One of the most defining moments of the Spider-Man comic book series is the death of Gwen Stacy. In 1973, Marvel published a story where Spider-Man’s girlfriend was killed by the Green Goblin. This started off a chain of events that led to the Green Goblin becoming Spider-Man’s most iconic villain. It also signified the point at which Spider-Man started to become darker as a series. Gwen’s death is also considered to be the first “woman in a refrigerator” moment. This is the term given to the girlfriends of superheroes that are murdered in terrible ways, in order to create drama in a comic book.
It is a shame that Gwen Stacy’s character is so defined by her fate. She holds an important place as part of the Spider-Man mythos and has a lot more history and significance to her character than she is given credit for. We are here today to give Gwen Stacy her due. From her exclusion from the ’90s Spider-Man cartoon to her incredible return to the modern Marvel universe.
Here are 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Gwen Stacy!
15. Gwen’s Death Kept Her Out Of The ’90s Spider-Man Cartoon
Despite the mixed reception that The Amazing Spider-Man movies received, the one thing that everyone can agree on was that Emma Stone’s performance as Gwen Stacy was a highlight of the series. The famous death of the character hung over Stone’s portrayal, however, and everyone was waiting for the moment when she finally fell (which did indeed happen in the second film). It seems that any inclusion of Gwen Stacy must also include her death.
It was this kind of thinking that led to Gwen being almost entirely removed from the ’90s Spider-Man cartoon. In the show, Mary Jane was made into Spider-Man’s main love interest. Gwen’s place was taken by Felicia Hardy (the Black Cat), as she can provide the romantic drama without having the weight of an expected death on her shoulders.
The Spider-Man cartoon was one of Marvel’s longest-running animated series, with 65 episodes being produced over four years. A version of Gwen Stacy from another dimension only appeared once, during a brief cameo in the final episode.
14. Censoring The Snap
In The Amazing Spider-Man #121, Norman Osborn is driven over the edge due to his son becoming gravely ill. He becomes the Green Goblin once more and kidnaps Gwen Stacy. He takes her to the Brooklyn Bridge, with Spider-Man hot on his trail. The two of them battle and Spider-Man gains the upper hand. The Goblin throws Gwen off the bridge and Spider-Man instinctively catches her with his webbing. As Gwen is caught, a small “Snap” sound effect is placed near her head. It is heavily implied that the sudden stop of her descent caused Gwen’s neck to break, leading to her death.
The question of what exactly killed Gwen Stacy must have been a hot topic among the fans of the day, as Roy Thomas (the editor of the strip) felt the need to clarify the issue in the letters column of The Amazing Spider-Man #125. According to Thomas, Spider-Man’s webbing did indeed kill Gwen through a whiplash effect. With that being said, there was no way for Spider-Man to save her in that situation and Gwen was doomed regardless.
Roy Thomas’ explanation has since been retconned through various reports of Gwen dying from the shock of the fall (before Spider-Man’s web even touched her). This change seems to have stuck, as some reprints of the issue have removed the snap sound effect altogether.
13. Send In The Clones
Death is cheap in the world of superheroes. As such, it has almost become a running gag that certain characters keep returning from the afterlife. People like Magneto, Jean Grey and even Spider-Man himself tend to have trouble remaining in the grave. It is due to this revolving door death policy that certain characters have also become famous for not coming back. Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben is one such character and Gwen Stacy is another.
While Spider-Man has yet to gather the Dragon Balls and wished for the original Gwen Stacy to return, she has managed to come back in other ways. The most prominent way in which Gwen has returned is through cloning. One of Spider-Man’s villains is a skilled biologist, known as the Jackal. The Jackal was once a teacher of both Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy. He secretly fell in love with the much younger Gwen and her death drove him insane. The Jackal would manage to create a clone of Gwen Stacy for his own ends.
12. The Creepy Pregnancy Retcon
It seems that the most controversial Spider-Man stories are the ones where the writers attempt to change the past. “The Clone Saga” came about due to Marvel following up a story from the ’70s, where Spider-Man battled his clone. The question of “did Spider-Man survive or was it his clone all along?” led to the creation of one of the most hated storylines in Marvel’s history. “One More Day” was born from the desire to undo pretty much all of Spider-Man’s characterization since his wedding to Mary Jane.
Of all the changes to the established Spider-Man lore, the “Sins Past” storyline is the most hated. In The Amazing Spider-Man #509-514, it was revealed that Gwen Stacy had sex with Norman Osborn (a man who is around 20-30 years older than her) during a trip to France that took place before her death. This led to Gwen giving birth to twins, named Gabriel and Sarah. She refused to allow Norman Osborn to have anything to do with his children and swore to raise them with Peter Parker. This change now established that Osborn killed Stacy over their mutual children as an act of revenge, rather than unaccountable madness.
11. Ultimate Gwen Was Killed By Carnage
The death of Gwen Stacy was so iconic that it has been repeated in various forms of Spider-Man media. Mary Jane Watson was almost killed in a similar manner during the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies (but was saved due to Spider-Man catching her, rather than using his webbing). Her death was so iconic that it kept her out of the ’90s Spider-Man cartoon.
When Gwen Stacy was introduced in Ultimate Spider-Man, many fans assumed that she too would one day be thrown off a bridge. The death of Ultimate Gwen would actually turn out to be quite different.
After making her way home, the Ultimate version of Gwen Stacy is attacked by Carnage, who was hiding in a bush. He drains the life force from her body, killing her in seconds and leaving a mummified corpse in his wake. Gwen’s sudden death did not last long, as Carnage created a clone of Gwen from the energy he absorbed. Gwen would later be freed from Carnage’s influence and was returned to the state that she was in before her death.
10. She Died In Aunt May’s Place
Aunt May must be one of the beloved characters with the writing staff at Marvel, as the other women in Peter Parker’s life keep getting sacrificed in order to save her. The reason Peter Parker and Mary Jane accepted Mephisto’s deal in “One More Day” was so that Aunt May’s life would be spared.
When it came to writing an issue where one of Spider-Man’s main supporting cast was going to be killed, it was originally Aunt May that was going to die. The task of coming up with this issue was given to Gerry Conway. The target of the death was eventually switched to Gwen Stacy after John Romita Sr. managed to convince everyone that her death would have more meaning. While Aunt May’s death would certainly be traumatic, she was also a very old woman. If she died, then it would have actually freed Peter Parker up from many of his responsibilities (his main reason for taking crap from J. Jonah Jameson was because he needed to help Aunt May with the bills).
John Romita Sr. convinced the higher-ups at Marvel that killing Gwen Stacy would have had more of an effect on the series. She was a young and vibrant woman, who also happened to be Spider-Man’s girlfriend. Mary Jane had overtaken Gwen in popularity and was now positioned to become Spider-Man’s sole love interest. In the end, the story was changed and Gwen was killed in Aunt May’s place.
9. She Wasn’t Peter Parker’s First Love
When the question of Spider-Man’s love interests is brought up, the two names that people know are Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane Watson. He also has a kind of Catwoman/Batman thing going on with the Black Cat, where they flirt on rooftops after beating up criminals. In Ultimate Spider-Man, Peter Parker also had a brief fling with Kitty Pryde of the X-Men.
Gwen Stacy is usually considered to be Peter Parker’s first girlfriend, with Mary Jane being introduced later on. This is actually a misconception, as Peter Parker had a different love interest as far back as The Amazing Spider-Man #4. While working at the Daily Bugle, Peter Parker fell for a girl named Betty Brant.
Betty Brant and Peter Parker were attracted to each other almost instantly. Their relationship became complicated when Brant’s brother was killed during a fight between Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus. The two attempted to make it work, but Brant felt that Peter Parker cared more for his classmate, Liz Allen than he did for her. Betty Brant has remained as one of the longest running members of Spider-Man’s supporting cast.
8. Peter Would Rather Be With Gwen Than With Mary Jane
The character of Mary Jane Watson was created to add some drama to the Peter Parker/Gwen Stacy relationship. The writers soon realised that Mary Jane was the far more interesting character. They started to put the spotlight on her and pushed Gwen Stacy further into the background. After Gwen died, Peter and Mary Jane grew closer. They would eventually fall in love and get married.
Mary Jane Watson and Peter Parker were together for many years (before the horrible “One More Day” event). It has been established that she is the love of Spider-Man’s life… or so it might seem.
In 2005, Marvel ran a crossover event called House of M. The Scarlet Witch used her powers to remake reality in such a way that all of the heroes would receive their heart’s desires. For Peter Parker, this meant that he was married to Gwen Stacy and the pair had children. Despite what he might say in the regular continuity, Peter Parker’s heart belongs to his first girlfriend.
7. “One More Day” Almost Brought Gwen Back
The most controversial modern Spider-Man story is “One More Day”. It came hot on the heels of one of the most interesting developments in Spider-Man history and it pushed the reset button way too quickly on what could have been years of new stories.
During the original Civil War, Peter Parker revealed his true identity to the world. He did this while under the protection of Tony Stark and the pro-registration faction of heroes. When Parker realised that Stark was up to no good, he was forced to go into hiding with his family. All of Spider-Man’s enemies were eager for revenge and it did not take long for the Kingpin to hire a sniper that could take out the whole family. Aunt May was shot and there was nothing anyone could do to save her. It took a deal with Mephisto (Marvel’s version of the devil) to save Aunt May’s life. In exchange for deleting the marriage of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson, Mephisto would prevent the attack on Aunt May from ever happening. The deal was struck and reality was rewritten.
In the aftermath of “One More Day”, Aunt May was brought back, along with Harry Osborn (for some unexplained reason). Spider-Man’s true identity was also a secret again. Along with the return of Harry, the writers also wanted Mephisto to bring Gwen Stacy back. It took an internal revolt from many different writers and editors within Marvel in order to keep Gwen dead.
6. In The Age Of Apocalypse, Gwen Was Thor’s Bodyguard
In 1995, there was a major X-Men crossover event that managed to drag the entire Marvel universe into a dark new reality. It was called The Age of Apocalypse and it showed a world where Professor Xavier was killed by his time-travelling son, Legion. Apocalypse had taken over most of America, with Magneto leading the X-Men in a hopeless rebellion against him.
The Age of Apocalypse was mainly centred around the X-Men, so the non-mutant Marvel characters did not play that big of a role. In this new reality, Gwen Stacy was spared the destruction of America, as she was in France at the time (presumably not getting impregnated by Norman Osborn). After suffering from an illness, she is healed by Dr. Donald Blake, who never found the hammer of Thor in this reality (thus preventing the Asgardians from coming to Earth in order to stop Apocalypse). Once she recovered, Gwen Stacy then became Donald Blake’s bodyguard and protected him from the forces of Apocalypse.
Gwen Stacy and Donald Blake would go on to be captured by the Marauders (human servants of Apocalypse). Gwen would become instrumental in destroying Mikhail Rasputin’s ship and preventing Apocalypse from launching an attack on the free humans of Europe.
With the meteoric rise of Deadpool as a popular character, it didn’t take long for Marvel to start trying to expand the “Pool” family. This led to the creation of the cosplay-friendly Lady Deadpool, as well as Dogpool (a dog version of Deadpool from another reality).
One such character to receive the Deadpool treatment was Gwen Stacy. Originally intended to be a one-off character who appeared on a variant cover for Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars #2, “Gwenpool” was the name given to the mixture of Gwen Stacy and Deadpool.
Despite only having one appearance (on a cover no less), the Gwenpool concept became popular with fans. This led to Gwenpool having a few backup stories of her own. In April of 2016, Gwenpool was given her own series.
Even though the character was intended to be a mixture of Gwen Stacy and Deadpool, Gwenpool actually has no relation to either. When the character was finally fleshed out, it was revealed that her name is Gwen Poole and that she comes from our reality (or a similar one). What Gwenpool lacks in powers, she more than makes up for with her intimate knowledge of the Marvel universe, due to her being a fan of the comics in her own reality.
4. The Wrong Bridge
Stan Lee will be the first person to admit that he has a terrible memory. One of the reasons that a lot of Marvel characters have names that start with the same letter (Peter Parker, Reed Richards, Bruce Banner, Scott Summers) is so that it would help Stan Lee to remember them. It’s hard to blame the man, as he must have written hundreds (if not thousands) of comics over the years.
During the issue where Gwen Stacy is killed, Stan Lee made a major mistake. He is not solely to blame, however, as his editor, Roy Thomas, didn’t catch it before it went to print. When Spider-Man tracks down the Green Goblin, he claims that Gwen Stacy had been brought to the George Washington Bridge. It is obvious from its appearance that they were actually on the Brooklyn Bridge.
To his credit, Stan Lee has admitted to this mistake and has never attempted to have it changed in reprints (like with the “snap” sound, mentioned above). He could have just as easily placed the blame on Roy Thomas and had the issues changed later on.
3. DC Parodied The Death Of Gwen Stacy (And Gave It A Happy Ending)
Somebody who is not that familiar with the comics industry might be under the impression that Marvel and DC are bitter rivals. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Both companies have collaborated with each other on numerous occasions throughout the years. The staff of both companies have always been very complimentary of the competition (outside of a few good-natured digs).
There have been occasions where both Marvel and DC have created characters and teams that were intended to be a parody or reference to ones from the other company. Marvel, for example, has the Squadron Supreme, who were intended to be a copy of the Justice League. DC once had a team called the Champions of Angor, who greatly resembled The Avengers.
In Superman/Batman #21, the two leads are transported to a world that is guarded by a superhero team, called The Maximums. This team was made up of legally distinct copies of all of the big Marvel heroes, one of whom was a Spider-Man lookalike, called the Bug. In issue #22, the Bug’s girlfriend is thrown from a bridge in a manner that was identical to the death of Gwen Stacy. Luckily for Bug’s girl, Superman is around to swoop in and save her life.
2. The Skrull Seduction
In New Avengers #31, Echo managed to kill Elektra. Once dead, Elektra’s body changed to that of a Skrull – the shapeshifting aliens that had tried to take over the Earth on many occasions. This led to paranoia among the superhero community, as Skrull Elektra had managed to fool every form of detection that existed for revealing shapeshifters. This led to the Secret Invasion event, where it is revealed that several key heroes and villains had been replaced by Skrulls, as part of a larger plot to invade Earth.
One of the most important figures to have been taken and replaced by the Skrulls was Hank Pym. He is one of the founding members of the Avengers and is one of the most respected heroes on Earth. He was also a major player during the Civil War event.
It was revealed in Mighty Avengers #15 that the Skrulls had managed to get Hank Pym by seducing him. One of the Skrulls took on the form of an attractive blonde student, who began a relationship with Pym and managed to make him reveal all of his secrets. Once the Skrulls had learnt all they could from Pym, he was captured and replaced.
The most curious thing about the Skrull who seduced Pym is the fact that the artists chose to use Gwen Stacy’s design for her human form. This likely wasn’t a conscious decision by the Skrull (as they wouldn’t know who she was), so it would have been a choice made by the artist.
With Mary Jane taking the place of Spider-Man’s main love interest (especially in the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films), Gwen Stacy’s importance was downplayed for a long time. If you hadn’t read all the Spider-Man comics in chronological order, then why should you care about a character who died over forty years ago?
This began to change in 2012, with Emma Stone’s acclaimed performance in The Amazing Spider-Man. It wasn’t until 2015 that Gwen Stacy became a major fixture in the comics once more.
During the Spider-Verse series, Spider-Man would encounter every version of himself from multiple realities. One of the new characters he met was Spider-Woman, who was actually Gwen Stacy. In her original reality, it was Gwen Stacy that was bitten by the radioactive spider and it was Peter Parker who died (after becoming The Lizard).
The character of “Spider-Gwen” (as she was known by fans) was so popular that it led to her getting her own series. Spider-Gwen has since appeared in many Marvel video games, as well as some of the newer Spider-Man cartoons.
With a whole new Spider-Man canon existing within the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Sony still holding the rights to the franchise. Could a Spider-Gwen movie be on the horizon?