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CSBG Archive

The Abandoned An’ Forsaked – That Time J. Jonah Jameson Went Insane

Every week, we will be examining comic book stories and ideas that were not only abandoned, but also had the stories/plots specifically “overturned” by a later writer (as if they were a legal precedent). Click here for an archive of all the previous editions of The Abandoned An’ Forsaked. Feel free to e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com if you have any suggestions for future editions of this feature.

Today we look at the time that J. Jonah Jameson went insane…

Late in his run on Amazing Spider-Man, Marv Wolfman had J. Jonah Jameson act increasingly erratic…

To the point where he suffers a nervous breakdown in Amazing #198…

and then escapes custody in #201…

Wolfman left the book before he could finish whatever he had planned for Jameson, so I certainly can’t speak to how he would have resolved it all.

However, when Roger Stern came aboard for a fill-in issue (#206) prior to Denny O’Neil taking over the book, Stern returned everything to the status quo for O’Neil’s run by explaining away Jameson’s behavior by saying that a bad guy was manipulating Jameson’s mind through a fantastical ray device…

Naturally, at the end of the issue, the device is destroyed and Jameson is back to normal.

By the way, the device’s name (as I mentioned in a Meta-Messages installment on this topic) was the mental attitude-response variator ray….or the MARV ray for short! Cute!


Pretty obvious that Roger Stern either really disagreed with the characterization of Jameson, or else had no interest in continuing this particular plotline. Pretty ingenious way of quickly reestablishing the status quo, though.

It could also be that that’s what the book’s editor told Stern to do. “We need to re-establish the status quo…just write that Jameson’s behavior was caused a bad guy manipulating Jameson’s mind through a fantastical ray device. Or something”.

Love that Byrne splashpage with all the tiny Spider-Men :)

I’m less inclined to think that, since books were more talent-driven than editorially-driven back in those days, but it’s certainly possible.

Stern has said in interviews about this issue that he believes Jameson is too stubborn to have a nervous breakdown. He has also said that Wolfman’s original plot for the previous issue (which wasn’t approved? or just thrown away?–Wolfman left Marvel to go to DC at this time) had Jameson killing the Black Cat in his crazy state. Stern has said that was just unacceptable for the character. Another thing, I read those issues of Wolfman’s Amazing, and I seem to recall a shadowy figure resembling Jonas Harrow lurking in the background of an issue or two, so it’s possible that it was Wolfman’s plan all along to have Harrow tormenting Jameson. I don’t know if it’s something Stern picked up on while writing the issue, though I’ve never heard him comment on that. I no longer have those issues, so I can’t confirm, but that is my memory.

Actually, the real answer is that Denny O’Neil had already plotted issue 207 and Jameson was sane in that issue (for Jonah, anyway).

Wolfman has denied that he intended for Jameson to kill the Black Cat.
And yes, Jonas Harrow did show up in Wolfman’s last issue.

Actually, the real answer is that Denny O’Neil had already plotted issue 207 and Jameson was sane in that issue (for Jonah, anyway).

Oh, that’s right. I read that when this storyline was featured here before. Way to write your way out of a hole there, Roger! :)

That’s good to know. I never heard Wolfman comment on what he intended for the characters and plot had he stayed on Spider-man; I only know what Stern has said in interviews. But, you’re right, Jameson had to be sane for #207. It’s just fun how Stern got him there in #206, while, I believe, reasserting the character for the better. And thanks for corroborating my memory of Harrow’s appearance.

Well, I would have gone with ‘heck, 30 years later, this is pretty much status quo for ol Jolly Jonah.’

Wasn’t so long ago we had Marla selling the Bugle out from under him to save his life. From….um, I’m going to go with ‘insanity’

I don’t know. Where was Marv going with this?

Brian, you do so well with this stuff in ‘Legends revealed,’ I am at this point expecting you to get some answers here.

Nah, it was a good set up plot point that was in fact abandoned and/or forsaked. One laden with grist and/or potential for new columns, in fact.

You do good work, you know.

Wasn’t the issue also produced on a severe deadline after they realized that they had 205 and 207 but no 206?

Sean, yes – Stern whipped up a story and then Byrne and Day did the art in a few days. It’s actually the subject of a “Legends Revealed” post here: http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2010/06/24/comic-book-legends-revealed-266/, and as I recall, just after that post there was a discussion about this issue on the Byrne Robotics site, with Byrne providing some more observations (can’t find the link to that, though – my internet-fu is not that powerful).
Otherwise, I have to say, rushed or not, I always liked the art in that issue: Byrne and Day really worked well together – or rather, their styles worked well together…

Ah, so that’s Stern and Day? Brian did a recent post where he featured some other Byrne and Day artwork from the Avengers. They really did mesh well together. Byrne when inked by Day has a lot of similarities to Marshall Rogers inked by Terry Austin, while still remaining a very distinct beast.

As noted before, Stern was also tying off the long-running “Jonas Harrow — what’s his ultimate plan?” plotline that ran through both Gerry Conway’s and Len Wein’s runs on the title.

Even by Peter’s angsty standards, blaming himself for Jonah cracking up seems a bit much.
Jonah going nuts reminds me of one of the MU novels from the 1990s that mentions in passing that nobody takes his anti-Spidey editorials seriously–they’re seen as so laughable, in fact, that SNL has a running parody skit of them. I could so imagine that skit (“My new editorial reveals the real cause of mad cow disease is—Spider-Man!”).

I read that novel, too, Fraser. One of the Adam-Troy Castro ones, if I’m not mistaken.

To be fair, a couple of panels later, Peter basically thinks that he shouldn’t blame himself and it’s all Jonah’s fault he went insane.

That name for the novelist sounds right, Michael

Remember buying this issue off the stands — it was a much-appreciated resolution. Of course, in the previous issue, they’d also established that the Black Cat was crazy, also thankfully later undone by Stern.

By the way, note the 12 (!) panel pages in these stories. During the stretch that Marvel was down to puny 17-page stories, creators were doing their best to tell the same amount of story. Many kept to this style for a while when Marvel bounced back to 22 pages, which is why the comics of 1982 tend to be very meaty, story-wise.

I also recall an interview saying that in #205, the original resolution was for an insane Jameson to shoot the Black Cat — something that got fixed immediately. Can’t remember the publication for that one.

Roger Stern wrote a brief explanation for why he wrote this story in #210. If I remember correctly, it was mainly because he thought Jonah’s mental problems were completely out of character.

interesting to find out jamesons break down was caused by out side forces and a ray named after the guy who was making jamesons totaly nuts. even though thought always thought Jameson was nuts to begin with.

The concept of an evil scientist setting up automated crazy rays throughout the downtown of a major city is actually pretty cool, especially if it was built up in a more dramatic fashion. The guys in the interior cubicles are safe and sane, but any executive with a windowed office is at risk of losing his marbles. If he doesn’t pay up, that is. And the crazier he gets, the more he’ll pay without even realizing it…

This is before my time. I always wanted to know what the connection was with Jonah and the Jack O’Lantern. Maybe my memories failing me, but there was something to do with Jonah and the Jack O’Lantern threatening his wife or something. I always wanted to know what was up with that.


June 3, 2012 at 10:41 pm

Oh wow, John Byrne drew that Roger Stern fill-in issue of Amazing Spider-Man! I recognize his Uncanny X-Men through his early run of Fantastic Four anywhere. Check out the beautiful and intricate details, motion, perspective, storytelling and handsome/beautiful characters anatomy. WHATEVER HAPPENED TO JOHN BYRNE’S STYLE??

I think maybe Donald Trump has been affected by the MARV-ray. It would explain a lot of his ramblings. And now Bloomberg is banning large drinks?? Another victim? Is NYC safe?
That ray is still out there…

Sorry, if you’re going to drive New Yorkers insane, Kwirkegard’s Existential Depression Ray (http://www.marvunapp.com/Appendix2/kwirkegard.htm) was way cooler.

LoveJohnByrnesOldStuff –

Keep in mind that Gene Day was a great artist in his own right (google his work in case you’re not aware of it already). So those pencils reflect a lot of Day as well as Byrne. Also keep in mind that much of Byrne’s lesser work is stuff inked by him using various types of inking tools, an I think most ppl agree he’s a much better penciller than inker.

Also awesome: look at that panel of Harrow peering at a ribbon of dots and lines. Presumably meant to be some kind of computer printout.

This is awesome because 1) it suggests how long ago the story was drawn, but also 2) even then Harrow must have been one HARD-CORE geek; whatever real technology existed at the time, I’m sure the Marvel universe had computer displays more like we have now, but this guy was like “screw that fancy GUI crap, I want to see the REAL data!” :-)

Wraith: even into the 1990s, if not later, most machines that produced continuous data (be it EEG & EKG machines, Seismographs or stock tickers – in fact stock tickers did it for almost a century before computers) had the ability to record all their data onto paper rolls, because the ability to store that data electronically was nearly non-existent. The first USB thumb drives had about as much memory storage as the early tape drives and hard drives of the (room-filling) Mainframe computers of the era that story was printed in. In fact, the #s of these issues are about contemporary with computers such as the TRS-80 Model III/4, Commodore 64 and Atari 800. And in 1984, my freshman class at my college was the first to be taught computing via onscreen editing and data files rather than punchcards and printouts, and work-study jobs involved going to the nearby University of Kentucky to get the cards for the programs written for the previous computer converted to tape for the new mainframe.

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