The very first thing about J. Jonah Jameson that any comic reader knows is that he hates Spider-Man. The editor in chief of the Daily Bugle has virtually never rested from his mission of turning public opinion against the wall-crawler.
But, in the immortal words of Ryan Reynolds, “But why?”
With Spider-Man back in the conversation, we thought we’d revisit the nosy news-hound of a nuisance.
Why does J.J. Jameson, Jr. hate Spider-Man so dang much?
Spider-Man himself did once, briefly, offer an alternative explanation, in the pages of the 2004 She-Hulk series.
But in this story — which predates the creation of Miles Morales — he was merely joking.
Overall, J. Jonah Jameson’s seething distaste for Spider-Man is based on principle and bad luck: Peter Parker is just at the center of the Venn diagram of “Something that Jameson hates” and “Someone unable to defend themselves.”
Jameson has found that railing against Spider-Man, with full page pictures of his dangerous antics, sells papers. And that keeps The Daily Bugle in the black, in the ever more precarious industry of print journalism.
But Jameson also genuinely disdains superheroes. He thinks that superheroes — totally unregulated, dangerously powerful, grandstanding charmers — receive praise that’s better reserved for police, firefighters, EMTs, and other first response workers and military personnel. And, of course, he thinks it’s his duty as a newspaperman to tell the world.
Spider-Man is simultaneously one of the better known and most vulnerable superheroes in the Bugle’s hometown turf. The Avengers and Fantastic Four can afford to hire a good libel attorney — Peter Parker can’t. On top of that, defending himself from Jameson’s claims would, in most cases, require revealing his secret identity, putting his family in danger.
J. Jonah Jameson’s son made things personal
But in one of Spider-Man’s earliest adventures, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko made JJJ’s conflict with Spider-Man hit closer to home. The two introduced Jameson’s son, John Jameson III, as a top test pilot in the US space program, who, in a story written about a year after John Glenn’s first orbital flight, was flying a new experimental orbital capsule.
During the flight, the capsule’s guidance system went haywire (much like in Glenn’s historic trip) and the US military was powerless to save John Jameson and his craft. Enter Spider-Man, who stole a plane, flew up to the capsule, and attached a replacement guidance unit, allowing it to land safely.
You’d think that Spider-Man would have purchased some leeway with Jameson by saving his son’s life. But instead, Jameson doubled down, accusing Spider-Man of orchestrating the malfunction himself so that he could steal the spotlight from a true American hero like his son, John Jameson III.
This isn’t the last the comics world saw of John Jameson. Like most civilian characters in a long-running comics universe, he eventually got his own powers and code name when he contracted lycanthropy from a weird ruby he found on the Moon, becoming the character Man-Wolf. According to writer Gerry Conway, who penned the whole ruby/moon/wolf thing, J. Jonah Jameson, Jr.’s hatred of Spider-Man was a significant factor.
“[Man-Wolf] added another layer of tension to Spider-Man’s relationship with J. Jonah Jameson,” he told Back Issue! magazine in 2010. “As a writer, you always want to find a way to increase the pressure on the main character, to increase the involvement of other characters with that character. Consequently, anything that could make Jonah’s hatred of Spider-Man more intense and at the same time more understandable was a useful device dramatically.”
And if you have to turn his son into a werewolf to do it, well, that’s comics, baby!