Here’s Part Two of Spider-Man 1970s Classics, from yet another clash with the Hulk to Gwen Stacy’s death, a scene ripped off in TWO movies and a Spider-Man cartoon show. For Part One click HERE.
SPIDER-MAN Vol 1 #119 (April 1973)
Title: The Gentleman’s Name is Hulk
Villain: The Incredible Hulk
NOTE: I skipped over 3 issues which were not classics as Spider-Man simply had typical adventures in those tales against supervillains like the Smasher and the Disruptor, the latter of which turned out to be a crooked New York City politician whose misdeeds Spidey covered up so that the city would continue to think he was an inspirational hero. (Decades before The Dark Knight Batman movie’s “hero Gotham needs/ deserves” business.)
Synopsis: This story dives back into the subplots left unexplored for 3 issues. As Spider-Man, Peter Parker travels to Westchester to visit his Aunt May, who, as we left her last time, is serving as the housekeeper at Doctor Octopus’ mansion while Ock is in prison. Our hero switches into college student Peter Parker and goes in to visit with his aunt.
May is still naively oblivious to Otto Octavius’ true nature as an organized crime leader and tells Peter she is perfectly happy at the mansion, taking care of things and being protected by Ock’s “bodyguards” (really his army of thugs).
Luckily, before Peter gives Aunt May a telegram that arrived for her, he manages to overhear Dr Octopus’ men talking about how they still haven’t received the telegram in question, which obviously went to May’s old residence by mistake. Mary Jane Watson’s aunt Anna – Aunt May’s friend – passed it on to Peter to give May.
Peter shrewdly refrains from mentioning the telegram and keeps it in his pocket during his visit. He hadn’t opened it but now suspects it may hold clues about exactly why Ock is pretending to be infatuated with Aunt May. After an hour long visit Peter leaves, becomes Spider-Man again and heads for the apartment he shares with Harry Osborn back in Manhattan.
Once inside he switches back to Peter Parker and at last reads the telegram. It’s from a Montreal lawyer named Jean Pierre Rimbaud telling Aunt May he needs to speak personally with her about a very important confidential matter. Peter decides he definitely needs to go see Rimbaud in Canada, hoping he’ll learn what Otto may be after from his aunt.
Harry Osborn and his father Norman arrive, with Harry acting sickly like he’s strung out on drugs again. The tension between Harry and his father gets transferred to Peter and Norman as Harry collapses. Norman argues with Peter, calling him a bad influence in Harry’s life and saying he never should have let his son talk him into letting Peter live rent-free with Harry in the plush apartment.
Norman furiously has his chauffer help him get Harry into the limo to take him to the hospital. Peter is overcome with anxiety over Norman Osborn’s erratic behavior, since he’s usually friendly. Our hero fears that Norman may be on the verge of having his split personality the Green Goblin emerge again.
NOTE: Like with most cases of split personality, when Norman is his normal business tycoon self he does not recall anything about his escapades as the Green Goblin. Among the things that the Green Goblin knows, but that Norman Osborn has no memory of, is that Peter Parker really IS Spider-Man. (He unmasked Spidey after capturing him way back in Spider-Man #39 – August 1966.)
Deciding there’s nothing he can do about that right now, Peter contemplates how he’ll get enough money to get to Canada to visit the lawyer. He sees a news report that the Hulk is on the loose in Canada, being hunted by a joint American-Canadian military operation under the command of Hulk’s old foe General “Thunderbolt” Ross.
Peter visits the Daily Bugle to talk publisher J Jonah Jameson into financing a trip for him to Canada to get photos of the military operation and hopefully of the Hulk himself. Jonah eventually okays it and our hero is off to Montreal.
After arriving, he first checks in at the lawyer Jean Pierre Rimbaud’s office, where his secretary Miss Delon tells Peter that Rimbaud is out of town on business. She invites him to come back later in the day when she may have heard from him and be able to tell Peter when he’ll be back in Montreal.
Next, Peter’s press pass gets him into the press pool covering General Ross. Eventually, word comes in that the Hulk is running amok at a power station along the Saint Lawrence Seaway. As the reporters tag along to cover the military operation as it travels after the Hulk, Peter goes with them.
Upon arrival, Peter gets pictures of the Hulk and his rampage before switching to Spider-Man and fighting the Hulk. Eventually, the running battle between our hero and the military on one side and Hulk on the other leads to the Maskattawan Dam. At length, the Hulk smashes part of the dam during the fighting. Spider-Man gets dragged under the rapidly escaping water, and the entire dam is now in danger of bursting.
SPIDER-MAN Vol 1 #120 (May 1973)
Title: The Fight and the Fury
Villain: The Hulk
Synopsis: Hulk and Spider-Man fight underwater for awhile, then eventually Hulk leaps off to get away from the soldiers and our hero. While the troops repair the dam before it can burst, Ross flies back to Montreal in a helicopter so Spider-Man clings to the bottom of his chopper and tags along.
Once back in Montreal, it’s late enough in the afternoon for him to become Peter Parker again and check in back at Rimbaud’s office. First, though, he calls his girlfriend Gwen Stacy back in New York. She tells him Harry is in really bad shape and is definitely back into drugs. Peter tells Gwen he’ll be back as soon as he can and heads for Rimbaud’s office.
Our main character’s Spider-Sense detects a threat and Peter notices he’s being followed by a shady looking man. He loses the figure, turns into Spider-Man and roughs up the guy, threatening him and gets him to admit he was following “that Parker kid” on orders from his boss, Dr Octopus. Spider-Man demands to know why and the thug confesses that it has something to do with Ock’s plans for Aunt May but he’s not able to answer what those plans are.
Peter meets Miss Delon at the lawyer Jean Pierre Rimbaud’s office and she tells him that Jean Pierre wants to meet in person with Peter at the old Expo 67 fair grounds as it’s very important and potentially dangerous. As they arrive in a cab, it turns out that’s where the Hulk is hiding in a comic book coincidence. The Hulk hits the cab, knocking out the cabbie and Miss Delon.
Peter becomes Spider-Man and battles the Hulk throughout the fair grounds. Ross and the military are alerted and race to the scene. The much-stronger Hulk at length has our hero on the ropes, but just in time Ross and the military attack the Hulk, who grows irritated and leaps further north into Canada. (Where he will soon have his very first battle with Wolverine, making his debut appearance.)
Spidey becomes Peter again and convinces the reviving Frances Delon and the cab-driver that he somehow “missed all the action” after their encounter with the Hulk. Peter and Miss Delon rendezvous with her boss Rimbaud, who dramatically builds up the importance of what he has to tell Peter about what Otto Octavius is after.
Before he can actually give any details, sniper fire from one of Doc Ock’s gangsters kills the lawyer. Miss Delon is horrified, but agrees to handle the police. Peter catches the next flight to New York, wondering exactly how big Otto’s plans are and what Aunt May could possibly have to do with them.
SPIDER-MAN Vol 1 #121 (June 1973)
Title: The Night Gwen Stacy Died
NOTE: To preserve the mystery of which figure from Peter’s life would die in this issue, the story’s title was not shown until the final page.
Villain: The Green Goblin
Synopsis: The next day, Peter is back in Manhattan at the apartment that Harry Osborn’s father lets him share with Harry rent-free. Norman Osborn’s money and influence has convinced the doctor treating Harry to have him released from the hospital so he can privately care for Harry in the apartment.
Norman’s reasoning is that he wants his son’s relapse kept out of the papers this time. Norman Osborn shows up and once again lashes out at Peter, irrationally accusing him of being to blame for Harry’s drug problem.
Norman now turns his fury on Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane Watson, Harry’s girlfriend until recently. He throws Peter and the ladies out telling them they are no longer welcome there. The trio go to grab a meal at a restaurant and ponder Harry’s return to using LSD.
None of them can come up with answers about Harry or about Norman’s uncharacteristic sweatiness and short temper. A few hours later, Peter goes to the Daily Bugle to turn over his pics of the Hulk’s Canadian rampage and his fight with Spider-Man. In exchange he gets his bonus and chats with his good friend City Editor Joseph “Robbie” Robertson (the black guy).
NOTE: During this period of the Spider-Man series, the official excuse for Peter and Spider-Man often showing up at the same place at the same time was that Spidey frequently “tipped off” Peter about his activities so that Peter could get photos of him in action. It was treated like any other “confidential sources” tipping off reporters about stories.
Meanwhile, Norman Osborn learns of his company’s stock price tumbling, adding to his pressure. Combined with Harry’s ongoing problems it triggers the re-emergence of his other personality, the Green Goblin. And the Goblin persona knows Spider-Man’s secret identity.
He decides to use that knowledge by abducting someone close to Peter Parker and thus luring him to him to be killed. He chooses Peter’s lady love Gwen Stacy and, flying along standing on his bat-shaped glider, he does so.
As Spider-Man, Peter arrives back at his and Harry’s apartment and goes in since Norman is no longer there. Before he can get out of his costume he sees a knocked-over lamp, Gwen’s purse, a pumpkin bomb and a note. Terrified, he reads that note, which says that the Green Goblin is back, remembers who he is and has taken his woman Gwen Stacy to the Brooklyn Bridge. He demands that our hero meet him there.
Filled with dread, Spider-Man swings his way there, and finds the Goblin atop one of the bridge’s concrete “spires” or whatever the correct term would be. The unconscious Gwen Stacy is lying beside him. The villain pours out his hatred of Spider-Man, even telling him “your presence in this world has been a source of constant agony to me. I wish you to leave it, permanently. Or Gwen Stacy dies.”
Spidey attacks the Goblin and they battle for awhile. As our hero starts to gain the upper hand, the Green Goblin plays his trump card and flies past Gwen’s body to knock her off the spire/ cornice thingee. She falls to what the costumed Norman Osborn insists will be her death.
In a panic, Peter shoots some of his webbing to snag Gwen and pull her back up to him but the force of the fall snaps her neck, killing her. She is dead as he “reels her in” and cradles her body in grief. The villain flies past our hero and the dead Gwen Stacy, taunting him about what just happened and telling him he’ll kill him next.
In a remarkably out of character reaction from our main character which must have really bowled over the readers of 1973, the costumed Peter defiantly screams back at his foe that actually HE is going to kill HIM. And he’ll do it slowly, until Norman Osborn is begging him to end it all.
SPIDER-MAN Vol 1 #122 (July 1973)
Title: The Green Goblin’s Last Stand
Villain: The Green Goblin
Synopsis: Exchanging more threats with each other, Spider-Man and the Green Goblin then meet in battle once again. The dialogue is very intense after what just happened, but comic book limitations on swearing water down the overall impact. Peter has to say things like “Blast you” instead of “Damn you” to the Goblin.
Eventually the villain manages to knock our hero into a near-fatal fall himself and by the time he recovers and is ready to resume the fight he sees that Norman Osborn has flown away on his bat-shaped glider.
After further mourning at the side of Gwen’s corpse, Peter swings off on his webbing to seek revenge. He makes for Norman Osborn’s ritzy Townhouse in New York City, where he had Harry moved so he could recover far away from “bad influences” like Peter, Mary Jane and the others.
He switches back to Peter Parker before entering. Norman isn’t there, but Harry is, still freaking out and disoriented from his recent use of LSD. He’s too out of it to tell Peter where his father may be, and, in another powerful moment, the usually good-hearted Peter Parker disdainfully decides Harry is utterly worthless so he sets out to find Norman Osborn some other way.
As he’s trying to leave, the confused and frightened Harry weakly shambles after him, screaming, begging and pleading with Peter to stay and help him, that he doesn’t want to be left alone. We get another dark moment, as Peter feels torn between his best friend who is in dire need of him right now and his desire to kill Norman Osborn for what he did to Gwen. Instead of the usual outcome, in which Peter does the selfless thing in such situations, this vengeance-crazed Peter Parker coldly decides to just leave Harry in a sobbing heap and go out looking for the Goblin.
As Spider-Man he swings his way to the Daily Bugle building and enters through City Editor Joseph “Robbie” Robertson’s office window. Robbie tells him that police reports about Gwen’s death and the fighting between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin at the site have been spreading throughout the city.
Spider-Man curtly cuts off Robbie’s questions, telling him he has no time. He asks Robbie to use his many sources to see if millionaire Norman Osborn has been spotted around the city and if Osborn currently owns any warehouses or theaters that are unrented at the moment.
Out of respect for the way Robbie has always felt Spider-Man is a misunderstood hero and not the criminal the world thinks he is, Robertson does so. Presently, he tells our hero that Osborn owns an unrented warehouse off 23rd Street and Ninth Avenue, and was spotted in that vicinity about 40 minutes ago.
Spider-Man thanks Robbie, but before he can leave back out the window, Jonah enters Robbie’s office and is infuriated to find his City Editor helping Spider-Man with information. Once again, where Spidey would usually just insult Jameson and leave, this anger-filled Spidey spitefully webs Jameson’s mouth. He’ll be unable to speak until the webbing dissolves in about an hour.
Our hero swings off to Osborn’s warehouse that Robbie told him about. We readers are jumped ahead to that location, where the Green Goblin is building some more pumpkin bombs in expectation of another battle with Spider-Man.
In a nice bit of writing for a comic book, the narration sets up the scene by referring to “a door slightly ajar … and a man slightly mad.” Spider-Man attacks the Green Goblin and the two fight again. The battle takes them outside into an alley behind the warehouse.
At length Spidey slightly damages the Goblin’s bat-shaped glider/ flier and the villain rages over it. This further infuriates our main character, who can’t believe the man is whining about a piece of machinery after casually taking the life of the woman Peter loved earlier that evening.
The GG sneeringly asks “What worth is there in the paltry existence of one useless female? A simpering, pointless girl who never did more than occupy space, while I -” Peter interrupts his remark, hurling himself on him and beginning to beat the costumed Norman Osborn savagely. (Osborn is not instantly killed by this because of his enhanced strength from the Goblin Serum that gave him his powers.)
The art as Spidey punches his foe over and over again is well-done and gives readers a Spider-Man they’ve never seen so out of control before. Unfortunately, the prudish euphemisms that the dialogue panels have Peter say once again took me out of the scene.
At any rate, our title character manages to find enough of his conscience to stop himself just in time to avoid killing Osborn. He doesn’t want to become a killer like his foe, so he tells the costumed Norman to get on his feet. He’s turning him into the police and in his grief he’s willing to accept all the horrible consequences that will follow Osborn telling the authorities that Spider-Man is really Peter Parker.
(NOTE: I’d have thrown in a line for Peter like “With Gwen gone none of it matters anymore.”)
Meanwhile, the battered Goblin has been using his remote control to set his bat-shaped flier in motion, hoping to impale Spider-Man on the sharp, pointy ears from behind. Peter’s Spider-Sense warns him just in time to dodge the bat-shaped flier but it instead hits the Goblin, impaling HIM instead.
Spidey numbly watches as the flier exhausts its power, stuck on its final setting as it pins Norman Osborn to the wall while he slowly, painfully dies. Again, some good writing for a comic book has the narration say “So do the proud men die, crucified, not on a cross of gold, but on a stake of humble tin.”
When the bat-flier runs out of power/ fuel, it falls, unpinning Osborn’s corpse from the wall as he falls dead across it. Our hero reflects on how he thought seeing Norman Osborn die would make him feel better about Gwen. Instead it just makes him feel empty and a little bit more alone.
As Spider-Man walks off into the night, a figure in shadows is shown. This man has apparently seen and heard a lot of what just happened but we aren’t shown his identity yet.
NOTE: No need to hide it, given that, thanks to the movies, everybody already knows Harry will eventually become the new Green Goblin. The man in the shadows is the drug-crazed Harry Osborn, who stumbled to his father’s warehouse hoping to find him. In future issues we will learn he read the papers the dead Goblin carried in his pouch, papers and photos proving that Spider-Man is really Peter Parker.
Harry cunningly kept the papers to himself so he could get his own revenge on Peter in the future. He also removed the Green Goblin costume and equipment from his father Norman’s corpse, so he could use it himself down the road.
He dresses his father in a normal suit and when his dead body is found by the cops, they put together the fact that Spider-Man was looking around town for word of Norman Osborn’s whereabouts and later, Osborn is found dead. For years, Spider-Man is wanted for questioning in Norman’s death just like he is still wanted for questioning in the death of Captain John Stacy, Gwen’s father. (Doctor Octopus really killed John Stacy.)
EPILOGUE: Peter Parker eventually shows up back at his and Harry’s apartment, only to find Mary Jane Watson there. She went there to check on Harry, but he wasn’t there. She tells Peter that she heard about Gwen’s death and says she’s “torn up about it” but, given her self-centered and Party Girl personality of the time, Peter snaps at her to not bother pretending to care about “straights” like him and Gwen.
He further tells her he doesn’t want to get in the way of her partying and tells her to go ahead and leave. She opens the door to do so, but then, conscience-stricken (and as we’ll learn in the future, starting to care for Peter herself), she instead shuts the door silently and stays to console the weeping Peter. (A similar scene several issues far down the road will bookend this scene in an example of good writing.)
FOR THE NEXT PART CLICK HERE.
OKAY, MORE GROUNDWORK AND SUBPLOTS HAVE BEEN LAID FOR FUTURE ISSUES IN THIS CLASSIC 1970s RUN.
FOR CHAPTER LINKS IN THE AVENGERS/ MANTIS/ KANG/ CELESTIAL MADONNA STORY CLICK HERE.
FOR CHAPTER LINKS IN THE AVENGERS/ KREE-SKRULL WAR STORY CLICK HERE.
FOR CHAPTER LINKS TO THE 1970s ADAM WARLOCK/ GAMORA/ THANOS/ MAGUS STORY CLICK HERE.
FOR CHAPTER LINKS TO THE 1970s BLACK PANTHER VS KILLMONGER STORY CLICK HERE.