One More Day And EVENT Comics

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There are a handful of arguments against One More Day that are no longer applicable, dealing with whether it was a good idea at the time. These should still be addressed, even if that ultimately doesn’t establish whether or not it’s a good idea to reverse the deal with Mephisto. It does illuminate some of the reasoning behind the approach to Brand New Day.

One problem with the Spider-Man comics during the last two years of JMS’s run was an overabundance of major EVENTS (the all caps is intentional.) So you could argue that One More Day should have been delayed as every issue of Amazing Spider Man since Issue 519 has been tied into one EVENT or another. Even if a magic retcon was necessary, did it have to happen then?

“The Other” in particular, was probably one EVENT too many, though it did come with a significant temporary boost to the sales of all three monthly Spider-Man titles. It occurred right after House of M, so Spider Man and the writers couldn’t deal with the traumatic aftermath of that crossover within the main books, since four months of those titles were devoted to a crossover with entirely new developments. This also served to make House of M seem less important to Spider Man fans who joined the many Marvel fans asking if “No More Mutants” and Wolverine regaining his memory were worth the hype and multiple tie-ins to something that was originally meant to be an arc of New Avengers.

“The Other” also hindered the Spider-Man spinoff titles. Tying the first issues of Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man to the crossover prevented that series from developing an identity. The raison d’etre for Marvel Knights Spider-Man was that it was the title in which A-list talent told self-contained standalone stories, so the crossover hamstrung that title as well.

“The Other” also occurred right before Spider Man gained the Iron Spider suit during the Civil War prelude, which meant that there was no time for writers to focus on the aftermath of the storyline. Nor was there any time to explore Spider-Man’s new abilities due to Marvel’s decision to do two consecutive high-profile stories in which Spider-Man gets new abilities from different sources. It’s likely that many of the unanswered questions in “The Other” will never be resolved, which is somewhat annoying as the storyline remains in print thanks to the JMS Ultimate collection series of trade paperbacks. While it’s disappointing to readers that it was never what exactly Peter’s illness entailed, it won’t limit the future writers or the stories they can tell. Strangely enough, some of the questions would later be answered. The Scarlet Spider monthly revealed what happened to Peter’s new powers, while Spider-Verse provided an explanation for Morlun’s resurrections.

Comics fans are notorious for demanding answers to old loose ends. Look at the Spider Man fans who want Baby May to return. Disappointing older readers in this way will not prevent new readers from buying the books, and has few material disadvantages, especially if the stories and art for the new material remain good enough to keep the old-time fans hooked. For an OMD critic, there are also benefits to knowing that many major changes won’t live up to the hype. If you don’t like what happened, it may be reversed some day.

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“One More Day” was different from “The Other,” “Spider-Man Unmasked” or “Back in Black”, as the creators have been gearing up for a big, and fundamental change to the character’s status quo for a while, and the other storylines (notably “Spider Man Unmasked” and “Back in Black”) were leading directly to it. However, there would have been advantages to extending the unmasked era for a few months. It would have given Quesada more time to finish OMD, and Brand New Day could have kicked off with the slightly more commercial Amazing Spider-Man #550. And as One More Day was delayed anyway, Marvel would have been able to release four months worth of new material in the meantime (revenue that now never happened), allowing writers to explore a unique status quo which readers were interested in. While the side titles were performing poorly in the sales rankings, real sales were still slightly higher than they were before “Back in Black” so the books would have made some money. It might have forced JMS to rewrite the first chapter of OMD to allow more time to have passed between it and Civil War, which would have also fixed one of the numerous flaws of the story: the claim that OMD occurred several days after May got shot despite Spider-Man’s appearances in dozens of issues of various titles. With the coming focus on new villains in the first half-year of the Brand New Day era, it would not have been a bad idea to pit an unmasked Spider-Man against his greatest enemies.

On the other hand, I have no idea whether there was enough talent available to suddenly create twelve issues of new material once it became apparent that OMD would be delayed. Nor would it have been inarguably fair for new readers to essentially get four months of filler.

One reason there may were so many events in the Spider-man comics is that the marriage and multiple titles, two of the things fixed with Brand New Day, made it difficult to convince readers that there will be significant changes to the status quo. With Peter being married to Mary Jane and having adventures in three or more different monthly titles with their own ongoing storylines and subplots, the only way to change the status quo was with an event, or by making one title clearly more essential than the others. This wasn’t limited to Quesada or Mackie, and was a part of the Spider Man books since the early 90s, when Harry Osborn became the Green Goblin again, Peter’s parents returned from the dead and there were just times when the majority of issues in a series were parts of a crossover, especially during the Clone Saga.

Many of the problems with events were due to poor management on Marvel’s part. Often what could have been a decent Amazing Spider-Man story was declared an event, with the other books being forced to acknowledge and deal with the repercussions those developments. However Amazing Spider-Man didn’t reference the other titles, or sometimes flat-out contradicted it, unless every appearance of the “Back in Black” Spider-Man occurred within a few days of the end of Civil War.

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The major reason Marvel didn’t want to commission more material before One More Day was that Dan Slott and company were working on Brand New Day, so the new stuff would have had to fit around that. The Brand New Day era addressed some of the pre-OMD concerns. The crossover events were gone, and the title spent the next 101 issues mostly in its own self-contained world, before the Spider-Man characters became more active in the overall Marvel universe. That may have been somewhat necessary considering the difficulties in coordination for the writers and artists of Amazing Spider-Man and the various minor spin-offs, a task that would have been more difficult with other titles involved.

While TPB-length arcs had previously been a common sight, there was only one storyline that fit the description of an EVENT in the first year of Brand New Day: the six-part New Ways to Die, which featured the return of Venom and Norman Osborn to the franchise after a prolonged absence. It wasn’t an event in the way that “Road to Civil War” was an event, but it mattered. Hell, the lack of EVENTs meant that the other stories weren’t overshadowed, as Peter Parker got new supporting characters, some of whom have stuck around, and new enemies. When there was a change to the status quo, such as Peter Parker getting blacklisted from the Daily Bugle, it could occur at the end of a two-part story.

The Brand New Day format eliminated one of the needs for event driven crossovers. As there was a complete understanding about how major developments fit into the overall picture, an Event wasn’t necessary to clarify the order of events for readers. The writers were better able to deal with the ramifications of each change to the status quo, something that continued in the Big Time era. Plenty of fans thought they didn’t do a good enough of job of dealing with the ramifications of earlier events, although this turns out to be a common conflict in modern comics.

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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