We haven’t read the issue ourselves, but in last week’s issue of SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN #41, the money shot of the “One More Day” storyline was made clear: Basically Aunt May is critically ill (novelty plot device) and Mephisto (the Devil) offers to let her live is only Peter Parker and Mary Jane will ALLOW THEIR MARRIAGE TO BE RETCONNED AWAY FOREVER!!!
Forever, we say.
Supposedly, this is all happening because Marvel EiC Joe Quesada has never been happy with the fact that Spidey is married because it makes youthful readers less inclined to relate to him. In the run-up to “One More Day,” a blogger or two pointed out that Peter and MJ have been married for almost 20 years in earth time — since 1987, when actors portraying the pair were married on the pitcher’s mound of Shea Stadium as a publicity stunt.
As a PR move, it was a wild success. And as observers have pointed out, entire GENERATIONS of Spider-man fans have grown up knowing him only as a young married, harried guy, trying to make things work with MJ. Was there really a huge uproar in the fanbase longing for Spidey to be a swingin’ single again, dipping his web-shooter into a different Black Cat every night?
The other biggest contextual objection is…would you REALLY give up a happy marriage so that your frail old aunt, who has been on death’s door for 40 years or so, could live a little while longer?
Well, we don’t know the answer to either of those questions. What we do know is that even the guy who wrote that issue, J. Michael Straczynski, wasn’t crazy about how it played out:
In the current storyline, there’s a lot that I don’t agree with, and I made this very clear to everybody within shouting distance at Marvel, especially Joe. I’ll be honest: there was a point where I made the decision, and told Joe, that I was going to take my name off the last two issues of the OMD arc. Eventually Joe talked me out of that decision because at the end of the day, I don’t want to sabotage Joe or Marvel, and I have a lot of respect for both of those. As an executive producer as well as a writer, I’ve sometimes had to insist that my writers make changes that they did not want to make, often loudly so. They were sure I was wrong. Mostly I was right. Sometimes I was wrong. But whoever sits in the editor’s chair, or the executive producer’s chair, wears the pointy hat of authority, and as Dave Sim once noted, you can’t argue with a pointy hat.
So at the end of the day, all one can do is try to do the best one can with the notes one is given, and try to execute them in a professional way…because who knows, the other guy may be right. The only thing I can tell you, with absolute certainty, is that what Joe does with Spidey and all the rest of the Marvel characters, he does out of a genuine love of the character. He’s not looking to sabotage anything, he’s not looking to piss off the fans, he genuinely believes in the rightness of his views not out of a sense of “I’m the boss” but because he loves these characters and the Marvel universe.
And right or wrong, you have to respect that.
These bold statements created a commotion in the blogosphere, naturally. Dick Hyacinth sums it up
Assuming this isn’t part of Joe Quesada’s carnival of misinformation, I think JMS’s declaration marks a turning point in the post-Jemas era. When I read interviews with Marvel’s top tier writers (Millar, Bendis, Loeb, Straczynski, and Brubaker, more or less), it’s hard to find hidden messages suggesting strife between creators and editorial. And believe me, I look. Mostly what I see are a bunch of statements intended to make you think of Marvel’s most prominent writers as a bunch of swell raconteurs, kind of a nerd version of the Rat Pack with Quesada in Sinatra’s position as enlightened despot.* You may very well question the sincerity of this sentiment, but it’s pretty consistent in all the interviews I read. It’s not like the heavy hand of editorial is denied or anything, but usually it’s couched in phrases like “it opened up a lot of great storytelling options” or “after the creator summit, I was so full of energy that I couldn’t wait to get to work scripting Editorially-Mandated Crossover No. 183-B.”
Perhaps this is a needed freshening up of the character. Or maybe Spidey will go find the Beyonder or someone and make it all happen again. This is a comic book so anything can happen.
The one thing we do know is that it reminds us a lot of a movie called HOW TO MURDER YOUR WIFE which starred Jack Lemmon an an unhappily married cartoonist. He was married to totally hot Euro babe Verna Lisi and yet he was STILL unhappily married. He’s standing trail for her murder (she actually just went away for a bit) and concocts a brilliant defense. Now, we only saw this movie once, many many years ago, so we’re going on memory and may be wrong, But the way we remember it is that Lemmon draws a button on the arm of the witness chair and says to the jury, “If you could just press one button and make it so your marriage never, ever happened with no fuss and no muss….gentlemen of the jury, is there one person among you who WOULD NOT PRESS THAT BUTTON?”
We seem to remember Lemmon’s character being carried out of the courtroom on the shoulders of the jurors, but that is probably only our own morbid imagination.