Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane #5 by
Sean McKeever – Writer (Plot/Script)
Takeshi Miyazawa – Artist (Pencils)
Christina Strain – Colorist (Digital Inks & Color)
Dave Sharpe – Letterer
Rich Ginter – Production
Nathan Cosby – Assistant Editor
MacKenzie Cadenhead with Mark Paniccia – Editors (Mac had already left Marvel by this point, but Mark kept her in the credits, because she’d been such a huge part of Mary Jane, beginning with the MJ minis)
How Long I Had Been An Editor:
Basics Of My Editorial Responsibilities On This Issue:
-Read Script, gave notes, got Editor’s notes, compiled & sent to writer
-Moved digital pencil pages to Production for resizing. Distributed files to colorist & letterer
-Did balloon guides for letterer
-Created Ad Lineup
-Gave color notes
-Ran initial & final lettering to proofing, collected notes & sent to letterer
Does a book just get you?
You buy a pile of comics—let’s say eight. Two because you liked the writers from other stuff. One because it’s an “event.” Another that’s a tie-in mini to the “event.” Three others you’re not crazy about, but you’ve bought ‘em forever, so you keep buying them. And the last one…
The last one is that one you waited four weeks for. The one that ended on a cliffhanger last month, or just a really nice ending, that gave you butterflies and made you want to read it again instantly.
It’s the one that knows you. It knows what you want to see. It hits all the buttons you want pushed, relating to you on a level that paper and ink don’t usually touch. It’s your book.
Do you save it? I always saved that one for last. It’s dessert. The one you wait for. Even if it was 1:30 in the morning by the time I got to it, I’d read it then, because I’d finally made my way through the stack. I’d earned it.
Sean McKeever’s Mary Jane was one of those books to me. It’s about an insecure pretty girl surviving high school. (Also, there’s a weirdo dude in a costume swinging around her, but we’ll get to that later). I’d never read any comic like it. So measured, so patient in the storytelling. Nothing was done for cheap SHOCK value. McKeever thought his way through the practical problems of a girl growing up in a normal high school that just happened to be in the Marvel universe. He got the audience to care about MJ’s personal problems by making them personal to us. Small moments are glossed over in your standard superhero book. In Mary Jane, they are the book. I fought like hell to work on MJ. It was just so damn different.
MJ #5 was the FINALLY! issue. Sean, Tak & Christina had given us two 4-issue minis and now this ongoing series, building the tension between MJ, Peter Parker, Flash Thompson, Harry Osborn, and Spider-Man. All that tension was released in this issue, by answering two lingering questions, Are MJ and Spidey gonna actually date? How would they even do that? Answers: Yes. Carefully.
I don’t want to spoil the delicate storytelling and crushing character moments if you haven’t read this issue. I’ll only mention that it’s one of the most realistic portrayals you’ll ever find of a boy in a mask trying his damndest to take a girl on a date, and a girl doing her best to act like it’s not weird as hell. It’s also one of the prettiest issues ever, with Takeshi Miyazawa and Christina Strain defining how a great comic should look.
I can admit that most of the MJ scripts (including this one) were barely touched by editorial. There’d be some broad notes during the plot phase, the suggestion of adding a quiet moment to the end of a scene (to help the pacing), and the occasional dialogue tweak at the lettering phase. But Sean knew what he was doing, and he trusted Tak & Christina to bring their best to it, and the editors knew that sometimes the best thing you can do for a book is get the hell out of the way. I shudder to think what a heavy-handed editor would’ve done to Mary Jane…
Everyone’s just standing around. Why’s there so much dialogue? We need the characters to say what they’re thinking.
Here’s a note I actually heard from another editor criticizing MJ…
We need to see Peter change into Spider-Man at least once an issue.
…which made me laugh. We NEVER need to see Pete change into Spider-Man. That’s the POINT. It’s the most genius part of the book. If there were any reader left on earth that didn’t know Peter Parker & Spider-Man were the same person, they’d NEVER find out from reading Mary Jane. They didn’t need to. It wasn’t Spider-Man’s story. Spider-Man was Sean’s Trojan horse, sneaking his intentions in under the guise of just another Spidey tale. He was gunning for relatable pain, anguish, hope, misunderstanding. Peter was just a kid that felt a massive amount of guilt over his uncle dying and decided to try and help people without anyone (including MJ) knowing. Seeing Peter change into Spidey meant showing us something that MJ has never seen. If SHE doesn’t know it, then WE shouldn’t either. It’s a subtle thing that speaks volumes to me. (but then…I’m weird)
The Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane digests are available for cheap on Amazon and you might find a few copies at your local comic store. I highly recommend them if you’re NOT a fan of superheroes. If you are a fan of superheroes, then I recommend you grab up the best, most well-thought out portrayal of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson’s relationship that’s ever been told.
I am SO glad Sean snuck this book into Marvel.
-Each artist that works for Marvel gets sent standard “Marvel stock” Bristol board. “Marvel stock” is unique in two ways.
A) It says “Marvel” on top
B) Artists do not like drawing on it
Not every artist I worked with hated Marvel boards. Just a lot of them. The primary complaints: Erasing is difficult, and the paper doesn’t absorb ink very well. I received these complaints from artists my first and last months at Marvel, and pretty much every month in between.
Why did I just waste your time talking about Marvel paper? Because I was thinking about Takeshi Miyazawa, one of my favorite artists, and his unique handling of the paper: Tak cuts full-size bristols in half, and does a full page of pencils on each half. He’s the first artist I worked with that actually draws SMALLER than what shows up in the finished comic. And he draws so light that erasing is never a big problem.
-I picked MJ #5 cuz it’s probably my favorite issue of the series. It came out around the end of my HOLY SHIT I’M WORKING ON COMICS I HAVE THE EMAILS AND PHONE NUMBERS OF DOZENS OF PEOPLE I GREW UP READING phase. About a year in, I was kinda over it. But I STILL got goosebumps working on MJ. Some projects are jaded-proof.
-These posts are not gonna be in chronological order. I figure it’d be more fun to skip around through time. This keeps me from doing 20 posts in row that contain the phrase “…and here was another example of me having no idea what the hell I was doing.”
-This is my first installment in an ongoing series, so I welcome any compliments or criticism. If I’m not giving enough info on the nuts & bolts of editing, if I’m talking too much about stuff that has nothing to do with the issue I picked, if you just think I suck, I welcome all notes as I try to figure out what these posts should actually be. Thanks!
Week 2: AGENTS OF ATLAS, VOLUME ONE #1
Week 3: WORLD WAR HULK #1
Week 4: MARVEL ADVENTURES THE AVENGERS #9
Week 5: INCREDIBLE HULK/HERCULES #112