Sins Past and the Cult of Gwen

Boy, I really like that title. Came to me in a flash of inspiration. Of course, it sounds like I plan on bashing Gwen supporters, but that's not true. If anything, I'm just aping Marvel's practice of putting misleading covers on their comics to get everyone all wound up and excited, while the actual story has nothing to do with the cover, like Spidey and Sarah Stacy-Osborn doing a frenchie on the cover of Spectacular Spider-Man #25 (April 2005).

The Story
Needless to say, THE most talked about Spider-Man event of 2004, perhaps the most talked about since the Clone Saga, took place in a story called "Sins Past" from Amazing Spider-Man #509-514. A decade after her death(spider time), Peter Parker receives a letter from none other than Gwen Stacy, dropping tantalizing hints about a personal crisis that she is afraid to share with him. Unfortunately, Peter wasn't mailed the rest of the letter with the good parts, and even more intriguing, discovers that it was just mailed from somewhere in New York City. Someone is screwing not only with Peter, but the sacred memory of his beloved Gwen.

Trouble manifests itself further when two masked super powered assassins want Peter dead for reasons he can't fathom, since he's their target, not his web slinging alter ego. A forensic analysis of impressions left on the letter from another page (Gwen had placed the first page under the second as she wrote) reveal Gwen's secret - she had become pregnant and gave birth to two children, a boy and a girl, named Gabriel and Sarah, which explains why Gwen left suddenly for France years ago and stayed overseas for a few months (which I should point out is the retcon version, and not the events that originally unfolded back in the 1970's). The twins have been led to believe that Peter is their father, and that he abandoned Gwen to her death - but that simply can't be true. Peter never slept with Gwen (a fact that many Spidey fans dispute).

But Mary Jane knows who the father is - and it's a whopper of a revelation. Norman Osborn, Spider-Man's greatest enemy, the Gruesome Green Goblin himself, sampled the forbidden fruit as an accidental night of passion at an unspecified point in time (we never find out exactly when this happened) resulting in two new little Goblins. As a result of the accelerated healing factor in the Goblin formula that is in Norman's blood, the children's aging is accelerated as well, making them at least twice as old biologically as they would be chronologically.

As Spider-Man, Peter invites Gabriel and Sarah to "the bridge" to tell them the truth about their parentage. Not surprisingly, thoughtful, conscientious Sarah believes him and painfully one-dimensional prick Gabriel does not. It turns out that while Norman did indeed take care of the children in Europe after Gwen's death and during his seven-year exile, he did not reveal to him that he was their biological father. Instead, he told them that Peter was, and that he abandoned their mother to her death, so that they would be his "Plan B" against Spider-Man in the event of Norman's own death or incapacitation. Interestingly, Norman did not share with them that Peter is Spider-Man, telling the twins that they were two separate people. The twins learn that on their own after attacking Peter and noting his rather remarkable abilities. The resulting confrontation on the bridge results in Sarah being shot and falling off, to be rescued by Spider-Man who relives the infamous moment with Gwen that took place years earlier. While Spidey rushes Sarah to the hospital, Gabriel is seen trudging through the sewers to a secret room at a location disclosed to him years ago by Osborn. Inside, he finds a pre-recorded message from Norman telling him everything, including the truth about his parentage, how Gwen really died, and that he must be injected with the Goblin formula in order to arrest the accelerated aging process, which Norman states was triggered by mixing his Goblin-enhanced blood with Gwen's ordinary blood. There are also two spanking new Goblin costumes waiting - one for him, and one for his sister. At first Gabriel is in denial, but after a moment, perhaps after realizing that the story really won't have much of conclusion if he doesn't, he injects himself - which of course, makes him wackier than he already was.

Cut back to the hospital, and although the doctors have stabilized Sarah's condition and she should be recovering, she is not because her unique physiology is rejecting any blood transfused into her. Spider-Man, knowing that Sarah should have the same blood type as himself (because he knew that his and Gwen's were the same), as well as unique properties of its own, tells the doctor to use his blood in a transfusion. And guess what - it works, regardless of the fact that Spidey has radioactive particles in his blood, which will kill anyone else who receives it in a transfusion (as it nearly did Aunt May waaaaay back in the Lee-Ditko era). It's a huge leap of pseudo-science to assume that it would be compatible with other genetically altered blood.

While Spider-Man is in recovery, the Gray Goblin (that's right, the Gray Goblin - you would think that Norman, after designing a purple and green costume, would come up with something else just as colorful-yellow and blue maybe. Perhaps he's like Stan Lee and hooked on alliteration, otherwise he may not remember which kid is which Goblin) attacks. In his weakened condition, Spider-Man is no match for Gabriel, but twin sister comes to the rescue and blasts a few holes in the Gray Goblin's Gray Goblin Glider, causing him to plunge to the earth, later washing up on shore, and like all good Osborn children eventually do - suffering from amnesia. As the Church Lady used to say "How conveeeeeeenient."

Sarah disappears, and a delirious Peter, having a Gwen flashback, speaks aloud of his never ending love for her - while he's actually in the arms of his wife, Mary Jane Watson - once again forcing her to confront the fact that as long as her marriage lasts, and perhaps the rest of her life - she will be forced to compete with the memory of a dead woman.

The Controversy
Spider-Fandom immediately erupted after Part 4 of this 6 part tale, when the parentage of the twins was revealed. Of course, Marvel and EIC Joe Quesada had been doing their usual stoking of the masses months before, by releasing the cover image of issue #511 - which showed Spider-Man unmasking a young woman who was clearly meant to represent Gwen Stacy in some form or fashion. By default, the leading candidate for her identity was the still living Gwen clone, who slipped into the crowds at the end of Maximum Clonage, and hadn't been seen since. After the first part, when Peter received Gwen's letter, it became pretty obvious that the tone of her comments, plus the nature of the story's title Sins Past, was a reference to one of the oldest mistakes in human history - the "oops" baby. Of course, since only ten years at the max had passed since Gwen's death in Spider-Time, time travel by Gwen's kids from the future was a popular opinion. JMS put out a message that refuted both of those suggestions, and speculation then drifted to whose kids they could be - with the most popular suggestions that they were either Peter's or the late Harry Osborn's, the latter of which was an entirely feasible suggestion due to the fact that Gwen and Harry had known each other since they were children, went to high school together, and even dated briefly in college (but that didn't explain the super powers, since Harry didn't take the Goblin formula until years after Gwen's death). Had Harry sexually assaulted Gwen during a period of drug-induced mania - and in order to protect his and his son's reputation - Norman put them up for adoption? A few sharp cookies, though, began to notice their Spidey sense tingling when Gwen couldn't face Norman in an earlier flashback, and figured there was more up than concern about his son's problems.

Back in October 2004, I wrote an article in a dry drunken frenzy called DeFlowering Gwen. The point of that article was to take an event such as the revelation that Norman Osborn and Gwen Stacy had slept together and sired children, and attempt to weave it into what we knew about Spider-history as it originally unfolded to see if we could pluck details from stories first written decades ago and use them to supplement storylines that are currently unfolding. It's nothing more than I did in Why Did it Have to be You, Mary Jane? or The Rise and Fall of the HobGoblin , taking retcons, apparent contradictions, and widely disparate agendas by different writers and weaving them into a linear semi-coherent presentation to give the impression that the story of Spider-Man is a modern mythology with one, continuous epic storyline, which of course, is far from the truth, but a fun exercise anyway. I had no predetermined agenda, despite what has been said in various forums and blogs. Rather than simply dismiss the story, I did some research to see if there were indeed such details, and they literally fell into my lap. For the most part I thought I was successful, with one glaring exception. Fitting in Gwen's actual pregnancy, her trip to France, the statement about a "four month" absence, and the subsequent delivery of her children required serious leaps in logic. Even with what could be considered a way out as a result of an indeterminable lapse of time between Gwen's departure for London in Amazing Spider-Man #93 and the beginning of the famous "Drug Storyline" in issue #96 still requires us to overlook Gwen's shapely figure during this time period. Nonetheless, if I felt a story was a particularly strong one, I was willing to overlook a few things.

However, many, many people disagreed with my conclusions (and the story itself)- and the disagreement essentially came down to two points:

  1. This is a retcon that simply does not fit with established Spider-History, given the events as they originally unfolded and what we know about the characters, and/or

  2. This sullies Gwen's memory and turns her from the love of Peter's life to a cheap slut who would sleep with the creepy dad of one of her friends. Ick - it feels dirty just talking about it.

I understand those who have trouble with the whole idea of the retconning of previous events more than those who find it an assault on Gwen’s character. Retcons are very dangerous to begin with, are often lazy writing devices to give us a quick moment of shock and awe, but ultimately do long term damage to the characters involved because they create an albatross that has to be repeatedly dealt with in the future, or ignored completely. After all, if we reach back more than 30 years to create something that would never have occurred to the original creators (I doubt that either Stan Lee, John Romita, Sr., or Gerry Conway ever considered the possibility of Gwen sleeping with Norman), then what prevents another writer in the future from coming up with other "unknown" facts about our favorite characters, such as these fun ones:

Admittedly I'm being silly, but such is the slippery slope upon which retcons dangle. After all, perhaps the most disastrous event that ever took place in Spider-Man, the Clone Saga, was itself a retcon. Both the Jackal and the Peter Parker clone had been considered dead for more than 20 years, and it never occurred to anyone to bring either back until Terry "He he he - I want to needlessly kill off a long time supporting character by a mystery figure that I'll never bother to identify - that'll drive 'em nuts - he he he" Kavanaugh let loose the idea of bringing back the Spider-Clone during a writer's conference, an idea that inexplicably infected the rest of the writers.

For a character that has been dead for more than 30 years, Gwen Stacy continues to inspire a considerable amount of passion, and her memory is not to be treated lightly. After all, her death in Amazing Spider-Man #121 is considered by many to be the end of the Silver Age. I have no problem with people who look at the same facts in the case and draw the conclusion that Gwen could not or would not have slept with Norman Osborn. However, this is still a long way from turning her into Spider-Man's Virgin Princess, which many people seem to have done. The Gwen Stacy we first met back in Amazing Spider-Man #31 hardly seemed to be the type whose image you'd put on your dashboard and pray to in traffic jams. Not to imply that she slept around, but this Gwen, even for the first couple of years, was a strong, aggressive stack of womanhood who did virtually everything besides tattoo on her tits "I Want You" on one and "Peter Parker" on the other. The Gwen of the miniseries Spider-Man: Blue also aggressively pursues Peter, so much so that many of the folks who are Gwen fans and consider that series canon (which I don't but that's not the point) believe that she and Peter did the nasty right after the conclusion. Even though Lee and Romita tanked her character in later years by turning her into a crying Daddy's Girl, she still showed moments of pique and fire, such as when she slapped a campus protester silly for calling Peter a coward, and when she got in Aunt May's face and told the old bat what she had been needing to hear for years - that Peter was not a baby who needed his mommy coddling him.

I can see people having a hard time believing that a young, attractive teenage woman with her entire life ahead of her would sleep with 40ish scumbag Norman Osborn and his washboard red hair (unless, as one creative person with a good sense of humor suggested in some manipulations, that's exactly what turned Gwen on), particularly because the story itself failed to make that part convincing. But that's still a long way from turning her into a saint, suggesting that she would have never slept with anyone but Peter, never made a mistake, or was incapable of bad judgment. The same people are more than willing to suggest that Mary Jane, for example, who is now Peter's wife (or at least until "One More Delay," was capable of sleeping around, drinking, doing drugs, and all sorts of unsavory behavior, partly because she deliberately cultivated that image in her youth to distance herself from her miserable home life, poor self-image, and her craving for acceptance, whether she actually did any of that or not. The only thing that I can think of is that Gwen has become a victim of "First Love" syndrome. I know from my own experience that memories of "First Love" do tend to be more positive, simpler, and innocent, since there's none of that nasty reality or hard work that goes into a marriage, particularly with children. Of course, the first woman I seriously fell in love with wasted little time after burying one husband to latch onto another, so I'm jaded.

But I've already discussed my logic for believing how Gwen and Norman could have slept together, so let's just discuss the story itself, if it is possible to divorce the quality of the story from its revelations.

Starting strong, the story collapses after Part 4
Spider-Man has always had a heavy soap opera element to it, which is why I think the character is probably more popular with women than some of the other high in testosterone spandex wearing superheroes. After all, the strongest part of the Lee-Romita, Sr. era, which ran from Amazing Spider-Man #39-60(give or take a few months) is heavy in suds with all sorts of teenage angst and dating traumas. Years later - the fact that we have a mysterious letter from a figure from the past, long since dead, previously unknown children of a secret and unfathomable relationship, our hero rocked to his foundation, finding out that his world isn't as certain as he thought it was, and even questioning the one relationship he thought he could count on more than any other (finding out that MJ always knew about the kids), is the stuff of classic soap melodrama. I remember how psyched I was after reading Part 4 - thinking it just flat out rocked.

One of the things that helped was Mike Deodato, Jr's art. I'm a big fan of Romita I and Romita II: The Wrath of John, and admittedly was skeptical of whoever would follow Romita II. It took a little time, since the first part of the story didn't even have Spider-Man in it, but not long after that I was won over. His Mary Jane, for example, is simply beautiful. Her anguish is so palpable, even when her hands are covering her face in the scenes opening part 4 where Peter is finally discovering the truth. You don't need the dialogue to realize that she is terrified of two things: (1) that her husband is finding out that she has kept this horrible secret from him for all of these years and (2) that no matter what she does, nor how hard she tries, she will always be second place in Peter's heart to his long lost love. His panels of the two faces of Norman Osborn, his human face and his Goblin face, are delightfully creepy. An added treat in Deodato's art is the game of trying to figure out what celebrity he has used as models for his characters. We know that although the characters are tweaked here and there, Jason Priestley is Peter, Liv Tyler is Mary Jane, Estella Warren is Gwen, and Tommy Lee Jones is Norman. It also looks like C. Thomas Howell is Gabriel, but that's not been confirmed as far as I know.

Through the first four parts, the story had been incredibly tense - with one tantalizing thread after another - making it something that you absolutely had to pick up each Wednesday when the latest installment was released and not wait until the weekend or the following week when it was "convenient" to swing by the comic book store and pick up the stash waiting for you in your pull file. And it culminates in one full-page panel, after Peter realizes that the man responsible for this is the same one that has tormented him for half his life, and taken more from him than even he knows.

It's amazing how different people can interpret the exact same thing in entirely opposite fashions. I liked the idea that there were things about Gwen that Peter didn’t know – things that she held back from him. Hell, he'd been lying to her and holding back from her one of the most important parts of his life - the fact that he was Spider-Man - to the point that he wasn't even going to tell her the truth when they got married (as he indicates in Amazing Spider-Man #100). Frankly, in a rather sick way, it serves him right that she went to her grave without telling him about her affair with Osborn, since he was more than willing to let her go to her grave without telling her about himself. In this story, I saw a greater depth to Gwen than I had ever seen before, and even saw another side of Mary Jane I didn't know existed, either. Besides, perhaps there’s a delicious irony here – what if the “bad” girl was really good and the “good” girl was really bad?

Obviously, though, this is sheer blasphemy to others, and there's no point in trying to convince them to see things any other way. And here I thought I could be intractable and stubborn in my opinions at times. Sadly, as later events demonstrated, they weren't given much of a reason to be flexible.

JMS fumbles the ball after Part 4, because he fails to provide answers to the biggest mystery of all: When and Why did Norman and Gwen sleep together? Not that providing those answers would have changed anyone's mind - but to not even try to put this huge revelation into a proper context is just a cheat, and a not so artful dodge. Because frankly, we're not even interested in how the rest of that story unfolds until we get that question answered. It's similar to the problem faced in the original version of Star Trek II when Spock died in the first half hour rather than the last 10 minutes. Tremendous shock value, as those who previewed the script stated, but you'd be damned to find anyone who cared what happened in the film after that first half hour! Plus, to not provide more details simply looked sloppy, like JMS hadn't done his homework, which is an especially unforgivable sin in the eyes of comic fans. Maybe he had, but that certainly didn't come across in the story. After all, of the "Big Four" of Peter's most notable girlfriends, each of the other three besides Gwen had a much more credible reason to have slept with Norman Osborn (obviously ignoring the large span of time he wasn't available because he led people to believe he was dead) than she did! For example:

I've made this point before and I think it bears repeating. Writers should be allowed to tell the stories they feel compelled to tell and even be allowed to tweak things IF that results in a better story (that's the key - the story has to be a good one). Continuity is important, but should be flexible, particularly when you're dealing with an icon more than four decades old and given to periods of stagnation. Still, with that said - comic book and science fiction fans are largely detail oriented and anal retentive about their genre of choice, and I say that with no disrespect intended and I include myself in that category without any reservations. We obsess about the littlest things and hungrily look for clues and foreshadowing where none often exists. Hell, it's what we live for. And for good or for ill, THAT'S the audience for these books. That's who's reading these stories.

You don't put a Harlequin Romance in the latest issue of Soldier of Fortune, and you don't show the movie I Spit on Your Grave at an Eastern Star gathering - because usually the person in charge of things like that knows their audience. And you don't have Gwen Stacy sleep with Norman Osborn and having Goblin Babies, and not do your best to make it seem credible. But all we got was a line from Gwen about Norman's "strength" and "magnetism." When Spider-Fandom ignited I was thinking "Geez people, at least wait for the story to be over - the answers are coming," but unfortunately, they weren't, which left even supporters of the story feeling cheated. I wanted to know why Gwen and Norman slept with each other, and in what time frame in Spider-History. I think I know - after all, I did write an article about it - but my theories aren't canon - and there a LOT MORE people by far who read the actual comic than my rather pithy and long winded explanation, who didn't have the benefit of someone trying to put it in context for them. It was the perfect opportunity to explore two characters that are huge in the Spider-Man mythos, Norman and Gwen, but whom we still know very little about, because in the long history of Spider-Man, each of these characters had a prolonged absence from the series, in Norman's case more than 20 years, and in Gwen's, more than 30. I was stunned that of the two parts remaining to "Sins Past" that at least one of them didn't deal with the particulars behind the relationship, and then have Part 6, for example, be the issue where Peter confronts the kids. Unfortunately, all we got was another bridge scene and a Goblin with a drab new color scheme.

Speaking of bridges and Gray Goblins:

"The Bridge" is a worn-out plot device
Clearly, "the bridge" is the site of one of the most pivotal events in the history of Spider-Man, and even comic book history. It cannot, nor should it, be forgotten, ignored, or simply never visited. That's not how real life works, either. Peter isn't going to stop going there and reflecting any more than he would stop visiting Uncle Ben's grave (although the fact that he has made repeated visits seems forgotten judging by the narration). Still from a storytelling perspective, it is getting very, very old continually going back there when a writer wants to rip Peter's heart out of his chest. Not only do we have a bridge scene in "Sins Past," but we have one in "Spider-Man: Shush" (aka Marvel Knights Spider-Man). Peter visited the bridge during his mystical romp through his personal history in Amazing Spider-Man #500, the miniseries Spider-Man: Blue started out there, the Chameleon led Peter there in Webspinners #11 back in 1999, Harry Osborn took Mary Jane there in Spectacular Spider-Man #200, there was a bizarre confrontation there between the Gwen clone, a Miles Warren clone, and the Phil Urich Green Goblin during the Clone Saga, Dan Slott's hysterically funny Spider-Man/Human Torch #3 begins there, and the list goes on and on and on. Nothing new is ever really said during any of these repeat visits, and it becomes not only a dramatic easy out, but a morbid fixation on both the writers' and Peter's part. We know, for example, that Peter carries a tremendous load of guilt (that's why we love him!) and is probably not the most psychologically healthy person in the world anyway, even though he is the hero. But there are times he seems almost too happy to just plain wallow in his misery, which wears pretty thin after awhile - see the "I Am Spider" garbage right after the "Robot Parents" storyline of the early 1990's before the Clone Saga got underway.

After all, did any of us really NOT suspect that ultimately we were going to wind up there in this story, and that Gwen's daughter would be the one to fall off the bridge, forcing Spider-Man to relive that moment yet again? That was almost too obvious and I suspect that a collective groan went up from Spider-Fandom on the Wednesday that Part 5 of this story was released.

"Sins Remembered" is a terrible, terrible follow-up
Frankly, even those of us who liked parts of "Sins Past" were probably not particularly anxious to see these characters again so soon. I would guess because we knew that the follow-up was going to have to be very carefully and very well written because it would have to be told in the context of an explosive and controversial story. But "Sins Remembered" running through Spectacular Spider-Man volume II #23-26 is a complete piece of crap, giving the people who hate "Sins Past" reason to heap even more abuse on that story. A true review of "Sins Remembered" is beyond the scope of this article (see Spider-Man: 2005 for the full review), but in brief, it's a pedestrian story with unremarkable and ordinary villains, characters acting out of character, answers to none of the questions we really want answered, and the Stacy/Osborn twins wear out their welcome even faster than I would have anticipated. I actually wanted to sympathize with at least one of these characters, but they're both detestable in this story. It would have been better off to at least follow up on the loose ends posed by the infamous letter and even the relationship between Gwen and Norman rather than this drivel. The end of that story implies what might be a continuing role for Sarah in the future, which does have some possibilities in the right hands, but frankly, I don't see enough yet to justify her controversial existence. But because I love good storytelling, I am more than willing to eat crow in the future if a compelling follow-up occurs, but for now, I'm under whelmed.

We Don't Need no More Stinkin' Goblins
The Gray Goblin? Another Son of Osborn putting on a Halloween costume and carrying around a purse? Wasn't this story told once before? Plus, we already have the best Goblin in Norman Osborn still running around, and the second best Goblin in Roderick Kingsley biding his time on an island waiting for the right moment to return. The only real way to give us something even remotely different is to at least put Sarah in the costume and give us a Girl Goblin. Norman had a son, Harry, and that son's death, and Norman's genuine, though twisted and misdirected anguish, has ratcheted up the conflict between himself and Peter, since Harry was also Peter's best friend. At the very least an Osborn daughter would give us a different kind of relationship and dynamic with Norman, particularly if she looks just like Gwen Stacy. But even then, a better idea for a Girl Goblin is for Norman to secretly raise Baby May Parker as his own child, and unleash her on Peter in the future, but we would never see that in current continuity the way time unfolds until the 22d Century - and then it's time for Spider-Man: 2099. Although I never felt that Harry was a convincing menace like his badass old man, he was a conflicted and tormented, multi-dimensional villain. Sarah could be villainous (particularly since Spidey has no good recurring female villains), and conflicted and tormented as well, a counterweight to her relentlessly evil and sociopathic father (but I don't think that's where she's headed). Gabriel, on the other hand, is just loud, obnoxious and tiresome and I hope he dies.

There isn't much point in doing such a shocking story like this unless you have a solid foundation of stories and ideas that will follow and supplement the original tale. After "Sins Remembered," I don't care if I never see any of the twins again, which then, frankly, makes "Sins Past" a shock-value failure, made even more disappointing by the fact that the first two-thirds of the story was pretty good.

Damn damn damn.

Can I Have Some Cheese with my Whine?
This part of the article is nothing but self-indulgent whining on my part. I figured if it's good enough for Barry Bonds, then it's certainly good enough for me.

When I write these articles, I fully expect people to disagree with my conclusions. I have no business writing them otherwise. Hell, I expect at least 50% of what I say to be disputed by someone. I even expect to be told that I suck and that I'm a moron. I don't care, although it would be helpful to know exactly why I suck rather than leave it to my own devices because then I may never correct the problem. After all, my wife has said much, much worse to me. If I wanted to be surrounded by nothing but love and good wishes I'd go work for Hallmark Cards or something. Many people have disagreed with my philosophy on the return of Norman Osborn, which I think was a great idea, but others obviously do not, the status of Baby May Parker (the fact that I won't let it go), and I was double teamed by folks who alternatively thought I was both too hard AND too easy on the Ezekiel storyline. Frankly, I just love it because most comic fans can argue with each other and then sit down together for a beer, basketball game, and some laughs. But with this Gwen Stacy story, there was some weird shit directed my way that makes one wonder if these people were even paying attention to what they were reading, or whether something else unrelated to the matter at hand was bothering them, particularly when it came to the "MadGoblin" person they were talking about, because he bore no resemblance to me:

I just had to get that out of my system.

A final(?) word on Sins Past
Yeah, yeah, I thought I was done, too, but recent revelations by JMS confirmed my worst fears about this story and continues to further the notion by some that I have "backpedaled" from my original support of it. JMS wanted the twins to be Peter's originally. That would explain why the boy actually looked like Peter when he first pulls off his mask at the end of issue #509. I'm just flabbergasted that JMS thought that Marvel would approve the "illegitimate children" stunt when Jim Shooter had put the kibosh on it 20 years before when Bill Mantlo suggested the same thing. Some people interpreted this as another example of Marvel being pathologically afraid of aging the character. Well, they are afraid of this to the point of being ridiculous, and I disagree with them on Peter being a father in principle - but in this particular case I say good for them! Marvel does not want to have its most popular, family friendly superhero to father illegitimate children (although I hate that term - because it makes it seems like something is wrong with the kids when the entire onus should be on their parents). Just what is so hard to understand about that?

Plus - Peter having grown children? I may be blind or shortsighted, but I really see nowhere to go with that idea. If they had been 10 years old, still small children, then I could see some drama there in Peter feeling guilty about not being there for his kids, not saving Gwen, reminders of the life that he and Gwen wanted but were never allowed to have - and of course, the fact that it would complicate his existing marriage to Mary Jane. But how could he have paternal feelings towards two adult children that biologically are almost the same age as he? And one is the spitting image of his dead girlfriend. To me, that is just friggin' creepy.

This also makes it clear that when Norman Osborn was selected as the father, JMS really didn't even bother to try to find a way to make it fit in the context of Spider-Man's continuity. He was just willing to drop this bomb and walk away from it without a decent explanation. He was lucky that there "coincidentally" was a way, and motives, for Norman and Gwen to have had sex and conceived children, even though there are readers who still vociferously disagree with that conjecture. I was rather naive in actually believing that he had done his homework, but just had not articulated it well in the story. But now it's pretty evident that he probably had no idea about the events of the original Amazing Spider-Man #55-#65 and was simply making things up on the fly.

Remember how I said earlier how little we knew about Gwen - about her hopes and dreams? This was the perfect opportunity to explore that - for Peter to see another side of Gwen that he wasn't aware of - to see the impact on her life of his keeping secrets from her and how in an ironic twist of fate she was keeping secrets from him. But we never saw that.

And "Sins Remembered" just made it worse.

And that's probably my last word on "Sins Past."

Return to Spider-Man 2004 for the rest of the look at the year 2004 in the Spider-Man titles.

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Copyright © 1998-2008 by J.R. Fettinger. All rights reserved. All original content is the exclusive property of J.R. Fettinger. Spider-Man, the Green Goblin, and everyone else who appears in the Spider-Man comics is the property of Marvel Entertainment, and are used in these articles for the purpose of analysis and commentary.