BLOWING THE JACKPOT THAT PETER HIT!
by Michael B. McDaniel
“Face it tiger…you hit the jackpot.” Those words so often spoke by Mary Jane in many an issue of Amazing Spider-man often reflects how one feels when they pick up a comic to read what’s inside. So many comics are like that- a treasure trove of entertainment all for under five bucks. Then, there is those that beg the question: Why did I buy this crap?
THE CLASSIC PANEL FROM MJ'S FIRST APPEARANCE BACK IN AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #42 FROM NOVEMBER 1966.
This week, Marvel comics released the final installment in their ‘One More Day’ storyline in Amazing Spider-man #545. In over 30 years of comic reading and enjoyment of the hobby that I have experienced in my young 39 years, I have never felt more cheated…more betrayed…and more disappointed in a comic company than I feel today. This four part storyline co-written by Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada and longtime Spidey scribe J. Michael Straczynski, which saw the last issues of both ‘Spectacular Spider-man’ and ‘Friendly Neighborhood Spider-man’, was a four-issue deconstruction of over 20 years of Spider-man continuity in which the fans are now unduly burdened with living with the choices that these writers and editors at Marvel have unleashed on us.
***MASSSIVE SPOILER WARNING*** BEWARE FROM HERE ON!!!
Consider these names:
J. Michael Straczynski
THE WEDDING ISSUE OF THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL # 21 FROM 1987
This is a non-comprehensive list of talented individuals who, over the past twenty years since Peter first wed his sweetheart Mary Jane Watson, have been tasked to write stories about our friendly neighborhood web-head in various Spider-man titles (not including Ultimate Spider-man) that Marvel has published in the past two decades. These writers have made decisions that sometimes annoy us but there has been one constant fact we can count on- Peter and Mary Jane together and married. The many scribes listed above have progressed both of the characters of Spider-Man and Mary Jane along reasonable paths with great respect to those that were tasked to do the same job before them.
Over these years, Peter’s life has progressed much like my own- college, marriage, career, and family. He was progressing as you or I might progress if allowed to walk in his shoes. He was recognizable. He was eternal. He was a hero that understood that his actions (or lack there of) had consequences. As of late, this has changed.
In the past year (and maybe a half), the Peter Parker that has been in the three various Spider-man publications and many other Marvel books has been at odds with the Peter from the last 19 years. He has done many things that have left me scratching my head and wondering what the hell is wrong with him. He revealed his identity to the entire world. The results of which were fairly predictable- as I wrote about in great length in a previous article. But despite the bone-headed things that Peter has done in the past year, he isn’t really at fault. The writers and editors at Marvel are and they are whom this article is aimed.
It has been reported in various comic book news outlets that Joe Quesada, who holds the same job as Marvel editor-in-chief as Stan Lee and Jim Shooter once did, believes that it is easier to tell stories about Spider-man with Peter being single. His single mindedness in regards to his vision of Peter Parker has never been any more apparent than in the ‘One More Day’ storyline which has resulted in the re-writing of the history of the wall-crawler.
MEPHISTO OR THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF AT MARVEL? YOU DECIDE
Mephisto, ever the tempter, has shown up to offer a deal to Peter to save his beloved Aunt May who has spent the better part of 2007 at death’s door as the victim of a bullet meant for Peter. The dark lord of lies and deceit will allow Aunt May to live at the expense of the union of Peter and Mary Jane. Peter nor Mary Jane will not remember their time as man and wife but will feel some small loss- therein the victory of Mephisto.
Most men and women, if faced with such a choice would more than likely seek out someone with a higher understanding of spiritual matters like a priest or something of the like. Peters turns to his model/wife for consultation- who has always been known for her keen judgment of dealings with near omni-potent demons who would want nothing more than one’s soul. Smooth move, Ex-lax. While they are trying to decide what to do, the clock is ticking and Aunt May is nearing her end.
Like a vulture waiting to pick at a moldering corpse, Mephisto appears and demands an answer to his offer. Peter resists but Mary Jane accepts his offer- all the while telling Peter that a love like theirs will find a way to endure. Never mind the fact that Aunt May is old and has lived a full life and it just might be her time to die. After all, it is not for us to decide when one dies- that’s hubris after all. We are not God. And, if I know that, why doesn’t Peter Parker- who is a freakin’ superhero!
All fades to black and Peter awakes to a world which Marvel will bill as a ‘Brand New Day’ but is more accurately described as Spiderman 1987. A world in which a suddenly alive Harry Osborne has just returned from Rehab in Europe and Peter is single. Peter goes to a surprise party for Harry where Mary Jane is also in attendance. They exchange glances but don’t speak. Their marriage- which has endured so much- has been erased. And this was to be J. Michael Straczynski’s swan song. He left by undoing 20 years of continuity which includes over six years of his own labor.
In a statement on the website Comic By Comic, JMS states that he objected to the ending and even wanted his name removed from the final two parts of the storyline but was talked out of this by Quesada. His reasons were stated as not wanting to “sabotage Joe or Marvel”. Well, in my mind that’s just not good enough… it sounds a little too much like “I was just following orders!” which is a defense that thousands of Germans claimed trying to avoid prosecution for war crimes at Nuremburg after the Second World War. The statement also gives some insight to the choices made during the ‘Sins Past’ storyline and the decision to have the memory of Gwen Stacy run through the mud by having her knock boots with Norman “Where’s my pumpkin bomb?” Osborne. This revelation depicts Quesada as the ultimate decider in the content of that storyline. It seems that JMS has something in common with Mary Jane as they both made deals with the devil.
THE TRUE VILLAIN OF 'ONE MORE DAY'
The true villain of this storyline is not Mephisto or even the Kingpin who hired the gunmen to kill Peter which resulted in Aunt May being shot. The true bad guy who should be publicly called out for this horrendous idea is Joe Quesada. For months in his weekly column on Newsarama entitled ‘Cup of Joe’, he has kept us informed on his vision for the future of Marvel where anything can happen- which, considering the backlash from this and other recent Marvel storylines, seems to conflict greatly with what the readers want. Coffee is sometimes bitter but Quesada’s “Cup of Joe” is downright unbearable.
Under his reign as EIC, the Marvel Universe has seen great highs in sales but not in critical acclamation and fan satisfaction. Most Marvel mini-series and events have left fans under-whelmed and asking “did I miss something”. The early sucesses of the Ultimate line has given way to mediocrity. How much power does he have at Marvel? Consider the fact that his own personal beliefs have crept into the pages of Marvel Comics in the form of non-smoking heroes. This smoking ban has affected Wolverine, Nick Fury, Thing, and even J. Jonah Jameson. While I detest smoke from cigarettes and cigars and don't like the thought of kids smoking, it is a fact of life that some adults- despite what we know about the dangers of smoking- still do it. Seeing Nick Fury without a cigar in hand is like seeing John Wanye in a Western without a blazing six-gun. But his true offense is the MEDIOCRITY and the style of Marvel Comics over the past year. In the past twelve months, we have seen the Civil War erupt without proper explanations from the opposing sides and then end with a whimper, Captain America shot dead for no good reason other than for sales, Iron Man vilified to a decree that the damage may be irreversible, and World War Hulk start with a heck of a start only to fizzle out at the end. This recent Spider-man storyline is nothing more than a re-run of ‘Dallas’. It would have been more fitting if Pete would have awakened to find someone in his shower and discovered Harry there. (Please excuse the shameless Bobby Ewing reference!) Based on a recent poll on Newsarama, fans think about as much of the ending of 'One More Day' as they did that episode of Dallas in which Bobby was brought back to live ala a dream!
With these recent examples and other instances of his editorial mismanagement as of late, I call on his dismissal as Editor-in-Chief. His tenure has endangered the endurance of these characters to which he has been entrusted…and honored to oversee. The character of Spider-man has been set back years in development. After all, what is the purpose of Ultimate Spider-man? Couldn't that version be used to tell the types of stories that Quesda wants told? The fact that JMS is willing to defend his actions is not enough to save him in my mind. Strazynski, after all, still draws a paycheck from Marvel. If this were the 19th century, I would call on him to be run out of town on a rail along with Quesada. The next arc of Amazing Spiderman begins in just a few weeks. It is entitled ‘Brand New Day’. If Marvel wants Spider-man to have a ‘Brand New Day’, they should begin by firing Joe Quesada!