Though the world may mock Peter Parker, the timid teenager... ...it will soon marvel at the awesome might of...Spider-Man! Like Costume Heroes? Confidentially, we in the comic mag business refer to them as "Long Underwear Characters"! And, as you know, they're a dime a dozen! But, we think you may find our Spiderman just a bit...different!
— The Narrator
, Amazing Fantasy #15
the first words in any Spider-Man story ever. Written by Stan Leenote
And a lean, silent figure slowly fades into the gathering darkness, aware at last that in this world, with great power, there must also come—great responsibility! And so a legend is born and a new name is added to the roster of those who make the world of fantasy the most exciting realm of all!
— The Narrator
, Amazing Fantasy #15
, complete full closing caption. Written by Stan Lee
Am I always to be thwarted, embarrassed, frustrated by Spider-Man?? I hate that costumed freak more than I've ever hated anyone before!...All my life I've been interested in only one thing—making money! And yet, Spider-Man risks his life day after day with no thought of reward! If a man like him is good—is a hero—then what am I??...Spider-Man represents everything that I'm not! He's brave, powerful and unselfish! The truth is, I envy him! I, J. Jonah Jameson—millionaire, man of the world, civic leader—I'd give everything I own to be the man that he is!
— J. Jonah Jameson, Amazing Spider-Man #10, written by Stan Lee. (1964)
Now you listen to me, Peter Parker...!! Even though I'm an old woman, I'm not a quitter! A person needs gumption—-the will to live—-to fight—-you mustn't worry about me so much, Peter dear! We Parkers are tougher than people think!
— Aunt May, Amazing Spider-Man #18, written by Stan Lee. (1964)
That Peter Parker certainly is a nice boy! He's sincere—well-mannered—and devoted to his Aunt! Too bad there aren't many more young men like that! Too bad someone like him can't be an idol for teenagers to imitate instead of some mysterious, unknown thrill-seeker like—Spider-Man!
— From the end Issue #33, written by Stan Lee
— and if that means anything
means, I DON'T GIVE UP!!"
: Geez, do ya have to be so hard on yourself? I know you messed up...but at least you've tried to make up for it. Spider-Man
: I'll be making up for it, for a long, long time.
— The Amazing Spider-Man
, Issue #248, "The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man", dialogue by Roger Stern
"His strength! His speed! Unbelievable! He is AWESOME!" Titania:
Impossible! Nobody can move that fast! Spider-Man:
Now, why does a woman who can lift locomotives
find my humble talents
so surprising? With a little room to operate, no one can lay a glove on me
— not the X-Men, not the Absorbing Man, and not you!
How do you think I've survived all this time? Titania:
When I get you, I'll—aggh! Spider-Man:
All you're going to get is frustrated... and eventually, thrashed! Titania:
No! It's not fair! Spider-Man:
But if we were fighting in a broom closet, that'd be fair, right? Titania: Stop it! Stop it! Stop--! Spider-Man:
You ought to be happy, cuddles! You aspired to be a bully
, and man, you're a classic! You talk tough when you got the upper hand
, but when you're losing... well, that's when the little wimp-ette inside comes spilling out! Titania:
— Secret Wars #8, written by Jim Shooter (1984)
: You dare
: What have I got to lose? You've already been trying to French Fry me all day because of some imagined slight to your precious little
, alien ego! Well, I've had enough! Enough!
... You may be bigger, and far more powerful — but that's just not good enough, Mister! You'll never stop me...no matter how
strong you are! I'm just too stubborn to know when to quit! I'll keep on coming back
...keep fighting...until I find a way to beat you! To win! I won't give you, you hear? I won't I won't!!
— The Amazing Spider-Man
, Issue #270, dialogue by Tom Defalco
There is no Spider-Man. He's a mask. A myth. A lie. Oh, sure, It'd be great if putting on a costume could miraculously change the man underneath. But it can't. I'm not Spider-Man. I'm just...Peter Parker...But they'll never understand that. How could they? How could anybody? Sometimes I wish I could get into their heads...see myself the way they see me. On second thought — maybe not...Wouldn't want to get too close to "the wall-crawling freak," would you? Wouldn't want to find out that he's as human as you are? As fragile? As scared of dying? That's what it's all about isn't it? Yesterday, Ned Leeds. Today, Joe Face. Tomorrow...Aunt May? Mary Jane? Me? Funny. I'm out there facing death every day as Spider-Man — But I never really think about it. Guess I don't let myself. Yet so many people I love have died before their time: Uncle Ben, Captain Stacy, Gwen...Do I think I'm somehow immune? I'm going to die. But not yet.
Johnny Storm: I don't believe it. How is it possible?
Peter Parker: Well there was this radioactive spider, and—-
?! Johnny Storm
: Over the years, I even came up with a term for it. I called it 'the Parker luck
— Spider-Man/Human Torch, Issue #5 "I'm With Stupid", written by Dan Slott. (2005)
There are, in fact, brief and fleeting moments when my life is totally awesome, yes.
— Peter Parker
, "To Have and to Hold", written by Matt Fraction
Spider-Man's a hero
. I understand a lot of people are put off by his mask, and his...comedic sensibilities...but in my
opinion? He's one of the greatest men I've ever known.
MJ and Peter
: "I never want to come down." Peter Parker
: "I know, right? It's great up here. It's like you could figure your whole life out up here if you had - if you had a life that wasn't all jacked-up and weird like ours maybe. You could still do it if you wanted. Turn yourself in. I could hide somewhere-" Mary Jane
: "No." Peter Parker
: "Wait for them-" Mary Jane
: "No." Peter Parker
: "Give 'em a good show, then-" Mary Jane
: "No." Peter Parker
: "Slip away-" Mary Jane
Tiger. One, no. Two, it'd never work. And three, no. Now say it back." Peter Parker
: "No." Mary Jane
: "Yes. There you go. Maybe the rest of the world thinks marriage is something to do between other marriages, but it means something to me. You're my partner
and my husband and I love you
. This is our life." Peter Parker
: Yeah. You and me, forever and always.
—Sensational Spider-Man Annual 1
, "To Have & To Hold," written by Matt Fraction
: "It's funny, though. Giant Monsters versus awkward social situations? I'd go for the former nine times out of ten. The Spider-Man stuff, well...I can't say it's easy
. But it makes more sense than the Peter Parker stuff. Or, at least, my instincts
are better." Mary Jane
: "I think the Peter Parker stuff is working for you." Peter Parker
: "You're my wife. You're legally required to say that." Mary Jane
(punches him playfully on the shoulder): "So you're saying you were bitten by a radioactive stand-up comedian, too?" Peter Parker
(laughs): "No. But thanks for the nightmares. I guess I just thought that at some point the normal everyday social stuff would be easy. You make it seem easy." Mary Jane
(holds his hand): "Maybe some of us are just better at faking it. And maybe I am
a little biased on the subject... but I think Peter Parker's
instincts aren't half-bad."
"Sometimes being a swinging bachelorette isn't all it's cracked up to be. Sometimes it's so hard to keep on my happy-go-lucky face all day...it seems like a hubby, a house, and 2 to 3 kids would be just the ticket. But you had a shot at that didn't you, M. J.—and you couldn't have asked for a better catch than Peter Parker. There was only one problem: I figured out that Peter was really Spider-Man—and once I realized that, I knew I could never marry someone who I never knew for sure would come home from work alive!...Oh, why does he have to have such a darn high sense of responsibility?...If only he were less altruistic — I would've accepted his proposal on the spot. But if he was different...he wouldn't be the same guy you loved, would he, M. J,? Face it, lady: Peter Parker and Spider-Man—two sides of the same coin."
— M.J.'s thought bubbles, Web of Spider-Man, Issue #6 Vol. 1, written by Danny Fingeroth.
The fact of the matter is I've got a good life...I'm married to the greatest man in the world — even if he does like to spend half the night swinging around New York in his underwear.
— Mary Jane Watson-Parker, Spectacular Spider-Man #250, written by J. M. DeMatteis.
Peter Parker: When Marla Jameson died, I just couldn't take it anymore. I made a vow. When I'm around, no one dies.
Mary Jane: Peter Parker, I think...that's the stupidest thing you've ever said.
Mary Jane: That's impossible.
"I used to dream of a life where we could just be us, you know? With no Green Goblins or Venoms making everything such a horror show. But here's the thingthat wouldn't be us, would it? Because it wouldn't be you. As much as it might scare me or frustrate me or, yeaheven endanger meI can't change that. I don't want to change that. The guy I'm in love with is a hero. He puts on a costume and risks his life to help other people for no reason other than it's the right thing to do. And, yes, that burden he carries around is why I kept pushing him away, but now I'm starting to realizeit's also why I kept coming back to him."
MJ and others
"You've always been good for a few laughs
, Harry — but don't let it go to your head
. I'm nobody's girl but my own
— and that's the way I like
it. See ya around
— MJ setting clear limits on her relationship with Harry Osborn, Issue #96, written by Stan Lee
: I wish I had it all together like you
do, Carol. Sometimes I feel so... out of it
. Carol Danvers
: I think once you decide what it is you want, nothing will stop you MJ.
: Yeah. I guess, but that's the hard part. Carol Danvers
: Behind that flighty facade, you've got a first class mind. You'll find yourself, believe me.
: So, in my youth, I was an international runway model... Amanda Armstrong
: You don't have to say that like you're embarrassed. MJ
: I don't. I'm not. It' just a weird thing to say out loud. "Hi, I'm someone who used to trade on her good looks."
: Do you like your dad? MJ
: Not particularly. Tony Stark
: Y'have a mean dad? MJ
: Yeah. Tony Stark
: Me too. He was soooo mad at the world. And my general existence wasn't helping him get over it. He sees you
standing there and instead of seeing legacy... all he sees are missed opportunities. @#$% you, Howard. MJ
(pause): I left home the second I could. Tony Stark
: So did I. MJ
, but you did with a big duffel bag full of cash
About Mary Jane Watson as a character
''This one distinct example of characters
taking on a life of their own is what bedevils Marvel Comics to this day
. Despite what the Sam Raimi movies
have led a generation of moviegoers to believe, Mary Jane Watson was never Peter Parkers Lois Lane
, nor was she supposed to be the love of his life. She was Stan Lee and legendary artist John Romita Sr.s bemusing attempt
at capturing the burgeoning youth culture of the 1960s on the page
. MJ was rock n' roll and flower power, Ann-Margret and Beatlemania—she's whatever those kids were listening to these days, man. The entertainment of her being around a square like Peter
is that she could see Peter was the most swinging cat in their college friends group
, even if he wore suits to class every day
...Lee and Romita were never ones for nuance, and they often contrasted...[Gwen Stacy] on the one hand, and a flakey bombshell redhead on the other. The funny thing is that everyone liked the flake better
, including Stan Lee and John Romita...Slowly developed by later writers like Marv Wolfman and especially Tom DeFalco, Mary Jane was revealed to be as complicated
as Peter Parker, masking her own damaged childhood and abusive father with her outgoing persona. And in 1984, MJ revealed her own big secret
: she had known for years that Peter Parker was Spider-Man, having once witnessed him sneaking about in costume...From that moment onward, despite whatever soap opera obstacles thrown their way, she also became the woman Peter had the strongest connection with...Sentimentality aside, there is something charming about how these characters were never supposed to do anything more than flirt
, but with almost a will of their own, they kept growing and moving toward each other until Stan Lee finally forced Marvels hand and had them married in 1987
— David Crow
, Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows & How It Renews Peter Parker
, 'Den of Geek
', Sep 13, 2015.
"Of course the Peter and Gwen relationship came to a tragically abrupt end when she was thrown off a bridge
and killed by the Green Goblin (or was it Peters webbing that snapped her neck
? Damn it, why wont anyone ever CONFIRM this?
). And thats the genesis of this very somber, bittersweet moment
, where MJ graduates from part-time romantic accessory to a shoulder to cry on
and an actual friend to Peter. Up until this moment, you never really got the impression that Peter was friends with any of the women he dated
— even Gwen...Now were obviously a number of issues removed before Peter and MJ actually become truly romantically linked...But the groundwork is laid here for Peter and MJ to ultimately engage in some kind of mature relationship. We never truly know what is said between Peter and MJ in this scene - Im going to speculate that it was a whole lot of silence. But judging by how the two interacted going forward, it was clear that MJ stayed and comforted Peter through all of it
...MJ went from face it tiger, you hit the jackpot bravado, to stoic, matriarchal comforter. Its the strongest Ive ever seen a woman, not named Aunt May, act around Peter
. And thats what made their inevitable courtship, break-up, reunion and marriage all the more rewarding - the fact that readers saw on this one page, the power and strength and character like MJ brought to the series."
— Mark Ginocchio
, "Reading Experience: Peter and Mary Jane Grow Up", December 12, 2011, 'Chasing Amazing Blog
"As for Mary Jane, I am sure her creator Stan Lee
himself never calculated her potential to be so immense
. A character who started out as a playful distraction blossoming into one of the very best supporting characters in superhero comics? Especially a character who was a non-superpowered young girl? Unheard of in the early 70s
! And yet, Gerry Conway
realized just how much promise MJ Watson—a fresh off the Second Wave
take on women's representation in a predominantly male targeted medium, had. He sensed she was too good and unique a personality to be marginalized and made his decision
to give her a much more substantial and important role in the Spidey mythos."
"As long as we're discussing the women Peter's mag, do not ever have Mary Jane Watson fall in love with Harry
! Of course M. J. is immature (so is Harry; he's the one on LSD), but that doesn't mean she hates men. She just doesn't want any short-haired, neurotic, spoiled acid-head
(or even a well adjusted dude) trying to own her. Keep her independent, but do develop her personality. You people haven't yet gotten over the notion that the way to give a female character personality is to give her a romance
. We know M. J. isn't made out of Wonder Bread and mayonaisse like a certain happily-departed blonde-brain
, but what is she made of?"
— Jane C. Hollingsworth, Letter to the Editor, "The Spider's Web" Column, published in Amazing Spider-Man, #125 (October, 1973), an example of Mary Jane's popularity among female readers of the time.
"Mary Jane is fast becoming my favorite character in the SPIDER-MAN book. This issue [ASM #127] reinforces that...Mary Jane has shown us all that her egotistical, sarcastic self was merely a put-on for a very tender-hearted interior; as Joni Mitchell
said, in Clouds, "And if you care, don't let it show..." M.J. isn't as rock-hard as we all thought — she's covering up
; she doesn't want to be weak...but she is. I can admire her, because for all her insecurities, she actually gives of herself, and has devoted almost all of her time to Peter in a vain attempt to cheer him up. M.J. is a real heroine, the best Marvel's got. Without her, would there even be a SPIDER-MAN worth reading? Probably not."
— Bob Rodi, Letter to the Editor, "The Spider's Web" Column, published in Amazing Spider-Man, #132 (May 1974)
"There was a time when it upset me even to see Peter speak to her, and now Im beginning to think that if Peter ever unburdened himself
(secret identity and all) to anyone, it should be Mary Jane."
— Nan Brower, Letter to the Editor, "The Spider's Web" Column, published in Amazing Spider-Man, #139 (December 1974)
"When Tom Defalco established Mary Jane as a runway model. That is a very specific thing
. For fashion shows within the industry. He did not intend when he threw that line out there...he did not intend for that to turn into policemen recognizing her as a magazine cover model. Those are two completely different things
. But different writers take things in different directions...it ended up with Mary Jane being this hybrid soap opera/actress famous cover model
person which people would recognize on the street. The original plan for that was far more modest."
— Ron Frenz, Superior Spider-Talk #26: Superior Spider-Man #23 w/ Ron Frenz, by Mark Ginocchio and Dan Gvozden, January 20, 2014. Timestamp 1:22:00 — 1:25:00.
You've got it all figured out, don't you, Kingpin? You've covered all the angles! Everybody gets what they want...I
just get used! Fisk:
Spider-Man, I've made several fortunes via the practice of using people like you. Idealists. Optimists. Trusting idiots who believe there is happiness to be had on this planet. Fools who believe in justice.
I trade on the hopes and dreams of the righteous. Spider-Man:
And nobody has the guts to stand up to you! Nobody has what it takes to pull the plug on you! Fisk:
My death would serve no purpose...other than to bloody the hands of such God-fearing men as yourself. You face an undefeatable foe, Spider-Man. Accept it, as others have.
Whatever life holds in store for me, I will never forget these words: 'With great power comes great responsibility.' This is my gift, my curse. Who am I? I'm Spider-Man. I believe there's a hero in all of us, that keeps us honest, gives us strength, makes us noble and finally allows us to die with pride, even though sometimes we have to be steady and give up the thing we want the most. Even our dreams. Really? You seriously think I'm a cop, dressed in a skin-tight red and blue suit? Captain America
: You got heart, kid. Where you from? Spider-Man
: Queens. Captain America
You can't be a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man if there's no neighborhood. Okay, that didn't really make sense, but you know what I'm trying to say. My husband Peter Parker was an ordinary person. He always said that it could be anyone behind the mask. He was just a kid who happened to get bit...He didn't ask for his powers. But he chose to be Spider-Man...My favorite thing about Peter is that he made us each feel powerful. We all have powers of one kind or the other and in our own way we are all Spider-Man, and we are all counting on you.
Surf the web, Surf the web! Spider-Man:
Shut Up, Brock! We don't have time.
Venom, get ready for a world of PAIN!
Writers' Opinions on Spider-Man
If you take a look at a current Spider-Man comic, youll find that hes maybe twenty years old, he worries a lot about whats right and whats wrong, and he has a lot of trouble with his girlfriends...Do you know what Spider-Man was doing fifteen years ago? Well, he was about nineteen years old, he worried a lot about what was right and what was wrong and he had a lot of trouble with his girlfriends.
— Alan Moore
, Blinded by the Hype
, 1983, The Daredevils.
The stuff that happened with Spider-Man
, that was revolutionary stuff too. Superman was always with Lois Lane. He never dumped Lois and took up with a new hottie. And you pick up Spider-Man and you start reading and its okay, the only girl in this is Liz Allen, okay and suddenly shes not important anymore. And its Betty Brant and then suddenly you got Gwen Stacy and you got Mary Jane and its all very interesting, especially to a kid like I was at the time. A high school kid, a college kid. Time passed in Marvel comics, which was amazing for me at the time. I was a high school kid and Spider-Man was a high school kid. We were practically in sync. And then I graduated high school and went on to college, and Spider-Man graduated high school and went on to college...But then at some point, I got out of college—I got a Bachelors after four years and a Masters after five—and then I was out of college and Spider-Man took, like, 15 years, I think, to get out of college. And he entered his early 20s and kinda stayed there for 40 years or so.
Unto themselves, the 1990s
were hardly the best era
for Spider-Man comics. Despite a number of classic and character-defining stories greeting the beginning of the decade by the likes of writers
J.M. DeMatteis or even David Michelinie (on his better days), that era was plagued for years by Marvel resisting the simple conceit
that Peter Parker was designed by Stan Lee
and Steve Ditko
to grow and evolve. And however slowly that has continually happened for the perpetually 20-something character
, it nevertheless did happen
. After creating the high school character in 1962, both Lee and Ditko were still on board when the web-slinger graduated in 1965
. By 1978, he was out of college. Eventually he found several career paths
, a brief and failed stint as a graduate student
, and even settled down with longtime flame, Mary Jane Watson
...For any Millennial born during or after 1987 (including this writer), Peter Parker and Mary Jane Parker were always a couple
, and even during the worst stories, that was their strength
. And few stories could be worse than the time that Marvel, or more precisely then Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada
, finally freed themselves from the marriage in One More Day
...If you havent read the actual miniseries, its not as bad as it sounds; its much worse
...The old Marvel adage is that writing comic books is about creating 'the illusion of change
.' Yet, unlike almost any other superhero, Peter Parker changed rapidly
throughout his comic book career from boy to man
, from amateur to professional
, and finally from single to husband
— David Crow
, Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows & How It Renews Peter Parker
, 'Den of Geek
', Sep 13, 2015.
Many, if you asked them...would say that [Spider-Man] is the experience of being a teenager. And its hardly unfounded...The high school years, and everything that comes with them, are indisputably at the center of the earliest adventures...Those earliest of stories
are at the center of everything good about the character...but increasingly, theyve become just as much the heart of everything thats gone wrong
...The Parker Luck, in those earliest days
? Largely amounted to costumes shrinking in the wash
, or misunderstandings with his girlfriend(s) You unmitigated cad
...Almost as often as Pete wondering if hes..."Why do I do it? Why dont I just give the whole thing up
?", the earliest stories end with him privately celebrating his victory, with things turning out A-Okay
, or at least him breaking just about even. Even back before Gwen and MJ, he had two bombshells doing some 60s-females-in-comics-weeping over not being able to win his heart
in the form of Liz Allen and Betty Brant, with Ms. Watsons niece perpetually waiting in the wings
—known by readers to be gorgeous almost beyond words
as far back as Amazing #25...and his late-night adventuring hardly seemed to get in the way of the studies that would net him a full scholarship to ESU...By the standards of the other costumed adventurers of the time his experiences were certainly unorthodox (which was, of course, the point), but from any objective standpoint the boy was leading a charmed life
...But that's not something that can last. It was never really meant to last. Theres an endpoint to the story
of Peter Parker, Teenage Superhero, by a team no less official
than Stan Lee and Steve Ditko...Hes no longer Spider-Man, the Teenage Superhero, but Spider-Man the young adult...Hes about growing
...the desire to reduce Spider-Man to an easily
—repeatable equation...would be twisted into Loss and the Soap Opera dynamics...while self-sacrifice has long been part of the Spider-Man story...its gone past the point of all reason. Its gone from Gwen Stacy dying...to Peter being the person people die around
. Its gone from Peter having trouble explaining himself to the person who can't be trusted with even the simplest tasks...in fact, he has become truly forgetful and neglectful a great deal of the time. Hes gone from a whiz-kid who has to take pictures of himself to pay the bills because of his aunt to the 250 I.Q. mega-genius who can barely scrape by
, an empathetic naturally good-humored friend who cant hold a relationship, a trouble-magnet whose luck once explainable by his own mistakes and misfortunes can at this point only be explained by witchcraft. Hes become the loser he was always afraid he was. What are we supposed to learn from this irresponsible schmuck
I've heard it said that Peter Parker's reason was that he was a nerd
. Not true. Sure, some people thought
he was anti-social or fixated on test tubes and formulas to the exclusion of real-life — but let's examine the evidence
...He was good-looking
. Even super-popular Liz Allan said so
. He was even secretly stronger and more athletic (after the radioactive spider-bite) than Flash, which must have at last been comforting. And he wanted
to join in with the crowd, have a normal high school social life, have fun.
— Jim Shooter
, Marvel Saga: The Official History of the Marvel Universe
Does whatever a spider can!
Spins a web, any size,
Catches thieves just like flies!
Here comes the Spider-Man!
Is he strong?
He's got radioactive blood!
Can he swing from a thread?
Take a look overhead!
There goes the Spider-Man!
In the chill of night
At the scene of a crime,
Like a streak of light
He arrives just in time!
Friendly neighborhood Spider-Man!
Wealth and fame,
Action is his reward!
Life is a great big bang-up,
Wherever there's a hang-up,
You'll find the Spider-Man!
— Spider-Man (1967)
theme song, composed by Paul Francis Webster and Robert "Bob" Harris (recorded at RCA Studios, Toronto, 1967).