(Soundtrack: Smashing Pumpkins Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness...In my opinion, the only thing better than an all-Corgan soundtrack for a Spider-Man film would be an all-Ramones effort--certainly, if I had any say in the matter, Danny Elfman and Nickleback wouldn't be allowed anywhere near the production!)
So. If you were Gerry Conway, and you were taking over the scripting chores on Amazing Spider-Man, and you had thought a bit about the implications of the panel above, what would you do?
I think most of us are on the same page when it comes to condemning the "characterization by killing the wife/girlfriend of the protagonist" school of writing--but what about when a character is killed in order to clarify a relationship between a pair of more interesting characters--and to generate a countervailing subjectivity within a narrative that had been dangerously solipsistic up until that point in the series?
For me, "Spider-Man" really begins with this page from issue #122:
I mean--whose point-of-view is expressed here? I would say both Peter's and Mary-Jane's--and that's something new for Spider-Man (it's not exactly common in any genre/medium...)
Whilst googling around, I came across this massive blow-by-blow history of the Peter-MJ relationship, and I urge everyone who has any interest in Super-Suds to read it!
Among other things, the piece (by "the Madgoblin") offers an interesting discussion of, in my opinion, the most successful "retcon" in Marvel history (Stern, DeFalco and Conway's drawn-out project of revealing that MJ had known about Peter's activities as Spider-Man from the beginning). One aspect of the Madgoblin piece that bothers me is the author's interpretation of the saga as "Peter's search for the ideal woman". For my part, I see it as Mary Jane's ongoing struggle to progress from an object in Peter's field of cognition to a subject powerful enough to disrupt the "spider-man formula", as laid down in Amazing Fantasy #15--and to maintain that ontological status. The odds are against her, of course, because the various magazines always feature the word "Spider-man" in their titles--but that's just what makes the character's development so fascinating! I like to think of this as "overcoming Ditko"--because the strip's creator certainly adhered to his Randean philosophy in this "MJ is MJ" introduction to the character:
No room for anything but the "male gaze" there, certainly--but the significant fact is that, as soon as Ditko left, we were finally permitted to look this character in the eye, although the Objectivist hangover persisted until that scene at the end of ASM #122.
Mary Jane's plight, during Conway's seventies run on ASM, is actually very similar to Zenobia's in The Blithedale Romance--she is engaged in a knock-down-drag-out contest of wills with an epistemologically privileged protagonist who is hell-bent upon "turning the affair (of Gwen Stacy's death/of Priscilla's rejection of Coverdale) into a ballad".