As I stated in a previous post, the first comic book I ever bought was Amazing Spider-Man 148. I think you can see from the pic why I was instantly hooked. "Adios, Webhead! Give our regards to the fishes!" Classic.
This was also my introduction to Gwen Stacy, albeit the clone version created by The Jackal. After a few issues of the ongoing comic, I went back and bought the preceding issues as I found the monthly mags insufficient to satiate my growing need for more comics each week. So eventually I read the entire courtship of Peter and Gwen. The awkward first steps, the ups and downs, the burgeoning relationship, the undying love and the tragic end. (Don't even get me started on the pure drivel that's involved Gwen in the Spider books recently).
There have only been a handful of comics (or any fiction really) that has touched me to the point of being genuinely affected by what I've read and The Death of Gwen Stacy is the most poignant and moving of them all. The scene is forever burned into my memory.
As I said last post, my reality and the fictional life of Peter Parker have coincided numerous times. This is perhaps the most important and life altering of those times. My first real girlfriend was named Melanie and while she wasn't the girl I lost my virginity to (nor did she lose hers to me), she WAS the first girl I thought I was in love with and the first girl I ever slept with more than once. We were 16 and our initial courtship was not easy. She had been dating my best friend at the time, Rob but there was a connection between me and Melanie. Rob was not what people would later call "emotionally available" but he was a good guy and a helluva lot of fun to hang out with. Melanie turned to me for her emotional needs and we spent alot of time talking about her relationship with Rob. At 16, I was not what you would call a Casanova. I was insecure, awkward and not at all confident with women... you know, I was a teenager. Melanie was a very good looking girl, even sexy for her age. She had a very developed body and seemed to know she was attractive to the opposite sex. When she told me she loved me one night while we walked to her house, I was both elated and worried. I knew this would be trouble... and it was. After an actual fight with my best friend, I basically had to choose between Melanie and all my other friends since they all vilified me for stealing Rob's girlfriend. I chose the girl and, in retrospect, this was perhaps the worst decision of my life, before or since.
I spent the next 2+ years in a relationship with Melanie. There were good times to be sure and during my forced exile from my friends I started hanging out with two people who are to this day the very best friends I'll ever have. Mostly, I remember the bad stuff. Melanie came from a dysfunctional family and she always said her dad beat her before he had an accident which left him without full mental capabilities. I knew her family well and I liked them. She seemed to hate them but she WAS a teenage girl, so some of that is to be expected. During this time there were moments that I still think about and moments that have become ingrained in legend amongst my friends. Suffice it to say, Melanie was a girl who needed a lot of attention. She was very high maintenance. I was just coming into my own as an obnoxious teen myself and we were a volatile combination.
Melanie cheated on me 7 times during our time together. Each time I caught her, but being a teenager and thinking I was in love and, of course, being addicted to having regular sex, I kept giving her another chance. The final time she cheated on me was with my brother. Somehow I knew it would always come to that. My brother was in constant competition with me and always was looking for a way to prove he was better than me. To his never ending chagrin, he never could. I was better in school, better in sports, better with girls and I was the life of the party. He resented the hell out of me even though I barely bothered with him by this time. I preferred to just let him live his life and just live mine. So Melanie and my brother cheated on me. This almost cost my brother a serious beating (my beloved father stepped in) but it cost Melanie any continued contact from me. I stopped speaking to both of them. As a favor to my mother, I promised not to beat the living shit out of my brother and I kept my word.
But I couldn't just let them get away with it, could I? After a few months, they announced their engagement. I used this as an opportunity to do what I consider the very worst thing I've ever done. First I started talking to them again. While my brother hardly cared, Melanie took to it like a drowning woman reaching for a lifeboat. She said she had missed me and was glad to have me back in her life. She seemed really sincere and genuinely happy to renew our friendship. So I seduced her. Well, that's not totally true. I spent time with her and we would talk and I manipulated her into telling me things she shouldn't... like that she felt she made a huge mistake, that she never should have cheated on me and she wished we were still together. This only made me more determined to destroy her. On numerous occasions, I would go over to their apartment when my brother wasn't around and we would fool around. We would start to have sex but, at some point (sometimes before and sometimes after penetration), I would get up and say I had to leave and get dressed and walk out. I did this at least 5 times. I think this is a heinous act. I basically was out for revenge and I kept intentionally hurting her as badly as I could. A very large regret to this day.
My brother not only was a jerk and a scumbag, he was a coke addict and a woman beater. He hit Melanie and I was forced to confront him about it. I made it abundantly clear that it HAD to stop or he was going to get whatever he did to her back on him tenfold. I think this "protection" of her was one of the reasons she was so susceptible to my manipulations. Another regret. Melanie had used coke for a while but an overdose and a trip to the emergency room was enough to scare her straight as far as I know. 5 months before their wedding, my father died of a heart attack. This sent my brother into a tailspin and he used more and more as the weeks went by. We were both running my Dad's shop in the months after his death and there were days he would show up with coke all over his moustache. He was pathetic. A month before the wedding, my fathers partners fired him for embezzling money to support his habit. He became suicidal. I hardly cared, to be honest. The only effect this had on my life was that he would get high and then call me saying how much he wanted to kill himself and, frankly, it was annoying. I know that sounds bad but it was and I started avoiding the calls. It also made Melanie talk to me more and more as she realized the sinking ship she was on.
Two weeks before the wedding, I was going on a ski trip with all my friends that would turn out to be one of the most wild and fun times of my life. Pure unadulterated joy. Drunken revelry. It was a blast. The night before I left, Melanie came to the apt I shared with a buddy of mine. She was distraught and talked about leaving my brother. I told her that even if she did, there was no future with me... we were done and I wasn't even going to fool around anymore. I felt more sorry for her than angry at that time and I just didn't have the venom to continue to screw with her emotions. The night we got back from the ski trip was Sunday and I had about 20 people in the apt to watch the Broncos/Giants Superbowl. At halftime, my roommate told me my brother was on the phone and that he sounded bad. Against my better judgement, I answered the phone.
After I said hello, I heard the two words that would forever change my life: