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Greg Bishansky writes...

Another Spidey question. This one is both Spectacular related, and about your Amazing Spider-Man back-up story.

When you wrote and produced "Spectacular Spider-Man," you tried to get to the core truths of who each and every character was. Well, I need to ask you about who Betty Brant was in your series. We've never seen much of her besides Peter trying to ask her to the Fall Formal, and Ned asking her out on a date. She didn't even have a single line of dialogue in the entire second season.

I ask, because in the comics, and this is something that often seems forgotten by most people, Betty Brant is a pretty horrible human being. It's not something I was even really conscious of until my friend, Josh Bertone, started writing a series of articles documenting the history of this character.

She was pretty bipolar when she dated Peter. Constantly flipping out at him if he so much as glanced at Liz Allan, or another human being who lacked a penis. And then, turning around and playing around with both him and Ned Leeds.

She later married Ned and then abandoned him on their honeymoon. Had a one-night stand with Peter, and was later on having an affair with Flash Thompson that lasted for months and months. Which was driving Ned nuts, although, his brainwashing at the hands of the Hobgoblin arguably made things worse. But the affair started well before this Hobgoblin business. Hell, she had the nerve to ask him if their marriage meant anything to him as he was walking out on her, and he replied with "more than it means to you" and he was right.

Of course, Betty now blames the Hobgoblin for all of her marriage's problems and never once really acknowledged any wrongdoing on her part. It's almost Demona-esque how neatly she's able to deflect any feelings of guilt.

And finally, there was Betty's appearance in the back-up story for Flash Thompson that you wrote (loved that story), and when Betty first sees Sha Shan, she is mad. I think I'll quote my friend Bertone, who said it better than I could:

"The icicle speech balloons are a cool callback to the Ditko days but take a look at that scene again. Betty isn’t responding to Sha Shan…Betty starts it! Betty doesn’t greet Sha Shan with an apology or any remorse. No! She’s mad at Sha Shan! Why? What did Sha Shan do to her? It’s not like they had a Betty/Veronica relationship. Betty stole Sha Shan’s man! Sha Shan has a right to be mad! Betty doesn’t!

"Betty Brant is the only woman who will have an affair with your boyfriend and then somehow be mad at you as if she was the victim. What a horrible person."

The above isn't a criticism of the story, or how you used Betty. It's a criticism of Betty as a person.

So, I have to ask. Would your interpretation of Betty, had the series gotten more in depth with her have been this terrible, awful individual? In the comics, she makes Sally Avril look as cool and fun to be with as Mary Jane by comparison! If so, I'd say Peter dodged a major bullet there, when Aunt May put a stop to this in "The Invisible Hand." Come to think of it, May never liked Betty in the Lee/Ditko run either. Betty is definitely not the girl you bring home to meet mom.

Greg responds...

I think the thing to keep in mind about ANY character in a shared corporate universe is that multiple writers, editors and artists have had at him or her, with different agendas - often agendas that had little to do with the character him or herself - and more to do with how that character plays with, in this case, Spider-Man/Peter Parker.

Me, I'm fond of Betty. Probably originates with her being THE girl in the 1960s Spider-Man cartoon. I clearly like her more than either you or Bertone, but I haven't tracked each and every appearance. I just try to get to the heart of who I think she is. To me, in the Lee/Ditko era, she was a high school age girl who dropped out to work, because she had to. So she wasn't mature, but she was extremely competent. One of the few human beings who could handle J. Jonah Jameson. That to me is the fundamental TRUTH of her character. Anyone who can hold her own with Jameson and put up with his... crap, has to have something solid in her. The fact that Lee/Ditko occasionally played her as a jealous harridan ... seems more indicative of the tropes of romance comics of the day than with anything inherent in who she was. And what other writers did with her in the post Lee/Romita era (after she had already been reduced to the fourth or fifth most important non-Aunt May girl in Peter's life) carries even less weight with me.

Is that selective on my part? Damn straight! But we were always selective on SpecSpidey. Had to be. Too much inconsistencies in the canon for us to do otherwise.

So, what did we decide?

Well, first of all, we wanted a sixteen year old Peter, as he was in the early days of Lee/Ditko. But no one's going to buy - in a modern context - a sixteen year old Betty working full-time for Jonah. So we made her nineteen or twenty (can't remember, but something like that). So we gave a nod to the original Betty/Pete relationship, but as you saw made it awkward because of an age gap that would be insignificant in ten years (at age 26 and 29) but is just too wide at 16 and 19. We had fun with that. But we also started to build the Betty/Ned relationship too. We did have a couple Betty/Ned scenes written and recorded for Season Two, but they wound up getting cut for time before being animated... mostly because (a) we were long and (b) they were scenes we could sacrifice. Ned and Ned's relationship to Betty would have been important in season three, and we wanted to set it up, lay some pipe, etc. But there were always things we needed for Season TWO that were more important. So we figured we'd worry about Season Three if and when we got there. And of course we never did.

As for that one Betty and Sha Shan scene in the comic, I think you're overthinking it. The two are both cold to each other. They have an unpleasant history. No one's apologizing. No one's asking for an apology at this point. Neither "started it". Looks must have come before words. And looks said it all. The words were simply the "icing" (pun intended) on the cake.

Personally, I can't see Betty with Flash long term... though I guess that's the longest relationship she's ever had - mostly by default. Now, I see them as good friends. Maybe occasionally friends with benefits, but these two are never going to be much more than that in my mind.

Of course, to me the perfect girl for Flash was always Sha Shan. (Someone who could kick his ass - at least figuratively, if not literally.) So what do I know...

Response recorded on September 29, 2011