Spider-Woman Isn’t Connected to Spider-Man - Is That a Mistake?
Throughout the decades since his introduction, Spider-Man has been the main man over at Marvel Comics. Thus, it makes sense that he'd had tons of spin-off characters, former sidekick types to former villains turned into heroes. Among these include various Spider-Girls, the Lethal Protector Venom and others, though there's one Spider-person who isn't weaved from the same web.
Jessica Drew is the "main" Spider-Woman, but despite the name, she has essentially no real connection to Spider-Man. This is completely jarring from a marketing perspective, and it's likely what's kept the character from really being mainstream. Intended to make her animated and potentially live-action debut soon, Jessica Drew may be decades too late to hit the big time thanks to not really being related to Peter Parker.
Who Is Jessica Drew - and Is She Related to Spider-Man?
The original Jessica Drew Spider-Woman debuted in Marvel Spotlight #32, and though she was created by Archie Goodwin and Marie Severin, the idea somewhat came from Stan Lee himself. He had noted in #42 of The Comics Journal that Marvel had better go ahead and copyright Spider-Woman as a character, since they already had Spider-Man. After all, there had been legal issues involving DC's Wonder Woman character and Marvel's Wonder Woman, while Marvel's Luke Cage/Power Man was later followed at DC by Power Girl.
As a young girl, Jessica Drew was injected with spider DNA as part of an experiment to save her life for a deadly illness. Placed into a containment device, she would be released years later as a young adult. Developing superhuman powers while also feeling ostracized from normal people, Jessica would become involved with S.H.I.E.L.D. as well as Hydra before taking the guise of Spider-Woman. Her origin would be changed somewhat years later, though it retained a complete lack of connection to the more popular Spider-Man
Marv Wolfman would write the character's ongoing comic book stories, and he was intentional in keeping Spider-Man far away from the book. This was to make Spider-Woman more than just a female Spider-Man, but perhaps leaning into a connection with the Webslinger would've made more sense. However, without Spidey showing up, and the book as a whole jumping from creative team to creative team, the monthly Spider-Woman comic floundered and was eventually canceled at issue #50. Said issue actually ended with Jessica Drew's death, which had a completely negligible impact on Marvel Comics. She would eventually be brought back, but she's never been much of a big deal to this day.
Jessica Drew is at best a C-list character, with her biggest claim to fame still being her time on the Avengers when Brian Michael Bendis was writing their book. She still has no real connection to Spider-Man, and though she's shown up in crosovers involving the various Spider-people, she sticks out like a sore thumb.
Connecting her origin to Peter Parker would've given readers more of a reason to actually care about her, as well as a sort of narrative hook. For instance, Jennifer Walters is the actual familial cousin of Dr. Banner, with his giving her a blood transfusion giving her Hulk powers like his. Why not have someone try to replicate the experiment that gave Spider-Man his powers, with Jessica Drew being the victim of said experiment? This would tie her in organically to his world, all while explaining some of her differences like the power to fly.
The concept of a Spider "Woman" at Marvel who's unconnected to Spider-Man likely seems odd to both comic book fans and newbies. It's essentially like the '90s takes on DC heroines Supergirl and Power Girl, as well as the hackneyed development history of Donna Troy. The post-Crisis tried to have its cake and eat it, too, introducing Supergirl while still making Superman the "Last Son of Krypton." Thus, Supergirl, and later, Power Girl, were given origins unrelated to Superman. This ridiculously dumb idea eventually doomed even well-received books such as Peter David's run on Supergirl, though it's no wonder the much less recognizable Spider-Woman has failed to have many stand-out stories.
The Ultimate Universe actually fixed things somewhat by making Jessica Drew a clone of Peter Parker. Thus, she truly deserved the title of Spider-Woman and wasn't simply some random person with a vaguely related power set. Sony would be wise to do something similar with the upcoming Spider-Woman movie, which is likely based on Jessica Drew. The same may also work for her appearance in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. Jessica Drew may yet see redemption and popularity in the movies, but this will be because they, unlike the comics, tie her to a much more mainstream hero.