One of the most momentous moments in Spider-Man’s history was the night the Green Goblin tossed Gwen Stacy off the George Washington Bridge and she died. This moment infused countless Spider-Man stories ever since.
For me, that’s a problem. The issue in question came out in the summer of 1973. I was born in the fall of 1974. Gwen Stacy has been dead longer than I’ve been alive, but then it seems like every Spider-Man writer at a certain point had to to the “poor Gwen Stacy story”. I really hated those.
OK, to clarify, I am not referring to Spider-Gwen, Ultimate Gwen, or any Gwen clones that pop up here and there. I’m referring to the original Gwen Stacy, a character who was killed off and, unlike many other comics characters, managed to stay that way. She’s in a league with Batman’s parents, Ben Parker, and Captain Mar-vel. This is original recipe Gwen Stacy. And it’s not like there haven’t been incredibly screwy ways to bring back dead characters in the past. Heck, Peter Parker was once reincarnated from the corpse of a giant spider he’d been turned into.
Further, Gwen Stacy was not the character whose death prompted Peter to be the hero he is. That was his Uncle Ben. Peter had already been Spider-Man for 121 issues of his own series by then.
No, the problem I had with Gwen Stacy was that, at some point, it seemed like every Spider-writer would do a “I miss Gwen!” story. The biggest problem for me was Peter was a man married to this woman:
Mary Jane. The gorgeous redhead who knew all along he was Spider-Man. Who loved him, and was incredibly understanding, and didn’t head for the hills after the first super villain attack. The fun woman who complimented Peter so well in every way. THAT was the woman who wasn’t as good as Gwen Stacy. And sooner or later, every Spider-Man creative team did the same Gwen Stacy story, where Mary Jane would be hurt because she wasn’t as good as the saintly dead woman.
And Gwen was saintly. Gwen seems to be a character that had no flaws, aside from not having a flexible enough neck to prevent fatal whiplash after being tossed off a bridge.
I never could come up with any interest in a character that had been dead that long. I felt much the same about Norman Osborn, but that cockroach came back and there’s not much I can do about that. And further, I had a hard time getting into a perfect character.
Actually, this means I may be the only person on Earth who actually liked the story where this happens:
The best part about that? The original concept for the storyline was that Peter had knocked Gwen up before she died, but the Marvel editorial staff didn’t want Peter to be a deadbeat dad or something, so they came up with something a thousand times worse, simply so they wouldn’t besmirch Peter. Instead, they really besmirched Gwen. Even if Norman was going through one of his “good” phases (because the Marvel Universe had top notch psychiatric care for people suffering from obvious mental illnesses), that still doesn’t explain why Gwen would go so willingly with someone old enough to be her dad with the world’s screwiest haircut. Seriously, what is up with that hair? I got the impression when Steve Ditko drew it, it was just how he shaded the hair, but that doesn’t explain why every artist since then has done the same dang thing.
Let’s keep in mind the idea of not besmirching Peter is what led to the deal with Mephisto to erase Spider-Man’s marriage, so he wouldn’t be…GASP!…divorced. Because a deal with the devil is not as bad as being divorced.
But “One More Day” more or less killed my interest in Spider-Man comics. I liked the fact Spider-Man was a married man in the first comic I picked up. I liked the fact that it actually showed Peter had grown and changed since his first appearance as a high school nerd in the earliest Spider-Man stories. There’s so little permanent growth in comics these days, that seeing something that showed a real milestone for the character was something I, the reader, appreciated. Spider-Man wasn’t the same guy. He grew. He changed.
That’s probably the real reason I never liked the “poor dead Gwen” stories. While excessive guilt has always been one of Spider-Man’s defining characteristics, he married a woman who, in my opinion, was a more interesting character and a better match for him. He was treating his wife like a runner-up in those stories, and that’s just wrong.