The Working Relationship
I always feel like, in the rare instance someone actually takes the time to give me feedback, I learn something new about my own characters. For example, a personal friend of mine was merely reading a paragraph of a future SDMJ story I am shopping to a compilation book, and remarked that The Scarlet Derby and Midnight Jay have a “working relationship.” I always had an idea about the nature of how they acted as a married couple, but I never thought to summarize it in such a distinct way. “Working relationship,” yes, that’s it, exactly!
My initial concept of The Derby and Jay being ultra-compatible would have likely resulted in their marriage being just as ideal. But that doesn’t make for very interesting stories, so I gave the characters some very fundamental differences, and the cracks in the wedding china started to show with this revelation.
As far back as the original story, there’s been a running gag where Mary Jane always refers to Thaddeus as “dear.” I take great care in making sure that whenever she says it, it’s always punctuating a sentence where she disapproves or makes a criticism of what Thaddeus is doing at the time. It’s hard to say whether it’s a term of affection, or if it’s Mary Jane reminding herself in baffling moments that this silly man is in fact her husband.
The very end of the original story also suggested that Mary Jane became the Midnight Jay in response to seeing Thaddeus as The Scarlet Derby. I thought this was too diminishing to Mary Jane’s character. The backstory now states that they were both well respected heroes in their own cities who happened upon one another in the midst of a caper and wound up discovering one another’s secret identities. In order to ensure one’s willingness to protect the other’s secret, they were wed. The arrangement is ideal for Thaddeus, because in his overly romantic point of view, it was love at first sight.
Mary Jane agreed to the arrangement because of a singular promise made to her, and it was that The Scarlet Derby’s actions as a hero never interfere with her own as Midnight Jay. Many of the stories illustrate moments where Thaddeus comes close to overstepping this boundary. In “The Three-Headed Mob” Mary Jane worries that The Scarlet Derby has overtaken her in the eyes of The Constable. In “The Madness of Mother Mandrake” Mary Jane went as far as to threaten Thaddeus with divorce if he interfered with this investigation, although it was only to protect him from an especially deadly villain in Mother Mandrake. There’s another story where this takes
notion takes center stage, but I can’t say too much about it now…..
Does Mary Jane love Thaddeus? That’s a difficult question to answer. Thaddeus certainly loves Mary Jane, so much so that he hasn’t even noticed she’s never said those three little words. Mary Jane at least sees Thaddeus as a quite remarkable person. For no other reason than he’s managed to keep his own wide-eyed optimism despite the rigors of being a masked crime-fighter, which is an ideal that left her the very moment she took up her own mysterious mantle.