In earlier parts of this series, I mentioned a few further arguments for retconning One More Day, or restoring Spider-Man’s marriage and a few other aspects of the pre-OMD status quo. There’s also some stuff that doesn’t merit a complete page, such as a question asked at CBR: How would you explain One More Day to a child?
I didn’t think it was all that difficult, relative to other superhero stories. Peter Parker was once married to Mary Jane. Someone shot his Aunt May, and the only one who could save her was Mephisto. He’s a weird alien with magic powers. But Mephisto’s not a nice alien. He wanted something in return: Spider-Man’s marriage. He has the power to remake the world so that Aunt May can survive, but it would also mean that Peter Parker and Mary Jane were never married. This is obviously fiction, but in life, there are situations when you don’t have a good option, and you have to choose between two things which are both bad. In this story, Peter and Mary Jane decided that Aunt May’s life was more important than their marriage. So they agreed to the deal. Now Mephisto remade the world so that Peter and Mary Jane were never married. Most of the stories set in that period happened almost exactly the same way, except their relationship was different. It’s sort of how these stories (point to Lee/ Ditko) still happened, even if the material’s all set in the 1960s, when the computers, video games and cell phones we use had not been invented.
If There Was No One More Day
It’s been nearly five years since the last part of One More Day came out, so we have no idea what the Spider-Man comics would be like if Quesada had decided to go in a different direction. As noted earlier, JMS’s last two years of Amazing Spider-Man were consistently tied to major Events, which represented a sales strategy that couldn’t be sustained in the long-term. Sales on the title were slowly, but steadily, declining before “The Other.”
Without this major change to the status quo, something else would have had to be done to keep readers interested in the series Post-JMS. Otherwise, sales might have reached the levels of the pre-Flashpoint Superman titles. Though without One More Day, Spider-Man would not have unmasked in Civil War, nor would Marvel have opted for the Back in Black era. There would not have been as significant a sales drop percentage-wise if the numbers weren’t so high to begin with.
From a narrative standpoint, the pre-reboot writers would have had more time to deal with the consequences of “The Other,” although that might not have been a good thing considering the poor quality of the storyline. JMS might have been able to conclude his run largely free of any editorial interference if his last arc wasn’t used to get the characters from Point A to Point B. There also wouldn’t be the controversy which generated interest and attention in the work of his successors.
I’m not sure if the creative teams would have been radically different than the ones we got in One More Day. Dan Slott would write Spider-Man under any circumstances. The same was probably true of Guggenheim and Wells. Waid would probably not have come to the title, but there were other writers available.
You might think that without Brand New Day there would have been more focus on getting A-list writers to follow JMS, but that gets complicated due to the limited section. Bendis—Marvel’s biggest writer—had no interest in Amazing Spider-Man, when he was already working on Ultimate. Millar developed a preference for creator-owned comics. Brubaker actually favors Spidey as a bachelor. Warren Ellis doesn’t particularly like the character. That leaves the somewhat divisive Jeph Loeb, so it’s possible that he would have been in charge of the post-JMS direction of the Spider-Man comics. This would have come at a literal cost for Marvel, as A-list writers are much more expensive than the alternative.
The (almost) weekly schedule is more essential when the title’s about a bachelor, as his status quo is more prone to change, and that’s easier to coordinate with one title where most of the major stuff happens. Though the increased output of Amazing Spider-Man was something that Marvel had been considering for a long time, so it could have happened without One More Day. Marvel probably would not have wanted a back to basics approach for the book if there hadn’t been deviations from the norm. Maybe they would have developed a new radically different direction.
With comic book series, there’s often a cycle of back to basics periods followed by departures from the norm. You could see it in the Spider-Man comics when Brand New Day was followed by the Big Time. Perhaps without One More Day, JMS’s run of Amazing Spider-Man would have been followed by a 101 issue mega-arc with Spider-Man unmasked. This was something he had set up in Amazing Spider-Man #500, and the Back in Black sales showed there was a demand for that. But where do you go from there?
That genie would have to go back in the bottle, a task which was hard enough after an year. Eventually it would have to be time for the series to return to a more familiar state of affairs, something impossible when the everyman protagonist is suddenly one of the most famous people in the world. If the marriage remained part of the title, that would have been one element of the status quo that wouldn’t be touched, so it’s a storytelling avenue closed for any subsequent directions.
It’s easy to try to compare something tangible, such as the stories that were actually published, to an ideal, such as stories that could have been published. I think Brand New Day was a solid stretch of Spider-Man comics, so it’s entirely possible that an alternative would not have been as successful, either artistically or financially.
If Brand New Day Had Failed
Some fans of the marriage and opponents of the retcon tried to discourage readers from buying the post-OMD Amazing Spider-Man issues. arguing that if Brand New Day was a success, Marvel would have no incentive to undo the marriage. They were correct that the success of the current status quo means that a reversal is less likely. The big reset strikes me as something that can only be done once, so I’d hate to see it wasted. If it’s used more than once, any illusion of drama is shattered as it can become a habitual deus ex machina. But the big reset could itself be reset, as any follow-up could be used to undo the developments.
As s a magic retcon is a relatively easy development to undo, there was no need for JMS to carefully craft an out within OMD in order to allow future writers could being back the marriage if necessary, although he pretty much did that anyway. Thanks to the nature of the retcon, there would be several ways for the writer to reconcile the couple. There are several magic related stetcons, to recycle Peter David’s term for retconning a retcon, that the next writers of Amazing Spider‑Man could do. Marvel could do a story in which Mary Jane remembers the world in which she was married to Peter, and they decide to get engaged, allowing Marvel to get stories out of the engagement this time around.
Hell, the writers could use magic to bring about any status quo they want. They could even reunite Peter, MJ and baby May if they so desired. Or they could turn fan theories into reality.