It’s always amazing when a character was so beloved by fans, that even after the character’s death, their appearance continued to exist in movies and television shows. Peter Parker (better known as Spider-Man) and Gwen Stacy’s love story is a timeless tale that has captivated the hearts of Marvel Comics readers for decades. Introduced in “The Amazing Spider-Man #31” (1965), Gwen was initially portrayed as a dedicated classmate of the college Peter was attending. Their bond deepened over time, blossoming into a love story that has become legendary in comic book lore. We know this to be true because of the numerous comic issues documenting their relationship. In fact, too many, as you will witness as I try to list some of them in this article.
The Girl Next Door: Gwen Stacy
Gwen Stacy, the daughter of NYPD Captain George Stacy, was the perfect cliche nice girl that every guy wanted to date. This was how she was portrayed from the beginning. She was smart, kind, and exuded a certain charm that soon caught Peter’s attention. Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy had matching personalities, morals and intelligence, their inevitable relationship was a no-brainer. Her relationship with Peter was developed over the course of several issues. Straight from the horse’s mouth, Stan Lee (writer for Marvel Comics) in an interview described Gwen as the girl next door.
Gwen’s affection for Peter was evident from their early interactions, as seen in “The Amazing Spider-Man” 36. Like an obsessed stalker, Gwen follows Peter into a space exhibit with the intention of bumping into him, and getting to know him better as a result. But after a seemingly cowardly event of Peter fleeing, Gwen begins to tease him. The irony is that, on page 15, Peter’s thoughts reveal that he was interested in her as well.
The Spider’s Love: Peter Parker
Peter Parker, on the other hand, was not your typical comic book hero. He had school problems, family problems, and money problems. Balancing his everyday life as a student with his secret identity as Spider-Man was never easy. This perspective of a superhero’s imperfect personal life had yet to be explored in comics. Yet, in Gwen Stacy, he found a soulmate who accepted him, flaws and all.
Peter eventually had to admit to himself that he was in love with her. In issue 60 of “Amazing Spider-Man”, Peter has a nightmare about his situation with Gwen Stacy’s father, who he believed was brainwashed by The Kingpin. He wonders how he can battle the father of the girl he loves. After saying it in his sleep, he realizes that it was the first time that he admitted it to himself.
Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy’s First Kiss
You would think that after a lengthy period of getting acquainted with each other, that Peter and Gwen would have kissed. However, it wasn’t until issue 59 of Amazing Spider-Man do we see this happen. Peter was missing, and had used amnesia as an excuse to explain his absence. When he returns, Gwen embraces him with open arms. More than that, however, is that she offers her lips to touch his. For the first time, this young couple kiss. Or so it appears, since after close inspection, their lips may not be touching after all. The most interesting thing about the whole thing is that Gwen’s father watches as she does this. Peter, apparently afraid of his wrath, immediately objects. Although Gwen’s father is fine with it, it’s hard not to imagine the consequences of kissing the daughter of an ex-police captain.
Their First Time Together
Now that we’ve established Gwen Stacy and Peter Parker’s first kiss, what about their first time alone together? It has always been unclear whether the two of them had slept together. That being said, Amazing Spider-man issue 99 makes some implications that have some fans scratching their heads. Near the end of the issue, Peter goes to visit Gwen’s apartment. He intended to take her out for dinner, but his new salary position meant that he wouldn’t get paid until Friday.
Rather than make excuses, he shows up anyway to let her know that he was broke. Gwen promptly calls Peter an idiot, and says that she had no intention of going out, and they are staying right there in the apartment. She says that this is the one time that she is having him all to herself. Interpret this as you will, but it seems that she wants him to stay at her apartment for a particular reason. She also mentions that she spent all afternoon cooking dinner for them, so perhaps she just intended that they have an excellent meal together. But I prefer to assume that they were knocking boots.
The Tragic End: Gwen Stacy’s Death
By now, you probably have already heard of this. It was even presented in the second Amazing Spider-Man movie, with Gwen being played by Emma Stone. The death of Gwen Stacy in “The Amazing Spider-Man #121” (1973) shocked readers worldwide and marked a significant turning point in Peter Parker’s life. Gwen’s death at the hands of the Green Goblin was a defining moment in comic book history, marking an end to the Silver Age of Comics. The tragedy of her death is that it was a direct result of Spider-Man’s attempt to save her, establishing a guilt that Peter carries with him in subsequent issues. The rumor has always been that the decision for her to be killed off in the comic series was due to a misunderstanding between the writers.
The Aftermath: Peter Parker’s Guilt
Peter Parker’s guilt over Gwen’s death haunted him for many years. He blamed himself for not being able to save her, and this guilt significantly impacted his subsequent relationships. Peter’s self-blame is evident in “The Amazing Spider-Man #122”, where he grapples with his grief and guilt, providing a raw and human side to the superhero persona of Spider-Man. Mary Jane tries to show her support as a family friend, but Peter tells it to her like it is. Her personality is nothing like the sweet-nature person Gwen was. Mary Jane is all about having fun, getting what she wants, and looking out for herself. The truth tends to come out when your feelings are raw. Of course, she didn’t know the full extent of Peter’s involvement with her death, so it’s understandable to see why the outburst shocked her.
Gwen Stacy’s Clone
Gwen made a shocking return, revealing that she had been cloned by the villainous Jackal. This storyline, introduced in “The Amazing Spider-Man #149”, brought Gwen Stacy back into Peter Parker’s life, albeit briefly. This issue was a little crazy, since it had a lot of landmarks and interesting things to see. For example, Gwen Stacy is au naturel as she emerges from the cloning machine. As the narration points out, she is not only beautiful but pure when she emerges from the machine. This is the way most people think of Gwen Stacy. As the story concludes, Peter goes to Mary Jane for comfort. And by comfort, I mean that he shows his love for her behind closed doors. This particular comic, for fans, marks the moment when Peter and Mary Jane sleep together for the first time. It is also the last comic that Gerry Conway wrote for, and had also been the writer for the series for the previous three years.
Gwen and Peter’s Married Life
There were a couple of times in comic book history where Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy get married. In issue 24 of the “What If?” comic series, it explores if Peter was able to save her life from the day she was thrown off a bridge by The Green Goblin. In this alternate reality story, Peter as Spider-Man manages to use his superior leg muscles to dive downward and grab her before she hits the water. He then twists his body around so that he would be underneath her, and his body would cushion their fall into the water.
While Green Goblin leaves, assuming Spider-Man probably died from the fall, Spider-Man emerges from the water and gives Gwen CPR after removing his mask. As he revives her, she ironically is angry at Peter since he is apparently Spider-Man, a person who allegedly killed her father. Peter explains that not only didn’t he kill him, but her father’s last words were for him to take care of her daughter Gwen. He proposes to her on a condemned pier, which she astonishingly agrees with an enthusiastic “yes”. Unfortunately, his wedding gets crashed by police with a warrant for Spider-Man’s arrest.
House of M Marriage
In the alternate reality of “The House of M” storyline, Peter and Gwen are happily married. This storyline, which presents an alternate universe created by the Scarlet Witch, gives fans a glimpse of what Peter and Gwen’s life could have been. It’s a bittersweet depiction that underscores the depth of their relationship, highlighting what they lost with Gwen’s untimely demise. During this story, Uncle Ben is still alive, and Spider-Man’s identity is not a secret. But what is most interesting is that it seems that Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy have a baby together. When Peter discovers that his life was a lie, and Gwen actually died in reality, he loses his mind. From this hypothetical situation, we were able to see the path where Peter could have been happy. This is a rare thing.
Peter and Gwen on Screen
On the silver screen, Gwen Stacy’s character has been immortalized by actresses Bryce Dallas Howard in “Spider-Man 3” (2007) and Emma Stone in The Amazing Spider-Man movie series (2012-2014). These films brought Peter and Gwen’s love story to a wider audience, presenting their relationship’s depth and complexity. The films’ portrayal is true to the comics, capturing the essence of their relationship.
Although Gwen maintained her good-girl image by Emma Stone, Peter played by Andrew Garfield was given the appearance of a rebel. This made it really easy for her dad to hate him, especially since he wandered into her bedroom window rather than go through the front door. Plus her dad, famously known as Captain Stacy in the comics, involved in law enforcement.
The Animated Series: Gwen Stacy’s Portrayal
Gwen Stacy has also been a significant character in various animated Spider-Man series. Her character has been explored in depth in shows like “The Spectacular Spider-Man” and “Marvel’s Spider-Man”. These series showcase Gwen’s intelligence, bravery, and her relationship with Peter, staying true to the comic book depiction of the character. During the 90s Spider-Man animated series, Gwen Stacy only appeared within the final episodes of the entire series. She seemed to be from another universe in this story, so Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy are not a couple, per se. Although, Gwen seems to be convinced that they are together, which must be the case in her own universe.
Stacy Re-imagined as Spider-Gwen
In a twist of fate, an alternate universe was introduced in “Edge of Spider-Verse #2” where Gwen Stacy was bitten by the radioactive spider instead of Peter Parker. This version of Gwen, known as Spider-Woman or Spider-Gwen, offered a fresh take on the character. Her background is explained on a single page, which is crazy considering how popular her character had become. This silly little comic issue now sells for hundreds of dollars. It led to her own series, plus her appearing in animated movies. Spider-Gwen’s existence is a testament to Gwen Stacy’s popularity and enduring appeal to Marvel’s readership. Peter’s participation with Spider-Gwen in her universe, though, is limited.
The Lasting Pain: Peter’s Lingering Grief
Peter’s grief over losing Gwen never truly dissipates. It continues to shape his actions and decisions, serving as a constant reminder of what he lost. This enduring grief is seen in numerous comics, such as “Spider-Man: Blue”, where Peter reflects on the love and loss of Gwen Stacy. This series is a testament to the lasting impact Gwen had on Peter’s life and the Spider-Man narrative. If you are a fan of these early comic stories, go ahead and grab the Amazing Spider-Man omnibus (affiliate link) to read it in all its glory. Web-fluid not included.