Last time, I suggested that whether One More Day was a good story or not didn’t matter all that much. So it seems like an appropriate time to address other minor complaints about the storyline, and the changes to the characters.
It Happened in The Flash
When One More Day came out, one common criticism was about how similar it is to something which occurred during Geoff Johns’s run on The Flash. In the two hundredth issue of that title, Wally West—the Flash at the time—begged the Spectre to erase the world’s knowledge of his secret identity. The Spectre changed the world’s knowledge of his and Barry’s secret identities. Of course, Marvel had done some similar stories years before that. Decades ago, in Captain America, the Space Phantom made the world forget that Steve Rogers was Captain America. Doctor Strange also had a role in making the world forget that the Sentry ever existed in that mini-series. House of M was another example of reality warps playing a significant role in the Marvel Universe.
I haven’t seen this complaint in a few years, probably because the status quo of the Flash books has been rather crazy, and because there have been more of these types of retcons since OMD, notably DC’s Flashpoint mini-series. When DC follows in the footsteps of OMD, the argument that the earlier incident was derivative seems kinda weak.
If the new DCU is later determined to be a bad decision in the long term, I’m sure there will be some new arguments about how anyone responsible for One More Day should also be blamed for that one.
The Simpsons Analogy
I’ve seen this particular argument a few times. Some compared retconning the marriage in the Spider-Man books to hypothetical Simpsons writers deciding to shake-up the series by retconning away Homer’s marriage to Marge and making him single. It’s a poorly-thought comparison. While Homer is a popular character, he’s not the sole protagonist of The Simpsons, which has always been about one nuclear family, with very limited changes to the dynamics. Making Homer single wouldn’t bring the show back to its most popular period, or any earlier era. It would create a status quo the show has never seen before, at the cost of great and popular characters (Bart, Lisa and their friends.)
The Simpsons as a show is unlikely to last as long as the Spider‑Man comics, so there’s less concern about the quality of episodes twenty‑five years from now. If the show’s still around then, one big reason will be that it has never really changed from its initial status quo (dim‑witted father, loving yet exasperated wife, troublesome son, brainy daughter, baby, dog, cat.) A more appropriate application of the Spider-Man to Simpsons comparison is noting the success of a series which hasn’t noticeably changed from its roots.
Some fans of the marriage want to know why those who think the book is better with a single Peter Parker think he can’t get a girl like Mary Jane. Personally, I’m pretty sure he could. He’s handsome, witty, intelligent, kind and in great shape. He’s the type of guy who could and should marry the babe.
Whether Peter would get married and become a father (like the vast majority of men in the world) is a meaningless argument that has nothing to do with the narrative weaknesses of the marriage or storytelling benefits of keeping Peter Parker single. The things that are great in real life (loving wife, stable job, happy family) just don’t make for compelling fiction, especially since there are likely hundreds if not thousands of stories left for the Marvel Universe Spider-Man.
To beat the comparison to death, nearly 95-percent of police officers have never fired a gun during their entire careers. All things being equal, I would rather watch a movie about a cop who gets into a shoot-out. This should be not be interpreted as a desire to put actual police officers in danger.
I have an incredible marriage and a fantastic kid, but there is no question that my life was much more story worthy when I was single. Was I happier? Absolutely not. Was my life a better story from a drama sense? Ummmm, yeah. It had many more twists and turns and theater and was a bit of a mess. Now let me say, not everyone, but for most: When people get married, they tend to settle down life slows down and you gain different responsibilities, grown up responsibilities, boring responsibilities. You go out to dinner less, see fewer movies, your social life is curtailed and revolves, as it should, around your significant other. In short, life hands you a mini van.
While marriage makes for an okay story, there is less drama in a (healthy) marriage than in a single relationship. That’s one of the many reason we get married we want stability, we want comfort, we want kids, etc., etc. No one gets married because they want more drama in their life. What’s good for one’s life doesn’t always make for great stories when the heart of your character’s universe is drama. From a writer and artist’s point of view, the people who are creating the stories, it’s like giving Daredevil his eyesight back. It works for a short time and eventually erodes at the foundation of the character and what makes them unique. We all want Peter to catch a break and to settle down and have happiness in his life, but that isn’t really what we want. If that actually happened, people would stop caring about Spider Man.
The Healer Question
One of the complaints about One More Day that I see most often is that Peter Parker should never have been in a position to make a deal with Mephisto, as a magical healer should have been able to save Aunt May. Personally, I wasn’t bothered by this. There was a scene in which Spider-Man visited various superheroes and supervillains to ask for help. Presumably if the New Mutant Elixir had been able to help Aunt May, Beast of the X-Men would have told Spidey so in his brief cameo.
Plus, anyone complaining that someone like Iron Fist should be able to heal a gunshot wound forgets that Aunt May’s condition was stabilized in Back in Black, the preceding story. The gunshot wound wasn’t the problem anymore; it was the coma. And considering how doctors are often unable to revive the comatose, it seems too much to expect a magical healer to be able to solve that problem. Presumably the use of healing powers requires the guy to know what he’s doing, in terms of the effect the spell has on the body of the person who is injured.
Healing isn’t enough. Even if someone has the ability to generate new blood cells or repair lost limbs, specific things have to be done to the injured people in order to fix them. Do nerve cells need to be repaired? Have muscles atrophied? An irony is that the people most likely to complain about this are also pretty likely to have a low opinion of the logic of “It’s magic, we don’t have to explain it.”
It also restricts the writers to insist that in these types of situations, they should introduce plot points from other titles and then explain why it hasn’t affected the main narrative. It brings the story to a standstill, for something that is only a concern to a small number of readers.
Straczynski Nearly Disowned the Story
Some detractors have used comments by writer J. Michael Straczynski as ammunition to criticize OMD. Shortly before the final part of One More Day was to come out, JMS revealed that he had considered taking his name off the final two parts of the story. Some asked whether or not his actions were disrespectful to Marvel, although I didn’t see how. He didn’t explicitly insult the story or anyone at Marvel. He didn’t raise the issue, but responded to a question. He told the truth as he saw it. He made sure to mention that he was convinced that Joe Quesada was doing what he believed was best for Spider‑Man. He had every reason to correct the erroneous assumptions.
If JMS really wanted to trash the story, there was more he could have done. He didn’t have to write the story, and could have insisted to have his name taken off. I’m sure Marvel could’ve found a last minute replacement. Someone like Mark Millar would probably have taken the job, and there were all sorts of excuses Marvel could use to explain away Straczynski’s departure (for example, the Clint Eastwood directed Angelina Jolie film he was writing.) There was a counterclaim that Marvel could sue him for breach of contract, but I can’t think of a single instance in which they’ve done that. JMS’s comments even increased the buzz for the final chapter of the story. He later got into a facebook argument with Stephen Wacker about sales, so he probably has a beef with Marvel over the final product.
Presumably, if you disliked One More Day, JMS’s comments will only reinforce that opinion. If you somehow liked the story, I doubt that you’d change your mind upon learning that he considered taking his name off of it. Especially since his concerns were quite specific, and differed from those of many of the readers.
How Did One More Day Affect Other Stories?
Some complained that One More Day should have affected many of the great Spider‑Man stories of the past, which hinged on other people learning Spider‑Man’s identity (“The Kid Who Collects Spider‑Man,” “The Night Gwen Stacy Died,” and any Venom or Harry Osborn Green Goblin story came to mind.) There was no suggestion that the spell from OMIT would retroactively affect the actions of individuals who learned Spider‑Man’s identity and then died or somehow forgot it, as that had nothing to do with Spider‑Man’s Civil War problems, and would have ruined classic stories in an unnecessary manner, as opposed to undoing the marriage, which would ruined significantly less classic stories in what I believe to be a necessary manner.
There’s also a more aggressive version of the argument.
The Last Twenty years Never Happened! (Circa 2007)
The suggestion that the twenty years of Spider-Man comics in which Peter and MJ were together no longer mattered ignores the care Quesada took to preserve most elements of the backstory. While what’s on the page is a little different from what the characters experienced after the retcon, in most cases, it’s a minor change in par with anachronisms.
The changes to continuity aren’t that complicated. Instead of Peter being married to MJ, they lived together. MJ wasn’t pregnant during the Clone Saga. Flash Thompson volunteered to join the military; he was not drafted. Peter Parker did not go on Johnny Carson to promote his book Webs. And most of those details aren’t relevant in the typical fight between Spider-Man and the Spider Slayers. It can also be said that if you enjoyed the stories, they mattered, something for DC fans to remember when complaining about changes to that universe Post-Flashpoint.
The Reference to “No One Knowing Spider-Man’s identity”
The first Brand New Day issue included a two page primer on the new status quo by Dan Slott and John Romita Jr. Some have argued that a mistake in those pages demonstrates that the rules are in flux. It was explicitly said that no one knew Spider-Man’s identity. Expect it later turned out that Mary Jane did know. So, this was one unambiguous mistake from the Brand New Day era (101 issues, two annuals, three extras, various mini-series and other projects). And it happened in the first issue, which is usually when stuff is the least defined for the writers and editors. Suggesting that this represented all subsequent Spider-Man comics demands a level of scrutiny most books can’t withstand.
Does Something Feel “Off” with Peter Parker?
At CBR, there was a 1000+ post discussion about the intangible question of whether Peter Parker seems like a different character since One More Day. This is something that bothered several readers, and some speculated that it may be intentional, a soon to be dealt with ramification of One More Day.
I think it’s the result of three things happening at the same time. Peter Parker was suddenly single again in 2008, when the standards for what you can do with a flagship comic book character were different than in the late 1980s. And he was written by slightly younger writers, which results in a different take on the character. J. Michael Straczynski, who wrote Amazing Spider-Man from 2001-2007 was just two years younger than Gerry Conway, who followed Stan Lee on the title in 1972! The majority of the major Spider-Man writers were close in age to these guys (Bill Mantlo, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, David Micheline, Peter David, Tom Defalco, Howard Mackie, Roger Stern.) A few other prominent writers were British (Mark Millar, Paul Jenkins) so the Brand New Day era marked the first time the character was written mostly by younger (even if some were born in the 1960s) Americans, which can result in a different feel for the characters.
There was also a marked change in the philosophical approach regarding the direction of the Spider-Man comics.