Spider-Woman (Gwen Stacy)
Textless cover of Spider-Gwen: Ghost Spider #1 (October 2018).
Art by Stanley "Artgerm" Lau.
|First appearance||Edge of Spider-Verse #2 (September 2014)|
|Alter ego||Gwendolyne Maxine Stacy|
|Notable aliases||Spider-Woman, Spider-Gwen, Gwenom, White Widow, Ghost-Spider|
Spider-Woman (Gwendolyne Maxine Stacy; colloquial: "Spider-Gwen", "White Widow" or "Ghost Spider") is a fictional superhero in comic books published by Marvel Comics. She was created by Jason Latour and Robbi Rodriguez. The character debuted in Edge of Spider-Verse #2 as part of the 2014–15 "Spider-Verse" comic book storyline, leading to the ongoing series Spider-Gwen that began in 2015.
Spider-Woman is a variant of Spider-Man and an alternate-universe version of Gwen Stacy. She resides in "Earth-65", where Gwen Stacy is bitten by a radioactive spider and becomes a superheroine instead of Peter Parker becoming Spider-Man. The character also has to deal with various enemies, including Earth-65 versions of Matt Murdock and Frank Castle. Gwen Stacy's Spider-Woman is depicted as harboring much of Peter's personality and conflicts along with sharing his powers and abilities.
Spider-Woman was met with positive reviews from critics, with them applauding her design—cited as a popular choice for cosplay—and a feminist perspective. For promotion, several other versions of the character were developed, accompanied by merchandise. She was also featured on animated television series and in multiple video games as a playable character. Hailee Steinfeld voices the character in the 2018 animated film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
In the primary continuity of the comic books comprising the Marvel Universe, college-student Gwen Stacy was the girlfriend of Peter Parker, whom she was unaware was Spider-Man. This primary version of Gwen Stacy was killed in The Amazing Spider-Man #121 (June 1973). The concept of an alternate-universe, spider-powered Gwen Stacy was first conceptualized by longtime Spider-Man writer Dan Slott for the "Spider-Verse" story arc. Slott had suggested "Gwen Stacy as a Spider-Woman" to Spider-Man editor Nick Lowe, who then approached Jason Latour to write a series based on that character. Latour was concerned about restoring Gwen Stacy to life in even an alternate-universe form, given the canonical consequences of her death more than 40 years earlier, but eventually conceded, and approached Robbi Rodriguez to design the character. Latour prompted Rodriguez to keep her mysterious and to avoid anything that would prematurely reveal her identity, saying that she "should feel like anyone could be under that mask." Slott previously had envisioned a costume based on her clothing in the two-part death story, "The Night Gwen Stacy Died" (1973), except red and blue with web patterns and a half mask. She would also have had a trench coat that would have been red with webs. Slott ultimately approved of Rodriquez' design. The character debuted in Edge of Spider-Verse #2 on September 17, 2014 and is commonly referred to as Spider-Gwen.
Latour's inspiration for creating the character came when he realized that he was not familiar with Gwen Stacy outside of being a "fridged" character who was killed for the sake of the hero as a plot progression. Latour also felt he grew up in times when white males were dominant in superhero comics, and saw Gwen Stacy as a potential heroine to represent women in a better way, "The fact that it's a woman does change the meaning and subtext of everything that's going on. As a creator, that's really enjoyable and it opens up the story to go in a lot of directions it wouldn't have gone before. In October 2014, Nick Lowe announced at New York Comic Con 2014 that the character would be getting her own ongoing series after much demand. The first issue of Spider-Gwen experienced commercial success and was the third best-selling comic of February 2015 with sales of over 250,000 copies. The first volume ended after the fifth issue, with the character carrying over into the second volume of Spider-Verse as part of the Secret Wars event. After the conclusion of the event, a second volume by the same creative team began with the first issue as a part of Marvel's All-New, All-Different Marvel imprint entitled The Radioactive Spider-Gwen. Spider-Gwen was featured as a major character in a multi-part crossover entitled Spider-Women. It commenced with Spider-Women Alpha #1 and ended with Spider-Women Omega #1, with certain issues of Spider-Woman, Silk and Spider-Gwen partially depicting the storyline in between.
Spider-Gwen also stars in a team-up with the alternate Spider-Man-themed characters from the second volume of Spider-Verse in a series titled Web Warriors, a name that was coined by Peter Parker from the Ultimate Spider-Man TV series during the original Spider-Verse. In 2016, the character starred alongside Miles Morales in a crossover storyline titled Sitting in a Tree where she gets romantically involved with Miles.
Fictional character biography
In the alternate reality designated Earth-65, Gwen Stacy from Midtown High School is bitten by the radioactive spider and becomes a superhero going by the name of Spider-Woman. As Gwen Stacy, she is depicted as a drummer alongside her friends Mary Jane Watson, Betty Brant and Glory Grant, simply called the Mary Janes. Shortly after she begins fighting crime, one of her classmates, Peter Parker, attempts to exact revenge on those who bullied him in Midtown High School, becoming Earth-65's version of the Lizard. Gwen subdues him, but Peter dies towards the end of the battle due to the chemical he used. Spider-Woman is blamed for his death, causing an outcry for her arrest, led by J. Jonah Jameson. Her father, George Stacy, a NYPD police chief, begins a hunt for her along with Captain Frank Castle and Detective Jean DeWolff. While the Mary Janes are attempting to perform in a concert, an assassin is sent after Gwen Stacy's father, who is in the audience. As Spider-Woman, she successfully defeats the assassin. During the battle, Captain Stacy holds Spider-Woman at gun point, with Gwen Stacy taking off her mask to reveal who she is to her father. Shocked upon learning Spider-Woman's identity, he tells her to run before he changes his mind.
In the comic series Spider-Gwen she battles various alternate versions of Spider-Man villains, such as Vulture, Kraven the Hunter and Harry Osborn as the Green Goblin. Most recurringly, she deals with Matt Murdock as the lawyer and fixer for an imprisoned Kingpin of crime trying to corrupt Spider-Gwen into the lifestyle of crime along with Frank Castle hunting her down as a vigilante. Despite her enemies, she also deals with heroic allies in Earth-65, such as Captain America (Samantha Wilson), Reed Richards and Peggy Carter, the leader of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Gwen Stacy stars alongside Earth-616's Jessica Drew and Silk in a crossover comic book storyline entitled Spider-Women. The plot consists of her two companions being stuck within her world after battling with Super-Adaptoid when her dimensional wristwatch–that she obtained from "Spider-Verse"–was stolen. They eventually discover that the Earth-65 version of Cindy Moon, leader of S.I.L.K., was the mastermind behind the stealing of the wristwatch. Earth-65's Cindy Moon revealed to Silk and Gwen Stacy that she stole the technology to take over the world. Earth-65's Cindy also revealed that one of her spiders was behind the bite that gave Gwen Stacy her powers. She proceeded in taking the latter's power away with the use of her technology and framed her Earth-616 counterpart of Silk. Gwen, Jessica and Cindy later team up in defeating Earth-65's Cindy. The aftermath of the storyline deals with the effects of Gwen's loss of power and her need of isotopes to regain her power.
Spider-Gwen is depicted as a recurring protagonist in the "Spider-Verse" storyline. She is one of many recruited by Spider-UK to team up with other Spider-Totems across the multiverse, who are under attack by Morlun and the Inheritors. Within the storyline, Earth-616 Peter Parker is hesitant to put Gwen in action and she is told by the others of how Peter failed to save her mainstream counterpart in the Earth-616 world. However, he does recruit her for a mission and they both agree to look out for each other. Gwen Stacy is also depicted as recruiting an alternate version of Peter Parker, who is driven insane as the Hobgoblin after he failed to save her in his dimension, killed by Green Goblin. The character eventually sacrifices his life for Spider-Gwen. The "Spider-Verse" storyline then concludes in the world of Battleworld after the events of Spider-Gwen (volume 1) in the Secret Wars storyline, with her teaming up with Anya Corazon, Spider-Man of India, Spider-UK, Spider-Ham and Spider-Man Noir by defeating mayor Norman Osborn and the Sinister Six.
Outside of her world in Earth-65, Gwen Stacy is also depicted as being a core member of the group Web Warriors in helping protect the multiverse from various disasters. She had a brief romance with Miles Morales as depicted in the crossover storyline Sitting in a Tree. During the Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy storyline, she poses as the Earth-616 Gwen Stacy to find out more about the location and to assist Peter in escaping the New U as she and Kaine Parker discovered that Peter–allying with Jackal and using his technology–has resulted in global disasters on other Earths in the form of the Carrion Virus. After being recognized as a different Gwen Stacy by the clone of George Stacy, she and Kaine assist Spider-Man in escaping from New U Technologies and inform him about their mission.
During the "Spider-Geddon" storyline, Spider-Gwen has served her time and saved a woman from some muggers as the woman praises her for having cleared out the Hand. As Gwen Stacy, she meets up with Harry Osborn to talk about her time in prison. Afterwards, she meets up with Spider-Ham who informs her that the Inheritors have returned. Spider-Gwen is among the spider-powered characters that confront Superior Octopus into disabling his cloning machines since they are going to play a key in the Inheritors' return. Superior Octopus doesn't believe them until the machine activates on its own and creates the clones of Morlun, Jennix, and Verna. When Superior Octopus and Doctor Octopus of Earth-1104 trigger the self-destruction of Superior Octopus' base, Spider-Gwen apparently sacrifices herself to trap the Inheritors in the base as the others retreat to their base. Though when Verna tries to consume Spider-Gwen and takes her teleportation watch as well, she finds that her costume is a Symbiote. Spider-Gwen survives the explosion and finds herself stranded on Earth-3109. To get the better lay of this world, Spider-Gwen changes into her civilian attire where she finds that it has its own version of Oscorp. As Spider-Gwen, she makes her way to Oscorp and finds it abandoned. She is then attacked by the local Green Goblin. The fight is broken up when the local Peter Parker shows up enabling Green Goblin to get away. When Spider-Gwen reveals herself as the Gwen Stacy of another reality, Peter sheds a tear. Peter suspects that Spider-Gwen is a clone as Spider-Gwen states that she is not from his reality. After saving Peter Parker from a pumpkin bomb, Spider-Gwen learned that Peter worked as an intern for Oscorp to find a cure for cancer where one attempt with spider venom gave Harry Osborn spider-powers transforming him into this world's version of Spider-Man. This world's Gwen Stacy built a glider and become this world's version of Green Goblin to assist him in fighting crime until Spider-Man and George Stacy died during a fight with Sandman while the incident did something to the Green Goblin's bio-circuitry that left Gwen mostly acting like the Green Goblin. While shocked that Green Goblin has no memory of being Gwen Stacy, Spider-Gwen agrees to help Peter where they go to visit Mary Jane Watson who agrees to help Spider-Gwen catch Green Goblin.
During the 2015 "Secret Wars" storyline, a version of Spider-Woman appears in the plot of A-Force. This version resides on the Battleworld domain of Arcadia. The character saves Mary Jane Watson during an invasion of the Marvel Zombies after Arcadia's Loki had fired at the part of the Shield that was closest to Arcadia. Furthermore, a child version of Spider-Woman appears in Giant Size Little Marvel: AVX as a new child that Tony Stark tries to ask out on a date; she rejects him because of his looks.
Gwen Stacy's Spider-Woman is depicted as harboring much of Earth-616 Peter Parker's personality and conflicts, such as receiving negative media attention of herself and having the conflict of being a superheroine over her normal life of a band member. Critical commentary noted her as a sarcastic, wisecracking heroine when fighting criminals and supervillains. Spider-Gwen (Vol. 2) #1's summary of the character reveals that she originally used her powers for attention. After advice expressed to Gwen Stacy by her father that Spider-Woman could use her powers for good purposes, she was motivated to stop bullying, which Peter Parker in Earth-65 was a victim of. Spider-Woman eventually became an idol to Peter and he used an experimentation on himself to become a superhero like her, leading to his demise. Gwen Stacy was branded a criminal after Peter's death, having been blamed for killing him. Jesse Schedeen of IGN felt that this aspect was the most intriguing change of her story, "[Peter Parker becomes] both Gwen's first major villain and the defining, Uncle-Ben-style tragedy in her life." Evan Narcisse from Kotaku explained that it was a role reversal that felt "enriching" to what the creators attended to do, which gave Gwen Stacy "a reason to live". After saving her father's life and revealing her identity to him, she vows to use her powers to stop crime. Captain Stacy is then depicted as choosing his daughter over his job. Meagan Damore of Comic Book Resources opined that even though Captain Stacy is no Uncle Ben, he fills the wise mentor role for Gwen very well.
Powers and abilities
Spider-Woman was originally depicted as having similar powers to Spider-Man, which originated from a bite by a radioactive spider. These power include sticking and climbing on walls, a sixth sense to danger–which she struggles with–and being able to lift approximately 10 tons. She owns web-shooters that were given to her and created by retired crime fighter and billionaire mogul Janet van Dyne. The mechanisms help filter moisture from the air to create an adhesive web-fluid, which itself creates web nets, ropes and globs, among other shapes. They also help her swing from building to building, not requiring refilling as long as moisture is present. Spider-Woman also has possession of a wristwatch that allows her travel to the multiverse following the events of "Spider-Verse". She is commonly depicted as using her smartphone for superhero equipment. As the daughter of a police captain, Spider-Woman has detective skills and analytical thinking. She is not trained in fighting, but has picked up on elements from kung fu films. The character is eventually depicted as depowered, with Earth-65's Reed Richards helping her regain her power through isotopes.
Gwen Stacy's Spider-Woman has received critical acclaim from reviewers. Her design has also been cited as a popular choice for cosplay and fan art after her debut. Evan Narcisse of Kotaku opined that the character design is part of what made the character so popular and "is one of the best riffs on the Spider-Man motifs in decades." Andrew Wheeler from ComicsAlliance felt that even though Gwen Stacy should have stayed dead, the costume inspired him to want her back. He also cited it as a potential favorite superhero costume in years. The creative director of Marvel Games, Bill Rosemann, described Gwen Stacy as "one of the greatest modern superhero designs." IGN's Jesse Schedeen, reviewing the first Spider-Gwen issue, felt that the character never came across as merely just a female variant of Peter Parker and was also distinct from Jessica Drew, Julia Carpenter, Mayday Parker, Anya Corazon, and other female-themed Spider costume characters. Jessie Schedeen further felt that Gwen had "her own set of hang-ups and her own brand of humor". Doug Zawisza, writing for Comic Book Resources, described Gwen Stacy as "likeable and humorous, conflicted but determined and quick with a zinger", adding, "Latour gives Gwen real world problems as well as superheroic ones. She has family problems and perception problems."
The character has drawn critical attention on a feminist perspective. Aja Romano of The Daily Dot felt that the new take on Gwen Stacy was a fresh one on its original version due to a common trope of women dying for the sake of men's angst. She praised the fact that instead of taking the role of a superhero's girlfriend, Latour designed her as a "fully formed person." Entertainment Weekly's Joshua Rivera felt that "Spider-Gwen succeeds because it isn't a superficial inversion, but an examination of what makes Spider-Man an important character." Gwen Stacy's Spider-Woman was named number seven in a list of the best Spider-Men by Newsarama. Ryan Lynch of Screen Rant placed her as the second-greatest alternate version of Spider-Man, opining that her stories were "a unique take on the Spider-mythos that provided unique stories based on fleshed out characters with clever writing." Chris Sims from ComicsAlliance similarly ranked her as the second-greatest alternate take on Spider-Man. Mark Ginnochio, writing for Comicbook.com, placed the character's debut as the fourth-greatest alternate Spider-Man story ever told, confessing that even though Gwen Stacy was a newly created character she was on her way to be establishing herself as one of the most popular superheroines of Marvel.
In other media
- Spider-Gwen appears in Ultimate Spider-Man vs. The Sinister Six, voiced by Dove Cameron. After Miles Morales vanished from the world, the city went into chaos. Gwen allied with the May Parker of her world and became Spider-Woman; unlike her predecessors and the comic book version, she lacks actual powers and instead relies solely on technology. After Miles and an alternate version of Peter arrive, she teams up with them to take down Wolf Spider. She is later chosen by Miles to remain the Spider hero of their dimension while he moves back to the one alternate Peter lives in. She is also revealed to have been friends with the Peter Parker of her dimension prior to his death.
- Spider-Gwen appears in the 2017 Spider-Man animated series, voiced by Laura Bailey. Gwen develops spider powers in the Spider Island arc after being exposed to Jackal's chemicals and uses them to become Spider-Gwen. Unlike previous versions, she doesn't wear a mask to conceal her identity (though she does wear the same costume) and her friends and admirers call her "Spider-Gwen" rather than Spider-Woman. However, just like the Spider Island event in the comics, Gwen and the other infected New Yorkers later mutate into giant monstrous spiders. She is later cured in the climax of the story.
- Spider-Gwen as Ghost-Spider appears in the series of shorts Marvel Rising: Initiation, voiced again by Dove Cameron. In the shorts, who serve as a prequel to the television film Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors, Ghost-Spider goes on the run from the police when she is blamed for the death of her Inhuman friend Kevin. Eventually, Daisy Johnson finds similar reports of the suspect in question as she gives Ghost-Spider the information she needs on the culprit's last sighting.
- Spider-Gwen appears in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, voiced by Hailee Steinfeld. In the film, Gwen Stacy has been Spider-Woman for two years - during which she saved her father, but failed to save her friend Peter Parker after he became the Lizard, resulting in her no longer maintaining friendship, to prevent "distractions" - before being pulled into Miles Morales' dimension, through Kingpin's particle accelerator. The device causes Gwen to arrive in the dimension one week prior to the accelerator explosion. Following her Spider Sense, she posed as a younger student at Miles' school where a mishap, with his new spider powers causes the right side of her head to be shaved. Gwen is later seen in Alchemax, when Miles and Spider-Man(Earth-616) are stealing information, that will help send them home. She intervenes in time to secure the data, and save the pair from Olivia Octavius aka Doc Ock. With the other Spider-People, Gwen is unconvinced that Miles has what it takes to help, and will only be a hindrance. She participates in the final battle at the particle accelerator where Miles proves himself to her and the other Spider-People that he's capable of being a hero and helps them return to their own dimensions.
- Spider-Gwen appears as an unlockable playable character in Spider-Man Unlimited, voiced by Laura Bailey.
- Spider-Gwen appears as an unlockable playable character in Marvel: Contest of Champions.
- Spider-Gwen appears as an unlockable playable character in Marvel: Avengers Alliance.
- Spider-Gwen appears as an unlockable playable character in Marvel Heroes, voiced by Ashley Johnson.
- Spider-Gwen appears as an unlockable playable character in Marvel Future Fight.
- Spider-Gwen appears as an unlockable playable character in Marvel Puzzle Quest.
- Spider-Gwen appears as an unlockable playable character in Marvel Avengers Academy, voiced by Catherine Luciani.
- Spider-Gwen appears as an unlockable playable character in Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2. This version can go back and forth between Spider-Gwen and Gwen Stacy.
The character inspired 20 Marvel variant covers of Gwen Stacy being a wide array of Marvel heroes, which brought to life popular hybrids such as Gwenpool, a variant of Deadpool. A Band named Married With Sea Monsters drew inspiration from Spider-Woman for their track "Face It Tiger", which was based on a song sung by Spider-Gwen's fictional band called The Mary Janes. The character's popularity has spawned merchandise, including shirts and action figures of the superheroine. Figures have been sold to companies such as Diamond Comic Distributors and Hasbro, among others. In addition, Funko released bobblehead figures of the character, while in Australia, Harley Davidson has teamed up with Marvel to create custom hero-themed motorcycles including a design based on Spider-Gwen.
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