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If Her Hair Was Still Red: Amazing Spider-Man #42

by  in Comic News Comment

Here’s a new feature of indefinite regularity where I take a look at all of Mary Jane Watson’s comic book appearances in chronological order (by date of publication). Mary Jane’s progression as a character fascinates me.

We continue with 1966’s Amazing Spider-Man #42 by Stan Lee and John Romita, featuring the full first appearance of Mary Jane Watson!

This issue always stood out to me not just because of the introduction of Mary Jane Watson, but what the introduction of Mary Jane meant for the book. In a lot of ways, Romita was still in his “Draw like Steve Ditko” mode in this issue. Romita’s Gwen Stacy was still very much Steve Ditko’s Gwen Stacy. However, Romita’s Peter Parker was slowly starting to become a bit more Romita than Ditko (while still being very much Ditko) and Mary Jane, of course, was all Romita.


Early Gwen Stacy was a real pistol. Totally unlike how she’s been retroactively depicted.

Later, as Peter reflects on his love life, it’s interesting how he even admits to himself how it’s a bit odd how quickly Betty Brant went out of his life.


The main plot of the issue is John Jameson going nuts due to some sort of space virus he got while in space (it also gave him super-strength). Anyhow, he succeeds in curing Jameson and he goes home to relax, but then he recalls that he has to meet Mary Jane…


I love that great Romita panel of Peter putting his head in his hand, waiting to meet Mary Jane.


So here it is – we know Mary Jane has to be pretty but not just pretty but really STAND OUT, so John Romita went to the then-recent film Bye Bye Birdie and star actress Ann-Margret for the inspiration for Mary Jane’s body…


Good thinking, Romita!

Okay, so now we combine Romita’s brilliant design with Stan Lee’s striking dialogue for this classic introduction at the end of Amazing Spider-Man #42…


Wow, that’s pretty freakin’ awesome.

If you have any thoughts on early MJ in particular, you can drop me a line at bcronin@comicbookresources.com. Maybe I’ll address you e-mail in an installment.