I'm putting this couple up here because they're important - not just to me but to fandom in general. They've shown that people care about comic book couples to the point of almost being scary, albeit for totally valid reasons (most of the time). They're nigh-on as iconic as Superman and Lois Lane, as fun as Ice and Guy Gardener, and at times as tumultuous as Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. They've been depicted in both film, manga and regular continuity for decades. They may not be your favorite pairing but they were the first comic book couple I ever read about and grew attached to. I'm talking about the one and only . . .
5. Spider-Man and Mary Jane Watson
Putting them on this list feels almost expected or gratuitous after all the hullabaloo on Teh Interweb about One More Day and the cheap, magical dissolution of their marriage. Keep in mind, I'm not writing this out of anger (and keep in mind that link right there was Pre-Steph case, so I was a trifle cynical) - I'm writing this out of love. I really do love this couple when they're written correctly, without laziness or cheese. Whereas the Powers That Be at Marvel see only a staid, limiting marriage, a lot of people, myself included, see the strong, healthy relationship they grew up with. Hell, before I ever went on a date, I'd read years and years of "relationship education" in the form of watching Peter Parker woo Mary Jane Watson - which turned out to be a little bit of a mixed blessing but that's a story for another time. Still, the point is that their relationship was an undeniably major influence in how I came to see and understand the very concept of love.
Sounds cheesy, right? I know. I'm almost embarrassed to admit it. It helps to know I'm not alone. The main reason I've loved them is that they're a couple I could understand completely, right from the ground up. Spider-Man is the mask that hides nerdy, insecure Peter Parker, right? We all know that. What most people don't get is that "Mary Jane, the model/actress" is the mask that hides the insecure, often unhappy Mary Jane, the person. They both wear masks and have done so constantly - for years. This was illustrated most poignantly in the briliant GN Spider-Man: Parallel Lives
Mary Jane is a fully-realized woman with her own issues who loves Peter, not in spite of either of their issues but because of them. They suit each other on deeper levels than most people realize. So, if you want to piss me off real quick like and alienate people from this relationship? Reduce her to being nothing but Spider-Man's "Prize" at the end of the day instead of the woman who loves and supports him and - this is crucial - vice versa. Be lazy and write her like a vapid supermodel, instead of the deep, pained woman who sees how hard the life Peter and her share together really is, then chooses to smile and champion him anyways. Par example -
Now, it's okay to have Peter be thankful for having her in his life; in fact, I'd resent it if he wasn't grateful. Still, there's a difference in being thankful for a partner and taking her for granted. Lazily writing MJ as just "the hostage", "the wife" or worse is what some writers have been guilty of for years . . . which I think has lead to the wrongheadedness of One More Day but again, I digress. The point I'm trying to make is that they are thankful for one another and that they should be.
I'd even go so far to say that these two are a trifle codependent but it works for them. One needs the other to stand up to their tallest, to feel their best about life. Peter feels stronger because he can come home to the unwavering support of Mary Jane. Mary Jane feels better about herself because she knows that she makes him feel that way. Every life he saves is half hers and I think that's beautiful. They married one another without pretext or games, knowing full well what it would entail. I'd even go so far as to say that if you're not showing MJ as being as brave or as noble as Peter himself, you're not doing your job.
You know what my favorite thing about Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane is? You might think that it's that Mary Jane is the central (fully-clothed) character, not Spider-Man, and that's fair. No, what I love the most about the series is the cover of that first issue, telling you everything you need to know about these characters. Mary Jane is choosing to love Spider-Man. He may be the one with the powers but she's making the choice to love him. He's trusting her not to let him fall and they're both loving every minute of it.
The one thing I learned about love from the Spidey/MJ marriage growing up was that love wasn't a condition. Seeing these two struggle and support each other taught the naive, younger me that love wasn't a passive, storybook state of being. Love is a choice you have to make every day - something you fight for and maintain like a garden. Sometimes it's a damned hard choice to make but you make it. They call it "making love" for a reason - it's two people putting themselves out there in all their unashamed glory to make something beautiful happen. And if you're doing it right, making love takes a lot of sweat, passion, tenderness and time.
While I do wish they'd show MJ and Spidey sharing these sorts of sentiments when MJ's in something other than lingerie, I suppose it makes sense for Peter to only be able to share his most intimate feelings when he's at his most vulnerable. That and I guess they assume fanboys won't listen to tender moments if she's not half-naked. *sigh* Still, that's not the point. The point is that they're a healthy, happy couple - or were at least, until Joey Q. and company decided that showing a real, adult relationship in comic book form was too much work.
This is the first comic book couple I ever loved and it bothers me that they aren't together any more. Sure, there's still other places I can enjoy Peter and MJ (and I do love the hell out of Ultimate Mary Jane and Peter, mind you) but it's not the same as the marriage I grew up with.
Really, I could post a hundred snapshots of why I love these two but I'll stop here. If anybody needs me, I'll be taking my own advice about waiting out One More Day until people realize just how wonderful this relationship was and bring it back.
BONUS VIDEO CONTENT!
The Iconic Upside-Down Kiss!
Live Action Spider-Wedding!