Thanks to Emma Stone‘s portrayal of her in the Amazing Spider-Man film series and the Spider-Gwen comic series, Gwen Stacy has been enjoying a resurgence in popularity among the comic book fans. This has reignited the conversation as to who was Peter Parker’s best lover; Gwen Stacy or Mary Jane Watson. Apologies to any Black Cat loyalists out there.
But we’re not going to get into that fanboy argument today. Instead I’m going to tell you all about that gorgeous redhead who steals the attention of any room she’s in, Mary Jane Watson.
Created by Stan Lee and John Romita Sr., Mary Jane’s first full appearance takes place all the way back in 1966. Portrayed as a wild, flirty and party-hungry girl, she was the “bad” girl to the “good” girl of Gwen Stacy. As her character evolved over the years she would become Peter Parker’s friend, girlfriend and wife (and almost mother to his child). She’s one of the best developed and multi-dimensional love interests in comics with a lot more than meets the eye.
That last part means more than ever for this article. When you’re a character that has been written about for four decades, there are going to be some things about her that get swept under the rug or are just generally forgotten about by fans or even Marvel themselves. This article will focus on shining a light on those forgotten highlights and lowlights of MJ. Here are the top 15 things you didn’t know about Mary Jane Watson.
15. She’s Pretty Chill With Peter Parker’s Exes
We all know that Peter Parker is not the best when it comes to social interactions. Many stories have been told where Pete’s bumbling gets him into trouble when it comes to his personal life. Thank god for him though that Mary Jane gets along pretty well with all of his ex-girlfriends.
First one is obvious. Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane were friends when back in his college days Peter, MJ, Gwen, Flash Thompson and Harry Osborn were all together. Next up is Felicia Hardy, and while MJ and her aren’t hanging every Saturday or anything like that, she still respects Black Cat as the strong woman she is and was friends with her. She also was getting along fine with Carlie Cooper when she and Peter were dating for a while.
14. She Had A Rough Childhood
While Peter Parker’s childhood might have been a little different due to his biological parents being dead, at least he had his Uncle Ben and Aunt May. Mary Jane on the other hand, probably had a worse childhood than Peter.
Despite her father being a respected college professor, that wasn’t good enough for Philip Watson. He wanted to become a great author but he just couldn’t hack it and instead blamed his family for distracting him from his work. Because of this, he took his frustrations out on Mary Jane’s sister Gayle by hitting her and tormenting the rest of the family with his rage.
These scars would stay with Mary Jane for a long time. This was also the reason why MJ developed her party-girl, carefree persona; it was a cover-up for the emotional pain she was carrying with her everyday.
13. The Night Gwen Stacy Died Was Big For MJ Too
One of the most iconic storylines in comic book history, “The Night Gwen Stacy Died” is the end of an era and an absolutely crucial moment in the character development of Peter Parker. But what most people don’t know though is that our web-swinging hero isn’t the only one that is greatly affected by this catastrophic event.
In the final page of the legendary Amazing Spider-Man 122, Mary Jane is shown waiting in Peter Parker’s apartment and tells Parker when he walks in that she is feeling awful about Gwen’s death. Obviously distraught, Peter calls out MJ on what he thinks is a lie saying that her party girl persona wouldn’t allow her to truly care for anyone.
In this moment, MJ could have walked out of that apartment and never spoken to Peter Parker again for the nasty things he just said about her. However, she decides to stay and mourn the loss of Gwen together with her friend and it is at this moment where readers finally get a good look at the true Mary Jane Watson. She wasn’t just a party girl, but a woman who cared deeply for her friends and had a big heart.
12. She Was Once Possessed By Red Sonja
Admittedly, I know practically nothing about Red Sonja. From what I can tell though, she is essentially a female Conan The Barbarian. And she once possessed the body of Mary Jane Watson.
In a crossover called Spider-Man & Red Sonja, Red Sonja villain Kulan Gath casts a spell that places the spirit of Red Sonja inside the body of Mary Jane Watson so that Spidey and Sonja will fight each other while Gath concocts his plan.
So in the most confusing marital spat ever, Sonja-possessed Mary Jane and Spidey fight each other with swords and webs. Eventually though Sonja realizes who the enemy is and teams up with Spidey to save the day.
11. She Knew About Norman Osborn’s Affair With Gwen Stacy
There’s a saying in marriage that one shouldn’t keep secrets from their partner. Once you decide to spend the rest of your life together, you should be completely open with each other and leave nothing hidden from one another. But you could understand why Mary Jane might not have wanted to bring this thing up to Peter.
In the “Sins Past” storyline from 2004, it is revealed that Gwen Stacy had a fling with Norman Osborn years ago and from that one night came a pregnancy which left Gwen with a pair of Osborn twins in her body. Stacy would keep the secret between herself, Norman and one other person; Mary Jane Watson.
The toll that keeping this secret has had on Mary Jane is shown as Peter finally meets the Stacy twins and theorizes who the father is seeing as how he and Gwen never had sex. Mary Jane then explains to her husband the entire story and how Gwen swore her to secrecy until she told Peter herself. She never got the chance to tell her of course as she was killed by her baby goblin daddy before that super awkward conversation could happen.
10. She Once Carried Web-Shooters
When you’re the significant other of a superhero, you’re bound to be the target of supervillains every so often. It’s like the worst job benefit there is, but you have to make do with both the bad and the good of dating a spandex clad crime-fighter.
Even if villains with brilliant names like Mysterio and the Green Goblin come after you, it would be pretty wise to not be completely empty handed in a confrontation. Mary Jane’s husband Peter Parker had this idea in mind when in I Heart Marvel: Web of Romance, Peter is faced with a problem that superpowers can’t solve. What does he get Mary Jane for Valentine’s Day?
He ultimately settles on something that combines two things that MJ needs; safety and some new jewelry. Peter takes his old web shooters (at this point in the comics he had organic webbing) and remodels them into bracelets that MJ could also use to defend herself.
9. She Rejected Peter Parker’s First Marriage Proposal
If it wasn’t already apparent that things in Peter Parker’s life never are easy, I give you yet another example of why the Parker Luck is a real thing that you don’t want to wish on anyone.
In Amazing Spider-Man #182, Peter decides to take the big leap that would make anyone squirm; he asks Mary Jane if she would marry him. The standard superhero formula would be for the woman to obviously say yes and queue the wedding bells but not this time.
In a stunning turn of events, Mary Jane turns down our hero’s hand in marriage. She does this because of her unwillingness to give up her partying lifestyle and general stubbornness to commit to one person. While she doesn’t tell Peter, it’s probable that she rejected him also because of how badly her sister’s marriage had been going at that time.
8. She Rejected Peter Parker… A Second Time
Nope! Over one hundred issues of Amazing Spider-Man later, and Mary Jane Watson gives the same answer to Peter Parker’s marriage proposal. A big fat no. To say this was a shocking move at the time would be to say that Marvel has made a few bucks off their last movie. Fret not though true believers! Everything’s going to be alright.
The storyline which takes place directly after this deals with MJ traveling to Pittsburgh to see her sister Gayle who has been arrested for stealing a valuable manuscript. It is then revealed that MJ’s estranged father had been the person who put Gayle up to it. While it seems like MJ is going to help her father, she actually tricks him into admitting his crime and has him arrested, finally settling all that emotional baggage from her childhood.
Feeling like a new woman, Mary Jane finally gives into her true feelings about Peter Parker and accepts his proposal. They get married in Amazing Spider-Man Annual 21 and they lived happily ever after. Until a demon shows up, but we’ll get to that later.
7. She Was Struck By Spider-Man While Pregnant With His Child
In a saga that involves revealing that the character which people had been reading about for decades was actually a clone, it’s hard to get more controversial than that. But this moment almost did it.
In Spectacular Spider-Man #226 (with a cover that was damn, dirty lie), it is revealed to the readers and our two protagonists Peter Parker and Ben Reilly the truth about the two Spider-Men’s origins. Peter Parker is the clone and Ben Reilly is actually the original Peter Parker. The “clone” takes this the worst way possible and attacks Reilly, claiming this is all a lie and how he can’t steal his life from him.
Mary Jane tries to step in and stop her husband but Peter pushes her away and knocks her across the room. It should be known that at this time MJ was pregnant with Peter’s child, making this uncomfortable scene even worse. While Peter immediately realizes the mistake, he makes an equally big mistake and joins with villain The Jackal to kick off the worst part of the Clone Saga Maximum Clonage. Urghh.
6. She Was Thought To Be Dead For A While
Before Marvel decided the best way to end MJ and Peter’s marriage was through Mephisto, they thought instead to make it appear as if Mary Jane was dead.
In Amazing Spider-Man (Vol.2) #13, Mary Jane is boarding a flight for a modeling job when all of a sudden BOOM! The plane explodes in the air and it seems as if Mary Jane has been killed off. But seeing as how this was a comic book, this didn’t last. A year and a half later MJ was back but the explanation was a doozy.
Instead of being dead, Mary Jane was actually kidnapped by a telepath who wanted to take over Peter Parker’s life and goes through a very convoluted plan involving MJ to pull it off. For a deeper story analysis you can check my top 15 worst Spider-Man storylines but needless to say for about a year and a half in our time, MJ was thought to be dead.
5. She Saved Spider-Man’s Life (Part 1)
Mary Jane may have no superpowers, but she is far from defenseless. She has proven a few times over her history that she can fend for herself in a pinch if she has to.
This takes us to Amazing Spider-Man #309. Mary Jane is being held captive in a sound-proof room by the demented Jonathan Cesar, who has kidnapped her and will force her to marry him. To ensure that Spidey can’t save her, Cesar hires two mercenaries named Styx and Stone to kill him.
Once MJ breaks out by smashing Cesar with a lamp and frying two bodyguards with an electricity and water combo, she finds Spidey about to die at the hands of the two assassins. MJ didn’t come unprepared though and unloads a clip of pistol ammunition at the assassins. While none of her shots hit, the villains flee not wanting to take a risk.
4. She Was Once Mistaken For Spider-Man
Sometimes you just have to look at a comic book and have a nice great bellow about how ridiculous our medium is.
In Amazing Spider-Man Annual #19, a villain named Alistaire Smythe is on a revenge quest vs Spider-Man because the web-head put his father Spencer Smythe behind bars and he blamed Spidey for his father’s health problem which led to his death. Alistaire though is a couple sandwiches short of a picnic. He concocts a weird plan involving a hat and a homing device in order to discover Spider-Man’s secret identity.
When Smythe finds the hat though, it is on the head of Mary Jane’s Aunt Anna. Instead of questioning this, Smythe rolls with this and takes MJ hostage thinking she is Spider-Man. Being the clever lass she is though, MJ stalls Smythe long enough for Spidey to come in and save the day.
3. She Saved Spider-Man’s Life (Part 2)
Tell me, how exactly would a powerless Mary Jane Watson (without a gun this time) save Spider-Man’s life when he is one of Marvel’s most iconic characters? I’ll tell you how, by possessing some serious balls and an undying love for Peter Parker.
Back in Amazing Spider-Man #292, Spider-Man faces off against Alastair Smythe who is riding his newest Spider-Slayer robot into battle. He sprays Spider-Man with ethyl chloride and has his him pinned down at his mercy. While this is happening, Mary Jane grabs a wooden baseball bat and starts smashing the robot’s leg, trying anything to get its attention. She does, and when the robot grabs her Spidey snaps out of the gas attack and rips Smythe out of the robot with fury.
A few pages later in the same issue is when Mary Jane finally says yes to Peter Parker’s proposal and takes his hand in marriage a little over a month later. Damn, now that is a killer string of luck for Miss Watson.
2. She Is A Big Reason Why “One More Day” Happened
If you’ve read my previous articles (although honestly all Spider-Man fans share the same opinion), you will know just how much I detest the “One More Day” storyline from 2007. In said story, the Devil of the Marvel Universe strikes a deal with Spider-Man to save his dying Aunt May in exchange for his marriage to Mary Jane. This storyline already ruins Peter’s character by making him an obsessive man-child who can’t accept the results of his actions, but also makes Mary Jane look terrible too.
When Mephisto first appears to the couple and is about to make his offer, Spider-Man was about to tell the demon to go to hell and shove his offer where the sun don’t shine. Mary Jane in her infinite wisdom says NO! LET’S LISTEN TO THE DEMON WHO MAKES TERRIBLE DEALS WITH HUMANS AS A JOB AND SEE WHAT HE SAYS.
I know a lot of fans hate Peter Parker for how he acts in this story, but I don’t think we should ignore just how badly Marvel screwed over Mary Jane too. I can’t end this list on such a negative note, so let’s end on something a little happier.
1. She Knew Spider-Man’s Secret All Along
Pop quiz for all you webhead fanatics out there. Who was the first person in the Marvel Universe to discover that Peter Parker and Spider-Man were one and the same? The Green Goblin? Nope, wrong answer. Venom? Guess again. Aunt May? Nope, your guesses are up. It was actually his eventual bride to be, Mary Jane Watson.
In the 1989 graphic novel Spider-Man: Parallel Lives, it is revealed that the same night that Peter Parker left his house to go confront the burglar on that fateful night where his Uncle Ben was killed, Mary Jane saw Spider-Man exit from the Parker household. Instead of telling someone though, Mary Jane hung on to this information for years and kept it to herself.
In Marvel canon, it would take years before Mary Jane finally told Peter the truth in Amazing Spider-Man #257 after she couldn’t handle another one of his lame excuses for leaving when Spider-Man showed and just told him that she can’t handle Peter Parker being Spider-Man.
The fact that MJ knew the whole time and still respected Peter’s wish to keep his identity a secret shows the love between those two and the ultimate fact that you didn’t know about Mary Jane Watson.
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