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Trivia / The Night Gwen Stacy Died

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  • Creator Backlash:
    • When the fan backlash to the story happened, Stan Lee claimed initially that he only approved the story because he was about to go on a business trip in Europe, and didn't have much time to pay attention to Conway's full pitch. Then EIC Roy Thomas (who is also one of Lee's closest friends) had to publicly issue a note saying that Lee knew about the story and approved it beforehand which a humbled Lee later copped to anyway. Lee had more regrets about the backlash since young fans at college lecture tours harassed him about a story that he hadn't written, while also making him nervous dealing with such fans then he did about the story in-and-of-itself. He commissioned the story that became "the first Clone Saga" as a potential backdoor to bring Gwen back should Mary Jane prove unsuitable as the heroine of the titles. When that didn't come to pass and the backlash died, Lee shrugged and ultimately supported Mary Jane and promote her as Peter's official love-interest and never even introduced Gwen to the newspaper strip on which he had full control, accepting later that Gwen Stacy was simply not as interesting a character as he tried to make her to be.
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    • A minor case with Gerry Conway himself. He's very proud of the story on its merits, how it impacted comics and entertainment, and even decades after release is still a major point that moves the industry. That said, he's very much aware that this story inspired many terrible stories later, and introduced the world to the sexist trope of fridging that would become so omnipresent for decades, and stated that women are right to decry that aspect of its legacy.
  • Flip-Flop of God: The reasons given for okaying Gwen Stacy varied over the years, based as much on rumors, interviews, and conjecture:
    • In the immediate aftermath of the story, the reaction was so polarizing that Stan Lee passed the buck on to Conway and Romita insisting that he wasn't involved with it, and initially claiming it was a surprise to him. In actual fact he okayed the story and shrugged, and was more affected by fan reception than anything.
    • Gerry Conway has openly admitted that he decided on killing Gwen because he preferred Mary Jane, but the official story is that they wanted a shocking death, and Gwen was the only one who would be shocking enough as being close enough to Peter for it to affect him but not as tied to Peter's background and past (MJ being set up as a Blind Date by Aunt May while Peter was in high school gave her a leg-up in that regard) for it to really change and affect him. Gerry Conway himself is unambiguous:
      "The amazing thing was that he [Stan Lee] created a character like Mary Jane Watson, who was probably the most interesting female character in comics, and he never used her to the extent that he could have. Instead of Peter Parker’s girlfriend, he made her Peter Parker’s best friend’s girlfriend. Which is so wrong, and so stupid, and such a waste. So killing Gwen was a totally logical if not inevitable choice."
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    • What killed Gwen Stacy? The whiplash causing her neck to snap or the fall? EIC Roy Thomas in the early issues responded to fan letters by stating on the letter page of ASM #125 it was announced: "It saddens us to have to say that the whiplash effect she underwent when Spidey's webbing stopped her was, in fact, what killed her." Gerry Conway has said that In-Universe, the "fall" killed Gwen Stacy and Goblin is responsible, but in his personal view, the snap (which he added in as a Throw It In!) killed her. According to him, in his view, Peter would kill himself if he truly believed he caused Gwen's death.
  • Follow the Leader: The idea of the hero's Arch-Enemy personally killing a loved one of the hero was unprecedented when the story came out. The governing philosophy of superhero comic editors before was that such a line crossed risked making the hero ineffective. After this story, later writers introduced more stories of heroes failing their loved ones. Successors include Frank Miller's run on Daredevil which introduced Elektra who died at Bullseye's handsnote , The Joker in The Killing Joke, A Death in the Family and other adaptations.
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  • Jossed: A meta example: one of the early fan theories about this story was that its main purpose was to kill off the Green Goblin for good because the situation where he knew the secret of Spider-Man's identity was too dangerous to be allowed to continue. This, according to the theory, would have required a crime so heinous that readers would accept Norman Osborn's death as permanent and would not clamor for his return. But some time later Harry Osborn became the new Green Goblin and it turned out he too had found out that Peter Parker was Spider-Man. And he was allowed to survive without being made to forget. Moreoever, Norman had known and had amnesia about Peter's identity since Issue #40 and had relapsed once before as the Green Goblin (the famous drug issue), so it was a dicey situation that Peter had been living with for a long time.
  • Trope Namer: This story arc named the trope I Let Gwen Stacy Die.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • Gwen was not originly the first choice to be the sacrificial lion. The initial idea was to kill off a major supporting character to drive up stakes, which Romita Sr. had wanted to do for some time. Aunt May was his initial choice, Gerry Conway felt that would be too predictable and Romita Sr. also felt that her death would leave Peter without a real motivation to maintain a secret identity since he wouldn't have any family left. They came to the conclusion that the death had to be either Mary Jane or Gwen Stacy, due to them being Peter's love interests. Mary Jane was rejected as an option as she and Peter weren't dating, and of course for the fact that Gerry Conway liked her as a character and felt that Gwen Stacy needed to die to make way for her into the center of Peter's life. In either case, Conway, Romita, and others in the Marvel staff felt that killing off a major Love Interest and having Spider-Man fail her was a pretty groundbreaking concept and immediately got on board.
    • Mary Jane wasn't supposed to have closed that door at the end of #122. The original final page would have Peter lashing out at MJ as he did in the final, but instead of shutting the door and standing back to give him a little space, she would have returned to Peter's side and held him as he mourned. Gerry Conway thought Gil Kane's version didn't have right emotional impact and allowed John Romita Sr. to redraw the scene.
    • The so-called "first clone saga" i.e. a follow-up story that had a clone of Gwen returned was suggested by Stan Lee as a possible backdoor for Gwen to actually return. Lee, natural crowd-pleaser that he was, was taken aback at the fan reaction to Gwen's death and felt that it needed to be undone. As a compromise, Conway and Romita proposed the Clone Saga where Peter and MJ are dating and getting closer when Gwen's clone returns, and based on fan reaction to the new relationship (Peter/MJ) they would consider making the clone the real Gwen or keeping her death for good. Since people liked Peter and MJ and wanted them for a long time, it went as planned.
    • In a 2016 Podcast at Spider-Man Crawlspace, Gerry Conway stated that had there not been pre-established plans to kill off a major character (to which he nominated and pushed for Gwen), he would have broken up Peter and Gwen and have her Put on a Bus, while Peter starts a relationship with Mary Jane anyway. He notes that this would likely have maintained an ongoing Love Triangle with the three characters, as and when different writers after him came and went.

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