Even a Trip to See the 'Not Ready for Prime Time Players' Can't Win MJ Back

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.

The last time we checked in with Mary Jane Watson, I showed how Bill Mantlo used Spectacular Spider-Man to recast Mary Jane's rejection of Peter Parker's proposal as less of a callous rejection (which is how it looked in Marv Wolfman's Amazing Spider-Man issues, where Wolfman didn't believe that Mary Jane's evolution as a character rang true, and thus believed that she was still basically the same flighty woman that she was when she was dating Harry Osborn and being catty with Gwen Stacy in the late 1960s/early 1970s) and more of a tough decision made by a woman not knowing what she wants in life and suddenly faced with a life-altering decision.

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We'll look at Mantlo's MJ take some more next time around (and how it appears to have slowly begun to affect Wolfman's take on Mary Jane, as well), but for now, let's take a look at how Mary Jane and Peter were depicted in the third monthly Spider-Man series at the time, Marvel Team-Up.

Now, do note that Peter is sort of kind of seeing Betty Brant in Amazing Spider-Man while this is all going on (I did a refresher course on the Betty Brant relationship here so I can just point people to that post to keep them abreast on what Peter was up to without Mary Jane at the time).

With all of that in mind, do note that it sure seems like Marvel Team-Up #74, the famous team-up of Spider-Man and the first cast of Saturday Night Live, was written when Peter and Mary Jane were still together...

The issue involved a TREMENDOUS amount of likeness work by the late, great Marie Severin (who drew the issue over Bob Hall's pencils, with a Chris Claremont script) and I bet the issue took longer than a typical issue, so they probably started it when Peter and Mary Jane were still together.

Mary Jane sure just seems like Peter's date, right?

However, the issue notes that they made these plans a year earlier, so I think that the best reading on this is that, well, they had made these arrangements and didn't want to lose out on the planned outing, so they went together even though they're sort of kind of broken up now.

I think this is born out by how Mary Jane is openly flirting with the guy in the seats next to them...

I love Mary Jane's resigned, "Of course you have to go" reaction...

Later, see how Mary Jane is again quite openly flirting with the other guy...

And in the end, there is a chance she would have left with that guy had he not said something untoward (what's everyone's guess as to what he proposed to her?)...

Now, the next issue, Marvel Team-Up #75 (by Chris Claremont, Ralph Macchio, John Byrne and Al Gordon) is more explicitly set after the break-up, but with Peter still trying to date Mary Jane, which he was in Mantlo's Spectacular Spider-Man. There is even a reference to an all-fated disco outing in Spectacular as Peter and Mary Jane go to a hot dance club...

Mary Jane is fairly jerky here, right?

The stress of the situation might have driven Peter to drink! This is one of the few times the comics ever show Peter even ORDERING a beer...

He never drinks it. He and guest-star Luke Cage then team-up and Mary Jane is not seen again.

So, well, yeah, these issues didn't do a whole lot to further Mary Jane's character, but they DID have cameos from Gilda Radner, Bill Murray, Jane Curtin, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Garrett Morris, Lorraine Newman and Lorne Michael.

So it's got that going for it, which is nice.

Next time, more Mantlo MJ!

We're up to Amazing Spider-Man #187 and Spectacular Spider-Man #26 if you have any thoughts you'd like to share that I might share with the others in the next column! We're also up to Marvel Team-Up #76. I previously promoted this installment as being a different Marvel Team-Up issue, but after looking into it, I realize that a whole lot of stuff happens in the main book before we can get to that iconic issue of Marvel Team-Up. So it'll probably be at least three more installments until we see that classic Mary Jane tale!

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

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