Spider-Man Romances In Animation - A Retrospective

Part One - Part Two - Part Three - Part Four - Part Five - Part Six - Part Seven - Part Eight

The second season of Spider-Man actually opens with Spidey daydreaming about both Felicia and MJ before his powers start to play silly buggers with him. Realising that he doesn’t have a choice in the matter and realising he is Spider-Man no more, he is free to do as he likes! Date girls! Get a job! Lie in on weekends! He realises this the moment after he’s forgotten to meet Felicia at the Coffee Bean, his old hangout from the John Romita days. His luck goes from bad to worse when Michael Morbius, the arrogant jerk from his class rescues Felicia from a mugger and by episode’s end, they’re dating. You ballsed up there, Pete. Not to worry, there’s still MJ as a delightful consolation prize. With the thought that he might be turning into a monster any minute, Peter began to separate himself from MJ should the worst happen.

When the mutation finally does take place and Peter finds four extra arms emerging from his sides, who should call him but MJ, once again forcing him to ditch her. Once the transformation gets worse and he becomes Man Spider, his humanity attempts to find comfort with MJ as the monster takes over, only to realise he’s actually scaring the poop out of her and would you believe it? He actually starts something between Harry and MJ as she is immediately taken by the fact Harry tried to protect her from Man Spider. I love the fact that they were willing to try so many different things with the romances in the show and didn’t just have 65 episodes of Peter pining for MJ – they were willing to take some bold moves with the romances and actually had them play an integral part in Peter’s life.

Morbius becomes even more of a pain in Peter’s ass when he steals a vile of his poisoned blood and is bitten by a radioactive vampire bat and becomes a living vampire. I always thought the build up to Morbius was outstanding – make you absolutely hate him for being an arrogant prick and then stealing Pete’s girl before turning him into something of a sympathetic villain. Sadly, the censors got in the way and everything quickly went down the crapper the moment he started craving plasma. One wonders if Morbius should’ve gotten past the concept stage the moment they said he wasn’t allowed to suck blood…

Interesting enough, Felicia grows to hate Spider-Man after she believes he kidnapped Morbius. This wasn’t really played up on as much as I’d have liked but given how the next two episodes were pretty much so off topic for Spider-Man it’s doesn’t surprise me. I like Blade, but I really don’t see what he’s doing in a Spider-Man show, especially as I’d already seen enough of Morbius at this point…

Peter officially finds himself with both his girls on the arms on his friends after he is forced to tell MJ that he likes Felicia more to save her from an attack from Morbius and, Felicia, of course, is still with Morbius. After a brief flirtation with Alicia Silvermaine in The Tablet Of Time, Peter manages to get back in MJ’s good books when she invites him to meet her Father she’s not seen in years. The lad is finally rid of his mutation disease, he seems to be getting back in the good graces of his girl and once again, it all goes to pot as MJ is then announced as missing! Not the most brilliant of cliff-hangers but it did make me want to see season three right away instead of having to wait for bloody months. Imagine, a 14 week long storyline which kept throwing toss after turn at you and then when you finally think you’re going to get a nice happy ending, the leading lady goes missing! You’re a cruel one, Mr. Semper… It turns out that MJ hadn’t actually run away to play happy families with Daddy dearest, she’d actually been brainwashed and joined a cult lead by Baron Mordo. A nice, if not completely out of tone team up with Dr. Strange followed. After a disappointing retread over Spider-Man’s origin and the introduction of Madame Web, things picked up in the middle of the season as at long last, The Green Goblin made his debut.

The episode itself is a nice, slowly paced single episode which actually managed to feature the majority of the cast very well, with both of the big romantic leads getting more depth added to them and yet more twists keeping the audience guessing.

The episode in question sees Norman Osborn turn into The Green Goblin after he inhales a dangerous amount of an experimental gas. The overdose created a new personality which carried out Norman’s revenge – kidnapping and judging those who turned against Osborn previously. One of the victims of course, being Oscorp Board Of Directors member, Anastasia Hardy, Felicia’s old dear. Spidey and the future Black Cat’s paths cross again as he attempts to save Mrs Hardy from the dreaded Goblin, but ultimately fails when The Goblin pulls off a dirty trick and tosses them both from the top of their building forcing Spidey to save Felicia and leaving Mrs Hardy for himself.

MJ gets in on the action, with both her and Peter secretly thinking that Harry is in fact The Goblin, Peter even admits that he is tempted to tell her in hopes of putting her off Harry and back onto him until he realises that he doesn’t have actually have any proof that Harry is The Goblin. Innocent until proven guilty and all that. The episode ends with Felicia expressing her gratitude to Spider-Man by planting one on his lips, much to Peter’s shock! It added a whole other level to their relationship as she fell in love with Spider-Man and Peter found himself fighting himself for her affection!

The Rocket Racer, a terrible, terrible episode followed this, with Spider-Man telling Felicia that the situation is crazy – Spider-Man can’t have a girlfriend. Peter is later fobbed off by Felicia which basically put an end to Peter and Felicia… I think he finally got the hint. You can’t blame him for trying for so long… after all, she’s rich!

He’s back to pining over Mary Jane in the next episode as he is falsely accused of treason! On top of that, his Aunt was hospitalised with some stress related illness. Peter the fugitive enlists MJ’s help to see his ailing Aunt and they share a brief kiss for which she apologises. Bigger things happened in this episode though – Spidey finally became aware of the existence of The Kingpin and Daredevil guest starred!

Peter’s life hit the skids in the opening stages of The Ultimate Slayer as it’s revealed that Harry and Mary Jane are now engaged! Rather than be happy for his best friend, the moment he sees MJ, he simply asks “Why Harry?”. After hearing her sob story, he’s convinced that she doesn’t love Harry and still believes he has a chance. After saving Spider-Man saves her from Smythe the cyborg, MJ gives Harry her ring back and confesses to Spider-Man there’s someone else. I thought this was a little rushed but still nice to see there was some still twists they could throw in. You know he’s eventually going to end up with MJ anyway but romances are most interesting for the chase – as soon as they settle down it becomes dull and uninteresting. One need look no further than the comics to see this – MJ used to be a sexy bombshell constantly adding new twists to Spidey’s story – then she just became a boring wife who sometimes aspired to be an actress, when the writers could be bothered to remember.

Back to the cartoon, things took a confusing turn for the positive later on in the season, as Peter and Mary Jane are now magically a couple, with no explanation as to why she dumped nor any romantic reunion between Peter and Mary Jane – they are a couple again and we as the audience are to except it - she also says it’s fine that he runs off constantly and keeps making up lame excuses for leaving, basically allowing herself to be a doormat for our webhead… if you’re thinking that this was horribly out of character and does little other than make MJ look stupid, you’re not wrong – unfortunately, I cannot elaborate further as I refuse to break my solemn vow of only allowing one single sentence when mentioning The Spot in a retrospective.

The quality of the series picked up dramatically when The Green Goblin returned in Goblin War! when Peter and MJ are invited to the Felicia’s engagement party. Spider-Man’s impromptu appearance at the gala shows us that Felicia does indeed still harbour feelings for our wall crawler despite the fact she’s engaged to Jason Phillips who is finally revealed to be The Hobgoblin in this episode. I was impressed with how long they managed to keep his identity a secret in the show but it was jarring to see him become a complete wimp the moment he was unmasked. I actually prefer The Hobgoblin to the Green Goblin in both the comics and the cartoon so it just seemed especially… wasteful to me. There’s some great stuff elsewhere in the episode though – Norman cracking up in front of the mirror again and Felicia pouring her heart out to Spider-Man, stating she’s like a black cat bring bad luck to everyone around her.

The next episode is simply my favourite in the show’s entire run and no one saw the conclusion coming. Spider-Man’s feud with The Green Goblin comes to an end here after using Dr Ohn’s time dilation accelerator to discover that Spider-Man is fact Peter Parker and using Norman to taunt Peter at Harry’s birthday party. Harry, of course, didn’t want Peter there to begin with – Peter was invited by Norman’s insistence. I remember thinking the dinner scene was simply riveting – watching it as a child, I had absolutely no idea how Peter was going to get out of the situation as Norman had been established as being completely bonkers at this point, mainly from the beginning of the episode were he is shown arguing with himself.

The episode can almost be considered heartbreaking – especially as the opening scene shows Peter telling Madame Web he’s not interesting in her or the superheroics anymore – he knows what he wants from his life now and it’s Mary Jane.

“This big battle you’re preparing me for? I’m not interested. Mary Jane loves me, and I love her. My life is complete.”

So when Mary Jane meets her demise in the episode, Peter takes his frustrations out on Madame Web and then reflects in his own misery with perhaps the show’s great inner monologue;

“For so long now, I’ve tried to be there for everyone – tried to live up to the responsibility that comes with this great power. But when push came to shove I failed the people who needed me most. The woman I love is gone…. Gone forever…”

The most shocking part? He was absolutely right.