Comic books are a unique medium. Through the use of gifted writers and gifted artists, a wonderful marriage of storytelling techniques can lead to the most fantastical modern epics and tales that can resonate with a reader for decades to come. It’s through the art of sequential storytelling that a multitude of different interpretations may be birthed from the reading of a single panel, let alone an entire series of issues. It is this reason that keeps the most iconic comic book characters such as Superman and Batman in circulation as well as enjoying a life sustaining through mainstream media and popular culture since their creation in the late 1930s.
Spider-Man is no different. Created in 1962, the character has stuck with audiences through each of the following decades up to the current present. Whether it was the science fiction thrillers used as a backdrop against teenage angst in the 1960s, or the crime dramas simmering in the back seat of the self reflections of someone who was taking on a new stage of life as a young adult in the 1980s, the character has gone through each and ever decade and made his mark on fans of all ages. As such, when asked what makes the character appealling, many people point to the relatability of a character who embodies so much of what they see in themselves in the real world. Unlike the superheroic trends of the characters in both Marvel and DC at the time of his creation, Spider-Man stood out as a character who began and ended with the person behind the mask, Peter Parker. As though he were an embodiment of a kindred spirit among college students in the 1960s, the character of Peter Parker is what keeps fans comic back to read; to find out how someone like them can hope to overcome the trials and tribulations that not only comes with being a superpowered person, but also the troubles that come with being just a person as well.
Most Spider-Man descriptions revolve around this idea, anyway.
In 1987, Peter Parker (or Spider-Man, depending on the argument) married one of his many love interests, Mary Jane Watson. In 2007, that marriage was effectively annulled and wiped from the character’s continuity in a story titled “One More Day” told by J. Michael Straczynski and Marvel Editor and Chief Joe Quesada. Recently, in the summer of 2010 that story was revisted and expanded upon in The Amazing Spider-Man #638-#641 in a story titled “One Moment in Time”, which was again told by Joe Quesada. Fan reaction has been particularly vocal, ranging from fair to vitriolic in it’s distaste, which compares to the 2007 storyline “One More Day”. Following the completion of “One Moment in Time”, Mr. Quesada conducted a five-part interview with the comic book news website Comic Book Resources in which he attempted to have his final say on the project, what it meant to him and what he intended it to mean for Spider-Man.
Which brings us to this article. Going over the collective history of Spider-Man, including his relationship to his wife/non-wife Mary Jane, the build up to that relationship however much of it there indeed was, and the point of OMD and OMIT, there has gotten to be a definite sense of miscommunication in terms of what type of story was meant to be told. OMIT attempts to answer what exactly occured the day of Peter Parker and Mary Jane’s wedding since it never happened due to the events of OMD. Conversely, Joe Quesada has come out and explained the reasons for certain character portrayals concerning Peter and Mary Jane in the story, and how it all adds up in the end. What this article will attempt to do is narrow down exactly the true point of OMD and OMIT, and see if the miscommunication between fans and editor/writer can be cleared up.
It’s not going to be easy, but if we’re to relate towards Spider-Man, few things in life are.
In the issues leading up to One More Day, the character of Spider-Man had gone through some of the most trying consectutive moments in the character’s entire history. Due to the Marvel Comics storyline “Civil War” in which an executive order is passed so that heroes in the Marvel Universe had to either publically surrender their identities and work by sanction of the government or become officially outlawed, Spider-Man, who at the time had recently joined the Avengers and was living with Tony Stark a.k.a. Iron Man, publically unmasked in front of the nation and joined the Registered list of Super Heroes. However a sequence of events that ended with Iron Man showing Peter a gulag made out of a portal in the Negtative Zone lead to Peter taking his wife and his Aunt May out of Stark’s tower and on the run, thus switching to the non-registered, outlawed side of the war. His identity exposed and now an outlaw, Peter and his family faced dire straits consisting of supervillain attacks, hiding from the government, and a rapidly fleeting bank account. All this came to a head when an assassin hired out by the Kingpin shot Aunt May through a window across from their hotel room. May, who throughout the character’s history has suffered an innumeral list of heart attacks general ailments accompanying someone in their mid-to-late seventies, was dying quickly, and though Peter managed to get her to a hospital, he was told that there was no way to save her. Desperate not to let another loved one die due to the machinations of his own actions, Spider-Man scoured the globe in a short amount of time thanks to Doctor Strange to find someone with the abilities to heal his aunt, but it lead to no avail. On his way back to the hospital, Peter is accosted by a small girl who soon reveals herself to be Mephistol, a villain in the Marvel Universe who acts as its version of the Devil. Mephisto claims that he will save Aunt May in exchange for one thing.
With twenty-four hours to make their decision, Peter and Mary Jane eventually agree to make the deal. What follows is a series of truly heart-wrenching moments between the two in their fleeting seconds as a married couple, as Mary Jane swears that nothing can truly seperate them and that they will find each other and be together again someday. The next we see is Peter waking up in Aunt May’s old house and happily rushing down to kiss his Aunt goodbye as he bike-rides to a surprise party for his formerly dead best friend Harry Osborn. As the story ends, we see a solemn Mary Jane exit the party, as Peter and his friends toast to a “Brand New Day!”, which will be the first of many times that phrase is uttered.
As stated before, there was a significant fan backlash to this story. People in particular were pointing toward Joe Quesada in blame, stating that this was an extreme case of fan fiction. Joe Quesada, who is credited with the bulk of the final part’s scripting, is someone who has for years made his opinions clear that the marriage between Peter and Mary Jane was a large mistake and detrimental to his worth as a character. The fact that he illustrated the story as well as being credited for the plot and the final parts of the scripting certainly insinuated some bias in his involvement. Another aspect to the history of the story was the fact that shortly before the fourth part was published, J. Michael Straczynski, the head writer for “The Amazing Spider-Man” since 2001, had made it public that he temporarily requested his name to be taken off the credits for the final two issues due to creative differences. In an interview with Comic Book Resources, mirroring the interview which would spawn this article three years later, Quesada said that the issues brought up with Staczynski (Or as he’s known by fans, JMS) were due mainly with confusion towards the intended ending, that is to say the resolution to how Aunt May is healed and how Peter and Mary Jane broke up. According to Quesada, the retroactive continuity (or “retcon”) would re-set Spider-Man’s history to issue #98, dating back the early 1970s. Not wanting to up-end over twenty years of continuity, the final two issues were heavily re-written in order to both make for a more satisfying conclusion as well as proper set up for the future stories with a single Spider-Man headlined “Brand New Day”. This in turn was responded by an e-mail to Newsarama sent by JMS, which Straczynski attempts to make clear exactly what trepidations he had with “One More Day”‘s resoulution. What followed was a paraphrased recollection consisting of a back-and-forth between JMS and Quesada in trying to figure out what exactly was Mephisto going to change in the then-current continuity. The most troubling of these quotes to many of the fans was the paraphrase cited JMS to Quesada “It’s magic, we don’t have to explain it.” in concern to how Harry Osborn was suddenly alive, Peter had his mechanical webshooters return, and Aunt May’s house in which Peter wakes up in in ASM #545 is suddenly in one piece and not burnt to the ground like it had been in previous issues.
All this, coupled with the removal of the marriage in the first place, made “One More Day” and Joe Quesada public enemies in the eyes of comic book fans. And yet Quesada, who admits to not shying away from controversy, remained self assured in his resolve, stating that marriage would lead to creative death for the character of Spider-Man, and that this was the only and best way to continue the character and his stories. In the aforementioned interview with Comic Book Resources, Quesada listed off his reasons why Spider-Man is more successful as a single character, citing that a large factor to the continuity of Peter Parker that adds to the comic’s appeal is the soap opera. The variables in Peter’s life were unpredicatable and exciting, and that after he was married the excitement was forced to disappear.
Here’s where the confusion comes from. Again, this article is meant to address OMIT. To do that however requires a wealth of knowledge in the history behind why the marriage was seen as a cancer to the character of Spider-Man.
-Quesada cites the marriage as a boring aspect of Spider-Man; one that will inevitably deflate all the tension within his inner circle. This is a hasty generalization in that marriage has to be a boring story element that kills tension. Case in point: There were a number of stories told that dealt with Sipder-Man’s ex-flame the Black Cat reacting to his marriage with Mary Jane which caused tension. She would threaten MJ, date Flash Thompson in order to make Peter jealous, and even when she and Mary Jane came to an alliance, there was tension felt between how Mary Jane felt in the midst of two super powered beings, how Peter felt about Felicia now that he was married to Mary Jane, and how Felicia would try and occasionally fail to move on from her feelings towards Peter. It’s a slippery slope to claim that the “Spider-Marriage” automatically leads to stories bigged down by a lack of tension.
-Quesada compares marrying Spider-Man to giving the character Daredevil his eyesight back, which is a weak analogy. He claims that in both cases the character’s are being rid of what makes them unique, which on the one hand can be up for interpretation. On the other hand, Spider-Man’s one in a long line of single superheroes, Daredevil included. (for the most part) Quesada often says that what makes Spider-Man appealing is the utter humanity of his character, which doesn’t necessarily have to be lost once he’s married. He seems to be missing the point as to what he thinks makes Spider-Man unique, or what marriage can take away. What’s interesting is the relatability between Quesada and Spider-Man in that Quesada is married himself.
-Another element he factors in is the longevity and vitality of the character, and how logically if Spider-Man gets married then the fans want to see him become a father, a grandfather, then grow old and die. It’s a straw man argument because for one thing, Spidey was married for nearly half of his existence and never did any of those things. Secondly, saying that the fans want to see a their character grow old and die is a false assumption, especially considering the history of Marvel and their characters. A number of Marvel characters are married, including Sue Storm and Reed Richards, King T’challa (Black Panther) and Ororo Munroe (Storm), Luke Cage and Jessica Jones and (before she died) Jean Grey and Scott Summers. All of these characters have been married for years, and all of them have staved off obscurity and are at the top of Marvel’s most popular . As a matter of fact, Superman married Lois Lane in 1996 and just celebrated his 700th issue. In further terms of growing old, Quesada goes against the original run of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko on Spider-Man, who had gone through and graduated from high school by #28, which would have been shy of just three years since the character’s conception.
-When asked if people who want to read a single Spider-Man couldn’t just read the Ultimate Spider-Man and Marvel Age Spider-Man books respectively, (in which Peter Parker is fifteen years old and new to being a crime-fighter) Quesada responded by refuting the idea that all three books had to be mutually exclusive, stating by that logic since Ult. Spider-Man doesn’t kill, the regular Spider-Man must kill. He went on to say that the regular “Amazing” book had to have more sophisticated relationships for the more adult Peter Parker. Just not a marriage.
Quesada goes into other reasons that he feels proves his point such as the fact that after a Wizard magazine article, a majority number of writers including Sam Raimi thought Spider-Man would work better being single. He also poses a question, asking if there a single Spider-Man story that could be told with a married Spider-Man as opposed to a Spider-Man with a live-in girlfriend and vice-versa, stating that the former loses out to the latter. This does beg the question as to which and what stories couldn’t be told with a married Spider-Man that could be told with a single Spider-Man, as Quesada doesn’t list any. True, a number of recent stories do rely on Spider-Man not being married such as having a drunken one-night stand with his roommate and being in a casually sexual relationship with the Black Cat. At the same time, who’s to say that a writer couldn’t write the same stories with Mary Jane still married to Peter? It would certainly add drama. Also in terms of marriage only stories, there are some that do not require the ring such as the Identity Crisis arc in the late 1990s or Cosmic Spider-Man from the early 90s. Still some were definitely written with the marriage in mind such as Kraven’s Last Hunt which takes place directly after the wedding, and the Clone Saga, in which determining who was the real Peter Parker meant much to both Mary Jane and their unborn child.
But that’s a discussion for another day.
-When asked why not simply divorce the Parkers, Quesada responded by saying he would not feel comfortable with a child asking his or her mother what it meant when he read that Spider-Man got a divorce. Oddly enough, the concept of Spider-Man trading his marriage to a stand-in for the devil hadn’t come across important enough for Quesada to give much thought beyond saying that Mephisto is a part of a magical story. He also added that divorce would make the book too realistic, which again has been cited by himself and others as a part of the appeal of Spider-Man. The same could be said for “The Death of Gwen Stacy”, perhaps the most well known Spider-Man story of all time.
To end the interview, Quesada pointed out to CBR the irony of the fans who were refuting OMD as a story editorially mandated when in fact the Spider-Marriage itself was mandated. Calling it a “stunt”, Quesada goes into the backhistory of the wedding and how it was made to be put in the comics at the same time that Stan Lee, who was writing the Spider-Man newstrip, decided to marry off Peter and Mary Jane. Jim Shooter, the Editor-in-Chief at the time, wanted the comics to match up with the strip in terms of the notoriety the marriage would no doubt garner. So within the span of three months, Mary Jane went from supporting character completely celibate from Peter to wife.
Obviously this comes as a sort of shock to those who thought that Peter and Mary Jane went from friends to boy friend and girlfriend to fiancés and a married couple. After all, it’s what the 1990s Spider-Man cartoon went after, as well as the 2007 movie Spider-Man 3. Both of those series had Peter and MJ progress as a couple, so if the comic books didn’t include the large amount of build-up the public thinks it did, then much of the Spider-Man stories stemming from the twenty-first annual are built upon false premises.
Which is why it is always tricky to discount certain things from comic books, especially when talking about a character who has been around for nearly fifty years. In the comic books, Mary Jane was introduced in 1967 in Amazing Spider-Man #42 and was a brief love interest until Peter permenantly became attatched to the character of Gwen Stacy. When Gwen died in Amazing Spider-Man #121 in 1973, Mary Jane grew closer to Peter, as she helped him move on from his loss and they gradually went from friends to lovers, which culminated in Amazing Spider-Man #143 in April of 1975. Following a failed marriage proposal, Peter and Mary Jane broke up in ASM #193 in 1979 and she was largely absent the books for the next five years. So Quesada appeared to be correct.
Or so he thinks. As it happens, Mary Jane returned to the titles in Amazing Spider-Man #242 in July of 1983. It would be another fourteen issues before one of the most significant moments in both the title and Peter Parker’s history occured. During the “Alien Costume” storyline, in the midst of a battle with the Puma, Mary Jane revealed to Peter that she’s known of his secret identity for as long as she’s known him. This begins a serious relationship between the two as Mary Jane comes clean to Peter about her own personal history, and why she acted like an air-headed party girl up to that point. The level of honesty both characters shared would be exemplified in the years to come, as Mary Jane quickly became Peter’s sole confidant. Peter, who was in a heavy relationship with the Black Cat at the time, grew closer towards Mary Jane, who would often a future with her ex-boyfriend. In the years that followed, a significant “will they/won’t they” undercurrent was in the books, as Peter’s relationship with Felicia intensified in both it’s passion and it’s negativity towards his double identity. There would be times where Peter could only talk with Mary Jane about things that would typically be seen in his classic inner monologues. A stark contrast to what Joe Quesada claims to have happened in the books three months prior to the marriage in 1987, the relationship between Peter and Mary Jane grew and grew in the slow course of three years as opposed to three months. What follows are sequences of events that portray the relationship of two people who have been said were “just friends”.
Joe Quesada: “You know, I re-read that issue back when we were still only just discussing the unmarrying, and it’s one of those things that really makes me shake my head – especially when thinking about how “perfect for each other” we seem to recall Peter and MJ being. When you re-read the annual and the years of books depicting their relationship prior to that, it wasn’t like that at all. Look, the truth of the matter was that the actual marriage between Peter Parker and Mary Jane in the comics was a publicity stunt. If you were reading Spidey comics in those days, you would remember that they weren’t even dating around that time. MJ had split to go seek out her fame and fortune on the West Coast and then had come back, so she was around the fringes, but just as a supporting cast member, not as Peter’s girlfriend or anything like that. ”
“As history recounts, Stan Lee was writing the newspaper strip, which had it’s own continuity separate from the comics. In the strip, MJ and Peter were an item and a fixture for years, and Stan had been building towards it for quite some time. As news of the marrying in the strip got to Marvel’s brass, this apparently caught them by surprise and they realized that this was going to be a huge press event, so they rushed MJ back into the books and, in a span of three short months, they were suddenly dating, engaged and getting married in the comics too.”
“So yeah, I was really taken by that – the awkwardness of the pair makes it clear that these are not the Peter Parker and Mary Jane we’ve grown to know and love in the movies and the cartoons and the rose colored lens of time. That’s why, when I hear people saying that Peter or MJ wouldn’t do certain things in certain stories, there’s almost always a story somewhere in our history that will point towards the contrary because at the heart of every Marvel character lies their imperfections.”
NEXT: This mis-understood story that is “ONE MORE DAY”.