Infinite Spider-Man 9.15: Anti-OMD grab-bag

Posted by Mister Mets 30 March 2012

In earlier parts of the essay, 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. Aside from the various Part 9 stuff, I thought Mephisto's role worked for the storyit was characteristic of the Parkers to choose Aunt May's life over their marriagethe depiction of time travel was satisfactorythe backlash to "It's magic, we don't have to explain it" was exaggeratedQuesada's version of OMD was superior to what JMS wanted to do, and that it was quite unlikely that any writers are scared away from the series by questions about the backstory, or fear of a backlash.

There's also some stuff that doesn't merit a complete page, although in the process of writing this piece, I decided that some of the points that I thought would be part of this hodge-podge merited separate entries. Fortunately, that isn't the case with 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 was going to remake the world so 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 less than ideal. 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 we use, video games and cell phones had not been invented.

If There Was No OMD

It's been a long time since One More Day, so we have no idea what the Spider-Man comics would be like now 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 any controversy generating interest 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 there would have been more focus without BND on getting A-list writers to follow JMS, but that gets complicated. Bendis, Marvel's biggest writer, had no interest in Amazing Spider-Man. 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 Jeph Loeb, so it's possible that he would have been in charge of the post-JMS direction of the Spider-Man comics. It would have come at a literal cost for Marvel, as A-list writers are much more expensive.

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 as deviations from the norm. Maybe they would have developed out a new direction.

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 go back to basics. 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 by reset.

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 use 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.

The ease with which Marvel could reverse the retcon brings up the major question. What exactly would they get by this?


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. Although these should still be addressed, even if that ultimately doesn't address whether or not it's a good idea to reverse Spidey's 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 caps lock 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 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 three 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 answered how Morlun was resurrected or what exactly was the reason for Peter's illness, it won’t limit the future writers or the stories they can tell. 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.

"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.

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. 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. And it might have forced JMS to rewrite the first chapter of OMD to allow more time to have passed between it and Civil War. 

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 clearly have been fair for new readers to essentially get four months of filler. For an OMD critic, there are 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. 

One reason there may be so many events 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 monthly titles, 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 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.

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 coordinating everything 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 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 new format eliminated the need 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 make it happen. The writers were better able to deal with the ramifications of each change to the status quo, something that continues in the current Big Time era.



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