Spider Gwen – Needless Character Analysis
Did you think that we had already done a Needless Character Analysis for Spider Gwen? The thing to know about her is that she is actually called Spider-Woman and is from an alternate Earth where it was Gwen Stacy that was bitten by the radioactive spider, not Peter Parker. She first appeared in Edge of Spider-Verse #2, which is available in multiple formats and has been reprinted several times, making it affordable to find a copy to read. She was created by Jason Latour, Robbi Rodriguez and Rico Renzi.
Gwen Stacy was the daughter of NYPD Captain George Stacy, with whom she butted heads after her mother’s death. She formed a band, the Mary Janes with some high school classmates. One day at a science demonstration, she was bitten by a radioactive spider, she gained spider-like powers. She donned a costume and web-shooters designed by former crimefighter Janet Van Dyne, calling herself Spider-Woman.
She started to focus more of her Spider-Woman career in promoting her fame, but when friend and classmate Peter Parker, threatened over Gwen’s new friendship with Harry Osborne and frustrated at being bullied in school, developed a serum to emulate her powers, he instead turned into a monstrous Lizard creature. After battling Spider-Woman, Parker died presumably from the effects of the serum. When, after transforming back, he confessed to her that he did it to be like his hero, Spider-Woman, it devastated Gwen.
The police and media concluded that Spider-Woman had killed Parker. This made her a fugitive from the police, whose anti-Spider-Woman task force was led by her father. When the Kingpin’s corrupt lawyer, Matt Murdock sought to gain Spider-Woman as an ally, he put out a hit on George Stacy, which Spider-Woman foiled, and in doing so revealed her secret identity to her father.
Shortly after this she teamed up with Spider-Men of several alternate Earths and saw some that were admired by the public. One that became a personal hero of hers was the anthropomorphic, Peter Porker, aka Spider-Ham. She also befriended Jessica Drew, also known as Spider-Woman and Cindy Moon, aka Silk. In trying to be a more proactive hero she faced off against the Vulture. This brought her into conflict with the new head of the police task force, Frank Castle. Spider-Woman learned that she had a lot to do before becoming the type of hero she had met among the various Spider-Men. She tried to rebuild her personal relationships. She also learned why the Parkers blamed Spider-Woman for Peter’s death, and that Matt Murdock knew her secret identity.
She discovered a new Lizard creature stalking the sewers of New York City. In trying to learn where Parker’s formula had really come from, she teamed up with Captain America Samantha Wilson, and learned that the nefarious S.I.L.K. was out to duplicate the formula. She also teamed back up with several alternate Spider-Men to battle villains left behind on Earths where their version of Spider-Man had been killed. When Harry Osborne returned, she discovered that he too blamed Spider-Woman for Peter Parker’s death and had become the S.H.I.E.L.D. trained Green Goblin. In battling her, Osborne learned her true identity.
The popularity of Spider-Gwen comes from many factors. Her design has been almost universally praised from both critics and artists alike. Her stories also have the feel of early Spider-Man stories. The scope is kept very personal on her development as both a hero and a person, with her struggling to maintain both aspects of her dual life. He popularity led to her becoming a focus of many cosplayers duplicating her uniform, making it easy to spot the someone dressed as the character at a convention.
Being a strong female protagonist without a focus on a romantic relationship with another character has set her apart from other characters. Her creators have kept focus away from any sex appeal, despite the efforts of other artists to depict her that way in private commissions, fan art and various variant covers offered by Marvel. She particularly became a focus of this struggle within the comics industry when Frank Cho used her in a parody of Milo Manara’s scandalous Spider-Woman cover. This led to an online conflict between Cho and co-creator Roobi Rodriguez that drew in fans and artists alike. Cho continues to include Spider-Gwen in commissions where he depicts female comic characters in an overtly sensual or sexual manner.
Her popularity has remained strong with two successful series, separated by Marvel’s 2015 Secret Wars event. That event led to her being featured in a new Spider-Warriors book following the event.