If we look into the greatest romances in comic book media, Spider-Man will probably find himself close to the top of the list. This popular superhero first became prominent during the Silver Age of Comics and quickly became one of the most iconic superheroes ever. Of course, Peter Parker had many love interests, but two women were always his most important partners. One was his first love that ended up tragically, while the other stayed with him for decades – Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane Watson. Fans still argue about who’s Peter’s biggest and most important love, and we decided to offer our own opinion on the subject – which is better Spider-Man’s love interest.
After comparing the two women, Mary Jane takes the “title” of Spider-Man’s best love interest. Gwen Stacy was important for both M.J. and Peter, but Gwen’s legacy stays there. Despite the ‘House of M’ storyline trying to hint at Peter thinking Gwen is the love of his life, M.J.’s character is the consistent and more sincere partner to Peter Parker. They stayed together the longest (in many universes) and proved time and time again that they would end up together in one way or another. Moreover, M.J. is a more layered and interesting character who most Spider-Man fans love and the one who challenges Peter consistently.
Gwen was the first love interest of Peter Parker, and her death marked Marvel Comics forever, but even in movies, M.J. seems as a solid factor in Peter’s character. Remember, this is about the original Gwen Stacy from Earth-616, not Spider-Gwen, Gwenpool, or others – the same goes for M.J. Let’s discuss this never-ending topic.
We start strong, and this section will probably divide many fans. Spider-Man movies were a “hit and miss” over the years, especially the projects of Sam Raimi and Marc Webb. The former directed three Spider-Man movies starring Tobey Maguire as the Web-Slinger, while the latter directed two ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ movies with Andrew Garfield as a Webbed superhero.
Both series of movies were flawed, one more than another, but they were quite special since Spider-Man had different love interests – Raimi’s Spider-Man loved Mary Jane, while Webb tried to retell the story of Peter Parker’s first love, Gwen Stacy.
Let’s start with M.J. Initially, as a much younger fan, I watched Maguire’s Spider-Man and really loved them. Mostly because of the action scenes, decent story, and CGI, but what stood out to me was M.J., who was okay. Years later, as an adult watching those movies (especially the third one), M.J. is not very well written and, frankly, a bit miscast. Kristen Dunst is an incredible actress, and she did work for Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man, but her “damsel in distress” and her constant challenging Peter didn’t land well.
Dunst sometimes seems soft in her performance, which could be due to the writing of M.J.’s character, which is quite the opposite in the comics. M.J. is fierce, consistently challenges Peter with confidence and bravado that definitely suits her, and is a total badass -Raimi’s M.J. just isn’t.
On the other side, Emma Stone got a better characterization of Gwen Stacy and did wonders for the character, which only gave the actress critical acclaim. She was the best part of those two ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ movies; while Raimi’s M.J. wasn’t bad, she wasn’t better than Gwen Stacy in Webb’s two Spider-Man movies.
However, there is a twist – Dallas Bryce Howard does portray Gwen Stacy in the ‘Spider-Man 3’ movie and spectacularly fades away in the abyss that is that movie. Hence why we splitting points is fair. Zendaya’s M.J. doesn’t count here since Kevin Feige said that her character version is supposed to be original for Tom Holland’s Spider-Man movies.
Mary Jane (1) : (1) Gwen Stacy
Mary Jane loves Peter dearly and showcases her interest in Peter Parker’s science and superhero life, which is quite rare in the superhero genre. Of course, the same genre loves putting their main heroes down to propel the stories, so they make their romantic interests leave them because they don’t like their “vigilante” life. Mary Jane is the opposite – she loves Peter Parker and Spider-Man and is always a good supportive partner.
Yes, she is mostly an actress with glaringly different interests, but that doesn’t stop her from loving and learning about her lover. On the other side, Gwen also loved Peter but didn’t like his Spider-Man life. She was always against him going to protect innocent lives, and in retrospect, that seems okay if you think that her father, Captain Stacy died, and she blamed Spider-Man. Still, that doesn’t excuse her behavior towards Peter, who only wanted to help. Gwen does have a scientific background like Peter, but that doesn’t pass the unconditional support of M.J.
In this section, points go to M.J.
Mary Jane (2) : 1 Gwen Stacy
Looking back on M.J.’s character during the 1960s and 1970s, she was quite bland. She was also going places with dating many men, but overall, her character got much better and layered after Gwen Stacy was killed off.
In M.J.’s defense, Gwen wasn’t fairing better – her character wasn’t as good as it once was, especially after her father’s death impacted her life and judgment even more. Now, one would say that the writing of that era was responsible for the lack of good writing, but that doesn’t make sense since M.J. became much better after 1973.
Nevertheless, M.J. became more confident, supportive, and interesting, especially with the sometimes aloof exterior that does make her too cheery and carefree, but underneath, she has problems like most people. On the other side, Gwen Stacy was cloned and even resurrected in Marvel Comics, but she wasn’t as impactful as she once was, hence why this point goes to M.J.
Mary Jane (3) : 1 Gwen Stacy
Fan favorite character
Finally, we have a fan-favorite character; frankly, these two women are still discussed a lot. Even decades after Gwen Stacy’s death, and Mary Jane’s ultimate fate as Peter Parker’s main love interest, fans are still divided on who is better, and both sides have good reasons.
However, when going through these forums and discussions, there is one thing about Gwen Stacy’s character that some fans like to do – mix her up with alternate versions of her character. Gwen Stacy of Earth-616 was dead, then cloned, resurrected, and ultimately killed off once again last year, specifically in ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ #10. This was an interesting storyline, to say the least, but even these cameos of Peter’s first love didn’t steer fans to love her more than M.J. – at least some of them.
Gwen Stacy wasn’t interesting as M.J., who was more of a rebel, an artist with a carefree personality – the blonde was more of a “good girl” character who left much to be desired in her stories.
People love M.J. more for a reason, mostly because she was always good to Peter and his superhero life, and despite many tragedies that occurred to them because of one factor or another, they always made way for each other. Gwen didn’t, despite some writers bringing her back and trying to showcase that Peter stills loves Gwen because she was his first, doesn’t erase the fact that M.J. overall is just a better character than Gwen, hence why she survived and the blonde didn’t. M.J. takes the point in this section and wins this “fight.”
Mary Jane (4) : 1 Gwen Stacy
Who is the better love interest for Peter Parker – Mary Jane Watson or Gwen Stacy?
People have their own opinions on various subjects, and if the world always agreed on everything, it would be plain boring. Gwen Stacy and M.J. are fundamentally different characters; hence why they were always popular within the Spider-Man fandom – in the “sea” of Peter’s lovers, they stood out the most.
Gwen was Peter’s first real loving relationship that was getting more complicated, especially with the death of Captain Stacy and Gwen’s dislike of Spider-Man. She was full of grief and refused to understand her boyfriend, and unfortunately, they couldn’t fix their problems because Gwen had died.
On the other hand, M.J. was a possibility for being Peter’s love interest initially, but Gwen slotted in as Peter’s peer in science and understanding of each other. M.J. was wilder, had more partners, and was just different from Peter. However, when Gwen died, M.J. and Peter fundamentally changed who they were. The redhead became more mature and supported Peter in his grief, leading to them being together.
M.J. started getting better stories, characterization, and layers that changed Peter as well, and that legacy of Gwen Stacy’s character will never be erased. However, the fact that Earth-616 Gwen is more boring than her alternate versions says a lot about her character, which is why fans love M.J. more, and why redhead is Peter Parker’s ultimate love interest.
Marvel Comics tried to bring Gwen back and put her as the true Spider-Man love, specifically in the ‘House of M’ storyline, but that story doesn’t erase the fact that Peter eventually gets back with M.J. and that the redhead is simply a better character than the blonde.
Currently, it seems that Marvel writers extremely dislike both M.J. and Peter (we all hate Paul), but even bad stories don’t erase the fact that M.J. was Peter’s main love interest for decades.
Nevertheless, this topic will be discussed many times, but I agree with most fans – M.J. is Peter Parker’s ultimate love and endgame.
What are your thoughts, and who do you prefer better? Let us know in the comments below!