Marvel Comics has definitely double (triple) downed on female-led titles this year, with 17 announced for All-New All-Different Marvel going into 2016. One of their most successful — and most surprising — is Spider-Gwen, the adventures of an alternate universe Gwen Stacy who received spider-powers rather than her boyfriend Peter Parker. Spider-Gwen has taken the comics community by storm, joining characters like Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel, Batgirl, and Harley Quinn in inspiring thousands of female readers (men too) to sit up and take notice.
At the helm of this new Spider-Woman are writer Jason Latour and artist Robbi Rodriguez. Launching a new #1 this week for Marvel Comics, Latour shared some thoughts on creating this brand new characters with not one, but two classic names. What does it take to make a brand new Spider-character who is as amazing as the original?
Who is Gwen Stacy?
Alter Ego: Spider-Woman
First Appearance (classic): Amazing Spider-Man #31 (1965)
First Appearance (current): Edge of Spider-Verse #2 (2014)
Gwen Stacy created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
Spider-Gwen created by Jason Latour and Robbi Rodriguez
Published by Marvel Comics
Student at Empire State University and girlfriend to Peter Parker, the young man also known as Spider-Man, Gwen Stacy faced danger now and then — but nothing compared to her final moments at the hand of the Green Goblin. Taken hostage on the George Washington Bridge, Gwen is nearly rescued by her Amazing boyfriend. Nearly.
As she is pushed off the edge, Peter snags her with his webbing by the ankle. But her neck snaps, and Gwen Stacy is no more. Was it the Green Goblin who killed her in the fall or Peter’s own miscalculation? The debate has raged for decades.
Fast forward 42 years (in real time) and Gwen Stacy is back — but this is definitely NOT the Gwen who died a victim on that bridge. College student in the alternate universe numbered 65, Gwen Stacy is the recipient of Spider-powers from a bite, not Peter Parker. Peter dies in the guise of the villain, the Lizard, and Gwen takes up the secret identity and costume of Spider-Woman, defender of New York and all-around kickass lady.
Spider-Gwen has since had many adventures alongside Spider-Women and Men of the Marvel Multiverse and continues to know her allies are there when she needs them. In the meantime, Gwen rocks out with her band, the Mary Janes, and fights crime with her father, Captain Stacy, worrying from afar.
A few words from her creator
Matt Santori: One of the things we’ve heard you talk a bit about was taking Gwen Stacy from her legend as “professional victim” to hero. What has been your thought process on that?
Jason Latour: When I first decided that this was something I wanted to pursue, I was told that there was a list of potential characters — and Gwen was on the list. For some reason, I kept coming back to Gwen, even though I knew it could potentially go very badly.
When I was a kid, people would say, “You’re not supposed to touch Gwen Stacy.” She’s supposed to stay dead. I don’t know if it’s because I worked on Bucky for awhile, but I had this prescience — a moment where I thought, I need to step back from what I know about comics and think about things as objectively as possible.
It was clear to me pretty quickly that I didn’t know anything about Gwen Stacy except that she was a victim. The scales fell from my eyes at that moment. I had been reading Spider-Man comics since I was a ten year-old kid. If I don’t know anything about Gwen except that she’s a victim, that’s kind of a problem.
And I’m not saying that’s how Gerry Conway and Stan Lee wanted to treat her at all. It’s just sort of what happened in the years since. It’s what her legacy has become in retrospect. Gerry Conway is a very progressive guy working in a very different era, and in some ways — maybe it sounds like I’m making an excuse for them — everything else has become sort of a copy of a copy of a copy. The original intent in killing Gwen was a bit more nuanced than we read it as today.
So, yeah. I had only seen the first film with Emma Stone, but I’m a big fan of the diversification of super-hero stuff. As a white male, I’ve read my story a thousand times. As a creator, it’s become a little boring to me. And as a reader too.
It just seemed like some sort of catharsis needed to happen, even if it was just one fun little story. It needed some sort of cathartic moment. And that was it. I really only set out to write this one little story that I thought might mean something to somebody.
You don’t always know what your intentions are when you’re doing things. Sometimes you’re just lucky enough to recognize the writing on the wall.
MSG: This one little story has become so much bigger and more amazing in such a short time. Are you surprised about the success?
JL: I’m completely surprised! I’m floored by it. I think Spider-Gwen has been one of the best-selling Marvel books of the year. I had sort of relegated myself to the fact that I was an artist and that the stories I write have a cult fan base. But this has really been gratifying in a lot of ways. It just opens a lot of doors for me to tell more stories like this. I feel very indebted to people who have bought the book for that opportunity, and I feel like everything I do moving forward has to earn that trust.
MSG: Of course, Gwen’s costume design by Robbi Rodriguez was extremely well received by fans. What’s your take on the general feel of costuming for super-heroes out in the market today?
JT: Well, Robbi and I were on the same page from the start. I’ve known Robbi a long time, so I knew how he felt about this stuff. But the prompt I gave when we started this was that the original Spider-Man was mysterious. It made sense why people would think he’s a menace. And the fact that his face and body was covered made it so it could be anyone under that mask. And that was something we really wanted to reflect with Gwen.
I’m not against characters having feminine qualities in their character design, but in this instance, you have to remember that things have been so oversexualized for so long. We wanted to make a character that wasn’t treated like an object or over-emphasized as a woman. What would this character wear?
I’m always a little hesitant to ascribe too much of a motivation to the things we do, but I hope the book stands on its own two feet.
MSG: There are a lot of Spider-Women floating around. How do you distinguish Gwen from all the other characters?
JT: Well, first, I think those other two Spider-Women books are AWESOME. I think both Spider-Woman and Silk are great.
JT: It’s a tough act to follow. I think people want to put Spider-Gwen in competition with those books, and we’re all really just on the same team.
I think they all have very distinct origins and views on the world. Gwen obviously has the benefit of having her own universe, so she’s not always in direct relationship or comparison to Peter Parker. Yes, she shares some similarities to Peter, but in my mind, that really stops after saying they’re just two Spider-characters.
I think that Spider-Gwen is a story about the Stacy family, and about great power and responsibility from that perspective. It has some commonality with Ben and Peter Parker, but because she’s been raised by a cop — especially in this day and age — there’s a conversation that can be had that’s interesting and unique. They always say that Marvel works best when it’s like the world outside your window. I want to do some of that stuff. She gives us a nice view into that without beating people over the head with it.
MSG: Speaking of the dynamics with her father, that was one of the most interesting aspects of the original story. How are you developing that relationship and how they bounce off of each other?
JT: I am a fairly liberal guy who was raised by very loving, but conservative parents. So, a lot of my life has been trying to wrestle with what the things are that I disagree with them in terms of their ideology. But there are also a lot of things they taught me that I carry with me every day and have found valuable. In that sense, Gwen and I are one and the same.
Gwen is really wrestling with this idea that her father has this black and white view of the world. He’s a good copy, but at the end of the day, his job is to put on a badge and shield and try to proactively protect people. The inverse of that is — because he knows she’s Spider-Woman — that everything he knows about his life has been called into question. She’s really the headliner, but Captain Stacy is really the A-1 supporting cast member. It’s like anyone’s parents, really.
One of the things I want to do with this book is to have a sort of Will Eisner-ish cast, which is something I think is missing from a lot of modern books. You want characters that the heroes know in their daily lives. It’s what I’ve always loved about Spider-Man.
MSG: Does Spider-Gwen only work in a world without Peter Parker?
JT: No. But she works best in a world without Peter Parker.
I can’t spoil anything, but what makes this universe different than others is that she’s already aware there’s a 616, and has the potential to bounce back and forth. It’s not a thing that characters like Ultimate Spider-Man, for instance, were designed for from the start. And that makes her unique. It’s a little more akin to DC Comics’ Earth 1 and Earth 2, where Superman knew there was another Superman.
So yes, she’s always going to work best in a world without Peter Parker. But that doesn’t mean that she can’t work in a world with him. And that’s something I want to play with eventually. People have a lot of assumptions about how the modern Peter Parker views our Gwen or vice versa, but we haven’t really had a lot of breadth to get into that.
MSG: Do you feel any obligation to bring in more of who Gwen Stacy was in the past, or are you really just trailblazing from here on out?
JT: Again, it’s no disrespect to anyone who loved Gwen Stacy in the past, but this is a different person. She’s from another planet. She shares things in common with the original Gwen: both their fathers are cops. She knows the Parkers and the Watsons and all that sort of stuff. But for all intents and purposes, she’s a different person.
In some ways, it’s no more different than if a different writer took over Peter Parker, but I want to be progressive about moving her forward and seeing what she can become. The homages to the original version are sort of just built into the concept. But it’s best to move forward.
“Latour has managed to do something for his Spider-Woman that Spider-Man never exactly handled well: it gives the character an excuse for an outside life that connects with the hero under the mask. Peter and his photography never felt connected in the same way that Latour connects Gwen to her music, her bandmates, and her role as a teenager.”
– Michael Hale, Comicosity
“Robbi Rodriguez provides Latour the literary version of a “high five” with his accompanying modern and gorgeous artwork. Rodriguez’s meticulous work with shade and contrast are incomparable … This book would not be as exciting or stimulating without his imaginative take on Latour’s story.”
– Heather Joy, Comicosity
“What will also be extremely enjoyable is that Latour carries on the sass and vinegar humor used to portray Spider-Gwen … It’s these types of moments that will have fans clamoring for more.”
– Jessica Boyd, Comicosity
Where can I read more?
- Edge of Spider-Verse #2 (2014)
- Spider-Gwen #1-5 (2015)
- Spider-Verse #1-5 (2015)
- Spider-Verse Team-Up #2 (2015)
- Spider-Gwen #1 – current (2015)
A sneak peek of tomorrow’s Spider-Gwen #1 from Marvel Comics:
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