OK, one panel doesn’t really say much about a new character. What is Mary Jane like in her first few appearances?
Issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #43, December 1966
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: John Romita Sr
The Plot: The Rhino wakes up and goes on another rampage. Fortunately, Mary Jane kinda wants to see Spider-Man fight the guy.
Commentary: OK, here we go. There’s been a lot of teasing, a brief appearance here and there, but finally we get the real establishment of something very important in Spider-Man mythos.
That’s right. This looks like the first issue that Gwen Stacy wore that headband every artist always gives her.
Oh, and Mary Jane gets to talk some.
So, one of the reasons I think MJ’s boosters take her side over Gwen is, well, MJ is fun. She’s down to actually do stuff. Gwen, from what I have read with her in it, is more of the sweet and innocent type. You know, the opposite of how Steve Ditko wrote just about everybody. MJ is actually a good accomplice to get Peter to crime scenes based just on this issue when the Rhino escapes from prison and goes out looking for Spider-Man. Apparently, Mary Jane just wants to see that sort of thing. Can I for a minute imagine any other love interest of Peter’s thinking that way? Not Gwen. Not Liz. And not the newly-engaged Betty Brant. But Mary Jane wants to see that sort of thing.
And yes, I am aware it is eventually revealed MJ saw Peter climbing out of his window in the Spider-Man costume and knew all along, but that comes later. I’m not sure how much later. Just later.
But yes, MJ is good for that sort of thing, and, as written by Stan, is maybe just enough of an airhead to not notice how long Peter disappears. Or she’s naïve enough to believe his stories when he tells them. Or she already knows the truth and is playing a little dumb. I actually like that last reason best even if it makes Peter look dumb for assuming MJ is dumb. But this is a 60s-era Peter, and even if he isn’t as mean as he was when Ditko was still plotting, he still can be a bit sexist coming from Stan. Stan was good for a lot of progressive ideas on things like race, but his female characters often needed a lot of work before they became more than a damsel in distress.
That said, there is one thing about MJ that is kinda bad: her dialogue. Stan is clearly trying to give her some hip slang that none of the other characters use, and it sounds precisely like what a forty-something man who had maybe heard a teenager talk a couple times five years earlier would think is the hip slang of the era. It just reads bad. Not Snapper Carr-level bad, but bad.
As for the rest of the issue, the Rhino escapes, but Peter works with Curt Connors to find a chemical to dissolve the Rhino’s suit. However, that gets Curt to thinking he could maybe help as the Lizard, and having seen the next issue’s cover, that is clearly a bad idea.
Weekend Trek “Ship In A Bottle”
Vikings: Valhalla “Pieces Of The Gods”
Noteworthy Issues: The Amazing Spider-Man #52 (September, 1967)