Shout at the Devil


Well! Spider-Man! “One More Day!”

What a screwup that was, huh?

For you non-comics people in the audience, Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada decided that he didn’t like Spider-Man being married to Mary Jane Watson. They’ve been married since 1987, and a bunch of Marvel insiders decided pretty quickly that they didn’t like Spidey being married. They felt like it made him too domestic, less of a sad-sack hero. I don’t agree, but I guess they’re entitled to their opinions, no matter who wrong-headed they are.

So Marvel was stuck with a married Spider-Man for 20 years. In all that time, they couldn’t think of any way to make Spidey un-married. It never occurred to them that they could have the characters divorce. Can you believe that? Frankly, there are times I suspect that comic book creators have something wrong with their brains.

Anyway, finally, Marvel decides they’ve got the perfect way to un-marry their most popular character, and they kick off a four-issue storyarc called “One More Day” to get the job done. What did they do? What was their surefire, perfect, can’t-fail idea?

They had Spider-Man make a deal with the devil.

The background is that Spidey had revealed his secret identity as Peter Parker to the whole world. Someone tried to kill him and shot his Aunt May by accident. Peter couldn’t accept that his aunt could die, and Mephisto — Marvel’s version of Old Scratch himself — shows up and offers to save her life, in exchange for retroactively nullifying their marriage. And they actually agree to it. “Oh, sure, we’ll potentially damn our immortal souls just to give Peter’s elderly aunt a few more years of life. What could possibly be the downside to that?”

Let me repeat: There are times I suspect that comic book creators have something wrong with their brains.

So now, Peter and Mary Jane aren’t married. Peter’s a 30-year-old unemployed loser living in Aunt May’s house, and he’s got his secret identity back.

The big problem for Marvel is that this was an unbelievably bad idea. Fine, fine, they don’t want Spider-Man to be married — but in that case, just divorce him. There’s absolutely no reason to have your most popular, most marketed character shaking hands with the Prince of Darkness. Heck, Marvel’s even sanitized Ghost Rider to get rid of his demonic origins (True story — they now say he turns into a biker with a flaming skull because he’s possessed by an angel. Wha?!) so why have kid-friendly Spider-Man cutting deals with the Adversary?

Possibly worse, from a comic-book standpoint, is that it throws a major kink into Marvel’s continuity — and Quesada himself had bragged that the loss of Spidey’s secret ID was going to be permanent, with long-lasting effects. Now, not only is the secret identity back, but 20 years’ worth of stories may have disappeared into the Gulfs. Marvel claims everything turned out mostly the same, but it’s not like Mary Jane spent the last two decades sitting around doing nothing, and writers who aren’t familiar with the subtle differences between pre-Mephisto and post-Mephisto are going to make some pretty big mistakes pretty soon. And the last time someone did a major retroactive refit of Spider-Man’s continuity, they called it the Clone Saga — the least popular storyline of any Spider-Man comic ever.

The assumption going ’round with most Spidey-fans is that, as soon as Quesada gets shown the door, someone will work out some way to undo “One More Day” — they may not bring back the marriage, but they’ll certainly work out some way to erase the deal-with-the-devil aspects of the story and just give them a normal, mundane divorce.

And it’s gotten a lot more people talking about Joe Quesada — and not in any good ways either. People are saying a screwup this monumental is proof that he’s been running the company for too long. I expect him to announce his retirement sooner, rather than later. Sure, they’ll say he’s leaving “to explore other storytelling opportunities” and “to spend more time with his family.” But everyone will know the truth.

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