1973 - ASM #121 - The Night Gwen Stacy Died... Is a Gas!

Howdy everyone, hope you all got what you wanted for Christmas! In honor of this special time of the year we go back to a famously special time in good ol' Spidey's history:

Reading through the old Spidey's again, I'm a little surprised at how strongly melancholy a lot of it became at this point, especially regarding Peter Parker's personal life. Starting out as a nerdy teenager Peter has always been infused with Stan Lee-style soliloquy's that bridged the gap between Hamlet and Dashboard Confessional, but they mostly as a relatable, self-deprecating humorous aside (at least as far as I can tell... I know that many teenage boys really deeply related to young Peter's dilemma).

As the 70's rolled on Peter was no longer a dweeb, having ditched the glasses for a leather jacket. He could at times match charm with Gwen Stacy and hyperflirt Mary Jane Watson, and for a while it felt liberating. But suddenly his problems became, dare I say, overwhelmingly adult.

His high school nemesis Flash Thompson came back as a Vietnam Vet (not disillusioned, but far more sober), he was getting involved in student demonstrations, he was sharing an apartment with his friend Harry Osborn, and he had a serious thing going with Gwen Stacy.

By the time THIS little ditty, one that would define Spider-Man for at least the next decade and arguably ever since, happened, he was already quite mired in the bringdown of the post-60's. Suddenly Peter finds himself donning the Spider-Suit in order to escape the complications of his personal life... in more than several occasions he literally begins his adventures about how he needs it to clear his mind.

That's right, my friends, Peter Parker has clearly developed a clinical case of addiction to becoming Spider-man. That's how heavy this shit's gotten.

And then his girlfriend gets killed. Guess how he deals with THAT.

Anyway, this is a blog about advertisements in Spider-Man, not Spider-Man himself. So here's today's little entry-within-an-entry.

Marvel at this point had expanded dramatically, easily taking the crown away from D.C. for over a decade. Its stable of books was getting ever greater, at this point in a few years they'd reboot X-Men with the team that included Wolverine, Storm, and Colossus.

In order to keep the casual observer of the latest Marvel offerings outside their usual reading material, Marvel started implementing one-line ad slugs at the bottom of the comic pages. Almost subliminal in their sublety, they were nevertheless the last thing the reader saw before turning the page, giving the ads a full second or so to sink in with no distractions.

What I find really amusing about today's ad is that it plays right below what I would dare say was Marvel's most serious attempt to be taken as true drama:

"Monster Madness!* It's a Gas - For Lad or Lass!"

Clearly Peter Parker's not the only one who could use a break from the melancholy!

*Monster Madness refers to Marvel's short-lived monster-related humor magazine... not content with the recent relaxations of the Comics Code with regards to the portrayal of monsters, leading to Marvel integrating Dracula, Frankenstein, and other famous monster icons into their own books as well as team-ups with existing Marvel characters, they felt it necessary to lampoon their own newfound assets.

This ad ran on the last page of Amazing Spider-Man #121, aka the death of Gwen Stacy, in June, 1973.


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