Spider-Man and Spider-Gwen

With everyone’s favorite webslinger swinging back into theaters this July, ComicsVerse is taking a look back at SPIDER-MAN’s greatest adventures. From the big screen to the small screen to a simple comic panel, we will find out how this ol’ Web Head has evolved since he first webbed his way into our imagination. Today we will be talking about SPIDER-MAN and SPIDER-GWEN.


Spider-Man is one of the most iconic characters in comic book history. For over half a century, millions of people have enjoyed reading about the adventures of the wisecracking webslinger. However, what if Peter Parker never got bitten by the radioactive spider? What if, instead, his (future) love interest Gwen Stacy was bitten?

That is the premise of the ongoing SPIDER-GWEN series of comics. Spider-Gwen, first introduced in EDGE OF SPIDER-VERSE #2, is a fascinating character that in many ways mirrors Peter Parker. This article focuses on the similarities and differences between these two spider-people: Spider-Man and Spider-Gwen.

Origins

Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Just like Peter Parker, Gwen Stacy of Earth-65 was an average teenager. She played drums, loved to hang with friends, and only read about superheroes in comics. Then, one day, she was bitten by a radioactive spider. Unlike Peter Parker, Gwen immediately started to fight crime. You see, Gwen grew up with Captain George Stacy as a father.

George, in both Earth-65 and Earth-616, was an NYPD Captain. Therefore, once Miss Stacy got her powers, she knew what she had to do: to follow in her father’s footsteps. It did not take a traumatic death of a father figure to prompt her to fight crime. This had an unexpected side effect.

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In Spider-Gwen’s universe, Peter Parker never got super powers. He was never able to stand up to the bullies in his school. Upon seeing Spider-Woman taking down muggers and crooks, he was inspired. Parker created a serum with the help of Curt Connors that both hoped could replicate Spider-Woman’s powers.

It did not work. After being bullied mercilessly at the Prom. Peter drank his serum and turned into The Lizard. Gwen Stacy then had no choice but to do battle with the Lizard. It was not until the beast was defeated that Stacy found out it was her best friend, Peter.

As he lay dying in her arms, various onlookers witnessed the scene. They blamed Spider-Woman for Parker’s death, not knowing he and The Lizard were the same. So, with the urging of none other than J. Jonah Jameson, Spider-Woman is hunted. The police appoint Captain George Stacy to track down his own daughter unknowingly. 

Powers

Regarding their powers, both Spider-Man and Spider-Gwen are almost identical. They can both adhere to flat surfaces and therefore climb them. Both have the precognitive “spider sense.” Parker and Stacy have super-human strength. Their agility, reflexes, endurance, stamina, and general physical fitness are taken to superheroic proportions.

What they both lack (at least in the vast majority of portrayals) are web generation capabilities. In Peter’s case, he invents his own web shooters. Gwen, who is not a scientific genius, had hers gifted to her by her universes’ version of Janet Van Dyne.

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Gwen may not have an aptitude for science, but her detective skills are superior to those of Peter Parker. Her mind is very analytical, and she was taught from an early age the tricks of the police trade by her dad. Gwen’s combat skills are not close to touching those of Peter. That is simply because Gwen never had much practice. Peter Parker has had years of fighting crime to train up his aptitude in fisticuffs.

Home Life/Romance

Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

This is the biggest difference between the two heroes. First of all, Peter Parker is an orphan. Gwen Stacy is not. Although both have lost a mother, Gwen still has her father. Going more abstract, Peter lost a father figure in Uncle Ben. Gwen still has a literal father. Gwen did, however, lose a mother. Peter still has his mother figure in Aunt May.

Although not having a mother does not seem to have had adverse effects on Gwen, this disparity in the two Spider-heroes home lives is nonetheless notable. Also, Peter Parker is happily married to Mary Jane Watson. Gwen Stacy of Earth-65 has at best an on and off relationship with Miles Morales. Miles is from another universe, so going on dates is tricky if Gwen misplaces her watch that transports her between universes.

Spider-Man and Spider-Gwen
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Personalities

Spider-Man and Spider-Gwen have similar personalities. They are both kind and care for others to a significant degree. They are also both self-sacrificing to an alarming extent. Gwen is willing to make a deal with the (Dare) Devil. Earth-65’s Matt Murdock is not only a well-known lawyer but secretly the Kingpin of Crime.

To get her Dad acquitted in a criminal case, Gwen agrees to work for the Kingpin as Spider-Woman. Murdock agrees, in turn, to defend Captain Stacy in court where he has been charged with aiding Spider-Woman. Peter on the other hand voluntarily revealed his secret identity to the world for what he believed was the greater good in the original “Civil War” storyline.

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Both Spider-Man and Spider-Gwen go out onto the streets of New York every day. They routinely risk their lives to stop super-powered evil from wreaking havoc. Gwen has forsaken a potentially rewarding gig as a drummer for her band The Mary Janes and instead is spending most of her time either aiding her dad or web swinging as Spider-Woman.

Peter suffered years of break ups and reunions before he finally married Mary Jane Watson. Spider-Man and Spider-Gwen also love to wisecrack. Whenever fighting baddies, the two Spider-heroes enjoy a good one liner to rile up their opponents.

Formative Trauma

Both Gwen and Peter witnessed the death of those close to them almost right after they received their spider powers. While Peter was persuaded to stop using his powers for personal gain, Gwen was instead wracked with guilt. Earth-65’s Peter Parker died in Gwen’s arms partially due to her use of her powers. This is an ongoing theme in the pages of SPIDER-GWEN. Earth-616’s Peter Parker and Earth-65’s Gwen Stacy had almost the complete opposite reaction to both the reception of their powers and the deaths of those close to them.

Peter immediately saw dollar signs with his new powers. Gwen saw a chance to emulate her father and protect the innocent. When Uncle Ben died, Parker swore to use his powers to prevent similar tragedies from befalling others. Grief-struck with her Peter’s death, Gwen almost stopped being Spider-Woman several times.

Who Did The Dying?

Another significant difference between Peter Parker-616 and Gwen Stacy-65 is who close to them died. In Earth 616, Peter Parker lost his girlfriend. No, not MJ. In the classic 1973 story arc “The Night Gwen Stacy Died” Norman Osborn kills Earth 616’s Gwen Stacy as the Green Goblin.

Parker blames himself for Stacy’s death. This closely mirrors Peter Parker-65’s death. Gwen Stacy-65 partially blames herself for Parker’s death, as does most of the rest of the world.

Spider-Man in THE DEATH OF GWEN STACY.
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

This contrast is fascinating. Both Spider-Man and Spider-Gwen are deeply affected by the deaths of the other one’s alternate universe counterpart. Another contrast is the fact that while Peter Parker-65 died from his own serum, Gwen Stacy-616 was killed by Norman Osborn.

Therefore, one was murder; the other one was caused by physiological complications of taking a serum. One final big difference is the gender factor. In the classic case, Stacy is a woman. Her death, while culturally significant, can be seen in the modern sense as a classic example of the Women in Refrigerators trope.

Peter Parker-65’s death is the polar opposite. So, in a sense, Spider-Gwen is not only a twist on the question of “What if Gwen got bitten instead of Peter?” but it’s also a modern reinterpretation of the 1973 arc.

Conclusion

In conclusion, both Spider-Man and Spider-Gwen are complex and dynamic characters. They have almost identical powers, their personalities are similar, and they both experience significant trauma directly related to their super heroics.

There are also major differences, including the gender of the characters, their home lives, and which one of them died. Another simple difference is the age of the characters. Earth 616’s Peter Parker has been around for over half a century, while Earth-65’s Gwen Stacy was introduced less than three years ago.

One Comment

  1. Ryus

    June 28, 2017 at 8:52 am

    Gwen is an Elseworlds character who parallels Spider-Man’s story who just has a cool costume. She’s massively overhyped.

    In the main universe which she occasionally visits, she’s a sidekick to both Spider-Man and Spider-Woman (the original and superior character).

    Reply

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