When Mary Jane Met Harry, Flash...and Gwen!

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.

I was planning on doing this an issue at a time, but her appearances are often so brief that I'm going to go two at a time now (maybe even more depending on future installments). Today we look at "Amazing Spider-Man" #44-45 by Stan Lee and John Romita.

When last we left young Peter and Mary Jane (you can check out the previous installments, all three of 'em, here), we had learned a few things about Mary Jane.

1. She thinks pretty much anyone could be a real swinger if given the chance2. She likes to break out dancing at the drop of a hat3. She is into danger, so she had no problem with Peter driving into the middle of an attack by the Rhino to take photographs of the villain.

As we noted last time, in these early issues of his run on the book, John Romita is slowly but surely putting his personal artistic stamp on the title. Mary Jane was his design and Peter Parker is beginning to look more like a Romita character than a Ditko character (when Romita started the book, he tried to draw everyone "on model"). Gwen Stacy, however, has yet to become a Romita character, as Romita still draws her pretty much like how Steve Ditko drew her, sort of like a distant and aloof princess.

So anyhow, in "Amazing Spider-Man" #45, Mary Jane comes by the college hangout and Peter gets to introduce her to his friends Harry Osborn, Gwen Stacy and Flash Thompson (who is headed to go fight in Vietnam!!!).

As we have seen, Mary Jane has made an impression on the gang. The interesting thing is that part of Romita's tenure on the book is a general de-icing of Peter's relationships with his peers in general. Harry Osborn, for instance, becomes really nice to Peter and Gwen starts to look his way.

At the end of the issue, however, Peter has injured his arm while fighting the Lizard and determined that if Peter Parker was seen with his arm in a sling, everyone would figure he was Spider-Man, so he has to break a date with Mary Jane, and it's interesting how few effs she gives about it.

For a few issues in a row, Peter would end the issue bemoaning how much his life sucked. This was all leading up to him giving up his Spider-Man identity in "Amazing Spider-Man" #50.

So the next issue, Peter easily explains the sling, which is weird, because obviously everyone will believe your excuse, Peter...

And here's what I mean about Harry now suddenly being a great guy to Peter...

Of course, now Peter can't help but think about Gwen.

There's a great bit where Mary Jane opens up to her aunt about Peter. This is important because we almost NEVER get to see Mary Jane open up about pretty much anything at this point in time. Later writers took that as "She is damaged so she doesn't open up," which is fair enough, I guess, but I dunno why "she's damaged!" has to be the first instinct. Still, notice again how MJ thinks everyone is a closet swinger...

Very relaxed attitude by MJ about Peter not being home. She really comes off as a cool lady in these early issues.

But then she ends up hanging out with Harry while Peter is not around and holy crap, does Peter not take it well...

DAMN, Peter! That's some cold BS right there. She's flat out being NICE to him and is a total dick about it. He's pulling the stereotypical "I'm a nice guy, so she must be a bitch" routine, which is completely messed up. Don't get me wrong, I get it, Peter's going through some bad stuff (again, every issue ends with him moping about how much his life sucks), but don't bring your garbage down on MJ, dude! She doesn't owe you squat. Not cool, Peter, not cool. So far, Mary Jane seems far too good for Peter through her first four real appearances.

But wait until you folks see what happens when Romita gets to debut HIS Gwen Stacy! It is nuts! And it's coming next installment...whenever that is! :)

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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