“A visit to Petey’s pad” indeed. Interesting decor (college students notably keep bowls of fruit in their apartments, it’s true) to be sure, but don’t patronize us, Stan Lee, what’s not to interest us about Harry’s room?
But then I suppose “no one caring about Harry” would have never reached the memetic status it has by now. Gosh Harry, get out of Petey’s pad that your father owns and Peter’s not paying you any rent money for! This guy.
Amazing Spider-Man Annual #4, Stan Lee & Larry Lieber.
MARY JANE: Hi, Aunt Anna! We were passsing by and thought Petey-O could uses some cheering up!
GWEN: You know our motto: chase the blues away—with Gwen and M.J!GWEN: Come along, little one! Gwen will buy you a movie mag to keep you cultural till Pete’s on his feet again!
MARY JANE: But, it’s like tragic to waste all those dreamy discs!
GWEN: If it’s music you want, bunny… we can grab a kazoo on the way!
Amazing Spider-Man vol I #49 (June 1967), Stan Lee (writer) and John Romita, Sr (pencils).
If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you already know I’m a big fan of Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s 2002-2003 miniseries Spider-Man: Blue, which revisits and expands upon the early days of Peter’s relationship with Gwen, and not incidentally with Mary Jane as well. It’s one of the first stories I recommend for the burgeoning Spider-Fan, and with good reason: it’s an easily-accessible, standalone introduction to the major players of the franchise; it strikes a good balance between romantic comedy, drama, and action; and it certainly doesn’t hurt that the art is gorgeous. But I don’t consider Blue above criticism, and this scene, compared to its retelling in Spider-Man: Blue #5, demonstrates why.
In the original, our redoubtable spider-ladies show up together. This is a moment, maybe even the the moment, that reveals Gwen and MJ are not just friendly, but friends. They enter as a unit, as “Gwen and M.J.” When Gwen teases Mary Jane it’s with almost big-sisterly affection — she’s not trying to put the competition in her place. Even though the two are there to visit Peter the “rivalry” is nonexistent, taking a very distant second place to their fellowship with each other.
But in Blue #5, Gwen and MJ arrive separately, and squabble over who gets to nurse Peter on his sickbed:
MJ: Just happen to be in the neighborhood?
GWEN: Actually, Harry has two theater tickets for that new Broadway show—
MJ: —I hear it’s awful.
GWEN: Well, you’d know. How is your acting career going, MJ?
PETER: Um… Girls…
When he blows them both off they leave in a huff, snapping at Flash and Harry on exit (even though poor Harry is about to take Gwen on a date). It’s not a surprise that the scene was expanded to put more focus on Peter and his relationships with the women, but the more times I reread Blue, the more disappointed I am that Loeb does so at the expense of Gwen and MJ’s relationship with each other, which you’d think would be almost as important.
Actually, even “more focus on Peter and his relationships” is a generous interpretation — as the fight plays out Peter observes, “this never happened when I was ‘Peter Parker, bookworm,’” making it all too clear that the scene is about the two women as figures of the “hot girls fight over nebbish nerd boy” fantasy, not as characters. Which also explains Harry’s treatment in the transition as he gets downgraded from good-natured gallant to second-place schmuck — a Harry who redirects Gwen and MJ’s attention as smoothly as he does in Amazing #49 would disrupt the daydream of Blue #5.
Overall, the scene in Blue is weirdly retrograde in its gender dynamics compared to its predecessor from more than three decades previous.
On another note, not even a minor complaint so much as an observation, I love the wardrobe Tim Sale creates for Gwen and MJ as much as the next gal with a fondness for minidresses and mod fashion, and would even be delighted to see some Blue-inspired cosplay sometime (hint hint), but it’s still funny that the women wear pants more often in the 60s originals than their 21st century adaptation.
GWEN: I don’t understand! This is one night I was sure Peter would be on time! What could have happened to him?
HARRY: He’s my ever-lovin’ buddy and all that… but he’d be late for his own funeral!
MJ: With a temper like Gwendolyn’s, that’s just what it might be if he doesn’t get here soon!
Amazing Spider-Man vol I #87 (Aug 1970), Stan Lee (writing) and John Romita, Sr (pencils).
Greatest supporting cast or greatest supporting cast?