Within comics scholarship, as well as the comics fan community, there is an ongoing debate regarding the "Ages" within the genre, each of which denotes not simply an era of thematic content and change (increases in realism, violence, sexuality, etc.), but also economic forces. In the following, Blumberg examines one of the markers of these ages, the death of Spider-Man's college girlfriend Gwen Stacy. While other scholars argue for an understanding of "the Bronze Age" beginning and ending at disparate points, Blumberg argues for understanding the death of Gwen Stacy as an incontrovertible marker of thematic change for superhero narratives, and for our expectations of heroes. Following the high idealism of the Gold and Silver Ages, the Bronze Age ushered in a period of "realistic" drama and was a creative high point for Marvel Comics, the originators of heroes with feet of clay.

“'The Night Gwen Stacy Died:' The End of Innocence and the Birth of the Bronze Age”

Arnold T. Blumberg

The time was 1973, and superheroes had some growing up to do.

<1> The signs were already there as the genre eased into its fifth decade as the dominant force in American comic books. 1968 had seen the introduction of Robert Crumb's Zap Comics [1], an underground comic more concerned with counterculture trends and bucking the establishment than chronicling the exploits of spandex-wearing conservatives. The medium was testing its boundaries, finding flexibility where once there had been rigidity, and soon superheroes began to look like a timelost collection of crusaders who spoke to a generation long since past.

<2> Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's Marvel Universe had made a huge difference, born out of the optimistic glow of the Camelot/Kennedy era and introducing much needed human elements into the cardboard cutout milieu of the superhero. Superheroes now reflected the emotions of their readers with far greater realism, in some cases serving as a surrogate family for fans [2], but radical change was needed before superheroes could mature along with their core audience and face the sobering realities of adulthood. The 1970s was to be a time of awakening for the four color fantastics and their feverish fans.

<3> Early indications that the superhero world was changing came in 1971, when Lee and Marvel Comics brazenly dropped the Comics Code Authority seal of approval on a multi-issue Spider-Man story arc dealing with narcotics. The first such comics to hit the stands without CCA approval since its fascist-like implementation in 1954 [3], Amazing Spider-Man #96-98 (May-July 1971) brought us another fanciful showdown between Spider-Man and his arch-foe, the Green Goblin, while Peter Parker's best friend (and son of the Goblin) Harry Osborn struggled with a far more realistic danger--drug addiction.

<4> Having thrown down the gauntlet, Marvel opened the door to a new era in mature storytelling for superhero comics, and competitor DC Comics took up the challenge by echoing the Spider-Man story with one focusing on Green Arrow's sidekick Speedy, who had picked up a nasty heroin habit [4]. Social relevance was now to be the watchword for the superheroes of the Marvel and DC universes, and topics like racism, poverty, drugs, and other concerns of the day were filtered through the somewhat simplistic lens of the superhero [5]. Didactic in the extreme, with more than just a hint of sledgehammer moralizing, these tales nevertheless signaled a change in the genre. The superheroes were no longer flying above the crowds with their heads in the clouds; they were plummeting to Earth and dealing with the hard cold facts of life, and their readers were learning that even heroes couldn't always save the day. It was a lesson that would be thrown into sharp relief in a few short years, and once again through the auspices of Marvel and its flagship hero, Spider-Man.

<5> The early 1970s are often designated as the starting point for the Bronze Age of Comics, one of many arbitrary eras assigned by collectors in an attempt to classify and catalog the comic book world [6]. Certainly there are historic turning points that serve as landmarks--signposts whereby we can determine when one period of comic book history ended and another began. Perhaps the most traumatic of all is the event that many name as the single most memorable moving moment in collective fan recall, and one that also shuts the door on the light-hearted, carefree Silver Age even as it ushers in a time of maturation and reluctant self-awareness.

<6> Marvel Comics had begun to explore the entertainment potential of more 'adult' fare with a line of monster themed comics focusing on the far more macabre corners of its fictional reality. Vampires, werewolves, shambling swamp monsters and flame-coifed demons of vengeance now roamed the same city streets trod upon by the Hulk, Captain America and Thor, and the once pristine Marvel Universe now knew the taint of evil in a way it had never encountered it before [7]. But that evolution from adolescent to young adult fantasy was about to accelerate out of control. Where the Silver Age was trumpeted by a flash of lightning and the birth of a new hero [8], the Bronze Age began with the smallest of sounds. It was the "snap" heard 'round the comic book world--the startling, sickening snap of bone that heralded the death of Gwen Stacy.

<7> Gwen, Peter Parker's girlfriend in the Amazing Spider-Man series, was originally a snobbish girl from a well-to-do background who softened and took an interest in Parker at just about the same time that the series artist changed from co-creator Steve Ditko to John Romita [9]. Giving Gwen feathered bangs and a distinctive hair band, Romita brought with him the skills he honed on romance comics for DC, beautifying Spider-Man's previously surreal Ditko-ized world and introducing a note of hope and love into his otherwise dark existence. Gwen was the bright spot in Peter's life--his spiritual center--and she became the first 'girlfriend' for many comic book fans who eagerly followed her relationship with Spider-Man's alter ego as much as they thrilled to his superheroic exploits [10]. She was as real as a member of the family--an empathy that creator Stan Lee was particularly adept at eliciting from readers. Seven years after her introduction to the Spider-mythos in 1966, writer Gerry Conway [11] would make use of that empathetic connection in an altogether startling way. The death of Gwen Stacy was the end of innocence for the series and the superhero genre in general--a time when a defeated hero could not save the girl, when fantasy merged uncomfortably with reality, and mortality was finally visited on the world of comics. To coin a cliché, nothing would ever be the same.

<8> Emerging from an era of prosperity and hope into one of uncertainty and violence, America was growing up. Television brought the violence of the Vietnam War and its homefront ramifications into the lives of every family in the nation. The approaching dissolution of the Presidency and the sordid details of the Watergate conspiracy shattered American illusions about the incorruptibility of its own leaders. In short, the people of the United States were learning some hard truths, and if art is indeed merely a reflection of life, then the world of superhero comics--perhaps the purest iconic distillation of reality raised to mythic levels--was destined to encounter those truths as well. In one small corner of that fictional universe, in a parallel version of New York City, one hard luck fellow named Peter Parker was about to experience a mind-numbing tragedy that would symbolize the shifting tide of history and usher in the new age in comics. Gwen Stacy, the love of his life, was to be the sacrificial lamb in this tragic ritual.

<9> If there was one thing that was certain about Peter Parker's life, it's that bad luck was his constant companion. Although gifted with the abilities that made him Spider-Man, and possessed of a keen scientific intellect, Parker nevertheless suffered in both his home life and as his crime-fighting alter ego. In fact, Spidey had a knack for alienating authority, and while folks like the Fantastic Four and the Avengers were lauded as heroes, Spider-Man was usually feared and hunted by those he tried to protect. He faced some of the deadliest foes that Stan Lee and his stalwart staff could think up, and yet he remained in the eyes of his public an opportunistic glory hog at best or an underworld criminal and murderer at worst.

<10> By the time Lee had left the title and Conway had settled in as the new guiding hand, Parker had encountered a few new obstacles, including a duodenal ulcer that would leave him weakened and unprepared for an attack by one of his oldest foes, Doctor Octopus. But nothing could prepare him for what was to come. The loss of the one joy in his life was a wholly unexpected event on both sides of the comic book page, and it would be engineered by his greatest enemy of all, an apparition that knew his secret identity and could therefore strike him in his very heart and soul. Appropriately enough, this twisted, evil criminal mastermind wore the face of a devil and rode the skies in a flying metal wing. Norman Osborn--AKA the Green Goblin--was about to exact his most murderous revenge.

<11> Much has been written about this legendary tale, originally presented in Amazing Spider-Man #121 in June 1973. With images and dialogue still burned in the memory of Marvel and superhero comic fans everywhere, it remains one of the most potent comic book tales ever penned. The Green Goblin, driven by insanity and unrestrained rage, strikes at Spider-Man/Peter Parker by abducting Gwen and carrying her to the top of the George Washington Bridge [12]. Spidey arrives to save the day and sweep the girl to safety--a sequence of events echoed in countless other superhero and adventure tales. Readers were doubtless unshakable in their belief that, as seen so many times before, the hero would certainly prove triumphant once again, felling the villain and saving the life of his love. During the battle, the Goblin knocks Gwen's unconscious form over the edge, sending her plummeting to the cold water below. Although Spider-Man snags her ankle with a webline, he retrieves her only to find that she is already dead. Enraged beyond all reason, Parker swears to brings the Goblin to justice...even if it means killing him with his bare hands.

<12> For Spider-fans in particular, this was the most jarring moment in the history of the series. Here was the quip-happy hero, always so light-hearted in the face of evil, vowing bloody revenge to the heavens as he cradled the lifeless form of Gwen Stacy. Here was the girlfriend of the hero, dead and gone, never to return. Every expected motif in superhero stories was turned on its ear in a few simple panels, irrevocably transforming the world of comics and its readers.

<13> In his landmark essay, "The Myth of Superman," Umberto Eco spoke about the essential inertia that characterizes such mythic constructs as superheroes. Put simply, these heroes must defy the very forces of nature by never aging or evolving, retaining a basic iconic profile in order to preserve their power as a figure of legend and last through the cyclical adventures that define their existence. Superheroes are trapped in a never-changing loop of cause and effect, always battling the same villains, struggling with the same dilemmas, and exemplifying the ideals of heroism and courage for generation after generation with nary a hair out of place or a wrinkled pair of tights.

<14> And yet, despite Eco's assessment, there is indeed a transformative influence that sometimes shatters that invisible boundary of a comic book hero's essential intransigence and pushes him or her forward to a new level, where the cycle takes hold again, as we noted before in the case of the Silver Age Flash's explosive arrival on the scene. In the DC Comics universe alone, which also spawned the aforementioned Scarlet Speedster, witness the temporary but significant death of Superman (a momentary affliction for one such as the Man of Steel) [13], the replacement of Batman's sidekick Robin with two successors over the last twenty years [14], and the devolution of the Silver Age Green Lantern from hero to villain (as Parallax), even carrying forward to his untimely and unexpected demise [15]. Clearly, there are ways to interrupt the paradigm.

<15> If Eco's theory is correct, and given the evidence that the superhero genre and its denizens have definitely undergone several discernible stages of evolution roughly corresponding to the "Ages" delineated by the comic book community, then these sudden , cathartic lurches forward are rare but inevitable after-effects of the undeniable real-world aging of the readers. Time may stand still for a hero, but if enough of that time passes, and the reader thrilling to those exploits matures and expects something new and different from his or her cherished icon, then the world of the superhero must transform. When the pressure to evolve is so great that it can wait no longer, the clock inches forward ever so minutely, the superhero world develops in subtle or perhaps dramatically obvious ways, and then time is once more suspended. The effect may be akin to what happens when the pressure build up prior to a volcano eruption or a water-main break. The natural inclination of the superhero genre is to remain static, as Eco suggested, but the demands of the audience living in the real world forces change, if only every once and a while.

<16> Spider-Man and superhero comics in general clearly faced such a crossroads in 1973. As we noted earlier, America was leaving behind a simpler time and entering a more jaded socio-political atmosphere. The darker sensibilities that spread throughout the nation also filtered through the pop culture zeitgeist and even managed to breach the barrier between our world and that of a certain wall-crawling web-spinner. For Spider-Man and comics in general, the extreme catharsis of the Gwen Stacy story was the turning point that closed the door on one era and inaugurated something new, just as the arrival of the Silver Age Flash decades earlier had been a manifestation of another shift in public consciousness, one fueled by a growing awareness - and fear - of atomic power and the excesses of science.

<17> In his landmark work, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas S. Kuhn spoke of crisis and its relationship to scientific innovation, the redefinition of existing paradigms, and the resulting progress that pushes science forward. Applying that same basic thinking to the examination of comic book history, Gwen Stacy's death might be interpreted as a sudden, explosive response to the pressures building within the superhero genre, the comic book industry and the readership they served. Recognizing that the average age of the Spider-Man (or superhero) reader had drifted upward with the passage of time, the creators must have realized, however subconsciously, that now was the time to allow the genre to evolve by some small measure. Soon, such trauma could be a regular part of any superhero's life, as Kuhn hints:

"Discovery commences with the awareness of anomaly, i.e., with the recognition that nature has somehow violated the paradigm-induced expectations...it closes only when the paradigm theory has been adjusted so that the anomalous has become the expected." [16]

<18> As the security and safety of the superhero Silver Age came to a close in the midst of social and psychological turmoil, the birth of a new era was anticipated and reflected in the more socially aware, mature work of the creators shaping the destinies of the superheroes, again just as Kuhn suggests:

"All crises begin with the blurring of a paradigm and the consequent loosening of the rules...Almost always the men who achieve these fundamental inventions of a new paradigm have been either very young or very new to the field whose paradigm they change...obviously these are the men who, being little committed by prior practice to the traditional rules...are particularly likely to see that those rules no longer define a playable game and to conceive another set that can replace them." [17]

<19> Relative newcomers like O'Neil and Amazing Spider-Man writer Gerry Conway were of course testing the waters, pushing the boundaries, trying to make their mark in an industry that occasionally rewarded such bravado. But on some deeper level, perhaps they were also functioning as lightning rods for a transformative period in pop culture, signaling the evolution of one paradigm into another.

<20> But for fans who experienced this paradigm shift first-hand, they were less concerned with the underlying psycho-social forces driving the change and the ramifications of its effect on the future of the medium than they were about Gwen's death itself and its effect on their hero. Perhaps the most disturbing element of the story for readers was the tiny "snap" sound effect that years later would inspire endless debate and denials from every member of the creative team as to who ordered its placement in the crucial panel beside Gwen's plummeting body. The implication of the "snap" was very simple-by snagging Gwen's leg with his webbing and jerking her sharply upward, Spider-Man himself killed his girlfriend by snapping her neck. That neither the hero nor the villain noted this detail makes the inclusion of the sound effect even more mysterious. The hero would not have the opportunity to experience any dramatic breakdown as a result of his action, and the villain would not have the knowledge necessary to taunt his foe about the irony of it all. The "snap" was for the readers alone, tormenting them with the secret of Spider-Man's culpability and reinforcing the sheer pathos of Gwen's demise.

<21> It was a different kind of Spider-Man who greeted his fans in the very next issue, as Peter jettisoned his whimsical attitude and dedicated himself to vengeance. For the children who so often turned to Spidey to offer an escape from reality, this was a shocking but well-handled shift in mood. A lesson had been learned--even in the best of all worlds, where heroes triumph and men fly, death was inescapable.

<22> Justice was served in Amazing Spider-Man #122, but fortunately Spider-Man himself did not have to bloody his own hands. By a strange quirk of fate, the same flying wing that enabled the Goblin to abduct Gwen sealed his own fate as well when it pinned him through the chest to a brick wall. The mythical importance of the scene was heightened by Conway's lofty scripting, the description driving home the finality of the moment and the resolution of a hero's greatest defeat. "So do the proud men die," read the caption above the Goblin's limp form--"Crucified, not on a cross of gold, but on a stake of humble tin." [18]

<23> Peter Parker began to pick up the pieces of his life after that issue in July 1973, but readers knew as he did that life would now be colored by that horrible night. The death of Gwen Stacy touched everyone who read the tale; comic book fans learned more about the true nature of life and death in those forty some pages of four-color panels than at any other time, and that childhood lesson was learned at the expense of their hero's happiness.

<24> The genesis of this story--more specifically the details of who actually ordered the placement of the telltale "snap" in the fateful panel--has long been shrouded in mystery. Curiously, none of the experts who often delve into this tale and the behind the scenes drama that led to its publication had ever uncovered or acknowledged the most direct piece of evidence ever presented--an actual letter to fans published some months after Gwen's death that not only explained the circumstance of her demise but the editorial decision behind it.

<25> It was advertised in Amazing Spider-Man #124 as "So NOW You Know Who to Blame," an obviously defensive editorial that appeared in the letters column of the next issue, Amazing Spider-Man #125. Following up on the predictable outpouring of emotion from readers, most of whom were flabbergasted by this morbid turn of events, the editorial staff offered its argument in defense of the death of Gwen Stacy. Perhaps even more importantly, they confirmed only four months after the issue that shook the superhero genre that it was the hero himself who was directly responsible for her death.

<26> Explaining the infamous "snap," the letter stated that:

"[. . .] it saddens us to have to say that the whiplash effect she underwent when Spidey's webbing stopped her so suddenly was, in fact, what killed her. In short, it was impossible for Peter to save her. He couldn't have swung down in time; the action he did take resulted in her death; if he had done nothing, she still would certainly have perished. There was no way out." [19]

<27> Surely this heightened the tragedy to near mythic levels, but fortunately for Peter, he was not aware of the truth. More disturbing, however, was the explanation for the editorial decision itself; it was "necessary":

"The relationship between Pete and Gwen had been through a lot of inconsequential ups and downs, and unless the two were to be married, there was nowhere else to take it. But marriage seemed wrong, too. Peter just wasn't ready. So Gerry, Roy [Thomas, editor], and Stan debated the question [. . .] all had reach the same inescapable conclusion. Gwen's death was simply fated to happen. [. . .] Events had shaped themselves in such a way that their only logical resolution was tragedy. [. . .] So don't blame Gerry. Don't blame Stan. Don't blame anyone. Only the inscrutable, inexorable workings on circumstance are culpable this time." [20]

<28> It is hard to imagine any fan reading this threadbare justification and not reacting in disgust. By attempting to absolve themselves of responsibility in the eyes of their fans, Conway and the creative team were trying to say that Gwen's death was an organic component of the unfolding story--an "inescapable" event that was one of only two alternatives, marriage or death. Ignoring for a moment that there were in fact dozens of possibilities--Gwen could have met someone else, gotten a job that took her out of town, fought with him and decided to leave--the misogynistic implications alone are staggering. Is death the only creative alternative to marriage for a major female supporting character, or was this merely the choice of a lazy writer afraid to deal with the story as written?

<29> It is indeed ironic that one of the medium's most memorable moments of maturation--the dividing line between an age of innocence and an era of hard-earned wisdom--should have come about through what might be interpreted as an act of immature creative cowardice. In any event, the deed was done, and history had been made. But a few months later, another Conway tale would build upon the boundary-breaking Gwen Stacy story and signal the arrival of a new breed of adventurer--a character that would blur the line between hero and villain. The paradigm shift that had begun with Stacy's death would soon culminate with this character's debut, laying the foundation for the Bronze Age to follow.

<30> Appropriately enough, this new Spider-adversary, a figure destined to inspire a rabid cult following and marketing boom throughout the 1980s, would be recognized by his jet black attire and stark white skull chest symbol. Frank Castle, AKA the Punisher [21], was the very personification of Death, the same force that months earlier stole Peter's future from him. Certainly not a standard comic book villain, the Punisher was not exactly a hero either. Introduced as a hired gun sent by the Jackal to eradicate Spider-Man, the Punisher was a vigilante driven by vengeance to expunge the criminal element from the city streets.

<31> Castle's origin would not be dealt with for some time [22], but his severe facial features--softened over the years into matinee idol-like perfection until recently--his widow's peak and cold demeanor distinguished him as a repellent but somehow respectable foe. Clearly his agenda was specific, his devotion to justice absolute. While his methods were far more violent than anything to which Spider-Man or his super-cohorts were accustomed, the Punisher was nevertheless working toward the same goal. There was, to coin another cliché, a new sheriff in town, and the superheroes were simply going to have to make way.

<32> While the Punisher was staking a claim in the Marvel Universe, another anti-hero with a violent streak was debuting in the pages of The Incredible Hulk [23]. Matching and eventually surpassing the fan following generated by the Punisher, Wolverine was the symbol of the 'New Superhero'--a bitter, cigar-chomping amnesiac with a whole host of grudges and a set of razor sharp claws. Sharing the murky origins and revenge-driven back story of the Punisher, Wolverine (later known as Logan) was another member of the new breed. A darker hero had emerged following the death of Gwen Stacy, a hero for harsher times--a new Age had begun and the paradigm shift was complete.

<33> The arrival of the Punisher and Wolverine completed the transition that began with the death of Gwen Stacy a year earlier. Writers like Gerry Conway and Len Wein opened a Pandora's box of moral ambiguity and emotional complexity in the world of superhero storytelling that had never existed before. Conway had first introduced readers to the permanence of death and then offered up Death's Avatar in the form of an enforcer who was armed to the teeth and ready to keep the body count mounting in the Marvel Universe. The Punisher was also a distillation of the vengeance that Peter Parker felt when hunting Norman Osborn, an embodiment of the new kind of justice demanded by an America that had simultaneously lost its innocence and ignorance.

<34> The death of Gwen Stacy cannot be overestimated in terms of its historical importance to the comic book medium and the superhero genre in particular. As vast and cosmic in scope as some superhero adventures can be, one of the genre's greatest and most tragic moments was a tale told of one young girl--an intimate, heart-rending story about the death of a superhero's one true love.

<35> When writer Kurt Busiek and artist Alex Ross created the landmark mini-series Marvels [24], a heartfelt exploration of the Marvel Universe of the 1960s and early '70s, they gave readers a window into a world never before seen with that degree of verisimilitude. Ross' painted artwork was breathtaking, photo-realistic in style, and lent some of those classic tales a heightened sense of closeness and physicality. The first three issues recounted some of the most important moments in Marvel Comics history, from the arrival of world eater Galactus [25] to the first appearance of the mutant hunting Sentinels [26]. But while the scope of those first three issues was surely grand, the final installment had to bring the entire journey to a close with as much drama and epic grandeur as possible. To accomplish this lofty goal, Busiek and Ross chose to focus the final issue of Marvels on one small section of concrete and steel at the top of the George Washington Bridge in New York. The retold saga of the Marvel Universe's formative years came to an end with the death of Gwen Stacy, reminding readers of the shock that accompanied the original tale in 1973. Through their work, Busiek and Ross further illustrated the indelible impression left by that single story in the annals of superhero comics and paid tribute to its operatic stature [27].

<36> Gwen Stacy's death was undoubtedly the end of an era, a tectonic jolt that shook the superhero genre out of one cemented cycle of endless cause and effect and into a new paradigm that better reflected the socio-political and cultural sensibilities of its readers. With her passing, and the introduction of characters like the Punisher and Wolverine soon after, the next stage in the development of the superhero genre had arrived--not with a flash of lightning and a triumphant fanfare, but with the hollow snap of bone.

Works Cited

Amazing Spider-Man. Multiple issues. New York: Marvel Comics, 1962-Present.

Busiek, Kurt & Alex Ross. Marvels. January-April 1994. New York: Marvel Comics.

Conway, Gerry. "The Night Gwen Stacy Died." Amazing Spider-Man #121. June 1973. New York: Marvel Comics.

Conway, Gerry. "The Goblin's Last Stand." Amazing Spider-Man #122. July 1973. New York: Marvel Comics.

Eco, Umberto. "The Myth of Superman." The Role of the Reader. 1979. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Kuhn, Thomas S. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Third Edition. 1962. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

O'Neil, Denny. "Snowbirds Don't Fly." Green Lantern/Green Arrow #85. August- September 1971. New York: DC Comics.

The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide. 32nd ed. Timonium: Gemstone Publishing, Inc., 2002.

"So NOW You Know Who to Blame." Editorial. Amazing Spider-Man #125. October 1973. New York: Marvel Comics.

Wein, Len. "And Now...The Wolverine!" Incredible Hulk #181. November 1974. New York: Marvel Comics.

Endnotes

[1] Zap Comics was printed by Charles Plymell. [^]

[2] For good or bad, the role of superhero characters as surrogate family members for young readers is a powerful and undeniable one. Marvel Comics achieved the ultimate distillation of the superhero team as family with the title that launched their fictional universe, transforming comics forever-The Fantastic Four, which debuted in November 1961. [^]

[3] The Code, first adopted in 1954, was a self-imposed regulatory system sparked by the witch hunt-like investigations of the Senate, largely spearheaded by Senator Estes Kefauver and psychologist Dr. Fredric Wertham. The principle aim of the first draft of the Code was more concerned with constructing a set of rules that would effectively force chief target EC Comics out of business rather than address urgent moral concerns. [^]

[4] Green Lantern/Green Arrow #85, August-September 1971, featuring Green Arrow on the cover saying those immortal words, "My ward is a junkie!" [^]

[5] Perhaps one of the most highly regarded examples of this new social sensibility in superheroes was the history-making Denny O'Neil/Neal Adams run of Green Lantern/Green Arrow, beginning with #76 in April 1970. [^]

[6] The best source for a breakdown of the commonly accepted nomenclature for the various Ages of comics and the dates at which they are generally assumed to begin and end is The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide from Gemstone Publishing, Inc. There is, however, some ongoing debate in the comic book community about the exact names and dates of the Ages, particularly from the Bronze Age to the present. [^]

[7] The Marvel Renaissance of horror included the Man-Thing in Savage Tales #1 (May 1971), Tomb of Dracula (April 1972), Werewolf By Night in Marvel Spotlight #2 (June 1972), and Ghost Rider in Marvel Spotlight #5 (August 1972). [^]

[8] DC introduced the second incarnation of the Flash, AKA police scientist Barry Allen, in Showcase #4 (September-October 1956), generally accepted as the birth of the Silver Age of Comics. Allen was struck by lightning and immersed in experimental chemicals, imbuing him with amazing powers. [^]

[9] Gwen first appeared as drawn by Ditko in Amazing Spider-Man #31 (December 1965). Romita began altering her look in Amazing Spider-Man #48 (May 1967). Her trademark hair band turned up in the very next issue, and the transformation was complete by Amazing Spider-Man #55 (December 1967). [^]

[10] Yet another example of the 'surrogate' effect noted earlier. [^]

[11] Lee finished his run as the first writer on Amazing Spider-Man with #100, returning for a brief stint with #105-110. Roy Thomas covered the title starting with #101, and Conway took reins with #111. [^]

[12] Some sticklers note that although the George Washington Bridge is the one mentioned by name in this and subsequent retellings of the story, it is the Brooklyn Bridge that we see in the actual artwork of the original story. [^]

[13] "The Death of Superman" took place in Superman Vol. 2 #75 (January 1993), but he was much better only six months later. [^]

[14] Batman's first sidekick was Dick Grayson, a circus performer who assumed the mantle of Robin way back in Detective Comics #38 (April 1940). Many years later, the second boy to don the Robin costume, Jason Todd, died at the hands of the Joker thanks to a reader poll in Batman #428 (December 1988). Tim Drake, the latest Robin, assumed the role about a year later. [^]

[15] Hal Jordan, the Silver Age Green Lantern and one of DC's most beloved heroes, began his descent in Green Lantern Vol. 3 #48-50 (January-March 1994) when he went insane and took the name Parallax. He died in Final Night #4 (November 1996) and was eulogized in GL #81 (December 1996). [^]

[16] Kuhn, pp. 52-53. [^]

[17] ibid, pp. 84 and 90. [^]

[18] Conway, "The Goblin's Last Stand," Amazing Spider-Man #122 (July 1973), page 18. [^]

[19] Letters page editorial, Amazing Spider-Man #125 (October 1973). [^]

[20] ibid. [^]

[21] The Punisher, as drawn by Ross Andru, debuted in Amazing Spider-Man #129 (February 1974). [^]

[22] Even his real name remained a mystery in these early appearances. The Punisher's origin was later revealed in the magazine Marvel Preview #2 (March 1975). [^]

[23] Wolverine first appeared in a two-part story in Incredible Hulk #180-181 (October-November 1974), written by Len Wein and drawn by Herb Trimpe. Wolverine's initial look was designed by John Romita Sr. [^]

[24] Marvels was originally published as a four issue mini-series from January to April 1994 then reprinted in 1996. A trade paperback, hardcover edition, and #0 issue were also released. [^]

[25] The original version of that story appeared in the legendary Fantastic Four #48-50 (March-May 1966). [^]

[26] The Sentinels debuted in The X-Men #14 (July 1965). [^]

[27] Busiek's tribute to Gwen did not end there. Advertising the fact that he believed her death signalled the irrefutable end of the Silver Age, he dated the death of his mysterious Astro City hero - the Silver Agent - as 1973, further naming the character's alter ego as Alan Craig in recognition of Silver Age historian Craig Alan Shutt. [^]