“Face it, tiger…”

Before she was finally revealed by creators Stan Lee and John Romita in SPIDER-MAN #42, the running joke was that Peter (Spider-Man) Parker didn’t want to be set up with Mrs. Watson’s niece Mary Jane. Steve Ditko had teased readers with glimpses of her here and there, suggesting she was a high-fashion femme fatale. But when Peter opened the door to meet her, it was Romita’s version that greeted him.

Peter was smitten with Gwen Stacy at the time, and MJ was introduced to complicate things with a love triangle. She was immediately irrepressible, the ypart girl to Gwen’s chaste girl-next-door. Peter was destined to be with Gwen, it seemed, but MJ was hard for him- and readers- to resist.  She was fun but troubled. Smart but irresponsible. Lovable but frustrating.

Eventually Gwen was murdered by the Green Goblin. Over a surprisingly long time, Peter and Mary Jane became a couple. A retcon (retroactive continuity addition) had Mary Jane declaring she’d known Peter was secretly Spider-Man all along, had loved him from afar, but couldn’t be with him because of it.  They were eventually married, had numerous rocky years, and their marriage was, after two decades, magically annulled by editorial fiat in a story too dumb to waste any time on. Such is the grind of monthly comic book continuity.

Because she was never designed to be Spider-Man’s girlfriend- at the time that was Gwen- Mary Jane’s life didn’t revolve around his the way numerous other superhero-accessory-girlfriends seem to. She had her own interests, and disappeared from Peter/Spidey’s life for long stretches. Later stories would suggest a more longstanding connection between her and Peter, but they were never able to tamp down the larger-than-life spirit that first told Peter that, upon meeting her, he’d “hit the jackpot.”

That’s all for today, but don’t be blue: more MIGHTY MARVEL MAY tomorrow!


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