JMS’s One More Day

In a poll at the Comic Book Resources Spider-Man forum, a majority preferred J. Michael Straczynski’s plans for One More Day over the story that was published. I hope that most of them did it as a protest vote, because JMS’s plans were unfeasible, in a way that the final product was not.

At some point, I’d love to see JMS’s original scripts for One More Day Parts 3 & 4. It’d be a great extra in some kind of trade paperback. But even without that material, we know a lot about what JMS wanted to do, and it includes much of the stuff that readers have said they hated about One More Day.

For example, the inability of anyone to heal Aunt May would have been part of JMS’s version. But that was a minor quibble. JMS would still have used Mephisto as a villain. So the merits of erasing vows of holy matrimony by inking a deal with a demon are irrelevant in an analysis of two versions of a story featuring the erasing vows of holy matrimony by inking a deal with a demon. JMS’s version would not have had Spidey win over the forces of Mephisto.

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Some have assumed that JMS wanted to use Loki in One More Day, but that isn’t the case. While Loki was dead during One More Day, since JMS was writing the Thor relaunch, he was the one writer who could have insisted on using Loki in the storyline without anyone complaining. Loki had actually appeared in earlier issues of Amazing Spider-Man credited to JMS, that material was written by Fiona Avery and not JMS. The interview in which she talked about it seems to be lost to the ether, but Fiona Avery came up with her own plots for that storyline. It was her decision to use Loki, and it was not part of JMS’s master plan.

Quesada explained in a CBR interview the ways in which JMS’s version differed from what had been asked for.

When I was halfway through issue three of OMD, we received Joe’s script for issue 4. After reading it, we (Axel, Tom and myself) all quickly realized that we had a problem — the script we had just received was not the one we were expecting, and the events that were being set forth in that issue were going to conflict with the work that was already being done on “Brand New Day.” I thought that perhaps Joe had forgotten some of the stuff discussed at the summit meetings and the subsequent e-mails and discussions that followed, but that didn’t seem to be the case; this was the story he wanted to tell. In his story, Mephisto was going to change continuity from as far back as issues #96-98 from 1971. In Joe’s story, Peter drops the dime on Harry, and that helps get him into rehab right away. Consequently, MJ stays with Harry, and Gwen never dies and never has her affair with Norman, etc., etc. And in the end, Peter and MJ are never married.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.

The write-up on OMD from TVtropes.com reflects the doubt about whether Quesada accurately summed up JMS.

What Could Have BeenAccording to Quesada, JMS wrote the point where the new timeline diverged from the old one as be Harry getting into rehab back in the early 70s, thereby affecting relationships and meaning Gwen Stacy never died. Marvel’s writers collectively nixed it beforehand because such changes would affect the entire Marvel universe and invalidate nearly forty years of canon, and with two issues done they had to scramble to change the remaining two at the last minute. (If true, this could explain why JMS wanted his name off those issues; but all things considered, take this with a grain of salt unless we hear JMS’s side of the story.)

There’s no question about whether Quesada accurately summarized what JMS wanted to do. In a Newsarama article on the topic, Straczynski explicity said those were his plans and that his only issue with Quesada’s explanation was that it left out his concerns with the final material.

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JMS’s comments were quoted in a CBR interview with Quesada.

Speak of the devil and he shall appear….

For whatever it’s worth, the situation is not as clear cut as one might hope. The reality of any writer working for any company, DC or Marvel or Image, is that when you’re handed a franchise character, you’re basically entrusted with something that the company owns, and the company has final say in what happens to that character, because as a writer, you’re only there for a certain amount of time and then the next guy has to come in. Spider-Man belongs to Marvel, not to me, and at the end of the day, however much I may disagree with things, and however much I may make it very CLEAR to all parties that I disagree, I have to honor their position.

In the Gwen storyline, yes, I wanted it to be Peter’s kids, Joe over-rode that, which is his right as EIC. I got the flack for that decision, but them’s the breaks.

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.

In a CBR post, Dan Slott summed up the consequences of those changes, and why it would have been a big deal.

I’m sorry, but it would have been WAY more jarring.In the current version, every story for the past 20 years pretty much happened the same way, except for substituting the marriage for a deeply committed relationship. That’s it. Gwen’s death? Civil War? The unmasking? Everything happened.In the change that JMS proposed, which would have used magic as well (magical time-travel), Peter would have gotten Harry help for his drug problem. Norman wouldn’t have lapsed back into being the Goblin. Gwen wouldn’t have died. And Gwen would have STAYED Pete’s girlfriend (try telling the MJ fans THAT– And keep in mind the teeth-gnashing heard around the web when Pete woke up next to Gwen in HOUSE OF M– an alternate reality that everyone KNEW was going away), and ALL TIME would have been rewritten for 30 years of continuity.There WOULDN’T have been the “everything basically happened the same way” rule where all the basic events of your comics STILL happening. There would have been a full-blown reboot. And that would’ve affected EVERY book that Spidey was tied into– and, therefore, the rest of the Marvel U.Would it have been Peter and Gwen living in Avengers Tower in NEW AVENGERS?If Norman hadn’t “died” on the night Gwen died, would Harry have ever become a Green Goblin?If Gwen never died, and Harry was cured of his addiction, would HARRY still be dating MJ?What would have happened to Liz? To baby Normie? Would Foggy Nelson still have dated Liz, the single mother with a kid (baby Normie) over in DAREDEVIL?I could do this all night.Let me put it to you this way– I’m not asking WHICH version of OMD you would have enjoyed more– I’m asking out of 2 choices, which RESULT would you rather have:1. 20 years of continuity where “all the events happened the same way, except Peter and MJ were in a committed relationship instead of a marriage.”or2. 30 years of continuity being completely re-written with a NEW continuity in place that is DIFFERENT from the 30 years of comics fans had read, starting with Gwen NEVER dying and still being alive all that time, Norman never “dying” and going off the map all those years– creating a vacuum filled by other characters– like Harry as a Green Goblin AND Hobgoblin, and so on. Continuity DRASTICALLY changed in ALL the Spidey comics AND all the comics Spidey has tied into SINCE The Night Gwen Stacy (didn’t) Die.

Some readers assume that JMS’s version would have included a detailed explanation about how all these changes came to be. Had this been the case, it would have to be quite detailed to answer basic questions about some of the most important characters.

 

If Gwen Stacy never died, would Miles Warren still have become the Jackal? How would that have affected Spider-Man’s first encounter with the Punisher?

If Norman Osborn was never believed dead, how would that have change the Hobgoblin saga? Should Ned Leeds still be alive? In that case, would Betty Brant still be his wife?

With Quesada’s version, most elements of the married Spider-Man era stories were preserved. The stories still happened with minor differences: Mary Jane was Peter’s girlfriend rather than his wife, and more people had 21st Century technology in comics released in the late 80s and 90s. The changes weren’t as far-reaching as what JMS would have done.

Slott also emphasized why it would have been so difficult to implement JMS’s story. It contradicted material that had already been commissioned months earlier.

We were working on BND pretty far back in 2007. Remember SPIDER-MAN: SWING SHIFT? That issue, which had teases to BND characters and set-ups, came out the first week of May in ’07– and the last issue of OMD didn’t come out till December ’07.We were told all of the story beats of OMD, but we didn’t see the specific script for the last issue till we were well into our own run. This is the nature of publishing a 3 times a month book– and making sure it sticks to a schedule.For example: Before readers ever saw my 1st story arc with Steve McNiven, Marcos was drawing my 2nd arc, and I was turning in plots for my 3rd arc (NEW WAYS TO DIE). When fans ACTUALLY got to see the issues and voice concerns about Harry’s return– my very NEXT arc addressed it (the Molten Man two-parter).For most artists, it takes a good month to produce a penciled issue of a comic. That’s not factoring in the time it takes to write it before hand, the time the inker and colorist are working on a staggered schedule on the other side of that, and you also have to add all the various editorial issues AND the hard work the letterer and the production department have to do. It’s a massive group effort!Schedule-wise, when you triple THAT for a 3 issue arc (or sextuple it for a 6 issue arc!), the editor CANNOT view THAT as three books coming out in one month, he HAS to treat it as one book that has to be ready 3 months ahead of time, a second book that has to be ready 2 months ahead of time, and a third that has be ready 1 month ahead of time. (Now think about THAT for the 6 parter!!!) AND doing that EVERY MONTH. This kind of scheduling would KILL an ordinary editor– but Steve Wacker pulls it off!The plus side: When it all comes together, you get 3 issues a month! (And going by the fan mail, readers frickin’ LOVE that– and want to know why OTHER Marvel comics won’t do this.)
The minus side: Once that “train” is on the tracks, it is HARD to make sharp turns. (That’s why we created side-projects like AMAZING SPIDER-MAN: EXTRA, so we could address fan concerns– and OUR concerns– on a more flexible month-to-month basis.For example, we got a GREAT reaction on Anti-Venom in NEW WAYS TO DIE. We got lots of requests from fans who wanted to see him again– right away– but we were so far into our ASM schedule, we knew he wasn’t going to show up for a while. So I wrote an Anti-Venom done-in-one in ASM: EXTRA #2.

If Joe Quesada had fallen in love with JMS’s version, and insisted on that version of the story, it would have been a clusterfuck. I’m sure JMS thought that his solution provided more flexibility for the later writers, by turning backstory into a blank slate. But that type of reboot is much harder to pull off in a shared universe. It would also have invalidated the sense that the stories in the past have consequences, and make it much more difficult to reference elements of the character’s history, when it’s all vague and undefined.

 

Who didn’t think this guy was going to show up in JMS’s final issues?

It would have been ridiculously time-consuming work for the writers to come up with Spider-Man’s new history and make it fit with the rest of the Marvel Universe. And then they’d have to spend a lot of time and precious pages filling in the readers on what elements of the backstory are different. All while coming up with Spider-Man’s new adventures in the current comics. This type of approach has resulted in a lot of headaches in DC Comics Post-Flashpoint, as writers receive conflicting information about the histories of the characters.

You could argue that even JMS’s plans for One More Day don’t reflect the story he wanted to tell, when free of all constraints. He likely would have told a different story, if the marriage hadn’t been coming to an end.

In his earlier work, when he showed events that occurred a generation or so in the future, there would be a major sequence towards the end of the story following up on that. Babylon 5 and Midnight Nation are examples. So it’s telling that he had a few scenes with a fugitive future Spider-Man whose identity was known to the public in Amazing Spider-Man #500, and chose not to touch on that setting during Back in Black and One More Day, in which Spider-Man was a fugitive whose identity was known to the public.

A crucial difference between the other projects and Spider-Man is that Amazing Spider-Man isn’t creator-owned. While I wouldn’t mind reading a Silver Surfer: Requiem type mini-series featuring JMS’s dark future for Spider-Man, he was aware that even an extraordinary writer is probably not going to get the opportunity to tell Spider-Man’s final story. He could always have told Quesada that he’d rather leave it up to another writer to set things up for Brand New Day.

But he chose to write One More Day. He even ultimately chose to keep his name on the last two issues. The story was much promoted, and during that time, there were two developments that some readers expressed an interest in. Both involved May Parkers.

The Infinite Spider-Man is a series of mini-essays regarding Marvel’s options for the future of the best character in comics.

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About Thomas Mets

I’m a comic book fan, wannabe writer, politics buff and New Yorker. I don’t actually follow baseball. In the Estonian language, “Mets” simply means forest, or lousy sports team. Currently, I’m writing a few comic books about my grandparents’ experiences in Soviet Estonia for Grayhaven comics. You can email me at mistermets@gmail.com
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One Response to JMS’s One More Day

  1. Pingback: Tangled Webs: Was Mary Jane Pregnant in One More Day? – Spider Man Crawlspace

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