Welcome to Spider-Man Roulette! Shelfdust’s Patreon backers were asked to pick a number at random – and now I’m going to write about whichever corresponding issue of “Amazing Spider-Man” they chose! This issue was picked by Patreon backer Scott Cederlund, who chose number #592 for the roulette!

At the risk of being redundant, did you know that J. Jonah Jameson doesn’t like Spider-Man?

Last time on the roulette, we landed on the issue where Jameson dons the Spider-Slayer outfit and attacks Spider-Man, and that led into this whole thing about Jameson’s position and where he actually stands on Spider-Man. Well, wouldn’t you know, the next stop on the roulette happens to be the issue where Jameson has just been elected as the Mayor of New York – so it looks like we’ve got a whole lot more discussion about the character coming up. I don’t control the roulette! I just have to write about whatever issue people pick, so here we go.

Spider-Man at this point has just been off in another dimension with the Fantastic Four, and so he returns to New York and realises he’s been gone for two months. The joys of dimension-hopping, and all that. The result of his return is that he has a new roommate he doesn’t realise is there, and that New York randomly decided that J. Jonah Jameson would be the best choice to run their city. The first change doesn’t resonate with Peter whatsoever, as he’s so distracted all the time that he barely has time to clock the neatness of his apartment before he jumps off out the window to go hunt down the Mayor. That second change, however, takes up all of his attention.

The loggerheads between Spidey and JJJ have been an essential part of the mythos of Spider-Man. That this hero who works on a small-scale level and performs countless rescues to people on the ground-floor is also the most hated and persecuted person in the whole city. Jameson doesn’t spend his time yelling about Iron Man romping round in weaponised suits or armour, or Johnny Storm literally flying about whilst on fire: his ire is almost entirely focused on the guy in a little spider-themed outfit, who spends most of his time rescuing cats from trees and stopping car crashes. The severity of his hatred clashes against the general innocuous nature of Spider-Man, who hops about telling jokes, and for the most part doesn’t spend him time punching buildings or blowing things up. It’s part of the mix.

With him ascending into actual power, he now has actual responsibility, and the most entertaining part of this issue is that he doesn’t yet act in any way like the Mayor of New York should. Before he could complain all the time about an issue that he didn’t have power over (spider-slayings aside), but now Jameson has to actually deal with the facts of New York governance: as a result, all he gets is good news about Spider-Man, rather than stories he can personally twist into bad news. When you’re shaping the narrative it’s easy to get people onside, but now he’s having to deal with the reality rather than the fiction, and it actually gives Spider-Man more power in their dynamic.

This is a fictional world (and was written a while ago), so writer Mark Waid is able to suggest that the more power Jameson receives, the more he has to do right by people. Hounded by journalists and his aides, he’s constantly told that he has to do things to make life better for New Yorkers. He’s also told constantly that he’ll have to work by the book that’s already been written, rather than write his own narrative. Now, obviously we’re currently in a hell world where none of this is actually true, but let’s remain content with this fictional world: J. Jonah Jameson’s power forces him to be responsible, and the issue is at its best when he’s trying to fight that requirement.

There’s a great scene here where Jameson realises the change in the power dynamic as he comes face to face with Betty Brant, who works for “The DB!” and now enjoys a more equal status against the new Mayor. She corrects him when he says “Miss Brant?”, stating that she is now “Betty Brant” to him – he has to treat her with respect because the narrative is now what she says it is. She has gained ground on him, even as he walks around his new office. It’s the same for Spider-Man, and the same for multiple other people in his life. Now Jonah is in charge of the city, everybody else is keeping tabs on him, rather than him keeping an eye on all his freelancers and staffers. He’s the accountable one now.

That also means he has to deal with his absent father, who returned as part of the “Brand New Day” era and ultimately got married to Aunt May. Now his son is in office, all J. Jonah Jameson Sr has to do is book in an appointment and his son has to see him. This time round we gain a little more sympathy for Jonah’s position: his father abandoned the family when he was young, and now he’s being forced to accept the man coming back into his life. When dad starts lecturing him about treating Spider-Man better, it comes from a patronising angle that reflects badly on Spidey himself. Just because Sr is the dad doesn’t mean he gets to tell his son how to think, and that’s especially true considering he was never there for Jonah as a child. It’s a further case of Jonah being told what the new narrative is rather than being able to shape it himself, and you can see why he chooses to lash out as a result.

Spider-Man picks this moment to try and extend out a hand of truce, but Jonah has spent the whole issue trying to keep the power he’s accustomed to, and so he throws back that peace offering in favour of declaring war. This is one thing he can still control, he thinks, and so he assigns officers to hunt down Spider-Man, and finally capture him. It’s a physical act of aggression from a man who has just learned that his newly acquired power acts to restrain most of his urges and desires.

Spider-Man simply heads out into the city and openly performs acts of heroism for the press.

The narrative doesn’t belong to Jonah anymore, regardless of how desperately he tries to retain control of it. With his great power comes great responsibility: and no matter how hard he fights, that responsibility keeps him in check for the first time.

 

Amazing Spider-Man #592: 24/7
Written by Mark Waid
Drawn by Mike McKone
Inked by Andy Lanning
Coloured by Jeromy Cox
Lettered by Joe Caramagna

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