of giving Peter something he wanted, the nearest thing to being there when Ben died, but doing it in a way where it has lost meaning.

THOMAS’ TOMBS

ASM#101-104 is the first time Stan Lee stepped away from ASM, though it’s too small to count as a run but it’s got enough death to deserve its sub-bracket. These four fill-in issues were written by Roy Thomas.

Roy Thomas was an English teacher in high school before he entered Marvel Comics and as such many of his comics at Marvel are filled with literary allusions, swipes, and references.He made his mark with what is considered the first major run on The Avengers. However, his four-issues of ASM are incredibly eccentric by comparison. Taking big swings such as introducing Morbius the Living Vampire (and no I will not be covering the Sony movie), sending Spider-Man to the Savage Land, among other discordant elements.

These four issues featured 7 Deaths, 1 more than Lee-Romita’s collaboration across 60+ issues, ratcheting up the violence significantly.

ASM#101 – Bloom, Sam, Whitey (& Co.)
DEAD

He murdered a full crew of ordinary lower-class sailors but he feels bad about it, that makes it okay for him to be an anti-hero.

ASM#101 is by far the most violent single issue in ASM in the Silver Age. More civilians and named characters die in this issue than any other between AF#15 to ASM#122. Generally, in ASM when you had characters die, it would be the only death in the issue. But ASM #101, in a homage to the ship massacre scene in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (an example of Thomas’ literary borrowings), has Morbius murder an entire crew over three pages. Somewhere close to 8-10 people die but only three are named – Captain Bloom (killed offscreen and off-panel), Whitey, and Sam.

Morbius is also the first antagonist in Spider-Man publication history who actively murders civilians and who achieves homicide. Norman Osborn attempted it in ASM#37 but was thwarted by a cheap heart attack, amnesiac Norman in #61 killed a person but that was framed as heroic/accidental. All other deaths are either accidents, or done by henchmen but never directly at the hands of a villain. Morbius though kills people and he kills several over the course of two issues. The only named characters in the ship massacre are Whitey and Bloom, with the Captain’s death mentioned in a wordballoon, so for my tally I’m only including three named characters but if you include anonymous civilians then Morbius is easily a mass murderer beyond the scales of all Spider-Man rogues in the Silver Age. For some reason, he eventually became an “anti-hero” without, to my knowledge, ever accounting for the lives he had taken and cut short.

ASM#102
Emil Nikos resurrected,
Charlie DEAD
Morbius TEASE

ASM#102 has three deaths.

  • One is a flashback featuring Morbius biting the neck of a colleague named Nikos, a character who was later resurrected.
  • The second is a drifter called Charlie who stumbles in a shack where Morbius is residing and gets his neck bitten for his trouble. Charlie is the only one who dies and stays dead.

  • The third is Morbius himself, who fights Spider-Man but falls in the river and seemingly drowns. It’s one of those “never-found-the-body” endings that teases a death but leaves it wide open for a return. We don’t have many examples of that in ASM but this one is especially notable.

ASM#104
Kraven TEASED
Gog
resurrected

ASM#104 is another weird two-part story from Thomas. This one is a tribute to Tarzan books and King Kong. It has Ka-Zar (Marvel’s Tarzan knockoff) show up, as well as Kraven the Hunter (who fits), and Gog the interdimensional demon monster (who doesn’t). The entire issues are supremely odd and among the weakest stories in the ASM Silver Age era.

It also has two dubious and questionable scenes. One is Ka-Zar dueling Kraven and then knocking him off the side of a cliff. It’s a bit dubious why a C-lister like Ka-Zar gets to show up a major Spider-Man villain though I suppose Spider-Man does fight Gog. Kraven gets the death off-panel, we don’t see his body but the way Ka-Zar behaves it certainly does suggest Kraven’s death. So this qualifies as a tease rather than a death.

Kraven doesn’t have superpowers but in comics it’s a safe assumption that he will fall and surviving a plummet of a cliff into a row of jagged rocks

Then we have Spider-Man fighting Gog and on account of Gog being a beast, Spider-Man doesn’t hold back and uses killing force on him though he does seem to feel bad about it.

I doubt a monster qualifies as sentient being but it’s the second time that Spider-Man uses killing force against a villain in continuity, and as in the case of The Finisher, Gog would later be resurrected and clear Spider-Man of guilt. Erik Larsen resurrected him in his Sinister Six story in the 90s and more recently he appeared in Nick Spencer’s Spider-Man run as a house-pet of all things.

CONWAY’S CORPSES

Roy Thomas might have been seen as a potential audition for Lee’s successor but he stayed for four issues and Lee came back to do another six issues until he bowed out by ASM#110. Gerry Conway stepped in at the age of 19 and began a run on ASM that lasted from ASM#111 to ASM#149. I am only going to cover the period up to ASM#122, so only the first 12 issues.

ASM#113 – Bernie
DEAD

Conway’s early issues before ASM#121 are generally agreed to be the weakest part of that era. In this time, he was mostly working in the Lee-Romita status-quo (and Romita Sr. in fact penciled his first issues). That said, he already introduced a new villain, Hammerhead in his very early issues and Hammerhead has been one of the enduring B to B+ tier of Spider-Man rogues. Hammerhead makes his mark by getting into a gang war with Dr. Octopus.

Octopus plans shenanigans with the help of a henchman named Bernie. Bernie gets tracked by Hammerhead’s henchmen and gets killed. Romita’s staging of Bernie’s death is incredibly raw and feels much more in the spirit of a gangster movie than crime scenes earlier in his run. The way the henchman moves with total nonchalance to the Club with Bernie lying dead in the alley (in a composition that vaguely resembles the famous “Spider-Man costume in alley” shot of ASM#50) really conveys visually a degree of harshness, you just know that Hammerhead’s henchman has killed tons of people before with the same icy ruthlessness that he did here.

Conway’s first corpse already suggests well before his famous story the darkness that creeped into ASM during his watch.

ASM#118 –
Dr. Thaxton DEAD
Raleigh (Disruptor) DEAD
Smasher DEAD

ASM#118 is an odd story. It’s technically an adaptation of a Black-And-White story first published in a magazine called The Spectacular Spider-Man. At some point in the early 80s, Stan Lee got an idea of investing in black-and-white comics because it was seen as prestigious and serious. The only problem was that black-and-white comics were valued when it was done by underground creators who lacked the resources (and still do) for color printing and technology and there’s not much demand to see superhero stories done in black-and-white, so the Spectacular magazine didn’t go anywhere, though ultimately the title was revived for 616’s satellite title.

The real question though is whether these black-and-white stories are canon. The two major stories published in black-and-white were by Lee/Romita and seem to align with the status-quo of their run but there’s also odd quirks that don’t entirely make sense. One issue with Spider-Man and Norman Osborn at dinner for instance has almost never been acknowledged as canon in 616 since it disrupts the wider story arc that Norman relapsed into Green Goblin just once (ASM#96-98) before Gwen Stacy’s death. The latter is the narrative accepted in the long continuity over time.

Complicating this is the fact that these black-and-white stories were published in ASM, with one (the Norman Dinner story) published in Annual #09. While three issues were published with extensions as ASM#116-118, a three part story that revolves around a Mayoral candidate named Richard Raleigh who’s a kind of JFK-esque charismatic politician who’s secretly shady and possibly insane, having a double-life as a villain called the Disruptor who allies with a mad scientist (Dr. Thaxton) and a man-monster hybrid (called Smasher). Eventually Raleigh comes to blows with his fellow villains.

Buh-Toom – not the best sound effect if I do say so myself

The Disruptor (Raleigh) gets clobbered in his face and dies instantly.

The nature of the attack between Smasher and Spider-Man leads to a ceiling collapse and the scientist Dr. Thaxton gets buried in debris.

Smasher is the only one left, and depending on the staging, this could be another when Spider-Man kinda lets someone die or at least doesn’t seem chuffed about it.

Technically the Smasher is killed by the technology of Dr. Thaxton which overloads his brain by increasing use and what Spider-Man did was drive the Smasher to overload, so it’s more a case of survival but at the same time it does seem that Peter was conscious that behaving this way would lead to the Smasher’s death. So it’s pretty sus.

Spider-Man does the equivalent of a right-wing politician defending Watergate or covering it up, and/or the left-wing activist who denies Stalin’s crimes because “too much is at stake”

In the aftermath, Peter realizes that Raleigh is the Disruptor and that he had sicced the Smasher as a supervillain to attack his own campaign to up his anti-establishment credentials. Spider-Man decides then to stash the evidence of Raleigh’s crimes because he seems to buy in to Raleigh’s progressive platform and doesn’t want to take away from the effect of his heroism. This is frankly unethical behavior. Covering up the crimes of a corrupt politician so as to uphold a dominant narrative, and it’s a case where Lee’s melodrama-laden approach leaks into the story. Of course I guess Lee, for various biographical and institutional reasons, would want people to cover-up misdeeds for the sake of a ‘honorable’ reputation, given all that is staked on his highly dubious name.

This three-part story is Conway adapting and translating Lee’s b+w story to ASM, and I frankly am not enough of a fan of this story (though it has interesting material) to do a comparison as to what’s different and altered from the original. So that’s it for now.

ASM#121 – Gwen Stacy
DEAD

Awww….Spider-Man acknowledges that Jameson is close to him.

The death of Gwen Stacy is the source of much confusion and misrepresentation. No story or event in continuity is plagued so much by memory and impression . Going back to ASM#121 after Marvels and Spider-Man Blue is doubly harder because those later versions have almost completely overwritten the original Conway-Kane-Romita Sr. story. I have talked a bit about how the death of Gwen in ASM is staged in ASM#121 compared to Marvels here.

To summarize, Busiek-Ross’ Marvels published in 1994 made many alterations to the story from how it was published and it’s the Marvels version of Gwen’s death that has endured. It was Marvels that established this idea that Gwen Stacy’s death marked the end of the Silver Age. I happen to think that Busiek-Ross’ Marvels is a good comic so I have nothing against it, but the fact is that I think their impressions of Gwen’s death is primarily one creative team’s interpretation. I don’t think any one interpretation should be the final say, and it’s useful to go back to the original and come up with fresh insights.

The way the comic is staged in the bridge scene is that you expect Gwen to be a damsel in distress tied to the metaphorical train-tracks and in the last moment Spider-Man comes to rescue her, and Spider-Man tries mightily to save her and it seems he succeeded only to find out she’s dead. And then Green Goblin arrives and says, “Romantic idiot” declaring that Gwen died because the fall from the great height and it would have killed anyone.

This is needless to say quite a strange way to die. Dying mid-fall. Granted that Gwen was already unconscious and that Green Goblin in his glider rammed her at top speed off the bridge, which in terms of velocity and impact coupled with the unconsciousness of the person, might have done the trick but it’s a janky kind of death. At the same time when you see the death scenes in ASM until this moment it does make a lot of sense.

Normally you don’t stage the death of a major loved one by having the hero quipping along until the dramatic reveal.

In ASM comics until Gwen died, death is often indirect and rarely done in a way evocative of real-world violence. Mendel Stromm died, according to dialogue, because of a heart-attack suddenly triggered by a sniper attack in ASM#37. So in that regards, Gwen dying because of the fall, makes sense. The story intent is clear that until Spider-Man reels in Gwen’s body from the web-lines, he has to believe, and the reader has to believe that he saved Gwen only to twist the knife even further when he realizes that he failed. You have to feel the monumental unfairness, Spider-Man did just like the song’s lyrics went, “In the chill of night /At the scene of a crime /Like a streak of light /He arrives just in time” and it was still not enough. You have to feel the unfairness that sometimes you do your best and it’s still not enough.

That’s the governing intent of the scene as written and illustrated by Gil Kane, as the dialogue by Green Goblin and others clearly respond in the aftermath. The fact that Conway has Spider-Man quipping and commenting while “saving” Gwen and is still quipping along until he sees Gwen’s face completely dead, further heightens this.

Somehow the tiny “snap” at the corner of the left panel which has smaller lettering than anything else occupied people’s attention.

And yet this entire thing is ruined by a sound effect.

ASM#121-122 was written in the Plot-First Script sometimes called the “Marvel Method” but that term is quite imprecise and misleading. Conway’s use of the Plot-First Script is quite different and separate from Stan Lee’s where there was no script, and often just a verbal discussion or prompt, and sometimes not even that. Conway did write and submit a script and ASM#121-122 is still his story (and in the case of #122, the famous epilogue was redone by Romita Sr. after Conway rejected the pencils done by Kane as not fully aligning with his intentions).

And yet ASM#121 demonstrates the weaknesses of a “plot-first” script like nothing else. Because the writer wrote a story a certain way and the artist interpreted the script as specified only for a last minute improvisation to create total confusion.

To hear Gerry Conway tell it:

In your mind, was Gwen still alive until her neck snapped?

Gerry 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 the ‘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…That said, I’d sure like to believe she was already dead.”

Comic-Creators on Spider-Man, Titan Books, 2004 Edition, Page 47-48.
The “snap” effect is of bigger lettering in Marvels than in ASM#121

The snap sound effect was added in after Conway had already written the scripts for ASM#121-122 and submitted it to editorial and Kane. The tiny “snap” in the sound effects was added late in the story and the implication of this snap, that Gwen was alive until Spider-Man’s webbing caught her and made her neck snap due to whiplash, essentially makes Gwen’s death a result of Peter’s incompetence. This is needless to say not the story that Conway wrote. The dialogue that Goblin says states clearly that it was the “fall” that killed Gwen. It makes no sense for Goblin to lie in that scene. And the story right after this, in the following issue doesn’t make sense if Goblin isn’t the killer of Gwen. Conway wrote the story one way, Kane drew that story one way, and the last moment an errant sound-effect that literally makes no sense created a second story quite opposed to the intent of ASM#121-122.

Needless to say the memory of Gwen’s death is quite taken with that “snap”. Marvels takes this to exaggerated heights when Phil Sheldon claims to have heard the snap while photographing the action from the bridge far below except the “snap” sound effect is tiny in lettering and per Conway, something that Peter didn’t hear so it’s impossible for someone at ground level to have heard it. The “Swik” sound-effect of the webs catching Gwen is of bigger lettering. Almost inevitably, whenever people imagine an AU of “What if Gwen lived” it’s a scenario where Spider-Man jumps after Gwen, races her mid-fall somehow, and then grabs her and webs slowly decelerating because that’s how wiseguys have decided that Gwen could have saved. Such mechanistic observations are fine and dandy for cocktail party wiseguys but to me it’s irrelevant when it comes to comics. The fact is that before and after Gwen’s death, Spider-Man webbed people up mid-fall, sometimes from great heights and causing no deaths at all.

The version of Gwen’s death in Busiek’s Marvels isn’t the story that Conway wrote or Kane drew, it’s a fan conniption masquerading as narrative. The story frames Green Goblin as the killer, and where Spider-Man is responsible it’s for the fact that he let Norman Osborn into his life and that of his friends and never once put anyone on notice of the timebomb in their lives. And while the decision to hide Norman’s identity can be justified since Norman ironically saved Gwen’s life in #61 (mentioned above) after Goblin’s relapse in the drug trilogy, it was less justifiable.

It took a while but Norman finally committed a cold blooded murder.

ASM#122 – Norman Osborn/Green Goblin I
resurrected

The Night Gwen Stacy Died is a 2-part story, and I’ve always been of the opinion that ASM#122 is a much better issue than ASM#121. The entire plot of Norman relapsing and then kidnapping Gwen and killing her, is a bit too sudden and even with the ‘insanity’ element, psychologically the switch from Lee-Romita Norman (a sad sack amnesiac dad who’s just one “care-bear stare at his son Harry” away from deprograming) to Conway’s Norman (who’s closer to Ditko’s Norman) doesn’t work smoothly.

Conway’s Norman is a remorseless and heartless killer who openly gloats and rubs in Gwen’s death at Peter’s face and calling Gwen an insignificant person who just occupied space, and while this is a case of Conway inserting his own feelings about Gwen in the mouths of a villain, it does raise issues about how to square this guy with the sympathetic Norman of the L-R run. An issue nobody has really resolved it must be said.

What really makes ASM#122 shine is the portrayal of Peter Parker. Kane’s pencils and Conway’s dialogue makes the character frightening and cold. Throughout this issue we see Spider-Man and Peter in a state of rage, having a sunken face showing a constant glare of rage, grief, and hatred. In fact, Peter’s behavior as a vengeful avenger actually looks forward to Frank Castle, Conway’s creation who debuted 7 issues later in ASM#129. We see Peter angry and cold throughout, abandoning Harry after another drug withdrawal leaving him to wallow in distress, finally tired of his dependency which strike some as harsh but which is believable and plausible for the character in moment and realistic for anyone in real-life who has had to deal with difficult friendships. Aside from Joe Robertson, who helps Spider-Man find Goblin’s warehouses, Peter isn’t kind to anyone in this issue, most famously in the epilogue where he’s too aggrieved and angry to notice and appreciate Mary Jane’s immense kindness.

Conway puts his own feelings about Gwen as a character in Goblin’s mouth while the audience, latched on to Spider-Man, wants to shut up both villain and author. That’s good writing 101 generating audience tension by grounding it in the antagonism of the narrative.

The way Conway describes Peter it’s very clear that this guy wants to murder Green Goblin, and after characterizing Goblin as a scumbag who brags about killing Gwen and so on, it’s impossible for readers to treat Goblin as another bad guy.

This is the first villain in Spider-Man’s rogues gallery who is an outright murderer. All the other rogues killed indirectly (Ock’s arms going out of control and knocking loose debris that led to George Stacy’s death), or more commonly had henchmen who did the killing. Other deaths were accidental or in the case of Morbius done by an “anti-hero” who feels bad about it (so that makes it okay to kill civilians). But Green Goblin personally kidnapped and drugged Gwen unconscious and then rammed her off the side of a bridge on his glider, and then rubs in her death from the fall in Spider-Man’s face. There’s no way to keep Goblin around in the immediate aftermath within the context of the original audience of the story.

The fight between Spider-Man and Goblin at the warehouse is also the first time in continuity where Spidey gets the upper hand in a hand-to-hand fight. In all their previous encounters in the Ditko era, and the Romita era Spider-Man never beat Goblin in a straight fight with Goblin either getting away or Spider-Man relying on appealing to Norman’s feelings to Harry to win. Here it’s a brutal fight and Kane’s pencils sell the intensity well. The final fight scene in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 1 adds in more blood but it’s basically this scene in ASM#122.

Goblin gets killed when a glider he had position behind Spider-Man impales him after Spidey dodges via spider-sense. The death of Goblin is an elegant thing, it allows Green Goblin to be killed while sparing the hero from killing him.

Peter saying Goblin’s death didn’t make him feel better but only more alone, feels earned, it’s the kind of observation that makes sense for the character to say in that moment which isn’t the case with Lee’s dialogue for a lot of times.

Norman Osborn died in ASM#122 and he was dead for twenty-three real time years between 1973-1996. In 2022, Norman’s post-resurrection has exceeded the long period when he was dead in continuity, so the impact of his death and the controversy behind his resurrection isn’t easy to appreciate, but the fact is as far as Spider-Man was concerned Norman was truly dead. He was stabbed, impaled, his body went limp. Not a fakeout or tease. And until the Clone Saga in the 90s, ASM was a title without any resurrections, one of many norms that the Clone Saga had trampled long before Norman’s revival at the end.

CONCLUSION

Cataloguing the deaths in Silver Age Spider-Man was a fairly time-consuming bit of bean counting. Not recommended for the faint of heart. And my fear is that I missed out on some deaths. But hopefully I can update the data when new information come along.

Sorting out what the representations of this violence means or signifies will need an entirely separate lengthy post or a series of posts. On which more later. For the time being, a minute of silence for the dead in Spider-Man characters.

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2 thoughts on “PEOPLE WHO DIED: Character Deaths Between AF#15 to ASM#122

  1. I just recently read through all the issues in vol.7 of the ASM Epic Collections, “The Goblin’s Last Stand”, for the first time. I was curious to see what the lead-up to Gwen’s death was for comic readers at the time, and it was an interesting reading experience. The switch from Lee to Conway was surprisingly noticeable, and I really got how important a change in writers can be. It’s also interesting just how vulnerable Spidey is. like there’s a string of issues where there’s extra tension due to him having a nasty headache. And it’s not some super-special magical headache or anything, it’s caused by a very real medical issue of a duodenal ulcer.

    It was also fun reading about these obscure characters that are rarely talked about, like the Gibbon and the Smasher. I also definitely think Hammerhead was inspired by the strange appearances of Dick Tracy villains, in particular Flattop Jones. I certainly got a better appreciation for how shocking Gwen’s death was at the time: When you’ve read months of Spidey fighting ridiculous villains like a guy in a Gibbon costume, it’s genuinely shocking to have both such an important villain return AND to kill off a big supporting character like that. And yeah, I too was confused by the neck snap: He blames Goblin for her death, but that snap makes it more his fault than anything. For as much as people rag on ASM2 for the “web forming a hand reaching out” and the head slam and all that, it is a version of the death that does make more mechanical sense even if it’s way more overblown dramatically than the comics.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Conway came in at the right time and moment. And he’s basically the first real writer of ASM (unlike Lee who was just a part-writer). He was the one calling the shots in his run (not to discount Kane, Romita, and later Andru of course). Because of how young he was, and the prestige of writing ASM I think he had to take time to build confidence before he made big swings.

      Yeah the “snap” sound effect ruins the comic in my view, it doesn’t make sense in the story and it’s basically this giant distraction.

      Liked by 1 person

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