Author Archives: dangvozden

Top 10 Loves of Peter Parker (Part 2)

Longbox Graveyard #128

Last week, Longbox Graveyard welcomed guest blogger in Dan Gvozden of Superior Spider-Talk to count down the Top 10 romantic interests in Spider-Man’s life. With bottom half of his Top 10 complete, Dan gets down to the nitty-gritty in this concluding column, highlighting the most important women in Peter Parker’s love life, and giving his answer to the eternal question: MJ, or Gwen?

Take it away, Dan! 

5  Betty Brant

Betty Brant has always been an interesting character, particularly when it comes to her tumultuous love life. She was Peter’s first love during high school and who Peter initially shows interest in during Amazing Spider-Man #5 and begins dating in Amazing Spider-Man #7. Peter is head over heels in love with Betty, a young secretary at the Daily Bugle who fantasizes about becoming a housewife and settling down with Peter, remember these stories were originally published in the 60’s, long before Betty would go on to be a hot-shot reporter and unrepentant adulterer.

Betty Brant

Peter and Betty’s romance was doomed for failure due to Peter’s life as Spider-Man. Betty liked Peter for his shy, bookish side, the persona he often put on to distract those around him from noticing he was Spider-Man. Betty was fearful that Peter would end up like her brother Bennett, who was murdered by Blackie Gaxton during a gang war.

Betty Brant

When Peter continuously comes back from “taking pictures of Spider-Man” and is bruised and beaten up Betty becomes hysterical.

Betty Brant

Eventually she begins to look for attention elsewhere and begins dating Ned Leeds without officially calling things off with Peter, a habit she will continue to display with all the various men she ends up dating over the years.

After marrying Ned Leeds in Amazing Spider-Man #156, Ned was frequently reporting overseas and away from Betty. Ned eventually gets stationed in Paris for a prolonged duration and Betty grows homesick for New York. She rushes home and back into the arms of Peter, who doesn’t really know what to make of the situation but also doesn’t actively fight it. He encourages her to get counseling and to return to Ned but Betty won’t hear it. When Ned returns home and confronts the two Peter quickly ends the affair, regretting his involvement.

Betty Brant

What I find most interesting about Betty’s relationship with Peter is that if the radioactive spider had never bitten Peter he probably would have been the perfect man for Betty. His maturation and development due to his powers pushed him into dangerous situations and out of the arms of Betty. It is this rejection that pushes Betty into the arms of Ned Leeds, who for a while was thought to be the Hobgoblin, and damages her psychologically for quite awhile. 

Betty and Peter are best of friends now, but what could their future have looked like without Spider-Man?


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4  Ultimate Kitty Pryde

Women, for the most part, are portrayed terribly in comic books, often only operating as male sexual fantasies and wish fulfillment. Unfortunately this is also true for most female characters that have appeared in Spider-Man comics. Much of this treatment really depends on the specific writer of each book and their own depiction of women young and old. Brian Michael Bendis, author of Ultimate Spider-Man, does an absolutely wonderful job with fleshing out the female characters of Peter Parker’s world, even allowing them to have conversations that have nothing to do with Peter or his world of superheroics.

Kitty Pryde

Perhaps my favorite new idea from Bendis was how he handled Peter Parker’s dating life, a real focus of his Ultimate Spider-Man series. Gone is the truly deceitful Peter who hides his secrets away from the women in his life and instead readers are given a realistic young man who is emotionally honest with the women he chooses to spend his time with, outside of all the normal teenage dramatics that come along with dating.

After Mary Jane is nearly killed by the Hobgoblin, Peter breaks up with her to protect her from the dangers of his world. He is looking for someone who he can spend time with that he doesn’t have to protect. After meeting Kitty Pryde during his debacle with the car-exploding Geldoff, Kitty (aided by Storm and Jean Grey) decides to call Peter and set up a date.

Kitty Pryde

Kitty has been secretly obsessed with Peter for awhile, decorating her bedroom with images of him in his Spider-Man costume, despite not really knowing him beyond their brief initial encounter. That obsessive quality would come to define Kitty’s feelings towards Peter during their brief relationship. The two meet up after school and spend the day chatting at the mall before getting entangled in a battle with the Shocker.

 It is this battle that cements for Peter that he could date Kitty without having to protect her. The relationship that follows is one of the most honest depictions of teenage dating that I’ve ever read in a comic. The two young adults are both coming fresh off of very important and significant first relationships in their lives and begin dating, with their exes still playing a large part in their lives. As is common, the two are almost dating so as to prove to their previous significant others that they still have value to the world. Despite enjoying each other’s company, the relationship possibly moves quicker than it normally would as they are kind of using each other to prove something. These situations inevitably lead to jealousy, heartbreak, and infidelity.

Kitty Pryde 2

Kitty is consistently insecure about their relationship, due to her obsession over Peter and his own insecurities about how public their relationship soon becomes. This insecurity propels Peter back into the arms of Mary Jane, when a fight with vampires unsettles him more than any recent battles of his have. This upsets Kitty greatly as she feels that he should have come to his girlfriend rather than his “friend” Mary Jane. During the “Ultimate Clone Saga” story Kitty discovers Peter kissing Mary Jane and becomes furious over his infidelity. The two are eventually able to reconcile but would never date again.

3  Felicia Hardy (Black Cat)

To detail all of Felicia Hardy’s relationship with Spider-Man would take pages and pages of incredibly detailed notes. Of all of Peter Parker’s relationships, his time with Felicia Hardy has to be the most complicated and tumultuous. Their relationship is made difficult for a number of reasons:

1. Black Cat remains a criminal, taking after her father, for quite some time.
2. She only likes Peter Parker when he’s in costume and would rather not know about his secret identity.
3. She’s constantly putting herself in danger to augment her powers or to prove something to Spider-Man, with disastrous results.

Black Cat

Spider-Man doesn’t fully trust her, after failing to stop several of her robberies, until the “Owl/Octopus War” in the pages of Spectacular Spider-Man. Felicia learns that the Kingpin is in control of an incredibly powerful detonator that the Owl plans on using to hold New York City hostage whereas Doctor Octopus plans on using it to reduce the city to rubble. She manages to steal the detonator and turn it over to Spider-Man and in the process puts herself on the top of both adversaries “Must Kill” lists.

Doctor Octopus’ men open fire on Black Cat, forcing Spider-Man to rush her to the hospital. As she is being operated on, Peter realizes just how much he cares for her, eventually starting to love her. While she is recovering the two begin a relationship and Peter reveals his identity to her, something that Felicia has an especially hard time with. The two remain together and become almost sickeningly in love with each other, with many issues of Spectacular Spider-Man detailing just how obsessed with each other they had become. It even leads to a particularly bizarre issue where Spider-Man meets Felicia’s mother and gets her approval to date Felicia.

Black Cat

When Spider-Man disappears to fight in the “Secret Wars,” Felicia seeks out a way to gain powers similar to his so that they can safely be together. She undergoes the same procedures that were done to the Scorpion and The Fly thanks to the Kingpin. The powers she gains begin to permanently affect Spider-Man, essentially jinxing him. Sensing the lies growing between them, Peter calls off the relationship between him and Felicia and has Doctor Strange remove the hex that she put on him and in the process gives her new powers.

The two would continue to have a rocky relationship moving forward, particularly when Felicia finds out that Peter and Mary Jane have married. For awhile she taunted and threatened Peter and Mary Jane and even dated Flash Thompson just to get even. The two eventually managed to settle their differences and even developed a casual sexual relationship after Peter and Mary Jane’s marriage was undone by the events of “One More Day,” but the less said about that the better.

Black Cat

Peter’s love of Felicia is notable for its intensity and the drama that it introduced into the series. While it might not be as honest or relatable as Ultimate Peter Parker’s time with Kitty Pryde it certainly helped to inspire that story.

Now, let’s get to the moment you’ve all been waiting for:

2  Gwen Stacy

As much as Betty Brant was Peter’s first relationship, there is no mistaking that Gwen Stacy was Peter’s first true love. The two meet in Amazing Spider-Man #31 when Peter first attends college. With Ditko as the artist on the book, Gwen is initially presented as a sultry, popular blond who is clearly assessing the potential of all the new young men at Empire State University. She begins by flirting with Flash Thompson and is turned off by Peter’s casual disregard for her and her friends, as he is too busy being worried about Aunty May’s need for a blood transfusion.

Gwen Stacy

Peter is thought to be “too good” for everyone else, a notion that Flash Thompson is happy to reinforce. Regardless, Gwen remains attracted to Peter, who whether he intends it or not is becoming quite the “man of mystery” in her life. Tensions rise between the two and Gwen even attempts to slap Peter at one point. Even though Gwen has “girlfriend” written all over her, things aren’t getting off to a good start.

Eventually all of Peter’s problems get smoothed over with the introduction of John Romita Sr. as the new penciler on the book. Ditko’s Ayn Randian worldview was one that is portrayed as being full of anger and spite and it manifested itself in the characters’ relationships. The introduction of Romita cast the world in a distinctly different light. Peter and Harry patch up their differences over shared familial experiences and Gwen begins to see Peter in a different light.

Gwen Stacy

However it is at this point that Mary Jane finally enters Peter’s life, with a vivacious “Face it Tiger!” This would trigger a love-triangle in the spirit of Archie, Betty, and Veronica in Amazing Spider-Man. Gwen would date both Flash Thompson and Harry Osborn due to the murkiness of her relationship with Peter and his sudden disappearances. However, when they were together Peter and Gwen were an unstoppable couple who faced innumerable threats to their lives.

Gwen Stacy

When Gwen eventually leaves for England to visit her Uncle Arthur it is only then that Peter realizes just how much he loves Gwen and thinks silently about the possibility of marrying Gwen. However, this wasn’t to be as the Green Goblin famously put an end to her life by dropping her off the Brooklyn (or was it George Washington?) Bridge.

Gwen Stacy

I’ve always felt that Gwen started out as an interesting, if antagonistic character, that slowly became less and less interesting as time went on. The world of Spider-Man was changing, with the introduction of some modern problems and situations that only served to make her character seem more and more like a relic of the past. Peter was growing up as well and the only next logical step for the two of them was marriage.

Gwen Stacy

Her death in many ways ended Peter’s innocence as a character and properly launched him into adulthood. It was the catalyst for him to enter the adult world of superheroics where it was no longer just fun and games but a world full of consequences. As great as their relationship was, it will always be remembered for how it ended … Tragically.

1  Mary Jane

If Gwen Stacy was Peter Parker’s first true love then Mary Jane should be his final true love. From the minute she first entered Peter’s life in Amazing Spider-Man #42 with her famous, “Face it tiger… You just hit the jackpot!,” there could be no other girl for Peter. Sure, her early appearances cast her as a flaky party girl with little time for anyone but herself but she always had something that Gwen didn’t, she was a ton of fun.

Mary Jane

However, what solidifies Mary Jane as the girl that is the best love of Peter Parker occurs in Amazing Spider-Man #122. Mary Jane goes to visit Peter at his apartment after hearing about Gwen’s death. She attempts to console him but he pushes her away saying, “Don’t make me laugh, Mary Jane. You wouldn’t be sorry if your own mother died. What do you care about straights like me and Gwen? Go on — get out of here. I know how you hate sick beds. And believe me – I wouldn’t want to spoil your fun.”

Mary Jane hesitates for a moment before leaving but decides to stay and silently closes the door. This is the moment that not only comics grew up, with the death of the innocence in Gwen, but also that Mary Jane matured to become the woman Peter would eventually be with.

Mary Jane

Gwen was reliable and consistent but Mary Jane could push Peter in ways that he hadn’t been pushed before. If Gwen was an innocent love, Mary Jane was the real thing with all the ups and downs that come in a real romance.

Mary Jane

This very concept was incredibly documented in the original graphic novel Spider-Man: Blue, as Peter talks to Gwen posthumously and tells her how Mary Jane has taught him to love again. To chronicle how the two got to this deep level of understanding and connection is to recall the entire story of Peter Parker as Spider-Man, that’s just how essential Mary Jane is to the series. 

This is why it is so unfortunate to see all the things that have been done with her character over the past several years. Their marriage was sold to Mephisto in exchange for Aunt May’s life and just when it was about to be rekindled Doctor Octopus took control of Peter’s body and messed it all up again.

Mary Jane

Now, Mary Jane seems fit to no longer have Peter in her life, complaining that his responsibilities aren’t hers and that she can no longer be endangered by having Peter in her life. These are all intelligent sentiments from a character whose life has been continually torn down by Peter Parker’s chosen lifestyle, but sometimes love knows no dangers too perilous and no chasms too wide. That’s the kind of love that Peter and Mary Jane have for each other. That’s the kind of love that made Mary Jane such a great character. That’s the kind of love that places her at the top of this list. That’s the kind of love I wish would return to the world of Spider-Man.

Mary Jane

That being said, all of these qualities that I enjoy about both Gwen and Mary Jane are both alive and well in the Ultimate Universe where perhaps the best versions of these characters exist. I wonder if Peter Parker can ever move beyond Mary Jane or if comic creators can ever create an honest and loving character in this more modern world of complicated relationships, especially since both Gwen and Mary Jane came from a simpler and more pure era of comics. That feeling of nostalgia and innocence might be key to both characters’ appeal and perhaps Spider-Man’s appeal as a character. I fear that the more that the writers and editors at Marvel push these characters further into Spider-Man’s past the more they lose what makes Spider-Man so appealing.

These are just my Top 10 but I would be remiss in forgetting to mention all the other wonderful (or not) women that Peter has been romantically linked to. See if you can recognize them all:

  • Amy Powell
  • April Maye
  • Caryn Earle
  • Sophia “Chat” Sanduval (Marvel Adventures Spider-Man)
  • Cissy Ironwood
  • Fallon
 Skye (Hostess ad)
Lisa Skye (Hostess ad)
  • Firestar (“Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends”)
  • Miss Kay
Jillian Blythe
  • Invisible Woman
  • Janine Godbe
  • Jessica Carradine
  • Marcy Kane
  • Marrow
  • Michele Gonzoles
  • Silver Sable (What If Spider-Man Married Black Cat?)
  • Virginia Dare (Spider-Man: 1602)

Thanks again to Dan Gvozden for filling yet another hole in my scandalously-thin knowledge of Marvel’s greatest superhero! Keep an eye out for Dan’s work when he returns with Super-Blog Team-Up next month, and in the meantime, please be sure to visit Dan’s home blog — Superior Spider-Talk — for even more Spider-Man goodness (and Dan’s signature podcast, too!)

NEXT WEEK: #129 Who’s the Boss?: Kingpin as Daredevil’s Arch-Nemesis



Top 10 Loves of Peter Parker (Part 1)

Longbox Graveyard #127

This week, Longbox Graveyard is pleased to welcome a new guest blogger in Dan Gvozden, an esteemed member of the Super-Blog Team-Up crew, and also the master of the extraordinarily awesome Superior Spider-Talk site (which you should visit RIGHT NOW). Dan has generously offered to fill a gap in my Spider-Man knowledge by counting down the Top 10 Loves of Peter Parker. Even a Spidey tyro such as myself can think of two names to put on Spidey’s list … but filling out a full ten requires a genuine Web-Head Authority! And so, without further ado, I present the Superior Spider-Talker himself, Dynamic Dan Gvozden!

We all know the “Parker Luck” and how it sets out to make every aspect of Peter Parker’s life as Spider-Man into a trip down misery lane. It is the bedrock of what makes Peter such an enduring and enjoyable character and it also provides the many obstacles that he will eventually have to overcome as part of his eternal struggle. If there is one struggle that seems to be ongoing for Peter Parker it is in his dating and romantic life.

If superheroes are really just soap operas printed on a page with a limited color set, Peter has the soapiest life of them all. Sure the “Parker Luck” plagues his relationships, but for a guy with such bad luck he sure isn’t in short supply of women in his life.  Whether it be for a single date, a roll in the hay, or a long-term romance, I present to you my Top 10 Loves of Peter Parker:

10  Sara Bailey

Sara who? Do you mean that Spider-Man had a relationship with Jean Grey’s deceased sister?

No. Sara Bailey is a character who was introduced in Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine who has made my list for one reason alone, she and Peter Parker were engaged. You see, after getting sent back in time to the Cretaceous Era with Wolverine, a very bearded Peter Parker (it’s a good look) begins to construct sculptures of a woman who appears to him in his dreams. This woman would turn out to be Sara Bailey.

Sara Bailey

Peter and Wolverine, in present time, attempted to stop a villain named Orb — his head is a giant eyeball — from robbing a bank but accidentally messed around with some time diamonds. These diamonds send them blasting through time, again and again, until they discover that Mojo has been manipulating them for a television show he’s running. Mojo also implanted the memories of a woman that appear in Peter’s head so that he might have a love interest in Mojo’s show.


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After getting transported to the 18th century, Spider-Man and Wolverine become cowboys and Native Americans, respectively, and blood brothers. Peter has taken one of the time diamonds and fashioned an engagement ring out of it for Sara, whom he has fallen in love with in the three years that they have been abandoned in this timeline. Eventually the ring reactivates and sends the three back to the present where Peter reunites with Sara, a bank teller from the original heist they were meant to stop, only to find out she doesn’t remember him at all. The story ends with Sara discovering the archaeological remains of the statues Peter built for her with Peter sitting by the stump of the tree where both he and Sara once carved their names. Oh, that “Parker Luck!”

9  Liz Allan

Liz is one of the first of Spider-Man’s supporting cast and one of the first romantic interests for Peter. She first appears in Amazing Fantasy #15 but isn’t named until Amazing Spider-Man #4 where Peter expresses his desires towards Liz. Unfortunately (or fortunately) for Peter, she is Flash Thompson’s girlfriend at the time and thinks next to nothing of Peter. However, in Amazing Spider-Man #12 Liz gains respect for Peter when he is unmasked by Doctor Octopus and is revealed to be a brave young lad, rather than just some “bookworm.”

Liz Allan

What follows is a madcap struggle between Betty Brant and Liz Allan for Peter’s affection, oftentimes in front of Flash who Liz is still dating. Peter thinks Liz is only interested in him now that he’s dating Betty Brant, and Betty sees Liz as just another airhead out to steal her boyfriend away from her. Liz finally admits her full feelings for Peter at graduation before running away to care for her brother Max Raxton, the Molten Man. Looks like it wasn’t meant to last, but Liz’s feelings for Peter are notable as they form one of the first romantic dramas he ever was involved in.

Liz Allan

8  Ms. Marvel (Carol Danvers)

In Ms. Marvel #34, Carol Danvers is running away from some government cronies’ gunfire, as she’s lost her powers, and Spider-Man swings in for the save. The two bicker but Peter, without consciously realizing it, asks Carol out on a date. Some times goes by and in Ms. Marvel #47 we get to see “The Amazing Spider-Date.”

Carol Danvers

The two decide to go to a fancy restaurant, with Carol paying for dinner due to Peter’s lack of money (yikes). The two banter about superheroics for a little while, Norman Osborn happens to be hunting them down at the time, and then the date goes stale, as most first dates have that awkward tendency to do. However, they eventually encounter just the thing to spice up their night … armed thugs.

Carol Danvers

The two leap into action and decide to forgo the fancy restaurant for a chilidog from a street vendor. Not much more happens with this relationship except for in the one-shot Siege: Spider-Man where the Venom symbiote takes over Ms. Marvel’s body and tells Spider-Man about her emotions towards him. No writer, other than these issues’ writer Brian Reed, has brought up this relationship again so I guess that it was always meant to be short-lived.

7  Debra Whitman

Deb Whitman first appeared in Spectacular Spider-Man #36 as the secretary at Empire State University’s Graduate School Professor, Morris Sloan. She’s one of the more average Spider-Man love interests, as she wasn’t portrayed as a supermodel or as a person with a particularly strong personality. It made her a stronger character as a result and one with an interesting past.

Deb Whitman

Her history informed much of her relationship with Peter Parker, who at the time was growing as a character in both confidence and in his career as a crime-fighter. Deb had been abused by her previous husband, who she separated from but never fully divorced, but remained a weak and easily pushed aside personality. This was often how Peter would treat her, running out on their dates more than any other of his love interests. Peter’s actions towards her are upsetting at best and downright emotionally abusive at worst. Debra threw herself at Peter issue after issue only to have him push her aside.

It took forever for Debra to grow a backbone but when she finally did she began to date her old college boyfriend, Biff Rifkin. It was the first time that readers would begin to root for another man to get Peter’s girl, as he wasn’t deserving of Debra’s affection. Biff treated her well and would spend all the time that she needed out of a relationship.

Deb Whitman

This would have been a fitting end to her character but the writers took a path that I’ve always considered as inappropriate. In Spectacular Spider-Man #68 she deduces that Peter Parker is Spider-Man and goes running to tell her shrink. This begins a complicated series of mind-games where her shrink convinces Peter to dress up as Spider-Man and confess to her that he is Spider-Man. Deb, who is being portrayed as a “typical crazy woman,” realizes how crazy it is that Peter appears to be Spider-Man, decides that she must have made it up in her mind and boards the first bus out of town.

Debbie wasn’t seen for years until Peter unmasked during “Civil War.” Once Deb hears this news she publishes a book called “TWO FACED: How Spider-Man Ruined My Life.” She seems upset about the book and later reveals that with her mother being sick she needed to exaggerate the details in order to sell more copies. Eventually she would tell the truth to the Daily Globe. Truth be told, it looks like these two never had a shot at making this whole thing work … except this time its Peter’s fault.

6  Carlie Cooper

Carlie Cooper appeared almost out of thin air at the beginning of “Brand New Day” and seemed to be designed to be Peter’s newest girlfriend, despite her short time dating Vin Gonzales. She was good friends with Lily Hollister, Harry Osborn’s girlfriend the time (who would later go on to kiss Peter Parker and be a Goblin), and quickly became a key part of Spider-Man’s supporting cast. This appearance from thin air could be why fans have had such a negative reaction to Carlie, an officer with the New York Police Department’s Crime Scene Unit.

Carlie Cooper

I’ve always liked Carlie as a character because she has what many of Spider-Man’s love interests don’t, particularly Deb Whitman: a backbone. When Peter can’t find the courage to ask her out she gives him an ultimatum that gets him to finally admit his feelings and ask her out. It is this attitude that makes it totally appropriate that she joins a roller derby group as “Crusher Carlie.”

When “Big Time” begins Peter and Carlie have been dating for awhile and are discussing the idea of Carlie moving in with him, with her deciding that it is probably too early in their relationship.

Carlie Cooper

Peter never tells Carlie that he is Spider-Man and considers doing it for quite some time. With Peter joining the Future Foundation, after the perceived death of the Human Torch, he begins to get a bit overextended and tells her that his trips are business trips for his new employer Horizon Labs. When Carlie finds out this isn’t true she gets angry and drunk and decides to get a Goblin tattoo to make Peter mad, as she knows that he killed Peter’s ex-girlfriend. Luckily she relents and instead gets a Spider-Man tattoo, which she worries, will complicate her relationship with Peter.

Carlie slowly begins to piece together Peter’s relationship with Spider-Man and confronts him about it, offering Peter the perfect opportunity to come clean to the woman he is dating. However, he chooses to lie to her again … well … a white lie. He tells her that he builds all of Spider-Man’s technology, which is technically true.

Shortly afterwards she is turned into a giant spider, as part of “Spider-Island,” and Peter quickly forgets about her and returns to Mary Jane’s side. His callous disregard for her wellbeing upsets her and leads her to figure out that he is Spider-Man. This is when Carlie goes from being a typical love interest to one that I respect quite a bit. Instead of allowing Peter to apologize and make excuses she flat out dumps him. I loved this moment as Peter totally deserved it and it allowed a woman to have a powerful moment in a Spider-Man book, an event that is unfortunately all-too-rare.

Carlie Cooper

The two have stomached a professional relationship and Carlie has confided in Mary Jane, as the two are the only civilians who know Peter’s secret. Now she’s just been cured of the Goblin Serum and Peter’s body has been taken over by Doctor Octopus so who knows what’s in store for Peter and Carlie. No matter how things shape up it doesn’t appear that romance lies in the future for these two.

With the preliminaries taken care of, Dan will return to Longbox Graveyard next week to count down the rest of Peter Parker’s Top 10 Loves! We will see you back here next week, and in the meantime, please join me in thanking Dan for his contribution to Longbox Graveyard … and be sure to visit Dan’s site — Superior Spider-Talk — where you will find more Spider-Man features and podcasts than you can shake a web-shooter at!

(And be sure to let us know what you think of Dan’s list so far, in the comments section, below!)

NEXT WEEK: #128 Top 10 Loves of Peter Parker (Part 2)


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