Let’s Talk About Gwen Stacy

The Gwen Stacy of Marvel Comics’ Earth-65, specifically.

She’s a relatively new superhero, from an alternate universe where the radioactive spider bit her instead of Peter Parker.  She is awesome.  Here’s why.

In most of the Marvel universes, Gwen is Peter’s love interest, tragically lost as a result of his being Spider-Man, before he and Mary Jane get together.  Great story, but it doesn’t give Gwen many opportunities to shine as her own character.

This Gwen does shine–very, very brightly.  The series Radioactive Spider-Gwen shows us a Gwen Stacy who is sassy, irresponsible, obsessed with drumming, and constantly makes mistakes but constantly tries to fix them.  She acts like a twenty-year-old, and actually looks like one too–Robbi Rodrguez does a great job showing her lanky limbs and messy hair.  If she weren’t blonde, we’d be twins.

Her sass is, of course, a staple of the spider-hero story.  As a music fanatic, however, she puts her own spin on it, singing whatever song pops into her head during a fight whenever she isn’t insulting her opponent.

Why are spider-heroes always so sassy?  My theory is that putting on the mask lets them show a personality that society or circumstances cause them to hide.  Earth-616 Peter Parker was bullied and had trouble talking to people, and so when he became Spider-Man he started to express whatever thoughts popped into his mind.  Gwen’s situation is different:  she felt overwhelmed by her responsibilities and being Spider-Woman was liberating.  Another reason for the humor could be simply that it distracts and annoys opponents, making them more vulnerable.  It’s probably some mix of the two.

The rest of Earth-65 is as fascinating and different as Gwen Stacy is, though I’m still trying to wrap my head around a certain blind lawyer working for the Kingpin.  Harry Osborn is much the same as ever, but Samantha Wilson is Captain America, the Black Cat’s backstory is completely different, and as for Peter Parker…well.

The traditional Spider-Man story shows a boy who gets bullied and is able to get past it–with the help of some superpowers, of course.  This version of the story reveals a darker possibility of what can happen when someone is hurt for years and doesn’t find a way to work it out.  And that’s all I can say about it right now.

Darkness aside, the Spider-Gwen comics are great, with lots of energy, excellent art, compelling characters, and a female superhero who doesn’t look like she’s had several plastic surgeries.

I’m having a blast reading about her.

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