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An Ode to Spider-Girl, May “Mayday” Parker, My Gateway to Comics

Spider-Girl swinging through New York in Marvel Comics.

After watching the (amazing) new Spider-Man movie, I was left thinking about another, similar hero. Maybe you’ve heard of her?

Her name is Spider-Girl.

No, not Spider-Gwen. I’m talking about Spider-Girl, Spider-Man’s daughter.

Or, as she would describe herself in the opening lines of her first comic, “You’re feeling loose and slamming heat! Your name is May ‘Mayday’ Parker, and today is the first day of the rest of your life!” And just like the girl at the center of the story, reading that comic was the first day of the rest of my journey when it came to geek culture.

The reason you may not have heard of Spider-Girl if you’re not an avid fan of comic books (or you happened upon it by chance when your Dad picked up Volume 1 from the Scholastic Book Fairs Warehouse) is because her story takes place on Earth-982, in the Marvel Comics 2 world. On the other hand, the world that we know of as the general Marvel Universe takes place on Earth-616.

It’s also likely that you won’t see her in a live-action movie anytime soon, since in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Peter Parker is still in high school and just barely figuring out his relationship with Mary Jane, who eventually becomes Spider-Girl’s mother.

Reading Spider-Girl’s story was one of the most exciting things to happen to me when I was in elementary school. Even though I wasn’t a comic book aficionado, I loved her so much that when I was eight years old and my uncle offered to paint any character or place I wanted on my bedroom wall, I asked for a character called Dragon King from Issue #4.

May Parker is everything I wanted to be when I was growing up: She was smart and cool, and friends with both the popular kids and the nerdy ones, holding the dichotomy of high school inside of herself. And not only that, but she was constantly trying to be a peacemaker between the two groups, a storyline that was reflected on a larger scale when she tried to bring her crime fighting skills to her city. She wanted to be a superhero because it was fun, and also for the greater good, kind of like her father. And when she faced off against the Dragon King, it was so epic that I reread it over and over again until that section of the book was unglued from the spine.

But all of this is not to say that she’s perfect. She struggles with her identity and coming into her own. In the process of doing that, she often goes against her parents’ wishes, but unlike every other rebellious teenager, there is a cause to what she does, a reason behind the mischief. Along the way, she lets people down, from her friends to her teammates to her family to her romantic partners.

Reading her story helped teach me the freedom that comes with allowing yourself to not be perfect, even if everyone thinks you are. May is held to a high standard as a teenager, and as a young kid, I was thought of as gifted and pressure was put on me. I was afraid that messing up meant the end of the world, but she helped me see that life goes on, and what truly matters is that you are trying to do something good, something that you believe in.

She has a lot of close calls in battles and just barely jumps ahead by her wits and her quick jokes, just like her father. One of the things that she struggles with in the early comics is distinguishing herself from him, something I think we can all relate to when it comes to defining our own path in life. Unlike most other superheroes, she is the second of her kind. To be fair, she doesn’t help the situation by wearing an identical costume.

When she first meets the Fantastic Five (with the addition of the son of Reed and Susan Richards), they question who she is, but she manages to sneak away, with the help of Franklin Richards, without revealing too much. She starts to come into her own as she grows, but it’s those early struggles that so resonated with me.

I never actually finished the entirety of the Spider-Girl series because I was so young that I didn’t even know more existed outside of the Scholastic Warehouse, much less where to buy them.

Nevertheless, Spider-Girl was a springboard for me, but I was always too nervous to really enter the world of comic books fully. As a young woman of color, I felt out of place in stores and often asked my Dad (who had an interest level of about 5%) to accompany me, hoping that would make me stick out less. I didn’t know anyone who looked like me who read comic books.

Now, at 21, I’m getting back into comics in a bigger way than I ever have before, enticed by the new Powers of X and House of X series from Marvel, but I’m still having a hard time feeling like I fit in at comic book stores. My first time at a new local shop, I convinced my Dad to come with me again to have some sort of barrier, just in case.

I’m not quite sure what it is that I’m afraid of. Perhaps it’s that the world of comic books often feels like it’s all or nothing. Either you don’t know anything about comics and you stay away completely, or you know everything, down to being able to recite in what issues Spider-Man first met Gwen Stacy. As for me, I fall somewhere in the middle, and in geek culture, it sometimes feels like there’s isn’t a place for people to like something, only room for them to hate or love it.

Despite this, I’m getting over my fear and going weekly now to pick up issues, trying to arm myself by remembering that everyone grows and learns about things at their own pace. I’m also armed with the remembrance that I, too, grew up on comic books, and even though I may not look like I have a recurring order at the store, I do, and there’s a superhero out there who is like me.

Before there was Ms. Marvel or Miss America, who is exactly like me (a queer Latina), there was May “Mayday” Parker to show me that girls could also be superheroes. Before Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel came out and changed the face of superhero movies forever, there was a girl who showed me that sometimes all you have to do to make a difference is try.

(image: Marvel Comics)

Angelica Cabral is a soon to be graduate of Arizona State University; she’s originally from the Bay Area. When she’s not writing you can catch her making use of her AMC A-list membership, watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine, or reading Entertainment Weekly. You can keep up with her on Twitter @avcabral97.

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