As one of the most popular, iconic Marvel Comics characters created within the past decade, Spider-Gwen, the Spider-Woman of Earth-65, has thrilled fans around the world, leading to legions of cosplayers and merchandising even before the character's big screen debut in the Academy Award-winning Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
Created by Jason Latour, Robbi Rodriguez and Rico Renzi in 2014's Edge of Spider-Verse #2 as part of the Spider-Verse comic book crossover event, the popular comic run saw Gwen Stacy bond with her universe's version of the Venom symbiote to become Gwenom. Darker, angrier and more powerful than ever, the transformation marked a self-aware subversion of the classic symbiote storyline in Spider-Man comics in the 1980s and, in a final twist, ended with Gwen and the symbiote still bonded, continuing to work together to fight crime as Earth-65's Spider-Woman.
Gwenom's Dark Origins
At the end of a confrontation with Earth-65's Cindy Moon, Gwen defeats the alternate universe villain, with the help of Jessica Drew and Silk, but at permanent expense of her powers. Earth-65's Reed Richards develops a temporary solution involving Gwen using isotopes for the wall-crawler regain her powers in the short term but, with the alternate world's evil Matt Murdock forcing her to do his bidding, the need for a more longterm fix is immediately apparent.
Murdock attempts to entice the teenage superhero with the symbiote, created by Doctor Elsa Brock in a clever nod to its main universe's regular host. Initially refusing, Gwen injects a version of Harry Osborn corrupted by the symbiote with one her of isotopes. The added chemicals cause the symbiote to mutate into Venom and it bonds with a nearby Wolverine before choosing Gwen as its permanent host body. For co-creator and writer Jason Latour, the transformation was a natural one and would help inform the character's ongoing journey of self-discovery over the course of the series.
"It was pretty organic. The pun was obvious. And I just love looking for meaning in, and trying make people care about, something that at first blush seems easily dismissed or stupid," Latour explains in an exclusive interview with CBR. "Gwen’s whole journey was one that was about becoming more self aware and accepting that something that was such a dramatic split seemed to make a lot of sense. A crisis of self."
Now bonded to the symbiote, Gwen fully regained her powers without the need for the isotopes, with a noticeable power upgrade and all the powers of the main Marvel Universe's Venom, including tendrils, unlimited webbing and a shapeshifting costume. Additionally, whenever bonded to an incompatible host, the symbiote kills its victims through lethal radiation. By the end of the original series, Gwen had learned how to balance her augmented abilities with the symbiote, forming a true symbiosis as she defeated Murdock once and for all. For Latour, the idea of keeping Gwen and symbiote bonded was both a way to differentiate her further from Spider-Man and her own personal arc reconciling her powers and responsibilities as Spider-Woman.
"The point was always to start with a thing that has the power of Spidey-mythos baked into it— and then uses that to go somewhere Spider-Man never could," Latour reflects. "There’s no way he’s keeping his symbiote just by the virtue of the fact he has to stay sort of recognizable and true to the stuff people love. Gwen did not. She’s a different character with a different outlook and circumstances and her future was less rigid or certain. So she could go to a place like this and change and treat this relationship in a way that would never happen with Peter."
For more adventures with the Venom-bonded Gwen Stacy of Earth-65, read the character's current ongoing series Spider-Gwen: Ghost Spider by Seanan McGuire and Takeshi Miyazawa.