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George Marston

The star-crossed history of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson's romance

Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson in Marvel Comics.

"Face it Tiger, you just hit the jackpot."

That's the now immortal phrase that Mary Jane Watson said when she first met Peter Parker. And over the years, as their relationship has ebbed and flowed on the comic book page, that catchphrase has remained a touchstone, even providing MJ with her pet name for Peter, and her current superhero codename Jackpot.

But even though Mary Jane is now a superhero, she and Peter Parker remain apart in mainstream superhero continuity. While their relationship may be a favorite among fans, it seems Marvel Comics has other ideas for the core 616 reality Peter and MJ.

Still, Peter Parker and Mary Jane have close to 50 years of history between them. And with Valentine's Day putting love in the air, we're looking back at all they've been through, where they are now, and even the alternate realities where they never broke up at all.

The early years

Peter Parker and Mary Jane's romance may seem like the most natural thing in the world to fans who see them as each others' one true love. But Pete and MJ have always been a little bit star-crossed. Even their first meeting - the one where Peter "hit the Jackpot" - came as a surprise for Peter.

Before they actually met, Peter's Aunt May was continually trying to set him up with her friend's niece, Mary Jane, any time he found himself single. Peter wasn't interested though, as he assumed that May was trying to set him up with a boring girl who couldn't get a date, to the point where her face was hidden by a plant in her first appearance in 1965's Amazing Spider-Man #25 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. 

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

But as Peter soon found out when he and MJ finally came face to face in 1966's Amazing Spider-Man #42 by Lee and artist John Romita, her stunning beauty was enough to make him fall in love. Still though, they only dated briefly before breaking up, with Peter subsequently dating Gwen Stacy, while Mary Jane began dating Peter's best friend, Harry Osborn. 

This led to tensions in the friend group as they all shared various insecurities and jealousies about each others' partners. Then, the unthinkable happened, and Peter's girlfriend Gwen Stacy was killed by Harry's father Norman Osborn, the Green Goblin, leaving Peter traumatized and heartbroken. When this was followed by Norman's accidental death at his own hand in battle with Spider-Man, Harry's grief then led to his break up with Mary Jane. 

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

All the tension and heartbreak finally came to a head when Peter and Mary Jane finally shared a kiss several years later, leading them to finally get back together as a couple for the long haul following 1975's Amazing Spider-Man #150, nearly a decade after they first met. But their troubles weren't over just yet.

Just married

It was around this time that Peter first proposed to MJ. Though Mary Jane and Peter were deeply in love, MJ felt that she didn't want to be tied down to just one person, and refused his proposal.

This led to a period of time where Peter and MJ were off-again-on-again, during which Peter himself briefly dated the Black Cat, a relationship that has since had its own fraught history. And after a few break-ups and reconciliations with Black Cat, Peter once again proposed to Mary Jane - and again she turned him down, anxious about his double life as Spider-Man, a secret she discovered on her own.

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

It then came as a surprise a short time later that it was actually Peter's life as Spider-Man that finally brought them together seemingly for good, when Peter intervened as Spider-Man as Mary Jane's criminal father tried to rope her and her sister into a scheme. That led Mary Jane to reconsider her life and Peter's place in it, and she ultimately accepted his proposal in 1987's Amazing Spider-Man #290.

While the wedding of Peter Parker and Mary Jane would take place in 1987's Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21, more than 20 years after Peter Parker and Mary Jane first met, the wedding of Spider-Man and Mary Jane would become a real world publicity event hosted by Marvel Comics at New York City's now dearly departed Shea Stadium.

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Peter and MJ then entered a long period of married ups-and-downs, including a miscarriage, a separation, a Clone Saga, and seemingly everything else a superhero and his wife can endure. But through it all, they always came back together, destined to always find each other in the turmoil and reunite. 

At least, that's how it seemed. Then something happened that changed everything.

One More Day

In 2007, exactly 20 years after Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson-Parker married (in real world time at least), the unthinkable happened in the now infamous story Spider-Man: One More Day

Following Peter Parker revealing his identity as Spider-Man to the world in the events of 2006's Civil War, a deadly villain targeted Peter's Aunt May to get revenge for Peter's actions as Spider-Man. May was mortally wounded, and as she laid dying in a hospital bed, Peter and Mary Jane were suddenly confronted with a horrific choice at the hands of a totally unexpected source: Marvel's demonic villain Mephisto.

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Mephisto's proposition was simple - sort of. He told Peter and MJ that he could save Aunt May's life, but in exchange, they would have to up their marriage. Mephisto's reasons were never explained, but ultimately, Peter and Mary Jane tearfully agreed to his devilish bargain. 

May is saved, but Mephisto rewrote all of Marvel's reality to be as if Peter and Mary Jane were never married at all.

For years, it seemed Peter and MJ would never get another shot at happiness, despite the strange and abrupt end to their marriage. Fans have pretty much never stopped calling for 'One More Day' to be undone since it was initially published. 

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

And in 2021, it seemed their prayers would be answered in Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 5 #74 when Peter and MJ finally broke pact with Mephisto, deciding to move back in together just a few months later. But even this reunion came with a dire twist.

Modern lovers

When Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 6 #1 opened with a six month time jump following the end of the previous volume, Peter and MJ were very much NOT a thing. And what's more, Mary Jane was dating a new character named Paul, and raising a pair of young children who bore a striking resemblance to the couple.

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

The hows and whys of this are a little tough to explain, but the simplest explanation is that MJ and Paul were trapped by a villain in an alternate timeline where time moves much faster than in the core universe. They wound up spending months there together, relying on each other for survival and finding their mysterious kids, ultimately falling in love.

When Peter finally brought them home, though only a short time has passed for him, for Paul and MJ, their entire lives have changed. MJ broke up with Peter, moving in with Paul. And when their two kids were revealed to be an illusion created by the villain, who secretly has ties to Paul, they decided to stay together.

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

And that's where things are in the core Marvel Universe right now, with Peter and MJ seemingly in another down period where their relationship seems destined to fail. But they've been here before, for decades in fact. And when you factor in the 20 years before their marriage when they were on-again-off-again and caught up in drama, that's surprisingly been the baseline of Peter Parker and Mary Jane's relationship for more time than when they were happily married.

What that means is there's still hope, and for Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson, their relationship has often taken decades to reach its next phase. Still, if you're willing to go outside the core Marvel Universe, there are comics where you can read about a married Peter and MJ.

Happy together

In 2015, Marvel introduced the alt-timeline title Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows as part of its reality altering Secret Wars event. In this universe, Peter and MJ are married with a daughter named Annie Parker, and eventually become a full-on superhero family when Annie develops super powers. 

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

When reality returned to mostly normal after Secret Wars, Marvel kept Renew Your Vows going alongside the core Spider-Man title for a little while, though it eventually came to an end.

Now, in the brand new incarnation of Marvel's Ultimate Universe, Peter Parker and Mary Jane are a married couple with two kids - and in this brand new continuity, Peter is just now developing his spider-powers at age 35. 

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Ultimate Spider-Man #2 is about to release on February 21, so if your Valentine's Day spirit is calling for stories of Peter and MJ in love, there's still plenty of time to get in right on the ground floor of the new title.

Stay up to date on all the new Spider-Man comics Marvel has planned for release.

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