J. Jonah Jameson is a great character, who somehow is both absolutely classic – you could do a silhouette carictature of the toothbrush moustache, the flattop haircut, and the stogie and I think you could get most people on the street to guess his identity – but also incredibly mutable. He can be Spider-Man’s most enduring hater or his biggest ally; an amoral scandal-monger who cares about selling papers not the truth or a tough-but-fair newspaperman of the old school who won’t tolerate spin and who will back good investigative reporting to his last breath; the Mayor of New York City or a conspiracy theory podcaster.
Jameson’s original version of him is a Steve Ditko original, steeped in Ditko’s own brand of Objectivist philosophy, a tormented, small man hiding behind bluster and bravado, consumed by ressentiment towards those who stand above the crowd, who fans the flames of the mob’s hatred in order to salve his own ego. But somehow this jacket couldn’t quite stick; Jameson has too much roaring energy, too much snappy cigar-chewing banter, too rich of a Falstaffian mix of hypocritical humor and human frailty, to go down as a Randian cardboard cutout.
So over the years, writers have looked for a deeper and more sympathetic motivation for Jameson, and his character changed as a result. I would call him Spider-Man’s Loyal Opposition, undoubtedly an irritant and an obstacle, but one whose constant pressure pushes Spider-Man to be a more selfless, more “responsible” hero, if only to get one over on the old man.