Gwen Stacy is a fictional Marvel Comics character created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. She is best known as one of Spider-Man's most prominent love interests, second only to Mary Jane Watson. First appearing in 1965 in The Amazing Spider-Man #65, Gwen was introduced as one of Peter Parker's new college classmates along with Harry Osborn. A love square soon developed between the three of them and MJ, but over time Peter and Harry exclusively dated Gwen and MJ respectively, which segues into the first of two things that Gwen is most famous for.
In The Amazing Spider-Man #121, Gwen, who didn't know her boyfriend was Spider-Man, was kidnapped by his nemesis Green Goblin and taken to the Brooklyn Bridge. Spider-Man came to rescue her, and in the ensuing conflict Green Goblin knocked an unconscious Gwen off the bridge. Spidey desperately tried to snag her with his webs, and caught her before she hit the water... only the whiplash to snap her spine, killing Gwen and leading to one of the most infamous panels in comic book history.
To this day, The Night Gwen Stacy Died remains one the most shocking stories in all of comics, especially considering that at the time it was published (1973) the idea of permanently killing off a love interest was unheard of. Gwen's death shook the entire industry to its core, marking the definitive end to the innocence of The Silver Age of Comic Books and paving the way for darker, more experimental material.
It's worth noting that, astonishingly, Gwen has actually managed to remain dead since 1973, an astounding feat for a major comic book character. That's not to say she hasn't been around in any capacity. Just a few years after she died, a clone of Gwen created by the Jackal (Gwen's Stalker with a Test Tube) and lacking any memory her death appeared to shake things up. The clone was sent packing pretty quick, but this marked the first of several Gwen-clones to be created for lack of a true resurrection. The most notable of these was the one appearing in Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy, which features a corporation headed by the Jackal that had figured out how to "resurrect" people by creating clones of them with all of their memories up to their deaths. Peter Parker was forced to confront a version of Gwen who remembered dying and also now knew he was Spider-Man. Neither of them got much time to angst, though, since the Gwen-clone and multiple others ended up dying at the end of the storyline.
Elsewhere, Gwen has popped up alive in multiple alternate universe, including the second thing she's most famous for. Spider-Gwen first appeared in Edge of Spider-Verse #2 as Gwen's Earth-65 counterpart who came from a universe where Gwen Stacy was bitten by the radioactive spider and failed to save Peter Parker. Since then, Spider-Gwen has receives several ongoing series and has even migrated to Earth-616, the Prime Marvel Universe.
In 2020, a five-issue miniseries called Gwen Stacy, starring the self-titled lady, began publication, showing Gwen's life before she met Peter Parker.
Notable Comic Book Appearances (Earth-616 Continuity)
- Lee-Ditko Spider-Man
- The Night Gwen Stacy Died
- Spider-Man: Blue
- Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy (as a clone)
- Gwen Stacy (2020)
In Alternate Universes
- What If Gwen Stacy Had Lived?
- Ultimate Spider-Man
- House of M
- Marvel Fairy Tales
- Spider-Man: Life Story
Notable Media Appearances
- Spider-Man: The Animated Series (1998), voiced by Mary Kay Bergman
- Mary Jane 2 (2004)
- Spider-Man 3 (2007), played by Bryce Dallas Howard
- The Spectacular Spider Man (2008-2009), voiced by Lacey Chabert
- The Amazing Spider-Man Series (2012-2014), played by Emma Stone
- The Amazing Spider-Man (2012 video game), voiced by Kari Wahlgren
Gwen Stacy provides examples of the following tropes
- Adaptation Personality Change: Inevitable given that her original character and personality constantly shifted, radically across issues. But none of her more recent adaptations, whether in Ultimate Spider-Man, The Spectacular Spider Man, The Amazing Spider-Man Series, Spider-Gwen has anything really in common with the character in the original stories.
- Affectionate Nickname: During their relationship and when she was alive, Peter and her friends called her Gwendy. After her death it's always Gwen.
- Alternate Universe Reed Richards Is Awesome: Even before Spider-Gwen this was in play, as witness the Age of Apocalypse version (where she's Thor's bodyguard) and Ultimate Gwen (who for a time was fused with Carnage). Likewise, Emma Stone's version of the character, was considered the best parts of the highly divisive The Amazing Spider-Man Series.
- Always Someone Better: MJ still saw her as this, even after she died. As she remarks to Peter, during their marriage, in The Spectacular Spider-Man Annual 8:Mary Jane: When Gwen was alive, I knew I never had a chance with you. After all, she was smart, educated, a lady — And what was I? A cheap date. Emphasis on cheap.
Peter: Don't say that, MJ.
Mary Jane: If Gwen Stacy was a beauty queen, then I was a pin-up girl.
- Betty and Veronica: Gwen and Mary Jane simultaneously play this straight and invert it. On the one hand Gwen was always sweet and down-to-earth where MJ was exciting and charismatic, but Gwen came from a wealthy upbringing in contrast to MJ who grew up in a poor family, was Peter's literal Girl Next Door, and was preferred by his Aunt May.
- Composite Character:
- She has a habit of having parts of her characterization (namely being somewhat serious and melancholy at least near the end when she was crying all the time) given to Mary Jane. Hilariously this began in 1970, during the third season of Spider-Man (1967) where MJ is made Captain George Stacy's niece. The joke is that this cartoon was released when she was still alive in the comics, proving that MJ has been upstaging and usurping her from the start.
- Of course, turnaround is fair play. Her most famous appearances, The Spectacular Spider Man and The Amazing Spider-Man Series have her characters based on Mary Jane (Ultimate MJ in the case of Spectacular). Emma Stone's character in the Marc Webb films, as a warm, funny, confidant and partner for Peter who knows his double life and accepts both is entirely MJ and completely the opposite to Gwen in the original (who reacted with horror and shock at the idea of Peter being Spider-Man).
- Daddy's Girl: She's beloved to her police chief father George Stacy, who she similarly adores.
- Dead Alternate Counterpart: Versions of Gwen from Alternate Universes have appeared years after her death, most notably the Ultimate Spider-Man series and the eponymous Spider-Gwen.
- Defrosting Ice Queen: She was initially cold towards Peter. Gradually, however, a romance develops because Gwen, a science major, seems to appreciate Peter's intellectual personality. Their relationship begins almost immediately after Peter stops going out with Mary Jane, whom he starts seeing as shallow and self-absorbed.
- Depending on the Writer: Most obvious than other characters since she never really had a set personality to start with:
- Her characterization in the original Stan Lee — Steve Ditko years was as a Liz Allan Expy for Peter now that he came to college, repeating the same beats such as outwardly participating with Harry and Flash in hazing and bullying Peter in college but inwardly finding him mysterious and sexy, mostly because Peter's the first guy who doesn't give her the time of his day. She was also a beauty queen Uptown Girl type and implied to have been a serial dater.
- In the Lee-Romita years, they softened her considerably (just like they also softened up Harry and Flash to make Peter's social circle feel less hostile). They also kept changing Gwen's appearance and character over their run, making her a more elegant and nice ideal girl, implying that she is also Peter's fellow science student and shares an interest (though never to genius levels as later writers attempt it). Her appearance also changed, most notably later issues had Lee and Romita copying Mary Jane's hair style for her albeit with a blonde palette to make her as popular as her rival. Likewise, Gwen as Peter's First Love liked him but hated Spider-Man blaming him for her father's death which they saw as giving her a tragic arc that mirrored Peter's loss of Uncle Ben.
- Gerry Conway (the first writer to take over from Lee), simply decided to drop her off a bridge and made her into a Posthumous Character who characters periodically remember in an ideal light until JMS came up with Sins Past which can be understood as an over-correction of the recent tendency. Her most recent Alternate Universe renditions (Spider-Gwen and Ultimate Gwen) are more or less In Name Only original creations. Conway on seeing Emma Stone's performance in The Amazing Spider-Man Series noted that it was a Composite Character with Gwen's name and background but with comics!MJ's personality (in that she's warm, light-hearted, and snarks back to Peter and is okay with both Peter and Spider-Man).
- At various times, Gwen was a popular Alpha Bitch, or an academic popular girl, a Teen Genius who knows more about science than Peter, a Goth, an elegant young woman who despite being popular is secretly a wallflower and is drawn to Peter over Harry Osborn and the Flash.
- The major one is her exact cause of death. In the original comic, Green Goblin explicitly said that she died because he dropped her and that a fall from that height would have killed anyone. However Romita and Conway as a way to create ambiguity and also to make it convincing and realistic added the famous sound effect of a snap when Peter webbed her body to stop her descent suddenly. In both cases, the intent was to provide Reality Ensues into a superhero encounter to really sell her Character Death as a real one.
- Die for Our Ship: A rare non-fan example. Gerry Conway, who wrote "The Night Gwen Stacy Died", was very vocal that he thought the character was annoying and uninteresting compared to Mary Jane. John Romita Sr. suggested killing off a long-term supporting character (he pitched Aunt May first) but Conway chose Gwen as it would allow him to move things along to get Peter with the girl he wanted him to be with all along while in his view, allowing Gwen a role and status that made her into an all-time famous comics icon while satisfying Gwen-Peter shippers to regard Mary Jane as simply Peter's rebound girl and runner-up when in Conway's view, Gwen was Peter's False Soulmate.
- Dude Magnet: When she was alive, she had dated many boys in high school and beat them all with a stick, and in college has Harry Osborn and Flash wrapped around her finger. The reason why she eyed Peter, he was the first one who simply didn't fall over her like everyone else. Posthumously, Gwen was revealed to have attracted the eyes of her pervert teacher Prof. Miles Warren.
- Everyone Loves Blondes: Blonde, beautiful, and is desired by many men (seriously, see Dude Magnet above).
- First Love: Depending on the Writer. Peter dated Betty before her but Gwen is his first serious relationship and many often see her as the girl Peter might have given up Spider-Man for and settle down for good, though none of that was hinted in the pages itselfnote .
- Girl Next Door: Played with. As portrayed in the comics, Gwen came from an upper-class background, her first boyfriend, Harry, was the son of a millionaire and in her first appearance she was introduced as a high-school beauty queen. However, as she became the Betty to Mary Jane's Veronica, she moved into this category and many fans remembering her with this status after her death, even if MJ was the literal girl next door handpicked by Aunt May as the right girl for her Peter, although after Peter and Gwen started dating, she supported them too.
- Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Her hair's always been a shade of blonde (from platinum to bright yellow), and initial Ice Queen characterization aside, she's been portrayed often as a passionate and caring individual.
- Hysterical Woman: Peter openly calls her this in narration during Issue 87 where he blurts out he's Spider-Man, which some of his friends see as being evidence of him being crazy (which Peter later runs with) but Gwen actually believes it and her reaction is so over-the-top that Peter swears off telling her his secret ever again. Mary Jane also trolls her for her over-the-top reaction, which becomes even more hilarious if you factor in the Parallel Lives retcon that she knew Peter was always Spider-Man and that she's rubbing it in to her rival about how she can't deal with their mutual crush's double life):
- I Let Gwen Stacy Die: She's the Trope Namer for a reason, having died infamously on Spider-Man's watch, something continues to haunt him and their surviving friends.
- Iconic Outfit: Her dying outfit (green overcoat, black shirt, purple skirt, black headband) remains her most easily recognizable outfit.
- Iconic Sequel Character: She debuted three years after Spidey's introduction but is one of the most notable characters in his mythos.
- Killed Off for Real: Shockingly, Gwen has actually managed to remain dead in the decades since her death, likely because the story of her death is so iconic.
- Lady in Red: Famously wears a revealing red bikini in the Savage Land saga. In the entirety of the story.
- Likes Clark Kent, Hates Superman: Despite initially liking Spider-Man, she soon came to hate him after her father died saving a child from falling rubble during one of Spidey's fights with Doc Ock. She never found out the truth before she died as well.
- Like Parent, Like Spouse: Potential Spouse in this case (and actual one in AU versions). But she had a close relationship with her father George Stacy, a principled responsible man who wants to stop crime and risks his life in service while her boyfriend has similar qualities (and unknown to her is also a crime fighter who risks his life to fight crime). Captain George Stacy for his part always approved of Peter and in his deathbed admitted that he knew he was Spider-Man and told him he had no problems with him dating his daughter.
- Lost in Imitation: Her iconic death scene via falling off a bridge from The Night Gwen Stacy Died gets adapted a lot Spider-Man: The Animated Series, Ultimate Spider-Man, the first live-action movie and they always replace Gwen with Mary Jane and let her live. The child-friendly cartoon series actually came the closest to adapting the tragedy by having Mary Jane fall into a dimensional time and space rift (alive but in an And I Must Scream state of floating through a no-man's-land outside reality and definitely believed dead by Peter, with an arc about grieving her loss). When the The Amazing Spider Man 2 FINALLY gets the right girl, and kills her off for real, they have to replace the iconic setting with a clock tower because people have already seen the familiar set up with Mary Jane too many times. They also replace Norman with Harry.
- Lovable Alpha Bitch: In the original Steve Ditko era. She was basically the Regina George of ESU.note
- Loving a Shadow: In Tom Beland's one-shot "Web of Romance", Peter actually reflects this about his feelings for Gwen and how it compares to his relationship with Mary Jane (who's always been insecure about being a replacement for Gwen). Peter notes that with Gwen he was always tense, nervous, because of how emotional she was, was never entirely relaxed, and that he was never able to be honest and open with her in the way he is with Mary Jane, and that his feelings for his wife are greater than it was for Gwen. The Sinister Six Trilogy features Peter musing at one point that his relationship with Gwen couldn't have worked out because she wanted peace and he acknowledges that he seeks crusades, even if he still regrets her death.
- Meet the In-Laws: Gwen had a very frosty relationship with Aunt May (unlike Mary Jane who saw her as a Parental Substitute and always remained close and in-touch with her). Most notably when Peter had a disappearance and May was worried about where she was, Gwen lashed out at her with a a speech calling her out for being a smothering mother that so badly affected May that she actually spent weeks away from Peter without talking to her and was considered to have "disappeared". Gwen did feel guilty about doing this, and May and Peter accommodated her, but things were never warm between them.
- Ms. Fanservice: Gwen is a very beautiful blonde-haired woman who wears outfits (particularly skirts with thigh-high socks and boots as well as dresses) that highlight her very voluptuous body and nice legs. The trilogy in the Savage Land has her wearing a red bikini for the entirety of three issues, showing far more skin than even Mary Jane did until her marriage to Peter and the era of her being a cheescake.
- My Secret Pregnancy: Was retconned into having had one of these courtesy of Norman Osborn - the man who later killed her - during the "Sins Past" storyline. When Gwen learned she was pregnant, she decided to raise the children with Peter, so Norman killed her and raised them himself. Naturally for many, it's Fanon Discontinuity and recent comics have largely forgotten about it or pretended it didn't happen.
- Neck Snap: This was confirmed by Word of God to be her real cause of death.Roy Thomas: "It saddens us to have to say that the Whiplash effect she underwent when Spidey's webbing stopped her so suddenly was, in fact, what killed her. In short, it was impossible for Peter to save her. He couldn't have swung down in time; the action he did take resulted in her death; if he had done nothing, she still would certainly have perished. There was no way out."
- Never Speak Ill of the Dead: One way to really piss Peter off is to besmirch her name. Sins' Past by JMS was a story that intended to correct her posthumous adulation by painting Gwen as someone who cheated on Peter with an older man, and Peter's reaction on learning of this was one of rage and disbelief though he ultimately did get over it, especially since MJ, Gwen's close friend who never once brought this up even if it was to her advantage, still loved and missed Gwen. Of course in other stories, such as "Web of Romance", Peter is okay being critical of Gwen such as her dependency and the stress she put him during their relationship.
- Nerds Are Sexy: She was a science geek (Depending on the Writer) while still looking like an absolute bombshell (Depending on the Artist).
- Never Got to Say Goodbye: One reason why her death was so poignant for Peter was that she died before knowing he was Spider-Man, before knowing the true cause of her father's death. Peter also admits to MJ in Sins' Past that he and Gwen never had sex during their relationship together and of course if Peter had plans to propose to her, he never told her either.
- Nice Girl: Despite an initial haughty characterization and later variations she's ultimately remembered as a sweet girl. Her friendliness and caring towards her friends even shows in other adaptations.
- Nostalgia Filter: Not only among fans and writers, but many characters In-Universe latch on to Gwen's memory as a representative of a more innocent time.
- Spider-Man: Blue is entirely about Peter recording his memories about how the college days with Gwen was a innocent happy era. Harry Osborn in "Best of Enemies" also voices regret about Gwen's death and his father killing her, noting how he feels that their entire generation (Himself, Peter, MJ, Flash) all lost something with her.
- Mary Jane herself punctures holes with this nostalgia at one point pointing out that none of them were actually innocent or were those years so golden. Peter was Spider-Man and was tearing himself up lying to everyone about his double life, Harry was a drug addict son of a barely-repressed supervillain, MJ was a product of a broken home and runaway trying desperately to hide her real self from her people, Flash fought in Vietnam and came back a veteran (sliding time scale later moved this back and forth), and even Gwen's final years were marked with the death of her father, and her grief over being orphaned.
- The One That Got Away: On account of her death, many fans and later writers grew up thinking of her as this. Some AU versions often show her and Peter as living the dream life, though others such as House of M hint at a very troubled relationship (with an implication that a married Peter was cheating on her with MJ).
- Pietà Plagiarism: Peter is (in)famously seen cradling her lifeless body in the climactic scene of The Night Gwen Stacy Died.
- Pretty Spry for a Dead Guy: It's teased that she's actually alive a couple of times, only for it to revealed to be a clone or something each time. Interestingly the First Clone Saga was suggested by Stan Lee (after the fan reaction and backlash over Gwen's death) as a possible backdoor to bring her back just in case Conway's plan to have Peter move on with Mary Jane didn't take with readers. Once it became clear it did, he made the revived Gwen into a clone.
- Progressively Prettier: Ditko's Gwen was beautiful but she also had a colder look and due to her haughty nature, she was a Perpetual Frowner (or as we'd call it now "resting b—ch face"). Romita Sr. gradually softened her appearance, and after MJ came along, he redesigned Gwen to resemble a Blonde MJ while also softening her.
- Politically Incorrect Hero: In Issues #91-92, after her father's death, Gwen in grief and anger serves as a volunteer to Sam Bullitt, an authoritarian candidate for the position of DA who wants a "law and order" campaign, solely so he would go after Spider-Man. This despite him having, as Robbie Robertson points out, a past history of being supported by hate groups. Despite the fact that George Stacy detested Bullitt, Gwen works for Sam and willingly supports and gets behind his "law and order" campaign.
- Posthumous Character: Since her death happened in Issue 122 of a long comics series and is one of the most constantly revisited and alluded to moments in the comics, a good number of later readers encounter her as a posthumous character. Jeph Loeb's Spider-Man: Blue is quite common, even if it has little to do with her original characterization.
- The infamous Sins Past story establishes that Norman Osborn and Gwen Stacy had a son and daughter, Gabriel Stacy and Sarah Stacy.
- A minor one that changes a character's entire motivations in Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy. The Night Gwen Stacy Died is changed to reveal that, before the Goblin knocked her over, Gwen Stacy had woken up and heard Spidey call himself "Peter". She automatically hates both because of what happened to her father. In issue 4, however, when Peter finally confronts Gwen (or better, another clone with her last memoirs), she does say that she forgives him and, in a tie-in, she admits that she's still in love with Peter, but she feels betrayed by him being Spider-Man, though she understands why he does what he does.
- Rich Suitor, Poor Suitor: The rich to MJ's poor. She's the only girl Peter has dated to come from a higher social class than him, his previous love interests Betty and Liz were from the same background with Betty choosing to work rather than go to school, while Mary-Jane was also from Queens as Peter and was ambitious about moving up.
- Sex for Solace: When she had her one night stand with Norman, her father had recently died, her boyfriend Peter had become distant, and her friend Harry had overdosed on LSD.
- She's Got Legs: Gwen tends to wear outfits (such as skirts with thigh-high socks and boots and dresses) that highlight her very long toned yet shapely legs.
- Spared by the Adaptation: For someone who's best known for being one of the first love interests killed in super-hero history, Gwen always seems to survive outside of the comics (as seen in the Spider-Man Trilogy, Spider-Man: The Animated Series or The Spectacular Spider Man). The one exception was The Amazing Spider-Man Series and it was considered highly unpopular in that film. This is probably because the nature of superhero film trilogies which generally don't allow for Comic-Book Time removes much of the original reason and context for her fridging.
- Surprisingly Sudden Death: Gwen was drugged by Osborn and was still unconscious when he dropped her off the bridge. No last words, no deathbed exchanges (unlike the case of her father's death, Captain George Stacy), no Parting Words Regret or any literary foreshadowing about her death, which is one reason why it was a huge shock to readers.
- They Killed Kenny: All her clones, created by the Jackal, end always killed. Even Joyce Delaney (her first clone) who, after many years, started finally a new life...end killed by another Gwen's clone, Abby-L, in Spider-Island.
- Too Good for This Sinful Earth: She is treated this way in retrospect both in the Spider-Man continuity and by the editors. Before her death, her relationship with Peter was a little rocky owing to the latter blaming Spider-Man for her father's death, burdening Peter with guilt and regret. She had actually separated from Peter and gone to London (which revived during the Sins Past story) and she and Peter came off as a non-functional couple. Of course, as a Posthumous Character, she's earned the sarcastic nickname "St. Gwen."
- Tsundere: Her original characterization flipping between concerned and lovestruck over Peter to hating his guts for a minor transgression like him not responding to Harry Osborn's jokes.
- Two First Names: Gwen and Stacy are both common given names.
- Unwitting Pawn: Gwen Stacy to Sam Bullitt. The latter uses her to support his political campaign and venture, even if her father disliked him for his politics.
- Uptown Girl: What the character actually is. While Peter is a poor kid from Queens trying to help his Aunt May pay the bills and make rent, she's a well to do high society girl whose father, a retired NYPD captain, hangs around media tycoon J. Jonah Jameson and industrialist Norman Osborn.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: She and MJ gradually transitioned into this once the latter realized that she and Peter were serious. They remained friendly with MJ mock-teasing and flirting as a way to josh Gwen. Sins' Past revealed how close their friendship was as does Spider-Man: Blue. Notably MJ never once gives Peter heat over still mourning his first love even during their marriage, making it clear that she loved and misses Gwen as much as he does.
- Woman Scorned: Initially was upset that Peter gave her the cold shoulder upon their first meeting (which he did because he was worried about Aunt May's illness). Furious, she dates both Flash Thompson and Harry Osborn.