Gwen Stacy

From Academic Kids

Gwendolyne "Gwen" Stacy is a fictional character in the Marvel Universe published by Marvel Comics. Created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, she was a love interest to Spider-Man (Peter Parker). In most continuities, she is second in Spider-Man's heart only to Mary Jane Watson. She has blonde hair, in contrast to Mary Jane, who is a redhead; Gwen's eye color, however, varies from continuity to continuity.

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Gwen with Spider-Man
Contents

Gwen Stacy in comic books

Gwen Stacy in mainstream Marvel continuity

Life and death

In the primary Earth 616 continuity, Gwen first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #31 (December 1965); Peter Parker met Gwen while they were undergraduates at Empire State University. Initially, Peter's problems as Spider-Man made him ignore her advances, and in return, she felt insulted by his aloofness. Gradually, however, a romance developed; Gwen, a science major, seemed to appreciate Peter's intellectual personality, different from that of jocks like Flash Thompson and preppies like Harry Osborn. She was Peter Parker's first true love.

Their romance became more complicated when her father, Police Captain George Stacy, was killed by falling debris from a battle which involved Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus (Amazing Spider-Man #90). Gwen blamed Spider-Man for that event, which set back their relationship for a while. Gwen left for Europe to deal with her loss. When she returned from Europe, Gwen and Peter resumed their relationship, but it would not last for long.

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Cover of graphic novel The Death of Gwen Stacy

In the classic Amazing Spider-Man #121 (June 1973), "The Night Gwen Stacy Died" by Gerry Conway, Gwen Stacy was held on a bridge by the Green Goblin (Norman Osborn, who is aware that Peter Parker is Spider-Man). Spider-Man arrived to fight the Green Goblin, but Spider-Man was sick and not performing as well as usual. When the Green Goblin pushed Gwen Stacy off the bridge, Spider-Man caught her by a leg with a string of web. Spider-Man initially thought he had saved her, but when he pulled Gwen back up onto the bridge, he realized she was dead. In anger, Spider-Man almost killed the Green Goblin in retaliation, but chose not to do so in the end. The Green Goblin still seemingly died anyway when he was impaled by his own Goblin Glider in an attempt to kill Spider-Man (the Green Goblin was later revealed to have survived).

It is not clear whether it was the shock of the fall or the sudden stop which killed her. This is a controversial issue; see below. Her death became a pivotal event in Spider-Man's life; he considers it to be his greatest failure as Spider-Man. Her death is also an important milestone in comic book history; see below.

After death

The death of Gwen Stacy had enormous repercussions. Mary Jane, a close friend of Gwen Stacy, was much affected by Gwen's death; her personality became much more serious. Gwen's death also drew Peter and Mary Jane into a closer friendship, and eventually a romantic relationship. The Green Goblin's status in Spider-Man's rogues gallery was much elevated by his murder of Gwen Stacy. Before the death of Gwen Stacy, Doctor Octopus had seemed to be Spider-Man's primary archnemesis, but the death of Gwen Stacy was key to making the Green Goblin, even more than Dr. Octopus, Spider-Man's primary archnemesis. Furthermore, the Punisher, who has gone on to become an important character in the Marvel Universe since his first appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #129 (February 1974), was initially created as a character to hunt down Spider-Man, as the Punisher wrongly believed Spider-Man to be Gwen's murderer.

The Punisher had been manipulated into going after Spider-Man by a supervillain called the Jackal. The Jackal was once Miles Warren, a former professor of Gwen, had secretly been in love with her. Following her death, Warren grew increasingly insane and adopted the persona of the Jackal; he also became completely obsessed with Gwen and created a clone of her. The Green Goblin manipulated the Jackal and the clone of Gwen and used both of them in the Clone Saga. Eventually the clone established her own identity.

Sins Past

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Cover of The Amazing Spider-Man #511 depicting Sarah, Gwen Stacy's daughter

In an extremely controversial story arc called "Sins Past" by J. Michael Straczynski taking place from Amazing Spider-Man #509-514 (August 2004-January 2005), it was revealed that Norman Osborn, the Green Goblin's alter ego, fathered two children on Gwen Stacy, to whom she gave birth while she was in France shortly before her death. Feeling ashamed, she vowed that she would raise them with Peter.

Seeing her as a threat to his potential heirs, the Green Goblin killed Gwen Stacy. Norman Osborn then raised Gwen's two children, a boy and a girl Gwen had named Gabriel and Sarah, respectively. Due to Norman's enhanced blood, the twins aged faster than normal and became adults within the span of a few years. Osborn told them that Peter was really their father and was responsible for their mother's deaths.

The twins then attacked Spider-Man. Spider-Man told Mary Jane about his initial encounter with Gabriel and Sarah, whereupon Mary Jane revealed that she knew about Norman's involvement with Gwen and told all to Peter. She had kept it from him all these years because Gwen was distraught and begged her not to say anything. By the story's end, Peter had told the twins the truth. Sarah believed Peter, but Gabriel did not. Gabriel took the Green Goblin formula and briefly became a new Green Goblin.

JMS recently stated that he originally wanted Peter Parker to be the father of Gwen's kids but editorial nixed the idea. The powers that be felt that it would age Peter Parker too much if he had two adult kids running around. It was then decided by the whole creative and editorial team that Norman Osborn would be the father. [1] (http://www.silverbulletcomicbooks.com/rage/111497451826808.htm)

Gwen Stacy in Ultimate Marvel

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Gwen Stacy on the cover of Ultimate Spider-Man #65

In the Ultimate Marvel continuity, Gwen Stacy first appeared in Ultimate Spider-Man #14 (December 2001). She is a teenage girl at Peter's high school who is taken in by Aunt May after her father, Captain Stacy of the police, is killed by a robber who impersonated Spider-Man by wearing an identical costume. Living in the same house, Peter and Gwen are almost like siblings, though the relationship is complicated by Gwen's possible crush on Peter (who is dating Mary Jane) and Gwen's hatred of Spider-Man (whom she blames for her father's death).

She eventually learned that Peter is Spider-Man; fortunately, he managed to convince her that he was not to blame for her father's death, and she agreed to keep his secret.

She died in Ultimate Spider-Man #62. Before her death, she made peace with Mary Jane and assured her that she never had romantic feelings for Peter, and that she considered him just as a friend. She was killed by Carnage, a vampiric monster made by the splicing of genetic material from Peter Parker and Dr. Curt Connors. Although Peter was not in the area when she died, he still felt some responsibility for her death, as he allowed Dr. Connors to use his genetic material for experimentation, although it was used in a manner of which he had no knowledge, much less approval.

In Ultimate Spider-Man #25 (October 2002), the Green Goblin tossed Mary Jane off a bridge (the bridge was identified as the Queensboro Bridge in the next issue, Ultimate Spider-Man #26) in a situation nearly identical to the death of Gwen Stacy in Earth 616, including such details as Spider-Man catching her leg with his webbing. Issue #25 ended with a cliffhanger: when Spider-Man pulled Mary Jane up to the bridge she appeared to be either unconscious or dead. The cliffhanger was resolved in the next issue when Mary Jane awoke, uninjured.

The death of Gwen Stacy

Controversy

There are two primary points of controversy surrounding the details of Gwen Stacy's death in Amazing Spider-Man #121 (June 1973).

Bridge

First, from which bridge did Gwen fall? The bridge in the original issue of Amazing Spider-Man #121 was stated in the text to be the George Washington Bridge. The Pulse #4 (September 2004) also states the bridge to be the George Washington Bridge.

However, the art of Amazing Spider-Man #121 depicts the Brooklyn Bridge. Some reprints of the issue have had the text amended and now state the bridge to be the Brooklyn Bridge rather than the George Washington Bridge. Also, Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21 (1987) implies that Gwen fell off the Brooklyn Bridge. In a television interview for the Travel Channel's "Marvel Superheroes Guide to New York City" (2004), Stan Lee states that the artist for the issue had drawn the Brooklyn Bridge, but that he (as editor) mistakenly labeled it the George Washington Bridge.

Further confusing the issue, as discussed in greater detail elsewhere in this article, Mary Jane Watson was thrown off the Queensboro Bridge in both Ultimate Spider-Man #25 and the Spider-Man movie.

Cause of death

The greater source of controversy is the cause of death, which is hotly debated among fans. There are two possibilities for how Gwen died: she could have died from the shock of the fall itself, or she could have died from the sudden stop.

If it was the shock of the fall, then there was nothing Spider-Man could have done once the Green Goblin pushed her off the bridge. She would have been dead before Spider-Man reached her.

However, Spider-Man himself worries that it was the sudden stop, and he torments himself with the what-if question that if he had not stopped her fall, she might have survived hitting the water below (though a realistic assessment indicates that hitting the water from that height would have probably killed her anyway).

The original comic featured a "snap" sound effect next to her head in the panel in which Spider-Man's webbing catches her. Some fans believe this indicates that her neck was broken by being caught by Spider-Man's web. Other fans do not think this sound effect implies this. Further confusing the issue, some reprints of the story take out the "snap" sound effect.

The Green Goblin himself claimed in the issue that it was not Spider-Man's fault, saying, "Romantic idiot! She was dead before your webbing reached her! A fall from that height would kill anyone—before they struck the ground!"

In Amazing Spider-Man #125 (October 1973), the editor of the letters column wrote 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." They also explained that Gerry, Roy and Stan Lee had decided that she had to die because Peter Parker wasn't ready for marriage, and the relationship was too often off and on again.

Several subsequent issues have contained echoes of Gwen's death when other women have fallen great heights during Spider-Man's battles. On most occasions he has saved them by jumping after them and working with their momentum, rather than trying to stop them with his webbing.

Impact

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Gwen Stacy on the cover of Spider-Man: Blue #2

The death of Gwen Stacy had enormous impact in the world of comic book fandom. Before her, except possibly as part of their origin story, superheroes simply did not fail so catastrophically. The girlfriend of the superhero did not die suddenly without warning and so violently. Because of this, the death of Gwen Stacy is often taken as a marker of the end of the Silver Age of Comic Books and the introduction of a new, darker era.

Gwen's death has been repeatedly revisited by many writers and artists:

  • The fourth issue of the 1994 milestone mini-series Marvels centers on Gwen Stacy and her death.
  • Gwen Stacy and, to a lesser extent, Mary Jane Watson, are the focus of the critically-acclaimed Spider-Man: Blue, a 2002 mini-series by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale that retells the beginning of Peter's relationship with the two women.

Also in 2002, Marvel reprinted the issues leading up to and including Gwen Stacy's death as a graphic novel entitled The Death of Gwen Stacy.

She is considered the first victim of the Girlfriend-in-Refrigerator Syndrome.

Gwen Stacy in other media

Spider-Man and Gwen Stacy meet in the animated series
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Spider-Man and Gwen Stacy meet in the animated series

The 1990s animated series deliberately took the decision to leave Gwen out of the story, as the creators felt they could neither allow her to live nor deliberately have a character who was going to die. As in the later movie a variant of the bridge scene occurs with Gwen replaced by Mary Jane Watson. Both Mary Jane and the Goblin are cast into a dimensional void. Later in the series, Spider-Man visits a parallel universe, in which Peter Parker is a wealthy industrialist. Gwen Stacy is his wife, and Spider-Man reflects that his alternate self is married to a woman whom he doesn't even know.

In the film Spider-Man (2002), the Green Goblin held not Gwen Stacy, who does not appear in the film, but rather Mary Jane Watson at a bridge. Spider-Man is successful in saving Mary Jane when the Green Goblin throws her off the bridge, which in the film is the Queensboro Bridge.

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