ByTom Bacon, writer at Creators.co
I'm a film-and-TV fan who grew up with a deep love of superhero comics! Follow me on Twitter @TomABacon or on Facebook @tombaconsuperheroes!
Tom Bacon

2017 is the Year of the Spider. In July, Tom Holland's Peter Parker will swing his way into his first solo Marvel movie, and Spider-Man: Homecoming is sure to be one of the year's biggest blockbusters. Just a month before, Marvel Comics will begin their Spider-Man push by launching a second ongoing series — Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man! Helmed by writer Chip Zdarsky and artist Adam Kubert, this new series will be set in the mainstream continuity, but will step back from Dan Slott's ongoing globe-trotting arcs and instead set Peter against the familiar New York backdrop.

It makes perfect sense for to push Spider-Man this year. After all, Spider-Man: Homecoming is one of the most hotly-anticipated films of 2017, and the comic book brand is hotter than ever before. But here's the interesting thing; to celebrate this momentous occasion, Marvel have chosen to run a series of variant covers across the range. They're all stunning — But they all star Mary-Jane, not Peter Parker.

Check Out Some Of Mary Jane's Comic Book Cover Variants Below!

The variant for 'The Mighty Captain Marvel' #6. [Credit: Marvel Comics]
The variant for 'The Mighty Captain Marvel' #6. [Credit: Marvel Comics]

As you can see from Chris Samnee's artwork for The Mighty Captain Marvel #6, the basic idea of these variant covers is a simple one — To imagine Mary-Jane in the place of Marvel's most iconic heroes. Understandably, the majority also stress her ties to Spider-Man, of course!

'Doctor Strange' #22. [Credit: Marvel Comics]
'Doctor Strange' #22. [Credit: Marvel Comics]

Francisco Herrera's cover for Doctor Strange #22 is one of my personal favorites, envisioning Mary-Jane as the Mistress of the Mystic Arts. Sure, it'll never happen, but you've got to admit — Herrera makes the idea look superb!

'Gwenpool' #17. [Credit: Marvel Comics]
'Gwenpool' #17. [Credit: Marvel Comics]

One of Marvel's more head-spinning characters, Gwenpool is a mash-up of Gwen Stacy and Deadpool, originating from a world similar to ours. She grew up reading superhero comics, and so is having a blast exploring the 'real' Marvel Universe. Like many of these variants, Gwenpool's cover for #17 teases the classic relationship between Spider-Man and Mary-Jane. I'm going to be honest though; given the wackiness of Gwenpool, I wouldn't be surprised if this version of Mary-Jane wound up appearing in the comics.

'Hulk' #7. [Credit: Marvel Comics]
'Hulk' #7. [Credit: Marvel Comics]

Jennifer Walters has taken on the starring role in the current Hulk comics, so Rahzzah has cast back to a classic She-Hulk comic for inspiration here.

'Iron Fist' #4. [Credit: Marvel Comics]
'Iron Fist' #4. [Credit: Marvel Comics]

I think Stephanie Hans had a difficult pitch to work with here, as Iron Fist's iconic chest tattoo doesn't translate itself particularly well to a modern female superhero character. Still, Stephanie's made it work well, and given us a taste of Mary-Jane as the immortal Iron Fist.

'Invincible Iron Man' #8. [Credit: Marvel Comics]
'Invincible Iron Man' #8. [Credit: Marvel Comics]

In a fitting variant, Marco Checchetto envisions Mary-Jane as Iron (Wo)Man. Its an appropriate choice, given Brian Bendis's last Invincible Iron Man run featured Mary-Jane working for Tony Stark — and yes, she wound up wearing armor.

What's Going On With All Of These Mary Jane Variants?

'Champions' #9. [Credit: Marvel Comics]
'Champions' #9. [Credit: Marvel Comics]

Now, let's be clear; this is a very strange decision on Marvel's part. These variants are absolutely gorgeous — check out Helen Cho's 'Nova-Jane' above — but they also seem more than a little odd. After all, we'd be expecting Marvel to be pushing Peter Parker, not Mary-Jane. It seems we can say for certain that the new comic book will feature both characters.

But given these variants are flooding the market right before the release of Spider-Man: Homecoming, I can't help but wonder if there's more to it than that. Back in October 2017, we were told to expect a surprise in the film:

“... there will be a surprise appearance from a character that is central to the Spider-Man mythos, one who will play a larger role in upcoming films. We just can’t confirm who it is at this time.”

Fans have eagerly speculated as to who this could be. Guesses have ranged from the Green Goblin to Ezekiel, but is it possible that we'll actually be introduced to the version of Mary-Jane? A year on, we can safely discount those strange rumors that Zendaya is playing a race-swapped version of Mary-Jane, but that doesn't mean Marvel couldn't have a surprise in store...

'Punisher' #13. [Credit: Marvel Comics]
'Punisher' #13. [Credit: Marvel Comics]

Of course, the variants all hone in on the traditional comic book portrayals of these characters — with Dave Williams's Punisher variant shining a light on 2007's controversial "One More Day" arc. But it's entirely possible Marvel's trying to build synergy between the comics and the films, increasing the character' profile in both mediums. Mary-Jane is certainly iconic to be described as "central to the Spider-Man mythos", so we really can't rule her out.

In the meantime, check out the last of the variants revealed to date...

Some More Stunning Mary-Jane Variants!

'Spider-Gwen' #21. [Credit: Marvel Comics]
'Spider-Gwen' #21. [Credit: Marvel Comics]

In what can only be described as the most surreal of the variant covers, Kevin Wada envisions Mary-Jane as Spider-Gwen. Given Spider-Gwen is an alternate-universe version of Spider-Man where Gwen Stacy was the one bitten by the radioactive spider, this variant can only be described as a head-spinning idea!

'Venom' #151. [Credit: Marvel Comics]
'Venom' #151. [Credit: Marvel Comics]

When you consider that Venom first made his debut threatening Mary-Jane, this is another appropriate variant. Francesco Mattina has clearly enjoyed putting this one together.

'Avengers' #8. [Credit: Marvel Comics]
'Avengers' #8. [Credit: Marvel Comics]

Mike Allred's brilliant homage to the Vision's first appearance is definitely a highlight of the range. I love the cowering Spider-Man!

See also:

Personally, I think it's too soon to tell whether or not we'll see Mary-Jane appear in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Marvel's kept very quiet after that tantalizing hint last October, deliberately whipping fans up into a frenzy of speculation, and this marketing move only adds to the excitement. Spider-Man: Homecoming looks set to throw a curve-ball into the MCU, and I can't wait to see what it is!

Poll

Do you think Mary-Jane will appear in 'Spider-Man: Homecoming'?

(Poll Image Credit: Marvel Comics, art by David Lopez)


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