In If Her Hair Was Still Red (a 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’re now at a weird point in the history of Mary Jane where she is still a character that Stan Lee and John Romita make sure to check in on every issue, but it seems pretty clear that they’ve moved on from her being a realistic love interest for Peter. There are two notable events that set-up the future of the character in Amazing Spider-Man #48-50, which we’ll look at today.
First up, in Amazing Spider-Man #48 (by Stan Lee and John Romita), Mary Jane makes just a single appearance, but the importance of this appearance is that it sets up Mary Jane’s future relationship with Harry Osborn.
You could tell that Lee and Romita were thinking that one way to keep Mary Jane in the book would be to pair her with Harry.
In the next issue, we get to see the first issue of Romita’s run where he did not ink himself. Looking back, I suspect that Mike Esposito and other finishers actually play a major role in the development of Gwen Stacy’s look, as Romita is still holding somewhat close to the original Steve Ditko design for Gwen. In any event, this issue is the other important one in the development of Mary Jane in that she shows up at Peter and Harry’s place WITH Gwen Stacy…
This is huge because it give Lee and Romita ANOTHER way to keep Mary Jane in the title, by having her be Gwen’s friend. Up until this point, they were clear rivals for Peter’s affection and not buddies. I guess Gwen destroying her in the dance-off (as shown in last installment) led to Mary Jane feeling that she was worthy of being her pal (more likely, it was the signal that Mary Jane was finished as a rival in Lee and Romita’s mind, so she might as well be a friend of Gwen’s now).
By the way, look how glazed over MJ’s eyes look. She’s on the dope, people!
Okay, so we end with Amazing Spider-Man #50, the issue where Peter decides to quit being Spider-Man because he’s just too busy with everything else in his life.
Look how dismissive Peter is of Mary Jane in his thoughts…
“Man, I haven’t even had time to spend with that idiot Mary Jane.”
Once he’s given up being Spidey, Peter continues to be a fool around Gwen Stacy. Missing obvious social cues seems to be a secondary superpower for Spider-Man…
The dismissive stance on Mary Jane continues as she makes an appearance…
And Peter goes back to his whole “not picking up anything Gwen is laying down” ways…
Then, of course, he sees a security guard being attacked and he’s reminded of Uncle Ben for the first time in quite a while (seriously, at this point, Uncle Ben has barely factored into Peter’s thoughts in the previous 50 issues) and it reminds him that he has to be a sueprhero still. What’s funny is how reluctant of a superhero that Peter was in the early years. There’s a great bit from an early issue where he’s like, “Oh, Flash Thompson might die? Sweet! Oh crap, I guess I should save him.” I love that panel. I think I’ll go post it on the CSBG Facebook page.
Anyhow, that’s it for this installment of If Her Hair Was Still Red. We’re blowing through issues now, so next installment might even be MORE than three issues. The official John Romita Gwen Stacy design is coming!
Drop me a line at email@example.com if you have any thoughts about Mary Jane’s early appearances and I’ll try to include them in a future installment.
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