CBR's exclusive interview with Marvel Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada about the controversial storyline and events surrounding "One More Day" continues today.
In part two of our interview, Quesada went into great detail on why the storyline saw so many delays and began to talk about his reaction to writer J. Michael Straczynski's letter expressing his dissatisfaction with how things were changed to his original storyline. Today, we continue that discussion and Quesada reveals how things may have played out were no changes made. Plus, he clarifies what is and is not canon now, what effect the letter had on their working relationship, plus we go indepth into the story and the motivations behind it.
Spoiler Alert – Once again, if you've not finished "One More Day" and wish not to have things spoiled, we suggest you stop reading now, pick up the final chapter in "Amazing Spider-Man" #545, then return here once you're done.
Well, Jonah, normally I wouldn't even speak of these insider things because at the end of the day "One More Day" would have come out and all we'd be discussing is the intricacies of the storyline and why we did it. Joe's post, revealing some of the inner workings behind the curtain, has added a layer to this, so I know the fans are now clamoring to know what's what and, in many ways, the insider stuff has overshadowed the story. So, that's the only reason I'm discussing it at all.
When the group of creators decided what "One More Day" was going to be, a huge train was set in motion. The "Brand New Day" creative teams and editors began to have their summits. At those summits we explained to the new creative teams the science behind "One More Day" and where we were leaving all the pieces. In essence, the mandate from that point on was, "here are the pieces, here's where we're leaving them. Go have fun!"
When I was halfway through issue three of OMD, we received Joe's script for issue 4. After reading it, we (Axel, Tom and myself) all quickly realized that we had a problem -- the script we had just received was not the one we were expecting, and the events that were being set forth in that issue were going to conflict with the work that was already being done on "Brand New Day." I thought that perhaps Joe had forgotten some of the stuff discussed at the summit meetings and the subsequent e-mails and discussions that followed, but that didn't seem to be the case; this was the story he wanted to tell. In his story, Mephisto was going to change continuity from as far back as issues #96-98 from 1971. In Joe's story, Peter drops the dime on Harry, and that helps get him into rehab right away. Consequently, MJ stays with Harry, and Gwen never dies and never has her affair with Norman, etc., etc. And in the end, Peter and MJ are never married.
This, in my mind, while it neatly puts the pieces back in some way, was not what we wanted to do. First, it discounted every issue of "Amazing" since that story arc. Second, the series of events that it discounts in the Marvel U are too far-reaching to contemplate. And third, it had severe ramifications for the creators already well underway on "Brand New Day," the thrice-monthly "Amazing Spider-Man." In other words, there was just no way to tell Joe's story without blowing up the entire Marvel U and every Spider-Man's fan's collection. What we originally discussed with Joe and the group was much simpler and cleaner: The wedding? Something happened on the wedding day that prevented it from happening. The unsmasking? Mephisto makes people forget it; much like the Sentry, it happened -- it's just no longer remembered. And Harry? Well, there's always a price to pay when you make a deal with the devil. Is it a perfect solution? Absolutely not. Does it get us to where we want to be? Yes.
Anyway, we discovered all of this midway through the third issue and it became very evident to us that we had a problem. Not only that, now knowing what we knew, issue three had to be changed slightly in order to set up the things we needed in issue four. Joe fought hard for his story and you have to respect any creator for supporting his vision, I know where he was coming from. But by the time we knew what he was shooting for, I had to make a decision that served the greater good and what everyone had signed on for. Eventually, Joe told us that he would try to give us what we wanted in issue four, though he disagreed with it and also felt that it wasn't the kind of story that he wanted to tell. He was a trooper and, while I know it couldn't have been fun for him, he gave us a script that served as a road map to help us along -- because when we received the new version, we were still missing some beats to get all the things across that we needed for the "Brand New Day" run. Joe gave us an okay to do what we needed, so stuff had to be repaginated, and reconstructed. We used a lot of Joe's dialog, but some of it was mine, or Axel or Tom's -- everyone had to chip in, especially since now the issue was going to be over thirty pages in order to get us to the closing scene at the party. It was a lot of work, but everyone pulled through and we got it out. Like I said, the fact that it made December is a Christmas miracle.
And let me repeat: I couldn't be more sorry for having to change Joe's story and that's why publicly I'm apologizing to him for doing so. But, ultimately, we had to get to the place where we promised other creators we would be for them to launch their stories.
So, to get this straight, OMD doesn't actually negate the previous 20 years of Spider-Man stories?
Exactly, that's precisely what we wanted to avoid. What didn't occur was the marriage. Peter and MJ were together, they loved each other -- they just didn't pull the trigger on the wedding day. All the books count, all the stories count -- except in the minds of the people within the Marvel U, Peter and MJ were a couple, not a married couple. To me, that's a much fairer thing to do to those of us who have been reading Spider-Man for all these years. Like I said, is it perfect? No. As far as we investigated, short of divorcing Peter, nothing really is.
JMS also made some comments about changes made to his "Sins Past" storyline, which thus far have never been addressed. Can you talk a bit about why you felt those changes were needed?
Joe's account of "Sin's Past" is completely accurate as I remember it and my decision is one that I had to make for what I felt was the betterment of the future of the character.
Joe came to me with a storyline that had Peter meeting these twins, one of which looked just like Gwen that of course he would be attracted to. These kids would turn out to be kids that he had with Gwen. Peter, of course, had no knowledge of it and would have to deal with the ramifications. In my world, there was no way I could go forward with this story as is. For starters, you're talking to a guy that feels that a married Peter Parker isn't the healthiest thing for the franchise since it ages the character. There is no way on planet earth that I could let him to have kids, Marvel almost made that mistake several years ago. And there were further implications of the story that were out of my comfort zone. First, it was the dealing with the repercussions of Peter and Gwen having unprotected or careless sex out of wedlock. Second, it would be dealing with Peter having kids out of wedlock; while, of course, he wasn't aware of having had them, there was always the possibility that the media could spin it that way. But in the end, it was mostly the idea of Peter having kids that I just balked at.
I had to tell Joe straight up that there was no way we could do this story the way he wanted to do it, so I offered up the option of having someone else be the father, perhaps Norman. I guess the one place where my story differs from Joe is that once I gave Joe the suggestion for Norman, it was up to Joe as to whether he wanted to write that story or not. I didn't demand that he write it; if he felt that it was that bad an idea, he could have just have skipped it all together. This conversation happened before he began writing the arc, so it wasn't like we were shifting the ground on him mid story. So, yes, I came up with the idea of Norman and still stand by it, but I assumed Joe also thought it was a cool idea, he did all the research and came back with a methodology within continuity that made it work; it was pretty damn brilliant. He wrote the heck out of the story -- it's one of my favorites. I understand that fans give us flack for so many of the things that we do, but that's part of what comes with the territory of working on these very old, established icons.
As a final question on this subject, what has this moment meant for your relationship with JMS? JMS still has "Thor" and "The Twelve," so I assume he's not so angry he wanted to walk away from the company all together, but has OMD ultimately strained your relationship, or do these types of things heal faster than most might think?
Well, I'm assuming we're fine. That said, I can only speak for myself. As I said before, Joe is one of my favorite people and he's tackled all of these assignments like a pro and I have complete admiration for him because of it. He's right when he says that these characters don't belong to us, we're only care givers and our job is to do the best we can to preserve them for the next generation and to function within the boundaries of what the respective companies feel is best for the characters. As EIC, my responsibility is to try to achieve those goals for Marvel in a way that I feel is healthy for the character and as creatively fulfilling for our creators, but sometimes that mission statement puts me at complete loggerheads with some of our creators, some of whom are very dear friends. Believe me, Bendis and I have gone several rounds on different projects, as well as a few others. It's not the most fun thing to do, but that's the job I signed on for. Guys like JMS and Bendy understand that. While they may get upset at decisions I have to make, at the end of the day, they understand it's the job and not the way I feel about them as people or creators, just as I know that they're fighting for what they believe in. Also, as Joe has stated, he's been in my position, so he does have the unique perspective from the other side of the table.
OK, Joe, we've talked about the art, we've spoken about the delays, the JMS statement, but one area we've not even touched yet is the story of "One More Day." Now, when we get to the fan driven portion of this interview, I'm sure they'll have many more historical questions that I wouldn't think of, but there were a number of things that I had some trouble getting my head around. Ready?
First, would you mind reiterating why you feel a married Peter Parker doesn't work? I know you've mentioned it before, but there may be a number of new people coming to this story that haven't read your thoughts on the matter before.b>
Oy, I got to tell you, I feel like a broken record with this one.
Okay, let me see if I can do it again.
Maybe this will be the last time you have to. Then again …
At the heart of every great character and character universe, there are certain metaphors, iconography and trappings that play a significant part in what makes those characters great. You can deviate from time to time and move away from those things in order to keep the characters and their world's interesting, but you have to be careful how far you deviate. There is a point where you can go one step too far, to the point where you can't take it back easily without tearing everything up.
Take the Fantastic Four, for example. What is at the heart of this super hero team? Is it that they're a team or that they were formed out of a cosmic accident? Is it the high adventure, science fantasy aspect of the book that makes it what it is? Well, all those things are a part of it, but what is really at the heart of the world of the FF is family. Keep the book on point, keep it about family and you'll be fine. That's why, Reed and Sue getting married only serves to enhance the FF experience -- having kids does, as well. On the flip side, Johnny being single works best because it serves as nice counterpoint to a married Sue and Reed.
Now, imagine if we decided to take away the aspect of family from an FF title, what would we have left? Sure, we could still do FF stories. Of course, we'd figure out a way around it, but it wouldn't be the best that the FF can be. Now, could we remove the element of family for some time in order to make the book interesting, to see what that would be like? Absolutely. But what if we did something that would remove the element of family in a way that couldn't be reversed properly? Well, then we've done a tremendous amount of damage to the title.
Let's look at Daredevil and let's make this simple, because in the case of DD as a character, it is. Matt Murdock has an incredible past, a tragic yet uplifting one. What makes DD different than any other hero, however, is that he's handicapped. He has gone through all that he has gone through and he's managed to triumph over all of it while being blind. This is the one thing that makes DD truly special and stand out. Now, what if we were to give Matt his eyesight back permanently in a way that would be difficult to retcon? Sure, DD would still be somewhat cool, but not nearly as interesting or different as he is being blind. Ultimately, I don't think people would stick around to read the ongoing stories of a sighted Daredevil because giving him his sight back just makes him another grim and gritty hero with very little else to differentiat him.
The golden era of Spider-Man gave us things we had never seen in a comic before. We had a loveable loser as the hero, a character with some incredible failings, but an amazing amount of heart. "With great power there must also come great responsibility" was his motto, but at the very core of what made Spider-Man stories great and, more importantly, different, was the fantastic soap opera and the cast of characters and villains in Peter Parker's life. Spider-Man stories revolutionized the comic book super hero because the stories were about Peter Parker; Spider-Man was secondary. This was a big shift from a world in which Superman and Batman were what was important. Clark and Bruce were just facades. And let me add, sometimes Spider-Man would lose against the bad guy and sometimes Spider-Man wouldn't make the right decision. These were revolutionary ideas for a super hero comic at the time.
What really made Spidey unique wasn't so much his powers or his costume, sure those were cool things, but what really made him unique was that it was about the guy inside the costume and the soap opera that was his life. Peter could have had a whole different set of powers and it still would have been a ground breaking comic because in the end, that's not what made Spider-Man stories different. So, with every little bit of the trappings of his life that got chipped away, more and more of the soap opera dwindled.
When Peter Parker got married, it caused the character to be cut off from many of the social situations and settings that put him at conflict with his family, friends, and especially the girl he was dating. Suddenly, something as simple as the tension he had with Felicia Hardy was completely defused; if Peter ever gave in to temptation or even considered it, he would be, in the eyes of the fans, the lousiest guy in the world. It became harder to place Peter in situations where he could hang out with other single characters, without him seeming like the oldest person in the room, even if he wasn't. And whatever nerdish sex appeal he possessed, we had to tread very carefully. He became the perpetual "designated driver." Sure, Peter could hang around with other married folk -- I bet that would be exciting!
Let me try to put this as plainly as I can, and let's be really honest here, let's really look at marriage for a second. I'll get personal, for a moment. I have an incredible marriage and a fantastic kid, but there is no question that my life was much more story-worthy when I was single. Was I happier? Absolutely not. Was my life a better story from a drama sense? Ummmm, yeah. It had many more twists and turns and theater and was a bit of a mess. Now let me say, not everyone, but for most: When people get married, they tend to settle down -- life slows down and you gain different responsibilities, grown-up responsibilities, boring responsibilities. You go out to dinner less, see fewer movies, your social life is curtailed and revolves, as it should, around your significant other. In short, life hands you a mini van. While marriage makes for an okay story, there is less drama in a (healthy) marriage than in a single relationship. That's one of the many reason we get married -- we want stability, we want comfort, we want kids, etc., etc. No one gets married because they want more drama in their life. What's good for one's life doesn't always make for great stories when the heart of your character's universe is drama. From a writer and artist's point of view, the people who are creating the stories, it's like giving Daredevil his eyesight back. It works for a short time and eventually erodes at the foundation of the character and what makes them unique. We all want Peter to catch a break and to settle down and have happiness in his life, but that isn't really what we want. If that actually happened, people would stop caring about Spider-Man.
Bottom line, there are so many things that twentysomethings are doing with their lives that a married Peter can't. He needs to be a single guy. Sure, he can have a girlfriend -- that adds something to his story -- but a married Peter just cuts off too many avenues for good soap opera. Could you have soap opera within a marriage? Sure. But after a while, there's only so much tension you can bring into Peter and MJ's marriage before you make him seem like a louse of a husband, or her, like a bickering wife. In contrast, you can only play them as a happy-go-lucky couple for so long -- that adds up to zero tension within the relationship and takes away a crucial element of Spider-Man stories: the soap opera.
Sure, that would have been a very easy solution. However, how would a parent feel when they had to explain to their kid that Spider-Man just got divorced from his wife? How would that headline read across the AP or on USA today? The same can be said with an annulment. Sure, divorce is a reality of life, but Peter Parker and Spider-Man are not the types of characters that would do that. Spider-Man is a worldwide icon and is considered one of the good guys, like Superman. There's always the option of killing off MJ, but over the years way too many key characters in Spider-Man mythology have been killed off. Much like the marriage, those deaths hurt the book. The Spider-Man books were better with Harry in them, as well as Norman. Also, how much older would Peter seem as a widower -- yikes!
But what of the "Ultimate Spider-Man" Peter Parker, who has been single this entire time? Doesn't he fit the bill of a single Peter?
Well, first let me say that his being single is one of the key components of why I think "Ultimate Spider-Man" is so much fun. We know Peter and MJ are meant for each other, but I bet there are a lot of people rooting for Kitty Pryde as well. And let me say that while our Marvel U Spider-Man will be single like "Ultimate Spider-Man," it's a whole different vibe because our Marvel U Peter is a much more seasoned and mature person. He's a already a man; he's not 15 years old and in High School, so his relationships will be much more sophisticated yet completely Peter Parker-ish.
I also don't buy into the argument that just because "Ultimate Spider-Man" Peter is single that Marvel U Spidey shouldn't be. I mean Ultimate Spider-Man doesn't kill, does that mean that I should let Marvel U Spidey start killing his enemies?
Here is the question that I have posed over and over again and no one has given me a logical answer to: outside of having kids (which I never would have done with Peter and MJ in the first place) or divorce/annulment (which is another thing I never would have done) is there a story that I can tell with a married Peter and MJ that I can't tell with a Peter Parker who is just dating and deeply in love with MJ? There isn't a single one. Every story you can tell works just as well if they're married of just dating and in love.
Now, let me ask the reverse: Are there any stories that I can tell with a single Peter Parker that I can't tell with a married one? You betcha! And therein lies the problem and the irrefutable logic. While the marriage is absolutely the logical progression for a character like Peter Parker, so is having kids, having grandkids, growing old and dying. Would we -- better yet, should we -- go that far? Of course not. So why isn't getting married too far? Simple: Because a lot of people have grown accustomed to it, indeed, attached to it -- and that is understandable. But it wasn't the healthiest long-term scenario for the character. Each one of those life progressions (marriage, child, grandkids, etc.) cuts Peter Parker and the Spider-Man books off from the story-trappings that have been the bedrock of great Spider-Man stories.
The truth of the matter is that if the fans truly want a married Peter and MJ with kids, then we have an incredible book called "Spider-Girl." If this is truly what fandom wants, to see Peter go through the natural progressions of life, then I expect orders on "Spider-Girl" to go through the roof in the next month.
I know people love Peter and want the best for him, but believe me, the best thing for the longevity of the character is for him not to be married. We knew there was going to be fallout with this decision -- it's what we've come to expect with every move we make -- but it's something that had to be eventually done. WIZARD did a very revealing article in which they interviewed past creators and editors -- all of whom agreed that the marriage was a mistake. Even Sam Raimi said that Peter Parker needs to be single and works best that way. I am not a lone voice in the woods here.
All that said, there is a story in a recent issue of "Sensational Spider-Man" which gives a glimpse into the future which finds Peter and MJ growing old together and have two children. Does "One More Day" close any possibility of that future from taking place?
Well, I honestly never gave it a second thought. Does it negate "Spider-Man: Reign" or "Spider-Girl" -- who knows? We do alternate future stories all the time and, quite honestly, we can't base our current publishing programs on those types of stories. It would be insane to lock ourselves into stuff like that.
Have you ever spoken with Jim Shooter or David Michelinie about the reasons why they felt Peter and MJ should be married?
Nope, I didn't need to. The history of why it came to be is pretty clear. But, before getting into that, let me point this out, because I think this is hysterical. There are those that say that OMD was an editorially created project when, in fact, it wasn't. However, the marriage of Peter and MJ was an editorially driven project. It had nothing to do with what was really going on in the books at the time and came completely from the top on down to the creators. The bottom line: It was a stunt. How come no one in fandom mentions this?
Anyway, the Spider-marriage, as conceived, didn't have anything to do with the comics. Here's how it happened.
Around 1986, circulation on the Spider-Man newspaper strip had begun to drop. Concerned about this, an editor from King Features had a conversation with Stan Lee about what they could do to generate new interest in the strip to get it picked up again by more papers. Somewhere during the course of that conversation, they hit upon the thing that newspaper strips have done for years to drum up interest -- marry off the lead characters.
So, at a certain point, Stan called up Marvel and let the folks there know that he was planning to marry Peter and Mary Jane in the newspaper strip at such-and-such a point. At the time, Mary Jane wasn't even dating Peter in the series, but [then EIC] Jim Shooter, not wanting the comics to get scooped by the newspaper strip or whatever, decided that the publicity surrounding the marriage (there was talk of a faux wedding ceremony taking place at Shea Stadium to commemorate the event) and the fact that this was Stan made it worth doing in the books as well.
The lead-up to the marriage is ridiculously rushed, as the creative team needed to move Peter and MJ from not dating to getting married in something like three months. So one issue opens up with Pete on top of a building musing about his life and what's wrong with it, and suddenly clicking on the notion that he should marry Mary Jane. He ends up proposing, following her back to Pittsburgh and learning about her upbringing in three issues. And then the wedding takes place. While the creators all did the best they could with the schedule, it was about as unconvincing a block of storytelling as was possible, especially given the pains that the Spidey creative teams had taken over the previous two years or so to indicate that Pete and MJ were no more than friends.
And at the time, most of the reactions in comic book stores was very much like what we're seeing now: This is fake, this is artificial, it's just a blatant media grab, they've ruined Spider-Man for all time, etc. But again, all of this somehow seems to be missing from any of the arguments that I hear with respect to the validity of the marriage and how OMD should never had happened.
CBR's exclusive interview with Joe Quesada continues tomorrow as we discuss specific plot points of "One More Day," the ramifications of the story for the Marvel U, online reaction and much more.
Now discuss this story in CBR's Spider-Man forum.