DeFlowering Gwen:

Norman Robs the Cradle

As of this update, it's been three years since the story debuted, and it still never fails to incite a debate. Well, debate is something of an understatement...

Introduction
There shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Obviously, for those up on their Bible, this statement by Jesus is not connected to Spider-Man. I know, I’m as stunned as you are, but I suspect that Jesus probably had a few more things going on than to worry about a controversial Gwen Stacy story destined to be told 2,000+ years hence.

But for those of us who aren’t carrying the burden of humanity’s eternal salvation upon our shoulders, we can spare a little time to ponder the most controversial storyline in the Spider-Man titles since the Clone Saga (unless you count "One More Delay," which is probably still going on...and on...), which ended in 1996 by substituting one controversy for another, the identity of the “true” Spider-Man with the return of Norman Osborn, the original Green Goblin. This time, the controversy surrounds Gwen Stacy sleeping with the same Norman Osborn and giving birth to two children. As a result of Osborn’s altered genetic structure, they have the strength of the Green Goblin, but are also prematurely aging and thus are adults at the time of this story although Gwen’s death back in the classic Amazing Spider-Man #121 (June 1973) was approximately 9-10 years ago (at the most) in spider-chronology. The “children” have been convinced by Osborn that Peter Parker is their father, that he abandoned Gwen to her death, and therefore they have come to kill Peter.

“What Would Gwen Do?” seems to be the question of the day, and even long-time Spider-Man fans that consider themselves experts on the character and his supporting cast stridently disagree over whether or not Gwen would have conducted herself as the flashbacks in this story indicate. Some fans believe this adds depth to Gwen’s character, makes her more human and gives her more subtle shadings. Others believe this reveals her to be a cheap slut who would sleep with the nutcase father of one of her best friends and cheat on her boyfriend. A third position is that while this doesn’t mean Gwen was a slut, she just simply would not have done it. Folks from all three positions have stated that it is a compelling story, while some believe it to total trash. Added to the mix is that fact that Mary Jane knew that Gwen had given birth, and knew who the father was all of this time, but never told Peter, which has generated more controversy – would MJ really keep something of this magnitude from her husband? And then there are the continuity problems, such as trying to fit Gwen’s pregnancy and the birth of the twins into the existing storyline as it originally unfolded, including that never before mentioned trip to France and the mysterious “four months,” that either Gwen was in France, or else referencing the time that she disappeared suddenly to go to France. Clearly, when you re-read the old stories, considering how voluptuously Gwen was drawn, there is no way she could pass for being pregnant. So when did Gwen sleep with Osborn – and when were the children born? And even yet, isn’t it time to leave Gwen Stacy be? Shouldn’t the poor girl (albeit a fictional one) just be left in peace? Why should a writer, no matter how talented, presume to tamper with a classic character defined by two of the greatest names to ever work in comics (Stan Lee and John Romita, Sr.)? As comics legend John Byrne says, shouldn’t everyone just forget Gwen Stacy and move on?

It didn’t take long before I began writing this article that I realized that there was no possible way I could effectively answer all of the questions and concerns raised, and there was even less of a likelihood that I would change anyone’s minds. Nonetheless, this controversy was just sitting waiting for an in-depth MadGoblin review.

Messing with the memory of Gwen Stacy is one sure-fire way to ignite the spider-politic, for a variety of reasons. A couple of my faithful correspondents, "Julio Barone," and "Kap," zealously guard the legacy of Ms. Stacy (see the links at the bottom of this essay). Her tragic death at the hands of the Green Goblin in the classic Amazing Spider-Man #121 is a landmark moment in comics history for several reasons. The most obvious reason, considering the date of its occurrence, 1973, was that the long-time girlfriend of the hero died. But Gwen just didn’t die. She was murdered by the Green Goblin, Spider-Man’s deadliest enemy, for the sole reason that she was Spider-Man’s girlfriend (obviously, there is some controversy over when and how Gwen died – was she already dead as she plummeted off the side of the bridge – or did her sudden stop as a result of being snared by Spider-Man’s webbing break her neck and kill her – but the Goblin set these events in motion – and the Goblin is her murderer, Spidey’s guilt complex notwithstanding). Gwen was not a new addition to the mythos, she had been there for several years, from Peter’s first day in college. In 1973 and earlier, heroes simply did not fail like this. They always came to the rescue. This point was drive home by Kurt Busiek’s and Alex Ross’ immortal miniseries Marvels (1994), in which the death of Gwen was the focal point of the final chapter of a long, sad tale – when the aging reporter who has covered and supported the superheroes for three decades against public fear, hostility and suspicion, is forced to realize that they don’t always save the innocents, of which Gwen was one. For many comic historians, Gwen’s death is the demarcation line between the Silver Age and the Bronze (or Modern) Age. And regardless of when a reader dives into Spider-Man’s long mythology – it doesn’t take very long to see Peter Parker agonizing in some way about the death of Gwen Stacy. It will likely haunt him for the rest of his life.

For many fans, Gwen was Peter’s one true love, and it is her that he should have married, not Mary Jane Watson. For others, even those who prefer MJ, Gwen represents that idealized image that many of us have of our “first true love.” Although, as Spider-fans know, Betty Brant was Peter Parker’s first love, it is pretty much accepted that Peter and Gwen’s relationship was much deeper, much stronger, and it was Gwen that Peter first seriously considered marrying (she was also Stan Lee’s original choice for Peter’s bride-to-be). And, be a man or a woman, you never forget your “first true love,” even if you ultimately marry someone else (yes, I do know what I’m talking about here). His/her memory is always special, and you never quite love anyone again in the same way. That doesn’t mean you don’t love someone else more, you just don’t love them quite the same – there’s a purity and innocence to that first love that tends to be idealized over time – because subsequent relationships, especially marriage, tend to get, very, eh, shall we say “complicated” even if you remain madly in love with the person. Often that idealistic memory tends to skew reality, and sometimes you find something out about that person that you never knew before. For example, it wasn't until years after his death in 1998, that my own wife found out that her father had been briefly married and divorced before he even met her mother.

This article will not be a detailed look at Gwen from stem to stern, except for how I think it relates to “Sins Past.” I covered a lot of ground on Peter and Gwen’s relationship in Why did it have to be you, Mary Jane? Part 1, and my old crony Mr. Barone is working on a complete analysis of Ms. Stacy.

From Girlfriend to Martyred Icon to Soiled Woman
Gwen Stacy’s progression to sainthood actually began with the arrival of artist John Romita, Sr. in Amazing Spider-Man #39 (August 1966). When Gwen was first introduced in issue #31 (December 1965), and drawn by the legendary Steve Ditko, she was a riddle wrapped inside an enigma. She was an arrogant, volatile broad, used to getting what she wanted and becoming rather unsettled when she didn’t, which was illustrated by her trying to slap Peter Parker when he told her that he was sick of the mind games she was playing with him. This was par for the course in Ditko’s Spider-Man, a complex, hostile, angry place, one that was persistently at odds with Mr. Parker, and its sour denizens were unworthy of the unknown, sensitive, hero in their midst, which fit in with Ditko’s Ayn Rand-influenced black and white perspective of the world.

Romita’s romance comic background heavily influenced his approach to Spider-Man, as the younger characters, including Peter, became softer, and more attractive from both a physical and personality standpoint. Also, it’s quite apparent that Romita’s worldview was more in tune with writer Stan Lee’s, which painted a picture of an often troubling, and unfair, but ultimately hopeful world. Gwen went from sexy, mysterious and volatile to the wholesome girl next door, bequeathing to Mary Jane Watson the part of the wild, untamed vamp. This transition became more pronounced when Gwen’s father, retired police Captain George Stacy, was introduced in issue #56 (January 1968). Captain Stacy became a shoulder that Gwen frequently cried on, and also served as a father figure to Peter Parker, who was always a little wary about the Captain’s keen interest in Spider-Man.

Gwen and Peter’s relationship went through various ups and downs, mostly due to Peter’s extra-curricular activities, and took a serious hit after the death of Captain Stacy in issue #90 (November 1970), which Gwen blamed on Spider-Man, although the couple soon reconciled. Stan Lee handed over the permanent writing chores to young Gerry Conway (19 at the time of his appointment) after issue #110. Conway felt that Peter and Gwen’s relationship had nowhere to go unless they were married, but he did not feel that the character (nor the franchise that now surrounded him) was ready for marriage. Both he and artist Romita agreed the titles needed a jolt, and after some discussion about who to kill off (with Aunt May begin considered at one time), Romita suggested that Gwen be the one to take the dirt nap.

So, Norman Osborn, the original Green Goblin, another character who had exhausted his dramatic possibilities at this time and needed to be moved aside, kidnaps Gwen to lure Spider-Man to the infamous Brooklyn Bridge (or the George Washington Bridge, depending on who’s telling the story), and in the course of the battle sends her plummeting towards the river, which results in her death. Subsequently, Spider-Man nearly kills the Goblin out of rage, but comes to his senses just before the Goblin sends his glider via remote control to impale Spider-Man in the back. If you’ve watch the Spider-Man movie, the Goblin dies there much like he died in the original comic story, nailed in the chest (or lower extremities) by his own glider.

It takes a long time before Peter Parker recovers from this event, but after numerous fits and starts in his relationship with Mary Jane Watson, and a steamy relationship with Felicia Hardy, the Black Cat, sandwiched in the middle, Peter marries MJ in 1987.

To back track a bit, not long after Gwen's death, we discover that she was cloned by Professor Miles Warren (a minor supporting character for several years) as a result of Warren’s unhealthy obsession with her. Warren became the villainous Jackal, who appeared to die in Amazing Spider-Man #149 (October 1975), and the Gwen clone left for parts unknown.

Years later, the Clone Saga reared its ugly head, and both the Gwen clone and the Jackal returned and we were told that the Spider-Man we had been reading about since issue #150 was really a clone of the original, who after years of wandering the country, had now come back. Fans erupted in fury and sales of the titles tanked, forcing Marvel to reverse this decision – but the price of restoring the status quo came with another controversy. As a result of needing a villain in Spider-Man’s history who met the criteria of an evil, sinister mastermind obsessed with ruining Spider-Man, but who had the resources necessary to pull off the unwieldy mess that the Saga had become – Marvel revived Norman Osborn. Personally I was thrilled, as Norman had always been my favorite villain – but the debate over Norman’s return over a decade later still seems to be split down the middle between those who liked the idea to those who thought it was blasphemous and tainted the original “Death of Gwen” storyline, where in an ironic twist of justice, Norman Osborn pays for murdering Gwen Stacy with his own life.

The post-Clone Saga era is considered by many to be Spidey’s lowest point, particularly after the titles were rebooted with new #1s (January 1999 - another decision since reversed), and Marvel thought it could get away with killing off Mary Jane. Writer J. Michael Straczynski took over the reigns of Amazing Spider-Man with issue #30 (June 2001 - then volume 2) and immediately introduced an intriguing, yet unfortunately prolonged and ultimately unfulfilling premise that Peter’s receipt of his super abilities may not have been due to the whims of chance, but of destiny selected for him by another power. This storyline, along with JMS having Aunt May learn that her beloved nephew was Spider-Man (a long overdue character development in my opinion, but also a controversial one), had already heightened concerns among many spider-fans that JMS was arrogantly attempting to re-define the character and besmirch its history for his own amusement and shock value.

So now you can imagine the revelation in issue #512 that Norman Osborn was the father of Gwen’s children. What next? Uncle Ben was a scumbag who was murdered because he owed gambling debts to mobsters (actually the pivotal point in Peter Bagge’s humorous 2002 savaging of the Spider-Man mythos The Meglomanical Spider-Man)? Aunt May is really a former herald of Galactus (oops – that story’s already been done)? Is anything sacred?

How in the hell do you retroactively work out the timeline of all of this? When did Gwen sleep with Norman? During what time span was she pregnant? When did she have the kids? Why didn’t she ever show? When would she have been gone for such an extended period of time to have the kids?

Frankly, I can’t do it.

Which is a tough admission for the MadGoblin to make, since I pride myself on stitching so many other loose, often apparently unrelated threads, together.

Look - when Stan Lee and John Romita, Sr. (followed by Gerry Conway) originally wrote these stories, Gwen did not have sex with Norman Osborn, she did not get pregnant, she did not go to France for an extended period of time and she did not give birth to two children. It didn’t happen. But then again let’s look at other ret-conned events in Spider-Man’s history. After all, Norman Osborn did not survive being impaled by his glider. Mary Jane did not always know that Peter Parker was Spider-Man. Ned Leeds was the original HobGoblin. Aunt May really did die. So did Doc Ock - but at least he was revived by mystical ninjas!

Does this make every retcon a good or justifiable one? No, not at all. Aunt May probably should have stayed dead – and a lot of people (not me, of course), will tell you that Norman Osborn should have as well. Ned Leeds should never have been the HobGoblin in the first place. And to many folks, MJ always knowing about Peter’s secret ID makes no sense at all. But, you know what it comes down to, more than anything else – and I will be flat out honest, this is how I feel – and I suspect a lot of other readers feel the same way:

When I like the story, it works. When I don’t like it, it doesn’t, and it’s blasphemy.

And it’s no more complex than that. Neither for me, nor for anyone else I gather. I’ve been a Spider-Man fan for over 30 years, and pretty well consider myself an expert on the character and his world – and if that weren’t enough, I have a number of e-mails supporting that opinion. I like the continuity, and try to imagine it as relatively seamless, although it clearly isn’t, but then nothing written over 45 years by dozens of writers and artists could be. You would think that a writer going back more than 30 years to a long-dead character and disclosing one of those heretofore “unknown” facts, particularly something that is rather salacious and unflattering, would be as patently offensive to me as it is so many others. But it’s not. I really liked this story, at least the first four parts. And I don’t think it demeans Gwen in the slightest. However, there are many others whose situations are not too dissimilar to my own relative to long-time support and love for the characters, and they utterly despise this story and think it turns Gwen into a cheap, unfaithful tramp (and that’s a nice way of putting it), and Mary Jane into a deceitful little witch for keeping this from Peter all of these years.

Essentially, you have to be pretty flexible with Spider-Man’s continuity to make things fit. It is likely that Gwen Stacy’s participation in the Spider-Man storyline was anywhere from 1 ½ to 2 ½ years spider-time. Both she and Peter were new college freshman in issue #31, and sophomores by issue #70 (March 1970 - due to a reference made by Peter). In issue #136 (September 1974), Peter calls himself as a “junior,” and Gwen has probably been dead a year, based on Conway’s eventual timeline that has a two-year time horizon between #122 and #147. Gwen’s pregnancy lasted seven months, according to her statements to Osborn in issue #512 (November 2004), thus the twins were clearly born before issue #121.

After an analysis of all of the applicable events, I believe that the accidental consummation of Gwen and Norman’s relationship took place between Amazing Spider-Man #61-64, and the birth of the twins between issues #93 and 98. Much of this is based on what I believe to be two very key events that took place in issues #59-61 concerning Gwen, Captain Stacy, and Norman Osborn, as well as a point in time where there is no way possible that Gwen could have hidden a pregnancy.

I want to spend a minute addressing the "not looking pregnant" part. There have been a number of news stories over the last few years about young girls who are able to successfully hide their pregnancies from parents and friends. Many times they accomplish this by wearing baggy or oversized clothing (of course, if you revisit John Romita's art during the time period - this was a fashion option that Gwen clearly did not consider). In fact, in the very county where I currently live in Northeast Ohio, the most celebrated criminal case in the last 15 years has been the story of a teenage girl who was charged with killing her newborn baby after successfully keeping everyone, including her parents and the father of the child, clueless about its existence (she says it was stillborn). There was also a celebrity lawsuit several years ago involving actress Hunter Tylo suing big shot TV producer Aaron Spelling for firing her from a night time soap opera because she became pregnant. Spelling had hired her to be a marriage busting vixen and when she subsequently became “great with child” (in the Biblical sense) he felt that there was no way a pregnant woman could appear sufficiently sexy to seduce another man (I'm not even going to go there). Unfortunately for Spelling - Tylo barely looked pregnant, and stunned jurors when she revealed that she was pregnant again - although no one noticed even though she was wearing skin tight microskirts every day in court. The sound you then heard was Spelling’s case imploding.

Oops.

Now, of course, there are women who in the first month begin to look like they've swallowed a hot air balloon. The skinny-minnies are rare exceptions - but they do happen. Now, the fact that Gwen was carrying twins, and that their growth rate was accelerated would make it a bit harder to conceal, particularly later in the pregnancy. Also, in issue #103, Gwen accompanies Peter and J. Jonah Jameson to the Savage Land and spends most of the adventure in a bikini, which stretches (no pun intended) any attempt to rationalize her either being pregnant OR recently giving birth.

But let’s first cross the bridge of why I believe Gwen’s affair with Norman took place when it did.

Just how serious was Gwen and Peter's relationship at this time?
One of the primary complaints about the revelations of the “Sins Past” storyline was that Gwen “cheated on” or “betrayed” Peter. However, as we examine the relationship as it existed in Amazing Spider-Man #60, in which the first critical event in this analysis occurred, the relationship is still in its very early stages and not as deep as people tend to think as they remember back to when Gwen was alive. People think of Gwen and Peter being deeply in love and committed from Day One to her death, but that wasn’t so. Gwen certainly took an interest in Peter from Day One, and after Romita took over the artistic chores and Gwen settled down, there was persistent flirting back and forth, but Pete and Gwen really did not appear to go on anything resembling a date until they attended a demonstration of the nullifier in issue #53. In the past they had been together only in the context of the larger group, which included either Flash, Harry, MJ or a combination of all three. In fact, there's nothing particularly intimate about their going to the nullifier demonstration – as they are chauffeured to the event by none other than Professor Miles Warren (kind of like having your dad drive you and your girl to the movies. Bleh). Right after that, Peter disappears for several issues because he has lost his memory and thus thinks he is Doc Ock's partner in crime! Just before issue #53, however, Gwen is still dating Harry, although it is obvious she’d rather be with Peter. So, while Gwen and Peter clearly have eyes for each other and have finally stopped kidding themselves, just as the relationship is beginning to generate some serious heat – it is jarred off its foundations.

Issue #59 has Captain Stacy being placed under the mental control of the Kingpin via use of the infamous Winkler machine (known to HobGoblin fans as the device that Roderick Kingsley used to keep Ned Leeds under control and in the role of Faux HobGoblin). Dr. Winkler is an employee at Oscorp (I don’t think that’s what it was called then – it was alternatively Osborn Chemical, Industries, or Manufacturing – but thanks to the 1990’s animated series and the movies – it’s officially Oscorp), but is also working for the Kingpin (and doing all of his brainwashing dirty work on Oscorp premises – kind of dumb, but nonetheless…). In fact, Norman Osborn has already become suspicious of Winkler due to his ordering expensive equipment without Norman’s personal O.K. The use of the Winkler Device to control Stacy, however, makes him erratic and temperamental (again, much like it did Ned years later). Peter begins to suspect something is amiss when he visits the Stacy household, but his questioning raises the ire of Captain Stacy and the Captain proceeds to try to club him with his cane. Startled, Peter reacts, but it takes only a mere fraction of his spider strength to send a physically impaired old man to the floor – and naturally in the best soap opera tradition, Gwen walks in just after this has happened. Stacy, under the Kingpin’s influence, claims that Peter attacked him. Now at this point, just whom is Gwen going to believe? A frail old man who has raised her all of her life, or the boy whom she is just getting to know? Not that anyone needs convincing, but there’s a story behind that as well.

Daddy's Girl
First of all, for us to even begin to understand the circumstances that led Gwen Stacy to accidentally fall into a brief dalliance with Norman Osborn, we need to examine just what we know about Gwen based upon what is available in the Spider-Man mythos, which isn't much, when you think about it. She was introduced in Amazing Spider-Man #31 and perished in issue #121, over 90 monthly issues. This is a mere seven and a half years which is an ever decreasing fraction of the duration of the Spider-Man franchise. However, even Mary Jane did not begin to become fully developed until writer Tom DeFalco began to flesh her out in the mid 1980’s – starting with her revelation that she knew that Peter was Spider-Man in Amazing Spider-Man #257 (October 1984), and culminating in Gerry Conway’s graphic novel Parallel Lives (1989). Sadly, Gwen never lived long enough to receive this exhaustive perspective, and thus we know very little about her, what her dreams and ambitions were, what kind of young woman she was, and the factors that influenced her. But that doesn’t mean we can’t look around and make some educated guesses.

One thing that we can not underestimate in any of this – in fact, it seems to be a huge factor – is Gwen’s relationship with her father. This seemed to be an unusually tight relationship, particularly considering that Gwen is all of 18 years old (as she identifies herself in Amazing Spider-Man #59), and most 18 year olds I know can't wait to get away from mom or dad and strike out on their own, even if they're likely to fall flat on their asses and start crying for their mommy after a week on their own (like a certain unnamed college student from 26 years ago, that I, uh, heard someone talking about just the other day...)

Obviously significant is the fact that there is no mother in this picture. Gwen and Captain Stacy are clearly alone, and most likely have been for some time. Did Gwen’s mother die? Did she walk out on them – as the mother of the Ultimate Skanky Gwen Stacy? If there was a divorce – was it amicable – and if it was a divorce, why is Gwen living with her father rather than her mother? It is interesting, also, that when Gwen needs to go away for awhile after George’s death, rather than stay somewhere stateside, she travels across the Atlantic to London, to stay with Arthur Stacy, her father’s brother. In fact, when Arthur makes the call inviting Gwen to come and live with him and his wife, he has only belatedly found out about George’s death (notice: judging by the phone call – Gwen didn’t inform him! In fact, she says “Dad’s older brother – I almost forgot.” So, she could not have been too close to his brother). The Peter Parker: Spider-Man -1 Flashback issue (July 1997)indicates that there was more than a little tension between the two brothers, and it’s likely that they stopped seeing each other when Arthur left for England soon afterwards – therefore it is very easy to believe that Gwen would not remember him well (my own father had three brothers – and before he got sick from cancer and relatives began showing up to pay their respects - I saw his oldest brother a whopping total of two times in nearly 40 years). Also, Arthur says “now that you’re all alone,” as if there is no other family. I cannot recall if it has ever been specifically stated what happened to Gwen’s mother – I don’t think so – but I’m sure that some sharp-eyed spider fan can illuminate me if there is indeed such a reference.

I suppose it doesn’t make much difference. For whatever reason, Gwen and her father are the only family that each other has. And even though in issue #123 at Gwen's funeral, there is a reference made to Aunt May talking to Gwen's grandparents at her funeral, if they are Gwen's mother's parents, they have likely not been a part of her life for some time, as apparently they saw no need to attend George's funeral, and she never considered them a viable option to stay with after her father's death. And if they were by chance George's parents, they likely were very old and infirm.

Now, following that last point, add to the mix the fact that Captain Stacy is clearly an older man, perhaps even old enough to be Gwen’s grandfather. Judging by his appearance and state of health – he appears to be somewhere in his 60’s at least. Therefore, Gwen must have come along relatively late in his life - mid to late 40's probably – and she appears to be an only child. It doesn’t take a psychology degree to realize that being a parent in one’s middle age is a hell of a lot different than being a parent in one's early 20’s. Also, Captain Stacy always seemed to be one of the most thoroughly decent people around. Even the cantankerous J. Jonah Jameson, who was known to butt heads with Stacy now and then, particularly about a certain web slinger and politics (judging by Jonah’s comment at Stacy’s funeral that he was “always a bit too liberal”), was deeply affected by the Captain’s death (best displayed in the miniseries Death and Destiny (August-September 2000)). From there, it’s easy to speculate that Gwen was the light of her father’s life from the day she was born, and he no doubt doted on her and spoiled her rotten. She would have really been his "baby," and compounded by either the death of or abandonment by Gwen's mother the bond between the two of them, particularly IF Gwen's mother did indeed leave them, would be exceptionally strong. Also, as the Captain continued to grow older and dealt with either an injury, or simple age and infirmity (as evidenced by Stacy’s ever present walking stick), Gwen probably spent a considerable amount of time in a caregiver role that a wife or mother would have normally have filled.

The point I’m making with all of this exposition (yes, I do have a point!) is that although Gwen is clearly smitten with Peter, their relationship hasn’t become one of deep, abiding love, and more importantly, we cannot underestimate how totally furious Gwen would have been with Peter when she believed he attacked her father. If she wasn’t pre-occupied with making sure that her aging father was alright, she probably would have attacked Peter herself and tried to rip his eyeballs out with her fingernails. I married a Daddy's Girl - and rule no. 2 in the relationship (rule no. 1 is that you make sure you take care of Daddy's Girl or face Daddy's wrath) is that you don't diss or otherwise mess with Daddy, or you face the fury of Daddy's Girl. I am not exaggerating this.

When I first wrote my Why Did it Have to be you, Mary Jane series, I was somewhat disparaging of Gwen’s relationship with her father, quantifying it by describing her as a "crying Daddy's Girl," an assessment which I now believe to be rather short-sighted. Yes, she could be a crying Daddy's Girl – and unfortunately, for the most part that’s the only Gwen that Lee and Romita began to show us after awhile BUT, this was an honest relationship and these were honest feelings on her part. They didn't make her weak - it was a natural by-product of an unusually close relationship with her father. That, and if she really was pregnant, then her emotions were really messed up.

Also, as a result of Captain Stacy’s age, his friends were also mature, and Gwen probably spent a considerable amount time in the company of older men, perhaps even more time than she spent in the company of men her own age, and thus she would have felt quite comfortable around them. Most of George Stacy’s friends would likely have also been quite paternal towards Gwen – but there is one who would probably have seemed distant and unreachable...

Something else that is hinted at, but never explicitly explained, is Gwen and her father’s economic background. They clearly live very comfortably, and George Stacy runs with the same crowd as J. Jonah Jameson and Norman Osborn, both nouveau riche millionaires, and is also a member of the same country club as they are (in ASM #64, Stacy mentions that he hasn’t seen Osborn at the club lately). I cannot imagine this happening on a police captain’s salary – and in New York City to boot! Also, there’s never any indication that Gwen ever worked – particularly after her father died when she would ostensibly be on her own. So, there must have been some money somewhere. It could simply have been that George was a shrewed investor. But considering that Uncle Arthur is also living in one of the most expensive cities on the face of the earth, and seems to be doing well, the Stacy family could be a blue blooded one. Of course, if the Stacy family is blue blooded, then the brothers had some curious career choices – police officer and private detective! It’s also apparent that Arthur has undergone somewhat of a personality revision (as well as de-aged significantly - he went from George Stacy's older brother to his younger brother) between his first appearance in 1971, and when Howard Mackie brought him back into the spider-verse in 1996. But, that might partially explain why, even though retired, Captain Stacy still had the complete run of the police department and access to virtually every bit of information (he was officially an advisor to the city council, but I suspect his reputation gained him far more access and respect than any title). Of course, the hole in that theory is that in issue #103 (December 1971), Peter tells Gwen that he’s going to the Savage Land with JJJ because it’s money that they can use to get married. I suppose the caveat to that would be Peter’s male ego, and the still not quite liberated political climate at the time, which would dictate that a couple live on what the husband could provide. Something else to consider is how hastily the ambitious and bigoted DA candidate Sam Bullitt agreed to meet with Gwen when she came knocking on his door in ASM #91 (December 1970)– there was likely more to exploit than just the grieving daughter of a retired police captain. So, the evidence weighs toward the Stacy family having some money, because that leads to another essential component of this analysis:

Hanging with the Osborns
All of the evidence points to Gwen having a fairly long and established history with the Osborn family. In the aforementioned flashback issue, which probably occurs at least 5 years before Peter Parker is bitten by the radioactive spider, Norman Osborn and George Stacy are clearly friends, with George stating that Norman has been over to the Stacy home for dinner (of course, the problem with using this story as canon is that both Stacy and Osborn are also presented as being much younger than they really would have been five years before the birth of the Marvel Universe), and also giving George's brother a job at Oscorp as a favor to him. There is also ample evidence of Gwen and Harry Osborn being friends at least going back to high school, as it is clear that Harry knows Gwen when he introduces her as the “beauty queen from Standard High,” in ASM #31, and Gwen and Harry are shown as already established friends in Untold Tales of Spider-Man #8 and #25. They also date for a brief period of time in college before Peter takes up with Gwen, and Harry with Mary Jane. I go into much more detail about Harry and Gwen's relationship in my Goblin Prince series. As more evidence that Gwen probably knew Norman Osborn for some time - in issue #64 (September 1968), Captain Stacy asks Gwen to "tell me what's wrong with Norman Osborn, dear" as he hasn't seen him at the club lately. Captain Stacy asks Gwen this question, not from the point of him knowing she was intimate with Norman, of course, but from the point that she is likely to have seen him occasionally.

Norman to the Rescue!
Let’s return to the events of issue #60. Gwen is seriously depressed, angry, and hurt about Peter's perceived treatment of her father and has thrown him out of her house telling him she never wants to see him again. But her trials don’t stop there. Bam - there's a picture on the front page of The Daily Bugle showing Captain Stacy committing criminal acts – with the photograph taken by none other than – Peter Parker! Not only does this make her even angrier at Peter, feeling doubly betrayed but now it appears that the man she's loved and adored for all of these years may even have been a criminal and kept numerous secrets from her!

And just like those bad infomercials say “But wait – there’s more!” Captain Stacy decides to flee, over Gwen’s protests, but the Kingpin, taking no chances, sends his goons out to the airport to take Gwen and her father prisoner, bringing them to Winkler’s lab at Oscorp.

As she clearly realizes that she and her father are in mortal danger, Gwen is subsequently bound and gagged by the Kingpin’s goons, compounding her feelings of helpless and fear. Being gagged, she doesn’t even have the small solace that being able to talk to her father, or attempting to reason with the Kingpin and his gorillas, might bring. Suddenly, Spider-Man bursts in to try to save the day, but Winkler holds him at bay by pointing a gun straight at Gwen and her father threatening to kill them. Can you conceive what could have been going through the mind of an 18-year-old-girl whose world and life has been turned upside down over the last couple of days, and now is totally helpless and facing death?

And then all of a sudden, guess who comes to the rescue? Norman Osborn, seeing that the light in Winkler’s lab is still on, grows increasingly suspicious, and decides to check things out. He is horrified at the scene that greets him and takes decisive action. Admittedly, Osborn's action against Winkler prompts an accidental firing that creates another jeopardy, but within a minute it's all over as Spidey is now free to do what superheroes do.

However, in the rush of excitement, the arrival of the police taking statements, and Norman’s temporary incapacitation due to his increasingly painful headaches (after seeing a picture of the Green Goblin, he has become steadily more troubled) and proximity to the resulting explosion at the lab, Gwen probably does not get the chance to express her gratification to Norman for saving their lives.

Remember in issue #512 when Gwen tells Mary Jane that she had gone to see Norman “on another matter”? What would prompt Gwen to see him on her own initiative? I suppose one could think of a number of things, but it seems likely that she wanted to personally and properly thank Norman. And I’m sure that’s ALL she had on her mind.

Well, wouldn’t she have known that Norman was a lunatic?
Not at all. First of all, Norman Osborn was not acting like a psychopath at this time. In fact, this was probably one of the few times in his life that he was functioning with a relative degree of clarity and decency. Don’t forget, he had just been her knight in shining armor, and if you’ll remember ASM #40, Spider-Man invented the fiction that Norman Osborn had helped him defeat the Green Goblin, because he wanted to spare Harry the embarrassment and because he believed that Norman was no longer responsible for the Goblin’s actions. So that makes it twice that Norman has apparently played the role of hero.

As far as Norman’s mental condition, we again have to go back to Amazing Spider-Man #40 and the battle between the Green Goblin and Spider-Man. At the conclusion of this battle, the Goblin sustains a massive electrical shock, which had the immediate impact of causing Norman some short-term amnesia. It probably also did a lot more, such as re-wiring his brain and submerging not only the Goblin personality, but also Norman Osborn's own psychosis that ultimately gave birth to the Green Goblin just as much as the exploding formula did (shock treatment was an accepted form of treating mental illness at the time. The original Democratic vice presidential candidate of 1972, Senator Thomas Eagleton, bowed out of the race after it was discovered that he had received shock treatment for psychological problems).

Prior to this time, while there is no doubt that Norman Osborn was a sociopath even at an earlier age, and was abusive to Harry, it was probably something that Harry kept to himself. And although Norman was still the Green Goblin, his goals were more practical, such as controlling the criminal underworld, and he had not yet slid into becoming completely obsessed with Spider-Man, since up until issue #39, he didn’t know that he was Peter Parker. In fact, one might speculate that as much as the Green Goblin hated Spider-Man, he really didn’t become as obsessed with destroying him until he found out his true identity – that his most hated enemy was in his very midst – which really seemed to trigger Norman’s precipitous slide into true psychosis and lunacy. But for the moment, Norman’s electrocution has kept his psychosis under wraps.

In issue #47, in fact, Norman actually seems downright cuddly and reasonable! He wants to spend more quality time with his son and rushes to the scene of action when Kraven the Hunter attacks Harry (Kraven believed that Osborn was the Green Goblin’s point man who carried out the Goblin’s request that Kraven attack Spider-Man. The Goblin “died” before Kraven was paid, and the Hunter, who had been approached by Osborn “on behalf of” the Goblin, now wanted to take the money out of Osborn’s hide). Norman is sincerely grateful to Spider-Man for saving both him and Harry, and tells Jonah to “print the truth for once” when JJJ starts spinning a tale of Spider-Man being in partnership with Kraven.

So, it does not appear, at least up to that point, that Gwen has any reason to believe that Norman Osborn is anything other than what the rest of the world also believed him to be, or at least what her father believed him to be for a long time.

But what about Captain Stacy? If he was smart enough to figure out that Peter Parker was Spider-Man – wouldn’t he have eventually deduced that his friend Norman Osborn was the Green Goblin - or the very least a criminal and unethical businessman?

Well, yes, but he didn’t have the time. It is interesting that Universe X: Spidey one shot from January 2001, in which an older Peter Parker creates the illusion that he married Gwen, and that Harry is also alive, the divergent point in Peter’s imagined timeline is him saving Captain Stacy from the chimney collapse caused by Doctor Octopus (ASM #90). Stacy eventually fingers Osborn as the Green Goblin, and Osborn is incarcerated, thus preventing the events of Amazing Spider-Man #121. I would be willing to bet that Stacy already had suspicions before he died, which would have been cemented after Norman’s turn as the Goblin during the infamous “drug issues” of ASM #96-98 (had he lived). Knowing that Peter was Spider-Man, and realizing that the Goblin’s previous two appearances each coincided with physical and emotional breakdowns by Norman Osborn – plus the Goblin appeared to have “died” earlier at Osborn Chemical, there would have been enough circumstantial evidence for him to pursue an investigation on his own. But fate, and Doctor Octopus, intervened.

A Moment of Mutual Weakness
So, I’ve hypothesized that between issues #61 and #64, Gwen Stacy has gone to thank Norman Osborn for saving her and her father’s life. She can gain ready access to Osborn due to his longstanding friendship with her father, her friendship with Harry, and the fact that he has known her since she was a small child.

However, the Norman Osborn that she thought she was going to meet is not the Norman Osborn she sees. Rather than the confident hero, Norman is a deeply troubled man. We first saw in issue #59 that his dual personality was beginning to manifest itself again - but at the time, he was attributing this to either (1) beginning to lose his mind or (2) having a brain tumor (this is not stated, but it's a logical conclusion for someone having increasingly painful headaches). Surprisingly, considering his actions before and since, one of the things he is agonizing about is who will take care of Harry if he dies. It is very likely that Norman is gripped with facing his own mortality, completely divorced from his life as the Green Goblin. Norman is very depressed, and if he’s thinking about Harry, he’s probably thinking about his late wife, Emily as well.

Now remember, I long ago speculated after reading the Roger Stern miniseries Revenge of the Green Goblin in Goblin Love that Norman was a troubled, aloof, determined, lonely science scholarship student at ESU who was not very outgoing. Emily was fascinated by this brilliant, yet complex character, and maneuvered her way into Norman's attention. Flash forward twenty-five years, and science student Gwen Stacy maneuvers herself into the span of attention of the troubled, aloof, determined, lonely, brilliant, yet complex science scholarship student by the name of Peter Parker. Norman might have seen many similarities between Gwen and Emily as he is desperately missing Emily during this time of deep contemplation. In my old crony Julio Barone’s treatise on Gwen, he tries to answer the question that I had always been curious about myself – how did a girl like Gwen become attracted to a guy like Peter Parker? In it – he states that because Peter was intelligent and distant and kept her at arms length for awhile, she was intrigued by the challenge. Now imagine an older man with those exact same qualities, with the added bonus of being rich and in her eyes, a hero. If you have read my articles on Norman Osborn you will recall that I have speculated that Norman and Peter were probably very similar people when they were younger men, but that’s where the love and affection that Aunt May and Uncle Ben gave Peter at an early age (which really has as much to do with Peter’s sense of responsibility and compassion as his perceived role in Ben’s death), contrasted with Osborn’s loveless and lonely childhood caused the two men to go in different directions. Gwen, who has just been through the emotional wringer herself, uncertain about her relationship with Peter, angry about his perceived assault on her father, and mindful of how he never seems to be around whenever she needs him, is drawn to this rich, powerful, yet now very vulnerable man who risked his life to save her and her father.

Considering her upbringing, there also might have been a vulnerability within her that made her more likely to be influenced by older men such as Norman Osborn, or even Miles Warren. If you remember, although Gwen and Warren did not have any kind of sexual relationship (well, I guess we were saying that about Gwen and Osborn not long ago – so I can’t be too sure, eh?), after the deaths of both Gwen and Miles Warren, the clones of those two strangely enough eventually marry despite their age differences. After all, Miles Warren and Norman Osborn are probably around the same age. If you read Web of Spider-Man #125 (June 1995), we find the Gwen clone to be desperate, lonely, uncertain of her place in the world, and ultimately suicidal. She is “rescued” by the Warren clone, who did not seem to exhibit the psychopathic behavior of the original and nursed her back to health (but then the original was screwed up beyond all reasonable belief when he was resurrected into a furry Joker-rip off punster nothing like the sick, tortured middle aged man he had once been).

One of the things right that the Clone Saga did do was that it provided some background over why Warren had become unhealthily obsessed with Gwen – because she reminded him of the wife he had lost because he had been too foolishly self-absorbed in his work. There must have also have simply been something about Gwen, something that made her seem older than her years, that she would attract the attention of men much older than she and make them forget, at least temporarily, that she was young enough to be their daughter. Gwen reminded them both of someone they had lost.

So, it really wasn't "pity sex" as several posters have been referencing. Nor do you really have a situation where Norman seduced Gwen or manipulated her. You have two adults (admittedly one is more than twice the age of the other) who are probably each at their weakest and most vulnerable – and something just happened.

Was this Gwen’s first and only time? I don’t know. And at this time, it doesn’t really matter.

Now, some readers of this article suggested that I was saying that Gwen had a father fixation, and trotted out all sorts of hypothetical psychological psuedo-science that only women who have poor relationships with their fathers are attracted to older men, and since Gwen had a good relationship with her father, she wouldn't be attracted to older men. Look, I don't have a psychology degree, nor do I figure that any of the other so-called experts do either. But, I was not saying that Gwen had a father fixation. I was stating that she was simply more comfortable around older men than many of her peers as a result of her father being an older man and having as contemporaries men of his own age. What I would suggest however, is that if we look at Gwen's attraction to Peter Parker, Norman Osborn, and even the Gwen clone's love for the Miles Warren clone, is that Gwen Stacy is fascinated by intellectually powerful, yet emotionally distant men. In this context, her affection for Peter right off the bat, which always puzzled me, then makes sense. I postulated that if Gwen were aboard the starship Enterprise, while other girls would be drawn to the dashing, swaggering, studly James T. Kirk, she would likely be interested in Mr. Spock. Again, someone suggested that Gwen was attracted to Peter for his sense of humor, and since Spock had no sense of humor, there is no way my theory holds water. Obviously, this poster must not have been truly familiar with the original Star Trek series and movies, because it is pretty obvious that Mr. Spock indeed has a rather dry, wicked sense of humor.

Later, in issue #64, when Gwen realizes that she was wrong about Peter, that he was trying to help Captain Stacy rather than hurt him, she never looks back and she and Peter begin building their relationship. I would be willing to believe that when Gwen and Norman were done with their mutual indiscretion, that they each realized they had made a mistake and had no plans to continue the relationship.

But then, Gwen got pregnant. And Norman deteriorated further.

Downhill from Here
The events of Spectacular Spider-Man #2 (the magazine – later republished as Spider-Man Annual #9 (1973)), show Gwen, as well as Mary Jane beginning to see Norman Osborn’s dark side. It manifests itself at a dinner party, where Osborn begins to relentlessly provoke Peter and attempt to physically browbeat him. My suspicion is that after Osborn’s second bout as the Goblin here, the “nice” Norman Osborn begins to permanently fade from existence as the effects of the shock treatment he received begin to taper off. Although Norman later does not readily remember his and Peter’s dual identities, his original sociopathic behavior, which existed even before he became the Goblin, begins to return, and accelerates after the events of the Drug Issues.

Although Harry initially recovers from his first overdose, and the events at the end of issue #98 lead one to believe that Norman is back to his “nice self” because the Goblin is in tears over Harry's condition, Norman’s growing psychosis results in the return of the abusive and violent personality, driving Harry right back into chemical dependency, which Peter gets a hint of when he sees Osborn in issue #119. While checking up on Harry’s progress, Gwen, and likely Mary Jane as well, are able to see Harry’s deterioration and Norman’s disgust with his "weakness," and that Norman is more concerned about his own reputation that the well-being of his son. This may be the time that Mary Jane refers to in Spectacular Spider-Man #250 (October 1997) when learning of Norman’s return and reflecting back, thinks “before I learned he was the Green Goblin, I knew he was a man who lived with demons.” Seeing this makes Gwen realize what kind of man Norman Osborn truly is.

Although later events as told in upcoming storylines may contradict me, I believe that Gwen probably informed Norman about her pregnancy as soon as she coughed up the nerve, and Norman, no more eager to risk a scandal or embarrassment than Gwen was at that time, probably discussed Gwen going overseas to have the children and give them up for adoption, as I believe that based on her background, I can’t see Gwen really considering terminating the pregnancy, but I’m drifting uncomfortably close to politics so that’s all I’ll say on that. However, after Captain Stacy’s death, Gwen began to realize that she wanted her children and couldn’t bear to give them up. Norman also began to take a much more proprietary interest in the children as Harry fell further into the abyss of chemical dependency, but Gwen could see that Norman was not interested in them out of love or a sense of responsibility, but as tools to further his own economic interests and perpetuate the Osborn Legacy. He wanted the children to groom as “heirs” in place of Harry, who he now saw as weak and worthless, which set up the confrontation between Gwen and Norman we see in flashback in Amazing Spider-Man #512.

So when does she have the babies?
This is the area with the most loopholes and requires the most dodging and weaving. JMS implies (or even says, I couldn’t be 100% sure) that Gwen suddenly disappeared for four consecutive months prior to the events of Amazing Spider-Man #121, and it was then in Paris that she had the children. However, this doesn’t really jive with the stories as they originally unfolded, as the narrative indicates they follow a fairly rapid succession. HOWEVER, there is a unspecified period of time between issues #93, when Gwen leaves for London, and issue #95, when Peter goes looking for her, but of course, has to become Spider-Man and thus would out his identity to Gwen if he showed up on her doorstep. Consider that in this and later issues, both Gwen and Peter are bemoaning the fact that neither has written nor otherwise tried to contact each other, and in a moment of his usual self-absorption, he says, “she’s probably forgotten me.” Sure, I can see Peter saying this even if Gwen had simply left the day before, but perhaps that’s our loophole to expanding the time frame, that enough time has passed to where Gwen and Peter are desperately missing each other. This is the period of time that Gwen could have had the children, and it is likely that she felt nothing to fear with her aunt and uncle knowing about them, and Arthur Stacy was able to arrange for the care of the twins while Gwen returned to the States to sort out her relationship with Peter and her future (although it does stretch things a bit to believe a young mother will leave her children behind an ocean away - but hey, I gotta work with what I got).

Remember in issue #98, when Gwen is thinking to herself that she was angry with Peter because he didn’t propose marriage to her? Considering that she is probably no older than 19, 20 at the outset, why is an otherwise intelligent, attractive young girl with her life ahead of her seriously wanting to get married (beyond the fact that the story was written by a man born before the Depression and people of the era often married right out of high school - assuming they even finished high school)? Because she wants her children to have a father and she wants to have them in the context of a nuclear family relationship, something that she was likely denied because of the untimely death/departure of her mother. And as important as her father was in her own life, she cannot imagine raising the children without a father. This also places Gwen’s frantic behavior and her irrational hatred of Spider-Man, soon after the death of her father, in an entirely different light. In addition to losing her father, she’s going through the bio-chemical toll that pregnancy takes on a woman’s body and mind (I’ve seen my wife give birth to two children…again, I’m speaking from experience), and she’s simply scared to death because she is entering into a frightening new world without the man who has been her rock for her entire life. It is my conjecture that Gwen had not yet told Captain Stacy about her pregnancy, but that she was about to, realizing that she couldn’t hide it from him forever, and besides, she would need his counsel and wisdom. Now, she is without that.

We can then place Gwen’s later trip to Paris and Peter’s concurrent trip to Canada in the proper context. Gwen returns to Paris to stay with the children and make up her mind about what she wants to do with them and her life. She decides that she unequivocally wants them, wants to bring them back to the States, and wants to set up house with Peter – so she writes the infamous letter that starts this whole nightmare off in issue #509, but doesn’t mail it, deciding to return to the States to talk to Peter personally. Peter is able to contact her while he is in Canada, but Harry’s drug relapse has rushed to the forefront of concern for the moment. This gets around issue #103 where Gwen is parading around the Savage Land in a bikini. Although it’s taking huge liberties to believe she could hide her pregnancy while looking like the picture leading off this section from issue #92. And Spidey even is holding on pretty tight - and still doesn't notice anything. Sigh.

But even that rationalization goes off the charts once the string bikinis come out. Whether or not she’s afraid of being found out, I can’t see most women who are pregnant do anything but vomit at the very idea of dressing in a two piece bathing suit.

Now, you can look at ASM #121 and #512 and see that they are not congruous, as the former clearly shows a confrontation between Peter and Norman, while the latter indicates that Gwen intervened before such a confrontation occurred because she couldn’t face Norman. There is also no indication in the former that Mary Jane went back into the townhouse and slapped Norman, as she did in the latter. However, it is interesting that in issue #121, even though Norman has had a confrontation with Peter, when he throws the three youngsters out of his house, he specifically addresses the order to Gwen, stating “Miss Stacy – you and your friends are no longer welcome here.” It’s Peter that he’s blaming for Harry’s condition – so why is he all of a sudden addressing Gwen?

As we know, Norman subsequently snapped and became the Goblin again, coming after Peter, but finding Gwen in his apartment – takes her hostage – and the rest is literally comic book history.

Does this mitigate the impact of Amazing Spider-Man #121?
Absolutely not. While Norman may have had in the back of his mind to deal with Gwen eventually, it is irrefutable that the Green Goblin’s first priority was Peter Parker. He went to Peter’s apartment looking for him - NOT Gwen Stacy, who was unfortunately in the wrong place at the wrong time. Peter might have interpreted Norman's actions as a "two-fer" but at this point, there's no indication that Norman planned it that way. In fact, what would he gain by killing Gwen now? He probably didn’t know where the children were at that time – and killing Gwen at that moment would only make his job harder. However, his hatred of Spider-Man overcomes whatever negative repercussions he feels will occur if he kills Gwen, so he knocks her off the bridge. And I've stated before in an older article - I don't think that Norman went into this with the purpose of actual killing Gwen Stacy. He probably figured that Spider-Man would rescue Gwen, and in the attempt to rescue her, would make himself more vulnerable to an attack as Norman was probably circling on the glider. What he didn't anticipate was Spider-Man making the error in judgment of grabbing Gwen with a web line and snapping her neck as a result. He then likely waited a moment to attack Spider-Man because he wanted Gwen's death to sink in and taunt him about it - rather than take him out right at that moment.

In retrospect, I believe that Norman probably felt that Gwen deserved to die, not only because of her relationship with Peter Parker, but because of the threat that she was holding over his head. However, when Norman took her hostage - he was only interested in exacting revenge on Peter at that time, and she was his tool to accomplish that. So she still died that day for the sole reason that Peter Parker loved her.

So why hasn’t Norman brought this up sooner?
There are those who believe that coincidentally, this may have been referred to in Peter Parker: Spider-Man #46 (September 2002) when the Goblin, mocking Peter by playing out the events in issue #121 with dolls speaks for the Gwen doll by saying “Give me some of that Goblin Love.” Looking back, we can probably infer that Norman was referring to this – knowing that he was infuriating Peter, but slyly laughing to himself because only he knew what that truly meant. This also puts Norman’s death wish from that story arc in an additional perspective. From a practical point, he didn't bring up the two kids because he wanted to use them as a back-up plan against Spider-Man some day. Prematurely disclosing their existence might prompt Peter to look them up someday and pre-empt his plans. Also, if Peter did kill Norman, as a depressed Osborn was actually hoping he might, Norman could die knowing that Peter would still pay, because Plan B would kick into gear, and Norman’s children would come after him.

But as far as sex with Gwen? I’m not sure that’s something Norman would rub in Peter’s face (now watch him do it). We must remember that sex with Gwen was not an act designed to harm Peter Parker. It was his own weakness and devastating human frailty that had led to that action. It was not a conquest or a display of power on his part in which he could take pride. Although, I wouldn't put it past Norman to bring it up one of these days when he really wants to get Peter on edge and has exhausted some of his other trump cards, but for the most part, it's something he probably isn't very proud of. As we see in “Sins Past,” while Norman wanted the children very badly, he clearly wanted nothing more to do with Gwen. He could have rubbed their relationship in her face and declared that he owned her, but he didn’t (although he did state that no other man would have her, so I guess that whether or not he did want her, he didn’t feel like he would have any competition). And besides, it's not outside of the purview of the psychotic mind to delight in the fact that he killed her, but be either disturbed by the fact that he had sex with her, or have simply shrugged it off as inconsequential. When you look at the trails left behind by serial killers – even though they often have sex with the victims prior to murdering them – the sex is merely one display of power, the prelude, to the overall murderous act – it has no purpose outside of the act of murder. Or, considering that Norman always seems to have multiple schemes going on at one time – he may simply have been waiting for another moment to drop that bomb, although you do wonder that if he really wanted Spider-Man to kill him, he should’ve dropped it right there! Oh well…

Norman, Norman, Norman. Why is it always Norman? Why isn’t it the Big Wheel or the Hypno Hustler?
Well, Doc Ock was already taken by Aunt May at the time, so he couldn’t have had sex with Gwen.

But seriously, who else could it be? Harry? An early idea was that the children were Harry’s. This could fit, since the two had known each other for a long time, and had actually dated, although not too seriously. Plus, Norman would still consider them his children, much like he does little Norman, even if Harry were the biological father. But then again, the children had to have an accelerated aging rate in order to be the antagonists in this storyline, and Harry had not been immersed in the Goblin formula yet. Miles Warren could have been another possibility, because it could easily be inferred that he was interested in and had taken advantage of Gwen early on, but then again, you have to have super-powered children, and Warren would not give you that, either. Flash Thompson? Nah. And frankly, having the father be Mysterio, or the Shocker or the Lizard (Lizard babies?) just does not give the same sense of drama than having Spider-Man’s greatest enemy be the one to do the deed. As is readily apparent, this opens even more new doors to explore the mutual enmity between Peter Parker and Norman Osborn, and ensures that the original Green Goblin will be a potent (no pun intended) and viable presence for a long time to come. Plus, I’m interested in the potential complexities that the grown daughter (since there’s no doubt that the daughter is going to be the character to survive) of Gwen Stacy will add to the lives of Peter, Mary Jane, and Aunt May. (Now, more than ever, the Gwen clone thing has to be settled once and for all).

As far as Gwen’s willing participation in the sexual act, why should it be any other way? She has long been perceived to be a victim anyway, which has harmed her character’s legacy. Making her subject to a sexual assault further demeans the character, because then she’s just a victim all over again. No, I like it better this way. She made a choice, the wrong choice, perhaps, but the choice was still hers, and she was going to stand up and be willing to be take full responsibility for that choice by keeping the children and raising them even though there would no doubt be many people who would tell her she had every reason in the world to dispose of them in one way or another.

Why Didn't Mary Jane tell Peter this sooner?
O.K. bear with me as I delve into another boring personal anecdote. Admittedly, this is not nearly as serious or a completely analogous situation, but hopefully it will provide a little understanding as to why sometimes people keep secrets for non-malicious reasons. I met my future wife at work when she and another female joined our staff at the same time, and for one of the few times in my entire life I was lucky enough to have not one, but two attractive women literally forced to endure my company, because I was placed in charge of training them. Well, before long I was dating my future wife, although I was admittedly attracted to the other trainee, who happened to be about 5 years older than myself. During a brief period of time when my future wife and I had stopped dating, this other woman and myself went out a few evenings together (NOTHING HAPPENED FOLKS!), and short of one kiss because we were both drunk, that was it. We were two different people with different experiences going in different directions. I realized what I had already in the girl I first fell in love with, took up with her and the rest, including a job change, a transfer, three houses and two kids, is history.

Flash-forward a year and we are engaged, and I decide to come clean about what I considered a fairly harmless occurrence with the other woman. Was my fiancée grateful that I was being honest with her?

No way in hell. She subsequently called up this other woman, and in a moment of insecurity and fear, bawled her out, and destroyed what had up until that time been a strong three-way friendship (No – not that kind of a three-way, don’t get any ideas you bunch of potty-minded degenerates).

The moral of the story? I should've kept my mouth shut. The price of total honesty turned out to be far more costly than the silence would ever have been.

Back to the situation at hand. Literally the day after Mary Jane finds out this information about Gwen and Norman's relationship - both of them are dead (well, Norman wasn't, but no one knew that for years), and Peter is, as MJ stated, "half-mad with grief." Harry is totally messed up and in light of his father's "death," needs his friends, including Peter, more than ever. It served NO CONCEIVABLE GOOD PURPOSE to tell Peter the truth at this time. Again, you have the situation where the principals in the relationship were both believed to be dead, and you have the emotionally fragile son of one of the principals just barely hanging onto his sanity. And as Mary Jane's and Peter's relationship became more serious, MJ could very well have believed that if she disclosed this information to Peter, he would interpret it as her trying to make herself look better by denigrating Gwen’s character. And when Harry was first released from institutionalization in Amazing Spider-Man #151, there was no point in potentially poisoning their friendship with Harry by disclosing his father's indiscretion. MJ may very well have believed that in Norman’s absence, Peter would resent Harry and take out his anger and frustration at the situation on him.

O.K. - so what about after Harry died - and there was no sense in protecting him any more or worrying about his and Peter’s friendship? Well, right after Harry's death, you had Peter's parents apparently returning from the dead, Maximum Carnage, the Clone Saga, and the apparent death of their own child. What time would have been a good time to reveal Gwen's tryst with Norman to Peter? Over breakfast one morning – “oh by the way, Gwen slept with Norman and had two kids.” When Norman resurfaced with a flourish in Spectacular Spider-Man #250 and tormented Peter a little, Spider-Man burst into Norman's townhouse and savagely beat him, all in front of Norman's security cameras. So does MJ tell him "oh, by the way Peter, Norman also fathered two children by Gwen." Frankly, she might have been afraid that Peter would have truly killed Norman Osborn after finding this out. And then it would all have been over. Peter and Spider-Man, as well as her own life, would have been finished. Of course, wouldn’t she have figured that Peter would rather find this out from her, as opposed to Norman Osborn dropping it on him by surprise? Perhaps she should have considered this – because she has to know that Peter is going to wonder for a very long time what other secrets Mary Jane may be keeping from him (but as I’ve said before, I actually like this development because it provides genuine tension to the marriage instead of “oh I’m so sick of Peter being Spider-Man,” or the “WE’RE TOO YOUNG!” bullshit we were force fed during the reboot).

So, from where I'm sitting, it's pretty easy to see here why MJ kept Gwen's secret from Peter. The cost-benefit analysis just did not weigh heavily in favor of disclosing such sensitive information.

Conclusion
Well, there it is. And yes, I did all kinds of twisting and rationalizing and ignoring certain things in order to make my theories fit with the continuity as originally established. But that’s what I do in these articles. It’s easy enough to condemn a storyline by saying “that can’t happen!” and then shit all over it, but not so easy to take an objective look and see whether or not it can fit – and frankly, I didn’t have to work all that hard to make it fit. I did more heavy lifting in my HobGoblin and Mary Jane series. It really didn’t take a whole lot of rationalization to realize that the relationship between Gwen and Norman could have occurred, and still been within everyone’s characters.

But the true benefit of this exercise, at least for me, was developing a far better and stronger appreciation for the character of Gwen Stacy than when I started. Of course, Mary Jane is, always has been, and likely always will be my favorite of Peter Parker’s Paramours. But my research uncovered a far stronger, more complex, young woman than I originally believed existed. Of course, the Gwen fans can tell me that she was there all along, and didn’t need the retconned drama of a surprise affair and unexpected pregnancy. Well, admittedly, maybe not for them. But this makes the story of Gwen Stacy, and the sadness that was her short and unfulfilled life, far more compelling, and her death far more tragic. At least for me. And you know what – it tells me even more about Peter Parker and the kind of man he is – because once he got over the initial shock – you know that he would have forgiven Gwen, you know that he would have continued to love her, and you know that he would have been willing to raise her children as his own. After all, that’s what Aunt May and Uncle Ben did for him when his own parents died. Yes, raising the biological children of his greatest enemy would have become very complicated very fast – but ever since that tragic moment in the hallway when he allowed the Burglar to pass by, Peter has met the challenge of great responsibility head on – and you know that he would have done it for no other reason than the strength and purity of his love for Gwen.

Ultimately, I doubt I changed anyone’s minds in this article. If you like "Sins Past" – the rationalization works. If not, then it won’t. I don’t mind. But if you’ve had the patience to sit through and read this essay and have been sufficiently intrigued and entertained – then I have accomplished a far more important objective that simply getting you to agree with me.

Goodbye, Sweet Gwendolyne.

For more information on Gwen and her effect on people, check out my old crony Kap's Gwen Stacy Site, and Julio Barone's massive Take on Gwen Stacy series. At the beginning of Julio's series, you have to sign off on being more than 14 years old because of "Adult Content." From what I understand - that is because the site as a whole features Adult Content, but not Julio's series.


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