In a completely selfish hope that Marvel Comics' new high end collectible Wolverine Adamantium Edition may be followed by a Spider-man Web Slinging Edition I’m taking the opportunity to highlight the stories that I think are representative of what makes Peter Parker “Amazing”. I’m sticking exclusively with the mainstream Spider-man most people know of and worked hard to keep the page count as close to 720 as possible. I’m also working in publication order so that we can see the character growth and development as it happened. Last week I chose Marvel Team-Up #1, "Have Yourself A Sandman Little Christmas!".
Just a few months later that high feeling that Peter left us with on Christmas Eve crashed to lows we'd only thought we could feel, and nothing would ever again be the same for Peter Parker after Amazing Spider-man #121 and #122. In June, 1973 we experienced "The Night Gwen Stacy Died" and then "The Goblin's Last Stand" in July.
Peter was starting to feel under the weather from an assignment in Montreal that had him battling the Hulk. He was dizzy, feverish, and feeling weak as he discovered that he returned home just in time for Harry to have another bad spill with drugs. A very angry Norman wouldn't even let Peter see Harry, though, as he blamed Peter for everything bad that had befallen them. After a quick visit to the Bugle to drop off film from Montreal, Peter was on his way home to a warm bed and a long talk with Gwen. Instead he found Gwen's purse under a Pumpkin Bomb. He eventually found the Green Goblin, with an unconscious Gwen Stacy, on top of the George Washington Bridge. Spider-man managed to fight his way past the Goblin to Gwen, whom he planned on carrying to safety, but was struck by the Goblin on his Goblin Glider, which knocked Gwen off of the bridge. Spider-man shot a web line to catch her, but the height of the fall and the sudden stop that broke her neck was too much.
Gwen Stacy was dead.
The story was very well written. Peter's pain is evident and visceral, yet he continues to move forward. In the final confrontation with the Green Goblin he's able to stop himself before doing too much harm to Norman Osborn, and in fact it's only as he ducks out of the way of the broken Glider, that the Goblin is impaled on his own weapon, bringing closure to this act.
The death of Gwen Stacy was something that was so powerful in the Spider-man mythos that it was revisited many times over the next five decades. Much like the death of Uncle Ben 11 years earlier, this is an event that would drive Peter for years to come. Even in his rage Peter Parker never became the bad guy. Sure, he screamed for the death of Norman Osborn but he couldn't do it. Peter knew that the Green Goblin knew his secret but was still willing to bring him to jail. Amazing Spider-man #122 is also a very important part of the Spider-man experience because we see Mary Jane give up the party girl image to close the door and stay with Peter when he needed it. To provide him comfort and shelter in his storm and "Face it, Tiger", that may be the moment that the Peter Parker/Mary Jane bond truly began.
Michael R. Murray has been buying and collecting comics for over 35 years. At one point his collection included two copies of Amazing Spider-man #1, and one copy each of Amazing Fantasy #15, Fantastic Four #2, Avengers #4, Showcase #22, and dozens more high grade and key issues. The collection has grown to include original art pages, as well as statues and busts, with the current emphasis on collecting original drawings from appropriate artists on the inside of his hard covers. His personal collection of graphic novels consists of over 2,000 hard covers and trade paperbacks. He has attended all of the Boston and New York Comic Cons and experienced Philadelphia, Chicago, and San Diego. He has championed comic books in the local schools and was very proud that both of his children read at least three years above their grade levels, due nearly exclusively to comics. He’s quick to point out that none of this makes him an expert, but that his love of comics is most enjoyable when he can share it. Follow on Twitter at mycomicstore001 or like his Facebook page.