catalenamara (catalenamara) wrote,

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”.


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.

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