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The Past Was Close Behind: Spider-Man’s Wife Makes a Curious Pledge

This feature spotlights moments, exchanges, etc. from older comics that take on a brand new light when read in concert with later comic books. Here is the archive of previous installments.

Our latest example (courtesy of reader Rob London) is an interesting pledge Mary Jane Watson-Parker made to herself during Spider-Man’s 30th Anniversary where she used a rather ironic choice of words.

1992′s Amazing Spider-Man #365 celebrated Spider-Man’s 30th Anniversary. It had a number of back-ups, including a story by Tom DeFalco, Stan Lee and John Romita where Mary Jane Watson-Parker reminisced about Gwen Stacy. By the end of the story, Mary Jane comes to term with Gwen’s death and then we see an interesting series of thoughts by Mary Jane…

Oh, really, Mary Jane? You wouldn’t trade it for anything?

Roughly 15 years later, in Amazing Spider-Man #545, that’s exactly what Mary Jane would do, agreeing to trade her marriage in exchange for Mephisto bringing Aunt May back to life…

Pretty funny stuff.

Thanks again to Rob! He mentioned this panel in a piece he did on his blog examining the four 30th Anniversary Spider-Man issues from 1992. You can read it here.

If you have suggestions of future installments of this feature, e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com!

Don’t make suggestions in the comments section!

63 Comments

Did they ever reveal what MM whispered to Mephisto? Or is this some obvious thing I never “got”?

They did reveal it in One Moment in Time, and it wasn’t that interesting. It was something to the effect of “Don’t you dare hurt Peter, Satan!”

Well that’s not very interesting. I was hoping it’d be some kind of loophole or added deal. This Mephisto story was just too depressing for me.
Thanks for the info though Omar!

To be fair to Marvel, MJ didn’t just trade her marriage for Aunt May’s life. She traded it because she knew Pete couldn’t deal with having another death of a loved one on his conscience and it would probably destroy him. That’s why MJ is the hero of OMD rather than Pete.

Yes, I am the only person in the world who liked One More Day.

“Bong” “Bong”?(odd sound effect) here’s the problem Paul. Earlier in the story Peter meets up with Aunt May’s spirit and she said she lived a long life and had no regrets and didn’t want to be brought back. So what does he do? He becomes selfish goes against her wishes and “MAKES A DEAL WITH THE DEVIL” something Peter would never do. Unfortunately this was apparently editorial mandate(Joe Q). They wanted to Peter to be single again because MARVEL felt the Marriage aged him(also writers in the past have said they don’t know how to write a married couple). There were other ways to break the up. My problem with “One More Day” isn’t that Mary Jane and Peter broke up but the reasons for it and the execution.

Yeah, but I would argue that it was MJ who made the decision and she didn’t do it for May, she did it for Pete, because regardless of May’s wishes, Pete simply couldn’t deal with another loved one dying because of him. Maybe that was selfish of Pete, but I think it’s pretty consistent with his character. The unselfish, heroic act of the story was performed by MJ.

But, that’s just me, I know I’m in a minority and I understand why people don’t like it. Maybe there was a better way of doing it?

I’m hoping the “bong” sound effect is a clue that the true villain behind the whole thing was none other than Dr, Bong!

*sigh* Joe Quesada can get so very bent.

I don’t follow Spider-man that closely – so he is in league with Satan now? That’s a bit of a change for the character.

I think that 1992 story is also interesting in the context of the later story Sins Past, because in that story supposedly Mary Jane always knew about the Gwen/Osborn affair.

“I don’t follow Spider-man that closely – so he is in league with Satan now?”

No. Venom is.

Mephisto was an idiot. Mary Jane would’ve traded her love for a Scooby Snack.

Okay, not really, but could you imagine?

I’m hoping the “bong” sound effect is a clue that the true villain behind the whole thing was none other than Dr, Bong!

Can we please make this happen? I’m willing to sign a petition in support of this.

Charles Night: This technically never happened, actually, since the deal itself erased the deal from history. Something you would think Mephisto would have considered at some point, but I guess not.

Wait… The eventual version of what MJ secretly told Mephisto was effectively “Don’t hurt Pete”?

That doesn’t work.

MJ was specifically offering Mephisto something to get him to agree to the additional terms she stated. “Don’t hurt Pete” isn’t a bargaining chip for her side, it is just restating her terms.

At the time, I assumed she was asking to remember the marriage even when no one else did. That way, Mephisto got the added value of her anguish over the love only she remembered, and it gave future editorial a cheap back-door way to bring the marriage back into continuity. I don’t read the Spider-books, so I didn’t know they’d revealed what she whispered to Mephisto, but ‘don’t hurt Peter’ doesn’t seem to fill the bill.

Mr. Trumbull,

Can we start a Change.org petition for Dr. Bong?

Dr. Bong! Lets make this happen!!

Don’t have the exact words. But she whispered Peter would never agree to the deal unless she convinced him. And if she did Mephisto would have to leave Peter alone forever.

Yes! I’ve started something here! It was Dr Bong, disguised as Mephisto, all along! He was also secretly behind the Clone Saga and he’s the real father of Gwen’s kids. Also what Superior Spidey doesn’t know is that Dr Bong has taken over Mary Jane’s body! Awkward!

I think a bong might have been in involved in the plot planning at some point, but I’m not sure if it was the Doctor.

You know, I’ve never bought the story that Quesada simply thought that marriage aged Peter unacceptably. People get married young, and the struggles of a young married couple would resonate with young people. HAVING KIDS ages people, but not getting married. Personally, I thought the explanation for OMD was both simpler and far more crass. I think Quesada and Marvel Editorial were under the impression that there was going to be a Raimi-helmed Spiderman IV that would end with Peter and MJ getting married (finally!) and Quesada wanted them broken up so they could be reunited in time for the next movie and have a big Second Wedding to coincide with Spiderman #700 (which also explains the decision to publish bimonthly — it would push up the next big anniversary to coincide with what they expected to be the next and final movie in what had become a hugely successful franchise). UNFORTUNATELY, Spiderman III didn’t do as well as expected, and the studio decided to go in another direction right after Marvel had broken up one of its most enduring romantic relationships in what is arguably one of the worst written and most poorly received comics arcs in recent memory.

I forgot how much Joe Q hammed up Mephisto’s body language in this story. He’s working overtime to make him visually interesting, when all he’s really doing is talking.

I thought OMD was ghastly, but I understand Joe Q’s reasons for doing it. I wish it had been done better/differently (for heaven’s sake, there was already a “favor” that Loki owed Peter from the Straczynski run, and even though dead, there could have been a way it could have worked, and given his trickster nature it would not have had to be Peter or MJ’s fault as such. Like, “I wish my loved ones were out of harm’s way and that my identity was secret again” and then the magic happens but something backfires and MJ doesn’t know he’s Spider-Man or something.

In the wake of DC’s “New 52″ I find myself very, very sympathetic to the idea that the classic versions of the characters should be able to find a new audience, even if subtly tweaked for each new generation, and I think the young, single, struggling Peter Parker does a much better job at that than the (I believe) horrible attempt to jazz up, and make more cynical and violent, DC’s heroes for an older, presumably more jaded audience. Give me a million more OMDs if that’s the alternative to Flashpoint.

What she actually whispered in issue 545 was “you will make me remember everything”. It was then overlaid with the same lettering flipped over and then shrunk to render it illegible, but if you zoom in on the PDF or Marvel Digital Unlimited comic you can just make it out.

Of course by the time they returned to it in “One Moment In Time” the new creative team had decided that they didn’t want her to carry that kind of baggage around (having flirted with it in issue 561) so the line had to be changed to something about how Mary Jane would persuade Peter to do it on the proviso that Mephisto would stay out of their affairs from now on, which doesn’t entirely fit the sequence of events in the original scene either, but moved matters forward at least.

or we can admit OMD was a horrible story by a crazed fan(Quesada) who hated that Peter was not the same person that Quesada read as a kid. And that Quesada seems to hate all comic book readers. And that the characters in the book were acting horribly out of character. Like MJ and Peter.

looking back at ithe whole thing now true peter was kind of stupid giving up his happiness to make a deal with the devil to save aunt may out ot guilt for her being shot due to him in the first place. but mary jane by agreeing to the deal proved how much she loves peter and also what she whispered may be a way and clause for peter ot some day if marvel ever lets spider man get to be married again get out of the stupid deal with the devil when aunt may should have been allowed to croak to be with uncle ben

Bah, they should have just made MJ the herald of Galactus.

Oh Lord, I just thought of something. What if Peter discovers that somehow Mephisto was involved with Doc Ock is setting up the whole switcheroo. That violates the agreement and would create a loophole that would invalidate the whole Superior Spider Man crap. Somehow, either he communicates that to MJ or Ocky Man lets it slip that Mephisto did something to him in MJ’s presence and that is the whole downfall for Ocky as MJ seeks out Dr. Strange to call Mephisto on the carpet for violating their deal. Assuming, of course, TPTB at Marvel want to go with the story that MJ did not really forget the deal.

I still think that the worst thing about One More Day wasn’t his divorce from MJ, it was his Secret Identity back, that is plain boring

What she actually whispered in issue 545 was “you will make me remember everything”. It was then overlaid with the same lettering flipped over and then shrunk to render it illegible, but if you zoom in on the PDF or Marvel Digital Unlimited comic you can just make it out.

Of course by the time they returned to it in “One Moment In Time” the new creative team had decided that they didn’t want her to carry that kind of baggage around (having flirted with it in issue 561) so the line had to be changed to something about how Mary Jane would persuade Peter to do it on the proviso that Mephisto would stay out of their affairs from now on, which doesn’t entirely fit the sequence of events in the original scene either, but moved matters forward at least.

I featured that one as a Comic Book Legend a few years ago! You can check it out here to see if that’s true or not (hint: it’s not).

So MJ said she wouldn’t trade her marriage for anything and did just that 15 years later? You do realize that every divorced person in the world had, at one time, said, “…’til do us part” or, “…for as long as we both shall live?”

So she made a deal with the “devil.” Most marriages end because one spouse thinks the other IS the “devil.”

Brian, looking back at your linked Comic Book Legend, someone in that post replied that you could read the text balloon with a magnifying glass.

Tom Daylight above said it was legible in the digital version, which I will question. I don’t have a Marvel digital copy of the issue, but I Googled for a large image of the page. On a 1024×1235 image, MJ’s text looked like three lines totaling 9 pixels high. Allowing for white space, that would give at most around 2.5 pixels per line of text. That isn’t enough for a readable font. Going by that, allowing a resolution 2000×2500 would give around five pixels per line. That is getting into readable font territory, but not readable through the described obscuring overlay. Maybe at around 4000×5000, you’d be getting into a size readable through an obscuring layer. I doubt Marvel distributes its digital issues at that size, though?

Pietro- nah, you have to have his secret identity. The dichotomy between Peter Parker and Spider-Man is a huge part of what makes him interesting. Wolverine? Captain America? One guy. You don’t need a secret identity. PP and SM, that is more complex. He’d become a different person, and he needs his Peter Parker time.

OMD was terrible, but it was worth it for BND.

Man, that Romita MJ sure is purty. And this post is pretty funny. I think Brian likes to do these kinda ones to unleash the fanrage on OMD.

I get wanting to have Peter be single, and all that, but as I understand it…

everything happened the same, basically, but Peter and MJ just weren’t married? Is that right?

I also don’t get how Peter and MJ’s love was so great and pure that Mephisto wants to destroy it (and more specifically, the marriage part of it) to piss off God. I’d never had the impression that the marriage was some perfect love and blah blah blah. If that’s what Quesada et al thought of it and that was why it was “so hard to write”, well, I must not have been reading the same comics they were.

Since people have brought up the Doc Ock stuff, let me say (again, I think) that I think the storyline that’s coming up with “Peter” and MJ taking their relationship to another level (at least that’s what it appears) and the rape aspects of that situation are the way to drive in the final nail of Peter and MJ — even if MJ and “Peter” don’t have sex but get close, MJ will be so skeeved out by the idea of Peter’s body possibly being inhabited by Otto’s mind that she’ll leave Peter for good.

At least until the new movie series has Peter and MJ get together, then they’ll get back together. HA!

And it is because of stupid plot lines like thisdrove me from reading Spiderman any more! To have Pete make a deal with the devil was completely out of character. Al because it became a little tough for writers to write about a married superhero??

What’s even stranger is that the Sensational Spider-Man Annual 2007′s feature story was “Till Death Do Us Part” by Matt Fraction that pretty much repeated this exact sentiment in long form (http://marvel.com/comic_books/issue/13491/sensational_spider-man_annual_2007_1).

The Annual came out in May 2007. OMD came out in November 2007. Quite a change of course in six months.

I have to agree with Paul Cornish with regard to Mary Jane being the true hero of One More Day.

Peter has struggled at times to handle Uncle Ben’s and Gwen’s deaths. Both weigh heavily on his conscience, with the guilt of both often driving him forward as Spider-Man. MJ reasoned that Aunt May’s death would be too much for him to bear, despite her spirit telling him that she’d lived a good life (with MJ offering a similar argument earlier in the story).

Ultimately, Peter fails to choose… and Mary Jane steps forward, her love for Peter so strong that she is willing to sacrifice their marriage for his future happiness.

I’m not saying One More Day was great by any means… although, without it, we wouldn’t have had Brand New Day, Big Time or Superior Spider-Man. If sacrificing the marriage meant those stories happened as they were told, then I’m all for it!

Spider Symbiote

January 21, 2013 at 7:40 am

Dang! How did that Anonymous post happen?!?

That was me! Sorry, folks!

Mr. Trumbull,

Can we start a Change.org petition for Dr. Bong?

I like this plan. I’m excited to be a part of it. :)

David – I like your Loki idea a lot better than what we got!!

What Mary Jane said was, “I want to remember.”

Think about it.

Travis:

For the record, I don’t think Ock’s consciousness is really in Peter’s body. I think it’s still Peter Parker, with the Ock “overlay,” so basically it’s still Peter Parker walking around thinking he’s Ock. That way it’s nice and easy to eventually erase the overlay and boom, Peter’s back, when in fact he never left. Or I’m horribly wrong. Just my two cents.

still to this day the biggest cop out in spiderman history in my opinion. There will never be a story where peter will go after Mephisto for revenge or whatever or any other kind of interaction between the two characters. This is going to be forgotten because MJ whispers something like “Ill agree to this is you agree to leave peter alone forever” and mephisto agrees.

@Citizen Alan That’s an interesting theory, and I could buy them trying to do that. However that’s not how the movies played out. Spider-man 3, though critically taken to task, actually made more money than the other two world-wide (though it did cost more to make). Raimi was going to make 4. Was even talk of Vulture casting (Malkovich). But he wanted more time to work on the script because he felt it wasn’t ready, and knew getting things pushed through was a big FAIL on 3. But they wanted to stick to their tentpole release date, and so they parted ways and then decided to reboot the whole thing. Just for the release date. So they got their tentpole, but they also got the lowest grossing of the Spider-man movies.

Some part of me is just praying that Aunt May sells her soul to Mephisto to save Peter from Doc Ock.

Bring it full circle Marvel. You can do it.

A Horde of Evil Hipsters

January 22, 2013 at 12:03 am

“Some part of me is just praying that Aunt May sells her soul to Mephisto to save Peter from Doc Ock. ”

Or Doc O. selling his soul to Peter to save Mephisto from Aunt May!

This is one of the stupidest things I have seen. This is the only storyline that ticks me off.

I’m one of those people that doesn’t care whether Peter’s married or not. I think Erik Larsen’s idea of revealing that the priest who married Peter/MJ turned out not to be a real priest (therefore, they were never officially married even though they thought they were) was an effective way to get from A to B. That being said, it continues to boggle my mind how Joe Quesada thought that it was a good idea to have his flagship character — and poster boy for taking responsibility for your actions — turn to the Devil to undo mistakes he made, was a good idea.

JMS tried to warn him. I bet a bunch of people tried to warn him. But how do you convince a guy who just kept hitting home runs (Marvel was turning things around with New Avengers and Civil War) that he is still capable of making mistakes? I never thought that anything could surpass the controversy of the Clone Saga, but they managed to do it with One More Day.

Even with JQ gone to Hollywood (like everyone predicted he would), Steve Wacker still owes Joe Quesada his livelihood. Don’t expect this storyline to get retconned as long as he’s editing the Spidey books. But I am absolutely certain that the “Deal With Satan” will get retconned when enough time has passed that whoever’s showrunning Spider-Man doesn’t owe JQ anything (just like they eventually retconned the Clone Saga).

As long as it remains cannon that Peter Parker struck a deal with the Devil to undo mistakes he made that he wishes he never made… that he literally turned to Satan when God wouldn’t give him what he wanted… then he has no business preaching about great responsibility. This Peter Parker has absolutely no credibility (and I’m not referring to Doc Ock).

Joey Q. might be gone from the chair, but the people he hired and worked with are still there. When they no longer are, we’re going to start reading about how things really went down behind the scenes, just like we eventually did with the Clone Saga. And everyone will take turns admitting how they did everything they could to convince JQ it was a bad idea, but they had to remain loyal to the company.

Sooner or later. You’ll see. They’re all going to want to distance themselves from one of the worst mishandlings of a flagship character in comic book history.

Instead of doing a soft reboot with BND, Marvel should have just bit the bullet and did a hard reboot. Marvel continuity on the whole is insane – Spidey’s is wacky, but the X-Men’s takes multiple PhDs to comprehend.

It’s one of the main reasons I haven’t read an X-Men comic on a regular basis since 1996.

I always hated OMD, but one of the main reasons I do, and it’s something is rarely mentioned is that it happened so quickly after Peter’s reveal of his identity that there was no chance to dwell into that.

Which is a real shame, because some really interesting stories were buried there, and now we might never see them. What about all those people who realized what that really meant? His friends, teachers and employers that suddenly realized the real reason Peter dissapeared all the time when they had thought all along he was just lazy.

But what I really wanted to see was Peter having a conversation with Jameson after the reveal. Sitting down to talk (Jonah most likely restrained) and discuss everything. That would have been great to see, but no, it was all a wasted opportunity, all because Quesada is a jerk.

I always hated OMD, but one of the main reasons I do, and it’s something is rarely mentioned is that it happened so quickly after Peter’s reveal of his identity that there was no chance to dwell into that.

Which is a real shame, because some really interesting stories were buried there, and now we might never see them. What about all those people who realized what that really meant? His friends, teachers and employers that suddenly realized the real reason Peter dissapeared all the time when they had thought all along he was just lazy.

But what I really wanted to see was Peter having a conversation with Jameson after the reveal. Sitting down to talk (Jonah most likely restrained) and discuss everything. That would have been great to see, but no, it was all a wasted opportunity, all because Quesada is a jerk.

Peter David did pretty much all of that in his Post-Civil War issues of Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man.

“Peter David did pretty much all of that in his Post-Civil War issues of Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man.”

I remember Jameson talking to Robbie, but not to Peter. That’s what I would have liked to see. Unless there’s some issue I somehow missed.

There was an issue of Friendly Neighbourhood Spidey where Jameson confronts Peter about it and Pete lets Jameson beat him up in a boxing ring and then Jameson drops his lawsuit against Peter.

Thanks, Paul! I can’t believe I missed that one. I guess I didn’t pay much attention because I pretty much stopped reading Spidey comics after OMD, only getting ocassional ones when recommended, so I didn’t do much to look for previous issues.

Hm, I’m wondering now, is it possible that in the Marvel cosmology, God won’t take Peter now because he made the deal with Mephisto, and Mephisto can’t take him because he promised he wouldn’t touch Peter again? And that’s why he’s still in Ock’s body?

I mean, it doesn’t really jibe with what happened in ASM 700…

OTOH, maybe Uncle Ben and everyone are just sick of Peter crying about how horrible a person he is because he didn’t save Ben. “We keep telling you, you save lots of other people! You learned that with great power…BLAH BLAH BLAH! Shut up already!”

Or something.

M J didn’t make the decision. Joe Quesada did. Its still one of the worst decisions in comic book history
It’s as though Marvel can’t tolerate any of its characters having a fulfilling, enduring and commited relationship. Relationships between Marvels characters aren’t worth following. They will never end well.

What people should have said was, “F— you, Mephisto. I used to worry about Aunt May, but she’s died so often and come back, I now realize she could survive a direct hit from a nuclear warhead. Your deal is therefore meaningless to me.”

HA HA, Awessome, Andy Nystrom.

And to Jon, AMEN, BROTHER.
I’m sure you’re right.
it just shows that Joe Q. or the group didn’t understand that Spidey belongs to everybody now, he is part of our collective culture and consciousness.
He isn’t just a cheapy coin that you play in a machine that automatically makes you more money.
We teach little kids to “listen to Spidey, trust your Spider-sense.”
I work in education, and they use Spidey and his intuiton as an example for youngsters to avoid people like sexual predators.
The whole story is SO dumb, you guys have no idea even what you’ve done.
Kids don’t get how this guy who always does the right thing is desperately making a deal with someone who is obviously not just evil, but EE-VILLE…. if not being a representation of the Devil.
When you reduce Spidey to dollar signs, you completely miss the boat on why he’s special to people.
Eroding his specialness will just make it easier for him to fade away like old comic book characters.
The ones that fade do so because nobody has any connection to them.

@David: Something like that happened in Flash #200. After Zoom causes Wally’s wife Linda to miscarry the twins she was expecting, Wally asks The Spectre (still Hal at that point) to erase everyone’s memory of him being The Flash. Unfortunately, when Wally said everyone, it really meant EVERYONE – even his Wally forgot that he was the Flash. (Though he remembered soon after)

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