41 years have passed since the death of Gwendolyn Maxine Stacy left comic book fans in total shock and disbelief. It was a pivotal moment in Spider-Man‘s history, both in the book and out of it. In the book, Gwen’s demise impacted Peter Parker in many ways, affecting him as much, if not more at times, then the death of his uncle, Ben Parker. Outside of the book, it showed fans that a well known character like Spider-Man could fail…beyond miserably, to the point where some fans were known to have ripped a copy of Amazing Spider-Man #121 in half. Not to mention, utter unmentionable profanities aimed towards Marvel for allowing Gwen’s death to occur. (Lesson: NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER, rip a comic book in half no matter what!!!).
So who exactly was Gwen Stacy?
Gwen’s 1st appearance occurred in Amazing Spider-Man #31 (December 1965), alongside Harry Osborn, who made his 1st appearance in the same panel.
Gwen was immediately, and unquestionably, attracted to Peter Parker.
But things got off on the wrong foot with Mr. Parker…
Gwen always felt deep down that Peter wasn’t a jerk and this was proven to her in ASM #39 when she notices Peter comforting an emotional Harry Osborn. Harry of course, was upset about his father’s change in behavior at the time (if you don’t know exactly why Harry would be upset by this day and age, then you should be ashamed of yourself!).
Gwen was more than a just another character that was conveniently created to illuminate an otherwise dismal personal life that surrounded Peter Parker. Fans were beginning to see this when Peter grew a pair and started to notice Gwen more.
Enter Mary Jane Watson. She grabbed Peter’s attention…
As well as everyone else’s……
Gwen was not impressed…
Neither was MJ.
So began the “war” between Gwen and MJ…
We now interrupt this article to present you with a classic Gwen Stacy and Peter Parker fail.
As Peter got to know MJ a little better, he began to feel that she was too shallow and self-centered.
Gwen was getting more attention…
Gwen and MJ would also become better friends instead of bitter rivals.
Peter began to see Gwen Stacy quite differently.
Yup, things started to change for ol’ Spidey alright….
However, this was Spidey’s book…nothing that could go right would go right for too long. After all, isn’t that was making ASM so successful?
Get ready for more drama.
The truth was out there, in time. (My homage to the X-Files theme)
Tired of the drama? OK – here’s another Gwen and Peter fail.
As the relationship grew, Gwen was bothered by Peter keeping some things to himself. Peter could never get around to telling her about his life as Spider-Man.
No matter how many times he tried.
Gwen’s father and former police chief, Captain George Stacy, held Peter in high regard but was always suspicious that Peter was hiding something as well. Captain Stacy was fascinated by Peter’s strong link to Spider-Man. Gwen was more concerned about Peter, period…of course.
Spidey’s life would take a turn for the worse when George Stacy died from the injuries he received after saving a young boy from being crushed by falling debris courtesy of a Spider-Man/Doc Ock battle.
This was big for Spidey. He lost a friend who secretly knew Spider-Man and Peter Parker were one and the same; he was also becoming more reluctant to reveal his secret identity to Gwen. Especially, since Gwen blamed Spider-Man, as well as herself, for her father’s death.
Naturally, Peter was uncomfortable and his relationship with Gwen started to drift. Gwen felt she lost her father and Peter.
Gwen was contacted by relatives who lived in London and they offered her a chance to leave New York and live there. Gwen was hoping Peter would stop her…but “Spider-Man” got in the way..
Gwen left for London at the end of ASM #93. However, in ASM #98, she had second thoughts about the direction her life was heading in.
Gwen returns to New York and finds Peter at the end of ASM #98.
Let’s take a quick break and take a look at what happens when Gwen wears her headband differently.
As you can surmise, Peter and Gwen’s relationship was very serious. Fans were left wondering if Peter would ever reveal his Spider-Man identity to Gwen, quit being Spider-Man, marry Gwen, or all of the above. The answers to these questions were answered emphatically, when Marvel gave the green light (no pun intended) for the Green Goblin to swoop in and kidnap Gwen in ASM #121….
..and play a decisive role in the death of Gwen Stacy.
So that was it. No chance of her living out her life. No chance of a future with Peter and learning he was Spider-Man. No chance for anything…except controversy.
Originally, an idea was pitched to Marvel to make Aunt May be the helpless victim of the Green Goblin instead of Gwen. Marvel thought the loss of Aunt May would’ve made Peter Parker’s life seem too similar to that of DC’s Bruce Wayne; having two dead parents. Also, the thought of Spider-Man flirting with marriage would have aged the ASM characters too quickly; therefore it made more sense to kill off Gwen.
I’ll share three of my “comic book only” views on Gwen Stacy.
- She was an underdeveloped supporting character that appeared in the ASM issues for only a few panels at a time, never more than a few pages, between her 1st appearance in ASM #31 (1965) all the way thru ASM #121 (1973).
- She was a victim of her era (late 60’s, early 70’s); an intelligent woman (science major) who was mostly depicted as a person who would do nothing more than cry and worry when Peter wasn’t around or in some sort of trouble…and way too overjoyed whenever Peter was around….with some more worrying.
- She was a victim of Gerry Conway, the writer of ASM #121. Conway had mentioned in an interview once that he felt Mary Jane Watson was his “idealized female”. As history would show us, MJ would eventually emerge as “the one” for Peter Parker while Gwen would remain 6 feet under. Ironically, Conway would eventually write the original clone saga in 1975 that featured a return of “Gwen Stacy”.
I’ve met and heard from ASM fans that wish Gwen was never killed off or simply hope for her return. However, it would seem that Marvel views Gwen Stacy as a character whose death is irreparable. Since 1973, comic fans have witnessed the return of plenty of characters, including those in the ASM universe. We’ve seen Norman Osborn reappear, years after he was impaled by his own Goblin Glider; we’ve seen Harry Osborn reappear…etc. What we’ve seen for Gwen Stacy post 1973 are clones, clones and more clones….oh yeah, there was that one time that we were led to believe that a Gwen Stacy clone was indeed the actual Gwen Stacy during the Evolutionary War crossover; but, then it turns out that she wasn’t the real Gwen after all, she was a clone all along……the clones are a subject for another day…maybe J
So, here’s some innocent questions to consider on behalf of all Gwenomites out there (Gwen Stacy loyalists)… what would happen if someone were to undertake the challenge of resurrecting the real Gwen Stacy? Is there anyone out there that could conceivably do it? Could they really pull it off? Would Marvel allow it at last? (There were ideas presented before, but of course, they were denied.) Would it make sense to bring Gwen back in this day and age of the Spider-Man universe? Or, consider it in the future as an epic story arc or event? Were it to be done, I’m sure the character of Gwen Stacy would contain more substance than she did in the past; if done right, her return could rock the comic book world once again and maybe do so in a way never before seen.
On the other hand, is Gwen truly better off dead? Her death in itself changes Spidey’s life forever. It helped pave the way for MJ’s character redevelopment. It also cemented the Green Goblin’s reputation as a villain who was willing to do whatever it takes to hit you where it would hurt the most. Without Gwen’s death, (I’m really, really trying hard to stay away from this subject) the clone sagas might not have been as dramatic.
Lastly, as a comic book fan and a science fan I’ll share this with you…according to Newton’s laws of motion, anyone who is suddenly stopped from a high-speed fall would die instantaneously. So, here’s a pre-fail, if there is such a thing.
That certainly looked a lot rougher than it need to be (see ASM #73 – yeah that’s before ASM #121)….a more than perfect web shot in mid-air after Spidey jumped thru a window, shot 3 strands of web out of his left hand, planted his left foot firmly at about a two-story height, which then resulted in the intended victim coming out of this predicament unscathed. Amazing…Spider-Man.
GwenStacy: Dead or Alive….you decide.
Until next time!
The 13th Crusader
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