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Should Marvel restore Spider-Man and Mary Jane’s marriage? The pros & cons, according to Marvel itself

One Marvel title is showing us the pros and the cons of the Spider-Marriage

Spider-Man and Mary Jane in Ultimate Spider-Man
Image credit: Marvel

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Should Spider-Man be married?

That’s a question that is still hotly debated among fandom. In 1987 Spider-Man and Peter Parker got married in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21. The two spent 20 years as husband and wife, before their marriage was erased from history by the demonic Mephisto in the 2007 storyline One More Day.

Now Spider-Man and Mary Jane are married again…in another reality. Jonathan Hickman and Marco Checchetto’s Ultimate Spider-Man explores a world where Peter and Mary Jane have started a family. However, Ultimate Spider-Man #6 raises some interesting questions about the Spider-Marriage. Is it too good to be true, and should Peter Parker be married? Let’s break it down…

Warning: Spoilers ahead for Ultimate Spider-Man #6!

Keep up to date on Popverse's Marvel coverage, with these highlights: Disney CEO Bob Iger is promising Deadpool & Wolverine will be MCU's biggest movie "in a long time", how Marvel Studios is now working "much more closely" to sell Marvel comics, how Marvel Comics' boss said it was lost in 2023 (and how its finding itself again), Inside Marvel Comics' plans to fix its pricing issues, Overgrown children of the atom: Marvel's X-Men can't evolve past their '90s commercial peak, and the biggest outstanding questions of the Marvel Studios' movies & TV shows.

How Jonathan Hickman is handling the Spider-Marriage

Peter Parker, Mary Jane Watson, and their kids in Ultimate Spider-Man #6
Image credit: Marvel

If you aren’t reading Ultimate Spider-Man, here’s what you need to know. The series is set in an alternate reality where Peter Parker never became Spider-Man as a teenager. Peter is 35 years old and married to Mary Jane Watson. The couple have two young children named Richard and May. Peter becomes Spider-Man after receiving a mysterious orb from Tony Stark.

The orb contained a genetically altered spider, a stealth suit, and a mysterious message about Peter’s destiny. Basically, Tony Stark knew Peter was supposed to be Spider-Man in another reality, so he sent Peter the orb to make things right. For more on the premise of Ultimate Spider-Man, check out this primer we wrote for the first issue.

Jonathan Hickman has portrayed the Parker marriage as healthy and secure, with one odd caveat. When Peter became Spider-Man, he decided to keep it a secret from his wife. Issue 1 has the couple cryptically talk about a big choice Peter must make, but he is never specific about what it is. Mary Jane makes it clear that she will support Peter in whatever he feels he needs to do.

It’s not like Peter waited a few days to tell MJ he was Spider-Man. He operated as Spider-Man for months without telling his wife. Peter has been working with Harry Osborn aka Green Goblin, who is not a villain (yet) in this reality. Harry was allowed to know his identity, but not Mary Jane. Peter’s daughter May discovered his double life, and he asked her to keep it a secret. I’m a bit uncomfortable with Peter asking his young daughter to keep a secret from her mother.

In Ultimate Spider-Man #4, Harry is surprised to learn that Mary Jane is still unaware of the secret. “I haven’t told MJ because…look, it’s not that I don’t trust her or anything – that would be ridiculous…but I have to protect them, don’t I,” Peter says.

Mary Jane finally discovers the secret in Ultimate Spider-Man #6. Peter shows up to breakfast with a shiner on his face, causing May to accidentally blurt out his secret. After a brief talk with the kids, Peter and Mary Jane have a private discussion about the Spider-Man development. “I’m afraid to ask, but how mad are you,” Peter asks. “Peter, I’m not mad. A lot of confusing stuff is suddenly making sense, but I’m not mad. I do wish you would’ve told me sooner. But hearing you tell us what happened – scary as it was – I’m mostly proud. Call it...30% scared, 40% impressed…there may be other numbers for other things,” Mary Jane replies.

That is a very calm response from someone who just found out their husband had been keeping a secret for months and roped their daughter into the conspiracy. In a sweet moment, Peter and Mary Jane go web-swinging together, and she gives him the name Spider-Man. Prior to this issue, Peter had just been a nameless vigilante.

The problem with Hickman’s Spider-Marriage

Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson in Ultimate Spider-Man #6
Image credit: Marvel

Maybe I should withhold any judgement until the first storyline is finished, but so far Hickman’s take on the Spider-Marriage isn’t working for me. It’s refreshing to see Peter and Mary Jane on the same page, especially after they’ve spent so much time in disharmony over in the main continuity books. However, their marriage seems almost too perfect.

Mary Jane is far too understanding about Peter becoming a superhero without telling her. I’m not saying I want them arguing or growing apart, but things feel too easy. That’s one of the difficulties with writing the Spider-Marriage. If there is too much drama, it’s uncomfortable to read. If it’s too harmonious, it doesn’t feel authentic. Writers like J.M. DeMatteis, Paul Jenkins, and Peter David did a good job finding the right balance during the marriage years.

Maybe Jonathan Hickman has plans that will address my concerns. It’s possible that Mary Jane’s attitude will make sense by the end of the first storyline. Part of me is also wondering if this is a metaphorical gift for fans of the Spider-Marriage. Some readers have been waiting for decades to see Mary Jane and Peter as husband and wife again. Meanwhile, they’ve seen Peter and Mary Jane break up and get back together in mainstream continuity. Perhaps Hickman thought those fans deserved a drama-free Spider-Marriage.

Peter and Mary Jane’s marriage is certainly a pillar of the title. When the original Ultimate Spider-Man title debuted in 2000, it gave fans a chance to see a young single Peter Parker during a period where his mainstream continuity counterpart was married. Decades later, we’re seeing the inverse. Hickman is giving us a married Peter Parker, while the mainstream continuity Spider-Man is navigating single life. The mainstream Peter Parker seems to be perpetually 25, while Ultimate Peter is a decade older, and a father of two. It sets Ultimate Spider-Man apart in a very important way.

It's also possible that something bad could happen to Peter’s family. Tragedy is a cornerstone of Spider-Man’s life. That could be a reason why the marriage is being written as idyllic as it is, since it would make an inevitable tragedy hit harder.

Either way, Hickman is up to something. Anybody who has read Hickman’s Avengers and Fantastic Four runs knows that he plays the long game.

Should Spider-Man and Mary Jane be married?

Ultimate Spider-Man #1 variant cover
Image credit: Marvel

Spider-Man and Mary Jane’s marriage has been a topic of debate since the couple first exchanged vows in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21 (1987). Some readers feel like the marriage takes away some of the drama from Peter’s life. Romance problems have been a part of the Spider-Man titles since the early days, and marriage closes that door. Plus, there is a sense in early Spider-Man titles that it’s Peter Parker against the world. He’s misunderstood by everyone around him, and his secret isolates him. Having a loving wife at home removes that dynamic.

On the other hand, some readers feel like the Spider-Marriage adds more than it takes away. It’s nice to see that Peter Parker got a happy ending after everything he’s been through. Plus, Mary Jane is a strong supporting character who adds a lot to the title. While marriage means we can’t have anymore love triangles or ‘Spider-Man misses a date’ stories, some readers found those concepts to be played out.

There are more arguments from both sides, but we don’t have unlimited space. Suffice to say, the Spider-Marriage issue is still being debated. If you’re curious, I’m a fan of marriage, and I was disappointed when it was dissolved in 2007.

In some ways, Ultimate Spider-Man can be seen as an experiment. Fans could read the book and determine if the Spider-Marriage works. Does it make Peter’s life more or less interesting? Does it improve the sales?

While Ultimate Spider-Man is a high-seller, we can’t say for sure how much of that is based on the marriage. Hickman’s name has some star-power, and the launch of a new Spider-Man title in the (rebooted) Ultimate Universe was highly publicized.

Should Spider-Man and Mary Jane be married? It’s a subjective question, but if you aren’t sure then I would suggest an experiment. Read the last six issues of Amazing Spider-Man, then read the last six issues of Ultimate Spider-Man. After you’re done, ask yourself which version of Spider-Man you enjoyed more.

The Spider-Marriage conversation isn’t stopping anytime soon

Spider-Man wedding
Image credit: Marvel

Like it or not, the discourse surrounding the Spider-Marriage isn’t going away anytime soon. Whenever Marvel holds a Spider-Man panel at a convention, it’s inevitable that a fan will ask about the marriage during the q-n-a portion of the panel. In fact, sometimes it’s Marvel that brings it up first. During New York Comic Con 2023, Marvel mentioned the Spider-Marriage during a few of their panels.

During an Avengers panel, Doctor Strange’s marriage to Clea was brought up. This caused editor-in-chief C.B. Cebulski to make a joke. “So Marvel doesn’t hate true love? Someone tell that to the Spider-Man fans,” Cebulski quipped. The room was filled with laughter and some groans. One fan yelled, “Too soon,” to which Cebulski replied “Too soon? It was almost 20 years ago.”

Cebulski does bring up an interesting point. The Spider-Man marriage was dissolved in 2007, which was 17 years ago. It’s been nearly two decades, and the conversation hasn’t died down. This is still something fans care about, and the discourse isn’t going away anytime soon. Even with Ultimate Spider-Man giving readers a married Peter Parker.

For now, Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson are happily married in Hickman’s Ultimate Spider-Man. Whether that marriage can (and should) survive remains to be seen.

An advance review copy of Ultimate Spider-Man #6 was provided ahead of release by Marvel.

Marvel's most reliable superhero has proven he can do a whole lot more than just 'whatever a spider can.' Swing into Spidey's history with Popverse's 10 best Spider-Man comic books, our Spider-Man movie watch order, and if you want our opinions on the subject, read our articles ranking Spider-Man's actors and Spider-Man's girlfriends.

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Joshua Lapin-Bertone avatar
Joshua Lapin-Bertone: Joshua is a pop culture writer specializing in comic book media. His work has appeared on the official DC Comics website, the DC Universe subscription service, HBO Max promotional videos, the Batman Universe fansite, and more. In between traveling around the country to cover various comic conventions, Joshua resides in Florida where he binges superhero television and reads obscure comics from yesteryear.
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