by Travis Starnes, CMRO Editor
In part one of this series; I went through the physical representation of Spider-Man. The various looks and costumes that makes Spider-Man who he is for the people of the Marvel universe. Now I am going to look at what I feel is the real core of the Spider-Man/Peter Parker character, the women in his life. For me what is more interesting than his fights with villains and adventures through the city is the trials and tribulations of his personal life. This is what made Spider-Man stand out from Amazing Fantasy #15 all the way through to the version of Spider-Man we have today.
If you have read through all of the history of Spider-Man (and I have read through a lot of it) the moments that really shape him as a character are the people in his personal life. New women coming in and driving him crazy and longtime loves going away (sometimes more permanently then others), this is the bread and butter of Spider-Man. What’s more amazing is how many amazing women he hooks up with over the years. They sell us Parker from early on as the “nerd” who can’t talk to women but go through the list and you will see in reality Parker might be the biggest player in all of Marvel. He gives hope to nerdy guys around the world…do good in school, get super powers, and you too can hook up with a super model. Well, until the devil wipes your memory of her and you get replaced by your arch-nemesis. But for a while at least….supermodel.
So without further pre-amble, here they are (I will try to beat around the bush when hitting major story points as not to spoil stuff for people who haven’t read these comics yet. You’re welcome).
She isn’t a love interest, at least not in the romantic sense, but she has been the lady in his life since day one….for better or worse. Early on she gave the character a lot of motivation to keep going or in some cases to hang things up, and was often a plot device in the early years to push Parker (I can’t count the number of heart attacks or “episodes” she had). Of course the biggest impact she had was during Brand New Day when Parker picked her over his life with Mary Jane. a call to this day that many comic readers I have talked to hate. Say what you will, think of her as either a strong driving force or crazy annoying plot device, you can’t deny the impact she has had on Peter’s life. She first appeared in Amazing Fantasy #15.
The first “real” girl we see in Parker’s life, although not really. This was back when the “nerd” Parker was really being that way. He was going after the pretty cheerleader who was out of his reach. Of course she does start becoming interesting eventually, about 1 issue before she disappears from the comic for years. Not to worry though since she returns, although never really in a romantic role. Her stuff with Harry does give her some influence over Parker’s life however. She first appears in Amazing Fantasy #15.
Arguably Peter’s first real love interest. Having met while she worked as Jameson’s secretary the two developed a fast friendship that seemed to become more. They were definitely romantically involved, but since that period of their life happened in comics under the grip of the Comics Code it’s hard to tell exactly what point the relationship went to. This was however the first romance to be sabotaged by Peter’s dual life. She held on for a long time but finally lit out when Peter could not reveal the secrets she knew he was keeping. She does return, in a major way in fact, but never really again as a love interest. While their relationship was not to be she did set the tone that would follow Parker through his days. Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love. Boy destroys girl’s self-esteem because of how bad he treats her (due to his super-hero night job). It’s a tale as old as time. She first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #4.
When it comes to Peter Parker and romance, this is the go to. The gold standard for Marvel comic romances. She however has had some interesting moments that many, or at least me before I read certain comics, didn’t know. On her original appearance she was hinted at many issues before she had her big reveal. She would be just leaving or behind a bush, but always hidden. Then finally a big “ta-da” style reveal. You have to wonder if the people at Marvel had some kind of idea she would be so long lasting. The other thing I found surprising is that as much as she is a major player in the story of Peter Parker, she disappears for a long time. They go from romantically attached, to friends, to no Mary Jane for several years of Spider-Man comics. Of course she never stays gone for good, not even when an evil demon makes a few adjustments. Still, you can’t have Peter Parker without Mary Jane….can you? She first appears in Amazing Spider-Man #25.
She might not be the girl who has been with Parker for 50 years of comics, but there is no doubt that Gwen Stacy has as big of an impact on Parker’s life as Mary Jane. Their relationship is good, and this is the second girl we see Peter in a serious relationship with (after Mary Jane). There is no doubt these two love each other. The other interesting thing about Gwen is her relationship with Mary Jane. The two knew they were rivals for the same man and were friendly yet always taking little digs at each other. Their back and forth was almost as enjoyable as her relationship with Peter. But her impact on Parker wasn’t the relationship they had, but the oh so famous ending to it. Her leaving the scene is one of the landmark moments in Marvel history and has a clear impact on Parker’s personality. This is when he stopped being the nerdy kind of awkward kid and became an adult. Peter is the man he became outside the suit because of Gwen; there is no doubt about that. She first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #31.
We can all remember this pivotal character and when she…..wait, you don’t remember her? I don’t blame you. This is not one of the big players in the life of Spider-Man, blink and you will miss her. But if you read books other than Amazing Spider-Man in the 70s you would met Cissy several times. She is back from Peter’s days as a college man and one of his college hook-ups. While not important to his life long term, you have to be proud of old Parker the science student hooking up with the hot blond. You go Pete. She first appeared in Marvel Team-Up #80.
Ok, not a love interest, but a long time female. She did however play a notable role in Peter’s life. They started off as neighbors but became friends, with Peter eventually getting her a job at the Daily Bugle (Betty Brant’s old job in fact). They had good chemistry together, but like sometimes happens she fell in with the wrong crowd, in this case the werewolf criminal Eduardo Lobo. She even tried to shoot Spider-Man at one point. We haven’t seen much of Gloria over the last 15 years or so, although she occasional pops up with some random guy. She’s that girl you knew back in college and never got with. She first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #140.
Felicia Hardy (The Black Cat)
Every guy goes through that phase where they go after the bad girl and this was Peter’s….and can you blame him? Skin tight leather costume, smoking hot, and a cat-burglar (but one who doesn’t really hurt people and isn’t soooo bad so it’s ok), who could resist? The catch…she doesn’t want Peter Parker; she only has eyes for Spider-Man. This is a serious twist on his normal love story where his dual life as Spider-Man gets in the way. Now it’s the only thing keeping her around. But it was bound not to last….how can a guy stay with a girl who only wants him when he puts a spandex mask over his face? She first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #194.
This is the one I feel bad about. Debra was a nice kid working as the secretary for the Professor that Peter was a Teaching Assistant for while he was in grad school. As it seems all women in the Marvel universe do, she had a thing for Peter. And as usual Parker’s dual life causes him to act like quite the D-Bag to her. Lots of broken dates or left sitting in a restaurant waiting for him. I know Peter is busy, but he was particularly cold to her. This was not Parker’s finest hour. The two went out off and on for a while, but this was not the love story that many of his other relationships have been. She first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #196.
What do you do when the cousin of girl you loved and blame yourself for her death looks you up? Well if you’re Peter Parker you introduce her to your girlfriend, become palls, and walk her through exactly how her cousin died. Maybe the most awkward conversation ever. Also, you let an Osborn have a shot at offing her to, just for the symmetry of the thing. But seriously, she was an interesting introduction to Peter’s life for a while and brought back the Gwen thing in good, organic kind of way. Of course when Mary Jane got kidnapped and Jill decided that was a good time to put the moves on Peter, that about wrapped up her friendship with the couple. Way to go out uncomfortably Jill. She first appeared in Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #76.
Parker’s drunken one-night stand….sort of. She was the sister of his roommate who was in prison (sometimes comics get to the daytime soup level of drama) and the two had a kind of love/hate thing going on. But at his Aunt’s wedding they got a little tipsy and made that oh-so-common wedding mistake. It didn’t end badly; it just kind of ended when she moved back to Chicago. But she did admit that Peter was an ok guy. So score one for old Pete. She first appeared in Spider-Man Extra! #3
On paper Carlie and Peter are a great match. She is a science geek just like Peter. She follows a lot of the same stuff. She is a cop so you have the crime-fighting thing going for her. All-in-all a good match. Sure she was once almost sacrificed to a Mayan deity, but that’s par for the course for any girl who wants to get with Peter. Unfortunately it was not to be. As a detective she started piecing together the clues that Peter was Spider-Man and the two broke up. They however remained friends and Carlie is very involved in investigating the events surrounding the “death” of Doctor Octopus. No longer a love interest but still a good girl to have in your corner. She first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #545.
Carol Danvers (Ms. Marvel)
Not really a love interest but an honorable mention goes out to Ms. Marvel. After getting Spider-Man’s help to get her out of a jam she agreed to go to dinner with him, which she eventually did. The two had a good time and Peter found he really dug on Danvers, but this was clearly never meant to be on of Peter’s conquests. It was however later let slip that Ms. Marvel did indeed return some of his feelings. First appearance doesn’t really matter since she first appeared 40 years of comics before their date.
And that’s it for our journey through the women who have impacted Peter Parker’s life. Stay tuned for Spider-Man Through the Ages Part, III: The Villains