SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #6 by Chip Zdarsky, Michael Walsh, Ian Herring and Travis Lanham, on sale now.
Peter Parker’s secret identity is one of the most sacred things in superhero comics. The amount of people he lets into his life to the point of knowing that he is in fact Spider-Man is incredibly limited and if you’re in that inner circle it’s safe to say you’re incredibly important to him; even his Aunt May doesn’t know. That’s why the events of this week’s Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man are so shocking, because of all the people Peter could have revealed the truth about himself to, virtually no-one would ever expect that he would tell J. Jonah Jameson, much less do so willingly!
Threat and/or Menace
J. Jonah Jameson’s antagonistic relationship with Spider-Man goes all the way back to The Amazing Spider-Man #1, where he first ran across the wall-crawler following the malfunction of the experimental rocket carrying his son, astronaut John Jameson. Jonah saw John as a true American hero and despised Spider-Man for constantly stealing the limelight and for hiding behind a mask. No matter what Spider-Man did, Jonah was able to see an ulterior motive, so he put all of his resources as publisher of the Daily Bugle into decrying Spider-Man as the worst thing to ever happen to New York City. Even after multiple occasions of Spider-Man saving Jonah’s life, saving the Bugle staff and saving the city, jolly Jonah could never get over his initial animosity for the web-slinger.
On the other hand, Jonah’s relationship with Peter Parker has always been a lot more complex, and occasionally allowed the cold-hearted publisher the chance to show his softer side. As the star photographer of the Daily Bugle, Jonah spent the early days of their relationship as very manipulative, doing anything he could to keep Parker at the Bugle (for as little pay as possible, of course). However, there’s always been a genuine respect between the pair, and they even became family when Peter’s Aunt May married Jonah’s father, Jay Jameson.
Allow Me To Reintroduce Myself
Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #6 is titled “My Dinner With Jonah” and is based around Spider-Man’s promise to give his old foe one hour of his time for a no holds barred interview. What on the surface seems like a recipe for high comedy — and there are some great laughs in the issue, no doubt — is actually one of the most effective and emotionally resonant single issues of the year. For the first time, Spider-Man and J. Jonah Jameson are able to lay their cards on the table and address their mutual dislike for each other without the likes of The Scorpion crashing in on them. Jonah tells Spider-Man that his animosity stems from the mask — a reminder of when he was mugged as a younger man — while Spider-Man counters that on numerous times, Jonah has made the city less safe in his efforts to take him down.
The issue takes a real turn when Jonah admits that following the death of his wife Marla, and losing her again following The Clone Conspiracy, the only thing he has left is hate. It’s a remarkably poignant statement with real emotional heft behind it — Jonah admits that he has to hate Spider-Man, because if he’s wrong about Spider-Man he’s wasted so many years of his life on that hate. For the first time, Spider-Man truly sees Jonah as the broken old man that he truly is; not a flat-topped buffoon yelling out of a window but a flesh and blood man who lost everything, just like Peter Parker. In that moment, Peter Parker sees himself in J. Jonah Jameson and takes the bold move of unmasking in front of him, revealing the truth of his identity and putting the responsibility of that information in Jonah’s hands.