This is “Turns Back the Page,” which is a look at interesting back-up stories from comic books. If you have suggestions for back-ups that you’d like to see me write about, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org!
While it probably should not come as TOO much of a shock, as Stan Lee stopped working day to day for Marvel Comics roughly 40 years ago and John Romita Sr. retired from his full-time gig at Marvel sometime in the early 1990s, it is still somewhat surprising to know that the last comic book that Lee and Romita worked on together came out over 20 years ago, in 1997’s Spider-Man/Kingpin: To The Death graphic novel (that book is technically just titled Kingpin)…
In that story, which came about only because Steve Ditko decided not to do a special project for Marvel at the last moment (as Ditko discovered the existence of Untold Tales of Spider-Man and he did not like the idea of doing a story set in the past, which was his original plan, while someone else was ALSO telling Spider-Man stories set in the past), Spider-Man is being framed as a murderer by the Kingpin.
Peter Parker spends a lot of time with his wife, Mary Jan, in the issue, including an amazing splash page by Romita and Dan Green that shows the constant worry that Peter has to deal with over his many super-villains (Tom DeFalco plotted the graphic novel, with Stan Lee then scripting it)….
So the two got to work on a final Peter/Mary Jane story (they did plenty of them over the years during their time together on the Amazing Spider-Man newspaper comic strip), but a few years earlier, the two also got a chance to do one final Gwen Stacy story.
“I Remember Gwen” appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #365, which celebrated the 30th Anniversary of Spider-Man’s debut back in 1962. Just like with the Kingpin graphic novel, Tom DeFalco supplied the plot, only this time around, Romita inked himself.
The concept of the story is that Mary Jane is waiting up for her husband to come home and she spends some time worrying about him and while she worries about him, she also drifts to thinking about Gwen Stacy…
If you are a regular reader of my Mary Jane history column, “If Her Hair Was Still Red,” you will know that this rose-colored glasses look back on their shared history is just that. It is not that Mary Jane disliked Gwen, per se, as she did not and the two were on friendly terms when Gwen was killed, but not NEARLY as close as this short story suggests.
In fact, this story reveals an untold part of Mary Jane and Gwen’s friendship that could have changed all of their lives (Mary Jane, Gwen and Peter) for good!