We've all probably had to deal with the boss from Hell at some point. Still, our bosses never committed libel against us and hired criminals to take us to prison or worse. That's what Peter Parker and Spider-Man get to deal with from the publisher of the Daily Bugle newspaper, J. Jonah Jameson.
Known for his screaming tirades at his employees and for being smug and self serving when dealing with the public, Jonah has never been the calm, collected type. This was doubtless a trait he gained from living with is uncle, David Jameson. (Jonah's father, J. Jonah Jameson, Sr. left when Jonah was a boy.) David was a war vet and an abusive tyrant to Jonah and his wife, Betty. He was physically abusive to Betty and verbally to young Jonah. By the time he was in high school, Jonah was known for having a temper. He was a boxer and punched out his coach when he mocked his skill. He also tore a pencil sharpener off of a classroom wall and beat up some classmates that were making fun of him. He met his first wife, Joan, in high school and fell deeply in love with her. The marriage didn't last long, as she died when he was working as a reporter overseas in Korea. The marriage did produce a son, John Jameson. (Spider-Man's Tangled Web #20) Jonah eventually remarried and spent many happy years with Marla, until she was murdered by Alistaire Smythe. (Amazing Spider-Man #654)
Starting out as a reporter for the New York Herald Journal Express, Jonah investigated a story about corrupt police. His informant, Sam, was soon killed by a police officer and Jonah got jumped by a group of cops. His editor at the N.Y.H.J.E. killed the story and Jonah joined the staff of the Daily Bugle, at that time under the ownership of William Walter Goodman. Jameson continued to pursue the story, despite more violence from the police, eventually getting a confession to the murder of Sam from the officer responsible. (Web of Spider-Man #52)
Jameson eventually rose through the ranks to become the publisher of the Daily Bugle. He ran the company frugally (he deducted Betty Brant's pay when she went home early after the Scorpion attacked the Bugle, (Amazing Spider-Man #29)) but effectively. While Jameson does spotlight social injustice in his newspaper, he has also used the publication as a pulpit against Spider-Man. (He has also expanded the media into TV and magazines, becoming a wealthy man.) While in some ways a very ethical newsman (he fired Peter Parker for manipulating a photograph published in the Bugle, despite the fact that the manipulation was done to save Jonah, Amazing Spider-Man #624) he has also lost credibility for hiring so many super criminals to unmask the vigilante. These menaces include Electro, Mysterio, Spencer and Alistaire Smythe, the Scorpion and the Human Fly. He has also enlisted other vigilantes and mercenaries, such as Luke Cage and Silver Sable, to defeat Spider-Man.
There have been many reasons given as to why Jameson hates Spider-Man. Jealousy has been one of the most commonly expressed. After Spider-Man saved them both from a bomb that Spencer Smythe attached them to, Jameson tells himself "We were both on the razors edge of death--and while I've always prided myself on my strength--you kept on fighting...and I--I fell apart...And for that reason, I've got to drag you down into the gutter. Because I cant live with anyone knowing that the lion of publishing, the great benefactor of the little people...is just a weak and ordinary man." (Amazing Spider-Man #192)
Despite his abusive nature with his employees (my personal favorite insult being "YOU CLUMSY, TACTLESS, MALADROIT OAF!" in Green Goblin # 6), Jameson has also shown to take care of them. He hired Betty Brant when she needed money to pay for her mother's medical bills. (Eleonore Brant had also worked for Jonah at one time.) When Frederick Foswell was killed in a shoot out when Jonah was kidnapped, Jameson told Ned Leeds to make Foswell the hero when he wrote the story. (Amazing Spider-Man #52) When Onslaught ordered Sentinel robots to attack New York, Jameson addressed the staff of the Bugle, saying "I'm not going to lie to you people. The situation outside is bad. And getting worse. I realize many of you are worried about your families. Go home if you think you must. I wont think any less of you. And...uh...your paychecks wont be docked. I'm staying! No metal monster can stop the Daily Bugle from reporting the news!" As the staff gets back to work, Jameson brags that he inspired them and that they would die for "their fearless publisher!" (Amazing Spider-Man #415)
Jameson was eventually elected mayor of New York City in a runoff vote. He has used this new position of power to further pester Spider-Man.
Pompous Blowhard or "Just a Weak and Ordinary Man?
It could be debated if Jameson is really as tough as he seems. He loves to put people in their place, but he has also been shown to be a coward on multiple occasions. He has turned spineless when faced by the Vulture, Carnage, the Scorpion, the second Green Goblin and Kingpin's thugs. He does recover quickly from his fright, daring the miscreants to show their faces again...after they leave.
Most people would call Jonah a bully. It used to be said that bullies suffer from low self esteem just as much as their victims do but new research finds that bullies actually have higher than average self esteem. Shame is the emotion that drives bullies. Shame differs from guilt in that shame has to do with how you think about yourself whereas guilt focuses on how you treat others. Bullies tend to be very "shame prone," meaning that they fear that their failures and short comings will be found out by others. In fact, the bullying keeps the aggressive person's self esteem high, as it draws attention away from whatever they feel shame for. Other people wont notice the bullies cowardice if they are making fun of some other person's supposed faults.
David Jameson, Jonah's step-father, was a bully that refused to allow his step son to be weak or "a girl" in his words. This doubtless left an impression on Jonah to be in command of a situation at all times. This manifests itself as narcissism, and makes Jameson preoccupied with power, vanity, prestige and personal adequacy. The narcissist lacks empathy for others, take advantage of other for personal benefit and is extremely selfish.
J. Jonah Jameson: Disagreeable as Hell
OCEAN is an acronym for the Big Five Personality Traits: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism.
There seems to be a disconnect between J. Jonah Jameson the publisher of the Daily Bugle and J. Jonah Jameson, the family man. The Publisher is a tyrant with a Hitler mustache while The Family Man dotes on his son, wife and adopted his niece, Mattie Franklin.
Jonah is low on the openness trait, highly conscientious, low on extroversion (except regarding family), very disagreeable (again, except for family and chosen co-workers) and very neurotic.
His lack of openness is most clear regarding his hated enemy: Spider-Man. No matter how many times, Spidey has saved a citizen, the city, the world or Jameson himself, Jonah remains convinced that the wall crawler is a menace. His conscientiousness is on display in how he treats his beloved Daily Bugle. It has been destroyed and rebuilt several times, with Jameson at the forefront. While hardly lovable to his employees, he is cherished by his family. Much of Jameson's compassion is directed at people he knows, as opposed to faceless strangers and employees. And finally, he is a bundle of frayed nerves, fearing that the Bugle will go broke, some danger will befall his family, he will have to print a retraction on a Spider-Man story or that anyone will find out he is a coward.
Son of a Gun
It is unclear just what David Jameson's war time experiences were like and if he suffered from PTSD or if he had war trauma without PTSD. Studies have shown that children of vets with PTSD have more emotional, developmental and neurotic problems that children of vets that only had war trauma. Children may respond to a parent's heightened emotional state with exaggerated crying, over sleeping, over eating, hyperactivity, apathy or psychophysiological instability. Its also been shown that children react more strongly to a parents agitated emotional states than to actual danger.
Jameson is a major pain in the rear end. A few of his secretaries have abruptly quit their jobs, several super villains want him dead, Spider-Man can barely tolerate him and even his friends have told him to shut up at times. He could possibly become more tolerable if he sought out therapy for his feelings of shame and anger issues, but he has shown to be resistant to therapy. The best way for his staff and co-workers to deal with him at the Bugle is to confront him calmly and professionally in private about his outbursts. Jameson should never be disagreed with in public, as he wont back down in front of an audience.