With Mephisto’s cameo in Spider-Man & Deadpool #5, and theories from Marvel’s own website that he’ll have a larger role within the title in the future, it’s likely that Marvel will revisit elements of One More Day after giving the story its biggest shout-out in years. There’s some speculation that Amazing Spider-Man is building to this as well.
So it seems an appropriate time to consider one of the fan theories from One More Day: Was Mary Jane supposed to be pregnant? Anyone who came to that conclusion is going to have a different understanding of the story—as well as what Peter and MJ gave up—than the typical reader.
The final chapter of One More Day began with Mary Jane standing by a bathroom, shortly after Mephisto offered to save Aunt May’s life in exchange for Peter Parker’s marriage. Some readers came to the conclusion that Mary Jane was throwing up, although this is not explicitly stated at any point.
After Peter and Mary Jane accepted the deal, Mephisto gloated and showed them a vision of the daughter they would have made if they had just stayed married.
This was seeded in the preceding chapter, in which Spider-Man met a cryptic little girl and a cross-dressing Mephisto. It may be an understatement to say that this foreshadowed the later scene, considering how obvious the dialogue is. It was pretty clear what JMS and Quesada were setting up—in a scene in which a little red-headed girl, described as a possibility Mephisto doesn’t want to talk about yet—talks about her beautiful mother, and smart father.
Comics is a medium which is heavily reliant on visual shorthand, and a young woman possibly throwing up is visual shorthand for morning sickness. This is also a story that ends with the revelation about the child Mary Jane could have had.
Rob Bricken of Topless Robot was clearly under the impression that this was a plot point. In his rundown of the worst non-Clone Saga Spider-Man stories, he summed up One More Day as Spider-man Sells His Pregnant Supermodel Wife to the Devil. He elaborates the point…
Around part three of One More Day, Peter starts having weird encounters with other-dimensional versions of himself that are wealthy but alone and miserable. They lead him to a little girl who bitches at him for being horrible and self-centered, and then takes him to Mephisto. Being the Devil and all, Mephisto promises he could save Aunt May, but only in exchange for the most valuable thing Peter has: his marriage! Mephisto then teleports Spider-man back to wherever the hell MJ is, and it turns out she got the same offer. MJ is having obvious morning sickness, but talks things out with Peter anyway. She decides giving their marriage to the devil is okay because, hey, they’ll probably find each other again (I read it as “we both know this shit won’t stand once there’s been a change in editorial”). Mephisto makes sure Peter knows that by making the deal he’s essentially giving Mary Jane a magical abortion and shows them the daughter he’ll never have, the little red-haired girl who yelled at him.
I did not have the impression from the story that Mary Jane was meant to be pregnant. From the issue, there was no reference to the future child having already been conceived, something a villain like Mephisto would have enjoyed gloating about. Nor was there any indication that Mary Jane was aware of any pregnancy. She could easily have just been grunting due to the stress of a difficult decision. An upset stomach has also become visual shorthand for that. She may also have just been sobbing, which people often do in difficult situations.
It seems pretty clear that this wasn’t a result that the reader was intended to come to, considering how it was never clearly stated. If it was meant to be a plot point, it would have been easy enough to construct a few lines of dialogue making that explicit. Currently, for this fan theory to pan out, the reader would have to connect several dots to understand something that seems to be rather important to the story. In the numerous interviews post-One More Day, this is also something that Joe Quesada and J. Michael Straczynski did not bring up, which suggests that it’s not something readers are supposed to pick up on.
One More Day does have a poor reputation, so there is a potential argument that the typical measures for how to interpret a story don’t apply here. One could say that in a good story, something that is essential to understanding the ramifications of the characters’ decisions would usually be stated clearly, but that we shouldn’t assume that One More Day has any attributes of a good story. Although there is the counterpoint that a bad story is where you’d expect to find significant misunderstandings.
There were a few well-documented delays on One More Day, and a last minute catastrophe as JMS decided to provide a script that was different from what had been commissioned. Quesada also mentioned how he had to change the dialogue for finished artwork and rewrite portions of JMS’s script, which further complicates efforts to determine what’s really going on in a given page. So it’s possible that the artwork is meant for a radically different script. While I’d be curious to see what the actual differences are—the lost JMS scripts for One More Day Parts 3 and 4 are the behind the scenes material I’m most interested in—they have been public about the major changes (Quesada wanted Gwen Stacy to pop up with Harry Osborn in the epilogue, JMS wanted Harry’s drug problems to have a different outcome causing a butterfly effect for the Marvel Universe) without ever mentioning an MJ pregnancy.
The fan theories neglect to take into account the problems inherent in conveying nuance in rushed work. When creative teams are in a hurry, they often won’t realize how their work can be misinterpreted. A generation ago, this resulted in one fan theory that the wedding annual included a last minute fling between Mary Jane Watson and Bruce Wayne.
It’s worth noting that the bathroom conversation occurred with different dialogue in the final issue of One Moment in Time. This version of Peter and MJ were explicitly not married. They were just on the verge of a break-up.
There’s just as much evidence that she’s suffering from “obvious morning sickness” in this scene, as there was for One More Day. I wouldn’t be surprised to see fan theories in the future about what happened to Mary Jane during the gap between her appearances here and her later (chronologically speaking) return to the books in Amazing Spider-Man #600.
There is related speculation that the kid was supposed to be the daughter Peter and MJ lost during the Clone Saga (who grew up to become Spider-Girl in the MC2 Universe, a spinoff of an acclaimed issue of What If?) That was a plot point that ended with either a stillbirth, or Norman Osborn faking a stillbirth in order to steal his archenemy’s baby. The comics never provided a definitive answer. Some readers thought that the little girl Peter met in the alleyway was supposed to be Mayday Parker, and that the twist was supposed to be that Peter and MJ eliminated the daughter they didn’t know was alive from existence.
I don’t think JMS and Quesada realized that when a character is introduced as Peter and Mary Jane’s daughter, many readers will think it’s meant to be Spider-Girl. There were no references to Baby May during JMS’s run, which was generally rather light on nods to the work of earlier creative teams. In Amazing Spider-Man #500, a future version of Peter Parker revealed that he and Mary Jane were parents, but they had a son named Ben. It seems unlikely that JMS would have added a plot point which requires a familiarity with obscure periods of the Spider-Man comics—keep in mind that the survival of Baby May was never explicitly stated, so a reader would need to know what happened in earlier comics, plus what some of the speculation is—in order to understand what’s going on. Plus, this daughter had her mother’s red hair while Mayday typically had her father’s brown hair.
These aren’t the most significant fan theories regarding the Spider-Man comics. JR’s fan theory about how Norman Osborn could have been able to knock up Gwen Stacy was incorporated into Marvel’s official explanation, and listed as a fan idea so good it was adopted by the creators in a cracked.com article. With 1,869,779 views to date, that article has probably been read more than Sins Past. The best-regarded is probably the interpretation that Gwen Stacy died of a broken neck rather than the shock of a fall, which adds a new wrinkle to “The Night Gwen Stacy Died.”
Have you guys heard about these One More Day theories before? If so, what are you thoughts on how it changes the story? Are there any other unusual interpretations of events in Spider-Man stories that you’d like to share?