Spider-Man’s world is about to be rocked – again.
Marvel has released a new teaser image showing Spider-Man – aka Peter Parker – as a seemingly happily married father alongside Mary Jane and holding an un-named redheaded child on his shoulders. The image (already causing Internet uproar, of course) presumably calls back to two pivotal moments in Spider-Man continuity – Parker’s 1987 wedding to Mary Jane in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21 (which was later erased by “One More Day”) and an unborn daughter child Mary Jane was pregnant with in the mid-1990s. The child was controversially written out of comic book continuity, but this new “Summer 2015” teaser – one in a string Marvel has released recently and likely related to the May 2015 event Secret Wars – is clearly intended to prompt Spider-Man readers to question everything that’s happened in the past, and more importantly speculate on what will be happening in the future.
But what really happened to Peter Parker’s daughter with Mary Jane?
It all started in 1995’s Spectacular Spider-Man #220 by Tom DeFalco and Sal Buscema. In that issue, Mary Jane Watson-Parker (remember, she and Peter are married at this point) reveals to Peter after a night of passion that she’s pregnant with his baby. The story, titled “A Time To Live!” happened in the midst of one of Spider-Man’s rockiest times – the always-controversial Clone Saga – and these events acted in concert to have Parker retire as a superhero to raise a family. The couple made plans to name the child May Parker, after Aunt May of course – who had died several months prior (she got better).
Peter Parker’s retirement proves short-lived however, as in Sensational Spider-Man #11 Parker dons the Spider-Man mask once more, but that event is undercut as his pregnant wife Mary Jane is poisoned while having coffee at the Daily Grind by a mysterious woman working behind the counter. The first effects of the poison is to force MJ into premature labor, which culminates in the baby being stillborn even after she’s transported to a medical facility… or at least that’s what Mary Jane believes and was told.
But readers find out there’s maybe more to the story, as the woman who poisoned MJ in the coffee shows up at the medical facility, takes the apparently stillborn baby, and delivers it to her secret employer – none other than Norman Osborn. All of this happens while Peter Parker is off being Spider-Man once more, but then he finds his wife in the hospital and she delivers the news. Tears are shed, and in some ways the marriage grows stronger by what they went through together.
They are never shown asking to see their baby, laying her to rest, or holding a funeral, but perhaps that’s nitpicking. Their nightmare wasn’t over yet, however.
In Amazing Spider-Man #441, the woman who poisoned Mary Jane turns back up just in time for a deathbed confession that leads MJ to believe the stillborn child, May Parker, in fact survived and is being held by Osborn. When she tells her husband this, Peter jumps into action but it’s MJ who advises caution, believing in her heart the baby she gave birth to wasn’t alive and thinking that it’s a sick ploy by Spider-Man’s long-time adversary to lure him out.
Spider-Man rebuffs Mary Jane’s concerns and chases down Osborn, finding May – but not the May he expected. Instead of finding his daughter May Parker, Parker found the aunt he thought died – Aunt May Parker. It’s revealed that the Aunt May that died was in fact an actor “genetically-altered” by Osborn to look like Spider-Man’s aunt, and that the real woman survived but in captivity.
That was mostly the last readers heard about the infant Parker in Marvel’s mainstream continuity. Every decade or so Marvel Comics seems to internally struggle with the concept of Peter Parker aging beyond his early twenties. May’s essential (and somewhat awkward) removal from existence was likely motivated by the same rationale for “One More Day” dissolving the marriage ten years later – marriage and fatherhood make Spider-Man more mature (to Marvel) than Marvel would prefer. This was punctuated directly in "One More Day," when Mephisto tells Peter and Mary Jane if they take his deal (ending their marriage) to save the life of Aunt May, their red-headed daughter, what he calls "a possibility yet to come" (a second daughter?) will never be born.
"The funny thing about the pregnancy issue is that Marvel at the time scrambled to derail the story as quickly as possible," then Marvel editor-in Chief Joe Quesada explained in 2008 doing press for "One More Day." " I don’t know exactly how that story got as far as it did, but they ultimately realized it was a huge mistake. So, taking that into consideration, I personally feel that that’s one that didn’t happen, chiefly because Peter and MJ now not having been married, would have taken proper precaution to avoid getting in the family way in the first place."
But despite all this the idea of a Peter Parker progeny never fully went away, having gotten new life when Tom DeFalco, who wrote the first mention of a baby, revived the notion in a 1998 issue of What If? which saw an alternate reality in which the baby grew up to take on her family mantle as Spider-Girl. The issue garnered such interest that Marvel greenlit an entire line of titles set in this future alternate reality, dubbed MC2. DeFalco and Ron Frenz wrote the grown up May “Mayday” Parker as Spider-Girl for almost a decade (though flirting with cancellation almost the entire way) even prompting a prequel story inside the Amazing Spider-Man Family series titled “Mr. & Mrs. Spider-Man.”
Now it looks like it may all be coming full circle, as the MC2 May Parker came to the 616 earlier this month in Amazing Spider-Man #8 thanks to the cross-continuity shenanigans of “Spider-Verse.” That story’s only six pages, but she'll be involved in the larger storyline, as well. And from this new teaser, it looks like we might be seeing a lot more of Mayday as a child – somehow, someway.
Could Marvel – now with the popular teenage Miles Morales Spider-Man firmly in their pocket, and Spider-Man having graduated to full-fledged Avenger-in-good-standing and mentor to teen heroes like Ms. Marvel – be finally warming up to the idea of a more grown-up Peter Parker in mainstream continuity?
Looks like we may find out next summer.