Ok, all I had was Bechdel. Miriam had Carla Speed McNeil and Kate Beaton. Here’s one I just remembered: Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane. I read issues 1-16, or like that, on download for a TCJ column about Spider-Man (“Face It, Tiger,” issue 291). They were a case of a commercial comic book working exactly the way it should, no contortions or gimmes, no jumble. It’s like intelligent people knew what they were doing and did it. The target here is modest, but I’ll settle and hitting those can be hard enough.

It helps if you don’t mind sitcom and girl stuff. As I recall it’s very quiet-times storytelling, with superheroes kept off on the skyline, more or less. I like that mix: for some reason I like superhero comics and action movies more for their incidental elements than their main elements, and a title like Mary Jane puts the incidentals center stage. The so-called civilian school of superhero comics, I suppose. I loved Bendis’s Alias, though that was meant as psychological noir and Mary Jane is teen comedy. Kind of strange, two such different outcomes from the same genre development. 

The art/writing seems designed for maximum ease of eye movement, which I take to be a manga kind of thing. The images, as I recall, are simple and figures are positioned for maximum scannability. Dialogue skims along but without the pop-pop banter effect found with most superhero dialogue nowadays.

Which brings me to a key point: a big part of the comic’s appeal is relief. I would have liked it anyway, but set against most superhero product, it was a relief. Quiet skill is something we don’t get a lot of.

As to the Manga point above, the original artist was  Takeshi Miyazawa, a Canadian but Wiki says he has a Manga sensibility. Then came David Hahn. As I recall, I liked Miyazawa better. Writer: Sean McKeever. Sample plot: girl gets jealous because Mary Jane wins lead in school play. Title: “The Jealousy Thing,” because every issue is “The [whatever] Thing.” You get the idea. It’s simple stuff, but it works.

Further, we get one more example of Mary Jane being rewritten into a character entirely unlike the Mary Jane in the main Spider-Man series. Offhand I can’t think of any time her personality has made it intact into an alternative Spider-Man version. Noah has more here for those who have ever tried to figure her out.