Gwen Stacy has been a Marvel Comics staple for the last few years in her alt-universe Ghost Spider incarnation. But on February 12, the mainstream Marvel Universe Gwen returns in a flashback tale that puts her in the solo title potlight for the first time.
With Gwen Stacy #1, writer Christos Gage and artist Todd Nauck will present a look at Gwen’s life before she met Spider-Man – but not before becoming embroiled in his world as her father takes on classic Spidey foe the Crime Master.
Newsarama spoke with Gage ahead of Gwen Stacy #1 about the heart and soul of the character that has remained in Marvel fans’ hearts since her in-continuity death decades ago, and how the qualities that make Gwen who she is come through in a big, heroic way – even without Spider-Man swinging through.
Newsarama: Christos, Gwen Stacy is a beloved Marvel Comics character, but she’s never really been a lead character in the mainstream Marvel Universe. What prompted putting her in the spotlight here?
Christos Gage: Well, editor Nick Lowe asked me, and after thinking about it for a beat – I did wonder if it was possible to tell exciting stories when Gwen’s ultimate fate is all too well known to Spidey readers – I discussed it with Nick and Dan Slott. And I realized that we really know very little about Gwen’s life before she first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #31. So there’s a lot of potential for really cool stories, with quite a bit of latitude – it’s not like we’re stuck trying to squeeze in something between panels X and Y of issue Z. This is before any Silver Age reader ever saw Gwen! And sure, we know what ultimately happens to her, but that doesn’t make the personal stakes in the story we’re telling any less weighty.
It’s centered around how George Stacy, Gwen’s Dad, got the leg injury that required him to use a cane, and how and why he retired from the police force. And it’s about Gwen, who is still grieving the loss of her mother, fighting for the parent she has left.
Nrama: This series flashes back to her life before meeting Peter Parker. What’s Gwen like without Spider-Man in her life? How do the traits she showed as a companion for Peter come through in this lead role?
Gage: Gwen is attending Standard High, where Harry Osborn also goes; they’re good friends. She’s a driven and ambitious young woman, running for class President and hoping for a college scholarship. Her father is police captain George Stacy. And what we will see is that Gwen and her father are very close (her Mom having passed away a few years earlier), to the point where he sort of tutors her in the work he’s doing, in a theoretical way, teaching her about police procedure.
But now, for the first time, Gwen is going to be directly drawn in to one of those cases when her father’s career – and life itself – are threatened. The same qualities of the Gwen longtime readers know – bravery, kindness, resolve – play into this. Tonally, it’s not unlike Veronica Mars – action, drama, a poignant father/daughter dynamic – mixed with Stan Lee/Steve Ditko Spider-Man stories.
Nrama: On that note, what other aspects of Spidey-lore can we expect to see pop up through this series? We’ve seen Crime Master in future solicitations.
Gage: Quite a bit. Aside from Harry, there’s Crime Master, there’s Green Goblin/Norman Osborn, the Enforcers (I love me some Enforcers), Jean DeWolff, Yuri Watanabe, Frederick Foswell, J. Jonah Jameson…and maybe some surprises!
Nrama: You’ve written your fair share of Spider-Man comic books. What principles do you keep in mind to make this feel like a Spider-Man family tale without the same trappings?
Gage: It’s all in capturing the world. Our story takes place roughly circa Amazing Spider-Man #25 to #27. And a lot of the same characters are around. So it shouldn’t feel like a Spider-Man story without Spider-Man, it should feel like a Gwen Stacy story set in the world fans know from following Spider-Man.
Nrama: You’re working with Todd Nauck, whose got his own Spidey pedigree and an expressive style to match. What makes him the perfect artist for a Gwen Stacy series?
Gage: He is as good with character “acting” as anyone in the business. And he does an amazing job balancing the lighter-hearted moments with action and poignant emotion. He can do it all! And I’d be remiss in failing to mention our cover artist, the great Adam Hughes, who needs no introduction. This book will definitely look amazing! Now I just have to hold up my end…
Nrama:What’s your favorite thing he’s drawn so far?
Gage: The villains. The Ox! Fancy Dan! Montana! He’s not imitating Steve Ditko at all, it’s Todd’s style, but the Ditko influence comes through in the design of the characters, and Todd really nails it. I really feel like this story takes place in that Lee/Ditko era, but it never seems dated. I don’t think there are too many artists who could pull that off.
Nrama: What makes Gwen Stacy stand out among Spider-Man’s supporting characters? What contributes to the staying power that has her launching a core Marvel Universe solo series almost fifty years after her in-continuity death?
Gage: I think Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross captured it in Marvels. Possibly because she died so young, but also because of who she is, Gwen in a lot of ways represents the best of us. Someone who knows the kind of evil that exists in the world, but doesn’t let it grind her down or make her bitter or cynical. Gwen never gives up, and always stands by the people she loves. And the more time that goes by, the more inspiring and heroic that seems.
Nrama: Bottom line, what’s in store for Gwen fans who dive into this title?
Gage: Hopefully a combination of fun, excitement, drama, and a look at who Gwen was before she ever met Spider-Man or Peter Parker. And some really, really beautiful art.