John Romita Sr.’s original cover art for the landmark Amazing Spider-Man #121 has reached $268, 875 in online bidding ahead of a live auction scheduled for today in New York City.
The piece is being offered as part of Heritage’s Vintage Comics & Comic Art Signature Auction, which includes Dave Gibbons’ iconic Watchmen covers, an original Calvin and Hobbes strip by Bill Watterson, and 10 pages from Dave Sim’s Cerebus: High Society.
The Amazing Spider-Man #121, “The Night Gwen Stacy Died,” was a defining moment not only for Peter Parker but for the comics industry; as Heritage Auctions notes in its description, some point to the story as the end point for the Silver Age. (This was the end of innocence for comics,” Arnold Blumberg wrote in Comic Book Marketplace. “It remains one of the most potent stories ever published.”)
In the story, written by Gerry Conway and penciled by Gil Kane, Green Goblin kidnaps Gwen and ultimately hurls her from the top of either the Brooklyn Bridge or George Washington Bridge (depending whether you believe the art or the text). Spider-Man shoots a web and snags Gwen’s leg, seemingly saving her, only to discover the sudden stop snapped her neck. The arc is believed to serve as inspiration for the third installment of Columbia Pictures’ new Spider-Man trilogy.
In Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, Conway revealed they originally planned to kill off Aunt May, but upon Romita’s suggestion instead targeted Peter Parker’s girlfriend.
“She was a nonentity, a pretty face. She brought nothing to the mix,” he explained. “It made no sense to me that Peter Parker would end up with a babe like that who had no problems. Only a damaged person would end up with a damaged guy like Peter Parker. And Gwen Stacy was perfect! It was basically Stan fulfilling Stan’s own fantasy. Stan married a woman who was pretty much a babe — Joan Lee was a very attractive blond who was obviously Stan’s ideal female. And I think Gwen was simply Stan replicating his wife, just like Sue Storm was a replication of his wife. And that’s where his blind spot was. The amazing thing was that he 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.”
Todd McFarlane’s original cover for The Amazing Spider-Man #328 sold at auction in July for for $657,250, shattering the previous record for a single piece of American comics art set in 2011 by a splash page from The Dark Knight Returns #3 ($448,125). A world record $1.6 million was paid in June for Herge’s original cover for Tintin in America.