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If Her Hair Was Still Red: Amazing Spider-Man #43

by  in Comic News Comment
If Her Hair Was Still Red: Amazing Spider-Man #43

In this feature (of indefinite regularity) 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 #43 by Stan Lee and John Romita, featuring what happened AFTER Peter Parker “hit the jackpot”…

Okay, as you know from the last installment, Peter Parker has now moved on from both his first love, Betty Brant (who gets engaged in this issue) and the popular girl who was sort of infatuated with him in high school, Liz Allan (who disappeared after high school graduation, not to be seen again until the early 1970s). He’s intrigued by his new college classmate, Gwen Stacy, but she doesn’t seem interested in him. So Peter finally meets up with the girl his aunt has been trying to set him up with for months now and she turns out to be a gorgeous redhead who greets him at the door by calling him “Tiger” and telling him that he just hit the jackpot. So what does Peter do next?

Why, stare at her throughout dinner, of course!

It’s interesting, the addition of the Romita-designed Mary Jane has clearly led to Romita putting more of his own influence on Peter Parker’s look in this, his fifth issue on the series. The other characters are still very much in their Ditko mold (including Gwen Stacy, Flash Thompson, Harry Osborn and especially J. Jonah Jameson), but Romita’s look for Peter has begun to develop beyond Ditko’s Peter…

I love that Aunt May is totally down with the vivacious MJ…

This issue is the debut of Mary Jane’s patented, “Just start dancing in the middle of people’s living room as if it were perfectly normal behavior”…

I also love Mary Jane’s pout when her song is interrupted, especially by a dude in “crazy threads.”

But then another interesting twist in introduced, that Mary Jane is a girl who WANTS to go to where the action is…

Although “I bet the Rhino is a real swinger” has got to be up there with some of the most inane comments MJ made in the early years (and she made a ton of them).

So Peter is off with Mary Jane, but how will he manage to get away from her?

He just told her I’m going to go take some dangerous photos and she’s like, “Sure, whatever.”

I love Stan’s crowd dialogue. He always did such a great job showing how dumb crowds were. A shooter could open fire on a Stan Lee crowd, blood could be everywhere, and his crowds would be shouting, “What is this? Some kind of advertising stunt?”

MJ just watches it all from the crowd and she looks thrilled (boy, did Romita draw her well)…

And when Peter returns, she’s all good with everything.

In the future, later writers will play the whole “tears of a clown” deal with Mary Jane, which I always found a bit annoying, in the sense that, what, no one can just be a naturally happy person? She has to have a secret that she’s running away from? I mean, sure, if you want to have her as a long term love interest, she can’t just be the flighty life of the party, but that’s a lot different from being an abused young woman who hides her angst in a mask of happiness.

Peter runs into Harry, Flash and Gwen and we all get a striking realization that this was, you know, 1966…

Peter then decides to put the woman he just met on some weird pedestal…

But while thinking about his date with MJ (and his remaining infatuation with Gwen), he realizes that Aunt May is sick…

This leads to him breaking off his date with MJ, which she takes very well, even as Peter is being all emo…

Her first full issue in the book and Mary Jane is a breath of fresh air, a happy character who doesn’t need to be coddled.

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

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