Sunday, January 6, 2008

One More "One More Day" Post

As a child, my Mom would frequently tell me "Stop picking at it, Jason. You're only making it worse."

You can probably guess about how well I took that advice.

It seems as though there's nothing else in comics that deserves discussion as much as One More Day so I'm going to back up the car here, and run over it again. Well, figuratively speaking.

Weeks after JMS' now legendary blog post in which he reveals that he asked to have his name removed from the final two issues of One More Day, Comic Book Resources interviewed Joe Quesada about the story now that it's complete. In the second segment of the interview, he begins to address JMS' comments. To summaraize, he goes on to say that Straczynski didn't object to the idea of writing a retcon story to undo Spider-Man's marriage to Mary Jane, which anyone who's been following comic book news for a few years should know is a bee that's seriously up Joe Quesada's bonnet. He implies that this was also the planned way to undo Peter's unmasking on live TV.

Continuing here in part three of the interview, Quesada says that when it came down to the fourth and final issue of the story, JMS turned in a script that wasn't what Quesada, and the writers on Brand New Day, the Spider-Man relaunch were expecting. It didn't jive with where those guys were starting their stories from. Straczynski fought for his vision of the story, but with three teams already at work on new material, everything had to end a certain way. JMS agreed to try to give them what they needed, but in the end he gave Quesada, Axel Alonso and Tom Brevoort permission to change what they needed to in order to make the story fit the way they wanted.

The crux of the story differences, according to Quesada, is that JMS wanted Mephisto to make one small change in an early Spider-Man story, that would ripple forward in time resulting in a new continuity with the needed changes. By contrast, the current story contains all the subtlety of the worst-comic-trend-of-2006, Superboy-Prime beating on the walls of reality. Basically, Mephisto snaps his fingers, and Peter wakes up in Aunt May's house (which burned down almost three years ago around issue #516 or so). He goes to a party, and runs into Harry Osborne, who's looking quite well for someone who's supposed to be dead. Nobody knows that he's Spider-Man anymore.

According to Joe Quesada, the "Mephisto casts a spell" explanation is designed to preserve years of Spider-Man continuity. In Quesada's own words:

This, in my mind, while it neatly puts the pieces back in some way, was not what we wanted to do. First, it discounted every issue of “Amazing” since that story arc. Second, the series of events that it discounts in the Marvel U are too far-reaching to contemplate. And third, it had severe ramifications for the creators already well underway on “Brand New Day,” the thrice-monthly “Amazing Spider-Man.” In other words, there was just no way to tell Joe’s story without blowing up the entire Marvel U and every Spider-Man’s fan’s collection. What we originally discussed with Joe and the group was much simpler and cleaner: The wedding? Something happened on the wedding day that prevented it from happening. The unsmasking? Mephisto makes people forget it; much like the Sentry, it happened -- it’s just no longer remembered. And Harry? Well, there’s always a price to pay when you make a deal with the devil. Is it a perfect solution? Absolutely not. Does it get us to where we want to be? Yes.


So, to get this straight, OMD doesn’t actually negate the previous 20 years of Spider-Man stories?

Exactly, that’s precisely what we wanted to avoid. 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.

So, according to Joe, the past twenty years of Spider-Man continuity is left untouched except for the fact that Peter and MJ weren't married. And from a big-picture vantage point... that might look like a good solution. But in an e-mail to Newsarama, JMS responds to Quesada's comments in the interview. In it, he states that while he thinks that Joe Quesada pretty accurately represented their exchanges, he felt that his reasons for disagreeing with the changes were omitted. For the sake of folks who've already read it, he points out that simply undoing everything with magic is sloppy, and leaves a ton of loose ends. Does Aunt May have a scar from where she was shot? If everybody just forgot that Peter was Spider-Man, is there still news footage of the unmasking? Was Harry brought back from the dead, or has he been alive all this time? If you ask him what he did last summer, will he have an answer? That sort of thing.

While it's hard to call this story a firestorm, since JMS and Joe Quesada are going to such lengths to keep things civil, it's pretty clearly a huge story. But I think that it highlights something very specific about Marvel's outlook. It seems to me that Marvel is very much about what happens next, while "what's gone before" takes a distant back seat to it. And it makes sense. Marvel doesn't make anywhere near as much money on their history as they do on what they're doing right now, or preparing to do next month. It's a bigger priority for them to have "Brand New Day" come out, then to tie up everything neatly. Big events are quickly forgotten and swept under the rug to make room for the next big events. The Other was supposed to redefine Spider-Man and his powers. Only Peter David's Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man addressed the story at all.

In general, I consider myself more of a Marvel fan than a DC fan right now, but things like this in their editorial culture bother me. How can a story really have resonance, or really connect with readers for more than a month and a half when the company is racing at a breakneck pace into the next event?

While I liked Peter being married to MJ, it's not the idea of undoing the Marriage that has my brain doing backflips over the story... it's the sloppiness of it. The average comic book reader is far too sophisticated for "It's magic... we don't have to explain it" to fly as an explanation. But that's what we're being asked to swallow. At this point, Dan Slott is just about the only thing keeping me interested in Spider-Man. I'll give Brand New Day a look... but I won't guarantee I'll stick around.

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