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Mary Jane "MJ" Watson

First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #42 (November, 1966)

"Face it Tiger... you just hit the jackpot!"
The Amazing Spider-Man #42, written by Stan Lee.

Mary Jane "MJ" Watson is a Marvel Comics character created by Stan Lee, John Romita Sr., and Steve Ditko, first appearing in Amazing Spider-Man #42 (dated November 1966). MJ is best known for being the longtime wife of Peter Parker, and in general Spider-Man's most famous and publicly known Love Interest by far, represented in most media and adaptations and alongside Lois Lane is one of the most well-known supporting characters and Love Interests in comics and wider media, having appeared and headlined her own spin-off titles and becoming the rare non-powered supporting character who was more famous and well-known than other superhero characters in the wider culture (in a manner not unlike Alfred, Commissioner Gordon, J. Jonah Jameson).

She was first mentioned in Amazing Spider-Man #15 by Aunt May, who wanted to set her and Peter up for a blind date. Aunt May's neighbor, Anna Watson, was MJ's aunt, and she and May both agreed they'd make a good couple. Something that Peter wasn't exactly thrilled about, since, first, he was dating Betty Brant at that point, and second, because he thought that Mary Jane "needing" to be set up on a blind date meant she had to be ugly, obnoxious or both. Peter tried to avoid the date for as long as he could. MJ technically appeared onscreen in Amazing Spider-Man #25, although Lee and Ditko never showed her face but made it clear that she was incredibly beautiful based on the reactions of Betty Brant and Liz Allan, teasing out her appearance and expectations among readers if she would live up to the hype. Her first appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #42, designed and drawn by John Romita Sr., in one of the most famous panels and character introductions in comics history, both confirmed and exceeded expectations with a design that was instantly iconic and charismatic.

From the very beginning, Mary Jane was extremely popular. The well known comics-fan Alley Awards granted her the title "Best Female Supporting Character" in 1967, the year of her first appearance (Jameson had the Best Male Supporting Character by comparison). She owed this popularity not only to her famous build-up and iconic first appearance but also to the fact in Peter Parker's extremely hostile social life she brought much needed warmth, levity and cheer in his life. Likewise, she reflected a more contemporary spirit, being very much a child of The '60s in her fashion sense, her comfort with her sexuality, the fact that she lived on her own in her own apartment. She was a unique mix of comic relief, love interest, and vitriolic best bud. A dynamic that carried through even during her marriage with Peter, being one of the few characters who shared Spider-Man's unique sense of humor. For much of the Lee-Romita run, Spider-Man became a kind of romance comic, not surprisingly because Romita started his career in that mold and much of the stories revolved around the soap opera Love Dodecahedron between Harry, MJ, Peter and Gwen, which more or less ended with Gwen's tragic death, where MJ began to get closer to Peter. The Romita-Lee set-up continued in the highly popular Newspaper Comic Strip written by Stan Lee which was much Lighter and Softer than the 616 storyline. It was on these pages in the late eighties, that Stan Lee himself decided to marry Peter and MJ finally — an event which inspired the marriage in the regular continuity.

Until their marriage, Peter and MJ had an on-and-off romance with moments of strong affection and romance mixed with neurotic baggage on both sides. Peter decided to propose to her but she turned him down, and then a few issues later they broke up (offscreen) and she was Put on a Bus for nearly 40 issues until she returned in Amazing Spider-Man #238. This time Mary Jane returned a little Older and Wiser, more mature, and this led to her new role as Peter's best friend and confidant after the revelation in Amazing Spider-Man #258 that she had known that Peter was Spider-Man all along and sharing some family secrets of her own, strengthening their bond. When the decision was made to marry them by EIC Jim Shooter, Peter proposed to her on the rebound from the end of his relationship with Felicia Hardy, and between Amazing Spider-Man #290-293, MJ accepted and the couple were married in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21 in a story called "The Wedding". The history of their relationship was elaborated upon in the graphic novel Parallel Lives by Gerry Conway which revealed that she had known Peter was Spider-Man since the night of Uncle Ben's death and that her entire history when she posed as a party girl in the Lee-Romita era was Obfuscating Stupidity. MJ is the first member of Peter's supporting cast with whom Peter could discuss his Double Life. A pretty big deal for Peter who never really had his own Alfred, Pa or Ma Kent, or anyone as a confidant about his masqueradenote . She was also the first of his love interests to like Spider-Man and Peter Parker, with her only reluctance about his superhero career being fears for his safety rather than prejudice for one or the other (a flaw shared by Betty Brant and Gwen Stacy who liked Peter and hated Spider-Man, and Felicia vice-versa).

The period of her marriage to Peter in the regular continuity is 1987-2008, a little over twenty years which started out with many strong storylines some of them being the best-selling comics in its time (including Kraven's Last Hunt, Todd McFarlane's Venom and Torment among others) but it also coincided with the Audience-Alienating Era of The Clone Saga and a series of storylines that saw the couple separated and reuniting again for another strong period in comics, before leading to One More Day a storyline that erased Spider-Man's marriage to Mary Jane in a Cosmic Retcon that significantly overturned the Character Development of both Peter and MJ in the interim, and reset the continuity in a new composite period drawing elements from different periods. In the new continuity, (established with One Moment in Time), Peter and MJ didn't marry but had a long-term live-in relationship that ended in the aftermath of Civil War, after which MJ was Put on a Bus during Brand New Day.

She returned in time as a regular supporting cast, as Peter's friend and confidant again, with much tension and unresolved emotions that continued to simmer as both of them became involved in a series of dead-end rebound relationships. In the aftermath of Superior Spider-Man (2013), MJ went to Chicago and after a series of incidents, ended up joining Stark Industries as Iron Man's assistant and became part of Tony's supporting cast. In Amazing Spider-Man #802, she returned to Spider-Man's supporting cast and started her relationship with Peter again in The Amazing Spider-Man (2018). Meanwhile, in most Alternate Universe titles published in the same period, MJ remains by Peter's side. Such as the Newspaper Strip which is where they were married first, Spider-Girl which deals with her daughter, and is the longest-running title for any female character published by Marvel. Another AU called The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows showed her married with Peter with another daughter. This time, she gains a set of Spider-Man powers, a costume, and becomes an active superhero — Spinneret — with the help of her husband's webbing tech for the first time.

In 2019, Mary Jane received her first ever ongoing monthly title, The Amazing Mary Jane, focusing on her acting career. Originally intended to be a mini, the book's popularity extended its lifespan. Unfortunately, COVID-19's impact on the company forced them to quietly cancel this series partway through the extension, right at the start of a new arc.

As the primary love interest of Spider-Man, Mary Jane is one of Marvel's most famous female characters in terms of appearances, multiple media adaptations, popularity, and profitability, which is particularly notable as she's a supporting character rather than an actual superheroine herself. She was further enshrined as Peter's Love Interest in the Spider-Man Trilogy (as portrayed by Kirsten Dunst) where her romance with Peter Parker was the central focus and emotional center of the entire series. A new iteration of Mary Jane was set to appear in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, to be portrayed there by Shailene Woodley, but her role was ultimately deleted from the final cut. Another cinematic variant —renamed Michelle "MJ" Jones-Watson— appears in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where she is portrayed by Zendaya. This version of the character initially appears to be an original creation for the MCU with a very different personality and backstory, but it's eventually made apparent that she is meant to be that universe's version of Mary Jane when her full name is revealed in Spider-Man: No Way Home and the similarity between them is noted by the Norman Osborn of the Raimi trilogy. She has also appeared in most cartoons, starting right from the very beginningnote  as well as multiple video games from the 1990s onwards, with her most recent appearances in both animated and interactive mediums being Spider-Man (PS4) and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse in 2018.

Mary Jane Watson has appeared in the following works:

Notable Comic Books in Main 616 Continuity

  • Amazing Spider-Man vol. 1 (1965 — 2012)
  • Web of Spider-Man vol. 1 (1985 — 1995)
  • Spectacular Spider-Man vol. 1 (1988 — 1988)
  • Parallel Lives (1989)
  • Spider-Man vol. 1 (1990 — 1998)
  • Amazing Spider-Man vol. 2 (1999 — 2003)
  • Spider-Man: Blue (2002 — 2003)
  • I (Heart) Marvel: Web of Romance (2006)
  • Sensational Spider-Man Annual #1 (2007)
  • Superior Spider-Man (2013) (2013 — 2014)
  • Invincible Iron Man vol. 3 (2015 — 2016)
  • Amazing Spider-Man vol 5 (2018 — 2022)
  • Amazing Mary Jane (2019 — 2020)
  • Amazing Spider-Man vol 6 (2022 — present)

Alternate Continuity



Video Games (Playable In)

Western Animation

Mary Jane Watson provides examples of the following tropes:

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  • '80s Hair: When Todd McFarlane drew her in the late 80s
  • Abusive Parents: Her dad, Philip Watson, was a successful college professor who wanted to become a writer. Problem was he wasn't any good at it. He kept trying though. Meanwhile, bills for his daughter Gail's ballet lessons were getting more and more expensive, until one day Philip lashed out at his family, blamed them for his inability to write, and struck his daughter. His wife instantly took her kids and left him, being forced to move around from one unsupportive relative to another afterward. And then Philip actually went and sued her for desertion, before severing all ties with her and his daughters anyway.
  • Action Girl: She may not be a superhero, but it's your funeral if you try to harm this chick.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: When John Romita drew her first, she had blue eyes. Later artists gave her green which has become the default look in comics and cartoons, mainline and Ultimate. However, other adaptations tend to go with the original blue eyes, such as Kirsten Dunst in the Raimi films, Spider-Man (PS4) and Into the Spider-Verse.
  • Adaptational Early Appearance: Since MJ has grown to be THE true love for Peter Parker, several iterations of the Spider-Man mythos across several mediums makes Mary Jane be Pete’s significant other very quickly into his life or outright his first one right away; despite the fact originally in the comics Peter went through quite a list of girlfriends before he and Mary Jane became a thing, in fact for a while it seemed Gwen Stacy was Peter’s soul mate, then a certain iconic event happened and the rest is history.
  • Adaptational Wimp: Got hit pretty hard by this in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man Trilogy. She got kidnapped so many times that people who aren't familiar with her original comic book portrayal think she's just another regular Damsel in Distress. Even before the trilogy, she was also hit by this in Spider-Man: The Animated Series and Ultimate Spider-Man, although in the latter she eventually Took a Level in Badass.
  • Affectionate Nickname:
    • She often calls Peter "Tiger", a name that she used for all men she came across. What does she mean when she calls him that, despite him being more of a spider? Well the one time Peter asked her, she said that she called him tiger because he was not. Of course in early Spider-Man comics, she even called her then boyfriend Harry Osborn "tiger" a few times and later she did it for her guy friends and others, being some kind of private joke about she seems to tame all men around her. She calls her post-One More Day boyfriend Bobby Carr this when we first see her again. And attempts to do so for a later boyfriend, Pedro Oliveira, as well. Of course this part is toned down in adaptations where tiger is her specific pet name for Peter.
    • A more specific nickname she used for Peter was "brown eyes", and she alternatively used to call Peter a "brown-eyed hunk" back when they were dating on-and-off.
    • Her petname for her daughter Mayday in Spider-Girl is "hotshot".
  • Alternate Company Equivalent: MJ is often seen as Marvel's Lois Lane. Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man, written by Gerry Conway, amounted to a double date between the two couples. Their status in the respective continuity is pretty identical, with creators and writers similarly arguing for a "single" Superman and resorting to write Lois out-of-character (as in Superman: Truth) to make their point. Incidentally, MJ and Peter married a near full decade before Lois and Clark did in the Post-Crisis DC Universe. Brian Michael Bendis also made MJ into an aspiring reporter in Ultimate Spider-Man and he later went on to write Supermannote .
  • Alternate Universe Reed Richards Is Awesome: Her counterpart in the The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows universe is an Action Mom that fight villains, thanks to a suit that emulates Spider-Man powers, with Peter and their daughter Annie. Ultimate Mary Jane briefly became the Demogoblin and later an aspiring reporter and journalist, while also helping Peter sow better and more durable versions of his original costume thanks to having sewing skills. Her animated counterpart from the Ultimate Spider-Man (2012) series also ended up eventually gaining full control of the Carnage symbiote, becoming that continuity's Spider-Woman. There's also her Mangaverse counterpart who not only becomes Spider-Woman in her respective universe but who, like her boyfriend Peter, is also a member of a ninja clan in that universe. A few other alternate universes have also had her as the one who develops spider-abilities instead of Peter.
  • Amicable Exes: Is still one of Peter's closest friends, even when they're not in a relationship together.
  • Arc Welding: Gerry Conway's Parallel Lives often seen as a Retcon or Revision was actually an attempt to merge different parts of her characterization over the Spider-Man continuity in a way that made sense, while reconciling gaps in her characterization:
    • Originally Lee/Romita introduced Mary Jane as an insensitive airhead who was constantly flirting and chasing after Peter in a way that was both a little insensitive and mean to Harry and Gwen, and which annoyed Peter to no end. Then Conway himself in his run building on Lee-Romita's characterization tried to develop her into a more compassionate, and courageous, as well as loyal friend and companion who genuinely cares for Peter and loves him, and with whom Peter can be truly happy and relaxed in a way he couldn't with Gwen. After Conway left, Len Wein generally kept the couple as static while occasionally for the sake of drama having MJ be mean to Peter by flirting with Flash in Operation: Jealousy type gambits that left him confused, with many noting that MJ was "Gwen with sarcasm and sass" in this period, rarely building on Conway's work. Marv Wolfman, who followed Wein, seeking to end the relationship and shake the status-quo had Peter propose to her and MJ reject it a little callously, but the second series (The Spectacular Spider-Man), still keeping in line Conway's characterization had her say she still loved Peter and was a little worried about taking the next step, and later Wolfman said that she did it because her parents divorced and wrote her out of the book.
    • When Roger Stern came and brought Mary Jane back, as a little older and more successful version of her teenage self, he also created a backstory that hinted at both her origins (with Aunt May saying that both she and Peter "have lost so much") and later an outline that as per Stern, Tom DeFalco followed correctly, namely that she had known Peter was Spider-Man for a while and it was out of fear for his life and herself that she rejected his proposal and left New York. This explanation contradicted the one given by Wolfman where it was fear about her repeating her parent's divorce, and it didn't explain when she learned the secret and why she chose Peter's proposal to get out, since Spider-Man's adventures didn't impinge on her life in that period to justify her leaving.
    • Conway feeling that Mary Jane's new backstory explained and deepened her early behavior and characterization, decided to have Mary Jane know from the very beginning since it both demonstrated clearly to readers how much her Lee-Romita façade was clearly an act, it heightened her courage to stay at Peter's side, made her earlier interactions and behavior with Harry and Gwen a little less mean, if still sarcastic and trollish, and provided a better motivation for her rejecting Peter's first proposal (he proposed without telling her his identity which she would obviously feel was indicative that he didn't trust her) and why she chose to reveal her Secret Secret-Keeper status to Peter and her own origins so shortly after she came back when the Puma attacked (since originally she said, "I thought I could handle it before" which two issues later became a justification for her leaving New York).
  • Armor-Piercing Question: MJ has been known to land a few of these. In Hobgoblin Lives, when Jason Mackendale announces on live television that Ned Leeds was the original Hobgoblin, MJ asks Peter how, if Leeds was indeed the Hobgoblin (who was known to have superhuman strength and invulnerability), four non-powered henchmen hired by the Foreigner could have killed him as easily as they did. This line of thought leads to Peter Parker realizing that Leeds was set up by the real Hobgoblin.
  • Audience Surrogate: MJ became this in her early issues:
    • She was the first girl to immediately take a liking to Peter and make him happy. She also easily managed to facilitate Peter's Spider-Man work without any of the usual lies on his part, simply because she thought it would be fun to see a supervillain go on the rampage and decided to drive Peter there on a scooter. Peter's introduction to her to the gang also led to Peter finally becoming part of the "cool group" since even Flash Thompson had to realize that Peter wasn't the same dweeb from high school if a girl like her was his friend. She was more or less an embodiment of the fans who liked both Peter and Spider-Man, both of whom were controversial within the pages, and also show that he was secretly quite cool.
    • Likewise, while Peter and his cast had been conceived off as high school and college students, both Stan Lee and Steve Ditko were from an earlier generation and as such their portrayal of teenagers was rooted in the decade when they were young, while MJ was the first character that really seemed to belong to The '60s, the decade of the comics' publication, being a liberated woman who didn't wait around for men. The fact that Gerry Conway was 19 years old when he wrote her into the center of Peter's life and rounded her character, and in terms of generation and age, the only one to actually write Spider-Man to be part of Peter's real-time generation is not an accident.
    • Mary Jane continued doing this after she hooked up with Peter. In some stories, Peter's explanations to her about whatever's going on can clarify things that both she (and any readers who missed the original comics) weren't around to see.
  • Badass Normal: Mary Jane has received combat training from the likes of Captain America and can more than hold her own in a fight. She's resourceful and able to think on her feet in dangerous situations.
  • Better as Friends: Often attempted for MJ's character since writers have attempted to break up Peter and Mary Jane to hook Peter up with other characters, but she is far too popular to write out completely. Needless to say this status quo never lasts for long, and has actually reinforced her status as being Peter's primary love.
  • Betty and Veronica:
    • Formed this, being "the Veronica" (i.e. somewhat independent and more high maintenance) with the good girl Gwen Stacy (the "take home to your mother" type) being the Betty. A major reason why MJ and Gwen never fully fit in the pattern is because Romita Sr. (who worked on Archie) shoehorned the dynamic (rooted Two Decades Behind) into a post-war setting with the generation gap and early women's lib, and in the case of MJ, a character intended to reflect a '60s spirit. As such Mary Jane Watson despite being born in poor and working and living independently trying to make something of herself came off as "high maintenance" as opposed to Gwen who was rich and sweet.note 
    • The one story that averted this is Marvel Fairy Tales where the Spider-Man Fairy Tales #4 reinterpreted and transplanted Peter/MJ/Gwen's romance in a Chivalric Romance setting where Peter is an Impoverished Patrician knight, Gwen is an actual Princess and MJ is a peasant serving girl. In this case, MJ is finally and unambiguously the Betty to Gwen's Veronica.
  • Big Damn Heroes: In the storyline "Power Play", MJ dons the old Iron Spider costume to aid Spidey and Iron Man in their fight against Regent. Afterwards, she tells reporters catching her in action that that was her first and only play in the role of heroics (although she already played a similar role in Spider-Island).
  • Big Damn Kiss:
    • Issue 142 where Peter is flying to Paris has him and MJ kiss for the first time at the airport and then continuing for several panels, with MJ noting that Peter's a great kisser and Peter giving a Laugh of Love with MJ still in a swoon after Peter's plane departs ("Far freaking out").
    • The famous upside-down kiss in Spider-Man provides its own unique twist; this time it's MJ who gives a Laugh of Love.
  • Blind Date: How she met Peter and was introduced to the book.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: With Betty Brant and Gwen back in the day.
  • Breakout Character: Peter's most well-known lover by a landslide, and quite easily one of the most iconic Love Interests in comicdom, rivaled only by DC Comics Lois Lane. In the words of her co-creator:
    Stan Lee: We wanted Gwen to be the heroine of the book, but no matter how we wrote it, Mary Jane always seemed more interesting! We used to joke about it: 'We can't even control our own characters!'
    • Even outside of being a love interest, she might be the most iconic and long-standing supporting character in the Spider-Man franchise, with Aunt May and possibly Harry Osborn being the closest runner-up. She even maintained an AU ongoing series in the mid-2000s about her high school life, and got a 616 ongoing starting in late 2019, making her the only Spider-Man character to get that treatment without being a superhero themselves.
  • Catchphrase: "Face it, tiger — you just hit the jackpot."note 
  • Character Development: One of, if not the most and best developed character in the supporting cast. The first notable moment occurs when she decides to stay with Peter whilst he is grieving over Gwen's death. Amazing Spider-Man #259 delves a good deal into her past.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Back in the Lee/Romita days, she was a bit... out there. Even in the modern era, she can have her moments, they just tend to be downplayed because we usually know she's kidding or what her motivations are.
  • Comic-Book Fantasy Casting:
    • John Romita Sr. modeled her on Ann-Margret, a popular actress of the '60s who appeared in some Elvis Presley movies.
    • Mike Deodato when he was drawing her face, based her on Liv Tyler.
  • Commitment Issues: She had this because of the bad relationships both her parents and her sister and brother-in-law had and her strong desire to ensure she doesn't turn out like them. Likewise she also saw that some of her and Peter's friends (namely Ned Leeds and Betty Brant) had a troubled marriage and this directly led to her to turn down Peter's original proposal. She also turned down the second one but then said yes two issues later anyway mostly because it was so sudden and she needed time to process. However she still ended up having doubts in the days leading up to the wedding as a wealthy friend named Bruce tried to seduce her into changing her mind while others reminded her of how much she enjoys her single life as a model, and despite resolving her issues still struggles with deciding whether she's ready with the changes that come with being married. However she ends up going through with the wedding and nothing happens with Bruce.
  • The Confidant: Once she reveals that she was Peter's Secret Secret-Keeper, and then tells Peter her past, the two of them become really good friends since neither had confessed this during their relationship. In The Amazing Spider-Man #273, Peter also communicates to her the fact that he was responsible for Uncle Ben's death which he never told anyone before. In general, its now a common feature of the franchise that, even if they're not together romantically, they're still best friends. In the Ultimate Comics, she is this for Peter early in the issue.
  • Conspicuous Consumption:
    • One of her own self-acknowledged flaws is a tendency for this. Having been born poor and wanting to be fashionable and successful, Mary Jane tends to splurge when she makes money, traveling first-class, buying expensive stuff and going to fancy places. Which continued even after she and Peter married, and it became a problem when the couple faced lean times, such as when Jonathan Caesar blacklisted her from a fashion career, or during Mark Millar's run on Marvel Knights, where attempts by her to improve her savings led to dodgy investments. Peter did struggle with his since growing up poor made him austere, which also made him feel guilty about not being able to provide all this for MJ on his own, yet at the same time being a little too passive and accommodating to make this a big issue, and too supportive to make her feel guilty about spending on herself from her own hard-earned money.
    • Renew Your Vows #19 actually does have her experience some Character Development where she and Peter take a cruise vacation, and MJ drags him to a fancy dinner where they interact with snobby fellow travelers. By the end of the issue, after MJ had earlier told Peter to let it slide, she unloads on them for their ingratitude to Spider-Man and Spinneret (their alter-egos who saved them) and then she and Peter take a cheaper road-trip that is more romantic and peaceful, with MJ starting to adopt some of Peter's taste for austerity.
    • In Spider-Girl, Mayday took after her father in his tastes and lifestyle attitude in her early years and often avoided her mother's love for shopping and her fashion sense, with MJ noting that Mayday never seemed to like her taste in clothing. After a while though, Mayday does start to have her mother's taste rub off on her. In one time-travel issue, upon meeting the young version of MJ, aside from noting how beautiful she was at her age, Mayday is bemused when the first thing teenage MJ does is insist that they go shopping so she can dress better:
      Mayday: Now you sound like my mother.
  • Damsel in Distress: She fell into this most frequently in the 70s (most famously alongside her DC counterpart Lois Lane in a crossover), but not so much afterward, particularly after marrying Peter. Her appearances in video games until the PS4 game often had her kidnapped and held hostage for Peter to come save her. Also how she appeared in all three of the Raimi movies.
  • Damsel out of Distress: Following her return in the late 80s after a prolonged absence, she's not kidnapped or put in harm's way very often (even if some other versions might make you think otherwise), but when she does, she never stays put. There are even more than a few examples where she saves herself with no help from Spidey whatsoever. Or even better, she ends up saving him instead.
  • Deadpan Snarker: She's every bit as good at snarking as Peter.
  • Demonic Possession: On one occasion, she was possessed by Red Sonja and battled Kulan Gath, but she has no memory of those events.
  • Depending on the Artist:
    • In the classical period, Mary Jane's eye color would shift from blue to green depending on the artist. It's only later that artists settled on green and that has remained the default. But when introduced, she had blue eyes originally.
    • Likewise, the shade of red also changes, with it going from dark red to a brighter and more orange red. Dark red is how Romita drew her, but artists in The '80s to keep her looking more fashion conscious made it brighter red.
    • Her height can be pretty inconsistent as well; in the early days, MJ was depicted being a head shorter than Peter and friends, with dialogue between Gwen actually lampshading this, but in the late 80s/90s period artists began drawing her as a Statuesque Stunner, either the same height or taller than Peter. In the 2000s, she's gone back and fourth; officially she's billed as 5'8, compared to Peter's 5'11 meaning she's shorter than him, but not by much, and artists are strangely creative with how big a height gap they have.
  • Derailing Love Interests: Certain writers and editors have never been fond of Mary Jane as a character, or rather, her and Peter as an Official Couple. There have, on occasion, been attempts to kill her off. The other option, has been to deliberately write her to be unlikable. However, because of how well-liked Mary Jane is by fans, neither option has ever really worked.
  • Distaff Counterpart: In some alternate universes, Mary Jane has spider-powers, either in a Battle Couple with a similarly-powered Peter or sometimes simply being that universe's version of Spider-Man.
  • Dream Sequence: In a short story in Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #9, Mary Jane dreams she breaks into a maximum security prison to get revenge on her Stalker with a Crush Jonathon Caesar, and promptly shoots him after he tries to bargain with her.
  • Dude Magnet: No surprise, she is one of most beautiful women in the Marvel Universe and a Running Gag (when she and Peter were married) was that Peter's friends or old schoolmates discovered that he was married to a woman like her and became jealous. Besides this, before Peter, she had dated Harry Osborn and, after One More Day, had some brief relationships. This has also become a problem when she attracts some dangerous stalkers. During a period in the JMS era when Peter and family moved into Avengers Tower, much of the gag among the superhero community was a loser like Peter and Spider-Man being married to such a great catch, leading the likes of Wolverine and even Tony Stark to occasionally flirt with MJ.
  • Empowered Badass Normal: During the Spider-Island arc.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The famous panel with her first appearance is pictured on the trope page for Comic Books.
  • The Faceless: For a while she was never seen or her face was obscured, not until Romita's Sr.'s run did we see the jackpot. As noted elsewhere, it took slightly longer to see her face than it did to find out who the Green Goblin was! Even then, it was strongly implied even in the earlier ones that she was very beautiful. Liz Allan and Betty Brant, visited her by chance when Peter wasn't around and while MJ's face was covered, the thought bubbles by Liz and Betty state that she was beautiful enough to be an actress.
  • Fanservice Model: In addition to a fashion model, she doubles as this.
  • The Fashionista: Although as noted on that trope's page, she's an unusual example in that outside of her interest in fashion and her very girly appearance, she's a bit of a tomboy with an interest in sports. She has used her fashion design and sewing skills on many occasions to make and repair Spider-Man's costumes. She also designed the Hornet, Prodigy, and Ricochet costumes.
  • Fiery Redhead: Oh, boy, is she ever! Right from her very first appearance she stood out from the rest of the supporting cast due to her lively personality. Although it was more due to her charismatic personality rather than her temper. Her Ultimate counterpart actually does have a shorter fuse.
  • First Love: From her point of view, if not necessarily from Peter's. Mary Jane dated many boys and men in her early years, but Peter Parker was always the person she felt the greatest love and affection for, and the only serious and intense emotional and physical relationship she had (as Spider-Island confirms). While Peter has fallen in love with other girls, Mary Jane in either the Pre-OMD era or Post-OMD era, has never fallen in love with anyone other than him, and in the Post-OMD era struggles to move on from her relationship with Peter, before getting back together in Nick Spencer's Spider-Man. Flashbacks and Parallel Lives take this further, as its shown she had a crush on Peter from afar, noticing him whenever she visited her Aunt Anna, long-before they were introduced, and was also a huge fangirl for Spider-Man when he was just Peter's Celebrity Alter Ego, meaning she was fairly into Peter before they'd had the chance to meet properly.
    • This is even more true in Ultimate Spider-Man where during their breakups, Peter would date other girls, but Mary Jane struggled to move on, being too devoted to him.
  • Foil: She is often seen as one for Peter's girlfriends, but as noted by Gerry Conway and other writers, she primarily foils Peter himself with her own story and character evolving and progressing on a similar wavelength as his:
    • Parallel Lives makes it clear that she's one for Peter as well. She was born poor and in a broken home, while Peter was also born poor but raised in a loving home. MJ puts on a façade of cheerfulness and relentless optimism as a way to avoid dealing with her home life, whereas Peter became introverted out of being bullied at school and having a Friendless Background. Both of them end up having to grow up very fast, with MJ already making plans to work for a living while in high school while Peter's loss of Uncle Ben and his guilt and superpowers, and being a caretaker of Aunt May, puts a lot of burden on his young shoulders. Gerry Conway picking up this background detail noted that this was the main reason why many liked them together, neither of them really fit with anyone else as well as they do with each other:
    "Only a damaged person would end up with a damaged guy like Peter Parker."
    • Their status as foils continued during their marriage, and even after OMD. Both Mary Jane and Spider-Man are somewhat famous figures and are highly misunderstood and underestimated. MJ is a local celebrity thanks to her work on Secret Hospital who people fixate on largely for her looks, and she often struggles to be seen as more than just a face or be treated seriously as an actress. Peter sees himself and is seen by others as an underachiever while Mary Jane before she left her 20s can claim to be a model, an actress on film and stage, a business-owner, and a corporate executive for the world's biggest company. Roger Stern's Post-OMD short-comic in The Many Loves of Spider-Man has her navigate a private and personal identity crisis similar to Peter and Spider-Man where her amazing beauty makes it hard for her to get good parts even if she has considerable acting skills. Both she and Peter become business-owners and corporate executives at nearly the same time (with MJ starting and owning her own club, and later working for Stark Industries) and Peter becoming CEO of Parker Industries. By the time of Nick Spencer's run, both of them are again at square one and at loose ends, with Peter disgraced and unemployed, while MJ no longer works for Stark Industries and is now looking for "something that sticks".
  • Freudian Excuse: Her reasons for rejecting Peter's first proposal in Amazing Spider-Man #183 (which was admittedly quite sudden and not well thought out by Peter) was revealed and hinted in Amazing Spider-Man #191-192, where she reveals in thought bubbles that her parents were divorced and the fact that Ned and Betty's marriage was quite rocky didn't exactly inspire confidence in her. It took exactly 100 issues after that before she got over her baggage and said yes to Peter.
  • Friendly Rivalry: Emphasis on friendly, she and Gwen had one for Peter's affections for a while, but when it became clear that Peter was in love with Gwen, she backed off considerably, nothing more than playfully flirting with Peter, remaining close friends with both Peter and Gwen. Even after Gwen's death, Mary-Jane openly realizes she can never fully fill the void Gwen left in Peter's heart, though she also knows she isn't by any means her replacement either, and more than once has it been made clear, she loved and lost Gwen too.
  • Fun Personified: Until some hidden depths were revealed and we latter find out it was mostly an act to hide the pain brought on by her abusive childhood, anyway. She's still a fun character though, just not in a way that it's her only defining trait or that makes her seem like she doesn't care about anything. It's part of the reason for her popularity. The original Spider-Man comics were largely quite intense and Peter was quite asocial, coming from a Friendless Background, and all of Peter's circle had baggage (Harry being Norman's son, Flash being Peter's ex-bully, and Gwen being a little serious) but MJ was a light-hearted, cheerful and charismatic presence in Peter's life, which also made her different from other superhero Love Interests (such as Lois Lane and Catwoman or Susan Storm).
  • The Ghost: Early on in the series, she was mentioned for dozens of issues, but was never seen until the final panel of Amazing Spider-Man #42.
  • Girly Bruiser: A model/actress with self-defense training from Captain America; you do the math.
  • Happily Married: For nearly twenty years in real time to Peter in the main continuity. Stan Lee kept her married to Peter in the newspaper strip, whilst Tom DeFalco kept them married in the Spider-Girl books. In fact, on account of the newspaper strip, Spider-Girl and later Renew Your Vows, there hasn't been a year without one story where Peter and MJ are married in some timeline or another.
    • Is this in The Amazing Spider-Man (2022) but to a new character altogether, complete with a pair of kids. However, this was later revealed to have been a mistake by the writers/editors in the editorial of a latter issue in the ongoing series.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Not only is she the Trope Codifier for comic books, she's also arguably THE most iconic example in Western popular culture.
  • Heroic Bystander: Many times (just check the awesome moments page!). Just some examples:
    • Spider-Man was being overwhelmed by a demonic Hobgoblin in the sewers of New York, until Mary Jane lights his cape on fire. While Hobgoblin is distracted, Spider-Man throws the flaming villain a large pile of demon-possessed sewage, causing an explosion that defeats both monsters.
    • When Mary Jane was kidnapped by a Stalker with a Crush named Jonathan Caesar, Spider-Man tried to rescue her. Caesar responded by sending a pair of mercenaries named Styx and Stone after our hero, who nearly killed him until Mary Jane escaped from Caesar and his goons on her own and used the gun she stole to scare away the mercenaries.
    • A fashion show Mary Jane attended was crashed by the White Rabbit, who was there to collect a debt she was owed by one of the partygoers. With no one else willing or able to do it, Mary Jane subdued the White Rabbit herself.
  • Hidden Depths: Up until she stayed with Peter after Gwen's death, she was never shown to do anything seriously. Readers would also later learn about her abusive father and that her party girl attitude was an act to keep people from finding out how screwed-up her personal life was.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy:
    • In the Lee-Romita era, MJ had a major crush on Peter but the latter pined for Gwen and on seeing how serious it was, she backed off and decided to be friends with both. She cared enough about Peter to put up with his angry rants at her after Gwen died, and if you accept Sins Past as canon, she also refused to demolish Peter's idealized image of Gwen Stacy (namely the fact that she cheated on him) out of loyalty to Pete and her friend until it was too late.
    • It's an open question in the comics (at least 616 Continuity Depending on the Writer) whether Peter loved MJ more than he did Gwen, but it's without a doubt that MJ loved him more than anybody other than Uncle Ben and Aunt May. About the only part everyone agrees that is believable about One More Day is that MJ would take the burden of guilt off Peter's chest (chiefly the death of Aunt May) and also insist to Mephisto that Peter get a chance to be happy.
    • The most flattering way to look at her being used for Character Shilling for Carlie Cooper falls squarely into this. As much as she loves Peter and wants to be with him, she's not going to come between him and another woman. If Peter is happy with Carlie Cooper, she'll wait by the sidelines and support the relationship. When Nick Spencer's run started, this was rewarded as now that she and Peter were together, Carlie turned around and gave her the same respect and support.
  • Iconic Outfit: She's a fashion-conscious woman even before she worked as a model so obviously she has a few:
    • Her outfit in her introductory panel, where she wears a black tank-top and blue jeans (though later artists make it purple or beige as above), and a white jacket which she carries (and sports in the next issue) is quite famous.
    • Her dress in the epilogue of The Night Gwen Stacy Died a purple full sleeved top and beige pants (reprints color it as a green top) is also quite famous. It notably inspired the default color of Ultimate Mary Jane in her early issues and was the colored dress she wore when Ultimate Goblin dropped her off a bridge in a homage to the original story (though MJ of course survives).
    • Her glamorous hot pink ensemble (top, skirt, buckle, pink fishnet stockings, giant pink boots) which she wears when she and Peter (in his black outfit) go web swinging to the Empire State Building days before their wedding during "The Annual" is quite well-remembered too, especially since it introduced the motif of the ESB as "their spot" in their relationship.
    • Of course her wedding dress (designed by actual fashion designer Willi Smith), displayed in the cover of "The Wedding!" and worn in page.
    • J. Scott Campbell's cover for Amazing Spider-Man 601 which became controversial for its Male Gaze nonetheless introduced another iconic outfit, a white sleeveless top and blue jeans with torn frayed edges, with a red spidey heart-shaped logo that resembles the logo of their Wedding Annual.
    • From Sam Raimi's trilogy, Kirsten Dunst's red/magenta qipao ensemble which she wears at the Unity Day parade when Spider-Man meets and rescues her for the first time, and the pink dress she wears during the upside-down kiss are famous.
    • Her "millennial chic" outfit in Spider-Man (PS4), namely her green jacket, orange scarf and jeans is also quite memorable.
    • Her crimson, web-accented gown on the cover of Leah Williams' The Amazing Mary Jane #1 left a lot of impression among readers.
  • Iconic Sequel Character: She doesn't have her first full appearance until Amazing Spider-Man 42, four years into the book's run, and almost half-a-year after the departure of Steve Ditko: she was established as The Ghost and The Faceless very early in the comics, and built up as a character that Aunt May wanted to set him up on a date with, which Peter kept trying to dodge (because he's Peter).
  • Impossible Hourglass Figure: MJ has pretty curvy hips as well as a very voluptuous body and buxom breasts.
  • Indy Ploy: Mary Jane is very intelligent in her resourcefulness and ability to think on her feet. Notably, she's either saved Peter more than once, or saved the day on her own when there were no superheroes around.
  • Insecure Love Interest:
    • Gwen's death was an open wound in their relationship and marriage since both of them were aware that given the strength of their feelings for each other, Gwen might well have ended up with Peter had she lived. Peter always feels guilty bringing up Gwen knowing how MJ feels, while MJ, who adored Gwen as a friend, also feels guilty about resenting her while having doubts if Peter's feelings for her are greater than they were for Gwen when they lived. The final issue of Spider-Man: Blue expresses this succinctly when Peter waxes nostalgia for Gwen only for MJ to come and tell Peter to say hi to her from her as well. The Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #8 also has her discussing her feelings of insecurity towards Gwen and how she saw herself as out of Gwen's league:
      MJ: When Gwen was alive, I knew I never had a chance with you. After all, she was smart, educated, a lady — And what was I? A cheap date. Emphasis on cheap."
      Peter: Don't say that, MJ.
      MJ: If Gwen Stacy was a beauty queen, then I was a pin-up girl.
    • Writers have often played with this in issues. Most notably the tie-in issue of House of M where Spider-Man is married to Gwen and has a child. Their marriage is shown to be smooth on the surface but Peter also engages in self-destructive behavior, constantly lies to her, is a jerk to others, and it's implied that the House of M version of Mary Jane is having an affair with him, or at the least House of M Peter is contemplating. JMS intended Sins' Past to correct and overturn this by highlighting how much Peter put Gwen on a pedestal and didn't really know her well, and that his feelings for her are clouded by his guilt, whereas his relationship with MJ was deeper and more honest than it was with Gwen.
    • Of course, other writers have Peter repeatedly insisting to MJ that no, he loves her more than he did Gwen. An early issue during their marriage has Peter say that he loved Gwen but now he's with her and his feelings for her are stronger than they were for Gwen when she was alive. Tom Beland's "Web of Romance" openly has Peter stating in captions that he loves MJ more than he ever did Gwen and even noting that aside from his guilt for failing to save her, he's aware that his relationship with Gwen was flawed, unstable, dishonest, and not very deep, whereas he and MJ have an open honest relationship where they shared everything together.
  • Interspecies Romance: MJ is a human woman and Peter is a genetically enhanced superbeing. The issue of MJ having an intimate relationship with a man who isn't really human anymore tends to come up in a few issues. In Spider-Island, MJ's immunity to the virus that turns other people into giant spiders but gives her a surprising command over superpowers is hypothesized by Reed Richards as owing to an immunity she acquired due to extended contact with Peter (a classic Reed Richards euphemism for Peter and MJ having so much sex over the years that she's got the benefits without the handicaps). This is averted in AU versions, namely Spider-Man: Reign where MJ dies from cancer as a result of STD received from Peter's radioactive body fluids.
    MJ: Reed says I've... um... built up an immunity to your DNA. From all the years we...
    Spider-Man: Shared a toothbrush?
    MJ: Yes, shared a toothbrush.
  • Ironic Echo: When May and Anna Watson were trying to set them up on a blind date, Peter resisted - thinking Mary Jane must be some pathetic teen that couldn't possibly get a date without help. Turns out in Parallel Lives, Mary Jane had said the same things about himnote . Interestingly, a Valentine's Day special published in the 90s revealed that despite thinking this, MJ had always had feelings for him.
  • Keep the Home Fires Burning: Many issues focus on her conflicted feelings of being supportive towards Peter and her fear that this could be the time he doesn't make it back. This stems from experiences in their early days as a married couple. During Kraven's Last Hunt shortly after their honeymoon, Peter goes missing for two weeks and MJ is alone and bereft without her partner who for all she knew died without her knowing it and with no way to communicate and share what she went through with anyone. The trauma of that time never entirely went away even in their later years.
  • Legacy Character: In Amazing Spider-Man vol 6 #31, MJ takes up the mantle of Jackpot.
  • Like Parent, Like Spouse:
    • A few of the comics have strongly implied that the reason Aunt May gravitated to Mary Jane to the point of being The Matchmaker for her and Peter is that she saw in MJ a little of herself (i.e. a tough and determined working-class woman who didn't let the hard knocks in her life get in the way of her cheerful and helpful demeanor) and as someone who could look after Peter as and when she died (being an elderly widow with Peter as her only family, she was quite anxious to see her adopted son settled down). The fact that Peter and MJ remained together as a married couple for a long time as a childless couple (in the main continuity) make them echo Ben and May's own relationship, and their lifelong devotion to each other. In Spider-Man (PS4), when consoling Peter about his on-off relationship with MJ, May reminds him that she and Ben had similar fights and tussles early in their relationship too.
    • Spider-Girl runs with this where when Mary Jane became pregnant with Benjy, she became wheelchair-bound and when Mayday expressed worries when she was still trying to do chores, she starts quoting and echoing Aunt May's famous "gumption" speech from Amazing Spider-Man #18 about how she isn't an invalid and how Parkers don't quit, the joke being that both May and MJ married into the family and somehow have become more Parker than the kids born into it, like Peter and Mayday.
    • Incidentally, Peter's mother Mary Fitzpatrick Parker shares a first name with MJ and when the comics finally dealt with their backstory, they were painted as SHIELD agents and a Battle Couple who tussled with threats on their own (much like Peter and MJ a few times in their marriage), and while a brunette, Mary Parker tended to look a little like MJ (though that might be because of the limited nature of Marvel's art style than anything). This is lampshaded in Ultimate Marvel, where Ultimate May (who's initially not as much of a shipper for Peter and MJ, though Ultimate Uncle Ben was), after learning that Peter and MJ started dating, stated that his own parents were High-School Sweethearts too.
    • From MJ's point of view, this is totally averted. She loves Peter precisely because he is nothing like her father and is totally the opposite. Her Ultimate counterpart, who also struggles against her equally crappy father, practically latches on to Peter for this reason, and openly discusses eloping with him multiple times simply so she could get away from her family forever and start her own.
  • Limited Social Circle: One thing that more than a few note is that Mary Jane rarely seems to have friends and contacts outside Peter's circle despite being more outgoing, extroverted, and social than him. This was somewhat justified at least since she was new in town, having spent her teen-hood perpetually moving schools (during a time before teenagers had phones or social media, so there was no way to build long-term contact), and though she joined Peter's circle, its shown that she immediately clicked with them, faster than he had done (in fact, she befriended Flash Thompson before Peter and him had fully buried the hatchet). Still, when her family background was introduced and resolved, little attempted was made to shine a spotlight on her relationships with her sister and nephews, and later stories resolved around her mending fences with her deadbeat dad who was presumably still alive during events like "Civil War" and "Back in Black" but didn't get so much as a response. Likewise, the Wedding Annual had it officiated by her Uncle Spencer, a Canon Immigrant from the Newspaper Strip who inexplicably never appears again, even if their bond must have been close if he officiated her wedding with Peter. In the Iron Man comics, MJ does start socializing with Tony's contacts and friends and befriending Jarvis personally.
  • Literally Loving Thy Neighbor: With Peter (though if you want to be technical about it, it's more like "literally loving thy aunt's neighbor"), and there's a debate between them about who loved the other first. Though all signs point to it being MJ especially in the scene after Gwen died, and of course the reveal that she knew he was Spider-Man all along. In the Spider-Man Trilogy, this is inverted with Peter being a love-sick puppy chasing her.
  • Love Epiphany: During Civil War, when MJ is having angst about how much Peter unveiling his secret identity has affected her social life, she thinks about the moment when she realized that she was in love with him. It was the moment when she chose to stay with him even after Peter lashed at her in grief after Gwen Stacy died which is when her feelings for Peter became deeper than before.
  • Love Interest: Is this to Peter Parker and to his alter-ego Spider-Man. Also one of the most iconic in pop culture history.
  • Loves My Alter Ego: An unusual example given that originally Spider-Man inverted this dynamic owing to the fact that unlike Superman and Batman, both of whom are more charismatic figures than their civilian alter-egos (in the classical era certainly), Spider-Man started out as a Hero with Bad Publicity and weirdo, who is distrusted by the press. For most of Peter's run, a major hurdle for his girlfriends and stress for Peter, wasn't them liking Peter but if they were able to look past the general sentiment and public opinion against his alter ego and see him for the hero he was.
    • Both Betty Brant and Gwen Stacy liked Peter but hated and distrusted Spider-Man, with the latter blaming him for the death of her father. MJ was the first one to admit outright that Spider-Man was cool, and she would flirt with both Peter and Spider-Man during their early interactions. In addition, a later Revision has it that she always knew, but didn't say anything. In the original context, the fact that MJ liked Spider-Man at his most distrusted and went against public opinion and general sentiment to express that view, meant that she actually did like the real Peter Parker, contrary to the general trope. Her relationship with Peter was less stressful for him than it was with Betty and Gwen owing to the fact that she didn't pile guilt on him by hating Spider-Man which actually eased and relaxed Peter when they started dating. In the first Spider-Man film, her upside-down kiss happened in the montage after Jameson's first anti Spider-Man screed and MJ's loyalty to her hero during this difficult period led to the famous romantic moment as well as giving Peter the strength to reject Goblin's We Can Rule Together offer.
    • Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane goes with a more traditional sense with MJ wavering in the Silver Age between the charismatic hero (Spider-Man) and the more circumspect boy (Peter Parker). Ultimate Spider-Man slides past this dynamic since she and Peter were already crushing on each other and Spider-Man hadn't yet gotten to Butt-Monkey status before their Relationship Upgrade (where MJ became his confidant very early). MJ likes Spider-Man and thinks Peter's powers and abilities are great and she's proud of his work as a superhero but she also worries for him and suffers PTSD after a battle with the Goblin.
    • After the Cosmic Retcon of One More Day attempts were made to put on a more classic Silver Age pattern with Slott claiming that MJ knowing Spider-Man's double identity from the start raised questions about whether she liked "plain ol' Peter" but when Nick Spencer took over the franchise from Dan Slott, one of the first things he did was affirm that MJ always loved Peter Parker for who he is, recognizing that Peter and Spider-Man weren't separate individuals but essentially the same person.
  • Love Triangle: She's this between herself, Black Cat, and Spider-Man.
  • Lust Object: See Dude Magnet and So Beautiful, It's a Curse.

  • Make-Out Point: The roof of the Empire State Building is this for her and Peter. During "The Wedding" issue, she and Peter swung there and described it as their spot. Later issues also built on it, most notably "To Have and to Hold" and Dan Slott's Spider-Island brief Ship Tease about Peter and MJ was related to the fact that the story ends with them surveying the city atop the ESB and later seeing their spot lit up in red and blue colors.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: MJ in the early issues of Romita-Lee is an early version of this. She was a little spacey and weird, and seemed to Peter to be a little remote from and even insensitive to her surroundings but also a ball of energy who drew everyone to her. Gerry Conway taking over from Lee started to suggest that she had more depths to her, and later writers managed to make her early characterization a pose she put on as a mask to get the world to accept her and also keep her from deep commitments.
  • The Medic: She was usually the person who provides first aid when Peter's injured. Especially the case in the Ultimate Comics where during a period when she and Peter broke up, she returned to help him fix his wounds anyway.
  • Most Common Superpower: One of the biggest examples, yet ironically, she’s not a superhero.
  • Ms. Fanservice:
    • Mary Jane is professionally a model, a Fanservice Model, and an actress, so naturally she's an attractive woman, and her beauty is of course a plot point. As such, it's really no surprise artists like to draw attention to this, especially since she likes to wear revealing attire even casually.
    • Most fans will attest that Mary Jane fit the Trope most during Todd McFarlane's run on Amazing Spider-Man; he did several "cheesecake" shots of female characters, and as the most visible member of the supporting cast, she had most of them, the art during his run giving her a sudden preference for midriff revealing tops and dangerously daring necklines. Not to mention that he got the series shortly after she and Peter got married, which back in the late 80s and early 90s was kind of a license for showing Peter and MJ in more situations that, although obscured, were explicitly sexual.
  • Muggle Best Friend: When she's not the Love Interest, she's usually one of Peter's closests friends.
  • My Girl Is Not a Slut: One of the biggest aversions in comics. It was a major shock and delight for readers that the girl Aunt May wanted to set up for Peter as his good match was Mary-Jane Watson, a serial dater and party animal who it's generally implied was more experienced than Peter before they started dating. The fact that Aunt May, seen as a typical boring old woman from an earlier generation, felt that a 60s liberated woman was all right for her Peter was quite liberating for many female and male readers, as noted by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and was one of the reasons for her popularity:
    "While the world was fooled, Mary Jane Watson knew Peter Parker was Spider-Man. And she didn't wait around for him to figure it all out. She was, very clearly, sexual. She dated whomever she wanted... Mary Jane Watson was the kind of girl you did not bring home to mother — unless you had a mother like mine... I liked to believe that Peter Parker, ultimately, wasn't raised that way either... if he ended up with a beautiful woman, he did not end up with an ornamental one. His marriage was a rejection of the macho ideal of romance—which reigns even among nerds—and it mirrored and confirmed my own budding sense of what love was at a very young age."
  • My Greatest Failure: Felt incredibly guilty over having essentially abandoned her sister when their mother died and left her to take care of two children by herself because MJ was afraid of spending the rest of her life sacrificing her own dreams for everyone else like her sister and mother had.
  • Nice Girl: She's been consistently portrayed as a playful, fun-loving girl, and after maturing into a compassionate young woman, she is generally friendly to pretty much everyone she meets.
  • "Not So Different" Remark:
    • She and Tony Stark also bond over this during the time they get to know each other and form a friendship. Both of them had terrible relationships with their fathers, spent time hiding their insecurity and concern by going partying and indulging in hedonism, are seen as flaky by the people around them but are also survivors.
  • Official Couple: Was this with Peter until One More Day and enjoys this status in Ultimate Spider-Man and most adaptations and media. As of The Amazing Spider-Man (2018), they're back together. In the original comics, Aunt May spent all her time trying to set her up with Peter on a Blind Date believing that she was "the one" for Peter which also made many fans believe that MJ was always Peter's true intended.
    • As of 2018, MJ is back to being in a relationship with Peter, restoring her previous status as his official love interest.
  • One of the Boys: This side of her character comes out when she and Peter move in at Stark Tower and she starts hanging out with Steve Rogers, Luke Cage, Logan and others revealing her interests in sports and other stuff. Most notably she regularly shoots pool with Captain America and was quite good at it, which amazed Peter since before he had never seen that side of her. Before that, it was also shown she generally got along better with guys than she did other girls, especially during the early days; while the boys were tossing compliments and asking her out, she was getting Slut-Shaming comments from Alpha Bitch types looking on angrily. Parallel Lives even uses this to compare and contrast her and Peter, showing that she was dealing with much the same bullshit in school as he was, but focused on her looks rather than smarts.
  • One True Love: Largely thanks to Gerry Conwaynote , she is Peter Parker's, no matter how much anyone at Marvel may want to change it.
    • Even more so in Ultimate Spider-Man where she was the lead female character from the very beginning and was very clearly always intended to be the one and only love of Peter's life- no matter how many times they broke up and got back together and broke up and got back together and...
  • The One That Got Away: The characterization that the creators on the Brand New Day storyline stuck her with to go along with The Lost Lenore status of Gwen Stacy in an attempt to firmly establish her relationship with Peter as being over and done with. Needless to say, it didn't stick.
  • The One Who Made It Out: She shares this drive with Peter, wanting to rise out of her working-class roots in Queens and make it in the bigger world. For Peter, that was by college and being Spider-Man, while MJ wanted to be an actress, model and socialite. One of the tensions she had during their marriage was MJ earning more than Peter and yet feeling stifled at times with being a "policeman's wife".
  • Only Known by Initials: Characters usually call her "MJ."
  • Out of Character: Tended to happen a lot in the post-One More Day stories. A good indicator is when writers use her "ditzy party girl" persona, which was explicitly an act as her actual personality. Several attempts were made after the removal of the marriage to suggest Mary Jane only ever loved Peter because she knew he was Spider-Man. Which certainly does not describe their dynamic prior to that.
  • Out of Focus: In Iron Man (2015) run where she is merely a Satellite Character.
  • Outdated Outfit: Naturally, as the most fashion-conscious member of the cast, she falls victim to this the most as time passes.
  • Outlaw Couple: She and Peter technically become this in the period during the Back in Black arc of Civil War after Peter revealed his identity and defected to the Anti-Reg side, which made him and his family wanted fugitives on the lam, and led to Aunt May getting shot by one of Kingpin's assassins. This is best seen in "To Have and to Hold" where SHIELD agents try to get to Peter through her, leading Spider-Man and her to swing away after a skirmish.
  • Painted-On Pants: She really likes her tight pants.
  • Plucky Girl: Although she's gone through some rough patches and worries more than most examples of this trope, she is still the type of character that will have no qualms about beating a B list hero with a baseball bat or bringing Peter out of slum with some helpful optimism.
  • Put on a Bus: When Spider-Man writers and artists don't know what to do with her, they often send her out of the books for extended periods of time simply so she doesn't steal attention for their favored Love Interest or so on.
    • Stan Lee and Romita Sr. did this themselves for a brief period where they sent her out of state for several issues before she returned to be Harry's on-off girlfriend.
    • Most notably she was missing in the comics for an extended period between issues 201-242 when writers sent her to Florida to help her settle her Aunt Anna. This was her longest period of absence after basically being in the majority of the comics for its first 200 issues. It was only in the issues she came back that she finally confronted Peter about being Spider-Man.
    • MJ got put on a bus again during the late 90s when she "died" in the air-crash leading to "Widower Pete" stories that lasted for a decent-ish time before returning albeit separating shortly on account of the trauma of that incident, albeit in the JMS run, he still showed stories dealing with her activities in LA in quite a few issues.
    • She was also missing in some of the early issues in the Dan Slott era before again returning as a regular supporting cast member, until the Superior Spider-Man arc, where in the fallout Bendis essentially drafted her into Iron Man's supporting cast, until Nick Spencer returned and brought her back into Spider-Man's web.
  • Resigned to the Call: Mary Jane set up shop in Chicago, thinking it wouldn't get hit with super heroes. When a demonically-possessed Madame Masque attacks Iron Man and Doctor Doom, she's devastated over it, leading to Tony to give her a job at Stark Industries. As much as she hates the hero life, he needs a new secretary to manage his life.
  • The Reveal Prompts Romance:
    • When the reveal happened with Mary Jane, it was MJ revealing she actually knew already, not Peter telling her, and it wasn't what sparked them getting together (they had already dated in the past). Being able to open about it did bring them closer and they did get back together shortly after that. MJ made it clear that she saw Peter and Spider-Man as one and the same, and that loving one meant loving the other, and that as much as Peter risking his life as Spider-Man drove her upset with fear, Peter's dedication, selflessness and heroism as Spider-Man are the principal qualities that attract her to him and during their friendship she actually convinced Peter to cancel one of his "Spider-Man no more" phases and save people.
    • Ultimate Spider-Man is also a subversion as well. Mary Jane was the first person Peter told and when he revealed it to her privately, she was under the impression that Peter was going to kiss her and ask her out, which Peter on hearing remark, that she still came up anyway (showing that she wanted a relationship with him). The secret did not prompt the romance as there was already a lot of romantic tension between them but MJ loves Peter being Spider-Man, especially when he takes her web-swinging, and for being able to be part of his cool adventures. However, throughout the series, she made it known that she also wishes that Peter wouldn't risk his life so much and she suffers PTSD after an encounter with Goblin that led to their first break-up (Peter broke up with her the second time over her constantly getting involved in his life when he told her to step back), but their attraction is too strong for either of them to stay away from each other.
  • Revision: The fact that she always knew Peter was Spider-Man, all the way back to the day Uncle Ben died. See Secret Secret-Keeper below. This might count as a plain old Retcon, but surprisingly enough, it only contradicts very few and far in between moments throughout her entire run up to that point, and it also explains exactly why, she was the one person in Peter's circle that never gave him heat about his sudden disappearances and excuses, because she knew he was Spider-Man all along, and it also explains the rich emotional body language in the famous panel at the end of The Night Gwen Stacy Died. Consider that the first issue after her appearance, had her insisting all of a sudden that she and Peter go and get a good look at the Rhino's rampage, originally it was intended to show how adventurous and free-spirited she was, but with the retcon, it makes sense given that she knows who Peter is. Likewise there's a fact that Stan Lee rarely wrote thought bubbles for her during his run and readers largely had to suss her out based on what she said, while leaving her internal life unexplored. The real problem was when writers after Lee, such as Conway, Wein, and Wolfman did try to do that, which made her lack of admission about the secret harder to accept.
  • Rich Suitor, Poor Suitor:
    • Early in the comics she was in a bit of a triangle between Peter and Harry Osborn (which was transferred to the Spider-Man Trilogy). Harry Osborn became resentful of Peter when it became clear that MJ preferred the poorer Peter to the rich Harry, and especially after Gwen's death, when she and Peter started falling in love and grew close to one another.
    • MJ was herself the poor suitor to Gwen. She was quite aware that compared to her, Gwen being educated, cultured, and a sophisticated society lady next to her, as well as having a good background and loving family home, made her a better catch compared to her.
    • During their marriage and Post-OMD on-and-off relationship, Peter often had fits of jealousy and insecurity over MJ earning more than him, and many people noting that she could have done better than married to him, which MJ pointedly refuses. In recent comics, Peter's quite uncomfortable with her working for Tony Stark (although no feelings ever develop between them), especially when MJ notes that working with Tony, who's publicly known as a superhero, allows her a better work/life balance than she did when she was with Peter (whose Secret Identity created hassles for her).
  • Sad Clown: During her childhood. "Nothing's ever wrong with Mary-Jane Watson!" This also makes her similar to Peter, whose Motor Mouth tendencies as Spider-Man often hid how morose and lonely he really was.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: After the entire Superior Spider-Man (2013) fiasco, Mary Jane has had enough of superheroics and leaves New York. She ends up in Chicago, opening up a nightclub thinking "It's Chicago! There's no heroes and villains here!" Iron Man, Doctor Doom and Madame Masque beg to differ.
  • Second Love: Peter's. Their wedding is the trope image. Though averted in other versions, and the movies, where as per Adaptation Distillation, she is Spider-Man's first crush and Peter always had Single-Target Sexuality for her and her alone, while in Ultimate Marvel, she has Single-Target Sexuality for Peter.
  • Secret-Keeper:
    • She knew Gwen had slept with Norman Osborn and gotten pregnant, and kept it a secret from Peter for years.
    • And of course, she keep's Peter's ID a secret (see below). In Ultimate Spider-Man, Peter openly tells her his secret and makes her his confidant and this becomes the start of their Relationship Upgrade.
  • Secret Secret-Keeper: During Tom DeFalco's first run on Amazing Spider-Man, it was revealed in Amazing Spider-Man #257 that Mary Jane was this. Parallel Lives elaborated that it was since the night Ben Parker was murdered (she had observed Peter returning home and then Spider-Man leaving through his bedroom window). Obviously, after Peter learned all this, Mary Jane was upgraded to Secret-Keeper.
    MJ: You don't have to make up another one of your phony excuses, Peter! Not now—! I know the truth! The REAL truth!
    Peter: What are you talking about?
    MJ: I've known your secret for years! Up until today, I always thought I could cope with it if I ever had to experience it firsthand — but I can't! I can't—! I just can't cope with the fact that Peter Parker is secretly Spider-Man!
  • Self-Made Woman: Mary-Jane became a successful fashion model, actress on stage and film, night-club owner entirely by her own grit and drive, despite coming from Queens, never going to college (she wasn't actually classmates with Peter, Harry, Flash, and Gwen) albeit she later went to college during her marriage, and having no superpowers. As Peter reflects in Tom Beland's "Web of Romance":
    Peter: My wife is strong. My wife is smart. My wife is everything I could never be without that bite from a spider.
  • Sex Goddess: Often implied during her marriage with Peter that they're both really good in bed and have a mutually satisfying sex life, with one issue even boasting she's proficient with "The Venus Butterfly".
  • Sexual Karma: MJ and Peter are the poster couple for healthy sexual relationships in comics. Although always through Sexy Discretion Shot (it's still a family-friendly franchise, after all), she and Peter have always been shown to have a pretty active sex life together even when they were dating, with suggestive details such as the fact that MJ had a key to his apartment (which offended one of Peter's rebound girls after they broke up later) and often waited up for him late, implied that they slept together pretty regularly. Particularly after they got married, since the marriage allowed the writers and artists to show them in explicitly sexual situations without fear of angering conservative types too much. The JMS-era after their reunion explicitly showed them in many post-coital situations, with modesty covering sheets, with them reconnecting sexually after their brief separation is a big part of their development (the second issue of The Amazing Spider-Man (2018), their first scene after officially getting back together is them waking up in the same bed. Subtle that ain't.)
  • Ship Tease:
    • Both this and Ship Sinking. Ever since One More Day, the writers have been mercilessly teasing the possibility of Peter and MJ getting back together, only to sink the hell out of that ship... and make it float again. Lather, rinse, repeat. Both in and out of universe. Notable examples are the build-up to One Moment in Time, the ending of Spider-Island followed up by Superior Spider-Man (2013), and again the build-up to The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows and the "Power Play" story arc. The cycle was maintained for over a decade until it was finally broken by The Amazing Spider-Man (2018).
    • During the period when she was in Iron Man comics, there were hints and teases by writers that she and Iron Man might start a relationship, and Peter was jealous about the possibility though ultimately nothing came off it.
  • Significant Green-Eyed Redhead: At first, this was meant to drive home further her stunning, top-model-like beauty, in contrast to Gwen's (slightly) more Girl Next Door looks. Eventually, it doubled to reinforce her status as Peter's main love interest.
    Mary Jane: If Gwen Stacy was a beauty queen, then I was a pin-up girl. (Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #8)
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: The major reason why she fell in love with Peter. She saw herself as the most irresponsible woman she knew and Peter was the most responsible man she met. She briefly dated Flash Thompson and Harry Osborn, but dumped them the minute they became needy, especially in the case of Harry Osborn. During their marriage, when reflecting on the difficulty of being with Peter, she notes that the fact that Peter would risk his life for others is what she loves about him, but it's also why she's worried and afraid for him.
  • Skewed Priorities: Peter is slowly mutating into a spider? Don't take him to a doctor first, make sure he attends a friend's Klingon-themed wedding with you first, then doctor. It's not like it's serious, or has to do with another woman forcing a kiss on him in front of a television audience.
  • Sliding Scale of Beauty: Between Level II (Divine) and Level III (World-Class).
  • Slut-Shaming:
    • MJ often faced this from a number of characters mostly as a generational sense that she was the first character in Spider-Man comics to reflect a more modern up-to-date 60s (women's lib) attitude in a setting that was still stuck Two Decades Behind. A good example is when after their breakup, Peter's then girlfriend openly called her a "floozy" on the street which MJ responded with her characteristic sarcasm. Likewise when she returned from Florida to visit Peter, his landlady reflected on how improper MJ was since in her days only men made house-calls on girls.
    • This also played a part in why some Spider-Man writers felt she wasn't right for Peter and were especially stunned that she would marry Peter, which they also saw as being counter to Spider-Man's audience. Christopher Priest (then under his name James Owlsley) for instance said that most boys might give MJ "a toss" but not marry her and Roger Stern said similar views and most debates with Gwen play on similar lines even if Gwen's original characterization also had her voice a similar attitude.
  • Smoking Is Not Cool: Mary Jane smoked as a teenager to "look cool" and quit later, but when Carnage first appeared, she started smoking out of stress, which only got worse when Peter's long-thought-dead parents showed up. After several arcs where she tried to "cope" using them, Peter used some "shock therapy" taking her to visit his one-time foil Nick Katzenberg, who was in the hospital with terminal lung cancer (having lost weight to the point of being gaunt, lost most of his hair due to chemo, coughing up blood — very typical of a cancer patient). It was enough for her to quit cold-turkey.
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse: Has an unfortunate tendency to attract weirdo stalkers. It's happened at least three separate times.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: As some writers point out, for someone intended to be a supporting character who never developed super powers (at least until recently in alternative continuities), MJ somehow became one of the most famous women in Marvel Comics, her popularity matching and exceeding some female heroes, and whose own life and drama ends up taking attention from other supporting characters and sometimes Peter himself.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: With Peter, specially due to One More Day. Albeit they had to go through a lot of crap together since long before then.
  • Stepford Smiler: Put on the façade that she was happy when on the inside she was really upset with her childhood.
  • Stood Up: Inverted. In Amazing Spider-Man #601, where Peter is (unintentionally) stood up by MJ after spending the day trying to remember where he agreed to meet her. Of course, Peter has had to ditch a fair number of dates while trying to save the day.
  • Strong Family Resemblance:
    • Her daughter Anna-May Parker in Renew Your Vows is practically her spitting image albeit with more youthful freckles.
    • Likewise Mayday Parker while having more of her father's features (brown hair and eyes) also looks a great deal like her, eventually growing her hair longer into a style like her mother's and also developing her cheek dimples.
  • Sugar-and-Ice Personality: Very downplayed, but given her abusive childhood, she can be just as moody and stand-offish as she can be sweet and fun-loving.
  • The Not-Love Interest: Defied. Despite at least four separate attempts over the many years to establish MJ as not being a good fit for Peter, not girlfriend material, or simply not capable of handling his double life, the book always comes back around to depicting her as Spider-Man's main girl.
  • Their First Time: The final panel of Amazing Spider-Man #149note  is often considered The first time for the couple, and it's certainly Peter's (since it's canonical that he never had sex with Gwen).
  • Tomboy with a Girly Streak: In the 2000s, and to some extent in the early days. She's an actress and model, so she frequently dolls up her looks for work and sometimes indulges in fashionable dresses, but whenever she dresses casually or comfortably, she's usually in jeans and tank-tops, sometimes with jackets.
  • Took a Level in Dumbass: In Superior Spider-Man, she (and in her defense Aunt May and the entire superhero community) does not have the slightest suspicion that "Peter" is actually an impostor. This despite having lived (and been married before OMD) with him and his alter-ego for a long time. It still manages to be a remarkable lapse in judgement when Mary Jane was previously capable of identifying an imposter in mere moments.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: A common tactic when writers were trying to break up her and Peter. Notably done in the Howard Mackie run to set Peter up with Jill Stacy. Also attempted after Superior Spider-Man, where all of MJ's interactions with Peter were fairly chilly and dismissive, until she got back together with him in the first issue of Nick Spencer's run.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Downplayed, as she was always fun and friendly, but the significant event that changed her from a flighty, self-absorbed party girl into a mature and compassionate woman, is the death of Gwen. With the death of her close friend, she realizes that Peter, having just lost one of the loves of his life, needs her to be a better person. In one of her most iconic moments, after Peter unloads on her in the cruelest way possible, to the point that she is sobbing and he angrily demands she leaves him, Mary Jane slowly walks towards the door, but instead of leaving she shuts it, and returns to comfort her grieving friend. From then on, MJ is portrayed as a supportive and kind-hearted friend to Peter, and eventually a loving wife. Made even more clear in the Spider-Gwen alternate universe, where without the death of Gwen, while still a good person, MJ is a much more selfish and irritable girl, with a slight bitchy streak every once in a while.
  • Totally Radical: In The '60s at least, to the point of nigh-incomprehensibility to some modern readers.
  • Transplant: On two occasions, she was transferred to the supporting cast of other characters:
    • The first time was back in the '70s, in the opening issues of Carol Danvers Ms. Marvel's first series, which was written by Gerry Conway, and he initially thought that having MJ as Carol's gal pal would be cool, and since MJ at the time was, and probably still is, more renowned than Carol Danvers, it added star power to a character who didn't have a big supporting cast.
    • MJ became a main character in the 2015 Invincible Iron Man run replacing Pepper Potts as Tony's new personal assistant. That ended by the time of Nick Spencer's run where she's back in Spider-Man's life and no longer working with Stark Industries.
  • True Love is Exceptional: MJ in her original form was not intended to be a serious love interest by the creators (i.e. Lee and Romita) but she was just plainly too interesting and compelling to be a Romantic False Lead. The fact that Aunt May wanted to match her to Peter, also made her in the eyes of fans, May's chosen one for her nephew which they saw as evidence in her favor. Eventually Gerry Conway decided to fridge Gwen Stacy as a means of developing both her and Peter's character and relationship, and a few other twists and turns later, the two realized how well they fit together, mostly because their other relationships never worked as well as they did with teach other, and could finally tie the knot.
  • True Companions: She and Gwen. Even years after her death, MJ still kept a secret that Gwen entrusted to her from Peter, so at the very least to preserve her husband's memory of his first real love, but also due to her loyalty to her lost friend.
  • Uptight Loves Wild: From both Peter and MJ's perspective:
    • Shy, introverted worrywart (Peter) with one of the most extroverted and charismatic figures in comics.
    • From MJ's own point of view, it's also inverted, because she sees herself as a pragmatic levelheaded go-getter girl who was always in control of her life, and then she ended up in a relationship and married to a guy who risks his life on a nightly basis has bizarre experiences and some of the worst luck in the world, and who's often a pinball for fate.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: She had this dynamic with Gwen after their initial rivalry. During the times when she and Peter were friends and they were dating other people in later issues, she often shared this with Peter and still does in contemporary issues. Even during their marriage, they often snarked at each other as much as they exchanged kisses and long stares.
    • Her relationship with Felicia Hardy is this depending on the writer.
  • The Watson: Incredibly Lame Pun aside, her questions about Peter's current superhero crisis can be a pretty handy device for readers. In the newspaper strip and in the Ultimate Comics, she basically is Peter's Number Two, a la Nick and Nora.
  • Wet Blanket Wife: She was often relegated to this role during her marriage to Peter during the 90s. Some stories had her complaining about Peter's dangerous lifestyle and often demanding that he quit. Others simply had her lamenting the violence and her husband's safety. This was especially the case in the Maximum Carnage storyarc, where she had no part in the plot except to cut back to her angsting in this manner. Of course, she had a good reason for her concern. Peter was endangering his life every time he went out as Spider-Man, and she was legitimately concerned for his safety (especially considering that it's Carnage he's going up against). In the Maximum Carnage arc, she was angry at Peter for going out as Spider-Man only mere hours after he promised he would take a break. And later in the story, MJ comes around and admits that what Peter does is important.
  • Working-Class Hero: It's not emphasized often, but she came from the same background and circumstances as Peter. She was born in a low-income family and strove hard by working as an actress and model and eventually became independently wealthy, and lately a night-club owner and high-paid member of Stark Industries. Notably, all of Peter's other Love Interests are either middle-class (Betty Brant, Liz Allannote ) or upper-middle class and rich (Gwen Stacy most notably). Of course, MJ being MJ, she doesn't quite emphasize this too much.
  • World's Most Beautiful Woman: From her first appearance in Spider-Man, Mary Jane Watson had the reputation for being the most beautiful woman in comics (at the time around The '60s) and she still ranks high on that list. Peter Parker also describes and calls her that on more than one occasion. Black Cat matches her in this category as well.

Alternative Title(s): Mary Jane Watson