For the latest Tangled Webs column, I looked at Doctor Strange’s role in the controversial Spider-Man story One More Day, and considered how it changed the context of earlier scenes from writer J. Michael Straczysnki’s Spider-Man run.
This is a piece about One More Day, but it’s not about the usual controversy. It’s not about anything to do with Mephisto, not does it have anything to do with breaking up Peter and MJ. It’s about something that happened in the second issue on the storyline—an instance of time travel with Doctor Strange—that has interesting ramifications for several of the key storylines in J. Michael Straczynski’s Spider-Man run.
Time travel shenanigans are a part of JMS’s modus operandi. He described BABYLON 5 as having one example of time travel, which is literally true but it did have reverberations through the entire series. MIDNIGHT NATION features a conversation between a man and his future self at two different points, revisited in the final issue. This type of stuff was not invented by JMS. Grant Morrison did a similar trick in ANIMAL MAN a decade earlier. Jim Starlin did the same thing with Warlock in the 1970s. But it’s always impressive when it’s pulled off, and JMS made a go of it with his final Spider-Man story.
These particular scenes involve Doctor Strange. The wallcrawler and Marvel’s sorcerer supreme are rather dissimilar characters, with Spider-Man as a younger street level superhero with a secret identity and Doctor Strange as a magician who explores weird realms and whose identity is known to the world. There are some connections, starting with the obvious that they’re Marvel’s two most popular lead characters cocreated by Steve Ditko. Roger Stern also had acclaimed runs on both titles, although there hasn’t been much other overlap. JMS’s Spider-Man run had a mystical theme, so it made sense for him to use Doctor Strange so prominently.
Strange’s first appearance in the run was in JMS’s second extended storyline. Spider-Man had just fought the Shade, a new mystical bad guy, and decided that the smart thing to do was to get some help from a professional.