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Mary Jane Gets a Much More Sympathetic Portrayal...On The Way Out

In If Her Hair Was Still Red, 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.

Okay, as our regular readers likely recall, Marv Wolfman took over as the writer on Amazing Spider-Man and promptly had Peter propose to Mary Jane AND have Mary Jane practically laugh in his face as she said no. Wolfman wasn't a Mary Jane fan, or more specifically, he wasn't a fan of how she was when she was written by Stan Lee and he didn't buy the "New Look Mary Jane" that Gerry Conway and Len Wein had been writing. It was sort of, "What? He's seriously dating HER?" and so he ended it right away.

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However, that must have not gone over as well as he had hoped, because we're now a few months later and Wolfman is beginning to backtrack a bit. Bill Mantlo had already written Mary Jane in Spectacular Spider-Man as someone who was really devastated by her decision to turn down Peter and now Wolfman follows up on that approach and then goes a step further...while also more convincingly breaking them up "for good."

It begins with Amazing Spider-Man #188 (by Wolfman, Keith Pollard and Mike Esposito), where Peter is invited on a night cruise by his friends and he runs into Mary Jane, who is dating the college quarterback, Brad Davis. Far From Home fans might recall that Brad Davis was into Michelle (the MJ of the Spider-Man films) in Far From Home...

Peter tries to break up with Betty Brant, but Mary Jane is confused by what she sees...

And we see that Mary jane still carries a torch for Peter, which is what Harry and Liz figured when they arranged it so that she would be on the cruise, as well...

Three issues later, Peter asks Mary Jane out on a date to see if they could get back together. It's some cheeky stuff with Mary Jane being naked in the tub and making a joke about Peter liking whatever she's wearing...

Peter gets tickets to the (then very famous) traveling King Tut exhibit and he is thinking things will go well...

Of course, he is then captured as Spider-Man and chained to J. Jonah Jameson. Mary Jane doesn't know Peter is preoccupied when she leaves for the date (Jim Mooney now doing finishes for Pollard), at which point Wolfman drops the major bombshell that Mary Jane's problems with marriage are tied to the fact that her parents are divorced, which is the first that we've heard of this...

But when Peter inevitably stands her up, she is d-u-n DONE with him...

Peter only realizes he stood her up the next issue (man, Peter is such a jerk sometimes) and it is clearly OVER...

Or is it? I mean, it IS, but there are still a handful of stories that are written as if they hadn't broken up, so we'll get to those next time, including one of the most famous Mary Jane appearances of all-time and then we'll look at her official departure from the series after that.

We're up to Amazing Spider-Man #193 if you have any thoughts you'd like to share that I might share with the others in the next column!

Again, for everything, you can write me at brianc@cbr.com!

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