The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is out and I thought it was pretty good. I am bummed out about one thing, though. It was Gwen Stacy dying at the tail end of the picture. Even with Spider-Man valiantly trying to rescue her (and even catching her with his web at the very last second), it wasn’t enough and she still perished. A lot of people watched the film were shocked with her death at the end of the film. Here’s the thing: most comic book fans, including myself, knew it was going to happen. It was an inevitability that was forecast more than 40 years ago. For me, it was like watching people react to the Red Wedding.
See, most people think that the main purpose of Gwen is to die. But her death 40 years ago served a purpose. While it did stir up a lot of controversy and outrage among the comic book community, that wasn’t it’s main reason for happening. Rather, unlike most major “events” in comics nowadays, Gwen’s death wasn’t a marketing gimmick.
She died they couldn’t do anything with the character at the time.
It may seem like a really lame reason to kill off such a popular character (and she was very popular) but they couldn’t figure out what to do with her! After going through all of the trials and tribulations of getting over Captain Stacy’s death, Peter and Gwen were happy together. But it’s never Spidey’s destiny to be happy. So, the writers and editors at Marvel Comics figured out that she would make a great “tool” for Spider-Man to get out of his “happy” rut by having her die. Yes, that includes Stan Lee as well.
But her death had a grander purpose than just making sure Peter Parker would not get his happy ever after. Her “sacrifice” did more than that. It definitely had long lasting effects in the Spider-Man canon. Her death definitely affected Peter Parker since she wasn’t sure if she caused her death in the first place! Even though Green Goblin did throw her off the George Washington Bridge (or the Brooklyn Bridge… no one’s really sure) and she did snare her leg with his webbing, when Spider-Man did reel her in, she discovered she was already dead.
Now, in comics, that just would’ve meant she was already dead when she was falling. But… nope. It was actually Spider-Man that caused her accidental death! Eagle eyed readers noticed a tiny “snap” sound effect when Spider-Man caught Gwen. But it’s placement was very awkward on the panel; it was right next to Gwen’s neck, implying Gwen’s sudden stop caused her neck to snap. Spider-Man caused her death, essentially. Spider-Man has relived this scene frequently in his head and has already figured out what to do when this “no win” scenario comes up again.
It also made someone rethink her choices in life: Mary Jane Watson. Before Gwen’s death, Mary Jane Watson was a superficial party girl. Even though she was the polar opposite of the highly intellectual Gwen, the two of them did become friends. Mary Jane took Gwen’s death very hard and understood the loss Peter felt. It was their mutual mourning of Gwen that eventually brought them together. Mary Jane cleaned up her act and did eventually marry Peter Parker later in the comics.
While these contributions are extremely big, Gwen’s death had bigger ramifications throughout the comic book world. The Night Gwen Stacy Died, the story arc that details the tale, changed the face of comics. Even though Marvel already ushered in an era of more adult storytelling with the drug storyline involving Harry Osborn, Gwen’s death cemented it. Comics were going to tell more gritty, mature narratives. It announced to the world that comics wasn’t for kids anymore. Comics weren’t “funny books.” Comics have grown up.
So Gwen Stacy’s death had a purpose for comic book lovers all around the world. Even if the reason was superficial at the start, her death played an important part of a comic book reader’s growth into maturity. It is sad, though, since we’ll never really see what would’ve happened if she did survive…
What’s your reaction to Gwen Stacy’s death? Please place your thoughts in the comments section below!