Welcome to the five hundred and sixty-ninth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the first five hundred (I actually haven’t been able to update it in a while). This week, was Mary Jane Watson almost UGLY? Was Peter Parker from the 1990s Spider-Man animated series based on Nicholas Hammond from the 1970s Spider-Man TV series? And how did the “Marvel Method” lead to Marvel having multi-part stories?
NOTE: The column is on three pages, a page for each legend. There’s a little “next” button on the top of the page and the bottom of the page to take you to the next page (and you can navigate between each page by just clicking on the little 1, 2 and 3 on the top and the bottom, as well).
COMIC LEGEND: Mary Jane Watson was nearly ugly because Stan Lee forgot that she was supposed to be beautiful.
I’m doing this feature where I look at Mary Jane Watson’s appearances in Spider-Man comics in chronological order. I’ve only just started, but even in these early issues, there is a funny piece of comic book history that is built around Stan Lee’s notoriously forgetful nature.
I’ve explored this in past Comic Book Legends Revealed, like the funny story about how Bruce Banner gained the first name “Robert,” as a result of Lee forgetting that Banner’s first name was Bruce when he used him in Fantastic Four.
Well, after the concept of Aunt May’s friend having a niece that May would look to set up with Peter was introduced, Peter kept avoiding her, but we SORT of met her in Amazing Spider-Man #25, but all we knew is that she was gorgeous…
But then that was it, until she made a brief cameo in Steve Ditko’s final issue of Amazing, with her face still obscured.
So that’s THIRTEEN issues. That’s a long time for Stan Lee to remember, with his bad memory and all. And look at her appearance in #38. Notice anything? We DON’T see anything mentioned about her looks, just that we can’t see her.
Clearly, then, Lee had forgotten by this point that they had already established in #25 that she was gorgeous, because when it came time for Lee and new Spider-Man artist John Romita to finally introduce her in Amazing Spider-Man #42, Lee asked Romita how she should look, should she be beautiful or should she be ugly? Romita wasn’t sure. Eventually they settled on beautiful (Romita once recalled that his son, John Jr., suggested that she be beautiful because Peter always had such bad luck).
In Tom DeFalco’s seminal interview book, Comic Creators on Spider-Man, Romita recalled:
When we started to plot her first appearance in Amazing #42, Stan wasn’t sure if she should be beautiful or hideous. I was recently looking through the volume of Essential Spider-Man that reprinted some of Ditko’s issues and they referred to Mary Jane as beautiful. Stan has a terrible memory and obviously forgot
(check out Romita’s inspiration for Mary Jane’s body here).
Thanks to Johm Romita and Tom DeFalco for the great quote. Thanks to Sue L. Hamilton’s book about John Romita, Sr. for the John Romita Jr. impact on Mary Jane’s looks.
Check out some entertainment and sports legends from Legends Revealed:
Did a Survivor of the Bombing of Hiroshima Meet One of the Men Who Dropped the Bomb on a Reality TV Show?
On the next page, who was the visual inspiration for Peter Parker in the 1990s Spider-Man Animated Series?
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