Marvel Comics made its first foray into traditional prose novels, the YA format and a primarily female readership when in July it released Mary Jane, an original story by romance novelist Judith O'Brien. The book focuses on the life of Mary Jane Watson, the girlfriend of Spider-Man's alter ego Peter Parker. It takes place when the characters are teenagers (the world described in the Ultimate Spider-Man series of graphic novels) and touches on issues that interest teen and tween girls. "We tried to make it a story girls can relate to," said Jennifer Lee, the book's editor. "I was adamant that we make her a good role model. She's a pretty strong character."
"We know [from films and television] that when we do stories oriented toward humans instead of costumes, it resonates equally with girls and boys," said Bill Jemas, Marvel's COO. "But we needed to place [the content] in an area where girls would be able to find it. It's really more a change in medium and in the distribution system than it is in the kinds of stories. It was about putting a first-class product out in the right place for the right demographic."