I went and saw The Amazing Spider-Man 2 today (by the way some spoilers are going to follow but then again elements from that movie are based on a comic book storyline that’s 40 years old). I’m actually a fan of this reboot of the Spider-Man film series. That’s not to take anything away from the Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire trilogy that was released in the early 2000s. So when the first movie in this reboot series released back in 2012, I was cautiously optimistic. I liked director Marc Webb’s film (500) Days of Summer. So after seeing the first film, I enjoyed it. I thought Andrew Garfield did a great job as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. I really enjoyed Emma Stone’s work who played Gwen Stacy.
Gwen Stacy as a character is a key figure in Marvel comic book universe and in the world of Spider-Man. In the history of Spider-Man, Gwen was early on the girl that Peter was in love with. They met in college at Empire State University and their relationship (like any relationship) had it’s ups and downs. Being the daughter of a NYPD Captain made it difficult at times for Gwen and Peter’s relationship, especially when her dad died (during a fight between Spidey and Doctor Octopus in the comics & between Spidey and The Lizard in the movies). But they stuck together through thick and thin.
Then came the story arc “The Night Gwen Stacy Died”. This story, which was told over the pages of two issues of The Amazing Spider-Man comic book (#121-122) in the summer of 1973. In the story arc, the Green Goblin (the Norman Osborn version) kidnaps Gwen & takes her to the top of the George Washington Bridge. In the subsequent fight between the Goblin & Spidey, Gwen is thrown off the bridge by Osborn. Peter tries to save Gwen but is unable to and she dies. Peter blamed himself for not saving her and for a time quit being Spider-Man but would eventually take up the mantle again.
At the time these two issues were released, it was a huge moment in comics. Gwen Stacy was Peter Parker’s girlfriend and marriage had been hinted about several times. Her death left an indellible mark on Peter Parker. Her death had an effect on his life but also her life. Peter Parker would not be the man that he is nor the superhero that he is without having Gwen Stacy in it. As much as Mary Jane Watson is known as the love of Peter’s life now, it came in the wake of Gwen Stacy.
We all have that Gwen Stacy in our lives. Whether it’s a person or an event, there is that moment of loss that in some way shapes who we are. It is that “Gwen Stacy Effect”. Those moments that we point to that we see when we look back in our past. They teach us something about ourselves. They help us to grow and mature. They are a part of our story.
As I walked out of the theater and saw the movie version of “The Night Gwen Stacy Died”, I thought about Peter Parker. I thought about how it’s widely talked about how the death of Uncle Ben defined Peter’s character but it’s also the loss of Gwen that helps define Peter’s character. Peter is a better person and a better superhero having had Gwen Stacy in his life. Even though he lost her, we know (through the comics) that Peter would go on to find love (with Mary Jane Watson). In our lives, we don’t know what the future holds. But we do know that the Gwen Stacys in our lives are there for our good and in the end we are better off having them in our lives for how long or how short that time is.