This is about Spider-Man's one true love. Not Gwen Stacy, not Aunt May's wheatcakes, It's about Mary Jane Watson. I've been around many people who believe Gwen to be Peter's one true love, but she was taken from him too soon. After that, Mary Jane stepped in as, for all intents and purposes, the runner-up, the next best option. But that's not true. At least it wasn't at the time those old Spider-Man stories were being written.
Gwen Stacy was killed off specifically because nobody liked her. And fans argued that she was standing in the way of Peter and MJ's relationship. When Mary Jane Watson was introduced into the Marvel Universe, Peter and Gwen were not even an item. Just moments before her iconic entrance, Pete was thinking about his potential budding relationship with Gwen. Once MJ came onto the scene in Amazing Spider-Man #42 with that fantastic line,
-[MJ] "Face it, Tiger you just hit the jackpot,"
Stan Lee used her to make Gwen jealous, to push her and Pete into a relationship because that's what Stan wanted. Gwen was a boring character compared to Mary Jane. John Romita, Sr., who was working on Amazing Spider-Man at the time, recalled in Comics Creators on Spider-Man,
- [John Romita Sr.] "Mary Jane's first appearance made an immediate impact. We got a lot of mail from the fans because they wanted her to be Peter's girlfriend. Stan preferred Gwen Stacy. He decided to fool the readers and make Gwen the girlfriend, but it didn't matter. No matter what Stan and I did, the fans always liked Mary Jane better."
And that's not just John Romita saying it, there are similar statements almost verbatim from Stan Lee. Gwen Stacy was boring and uninteresting. You may disagree. Heck, a version of Gwen is currently carrying a title of her own, at the moment, not to mention updated versions of her in TV shows, movies, et cetera. But writer Gerry Conway has explained, on a few different occasions, that the relationship between Peter and Gwen had gained a mythology in stature today that it never had at the time.
He even made the blunt statement that Gwen is only interesting because she's dead. The statement, of course, coming from one of the minds who killed her. In his eyes, Mary Jane Watson was always meant to be Peter's, true love. As Conway explained in the introduction to Webslinger,
- [Gerry Conway] "For me, destiny already announced Peter's soulmate the day Mary Jane Watson appeared on his doorstep. She was so obviously right for him I always assumed Peter's relationship with Gwen was just a temporary diversion from the true path fate had laid out for him."
Of course, famously, Peter never even wanted to meet Mary Jane. In Amazing Spider-Man #15, Aunt May set him up on a blind date with the niece of Mrs. Watson, but readers weren't given any more info than that. Mean, who was this woman? The comic slowly released more and more info about her as time went on. We weren't even told her name until issue number 16. In issue number 25, she made an appearance in the story but obscured by a plant. The only clue the story gave was that she had movie star looks. Then, in issue number 42, the wait was over. We finally saw the redhead party girl that was Mary Jane Watson standing in a doorway. And this doorway imagery is an important theme throughout their early relationship as one long beautiful love story. As stated earlier, Stan Lee went against the crowd and had Peter get together with Gwen while MJ remained a friend.
Then, Gwen Stacy was kidnapped by the Green Goblin, and thrown off a bridge. Spidey tried to save her, but he failed. Gwen was gone. Enraged, Spider-Man hunts down Green Goblin in a climactic showdown that culminated in the Goblin accidentally impaling himself with his glider. On the one-page epilogue, Mary Jane tries to console a mourning Peter Parker, only to be verbally attacked as he lashes out in grief. Mary Jane approaches the doorway to leave, but with the click of the door, makes the mature decision to stay with her grieving friend despite his attempts to push her away. After this event, Peter and MJ start to become closer. Two years later, in Amazing Spider-Man #143, Pete leaves on a mission to Paris, but before he boards the plane, he and MJ share their first kiss in one of the most beautiful comic book moments of all time.
- [MJ] "And neither he nor she will ever be the same,"
Peter rushes off before the two can process everything. Leaving their relationship, much like the plane, up in the air. As Peter is returning from France, the story of his relationship with MJ starts to mirror his relationship with Gwen. If you recall, Pete was thinking about his budding romance with Gwen just before Mary Jane appeared in a doorway demanding the scene. And now, as the plane lands in New York, Peter is thinking about his budding romance with Mary Jane just before Gwen Stacy appears in a doorway demanding the scene. If you're confused, all of this did happen after Gwen died, and this character is simply a clone of the original. You know, 'cause Spider-Man.
This Gwen clone starts to get between Peter and Mary Jane, once again, because apparently, that is what Gwen is for. Mary Jane confronts Pete about offering an ultimatum, either her or Gwen. Still shaken by the events, Pete pays her little attention and slams the door in her face. But he didn't mean it, he was just distracted. By the time he realizes his mistake, Mary Jane is gone leaving only an empty doorway. A few issues pass, and this clone story comes to a close. At least for now. The Gwen Stacy clone insists that she and Peter shouldn't be together because they are not the same people they were when Peter Parker loved Gwen Stacy, and she loved him.
In the final page of Amazing Spider-Man #149, readers are treated to another epilogue that draws upon the same scene we saw all the way back in the epilogue of issue number 122. Peter approaches his apartment upset about losing Gwen for a second time to find Mary Jane Watson waiting for him inside. The same exact scenario as before. There are even a few panels that reference similar imagery, but with the roles reversed. Just as the click of his apartment door signaled the start of their relationship, this second click realizes it.
These two panels perfectly bookend the beginning of Mary Jane and Peter's romance. And the one of the most beautiful and perfect sense of mirrored scenes throughout all of comics. This is what everything was leading towards. Over 100 issues, after MJ first captivated readers with her debut, the two characters finally, officially clicked.