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But you’re dead! ... Brief thoughts on the death of a fictional character.

I finally got around to seeing Spider-Man 3 the other night. There’s a scene in a classroom toward the beginning. The teacher calls on “Miss Stacy”.

My jaw drops.

Is it possible to spoil something that happened in 1973? Maybe I better put the rest of this behind a cut... Look behind the cut for more about what a Wikipedia article calls "a pivotal point in both Spider-Man's history and in American comic books in general. . . . "



In my head, I’m shouting, “But you’re dead!”

But of course she isn’t. Not yet. And in the movie universe – assuming they make more Spider-Man movies – they may never take that direction.

But at that moment in the movie, I was suddenly transported back in time, to 1973, to that moment when I read Spider-Man # 121. To the moment when Gwen Stacy died and I realized – that’s it. She’s dead. No happy ending. No comic book miracle. No resurrection. No hope. The end.

Of all the nasty things the Marvel people chose to inflict on Peter Parker, this was quite probably the worst. Worse, even than his uncle’s death. Worse.

OK, off to Wikipedia...

*****
Gwendolyn "Gwen" Stacy is a supporting character in Marvel Comics' Spider-Man series. Created by writer Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko, she first appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man #31 (December 1965).

A blonde college co-ed, Gwen was the first true love of Peter Parker (Spider-Man). Gwen was killed by the Green Goblin in The Amazing Spider-Man #121 (June 1973). Both the decision to kill Gwen and the method in which Marvel implemented it are controversial among fans, but it is still a pivotal point in both Spider-Man's history and in American comic books in general. . . .

The death of Gwen Stacy had an enormous impact in the world of comic-book fandom. Before her, except possibly as part of an origin story, superheroes simply did not fail so catastrophically; nor did a loved one of the superhero die so suddenly, without warning, or so violently.
*****

Link to the cover of the comic entitled “The Death of Gwen Stacy”.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/c/c9/DeathOfGwenStacyCover.jpg

**************

Isn’t it amazing how fictional characters can seize our imaginatins and live so vividly in our heads? (This is, quite obviously, a “given” for me, considering I’ve spent most of my life in fandom, and so have spent a great deal of my time thinking about fictional characters.)

Gwen Stacy was the first time, in my personal experience, that I encountered the death of a fictional character. I was pretty young then. I was shocked, horrified, and stunned. I remember feeling sick over Peter Parker’s grief and guilt. The fact that I can remember my reactions so strongly, after all these years, shows how much power fictional characters can have on our imaginations.

I don’t know if they’re going to do any more Spider-Man movies, or if they do, what they’ll do with Gwen. Maybe kill her again. Peter Parker never catches a break, after all. Poor guy.

Comments

Heya, I was wondering where you'd gotten to lately. I know tax time is busy, though.

I loved Spiderman when I was a kid, also, though I came into after the Gwen era. I can imagine the double-shock had a kind of interesting effect, though. But that's the power of film and fiction, etc. -- the ability of fictional characters continuing to haunt us, even years later.
>>>Heya, I was wondering where you'd gotten to lately. I know tax time is busy, though.

Boy, that's for sure. I was really worn out after the 15th - and of course I have tons and tons to catch up with after the season is over.

>>>I loved Spiderman when I was a kid, also, though I came into after the Gwen era. I can imagine the double-shock had a kind of interesting effect, though. But that's the power of film and fiction, etc. -- the ability of fictional characters continuing to haunt us, even years later.

Exactly! And Gwen's death was so shocking, so purely awful, that - as you can see - it has really stayed with me.
I remember reading the comic and being just as shocked. When the movies started coming out, I wondered how MJ had somehow taken over the role, though I knew she's who Peter eventually ended up with. I'd always preferred Gwen so it took some getting used to.

The comic came to mind, too, in the scenes from Superman I and ST5. You wouldn't imagine that a comic would play less fast and loose with physical law than movies.
>>>I remember reading the comic and being just as shocked. When the movies started coming out, I wondered how MJ had somehow taken over the role, though I knew she's who Peter eventually ended up with. I'd always preferred Gwen so it took some getting used to.

I remember seeing MJ a few times when I was reading the comic book. I had the impression she'd been Peter's first girlfriend, and then he broke up with her and got together with Gwen, but from the (admittedly limited) internet research I've done, that doesn't appear to be the case.

The LA Times reprinted several of the very early Spider-man comic books this spring. #'s 10, 11, 12, etc. And the only "love interest" is Betty, J. Jonah Jameson's secretary. Peter has a sort of crush on her, and she thinks he's sweet, but that's all there is to it. No MJ. Too early for Gwen. Betty's main concern is that she's borrowed money from a loan shark for mysterious purposes.

>>>The comic came to mind, too, in the scenes from Superman I and ST5. You wouldn't imagine that a comic would play less fast and loose with physical law than movies.

No kidding! When I watched that recent remake of "King Kong", I spent half of the movie thinking the heroine should have been dead a dozen times over, from all the times she was dropped, or grabbed in a big hairy paw and jounced around. But hey! Not one bruise.

Ditto when Princess Whatshername in the recent Star Wars movies was dropped at least 20 - 30 feet from an aircar onto a sand dune and gets up with nary a scrape.

Like you said, who knew a comic book would pay more attention to the laws of physics?

Off-topic

Here from morgandawn: I want to order all five of the Legacy zines; do I have to reserve a copy? Or can I just send my check to Beyond Dreams Press? (I'll put the check in the mail ASAP if this is so; are the zines out yet?)

Re: Off-topic

The zines are available - they premiered at Shore Leave this July. Jenna did an amazing job! Yes, you can order them through Beyond Dreams Press. If you need more information, please contact her at kszines at aol dot com, or I can send you more info. You can email me at catalenamara at yahoo dot com.