Does One More Day Scare Away Spider-Man Writers?

In any serialized medium, new writers will have to figure out ways to navigate the complex histories of the characters. At CBR, there was a discussion about whether potential Spider-Man writers might be discouraged by One More Day and what it represented. Unsurprisingly, most commentators seemed to believe that hypothetical comics professionals would have the same concerns they did.

The first argument is that writers may be confused by the current status quo. Personally, it seems simple enough that it’s an insult to the intelligence of any named comic book writer to suggest that they won’t be able to understand what happened, what didn’t happen and what’s still wobbly.

A decent editor should be able to explain it to any writer who is confused about any of the obscure points. although those are unlikely to be relevant to a particular narrative. And while there may be some things that readers won’t be privy to (this would include anything related to Quesada’s planned follow-up to One Moment in Time), that information can still be discussed internally.

If there’s a contradiction in terms of how something like how time travel is depicted in the Marvel Universe, I’d imagine that most potential Amazing Spider-Man writers will understand that the portrayal of a story device that doesn’t exist in the real world will be wildly inconsistent in a shared universe hundreds have worked on before. So, they really shouldn’t have a problem with it, as the consequences are quite clear.

Let’s imagine that the events of Amazing Spider-Man Annual 21 were happening in the present. With the sliding timeline, that perspective will match up with future issues of Amazing Spider-Man in a few years, if it hasn’t already. Something from a possible future (Mephisto’s red bird) arrives in the present, and changes one moment in time, so Peter Parker doesn’t make it to the wedding.

In that possible future, Peter Parker sacrificed his marriage to save his Aunt May’s life. But because one moment in time changes in the present, that future will not come to pass. Other stuff will happen. So Peter Parker will never be in the position to make the deal with Mephisto. Aunt May will be saved anyway, because in a characteristic act of douchebaggery, the Mephisto of the alternate future was going to take credit for something that was going to happen any way. While it’s possible Mephisto lied in One More Day, he did say he was going to change something in the past, so that explanation can currently be taken at face value.

Based on the internet, it seems possible for a writer to be horribly misinformed about One More Day, or any other aspect of any comic book character. It shouldn’t take an editor long to answer the big questions, though. It could probably be done in the equivalent of two paragraphs. And I’d imagine someone writing Amazing Spider-Man would be given the relevant back issues.

The second argument is that writers might have been unaware that continuity could change. These writers would be upset that characters they killed off could be resurrected, as happened to Harry Osborn. One More Day also demonstrated that seemingly permanent developments could be undone with a retcon.

Peter Parker mourns loved ones who will soon be resurrected

Honestly, any writer prominent enough to be offered Amazing Spider-Man was probably aware that things can change before OMD came out. This doesn’t require a particular knowledge of Spider-Man in particular, but a working familiarity with modern superhero comics. You’d have to be spectacularly ignorant of the field in which you’ve been offered one of the most coveted jobs (writing Spider-Man) to be unaware that characters could be resurrected and events undone by the next guy.

Another argument could be made that a writer may be deeply uncomfortable writing Spider-Man, considering what the character did in One More Day. Whether Spidey did anything wrong has been discussed elsewhere, though some people think he did. Therefore a writer might also have that opinion.

I have yet to hear of a situation in which someone turned down a project because he was bothered by something a character had done years ago, that did not directly affect the way the character was seen in-universe. Imagine someone turning down Batman because she was offended by something Bruce Wayne did in an issue of Detective Comics five years ago, that doesn’t directly affect the current comics. It’s theoretically possible for a writer to turn down Spider-Man for this reason, but it requires someone outraged by the moral implications of One More Day, who wouldn’t be similarly bothered by anything else the character has done.

If you’re just considering whether a writer should be morally outraged, there should be no difference between One More Day and any other Spider-Man story in which the character did something dubious. Hell, the Peter Parker in Amazing Spider-Man currently isn’t even the Peter Parker who made the deal with Mephisto. But perhaps a writer will object to it as strongly as Dan Slott disagreed with Parallel Lives.

There have been situations in which writers decided that they didn’t like the status quo. Roger Stern explicitly said that he didn’t feel comfortable writing the married Spider-Man. But that type of reluctance is based on something that would affect current work, rather than problems with an years-old four-part storyline. In Stern’s case, it wasn’t something that can be ignored.

A writer who came to the Spider-Man comics during the Clone Saga would have more problems than someone coming to Amazing Spider-Man now. When Ben Reilly was in the costume, “who did what” could be a big deal for any writer who wants to deal with the ramifications of events that happened in the 20 year stretch between Amazing Spider-Man 149 and 394, and suddenly has to incorporate a different protagonist. It can open up new opportunities, but it could also cause headaches in such basic questions such as what the main character should know.

Ben Reilly being the “real” Spidey meant that the protagonist did not experience any of Spidey’s adventures from Amazing Spider-Man #150 and up. Which is a big deal if you’re planning to reference any of those stories in any significant way. The Clone Saga was restrictive in other ways.  It also meant that the protagonist has the mental trauma of spending five years as the equivalent of an exile, believing that he was the clone. There’s also the icky question of whether MJ was a pedophile for having sex with a guy who is literally less than five years old.

A final argument was that the quality of One More Day was so bad that it might scare away writers. Though it seems difficult to imagine the following conversation actually taking place.

“I can’t write the book.”

“Why?”

“One of the stories in Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man was mediocre. The character is forever tainted, and were I to write the same character who fought Razorback, I would be tainted by association. Good day to you, sir.”

“Are you really sure about this?”

“I SAID GOOD DAY TO YOU, SIR!”

“Are you still working on X-Men?”

“Yes. I shall have my first script in on Monday.”

“Have you read Chuck Austen’s X-Men comics?”

“Of course. It was an acceptable postmodern parody of low culture.”

So it’s unlikely that One More Day was so bad that it scares away writers. This does bring up another question: Could One More Day have been so bad that it keeps readers away from Spider-Man?

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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