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Marvel is rewriting Spider-Man’s first meeting with Gwen Stacy (and some Green Goblin history)

Spider-Man: Shadow of the Green Goblin #1 makes some interesting changes to Marvel history

Image credit: Marvel Comics

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Peter Parker’s relationship with Gwen Stacy is one of the most important pieces of Spider-Man lore. Their romance served as the heart and soul of Stan Lee and John Romita Sr.’s Amazing Spider-Man run, and Gwen’s tragic death is considered one of the biggest turning points in Spider-Man’s history. Plus, without Gwen and Peter’s tragic romance, we never would’ve gotten Spider-Gwen. Imagine how different Across the Spider-Verse would have been without her!

Just don’t ask Peter and Gwen how they first met.

It turns out, the two of them will have different answers. Spider-Man: Shadow of the Green Goblin #1 (written by J.M. DeMatteis and penciled by Michael Sta. Maria) gives us a peak at Spidey’s past, revealing the true story of how he first met Gwen Stacy. Plus, we finally get the answers to some Green Goblin mysteries that have been plaguing the Spider-Man saga for years.

Warning: Spoilers ahead for Spider-Man: Shadow of the Green Goblin #1!

How did Peter Parker first meet Gwen Stacy?

Peter Parker meets Gwen Stacy (Amazing Spider-Man #31)
Image credit: Marvel Comics

Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy met on their first day of college in Amazing Spider-Man #31 (1965). The issue served as the first appearance for Gwen Stacy and Harry Osborn, two characters who would become big parts of the Spider-Man saga. Unlike Flash Thompson, Gwen and Harry did not attend Midtown High with Peter Parker. According to Amazing Spider-Man #31, the two of them were students at Standard High, which is why they didn’t meet Peter Parker until their freshmen year at Empire State University.

Peter and Gwen’s first meeting was far from romantic. At the time Peter was distracted by Aunt May’s illness, which caused him to ignore everyone around him. Gwen mistook his aloofness for snobbery, and immediately began resenting Peter. While there was some attraction behind Gwen’s resentment (this was Silver Age Marvel after all), it would be some time before the two would become a couple.

Other versions of Marvel continuity have Peter and Gwen meeting much sooner. After all, nobody wants to leave Gwen Stacy off the table until the college years. Marc Webb’s Amazing Spider-Man films, the Spectacular Spider-Man animated series, and the Ultimate Universe all featured Gwen as one of Peter’s high school classmates.

Those are all other universes though. In Marvel’s mainstream 616 comics continuity, the two of them didn’t meet until college. At least that’s what we thought…

Marvel reveals Spider-Man and Gwen Stacy’s real first meeting

Spider-Man saves Gwen Stacy and Harry Osborn from the Proto-Goblin
Image credit: Marvel Comics

Spider-Man: Shadow of the Green Goblin #1 is set early in Spider-Man’s heroic career. The comic doesn’t tell us which issues of the Stan Lee/Steve Ditko run it is set between, but there are a few contextual clues. Spider-Man is still using Maxie Shiffman as his talent agent and J. Jonah Jameson has recently begun his anti-Spidey editorials. Peter also states that it’s been less than a month since Uncle Ben’s death. That places this issue sometime between the panels of Amazing Spider-Man #1 (1963). This means that Peter and Gwen Stacy are approximately 15-years old.

In the comic, Spider-Man saves Gwen and Harry Osborn when the two are attacked by the Proto-Goblin. The issue is narrated by Spider-Man at some point in the future, and he explains the continuity issue. “I said before that I didn’t meet Gwen or Harry till college, and that’s true…for Peter Parker,” Spider-Man narrates. As his future-self narrates this, we get a panel of Spider-Man swinging, which illustrates Peter’s point.

So it turns out that while Peter Parker doesn’t meet Gwen and Harry until college, Spider-Man met them much earlier. Spider-Man doesn’t share any dialogue with Gwen Stacy, but he does stop the Proto-Goblin from smashing her. He does have a brief exchange with Harry, who accuses him of being a masked menace.

Gwen doesn’t drop her name during the battle, so it’s plausible that Spider-Man would have no reason to remember her when they would meet again years later. Peter’s narration also leaves some wiggle room for any potential continuity issues, “I’ve pieced it together from my own memories, firsthand accounts from some of the others involved, news reports – and, yes, unsubstantiated rumors. It may not be one hundred percent accurate, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.”

In other words, blame any continuity errors on Spider-Man’s faulty memory.

Are there any other changes to Spider-Man lore in Shadow of the Green Goblin?

This issue does have a continuity error surrounding Helen Stacy, Gwen’s mother. Since her introduction, Gwen Stacy’s mother has never been in the picture. We know she died, but we don’t know the circumstances. This issue gave us some clues. During a conversation with Harry and Norman Osborn, Gwen talks about her mother’s illness. Both Osborns comfort her, telling her that her mother will pull through.

It appears Helen Stacy died from some unknown illness. However, this doesn’t entirely jive with Many Loves of Spider-Man #1. The one-shot featured a flashback story with Gwen Stacy and Carlie Cooper as children. When the topic of mothers comes up, Gwen clams up, grabs a picture of her mom, and says she doesn’t want to talk about death. This strongly implies that Gwen’s mother had already died when she was a small child, years before Spider-Man: Shadow of the Green Goblin #1.

We can chalk this up to Peter’s faulty memories.

This isn’t the first time Marvel has played with the idea of Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy crossing paths before their first meeting. Untold Tales of Spider-Man #4 had Gwen witness a fight between Spider-Man and the Spacemen. Untold Tales of Spider-Man #25 places Gwen and Peter in the same area, but neither turn around to see one another. Their most direct interaction was Untold Tales of Spider-Man #8, where Peter crashes into Gwen and Harry while he’s rushing through the streets. He apologizes to them both but leaves before he can make any introductions. “I just wonder where that other kid was going to in such a hurry,” Gwen says.

Again, it’s reasonable to assume that Peter and Gwen would’ve forgotten that encounter by the time they met in college.

It turns out Spider-Man and Gwen Stacy had multiple ‘first’ meetings.

Secrets from the Green Goblin’s past

Emily Osborn is looking for Harry Osborn
Image credit: Marvel Comics

Spider-Man: Shadow of the Green Goblin also resolves a 27-year-old cliffhanger. Back in 1997 Marvel held an event known as Flashback Month, where all their comics were given -1 issues. Hey, it worked for Godzilla. Peter Parker: Spider-Man #-1 explored Norman Osborn’s past, showing readers the experiments that would eventually turn him into the Green Goblin. Interestingly, Spider-Man #-1 is also the first appearance of Gwen’s mother, Helen Stacy.

Norman’s experiments resulted in an Osborn Industries employee named Dr. Nels Van Adder turning into a monstrous creature dubbed the Proto-Goblin. After trying to kill Norman, Proto-Goblin disappears into the river. However, the last panel of the issue reveals that the Proto-Goblin survived and was ready for revenge.

This cliffhanger was ignored for 27 years.

Spider-Man: Shadow of the Green Goblin #1 continues Proto-Goblin’s story, as the villain tries to get his revenge on Norman Osborn. This storyline ties into another unresolved Osborn plotline.

Let’s rewind…

For years it was believed that Norman Osborn’s wife Emily had died when Harry was a baby. Amazing Spider-Man #799 revealed that Emily had faked her death to get away from Norman. She would later return to New York to protect her grandchildren from Norman. However, this revelation left many questions unanswered. Where was Emily for all these years? Why didn’t she return to Harry during the period when everyone thought Norman was dead?

Dan Slott left the title after Amazing Spider-Man #801, and subsequent writers ignored Emily Osborn.

However, it appears that Spider-Man: Shadow of the Green Goblin will finally address these questions. During the issue, we learn that Emily has hired Proto-Goblin to kidnap her son. It appears that she’s hoping to ‘free him’ from her husband’s grasp.

It just goes to show you that you’ll never know what you might find when you dig through Spider-Man’s past.

An advance copy of Spider-Man: Shadow of the Green Goblin #1 was provided ahead of release by Marvel.

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Joshua Lapin-Bertone avatar
Joshua Lapin-Bertone: Joshua is a pop culture writer specializing in comic book media. His work has appeared on the official DC Comics website, the DC Universe subscription service, HBO Max promotional videos, the Batman Universe fansite, and more. In between traveling around the country to cover various comic conventions, Joshua resides in Florida where he binges superhero television and reads obscure comics from yesteryear.
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