Long before everyone was fawning over the younger Aunt May in Spider-Man: Homecoming or wondering if the Aunt May from Into the Spider-Verse knew Doc Ock more intimately, Aunt May of the Amazing Spider-Man series was keeping the cobwebs away with the other Doc Ock and J. Jonah Jameson Sr. Aunt May represents what we hardly ever see in genre: an older woman having a love life and an even healthier sex life along with it.
If you aren’t familiar by now, May is the widowed elderly aunt of Peter Parker. After losing her husband tragically, she became a rock in Peter’s life, putting his needs above hers as any loving maternal figure would do for their nephew. Peter’s life as Spider-Man has brought a number of interesting characters into both of their lives — one of them being Otto Octavius, better known as Doctor Octopus, who had a thing for Aunt May and almost married her.
The Aunt May and Doc Ock love affair is a little confusing and weird. It begins with a conversation between Aunt May and Gwen Stacy, leading to an outburst on Gwen's part. She tells May that she’s been treating Peter like a little boy instead of the man he is, smothering him instead of giving him space. May takes this as the truth she’s been needing to hear, which prompts her to make the decision to leave. While Gwen could have had a better delivery with her message, she may have been on to something. Peter had become the center of May’s world after losing her husband, perhaps even defining her too much. After May writes Peter a letter and leaves, she ends at the home of Otto Octavius, working as a lady of the manor. The two were previously acquainted with one another from the time when Otto had taken up room and board in her home after Peter left to go live with his friend Harry Osborn. May must have been baking some really good cookies for Otto because he ends proposing to her and almost marries her in Amazing Spider-Man #131, which features the iconic cover of their almost wedding.Otto seems to genuinely have real feelings for May, too. He refers to her as his pretty lady and does what he can to keep her out of harm's way. Those feelings resurface again some years later when May Parker finds love with J. Jonah Jameson Jr.’s father. Doc Ock tries to stop their marriage from happening, but thankfully doesn’t succeed.
Unlike her story arc with Otto Octavius, May’s love affair with J. Jonah Jameson Sr. gives her way more agency. This May doesn’t lean into the frail elderly lady who just wants to take care of her nephew; this time around, she’s a lot more social and seems to have a life outside of Peter Parker. She’s working at a food pantry helping to feed those in need. May is a woman who has lost her husband, but not the ability to find love again. She and Jonah Sr. share a common ground with the tragic loss of both their spouses, so they understand how precious their time together is because it could be gone at any given moment.
Their love story begins in Amazing Spider-Man #579 after Jonah Sr. is saved from drowning by Spider-Man. Jonah Sr. is introduced to Aunt May by way of Peter’s girlfriend at the time, Betty Branch, who correctly believes he and May would be a great match. Over the course of a month, the two fall head over heels in love.
The couple isn't afraid to act on their desire for one another and the panels leave little to nothing to the imagination to convey that fact. This side of Aunt May is refreshing and welcomed, compared to the frail elderly Aunt May whose favorite pastime seemed to be worrying over her nephew.
Ultimately, May is at her best when she is written as having things to do outside of Peter Parker. The issues leading up to her marriage to J. Jonah Jameson Sr. depict her finally acting with her own interests in mind. They are also great because her sex life is not muted due to her age, making it one of the best aspects of this particular story arc for her. It’s a positive reminder that even though she's a woman of a certain age, May has always had sexual agency and appeal prior to the introduction of a younger and more desirable Aunt May in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. May isn’t just Peter Parker’s aunt but a woman who deserves to receive love and affection well after the tragic passing of her husband and to not be confined to the role of an aunt who worries all the time about her superhero nephew. Aunties have to have a life too, including May Parker.