Wednesday, 22 December 2010

How Did Writer's Tackle the Spider-Marriage?

One of the major bones of contention among Spider-Man fandom in recent years has been the character's marriage - or lack thereof. Joe Quesada's hugely controversial decision to terminate Peter and Mary-Janes wedding in the widely panned One More Day storyline has literally split the webslinger's fanbase through the middle. Whether you loved it, hated it or are somewhere inbetween it is a definite fact that several writers disliked the marriage, and found it difficult to write stories with a married Spider-Man. However - arguably just as many writers thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of writing a married Spider-Man and thrived under the constraints that the marriage provided. In this article I intend to look at a few of the more notable writers who dealt with a married Spider-Man, looking at who was successful and who was...less than successful.

David Micheline:
David Micheline was the first writer to regularly tackle the Spider-Marriage in the flagship title, Amazing Spider-Man. Micheline also wrote the landmark storyline running through ASM #290-292 where Peter finally pops the question (successfully). In my opinion, a lot of the strongest aspects of Peter and Mary Jane's marriage originated in Micheline's portrayal of their relationship. Micheline writes Mary-Jane as a woman who in Peter has finally found someone that she can trust - enabling to grow out of being the girl who always ran away from her problems. MJ's acceptance of Peter's double life is a testament to her growth of character, and many forget that is Micheline who is largely responsible for this growth. Of course Micheline's portrayal of the relationship is not without fault - I felt that he often idealized their relationship. Although it was initially appropriate as Peter and MJ were still in the 'honeymoon period' I felt it wore a little thin as his run progressed. Nonetheless, in my mind Micheline still stands as one of the foremost architects of Spider-Man's massively popular marriage.

Tom Defalco:
Although Tom Defalco's record writing the marriage in mainstream continuity is unremarkable at best, he definitely deserves plaudits for his superb alternate reality take on it in his recently cancelled Spider-Girl series. Although Defalco's portrayal of Peter and Mary-Jane's marriage is undoubtedly changed due to its status in the characters future, it is an undeniably fascinating look at how the make up of their relationship is fundamentally altered by the presence of a child and the absence of Peter's dual identity. Defalco writes a hugely convincing Peter as a father, and his portrayal of Mary-Jane is bang on as well - with her rebellious streak often coming to the fore during disagreements about their daughters superheroics. While at its core, Spider-Girl is a series about the daughter of Spider-Man, it could be argued that it is just as much about Spider-Man's family.

J.M Dematteis
Probably the man responsible for my favourite marriage related stories, J.M Dematteis is distinguished as man responsible for not one, but two of the most underrated runs in Spider-Man's history. What is even more remarkable is that his, and arguably the best ever story about the marriage actually takes place outside both of these runs, in a stand alone arc running through all four Spider-Man titles shortly after the wedding entitled Kraven's Last Hunt. Dematteis' blend of psychological and light hearted stories lent itself well to Peter and Mary-Janes characters, as Dematteis proved himself to be adept at writing both the serious and more jokey sides of their relationship. I also really liked the way, particularly in his second run on Spectacular Spider-Man that Mary-Jane was shown to be an active participant in Peter's in costume adventures, such as when she knocked out the Chameleon and helped Peter design several new costumed identities during the Identity Crisis storyline.

Howard Mackie
There are several writers who wrote Peter and Mary-Janes relationship poorly, but few failed as spectacularly as Howard Mackie in his post-reboot run on both the Amazing Spider-Man and Peter Parker: Spider-Man. To be fair to Mackie, he has publically admitted several times that he was burnt out on the character during this period, and some of the blame must lie at Marvel's door for putting him on both titles. Nonetheless, I am of the opinion that this roughly 25 issue period did more to damage public opinion of the Spider-Marriage than any other period in its history. Peter and Mary-Jane both behaved bizarrely during this period, repeatedly reminding readers of how young they were during their all too frequent squabbles. Mary-Jane's supposed 'death' was pretty much caused by her ridiculous refusal to tell her husband about the stalker making her life hell. To add insult to injury, after Mary-Jane finally returned Mackie promptly wrote her out of the series in a diabolically bad annual where Peter relentlessly hounded her for sex. As I said, Mackie is not entirely to blame here but this was very bad stuff.

J. Michael Straczynski
In all honesty I am only including JMS as he is probably one of the most acclaimed writers of the marriage in its history. While I enjoyed his run and felt that Peter and MJ's relationship was one of its strongest aspects I just didn't find it as compelling as under previous writers, possibly due to the fact that I thought that the quality of his stories gradually decreased when Mary-Jane returned to the series. That said, I think that Sins Past is one of the strongest examples of the marriage in recent history - while it was a hugely controversial story I don't think that his portrayal of Peter and Mary-Jane's relationship during it can be faulted.

Honourable mention must go to Matt Fraction, for his superb portrayal of the marriage during the critically acclaimed Sensational Spider-Man Annual #1. While I didn't think that it would be appropriate to include him based on one story I strongly recommend that anyone interested in the marriage check it out. I would also recommend the excellent J.R Fettinger's series of essays on their relationship entitled Why did it have to be you Mary-Jane? The articles can be found over at

That just about wraps things up - I hope you've enjoyed my brief rundown, if you think I have missed any writers out or disagree with any of my opinions please feel to free to comment or contact me by via email. Thanks a lot for your time, I hope all my readers have a very merry christmas!


  1. Nice article

    You didn't bring those up:
    Paul Jenkins
    Terry Kavanagh
    Roger Stern

    I'm pretty certain there are a few others I forgot

  2. There are plenty of writers who I sadly didn't have the space to write about. With regards to the three that you mention:

    Paul Jenkins - love his work on PP:SM but I thought that he was much better suited to writing a single Peter Parker.I did like how the marriage was portrayed in the 'Countdown' story arc in SSM though.

    Roger Stern - I haven't read any issues where he wrote the marriage.

    Terry Kavanaugh - From the little I've read of his run, I don't really care for it, nor the way that he wrote Peter and MJ's marriage. Just my opinion.

    Hope that helps, let me know if you have any more questions!