When he was Editor-in-Chief of Marvel, Joe Quesada expressed his belief that some developments prior to his tenure had made the Marvel Universe a less interesting place. He listed the three mistakes that he wanted to fix in a Cup of Joe column at CBR.
There were three genies that I wanted to get back in the bottle.
- Cut down the number of mutants so that they became special again. See “House of M.”
- Make the Marvel Universe as unpredictable a place as it was in the early 1960s. See “Civil War.”
- Bring Peter Parker back to single status. See “One More Day.”
So, no hints necessary, so far all missions accomplished and it only took me close to ten years.
I’m so tired.
With One More Day and the follow-up One Moment in Time, Joe Quesada accomplished more than just making Spider-Man a bachelor again. He did it in a way that kept most of the previous continuity intact, while coming up with a reason for Peter & MJ to break-up, that wouldn’t have worked if the couple was still married. This differed from what I would have done, and from JMS’s scripts for the final two issues.
What didn’t occur was the marriage. Peter and MJ were together, they loved each other they just didn’t pull the trigger on the wedding day. All the books count, all the stories count except in the minds of the people within the Marvel U, Peter and MJ were a couple, not a married couple. To me, that’s a much fairer thing to do to those of us who have been reading Spider Man for all these years. Like I said, is it perfect? No. As far as we investigated, short of divorcing Peter, nothing really is.
The problems with death and divorce will be explored in a later column. There have been some questions about whether the backstory of the characters is all that clear, and I’d argue that it is. The vast majority of the previous stories still occurred mostly the way it was depicted on the page. Nate Lubensky, Aunt May’s fiancee, died in the crossfire of a fight between Spider-Man and the Vulture. Randy Robertson got divorced. Jonathan Caesar stalked Mary Jane, and was later killed by another of her stalkers. Hell, the changing setting, necessitated by the sliding time-scale, would have produced more significant changes to the finished story than the marital status of two young New Yorkers, as it meant that a story published in the late 1980s would be set much more recently, something that would include a lot of anachronisms.
For every question about how Peter Parker’s past has changed due to One More Day, there are four possible answers.
- This element has changed. For example: Peter Parker & Mary Jane chose not to get married.
- This element did not change. For example: Kraven still shot himself. Peter & MJ still loved one another and lived together for a time.
- This element changed, but the nature of the change hasn’t been revealed yet, because of a story someone wants to tell. For example: Joe Quesada mentioned that there’s one more story he’s interested in telling tied to One More Day. In the event that this story affects the backstory of any of the characters, I would assume that the editors told the writers about this detail, in order to avoid any contradiction.
- Schrodinger’s Cat. The degree to which an element changed or not depends on whether a writer addresses it in a story. Once that happens, there’s a definitive answer as to which elements fit in category one, and which elements fit in category two. It’s usually stuff that isn’t immediately consequential, and had a limited effect on other stories. For example…
- What exactly happened in Spectacular Spider-Man Annual 7, if Peter & MJ did not go on their honeymoon?
- What happened in Erik Larsen’s fill-in issue of Spider-Man if Peter & MJ had already decided not to have kids.
- What were Ben Reilly’s last words, if there wasn’t anyone he could have been Uncle Ben to?
- Is the post-Brand New Day version of Mephisto aware of what happened in OMD?
In most cases, these weren’t beats that were particularly relevant to where the characters found themselves in the the next issue. The major exception is the Clone Saga, although it’s easy enough to imagine the significant moments (Ben Reilly’s death, Kaine’s introduction, the returns of Norman Osborn and the Jackal) without MJ being pregnant.
Some have asked why the absence of the marriage would have made any difference in whether Peter & MJ stayed together. But it made sense considering the reason for the break-up. “One Moment in Time” revealed that Peter & MJ broke up because she realized that by being romantically involved with Spider-Man, she was putting her family (her aunt, sister and two nephews) in danger. Had they been married at the time, there wouldn’t be much MJ could do, because she would remain a prominent target as Spider-Man’s ex-wife. But she was a less prominent target as his ex-girlfriend, so her lack of a romantic relationship with Spidey reduced the danger to her family.
It’s worth noting that Spider-Man’s romantic relationships since Brand New Day have been with women who already had plenty of enemies, and few relatives to endanger. His roommate/ one-night-stand Michelle Gonzalez was a lawyer, with a police officer brother who had informed on other cops. The Black Cat’s identity is known. Carlie Cooper’s an only child, whose best friend was a supervillain and whose father was a corrupt cop.
There have been some arguments about whether breaking up with Peter to reduce the risk to her family was in MJ’s character. To the best of my knowledge, it’s not a situation that had ever been explored in the Spider-Man comics. So it was a Schrodinger’s Cat situation, in which either answer would have been appropriate. I can’t think of anything from the series to contradict it, as I’m unaware of any scene in which MJ explicitly said she was okay with the risk to her family.
Aside From That Mrs Lincoln, What Did You Think of the Play?
“One More Day” is largely defined by Peter & MJ’s decision in the final chapter. The question of whether the book was well-crafted seems largely irrelevant. Numerous reviews blast the story, before admitting that the art and writing were okay. Though at least one notable fan has argued that it was the worst Spider-Man story he had read in his life. As with Sins Past, I’m often left in the awkward position of defending a significant story I thought was just okay from people who think it’s the worse thing to happen to comics since The Seduction of the Innocent. As the rest of my essay should have made clear, I’m mostly in favor of the marriage being erased from existence, so I may be slightly biased.
OMD wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I enjoyed the final issue. The storyline achieved a change I liked with the characters acting mostly appropriately. Mary Jane’s faith that their love can overcome every obstacle also explained her choice. It also allows for the possibility of a reunion in the future, without making it certain, an ambiguous future being the best way to keep readers concerned about what will happen next. Meanwhile, the issue addressed the difficult questions (Was it Aunt May’s time? Was it right for Peter to put Mary Jane in this situation?) before the characters made their decision.
I liked Quesada’s art, especially the two page spread of Peter and MJ’s history and the brighter world of the Brand New Day sequence, which did seem like the work of a different artist. His idea of showing Peter and MJ as slightly older than usual in the darker sequences did accentuate their stress and make the brighter world of BND seem like a release. But it also resulted in some shots of Peter resembling Foggy Nelson. Meanwhile, the Peter of the Brand New Day sequence did seem slightly dopey, rubber-faced and sad-sackish.
Marvel and Quesada’s top priority wasn’t the story or the change to the status quo, but the results. Getting the characters from Point A to Point B wasn’t as important for Marvel as Point B. Responding to a detractor at the CBR forum, Amazing Spider-Man editor Stephen Wacker wrote his reasons for being happy with the results of “One More Day.”
The fact that we performed a massive continuity and publishing change to our signature character to get him back on track (and away from a status quo few people were willing to acknowledge outside the comics)…a change that frustrated folks like yourself SWORE was going to destroy the character forever!!!… and it really didn’t affect his popularity much at all. In fact, it’s grown. And it’s all worked to make the various Spidey books more cohesive than they’ve been in years. Perhaps ever since it all comes from my office.
Plus on the creative side we lost one of the top 3 writers and artists in the biz after OMD and gave the book to some writers and artists without as high a profile…but who were just as talented… and still maintained very good if not better sales in an unforgiving market that has changed drasically from even a year ago, during a time of incredible technological and financial change.
Plus in less than four years, we’ve added 27+ volumes of Amazing Spider-Man to the backlist, not to mention dozens of other related collections. A part of the business you see nothing of as you continue to swear by your North America Sales Estimates…which are always off..
Results are what matter and ALL of that matters –regardless of how quick you will be to dismiss based on whatever tired “observation” you’re about to dig up from the dredges of some comic industry “analyst”.
You seem addicted to not being able to look at the business through anything other than at least 10-years ago glasses. You can’t learn business from a message board. Sorry.
You live in the future now. Things move fast. You can keep ignoring it if yu want, but the world’s not going to care much.
Success for Spidey is anything BUT fait accompli and there’s a reason why someone such as yourself is never in a position to actually perform the work you’re so critical of. You’d freeze from fear at the first sight of a angry “fan”.
While Marvel focused on the status quo they wanted after OMD, many readers were concerned with the way Marvel came to that decision. This was the source of much of the contention against One More Day, as some readers are still upset that in order to save Aunt May, Peter and Mary Jane made a deal with a guy who looked a lot like Satan.