My no longer cherished,
Need we say it was not love,
Just because it perished?
It comes, as all great scenes do, from nowhere. After twenty seven issues of dancing around the question, Betty Brant asks Peter Parker directly: "I know you are keeping some terrible secret from me; you must tell me what it is." And after all the lies and hypocrisy, Peter Parker gives her a straight answer. He calmly climbs up the wall, hangs upside down from the ceiling and rips open his shirt. "Peter?" he says "That's just one of the names I'm known by. I also answer to another name. The name of Spider-Man." He pronounces the last word in blood red letters, Jessie Custer style, just in case Betty misses the point.
Betty Brant was never meant to be Lois Lane. She drifts through issues #2, #3 and #4 as a background character; only in #5 does Peter Parker notice that she's really pretty, and not until #6 does he ask her out. It isn't clear Peter and Betty ever go on what you would really call a date; but issue #7 ends with them chastely embracing behind Mr Jameson's desk. It's a lovely ending to one of my favourite Spider-Man tales. Geeky Peter has stopped whimpering and found someone he really gets on with.
"And if he does...what will it be like, seeing Peter Parker and Ned Leeds again? And what will they say when they see me? Will there still be a place in their lives...for Betty Brant?"
"As you've probably guessed by now, the pages you've just read are a typical Marvel device for bringing new readers up to date as painlessly as possible! We just didn't want you to think that you'd picked up a romance book by mistake."
Stan's relationship with John Romita seems to have been much less Marvel methodical than the one with Ditko: there is a much greater sense that Stan tells John what to draw, and John draws it. But six panels is a lot of space to spend telling us stuff we already know; and Betty's soliloquy is more than usually replete with waffle. Did Romita turn in pictures of an enigmatic Betty on a railway station, as part of an ongoing romantic sub-plot, and did Stan then fill it with inconsequential thought bubbles because he was no longer interested in this particular thread? He certainly seems still to be sensitive to the complaints of fans who object to love, romance, drama and mystery....
"All these months I thought about her, dreamt about her, longed for her!! So now she's returned...and nothingsville. Whatever we had before, whatever there was between us...it's gone."
"Once I thought I couldn't live without her. Now she's just another girl named Betty. Boy have I grown up in these past few months! I realize now we never had anything in common. It's just that she was the first girl I ever thought I loved!"
It would be a hundred issues before Ned Leeds and Betty Brant finally got married. A hundred issues after that, it turned out that although Ned was never the Green Goblin he was the Hobgoblin. Sort of.
He is killed off in in an issue of Wolverine.
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Amazing Spider-Man was written and drawn by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko and is copyright Marvel Comics. All quotes and illustrations are use for the purpose of criticism under the principle of fair dealing and fair use, and remain the property of the copyright holder.
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