Monday, 23 November 2009

Amazing Spider-Man #122. The Green Goblin dies

Amazing Spider-Man #122, the death of the Green Goblin
(Cover from July 1973.)

"The Goblin's Last Stand!"

Words by Gerry Conway.
Art by Gil Kane/John Romita/Tony Mortellaro.
Lettering by Artie Simek.
Colours by Andy Yanchus.

"And so do the proud men die. Crucified not on a cross of gold but on a stake of humble tin." Issue #121 may be the attention grabber; the one in which Gwen Stacy actually dies but this is the issue that redefines the strip and redefines comics in general. Never before had a super-hero title dealt in raw emotion the way this one does. Not content with killing off one major character, we now have two bodies on our hands. First Peter Parker's greatest love and now his greatest enemy. Gerry Conway may have taken command many moons ago - and done it quietly - but this is the moment in which he positively shouts his arrival.

But Gwen and the Goblin aren't the only ones to have died this night. Steve Ditko's Spider-Man dies too, the wise-cracking one who fought villains out of a sense of responsibility. Now his co-creation's on a mission for vengeance and doesn't care who gets hurt along the way. The Goblin's cluelessness in this story's astonishing. He clearly doesn't get that this isn't the old Spider-Man he's up against. The rules have changed. This is Spider-Man as avenging angel. This is a foe even more murderous than he.

Amazing Spider-Man #122, the Green Goblin dies, impaled by his own gliderSpider-Man of course stops at murder. Marvel would never, and should never, let one of its heroes go that far - not, at least, without suffering the ultimate retribution themselves - but it means the Goblin never had a chance.

Dead too is the Mary Jane of old, the care-free, careless, callous party girl with the teflon persona to which nothing, not even being held at gunpoint in issue #59, sticks. In comes a new Mary Jane; perhaps not more complex but willing at least to show those complexities. When the Goblin calls Gwen a simpering, pointless girl who never did more than occupy space, was he merely voicing the thoughts of Conway? And is this why the tale ends with Mary Jane so prominent? Glad to be rid of her, Conway simply couldn't wait to fill the vacuum that he saw in Gwen?

Amazing Spider-Man #122, Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson at his apartment. Mary Jane crying

But, in all this turmoil, there's one other strand. Just who is that figure lurking in the dark and what part can he have to play in all this?

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