We Can Do It! Gwen Stacy

“We Can Do It!: Women in Comics, Television and Beyond” is Hush Comics’ answer to what women in comics mean to the world and to us  Visit our page every week to learn about a new super lady! 

*Note: I wanted to write this piece because of the latest release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2.  There will be spoilers for Gwen Stacy’s story.  However, this piece focuses on the comic book character rather than the movie character.

Who:

Gwendolyne Stacy

Nicknames/Aliases:

Gwen Stacy

Skills:

Advanced knowledge in science, being cute and sassy.

Origin Story:

There are two things to know about Gwen Stacy:  she is the quintessential college girlfriend and (SPOILER!) she dies.  Yup, I broke that news to you quick.  As soon as you fell in love with her, she was gone.  The quick history of Gwen is that she is Peter Parkers girlfriend.  But of course, when you are involved with a man who is also superhero, in this case Spider-Man, things aren’t always that simple. Gwen and Peter met at Empire State University when she was a student of Biology, and their encounter wasn’t on the best of terms.  Over time, they developed a friendship that became a relationship.  They were then on-again and off-again for years.  Contrary to most of the story telling, Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane Watson knew each other, and even ran in the same circles.  Also, she was a model.  Peter Parker is a lucky guy.  But their love wasn’t so lucky for so many reasons.  Because Peter never revealed his alter-ego to Gwen, she often felt abandoned by him when he “disappeared.”  During a battle with Doctor Octopus, Gwen’s dad, Captain George Stacy, is accidentally killed by falling rubble.  Gwen leaves the country only after trying to get Peter to propose marriage.  Peter, of course, is guilt ridden, not only because he felt responsible for George’s death, but because George knew the truth about Peter, so he does not ask Gwen to marry him.  After being gone for some time, Gwen returns to New York.  Only 22 issues later, Gwen’s life ends.  Even worse, it is by Spider-Man’s hands.  After being kidnapped by Norman Osborn as Green Goblin, Gwen is thrown off of a bridge. When Spidey tries to save her by casting a web, he accidentally snaps her neck.

Why is she important?:

The thing about Gwen Stacy is that her life and her death don’t exist without the other.  There are many compelling arguments that Gwen was just a plot point.  Gwen is referenced in Gail Simone’Women in Refrigerators.  However, a large part of me has to disagree with this.  Gwen and Mary Jane have been compared for decades.  It has been debated in and out who is Peter’s true love.  And in references even up to modern day (Gwen died in 1973), Peter still loves Gwen.  Girl has been dead for 41 years.  He still puts flowers on the bridge she died on every year.  Yes, Gwen’s death was an easy way to give Peter an emotional break-down and to make Mary Jane grow up a bit.  And killing her off prevented a teenaged Peter from getting married.  But Peter’s background as Spider-Man has always been a dark tale.  And I don’t believe Gwen was a one-time boo-hoo for him.  She represents a lot of things for not only Peter, but fans of books.  Gwen is what could have been and what we all believe our lives will be when we are young.  Gwen was more than a looker, too.  She had a strong mental connection with Peter.  Sure, she didn’t know his secret identity, but she had a high level of intelligence, matching Peter’s.  Peter considered her an equal and possibly the only person to understand him.

Gwen Stacy sparks a lot of debate.  Did her neck snap or was she dead before the fall?  Is she hotter than Mary Jane?  Is she a better match for Peter than Mary Jane?  Is Gwen’s death the end of the Silver Age?  Is Gwen’s death the epitome of the female trope in a genre that is male-centered?  I think the fact that you can find countless, and I mean countless, articles on all these questions proves why Gwen Stacy is important.  She may not have super powers.  In the comics, she may not have known about Peter’s identity.  She may be just a very smart and pretty girl who had to die.  But that doesn’t make her any less.  Gwen Stacy is what makes comic books dynamic and important not only to the comic culture, but to our society because we can take a girl who seemingly is very normal and create a very large dialogue about what it all means.

What she means to me:

Really and truly what Gwen means to me is the first love we all lost.  Gwen was meant for Peter.  She just was.  She was smart and witty.  And then she was gone.  We have all experienced the loss of our first love.  And many of our favorite characters from other stories have, too.  We all feel a strong connection to them.  FIrst loves stay with us forever.  Gwen was beautiful and it was readily accepted that she was a Science Major.  Of course in the movies, she is a high school student, on her way to Oxford, and very knowledgable in science, even working for OsCorp.  Gwen doesn’t try to be anything she’s not.  Therefore, she accepts Peter for what he is.  Because of that, they connected so well.  But first loves rarely work out.  In this case, their love ended tragically.  However, I believe the Peter Parker and Spider-Man wouldn’t be the well-known creations they are now with out Gwen Stacy’s life or her death.

photos belong to Marvel Comics

written by Adrian Puryear

SPOILER-FREE Amazing Spider-Man 2 Review

Genre – Action, Comic Book, Superhero

Director – Marc Webb (Amazing Spider-Man, (500) Days of Summer)

Cast – Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan

Alluring element – The return of the Amazing Spider-Man!

Scorecard:
Plot – 9
Acting – 8
Representation of genre/Identity – 10
Cinematography – 10
Effects/Environment – 10
Captivity – 9
Logical consistency – 9
Originality/Creativity – 8
Soundtrack/Ambiance – 7
Overall awesomeness – 10
 

Since being rebooted just one decade after the historic trilogy (okay, we can forget about Spider-Man 3) changed the way comic book adaptations were viewed by the world, The Amazing Spider-Man destroyed all doubt in fans that this was just a cash grab, but instead a legitimately sustainable universe. It was a risky move rebooting so soon, especially when many fans considered the third installment of the Raimi films to be a complete deal-breaker, but the two films have easily become a juggernaut, earning a place among the likes of the Nolan Batmans, Iron Mans, and Kick Asses. This has been well-deserved, as Peter Parker is one of the most beloved character of all-time, and second in popularity to nobody but maybe Superman or Batman. From KRS-One to Barack Obama, everybody loves their friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.

The Amazing Spider-Man does whatever a Spider-Man can… but better. From the get-go, we’re introduced to a Spider-Man who has been not been taking his two-year hiatus lightly. His skills are honed and the obligatory montage where Parker learns how to do like a spider does is long in the past. Instead, we are treated to spectacular scenes of Spidey chasing bad guys, infuriating them with his hilarious jabs at their incompetence – seriously, I’m convinced Peter Parker’s middle name is sarcasm. Although the end of AS1 left us in emotionally distraught from the death of Captain Stacey and the forced promise to leave Gwen Stacy alone (yeah, right. We’re talking about Emma Freaking Stone here), the tone of this movie is fervently fun and exciting.

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We join our hero as he is graduating high school, which jumps years ahead in chronology, missing out on some potentially valuable years of high school chronology for Peter. It could be looked at as a rushed attempted to fit everything in, but I really see it as a clear statement that Webb will be focusing on the growth of Peter Parker, the man. The term “this isn’t high school anymore” is literally applied to Peter’s relationships across the board. It doesn’t take away from the light-hearted nature of the character himself, but the nature of the story and the villains which he faces lets us no right away that he has a monumental task ahead of him.

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You know watt they say: with great power, comes villains with even greater power. Electro makes his first film appearance here, and it’s mostly a win. Max Dillon, played by Jamie Foxx, is a sad, lonely, brilliant man who never seems to catch a break. The ability to control electricity was the ultimate gag joke when Electro first broke onto the scene (actually, February 2014 marked his 50th Anniversary) However, in this completely wired society we live in now, the ability to control electricity made Max Dillon nothing short of a god.

Unfortunately, in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Electro is reduced to somewhat of a goon to the real villain of the story. His character is so creepy and weird that you almost can’t feel sorry for him, even though his character is really the victim of unfortunate circumstance. There are also a few mishaps with his ultra-corny lines – you’ll know which ones when the time comes. Aesthetically, though, Electro is one of the coolest bad guys you can find in a movie. His entire body is comprised of electricity, making him look like a conduit. He’s part Dr. Manhattan from The Watchmen – except, thank goodness, he wears pants – and part conduit from the  inFamous video game. I think it looks phenomenal; you can argue one way or the other, but you have to admit, it looks much better than, ya know, this:

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Image from Ultimate Spider-Man Season 2 “Electro”

Electro isn’t just used as physical muscle; he was worked over to introduce the real bad guy, Harry Osbourne. Dane DeHaan (Chronicle) plays a perfect Harry; he’s smart, emotional perturbed from being neglected by his rich dad (#richpeopleproblems), but finds solace in his one friend in this world, Peter Parker. DeHaan might not be the stud-muffin that James Franco was, but he does have this very DiCaprio vibe going on, even down to the patented hair flip thing. Due to Norman Osborn’s sickness, Harry finds himself thrust into power. Curt Connors failed to replicate the lizard serum in the film film – that thing that made everybody turn into giant lizards, remember? This has direct consequences in the sequel, and viewers might not even notice the connection if they aren’t looking for it.

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The topic of Peter’s parents is also revisited, something that I felt was sorely lacking in the first film. Have patience though, friends; it was all done on purpose, showing just enough in the first film to give enough context for the “aha!” moments in this one. It’s nice to see a little foresight, and that is something the franchise definitely has. There are numerous foreshadowings to a Sinister Six/Venom movie to be found (most of it was unfortunately spoiled by the internet weeks before the movie even came out), but they  were more-so Easter Egg rewards for comic book fans than distractions from the main events.

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Clocking in at two and a half hours of run-time, AS2 flew by. The film is cut into enough transitions that I didn’t feel like the movie needed to end, nor did it feel too sporadic to keep up with the fast pace. There were a few scenes that felt bipolar, ie – Parker’s inevitable guilt trip about hooking up with Gwen in lieu of the promise to her dad, even though he had just laid on some hardcore PDA earlier that day. There are also several montages with music that doesn’t really fit the ambiance of the situation. They’re all forgivable and minor missteps, as Spider-Man almost gets a bit of a pass because Peter Parker is such an awkward character already.

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I wouldn’t say that the heroism takes a back seat, but to call AS2 anything but a love story first and foremost would be a disservice to the dynamic performance that Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield give. This feels like you wish your first love story was. Arguably, Gwen means more for Peter’s character development than being Spider-Man does. What makes Gwen so important to Spider-Man’s journey is her ride-or-die attitude. She has no great power, but still feels the responsibility to do the right things – a value surely instilled in her by her late father.

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What I really love about The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is the ability to keep the spirit of the Web Slinger intact while still trying to evolve the story to make it fit in a 21st century setting. The evolution of OsCorp into genetic manipulation – as well as “The Vault” and its contents – is a lunge in the right direction. It makes OsCorp directly responsible for the origins of The Lizard, Spider-Man, Electro, Rhino with his mechanized suit and more to come (Sinister Six and Venom, presumably). Furthermore, making the “Goblin” trait into a degenerative disease is a brilliant way to tie everybody back together, especially Peter’s parents. At the heart of it, though, is still your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. From the incredible slow-mo Spider-Sense sequences and the ludicrously awesome lack of effort when facing impending doom to the heart-to-heart that he has with Aunt May and even as subtle as the replacement of dark eyes on the costume with white ones, I fell in love with Spider-Man all over again. Ultimately, with director Marc Webb and Andrew Garfield as lead Peter Parker on board for a third movie as well, there’s just as much to be excited for going forward as this is to enjoy in Amazing Spider-Man 2.

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Thanks to Aurora Rise, a non-profit organization that funnels donations to the rehabilitation of victims in the Aurora theater shooting, we were able to see Amazing Spider-Man 2 a few days early AND support a good cause. Thanks to Aurora Rise and Aurora Movie Tavern for hooking it up!

 

Hush Family outing!
Hush Family outing!

 

All media credited to Marvel Comics and Sony/Columbia Pictures