Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada knows how to get fans attention, for better or for worse. From his regular stops at conventions and here on CBR to take fan Q&A as part of his signature Cup ‘O Joe spotlight to the many stories he’s written, drawn and greenlit over his time as Marvel’s top editor, Quesada has learned what can drive Marvel die-hards up the wall in the short term and sometimes how to win them back with the long game.
All of those skills have come to bear in recent years on Marvel’s signature web-slinger as the life and times of the Spectacular Spider-Man have seen drastic amounts of upheaval and public reaction. But now that the full story of how Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson went from married to unmarried, the story behind the story can come to light.
So this week, CBR News is happy to present an in depth commentary on one of the most controversial Spider-Man stories ever told…something we like to call “Cup O’M.I.T.” All week-long, we’ll go inside the “One Moment In Time” arc by Quesada and artist Paolo Rivera. Running in “Amazing Spider-Man” #638 – 641, “O.M.I.T.” made drastic changes to the Spider-Man continuity and the modern life of Peter Parker in the wake of the equally shocking “One More Day” story. In part two of our talk (first installment here), Quesada focuses in on what part of “One More Day” couldn’t be forgotten in his latest retcon maneuver, how the classic Spidey Wedding Annual informed his take on the Peter/MJ relationship and whether or not Mephisto still has a foothold in Spider-Man history.
Kiel Phegley: Joe, we left off yesterday with you quite possibly breaking the Internet again?
Kiel Phegley: And with that, back to our questions. So when exactly did the idea of the whisper come to you?
Joe Quesada: It was a few months after “OMD” was done. Thankfully, I had a buffer of time that allowed me to walk away from it for a bit as Tom and Steve wanted me to wait before doing a sequel that answered all the unanswered questions from “OMD.” They felt, and rightfully so, that going back to “OMD” so soon would distract from what we were trying to build with Brand New Day. So it was somewhere in that period of time that the idea for the whisper hit me, followed by the implications and the inevitable twist of fate that was like a slap to the forehead.
By the way, let me add, that Dan Slott was also unbelievably helpful during this period as he helped me formulate some of the ideas that eventually be used in “OMIT.” Dan is a champ and an idea machine and I just wanted to give him a big shout out and thanks.
Kiel Phegley: So, you went from not being able to figure out what the “whisper” was going to be to now opening the book with it?
Joe Quesada: Truth be told, there was a lot of discussion about whether or not to have the whisper sequence in “OMIT.” Admittedly, “One Moment in Time” was a story mired deep in continuity. It’s not the kind of story that I usually advocate or look to write and draw myself. Truth be told, there was a part of me that didn’t want to pull on that bandage again, but I did make a promise to fandom that I would give them the answers they wanted. So my goal was two fold when I started writing – I needed to answer the unanswered questions and I wanted to do it in a way that the story would read well if you hadn’t read “One More Day.” One of the story devices that helped with this was the incorporation of actual pages from the wedding annual. They were used as a story device but also served as a recap. However, the one thing that stuck out like a sore thumb were those first three “black” pages. If you hadn’t read “One More Day,” they would be at best meaningless and, at worst, totally confusing. Tom Brevoort was very concerned about this opening and not without good cause. The compromise we came to was that I would go ahead and construct the first issue with those pages and when it was all done and lettered, we’d decide then and see how it worked with the story flow before going to press.
Ultimately, when it was all put together, I wanted it in. My argument was that the reason I was writing this story was to fill in the blanks fans were asking for. That’s the animal we were creating, so I was okay with biting the bullet and accepted that there might be some initial confusion from a newbie. There was also the fact that by removing the whisper, fans wouldn’t know how Mephisto’s omission was MJ’s doing. I’m sorry – did I state that as fact? Steve also agreed with me, and that was that. The whisper made it in. Looking back, I think it was the right thing to do. I promised fans that they would get all the answers and to have left this one out would have bugged me for a long time and felt like a glaring hole of unfinished business. And while it’s often fun to ignore Tom and see him get red underneath the beard, we did try to address his concern by giving some context on the recap page to set up the moment for readers who may not have understood what was going on during those first three disconnected pages. Also, some day if they ever put “OMD” and “OMIT” into a collection, the whole experience will hopefully feel more seamless.
Kiel Phegley: Like you said this story is about continuity and the past. At the same time, you frame the whole story with Peter and MJ in the modern day. How much did you have to think to yourself, “I’m also responsible for Spider-Man’s future with Mary Jane by the end of this story”?
Joe Quesada: The story had to be grounded in the present, that’s another one of the reasons why it took so long to get to. One of the things that had to happen was that MJ had to rejoin the cast in a significant way in order for her and Peter to finally have “the conversation.” We knew that it would eventually happen, but we didn’t know exactly when. We also knew that their relationship within the new Brand New Day world had to reach a certain point. This also put a hazy clock on things.
Because of that, the story was written modularly and evergreen. I wrote the opening scenes with Peter and Mary Jane well over a year before the books came out, but they were written in such a way that I could insert little bits of dialogue that would fit into current continuity.
Dan Slott and the rest of the web-heads working on Amazing were also incredibly helpful in setting up “OMIT” and making sure it fit in to the run seamlessly. For example, you can see a quick scene with MJ and Harry in “Grim Hunt” where she sets up the idea of needing to have “the talk” with Pete. So once again a big shout out to the group and thanks for the teamwork!
Kiel Phegley: Now lets play “Wayne’s World” and go “Diddly Doot” back to the wedding annual. I’ve never read that story beginning to end, so there are things here that really jumped out at me, but the one thing that hit hardest was the whole cold feet plot thread that was a part of it then. Did it take reading the comic again for you to realize “THIS is what I want to use”?
Joe Quesada: You know, I re-read that issue back when we were still only just discussing the unmarrying, and it’s one of those things that really makes me shake my head – especially when thinking about how “perfect for each other” we seem to recall Peter and MJ being. When you re-read the annual and the years of books depicting their relationship prior to that, it wasn’t like that at all.
Kiel Phegley: The main through line for all four issues here is this criminal escaping at the beginning of the Annual and then coming back to mess up Peter’s plans. And as with so many occurrences in “One More Day,” you’ve got this red bird showing up in “OMIT” part 1 that just so happens to let the guy loose. To what extent can fans assume that even though he doesn’t appear, these different “red herrings” are Mephisto’s influence undoing what we know?
Joe Quesada: At the end of the day, I leave it up to the reader. One of the things that I did very deliberately in “One More Day” was leave certain Easter eggs – some I have talked about, some I haven’t. But, of the mentionable ones, there were things highlighted in red – whether people, animal, things or scenes that would play a role in future stories. These of course included the bird and the nurse playing solitaire at the end of first issue. I had a pretty good idea early on in the process of “OMD” that she would play a role in a story for another day as would that darn red pigeon. As it turned out, that story would be “OMIT.”
Check back tomorrow on CBR for an inside look at “One Moment In Time” Part 2 including Quesada’s take on a crucial moment that kept Peter and MJ together without being wed.