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*Note: I wanted to write this piece because of the latest release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2. There will be spoilers for Gwen Stacy’s story. However, this piece focuses on the comic book character rather than the movie character.
Advanced knowledge in science, being cute and sassy.
There are two things to know about Gwen Stacy: she is the quintessential college girlfriend and (SPOILER!) she dies. Yup, I broke that news to you quick. As soon as you fell in love with her, she was gone. The quick history of Gwen is that she is Peter Parkers girlfriend. But of course, when you are involved with a man who is also superhero, in this case Spider-Man, things aren’t always that simple. Gwen and Peter met at Empire State University when she was a student of Biology, and their encounter wasn’t on the best of terms. Over time, they developed a friendship that became a relationship. They were then on-again and off-again for years. Contrary to most of the story telling, Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane Watson knew each other, and even ran in the same circles. Also, she was a model. Peter Parker is a lucky guy. But their love wasn’t so lucky for so many reasons. Because Peter never revealed his alter-ego to Gwen, she often felt abandoned by him when he “disappeared.” During a battle with Doctor Octopus, Gwen’s dad, Captain George Stacy, is accidentally killed by falling rubble. Gwen leaves the country only after trying to get Peter to propose marriage. Peter, of course, is guilt ridden, not only because he felt responsible for George’s death, but because George knew the truth about Peter, so he does not ask Gwen to marry him. After being gone for some time, Gwen returns to New York. Only 22 issues later, Gwen’s life ends. Even worse, it is by Spider-Man’s hands. After being kidnapped by Norman Osborn as Green Goblin, Gwen is thrown off of a bridge. When Spidey tries to save her by casting a web, he accidentally snaps her neck.
Why is she important?:
The thing about Gwen Stacy is that her life and her death don’t exist without the other. There are many compelling arguments that Gwen was just a plot point. Gwen is referenced in Gail Simone’s Women in Refrigerators. However, a large part of me has to disagree with this. Gwen and Mary Jane have been compared for decades. It has been debated in and out who is Peter’s true love. And in references even up to modern day (Gwen died in 1973), Peter still loves Gwen. Girl has been dead for 41 years. He still puts flowers on the bridge she died on every year. Yes, Gwen’s death was an easy way to give Peter an emotional break-down and to make Mary Jane grow up a bit. And killing her off prevented a teenaged Peter from getting married. But Peter’s background as Spider-Man has always been a dark tale. And I don’t believe Gwen was a one-time boo-hoo for him. She represents a lot of things for not only Peter, but fans of books. Gwen is what could have been and what we all believe our lives will be when we are young. Gwen was more than a looker, too. She had a strong mental connection with Peter. Sure, she didn’t know his secret identity, but she had a high level of intelligence, matching Peter’s. Peter considered her an equal and possibly the only person to understand him.
Gwen Stacy sparks a lot of debate. Did her neck snap or was she dead before the fall? Is she hotter than Mary Jane? Is she a better match for Peter than Mary Jane? Is Gwen’s death the end of the Silver Age? Is Gwen’s death the epitome of the female trope in a genre that is male-centered? I think the fact that you can find countless, and I mean countless, articles on all these questions proves why Gwen Stacy is important. She may not have super powers. In the comics, she may not have known about Peter’s identity. She may be just a very smart and pretty girl who had to die. But that doesn’t make her any less. Gwen Stacy is what makes comic books dynamic and important not only to the comic culture, but to our society because we can take a girl who seemingly is very normal and create a very large dialogue about what it all means.
What she means to me:
Really and truly what Gwen means to me is the first love we all lost. Gwen was meant for Peter. She just was. She was smart and witty. And then she was gone. We have all experienced the loss of our first love. And many of our favorite characters from other stories have, too. We all feel a strong connection to them. FIrst loves stay with us forever. Gwen was beautiful and it was readily accepted that she was a Science Major. Of course in the movies, she is a high school student, on her way to Oxford, and very knowledgable in science, even working for OsCorp. Gwen doesn’t try to be anything she’s not. Therefore, she accepts Peter for what he is. Because of that, they connected so well. But first loves rarely work out. In this case, their love ended tragically. However, I believe the Peter Parker and Spider-Man wouldn’t be the well-known creations they are now with out Gwen Stacy’s life or her death.
photos belong to Marvel Comics
written by Adrian Puryear