Flashback Friday: Gwen Stacy
Jump back over 50 years for the first appearance of Spider-Man’s lost love!
Every Friday we use the powers of Marvel Unlimited to look back at the very first appearance of a major character, place or object that made waves this week.
Reunions with old flames usually feel strange and awkward. That goes double when you’re a super hero whose college sweetheart died in a fight with your arch enemy and has been cloned repeatedly in the ensuing years.
This week’s AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #23 by Dan Slott, Christos Gage, and Giuseppe Camuncoli features a conversation between Peter Parker and the recently returned Gwen Stacy taking place in and around THE CLONE CONSPIRACY #4. In order to truly feel the impact of this chat, it’s important to look back at the very first appearance of Gwen in the pages of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #31 from 1965 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.
After a night of battling some goons, Peter Parker heads to Empire State University for registration and returns home to see Aunt May faint. Heading in for his first day at school with a lot on his mind, Peter first met Gwen as she chatted with Harry Osborn and Flash Thompson. To set the stage, this also marks Harry’s first appearance and Flash still dislikes Parker from their high school days, but Gwen’s already heard of Peter’s intelligence and seems impressed. However, Peter’s so wrapped up in his own thoughts that he doesn’t see Flash trying to introduce him to his future best friend and girlfriend.
Even without meeting him, Gwen can’t stop thinking about Parker during their first class. “He’s not as husky as Flash…but brighter…and very attractive!” she muses to herself.
Later, in chem lab, Harry and Flash want to play a trick on Peter because they think he’s a square who’s too full of himself so they send Gwen to distract him while they switch out his chemicals, causing a minor explosion. In their first meeting, Gwen Stacy tries several times to get the erstwhile Spider-Man’s attention, but he doesn’t even turn around when he finally gives her the pen she asks to borrow!
Even after several attempts at getting his attention and failing, Gwen can’t resist the challenge and keeps after Peter, but it doesn’t work—at least in this issue. The eventual relationship between the two became strained after Gwen’s dad, Captain George Stacy, died as the result of a battle between Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus. Gwen’s growing hatred of the masked vigilante and Peter’s guilt combined to form a wedge in the romance that stopped him from proposing to her when she decided to move to England for a while.
Eventually, Gwen returned to the Big Apple and rekindled a relationship with Peter that ended when The Green Goblin captured her and threw her from atop the George Washington Bridge in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #121. The Wallcrawler tried to save her with his webbing, but failed. Gwen’s death not only added a permanent monument in Peter Parker’s garden of guilt, but also established a more serious tone in the Marvel Universe.
In 1975, Gwen mysteriously reappeared in the original Clone Saga, but she turned out to be a copy created by The Jackal. Since then, a variety of different clones have popped up to play with Spider-Man’s head, but the realization that Gwen had twins with Norman Osborn before her death in the “Sins Past” storyline might take the cake as far as surprises go. In The Clone Conspiracy, Jackal explained that he grabbed Gwen’s body and brought her back to life complete with her full memories. The story also involves everyone’s favorite alternate reality version of the character, Spider-Gwen, otherwise known as Earth-65’s Spider-Woman!