Comic Book Questions Answered - where I answer whatever questions you folks might have about comic books (feel free to e-mail questions to me at email@example.com). Here is a link to an archive of all the past questions that have been answered so far.
Reader Tony F. wrote in the other day to ask me if they ever came up with a definitive cause of death for Gwen Stacy. Let's find out!
First off, let's see the actual death from Amazing Spider-Man #121 (by Gerry Conway, Gil Kane, John Romita and Tony Mortellaro)...
So there are four possibilities for Gwen's death here.
1. She died from the shock of the fall2. She died when the Green Goblin hit her with his Goblin Glider3. She died from a broken neck from the whiplash effect of Spider-Man's webbing stopping her fall abruptly4. She was already dead before Spider-Man even got there.
I think the original intent of Gerry Conway was either #1 or #2, almost certainly #1, since he put it into the dialogue. The Goblin has no reason for wanting to make Spider-Man feel better about Gwen's death, so it is unlikely that he would lie to Spider-Man about how she died.
However, Conway was also the one who specifically added the "snap" to the story. He's told a few different versions of how the "snap" got in there, but he's been consistent in taking the credit/blame for it (as I detailed in a Comic Book Legends Revealed years ago). The version that makes the most sense to me is that he saw the way that Gil Kane had drawn Stacy, and it just looked like her neck was snapping, so he threw in a snap.
Anyhow, while I think the original intent was that she died of shock (and thus, if her neck snapped, it happened after she was already dead), but the tricky part there is that Kane clearly drew her as unconscious, so how could she die of the shock of the fall?