Saturday, March 31, 2012

On the Coffee Table: Peter Parker's Love Life

Title: The Amazing Spider-Man (Marvel Masterworks, Vol. 2)
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Steve Ditko

Image via Barnes & Noble

Peter Parker/Spider-Man is, by design, a fairly static character. One of the great strengths of the franchise is that one can pick up a Spidey comic from any decade and instantly recognize the goofy, aw-shucks persona of our dependable web slinger. He's always worried about Aunt May and ready to drop everything for her. He's always nervous about someone discovering his secret identity. J. Jonah Jameson always hates him. As such, long-term engagement in the Spider-Man saga is, at least for me, largely dependent on the supporting cast. The Amazing Spider-Man (Marvel Masterworks, Vol. 2) covers issues #11-19 plus the first annual, all originally published in 1964. The story element which is most intriguing to me at this stage is Peter Parker's love life. The rivalry between Betty Brant and Liz Allan is a recurring theme in this time period and there is also occasional mention of Mary Jane Watson, though she won't make her first actual appearance until issue #25.

Betty Brant is Peter Parker's first real girlfriend. Peter met her as Jameson's secretary at The Daily Bugle and twice already, Spider-Man has had to save her from great peril. I like Betty but her jealousy of Liz Allan (more on her shortly) is her undoing. Peter's bumblings in trying to balance having a normal life with maintaining a secret identity aren't much help, either. By the end of Volume 2, Betty has taken up with someone new but still has unresolved feelings for Peter.

Image via What Were They Thinking?

Liz Allan is a fellow student at Peter's high school. She hangs with the cool crowd. Flash Thompson, foe to Peter Parker but Spidey's biggest fan, is in love with her and, though she resists the idea, thinks of Liz as his girl. In the beginning of the Spider-Man saga, Liz tormented Peter along with everyone else but she changed her tune once Peter stopped showing interest in her. Liz's infatuation with "Puny Parker" drives Flash nuts. Liz's affection for Peter seems genuine, though she clearly enjoys the power she has over Flash as well. Peter spurns her affection but she needles Betty mercilessly whenever she's around so Betty is intimidated by her.

Image via Comic Vine

Aunt May isn't impressed by either girl. She's continually trying to set Peter up with Mary Jane, niece of her neighbor. We have yet to see Mary Jane but nearly 50 years on, I and probably you also know the importance she will play in Spidey's story long-term. I'm looking forward to seeing how the next part of the story plays out.

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