Spidiversity is an ongoing feature that explores a diverse range of issues in Spider-Man media, including gender, race, sexual orientation, and disability. It is published on the second Wednesday of every month by Jaleh Najafali and the fourth Monday of the month by Alex Nader.
Right now, Spider-Verse seems to be the buzzword on everyone’s mind, but this generally lackluster event has pushed one of my favorite characters off to the wayside. Anna Maria Marconi is fairly new to Spider-Man’s world yet she is a character with whom I connect. She is one of the few females who has had dated Peter, or at least someone looking like Peter, and isn’t specifically defined by that relationship. She is an example of a woman in comics who has both a romance and relevance, two things that seem mutually exclusive at times in Peter Parker’s world.
Obviously since Superior Spider-Man and Amazing Spider-Man are meant to be stories of Peter Parker’s journey, we see Anna Maria through the lens of his life. Still, there’s more to this female than just her romance with Peter, and Dan Slott gives us glimpses into her complexity. She is unashamedly herself, takes her work in science seriously, and is passionate about life. In Superior Spider-Man #23, she is nervous about meeting Peter’s mother figure, but she also manages to create a phenomenal meal that she’s proud of and addresses Aunt May’s questions about her height head on. An awkward family meal might not be a situation with which she wants to deal, but she doesn’t hide away or completely crumble either. This is the way that she approaches many of the things she faces, whether they are professional or personal, and it underscores her power. Anna Maria is no superhero, but she is strong all the same.
Additionally, Anna Maria doesn’t put up with any craziness from her Peter either. In any given issue of Superior Spider-Man, Doc Ock says the rudest, most conceited words I’ve ever come across. He thinks he can do anything and he thinks he can do it better than the average person, but Anna Maria won’t take that. From her first appearance in #5, she makes sure that Ock treats her with respect, pays attention when she’s tutoring him, and doesn’t get too caught up in helping Spider-Man. She advocates balance and makes Superior Spider-Man think in new ways. When they first meet, he’s insistent that he doesn’t even need help with his Ph.D., though she eventually gets him to see that she is good at what she does and that help can’t hurt. Octavius surprisingly understands how independent she is, but even more notably, Anna Maria knows this herself. She refuses to be an object and is an individual in her own right.
By the time Amazing Spider-Man #1 rolls around and Doc Ock is gone, she is just as willing to help Peter out as before. She’s a straight shooter and makes her opinions clear to Peter. Issue #7 has Anna Maria both calling him out for shouldering too much responsibility and making sure he doesn’t get too carried away with Silk. It’s no secret that Cindy and Peter can’t keep their hands off of each other, and Anna Maria does her best to make sure they’re both acting maturely. The best part is that she does it in a fun way, too. When she’s squirting them with a water bottle and telling them to cool off, it’s funny and effective. Though there is no way it can be easy for her to see her former boyfriend all over some other girl, she approaches the situation logically. The Peter that she now lives with isn’t the Peter that she fell in love with, but that doesn’t mean she’s going to lose her head, quit her great job, and become some villain intent on revenge. There’s a realness to her actions that is refreshing.
Of course, it isn’t all perfect where Anna Maria is concerned. She still sports big lips and a big chest when Ramos is drawing her, which pencils her into this same cookie cutter mold that almost all of Ramos’ ladies fit into. There’s an exhaustive element that comes with turning a page and seeing the same desirable body type over and over again. Anna Maria unfortunately plays right into it. However, at the end of the day, her personality is what shines through and is most memorable, and that’s what I find most important.
When I look at Anna Maria, I don’t immediately think about whether or not she’s a good fit for Peter or Doc Ock, I think about who she is as a person and the depth she’s adding to this story. The romance side to it all is interesting, but it shouldn’t be the shaky foundation for an entire character. She has personality and she has agency, which should mean a lot to anyone who is a fan of Amazing Spider-Man. Who wants to read about boring characters that lack acuity when there are women like Anna Maria out there? I don’t.