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CSBG Archive

When We First Met – The Many Loves of Peter Parker

Every week we spotlight the various characters, phrases, objects or events that eventually became notable parts of comic lore. Not major stuff like “the first appearance of Superman,” but rather, “the first time someone said, ‘Avengers Assemble!'” or “the first appearance of Batman’s giant penny” or “the first appearance of Alfred Pennyworth” or “the first time Spider-Man’s face was shown half-Spidey/half-Peter.” Stuff like that. Here is an archive of all the When We First Met features so far! Check ‘em out!

Today we look at the various love interests of Peter Parker, the Amazing Spider-Man!

The very first love interest for Peter Parker appeared on the first panel of the first page of the first Spider-Man story. There’s Liz Allan in Amazing Fantasy #15…

However, it was not until Amazing Spider-Man #4, after a number of appearances, that we actually learned Liz’s name…

Betty Brant is a tricky one. In Amazing Spider-Man #2, J. Jonah Jameson has a secretary…

Is that Betty? Beats me.

Amazing Spider-Man #4 is her first OFFICIAL appearance…

The next issue opens with a refresher on Spider-Man’s supporting cast, and it is where we first learn Miss Brant’s first name…

and Liz’s last name…

Spider-Man’s next love interest, his most famous, first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #25. Mary Jane Watson has her face covered here…

I don’t think I need to show you her first full appearance, do I?

In Amazing Spider-Man #31, Gwen Stacy debuts…

but I think many fans would agree that the character we think of as Gwen Stacy didn’t REALLY debut until John Romita was firmly in place as the book’s artist.

Take your pick for what you’d dub her first appearance as the Gwen that she would end up becoming, Amazing Spider-Man #46…

or Amazing Spider-Man #47…

Man, Romita sure liked to draw Gwen Stacy.

Peter was busy with either Gwen or Mary Jane for the next decade or so, but after Mary Jane broke up with Peter, the Spider-Man writers needed new love interests for our intrepid hero. While she was not likely intended to be so at the start, the Black Cat, who made her debut in Amazing Spider-Man #194, eventually became a major love interest of Spider-Man, and one of his few serious girlfriends…

The same month Black Cat debuted in Amazing, Bill Mantlo was introducing love interests at Empire State University, where Peter was beginning to work as a teaching assistant. Mantlo was doing a sort of Betty and Veronica thing with the stuck-up Marcy Kane (by the way, Marcy’s story went WAY weird eventually. I’ll likely feature it sometime somewhat soon, so please don’t talk about Marcy’s later plots in the comments section. Thanks!)…

and then “aw shucks” goodness of Debra Whitman. Interestingly, though, Debra Whitman actually first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #196…

but it seems to me that Marv Wolfman was just setting her up for Bill Mantlo’s Spectacular Spider-Man stories. I’d imagine that Mantlo actually invented her, but I don’t know for sure. Either way, she showed up in Spectacular Spider-Man #36 and became a notable on-again/off-again girlfriend of Peter’s…

Marcy and Deb kept Peter busy in the late 1970s and very early 1980s and then Black Cat was his girlfriend for a year or so towards the mid-1980s. Then he married Mary Jane and he had no other love interests for years.

I am only considering character who served as love interests for multiple issues of Spider-Man’s own title, not one-off girlfriends or love interests like Captain Marvel who was only really a love interest for Spidey in her own title.

Two interesting characters who never actually ended up dating Peter, but were definitely love interests were Peter’s old friend, Glory Grant (who he met in Amazing Spider-Man #140)…

and Gwen Stacy’s cousin, Jill, who PEter met in Peter Parker: Spider-Man #76…

You see, for a short period of time during Howard Mackie’s run on both Spider-Man titles, Mary Jane was missing and presumed dead. Peter never really started dating heavily, but there was this constant sexual tension with him and Glory and Jill. So I’m counting them.

Post-Brand New Day, Peter had a bit of a love/hate relationship with Michelle Gonzales, who debuted in Amazing Spider-Man Extra! #3….

Michelle is the sister of Peter’s then-roommate, police officer Vin Gonzales, who was involved in some bad stuff as a cop. After Vin went to jail, Michelle moved in and she and Peter had a contentious but chemistry-filled relationship (complicate by the time that the Chameleon impersonated Peter and made out with Michelle).

Finally, we have Peter’s most recent girlfriend, introduced in Amazing Spider-Man #545, Carlie Cooper!

Carlie eventually learned Peter’s secret and while the two have broken up, she is still glad to help out Peter in his Spider-Man duties through her connections in the police force.

EDITED TO ADD: Due to popular request, I’ll feature one of Peter’s girlfriends from outside the two main Spider-Man titles. Chris Claremont, you see, had his own personal girlfriend for Peter Parker in the pages of Marvel Team-Up and one issue of X-Men, Cissy Ironwood.

She is first mentioned in Marvel Team-Up #79 in just an offhand “I am late because I was with Cissy.” That’s it. No explanation for who Cissy is.

Then she appears in the next issue…

A few months later, she appeared in the Marvel Team-Up Annual #2 and I can’t help but wonder if Claremont originally intended the Annual appearance to be her first appearance, as it reads more like a first appearance than Marvel Team-Up #80…

The issue clearly says 203rd celebration of the USA, so that’d have to make it 1979 and since Marvel Team-Up #79 was Christmas 1978, then you’d think that the Annual did, in fact, follow it. But note that there WAS no Marvel Team-Up Annual in 1978 (or 1977, for that matter), so my totally unsubstantiated theory is that the Annual was done first and was intended to be her first appearance, which is why Spidey casually throws the name “Cissy” out in the December issue and why her first appearance doesn’t seem like a first appearance. The number 202 could easily have been edited to become 203 and run in 1979. That’s neither here nor there, though, of course.

So there ya go, the many loves of Peter Parker!

If there’s any character of plot or piece of comic lore that you’d like to see when it debuted, e-mail me your suggestion at bcronin@comicbookresources.com

45 Comments

Peter dated Betty again during Wolfman’s run, when she was separated from Ned Leeds.

Does anyone remember Cissy Ironwood? I think Peter went on a few dates with during the late 1970s. I remember her from an issue of Marvel Team-Up.

I remember Cissy. She was in a couple of MTUs by Chris Claremont and last appeared in the 2nd Annual.

http://www.marvunapp.com/Appendix/ironciss.htm

Do we not count Kitty? I thought they were perfect–I know, it’s Ultimate, but it seems worth a mention. Nice column.

Thanks for the link Clutch. The image of Cissy is from the issue of Marvel Team-Up I have featuring her. I totally dig Peter’s disco-style shirt. I remember her also from a pin-up from a Spider-Man annual that showcased the women of Peter Parker’s life.

“Many fans” would be wrong. Gwen was a solid member of the supporting cast and had a defined personality during the late Ditko period. Just because they’d prefer to ignore it due to their preference for Romita’s blank-slate pinup girl doesn’t make it go away.

Meanwhile, that Carlie intro couldn’t read more like “Hi, I’m the new love interest,” could it?

What I find remarkable is the giantic gap of love interests from the 80s to mid 2000s. This, of course, is explained by the marriage–no reason Peter would have been dating in that time.

How about a “When We First Met” on the Hulk’s romances? He’s been married twice–maybe three times depending on how you interpret Jarella–and had (arguably) four children from three different women, plus a remarkable number of girlfriends. For a nerdy, scrawny guy, Bruce Banner has gotten around a LOT, so a retrospective could be fun.

While I liked Carlie, I still don’t think that we should have got OMD just to get these types of stories back. For one, I think Joe Q is the only guy who really loves this particular kind of soap-opera drama in Spidey comics (I know most people say the X-Men have a lot of soap tropes, but man, in the 1970s, Spidey writers REALLY played up the soap opera aspect to Peter’s personal life, didn’t they?), and not only that, but a lot of the stuff we got in BND heavily paled in comparison to the 70s era it was supposed to be recreating something. This follows my music cover theory – if your cover of a song isn’t better than the original version, don’t make a cover version (although just singing it live at a concert is fine, just don’t put it on an album). Same here – if your homage is going to suck, why even do an homage?

Also, I’ve started reading the Marvel Masterworks Spidey, and I have to say, already I like Gwen a lot better than Mary Jane. MJ just comes off as shallow, and in general not all that likable. Yeah, Stan could get really melodramatic with Pete and Gwen’s relationship, but it felt genuine and at least she’s likable. Plus, as Brian pointed out, Romita liked drawing her and you can tell. Since Stan did such a good job building MJ’s character too, I have to say that a lot of the work done with her since really doesn’t fit that well with Stan’s definition, and is really out of character. It’s Gwen’s character that makes me ask, “Does Spidey really need MJ?” and not his later 70s antics.

We all know that Peter’s only true love is J. J. Jameson.

What’s all this “Gwen didn’t REALLY debut until AMZSM #45″? I’m sorry but that’s just an insult to Steve Ditko. Maybe some people prefer Romita’s work to Steve’s but that’s no excuse to try to re-write history. But even so, I actually preferred the Lee\Ditko version of Gwen– who appeared to be a stuck-up H.S. diva who was surprised that a young man wasn’t immediately smitten by her. THAT Gwen was more interesting than the weepy “Little Miss Perfect” Lee and Romita turned her into. My impression of the Second Gwen is identical to Mary-Jane’s: “Not bad, Dad–not GOOD maybe–but not bad!”

No. “Bad” was that “party pooper” Carlie Cooper!

@Anonymous- Yes, Peter really needs MJ, who was a breath of fresh air for the series when she first debuted after the Ditko era lost its steam and was just plodding along in a morose manner. You have to remember that it was thanks to MJ’s appearance and company that Peter, Gwen and Harry all lightened up and started enjoying life like normal teenagers should. Before she showed up, they were always at each other’s throats and Gwen even tried to SLAP Peter once! Not really Romita’s little blonde angel in the Ditko years.

I think Peter went on at least one date with Jill Stacy during the Paul Jenkins or John Bryne run, where either Mary Jane was presumed dead but really kidnapped or they were briefly seperated (before reuniting in Amazing #50).

Also find it interesting that the actors for Peter and Betty in the Raimi film trilogy Tobey Macquire and Elizabeth Banks have done a number of film projects together, they seem to be good friends “in real ife” too.

I also agree that Stan originally tried to make M.J. “shallow” because he and maybe Romita wanted Spidey to hook up with the “all-American” blonde which is why she was “passed” over to Harry Osborn. But as Stan himself later admitted: “Sometimes characters take on a life of their own; the more we tried to move her into the background the more she refused to stay there.” That’s the approximation of what he said years ago, not an exact quote.

I can say for a fact that he was right. In the Goblin Trilogy, Lee, Romita and Gil Kane tried to make her the “villain” or the catalyst, really for Harry’s drug taking. The problem was that she was so beautifully rendered and such a spicy character–she became an even more fascinating.

But then again, I’ve always been a Veronica guy!

Oh man, I just a moment of clarity. The first time I saw that ASM #25 MJ panel was in Marvel Saga and I never understood why she was wearing a creepy veil. I thought that every time I’ve seen that panel since. I thought it once again when all of the sudden I realized that she was turning TOWARD the word balloon waving hello instead of looking away with a dismissive hand wave.

Twenty five years my eyes were lying to me.

What about Caryn from the Paul Jenkins run? Does she fit in with Jill Stacy and Glory, or was there little to no tension? (it’s been a while since I’ve read those issues…)

@ V

I see what you’re saying, and I think I may have misspoke; I think you’re right, Peter and the cast DO need MJ, but I don’t necessarily think they need to be together as a couple. Like I said, she can be unlikable (even after the Gwen years), and Gwen and Peter work well together (and could have worked better if Gwen had been allowed to grow more as a character, like the Emma Watson version that I can’t believe they’re taking the cliche’d “kill ‘er off” route with in the next movie).

Plus, I have to agree with the idea that it doesn’t make a lot of sense that Pete ends up with the shallow hottie model considering how the rest of his life goes. Gwen wasn’t necessarily the glamorous one, she had that girl next door quality (which was one of the better aspects of the MJ in Raimi’s movies), which I think fits better for Pete. Also, the way MJ is obsessed with him in those early issues, she acts a bit like a Manic Pixie Dream, a trope that’s come to be derided in the past decade (and rightly so). Maybe Stan deserves a little more credit for those early stories? IDK, I can see where I could be wrong; I’ll have to read more of these collections.

Bambi, Randi and Candi.

Phred. You said it. Rooftop sunbathing all the time. Class.

Wait, Carlie is blonde? I could’ve sworn she was a light-red. Actually a look through Google Images shows that she’s fallen victim to Changing Artists Syndrome. Her hair, glasses vs. no glasses and, well, pretty much everything keeps changing.

Also, if the marriage isn’t coming back, then I’m firmly in the Peter Parker/Carol Danvers camp.

As far as Spider-man’s love interest goes with a heroine, I feel that the Black Widow should have been his first, followed by Spider-Woman and Black Cat.

If Amazing and Spectacular are considered interchangeable for the purpose of this feature, does Marvel Team-Up not count as Spidey’s “own title” as well? Because Cissy Ironwood was certainly an ongoing girlfriend of Peter’s, even if they were only dating in MTU (and in X-Men, I guess).

@Buttler: What might have been cool with MTU was for Peter Parker and Natasha Romanoff to establish a friendship during the time he was dating Crissy Ironwood. It would have been cool to see Spider-Man x Spider-Woman in MTU at the time when she finally encountered the Black Cat, who was to have been her enemy.

Here’s the pin-up from ASM Annual #16. For such a loveable loser, Peter ended up quite the ladies’ man.

http://bullyscomics.blogspot.com/2009/05/peter-parker-player.html

Hey, I remember that pin-up! I love how Betty Brant totally fails at innuendo.

“And by ‘very close‘ I mean doin’ it. And by ‘it’ I mean sex. And by ‘sex,’ I mean…”

Hey Buttler, did you read my previous comments?

No mention of April Maye? Or perhaps Joy Mercado? Or am I reading too much into them?

What about the professional flirting tension between him and Jean DeWolf–whose death was truly moving in the 1980’s despite all of the resurrections of that decade.

@Anonymous- Yes, Peter really needs MJ, who was a breath of fresh air for the series when she first debuted after the Ditko era lost its steam and was just plodding along in a morose manner. You have to remember that it was thanks to MJ’s appearance and company that Peter, Gwen and Harry all lightened up and started enjoying life like normal teenagers should. Before she showed up, they were always at each other’s throats and Gwen even tried to SLAP Peter once!

That had nothing to do with the introduction of Mary Jane. That had to do with the departure of Steve Ditko, who had been singlehandedly plotting the book before he left. He was going through a lot of philosophical changes and tended to write intense, angry, polemical books with a strong moralistic streak. He was changing Peter Parker to reflect his stark, uncompromising angry worldview. The very issue he left, ASM #39, Peter instantly softened, as Stan Lee had no interest in making such personal statements or using his books as veiled manifestos. Ditko would plot a much darker, angrier book, while Lee would undermine his plots by trying to use dialogue to soften up the harshness. Once Ditko was gone, Lee was free to soften up the book as much as he wanted. It had nothing to do with MJ’s introduction softening the tone. It’s the other way around, the softening of the tone allowed for a different MJ to show up than what Ditko would have probably introduced.

I also agree that Stan originally tried to make M.J. “shallow” because he and maybe Romita wanted Spidey to hook up with the “all-American” blonde which is why she was “passed” over to Harry Osborn. But as Stan himself later admitted: “Sometimes characters take on a life of their own; the more we tried to move her into the background the more she refused to stay there.” That’s the approximation of what he said years ago, not an exact quote.

I can say for a fact that he was right. In the Goblin Trilogy, Lee, Romita and Gil Kane tried to make her the “villain” or the catalyst, really for Harry’s drug taking. The problem was that she was so beautifully rendered and such a spicy character–she became an even more fascinating.

But then again, I’ve always been a Veronica guy!

Don’t believe anything Stan Lee said about MJ in retrospect, and also your idea of their plan to make MJ a villain backfiring and causing her to become more interesting is revisionism likely colored by how they retconned her later on in the 80s.

Stan Lee is notorious unreliable and known for rewriting his own history in the interests of mythmaking. He’s just rewriting history and saying what he thinks will make the most interesting account. Reread the original Stan Lee issues in as much of a vacuum as you can, without thinking of eventual retcons, later character development of MJ, none of that. Just read them in a vacuum and take them at face value. MJ is as two-dimensional as they come, and I doubt the creators found her as interesting as Gwen. At all. THEY BARELY USED HER. Seriously, there were several long stretches where she didn’t even appear for issues on end, only to appear in a random panel showing off a new hairdo and dancing in the background, then to disappear again for lengthy stretches. She’s fun, sure, but she’s shallow and obviously not of much interest to the writer or artist.

Dan: Yes, I did, but I was talking about an actual girlfriend that was left out, and I’m not really concerned with other characters that might be kinda cool if he dated but he never did. That’s a whole different exercise.

I always envied Spiderman, there’s a guy who really has everything going for him. Over the years I even came up with a name for it – I call it the ‘Parker luck’

@Buttler: I was surprised that Peter x Felicia never went out together on an actual date outside of their costume adventures while they were in a relationship.

And the only one I can’t stand is Carlie.

Any chance that Cissy Ironwood was modelled after Cat Yronwode, who I think would have been an assistant to Eisner about that time and later was EIC of Eclipse?

Good chance, yes. I believe they even spelled it Ironwode at one point.

-Dan- Given that it was established in the comics that Felicia liked Spider-Man and couldn’t stand Peter, it’s not that surprising.

I loved her revulsion to his Peter Parker identity. It is basically Byrne’s Luthor take on Superman possibly being Clark Kent. “No one with this much power would ever live like this!”

Brian- thanks for adding Cissy.

I’m impressed with Cissy’s ability to deliver an entire Claremontian monologue while liplocked.

I’m sure there is a very good chance that Cissy Ironwood was named for Cat Yronwode, but she couldn’t have been “modeled” after her. Yronwode isn’t blonde (or wasn’t, whatever) and, uh, didn’t look like that. I love reading her columns in old Eclipse issues, and finding letters written by her in older Marvel issues.
This doesn’t have much to do with that, but it reminded me of that DeMatteis Captain America issue where a high-school girl named Karen Berger asks Cap out.

I loved her revulsion to his Peter Parker identity. It is basically Byrne’s Luthor take on Superman possibly being Clark Kent. “No one with this much power would ever live like this!”

Yes, it was so well-done. One of Mantlo’s better ideas. I love how Milgrom drew the sequence. “Put your mask back on!”

I do remember one visit to a comic shop where the owner declared that Peter parker was a pimp through his many girl friends which of course include…Amy Powell (but she just wanted to make another guy jealous), Jean DeWolff (though that one didn’t really start), Silver Sable (in a What if), Shanna (in a more vulnerable moment when she believed Ka-Zar was dead), Red Sonja (in one or 2 brief encounters) , Carol Danvers (in costume), Joy Mercado, etc…

Sure, Peter is a player, but remember this is Marvel time. He’s had 50 years to play in. And he still barely gets as much as Aunt May. Now she gets around. Uncle Ben, Nathan, Willy Lumpkin, Jarvis, J Jameson Sr. Oh, and Doctor Octopus.

[…] When We First Met – The Many Loves of Peter Parker (goodcomics.comicbookresources.com) […]

What about the neighbour from Paul Jenkins Peter Parker: Spider-man run? He had at least one date with her.

You couldn’t spare a solo image of Mary Jane Watson?

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