Mary Jane Watson was the guiding light in Peter Parker's life, and their love had overcome countless obstacles. But her upbringing certainly gave her no reason to believe in happiness. Her parents, Madeline and Philip, met at high school and married aged eighteen. Madeline followed her strong-willed husband across the country as he began his academic career in modern American literature, and by twenty she had one daughter, Gayle. Mary Jane arrived four years later. Philip became a popular college professor and Mary Jane's mother devoted her life to their children - to the casual observer they seemed like the perfect couple.
But Philip had visions of himself as a great writer, another Fitzgerald, a Faulkner... though in truth, he possessed no such talent. Unable to accept his own failings, he turned his fury on his family. He dragged his wife and children from college to college, searching for inspiration.
Gayle Watson turned inwards, seeking solace in her ballet, while Mary Jane hid behind an exuberant personality. At every new school, she was the class clown and party animal. In public, nothing was ever wrong with Mary Jane, while in private, little was ever right. Eventually, Philip's frustrations boiled over, and he struck his elder daughter over the cost of her dancing lessons. While Madeline was prepared to endure her husband's bitterness, she would not stay to see her children suffer his violence.
A few weeks later, as Philip was receiving honors during his college's awards ceremony, Madeline left home with her daughters and two suitcases. She received nothing from the courts, and was left to shuffle from relative to relative. For Mary Jane, life was scarcely improved. They were resented by those who took them in, with one exception - her father's elderly sister, Aunt Anna Watson, who lived in Forest Hills.
Mary Jane loved her visits with Aunt Anna, though one downside was that Anna and her neighbor May Parker were always trying to get Mary Jane together with May's nephew, Peter. Mary Jane was thirteen when she first laid eyes on Peter, aged fourteen. Peter had just started high school, and through her window Mary Jane saw a serious-looking bookworm - kind of cute, in a nerdy sort of way. But Mary Jane had other priorities, and other worries.
Madeline Watson and her family had finally settled down in Pittsburgh, staying with her cousin, Frank Brown. A widower, with three children of his own, Frank paid the bills while Madeline looked after the household. Frank was harsh, but not violent, and at last the tortured family found some stability. But while Mary Jane was breaking hearts as a high-school freshman, Gayle ignored her mother's entreaties and married her high school sweetheart - football star and honours student Timmy Byrnes. Gayle became pregnant when Timmy was just nineteen.
In Timmy's trapped eyes, Mary Jane saw the roots of the desperation which destroyed her father. Turning away from Gayle's impending misery, Mary Jane buried herself in acting, parties, and the nation's new celebrity sensation... Spider-Man. Mary Jane saw that she and Spider-Man shared two things in common - a determined to enjoy life, and a mask which hid their true faces.
The following Thanksgiving break, Mary Jane went to stay with Aunt Anna, when a break-in at the Parker household cost the life of Peter's Uncle Ben. In shock, May Parker had been brought over to Anna Watson's house, but Mary Jane had little stomach for the misery of others. So it was that she watched as Peter arrived home and rushed inside. A minute later, she could hardly believe her eyes as she saw Spider-Man crawl out of an upstairs window, off to seek revenge on his Uncle's killer.
Burying that secret deep within her, Mary Jane watched as Gayle became pregnant again, and her young husband abandoned her. She saw her own mother become sick and die. Desperate, Gayle assumed that Mary Jane would stay and help raise the two young children, but Mary Jane saw nothing but a cage. She ran from Gayle's life, all the way to New York.
Staying briefly with Aunt Anna, Mary Jane found work waiting tables and dancing on stage in discos. She put a deposit on a downtown studio apartment, cheap, but at last a place of her own. In-between, she managed to avoid the date with Peter Parker that their respective aunts were so keen to arrange. But she couldn't put it off for ever.
Peter, expecting a dowdy girl, was stunned by Mary Jane's beauty and exuberant charm. Mary Jane remembered a bookish, bespectacled nerd, and never imagined the confident young college student Peter had become. Nor, when a television bulletin announced that the Rhino was at large in the city, did she expect him to suggest they ride into town on his motorcycle and catch the action. Of course, Peter immediately disappeared to "take photos", and Spider-Man turned up moments later. Mary Jane bit her tongue, and feigned surprise at these, and many such future "coincidences".
Mary Jane dated Peter a couple more times, and became part of his circle of friends, joining Harry Osborn, Gwen Stacy, and Flash Thompson. But Peter and Gwen fell deeply in love, and Mary Jane could offer no such commitment. Instead, Mary Jane began casually dating Harry, though she flirted shamelessly with Peter, and others. But when Harry developed a drug addiction, his relationship with Mary Jane suffered greatly, and it never truly recovered.
With the death of Gwen Stacy and Norman Osborn, Mary Jane's friendship with Peter remained true, and she comforted him through his loss. Harry meanwhile had become increasingly unstable, and Mary Jane abandoned him completely. Over time, Peter began to realise that there was more to Mary Jane than the "party girl" persona she affected. As Peter departed on a trip to Europe, he left Mary Jane with a kiss which at last reflected the depth of feeling that had developed between them. In her words... "Wow!"
Over the following months, they became lovers, although Peter's commitments as Spider-Man caused no less grief with Mary Jane than they had when he dated Gwen Stacy or Betty Brant. Even though she secretly knew the reasons for his unreliable behaviour, Mary Jane still felt the need to punish him - occasionally dating sports jocks, like Flash Thompson and others, to get her point across.
Peter eventually proposed to Mary-Jane, but after consideration, she declined, saying that she wasn't the sort of girl who could be happy with just one man. Feeling uncomfortable, Mary Jane left New York for some time, and furthered her modeling career in Florida. In her absence, Peter dated several different women, and pursued a tempestuous relationship with the Black Cat.
When Mary Jane returned, both she and Peter were having some problems with their lives, and relied on one another as good friends. But after another round of the usual Peter Parker lies following a battle with the Puma, Mary-Jane revealed to Peter that she knew that he was Spider-Man. Since his mask was now gone, she removed hers, and told Peter about the other side of Mary Jane, and her own difficult past. In their shared honesty, the two realised how close they had become in their lives. A few months later, Peter proposed once more, and was accepted.
They married, and shared many moments of great happiness. But the reality of being wedded to a super-hero was far more demanding than Mary Jane ever imagined. Between villains like Venom invading their personal lives, MJ struggle with Peter's extended absences, and the very real fear that one day, she might get a phone call saying her husband was in a morgue, dressed in a Spider-Man costume.
Mary Jane's fame brought its own problems. She was kidnapped by Jonathan Caeser, a wealthy admirer. Following her escape and his being sent to jail, Caeser still managed to use his influence to ensure that she was forced out of the modelling business. MJ managed to find well-paid work in the day-time drama "Secret Hospital", although she was consequently subjected to several other attacks from crazed fans.
Whether at home at night, or out being the social animal her soap opera fans expected her to be, the young bride found herself increasingly alone - a super-hero widow. She took up smoking, and was nearly tempted into an affair by smooth-talking actor Jason Jerome. Miserable, tense, her life was a far cry from the happy carefree days before her marriage.
But things started looking up for the young couple when Mary Jane became pregnant. Even more significant was the return of Peter's long-lost clone, Ben Reilly, who assumed the role of Spider-Man. Though Norman Osborn's plans caused the loss of her unborn child, Peter and MJ undertook marriage guidance, and Mary Jane took up psychology at ESU, befriending Jill Stacy. Mary Jane was given an opportunity to resume her beloved modelling, for which she was very well paid - a fact which caused Peter some embarrassment. They moved into an expensive apartment, along with Aunt May. Their happiness seemed assured.
Though Ben Reilly had tragically been killed by the Green Goblin, Peter told Mary Jane that he was done with being Spider-Man, once and for all. But the spider-bite ran deep in his blood. While MJ's busy modeling schedule was straining their relationship, the truth came out that her husband was still Spider-Man. Their marriage on the rocks, Mary Jane faced further problems as a stalker harassed her constantly on the phone - a secret she withheld from Peter.
As their love hung in the balance, Mary Jane took off on a plane trip. Pete was supposed to catch up with her and have time away to patch things up. With the stalker on board, the plane exploded in mid-air. Peter refused to believe his wife dead, until convinced by the weight of evidence.
But Peter was right the first time. MJ was held captive by "the Stalker", a man who supernaturally began to become like Peter after absorbing his memories. Spider-Man rescued MJ, but after the mental trauma of her captivity, she was unable to return to the lifestyle which had torn them apart. The two separated, with Mary Jane moving to the West Coast.
After a painful time apart, the two of them recently decided to make one last move. As Mary Jane flew to New York, Peter flew to Los Angeles. Each finding the other absent, they returned home. But Peter's flight was met an electrical storm, and made an unscheduled stop in Denver, as Mary Jane's plane touched down for a stopover. The two of them met in the airport.
Their reunion was nearly sabotaged when Doctor Doom arrived at the airport, a guest of the American government. When a Latverian resistance group launched an all out attack in the waiting lounge, Spider-Man aided Captain America to defend Doctor Doom. Mary Jane could have no clearer proof that loving Peter Parker meant accepting Spider-Man. But amongst the rubble, Peter told Mary Jane that he needed her, that he loved her, and that he was nothing without her. Watching them, Captain America could see the truth. He offered Peter a word to the wise, from someone who had been down that road a while. "The mask is supposed to hide your face. Don't let it hide your heart." Reunited with Peter, Mary Jane focused on developing her acting skills with serious stage performances, overcoming the stereotype of being an unintelligent supermodel.
Mary Jane, Aunt May, and Peter resided in Tony Stark's tower since Peter joined the New Avengers. She has suffered watching Peter die at the hands of Morlun, only to watch him re-emerge from his own corpse reborn. She supported Peter's decision to unmask before the world in response to the Civil War|Superhuman Registration Act, despite the increased risk to her own safety. After Peter withdrew his support for the Act, she and Aunt May went into hiding.
The Kingpin, learning of Spider-Man's unmasking, sent a sniper to locate and shoot the Parkers. While Peter saved Mary Jane from the gunfire, Aunt May was shot and sent into a coma. Peter desperately searched for a means to save Aunt May's life, blaming his unmasking for endangering his family. With the Parkers at a dead-end, Mephisto took advantage of the situation, offering to restore May to health if Peter and Mary Jane agreed to have their holy bond of matrimony removed from time. Mephisto also agreed to erase all memories and records of Spider-Man's unmasking to ensure May would not be simply shot by another sniper. After offering something additional in secret to Mephisto, Mary Jane selflessly agreed to the deal, believing that the love between her and Peter would be strong enough to bring them back together again. Following Mary Jane's lead, Peter consented. Now, time has been altered such that Mary Jane, though she shared a relationship with Peter, never married him, and is currently no longer romantically involved with him.