POW~! Presents The 7 Greatest Moments In Comics #3: J. Jonah Jameson Comes Clean!
I really wanted to sit and write something long and analytical about the death of Gwen Stacy for #3 on this list. I wanted to talk about what it meant to comics and meant to me personally. The problem with that is I didn’t read that story until years after the initial publication. Hell The Amazing Spider-Man #122-123 came out in 1973, I was only 16 months old when the story dropped originally. Even more important is that the story got referenced so much after it happened that to say I was shocked when I initially read it would pretty much be a lie. Everything I’ve listed so far in this has been something that upon first reading had an impact on me as a reader of comic books. Gwen Stacy dying didn’t have that kind of impact for me that it had for readers of the time it came out. By the time I finally got to read it, I knew what was coming. There was no shock or moment of realization that this was a shocking moment for Spider-Man and his fans. Thus I am going to save the 900+ words I’ve already written on “The Night Gwen Stacy Died” and finish that bad boy off another time as a special article.
So with having said this, what exactly is “POW~! Presents The 7 Greatest Moments In Comics #3??
It might not be as obvious as you think.
I decided that it definitely NEEDED to be a Spider-Man moment. The problem there is that Spider-Man just might be the one character that has so many truly great moments, more than even Superman and Batman, that picking his best moment or most shocking is truly nigh-impossible for any fan. Heavy reflection made me think of every Spidey story I’ve read since the age of 5 onward. It was in this reflection that I realized that one thing Spider-Man has that makes him such an incredible character isn’t just his adventures and rogues gallery. It’s his incredible supporting cast. From Aunt May debuting along with Spidey in Amazing Fantasy #15 all the way to the modern era with his now ex-girlfriend Carlie Cooper, Spidey’s supporting cast is unmatched. The best member of Spidey’s supporting cast though is his longest nemesis. It isn’t a super-villain. It is none other than J. Jonah Jameson, the former Editor-In-Chief and Publisher of The Daily Bugle. One impression of JJJ would be a blowhard, one-note character based on his demeanor and how he has been portrayed for the most part. However, that impression actually covers a very well written and thought out character. A Character that, despite appearing to be a petty, vengeful, skinflint, is actually one of the most principled characters in all the Marvel Universe.
Yes, Jonah can come off as an arrogant ass. But his role of being an honest newspaper man is nearly unimpeachable. Yes, he has an irrational hatred of our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man but part of that is his commitment to honesty. He hates the fact that Spider-Man and other vigilantes go around breaking the law, even if it is for the public’s benefit. He believes Spider-Man to be a glory-hound, who if he were an honest citizen that wanted to help wouldn’t have to wear a mask. Jonah is committed to the truth. J. Jonah Jameson believes all men are equal and that a group of individuals who put themselves above the law are a dangerous thing. Jonah isn’t evil. Hell if anything he is one of the most commendable citizens one could come across.
You need examples?
Backed the Civil Rights Movement?
Jonah did it!
Believes in the rights of Labor Unions?
Jonah backs them!
Supports Mutant Rights?
You’re damn right Jonah does!
Believes that the truth is paramount?
To J. Jonah Jameson, the truth is everything, just ask Ben Urich!
Ben Urich is arguably Jonah’s best investigative reporter at The Daily Bugle. Ben Urich has this nasty habit of doing pieces on one Wilson Fisk aka The Kingpin of Crime. Ben Urich has had his personal safety and that of his family come under attack multiple times. Hell the Kingpin even had a contract killer try to kill Urich’s wife via hanging. Urich was ready to give up his investigation but Jonah wouldn’t let him. Jonah knew the risks Urich was taking but felt that as a reporter, The Truth, as a whole was more important that it was worth dying for. It was something that Jonah needed Urich to understand the importance of. It was only after watching Daredevil fight Nuke that Urich realized that, of all things Jonah was right. The Truth is what matters and the purpose of a journalist is to get to the truth.
Which brings us to how “The Truth” ruined J. Jonah Jameson and why it led to The Greatest Moment In Comics #3. You see, in the early years of Spider-Man’s careers, Jonah was so obsessed with exposing Spider-Man that he bankrolled an experiment to create a super-human. Of course that backfired as he chose an unscrupulous private investigator named Mac Gargan as the subject and hey this is comic books so of course nothing goes the way it is supposed to. Gargan is driven insane by the experiments and the end result is Jonah has bankrolled the creation of one of Spider-man‘s most well known villain’s in The Scorpion. This on top of other failed projects Jonah bankrolled over the years like the first half-dozen or so Spider-Slayers. Of course Jonah let his own vanity get in the way of his beloved Truth, so he covered up his involvement in these projects. If only Jonah knew he was actually in a comic book he would’ve known that somehow these cover-ups would have come to light eventually. Thanks to the original Hobgoblin, they almost did.
Say what you want about Norman Osborn being brought back from the dead in 1996, the fact of the matter is Osborn as the Green Goblin is Spider-Man’s greatest foe. Keeping him dead for 20+ years couldn’t have been easy for any writer on any Spidey book. Editorial mandate of the 1980s was simple though, Norman Osborn was dead and was to stay that way. Luckily, reworking the concept of the Green Goblin was fair game. Enter The Hobgoblin, a low-life who stumbled upon one of Norman’s old weapon caches and was killed by Spidey second-string villain Roderick Kingsley after showing Kingsley the treasure trove of weapons. Kingsley then went about trying to rebrand the old Green Goblin uniform and began looking for other weapon caches, thus bringing him into conflict with Spider-Man. One of these caches also contained a blackmail dossier, compiled by Norman Osborn, and that dossier had the facts about J. Jonah Jameson being responsible for the creation of The Scorpion. Thus armed with that information, Kingsley blackmailed some of the most powerful men in New York City, including Wilson Fisk. Kingsley gathered all the blackmalees together in order to ransom the information off only to have Spider-Man interrupt the auction. Of course since this is a Spider-Man fight with someone with the name “Goblin” in their name, a fight breaks out.
The fight isn’t what is important though. It is the aftermath of the auction that is. Realizing that if a psychopath like Hobgoblin could blackmail him based on old information Norman Osborn had, Jonah realizes that he cannot claim to be an advocate of “The Truth” about his role in the creation of The Scorpion. So Jonah resigns as Editor-In-Chief of The Daily Bugle and spills the beans in his last editorial. It is when Spider-Man, having barely defeated Hobgoblin, confronts Jonah after the auction that we get to see that rare J. Jonah Jameson moment of true humility.
So don’t be fooled and think Jonah is a one note character. He might be an antagonist for Spider-Man but he is by no means a villain. J. Jonah Jameson is a character with “Character”. No character in comics is more dedicated to “The Truth” than Jonah. He had the choice between lying to the world, as he had been doing for years, or come clean and by doing so save the reputation of the newspaper he spent a lifetime building (and also probably saving hundreds, if not thousands of jobs). He did a thoroughly dishonest thing and realized the only means by which to make amends for it was to adhere to the one thing that was most sacred to him… THE TRUTH!