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The Mary Jane/Gwen Stacy Cold War of 1967

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.

As noted last time, Mary Jane has now pretty much been officially phased out as a realistic love interest for Peter Parker. Now, though, she begins to lose focus as an actual supporting character period! We're dealing with a remarkable eight issues this time around, Amazing Spider-Man #51-58, that's how reduced Mary Jane's role has become!

Last time around, Mary Jane and Gwen Stacy began spending time together as friends for the first time, which would be a key way to keep Mary Jane in the title in the future. But for now, that friendship has quickly soured as Gwen and Mary Jane spend most of these issues taking passive aggressive shots at each other.

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In fact, in Amazing Spider-Man #51 (by Stan Lee, John Romita and Mike Esposito), when Peter Parker drives by a place where Gwen, Mary Jane and Harry are hanging out, this is barely even passive-aggressive, it is pretty much just flat out aggressive banter between MJ and Gwen!

Damn, I love how Harry tries to play the whole thing off and MJ decides to keep twisting that knife. Bold move by Stan. Romita's Mary Jane continues to be gorgeous. By the way, for a while now I have been talking about what we first see Romita's take on Gwen Stacy (as opposed to Steve Ditko's design) and, well, you know what, I was way off. There really isn't a moment where she just transforms from the Ditko version to the Romita version (unlike with Peter, where Romita plainly moved from Ditko's look to Romita's look). It is a lot more gradual than I recalled. Besides Gwen giving bigger smiles than she did under Ditko, Romita is still pretty much sticking with the look that Ditko gave her way back in Amazing Spider-Man #31. She's slowly softening, though, with the first step in the process coming soon (her famous jagged bangs are coming!).

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In the next issue (by Lee, Romita and Esposito), Flash is home on furlough and Gwen is trashing Mary Jane even when MJ isn't there, which is new...

Then MJ shows up and flirts with Flash a little...

I dig how Flash just can't understand why other people like Peter.

The following issue (by Lee, Romita and Esposito) is mostly MJ-free, as Peter goes to a science exhibition with Gwen and their professor (who later becomes the Jackal - it is fun to re-read these older issues and keep in mind that Professor Warren is obsessed with Gwen this whole time). They stop by the gettogether that they threw for Flash and Peter continues his odd deification of Gwen. "Gwen is the only person who never asked me for explanations" Dude, MJ TOTALLY let you get away with ditching her to fight the Rhino! Plus, of course, Gwen soon is ALL about explanations, just like how any rational person would be if their boyfriend kept disappearing on them.

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MJ and Gwen continue their sparring, as well...

I like that Gwen and MJ are all about calling each other's BS out...

Really, a lot of these bits are like, more adult versions of old Betty and Veronica gags.

The next issue only has a brief appearance by Gwen and MJ in it, but of course MJ uses her brief time to take a shot at Gwen...

You'd think that Mary Jane would get the hint by now that Peter just isn't into her.

What I like about this next scene are the two guys talking about Peter...

Chip Zdarsky has to totally do an issue of Spectacular Spider-Man showing the perspective of those two guys over the years, watching Peter get a succession of hot girlfriends while repeatedly failing in his professional and scholarly life.

In the next issue (by Lee, Romita and Esposito), Aunt May's home has a huge hole in it from where Spider-Man had a fight with her new boarder, Doctor Octopus! While Peter is worrying about the situation, MJ comes in (I love that she enters rooms snapping her fingers) and Peter is a total jerk to her...

Peter continues to be rude to her when Gwen enters and then MJ and Gwen banter a bit...

It is times like these that I think that the retcon that MJ knew Peter's identity during this period actually works, as otherwise, why would MJ put up with this dude who is constantly a jerk to her?

In the next issue (by Lee, Romita and Esposito), MJ makes a brief appearance while Peter is missing (he has amnesia and, as Spider-Man, he believes he is partners in crime with Doctor Octopus) just to banter a bit with Gwen at an inopportune time (by the way, note that Gwen finally has her jagged bangs look - we're almost all the way there to Romita's take on Gwen)...

"Mary Jane, Peter's dead!"

"You mean I have him dead to rights when he's not with you, right?"

"No, Mary Jane, I mean he is dead, as in, no longer living!"

"A date with you is worse than living."

"Are you a little touched in the head, Mary Jane?"

"Maybe"

Then, in a final bit of ignominy, Mary Jane is just outright ABSENT from the next two issues (by Stan Lee, John Romita, Don Heck and Mike Esposito)!

This is not a good time to be Mary Jane in the comic series, as she only shows up to annoy others and look hot. Next time, though, we see MJ get her first cover appearance! That's something, at least!

Drop me a line at brianc@cbr.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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