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  1. #1
    Incredible Member Hybrid's Avatar
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    Default How well has The Night Gwen Stacy Died aged as a story?



    This story is considered a classic that forever changed not just the Spider-Man mythos, but comics as a whole. With Gwen, the fun and harmless Silver Age died with her, and a new era was ushered in.

    But it’s also gotten a backlash in modern times for being “misogynistic”, spawning the “women in refrigerators” cliche that became so prominent for the years to come, and Gwen herself being more of a plot device.

    I do think the story is a classic, and was handled better than other fridge stories, but I can see where the complaints come from. It’s also a little uncomfortable how Spidey refers to Gwen as “my woman” even after death.

    What do you think?
    Last edited by Hybrid; 11-12-2019 at 01:54 PM.

  2. #2
    Moderator Frontier's Avatar
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    I don't think of it as a "women in refrigerator" moment if only because Gwen's death didn't just effect Peter. It kick-started Mary Jane's character development and ended up leading to her and Peter getting together and set off waves of future stories (without it, the Clone Saga never would have happened).

  3. #3
    Astonishing Member Revolutionary_Jack's Avatar
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    The story is ASM #121 and 122. i.e. two-parts. And mostly, the story is remembered for Part 1 and Part 1 is weak.

    ASM #121 is a weak issue because again, this story is Gwen's last day but she doesn't really register much as a character, I guess Conway wanted it to be a shock and not give a tell but it amounts to putting plot over character. The actual execution of Gwen's death on the bridge and so on...with that whole ridiculous snap/shock think is an example of how half-assed and thrown-together it is. Norman's sudden turn from lame dad with amnesia to psycho killer is not properly dramatized. This is a supporting character who Lee-Romita played as a tragic character in the Drug Trilogy and who had in an earlier issue saved Gwen Stacy's life. Yet in this comic, Norman is basically Snidely Whiplash giggling like a psycho and dropping sick quips about how evil he is. For all that Night Gwen Stacy Died is considered a classic Goblin story...in terms of characterization and overall cool, Norman is much weaker as a character here than the Ditko and Romita issues, and the Jenkins/Stern/Millar/DeConnick stuff that came later. You can see the weakness of the material by looking at The Amazing Spider-Man 2 which tried to give the missing elements, a tragic arc to show Gwen's killer go from ally to murderer, and a tragic arc for Gwen that defines her as a character. Those elements weren't in the comic and the movie gave it to little avail since putting the material doesn't allow it to deal with the actual story, i.e. how Peter moves on. Ultimately The Night Gwen Stacy Died is really not Gwen's story. It's the story of characters moving past her.

    ASM #122 though from the first panel to the epilogue sings. Read both issues back-to-back and you can literally see the end of the Silver Age (Part 1) and the arrival of the Bronze Age (Part 2). Part 2 has character depth, nuance, emotion, texture...and density per panel. It's got amazing character beats and moments like when Robbie Robertson helps Peter track down Norman at his warehouse. The two fight scenes between Spidey and the Goblin, at the bridge at the start and then the warehouse is good and of course Gil Kane's artwork showing Peter in a rage is basically the first time you looked at Peter without his mask and went, "He's scarier without the mask". It's basically a rough draft for Frank Castle/The Punisher who would be created a few issues later. The heart of the entire story is an epilogue drawn by Romita sr. and that one page is and of itself a masterpiece of comics storytelling.

    You know one thing people don't get is the title of the story is "The Night Gwen Stacy Died" but Gwen dies in broad daylight. Gwen did not die at night-time. So what does the title refer to? Well the title refers to the epilogue, the night of the day Gwen Stacy died where Peter cried and mourned bitterly in his apartment while Mary Jane watched over him at vigil. So that's what the story is about. It's about the aftermath. It's like "The Night 9/11 Happened", 9/11 happened during the daytime but what endures is the night of grief and horror on that same day.

    Thematically, The Night Gwen Stacy Died is often misunderstood because what it is is a story about revenge. ASM #121 is about how Norman in his rage, small-mindedness and overall inability to take responsibility lashes out at people who actually do care about him and his son. It's about his revenge on Peter. ASM #122 is about Peter going on a dark path and lashing out in righteous anger and revenge and like Norman he lashes out at people who are close to him like Harry and MJ. The only person in the story who doesn't act on rage and grievance or lash out is MJ who at the end after being callously insulted by Peter proves her compassion and depth. And ultimately it's a story about the power of compassion and the weakness of revenge. So in that sense, The Night Gwen Stacy Died is actually a profound story.

    TL;DR. The Night Gwen Stacy Died from an aesthetic perspective is a flawed comic and not the best execution of its premise (i.e. the tragic death of Gwen Stacy, the permanent downfall of Norman Osborn). Seen totally, ASM#121-122 is a great story.
    Last edited by Revolutionary_Jack; 11-12-2019 at 01:48 PM.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Revolutionary_Jack View Post
    The story is ASM #121 and 122. i.e. two-parts. And mostly, the story is remembered for Part 1 and Part 1 is weak.

    ASM #121 is a weak issue because again, this story is Gwen's last day but she doesn't really register much as a character, I guess Conway wanted it to be a shock and not give a tell but it amounts to putting plot over character. The actual execution of Gwen's death on the bridge and so on...with that whole ridiculous snap/shock think is an example of how half-assed and thrown-together it is. Norman's sudden turn from lame dad with amnesia to psycho killer is not properly dramatized. This is a supporting character who Lee-Romita played as a tragic character in the Drug Trilogy and who had in an earlier issue saved Gwen Stacy's life. Yet in this comic, Norman is basically Snidely Whiplash giggling like a psycho and dropping sick quips about how evil he is. For all that Night Gwen Stacy Died is considered a classic Goblin story...in terms of characterization and overall cool, Norman is much weaker as a character here than the Ditko and Romita issues, and the Jenkins/Stern/Millar/DeConnick stuff that came later. You can see the weakness of the material by looking at The Amazing Spider-Man 2 which tried to give the missing elements, a tragic arc to show Gwen's killer go from ally to murderer, and a tragic arc for Gwen that defines her as a character. Those elements weren't in the comic and the movie gave it to little avail since putting the material doesn't allow it to deal with the actual story, i.e. how Peter moves on. Ultimately The Night Gwen Stacy Died is really not Gwen's story. It's the story of characters moving past her.

    ASM #122 though from the first panel to the epilogue sings. Read both issues back-to-back and you can literally see the end of the Silver Age (Part 1) and the arrival of the Bronze Age (Part 2). Part 2 has character depth, nuance, emotion, texture...and density per panel. It's got amazing character beats and moments like when Robbie Robertson helps Peter track down Norman at his warehouse. The two fight scenes between Spidey and the Goblin, at the bridge at the start and then the warehouse is good and of course Gil Kane's artwork showing Peter in a rage is basically the first time you looked at Peter without his mask and went, "He's scarier without the mask". It's basically a rough draft for Frank Castle/The Punisher who would be created a few issues later. The heart of the entire story is an epilogue drawn by Romita sr. and that one page is and of itself a masterpiece of comics storytelling.

    You know one thing people don't get is the title of the story is "The Night Gwen Stacy Died" but Gwen dies in broad daylight. Gwen did not die at night-time. So what does the title refer to? Well the title refers to the epilogue, the night of the day Gwen Stacy died where Peter cried and mourned bitterly in his apartment while Mary Jane watched over him at vigil. So that's what the story is about. It's about the aftermath. It's like "The Night 9/11 Happened", 9/11 happened during the daytime but what endures is the night of grief and horror on that same day.

    Thematically, The Night Gwen Stacy Died is often misunderstood because what it is is a story about revenge. ASM #121 is about how Norman in his rage, small-mindedness and overall inability to take responsibility lashes out at people who actually do care about him and his son. It's about his revenge on Peter. ASM #122 is about Peter going on a dark path and lashing out in righteous anger and revenge and like Norman he lashes out at people who are close to him like Harry and MJ. The only person in the story who doesn't act on rage and grievance or lash out is MJ who at the end after being callously insulted by Peter proves her compassion and depth. And ultimately it's a story about the power of compassion and the weakness of revenge. So in that sense, The Night Gwen Stacy Died is actually a profound story.

    TL;DR. The Night Gwen Stacy Died from an aesthetic perspective is a flawed comic and not the best execution of its premise (i.e. the tragic death of Gwen Stacy, the permanent downfall of Norman Osborn). Seen totally, ASM#121-122 is a great story.
    One of my all-time favorite comics was ASM 122 ( that and ASM 33), but to say 121 is weak is simply nuts. If you want an example of a weak story that is not offensive ( like Clone Saga) would be the Alpha Arc ( even Dan Slott admits that)..

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hybrid View Post

    But it’s also gotten a backlash in modern times for being “misogynistic”, spawning the “women in refrigerators” cliche that became so prominent for the years to come, and Gwen herself being more of a plot device.
    it didn't spawn women in refrigerators.

    green lantern spawned it in the 1990s when kyle rayner's dead girlfriend alexandra was literally stuffed into a refrigerator for him to find. that story was severely criticized because alexandra served no other purpose than to make kyle feel bad and fight crime in her memory but she wasn't a character in her own right.

    gwen is sometimes included in women in refrigerators but she doesn't exactly qualify. peter did not use her death as motivation to fight crime. he was already doing that to the best of his ability. gwen had been an established character for years, she was not created so she could be killed and make the hero feel bad. gwen's death affected more people than just peter and led to character growth not only for him but for mj and it could be argued harry and their other friends as well. certainly gwen's death is treated in universe by the characters as marking the end of a certain type of innocence and a new phase in their lives.

    death is a human experience. saying comics can't kill female characters at all is limiting. what women in refrigerators protests is killing female characters only so the hero has an owie on his ego and no other story purpose.

    the death of gwen stacy is a seminal story that is important not only to spider-man but to comics in general. it marked a passage of innocence for the comic industry as well. it showed heroes don't always win. sometimes they can't stop tragedy. but they recover from it even if the scar is always there.

    some of the language and gender politics are outdated but that happens after forty years. it can be viewed in the context of its time no problem.

  6. #6
    Incredible Member Hybrid's Avatar
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    Gerry Conway himself took responsibility for inspiring many fridge stories...

  7. #7
    Astonishing Member Revolutionary_Jack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NC_Yankee View Post
    One of my all-time favorite comics was ASM 122 ( that and ASM 33), but to say 121 is weak is simply nuts.
    It's my opinion, and I offered a detailed paragraph saying why. If you look at the story from the perspective of comics storytelling, i.e. characterization/progression/economy of action and so on, it doesn't hold up very well.

    An interesting thing is if you compare Spencer's Absolute Carnage tie-in flashbacks (ASM #31v.5) to the original issue (ASM#121), then the artwork and dialogue offers a lot more psychological insight into the characters in that issue then the original issue.

    Ottley ASM #31v.5 versus ASM #122.jpg
    Ottley ASM #31v.5.jpg

    Compare Ottley-Spencer's work with Kane-Conway's. In Ottley-Spencer's take characters are differentiated and you have more psychology. Like that panel with Peter and Gwen in the background and Mary Jane in the foregroun. MJ doing a small backward glance silently conveys a sense of regret about Peter being with Gwen, and also guilt about her jealousy. In the Kane-Conway one you have a similar composition but the overall effect conveyed is on the nose and on the surface.

    Norman Osborn's motivation for becoming Goblin again, and his overall behavior as Goblin is not very deep or interesting. If you compare it to the Drug Trilogy or the Crime Master 2-Parter, he becomes a far more inferior character in terms of personality and motivation. Gwen Stacy likewise doesn't get a sendoff/showcase appropriate to a supporting character about to shuffle off.

  8. #8
    Fantastic Member Hugo Strange's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hybrid View Post
    Gerry Conway himself took responsibility for inspiring many fridge stories...
    Gerry Conway inspires stories until today. Donny Cates' Venom is inspired by Conway's Carnage, for example.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Frontier View Post
    I don't think of it as a "women in refrigerator" moment if only because Gwen's death didn't just effect Peter. It kick-started Mary Jane's character development and ended up leading to her and Peter getting together and set off waves of future stories (without it, the Clone Saga never would have happened).
    There is also the argument that killing off female characters wasn't a cliche of superhero comics yet. It's not the fault of the first story if imitators go with lazy storytelling.

  10. #10
    Incredible Member Hybrid's Avatar
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    Fridging was named after that Green Lantern comic but it did NOT spawn the trope. It was building off years of it being used, dating back to Gwen.

  11. #11
    Fantastic Member Hugo Strange's Avatar
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    When Gwen died, super hero comic book innocence died together with her.

  12. #12
    Incredible Member Jman27's Avatar
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    I was spoiled on it way before I read comics so I guess it did a good job
    "He's pure power and doesn't even know it. He's the best of us."-Matt Murdock

  13. #13

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    It's one of my ten favorite comic books, so I think it has aged rather well. It's the comics equivalent of Psycho, a classic that remains tense even though most readers are going to pick it up aware of the major beats.

    Curiously, it's helped by two mistakes.

    The original version has a joke about the Washington Bridge that is tonally off, so the removal of it in reprints is a small improvement.

    The way Gwen dies according to Osborn is pretty ridiculous, but the "Snap" sound effect provides a more accurate and meaningful alternative.

  14. #14

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    The fridging problem is more prominent among modern readers, who have read this story as a TPB and do not have the previous context. It is correct that Gwen was an important character in the previous years, but that doesn't seem so in the story itself. In the story itself, she's just kidnapped by the Green Goblin, get unconscious and die, without hardly saying or doing anything else. For a reader whose only contact with Gwen is this story, it may be tempting to compare her with the Green Lantern case.

  15. #15
    Astonishing Member Revolutionary_Jack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ultimate Captain America View Post
    The fridging problem is more prominent among modern readers, who have read this story as a TPB and do not have the previous context. It is correct that Gwen was an important character in the previous years, but that doesn't seem so in the story itself. In the story itself, she's just kidnapped by the Green Goblin, get unconscious and die, without hardly saying or doing anything else. For a reader whose only contact with Gwen is this story, it may be tempting to compare her with the Green Lantern case.
    Yeah.

    Look, it's not unusual for something people like and is otherwise good having problematic legacy. Gwen's death is absolutely fridging, end of story. Everyone behind the scenes admitted she was an annoying character who had always been quite unpopular with readers. Even the story of her death isn't about her. It's about Peter, Norman and Mary Jane. Gwen Stacy wasn't given a proper sendoff in the comic where she died and nobody reading ASM#121-122 has a reason to think why she was so special to start with. This is often the main Gwen Stacy comic people read. And I think on that level it's a disservice to her.

    Another reason why The Night Gwen Stacy Died is flawed because people think that this story is some great romantic tragedy and akin to Superman failing to save Lois Lane or some nosh. Well it isn't.

    Gerry Conway: "While Gwen was his official girlfriend, for those of us who had followed the character from the very start, she didn't feel like she was that integral to the character...But to people who had been reading the book for the last five years, she was Lois Lane."

    In other words, it's a pretty manipulative comic. They were getting rid of an annoying supporting character but pretending as if they were making a real daring thing. The story doesn't work if you play it for romantic tragedy as that Emma Stone movie tried and failed to achieve. Ultimately the story is about Peter getting with MJ.

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