So let’s talk about One More Day.
Put down your damn shotguns, I have a good point to make about this.
For those of you who don’t know (HA!) Spider-Man: One More Day is one of the most infamous comic events in the history of Spider-Man. Yes the name is supposed to be hyphenated. No I don’t know why. One More Day is one of those fictional works that is considered on par with The Phantom Menace for its poor quality, incoherent narrative, bad visuals and overall long lasting damage to the canon. It’s only noteworthy credit is that it was a sad final chapter to then Spider-Man writer J. Michael Straczynski’s otherwise long-praised run at the helm of the beloved character.
Straczynski arguably did more to revive Spider-man for modern comic book audiences then you’d believe. Prior to this everyone’s favourite web-head had faced an actual ending of his storyline in issue 441 of Amazing Spider-Man in November 1998 and this wasn’t the only Spider-Man title that stopped at this time. All of them did. The Spidey continuity was actually full-on rebooted with each Spidey title getting a new development team and John Byrne writing a revised version of the origin story called Spider-Man: Chapter One which was a lot like Batman: Year One only not near the same level of quality.
The Straczynski took over and the writer of Babylon 5 could do no wrong. Okay well the The Other was a rather silly storyline but what started to happen was the growing-up of Spider-Man. Peter Parker became a teacher (and a rather good one) and started maturing and developing from our favourite sarcastic teenage hero into a witty adult whose life of sacrifice had made him a better person.
Then came One More Day.
God I hate you.
Marvel top brass had long since had a large problem with Spider-Man being married despite how much fans loved the idea of a hero getting married and developing a relationship with a woman. As opposed to the whole killing-a-love-interest/amnesia thing. For the most part, I have maintained that all reasons given by fans and creative teams for super heroes to not develop relationships are the highest form of bullshit.
Comic-books treat developing relationships like shackles or cooties. You know the clichés. The need for the hero to lie about why he has to run off when explosions happen, the girlfriend who waits and worries for the hero, who says she can’t handle getting kidnapped by some jackoff with a jetpack for the hundredth time like Princess Peach. It’s all crap. I mean that. It’s so commonplace that it’s the deepest and saddest part of superhero cliché. It holds back the genre from realizing its potential as the true successor of the Hero’s Cycle from mythology (I said I don’t goddamn know when I’ll stop talking about it).
You want to know the real reason why comic editorial staff doesn’t like to let a hero develop a relationship? It’s because they are such goddamn hacks that they can’t figure out how to make a relationship work. That’s it. Once the relationship changes from being a one sided crush to something real then they just don’t have the balls to try something new. This is because they have an ongoing title and screwing with anything that compromises the original premise too much might cost them their readership and they’ll crash and burn. So they become stagnant; circling the same constant story elements over and over until the readership slowly piddles away.
You know what? I’m getting side-tracked. Let’s get back to One More Day.
This particular storyline was the culmination of several events that occurred during the Civil War storyline that Marvel used. During that storyline Spidey revealed his true identity to the world on the news putting his family in danger once he left the protection of the Superhero Registration Group. Actually they started getting threatened when he was with that group so apples and oranges really.
This reached its peak when a sniper’s bullet meant for Peter hit his Aunt May instead. This put her in critical condition forcing Peter to the brink of reason and testing his limits as a hero. Finally once all of his affairs were set the storyline of One More Day kicked in where Peter desperately contacted every possible ally he could to restore his Aunt back to health.
After speaking with Iron Man (with whom he had a tumultuous relationship at the time) in the first issue and Doctor Strange in the second, Spider-Man is haunted by visions of what he might have become had he not become a hero in the third culminating with Mephisto giving the hero a Faustian deal in the final issue.
Mephisto states that he will save Aunt May if Spidey gives him something of equal value. Since Mephisto is tired of taking souls because, as he puts it, they don’t really suffer since their sacrifice is usually to save another. Mephisto wants to take something that by taking it, he does some real harm. He wants Peter’s marriage. After a long series of debates and arguments the couple consents (Mary-Jane adding some unknown stipulations) only for Mephisto to reveal that in agreeing to this they nullified the possibility of them having a child. The scene ends with the two of them embracing in tears and vowing in some way to find their relationship once more despite this before the changes set in.
I actually think Mephisto made this deal because he was afraid of the hero Peter’s daughter was going to become but that’s just fan speculation and no based on anything solid.
So what’s wrong with this? Don’t play that game; we all know what’s wrong. The flaws of One More Day have been argued and bandied about with such fury and outright rage (including from Straczynski himself) that revisiting them would be completely pointless.
But I have, only recently found an argument, and I mean a real logical argument why Spider-Man’s marriage is a risk to the character.
The simple answer is what happens when Peter Parker has kids?
You notice I said Peter Parker and not Spider-Man that time. The big theme of the character has always been power and responsibility. But the question comes up of what happens when Peter now has a child to raise at home? Sure you can say that Reed and Sue Richards raised a kid in the Baxter building and he ended up… well… he didn’t turn evil! But keep in mind that they are both scientists first and spend a lot of time in the Baxter Building while only occasionally dealing with Dr. Doom or some intergalactic evil. Peter is constantly on patrol and any parent will tell you that raising a child is a full time job.
What would Peter Parker, Mr. Power and responsibility, do when faced with the responsibility of raising a child?
Well he’d be saddled with a hard decision.
You can argue that by raising a child as Spider-Man comes with the same risks to the child that Mary-Jane faced but since the Civil War revealed his identity to the world, that child was faced with risks no matter what Peter decided. In fact, if Peter stayed active the child would face less danger as the rank and file villains might think twice against hurting the child of your friendly neighbourhood oh god stop punching me!
No, I think the real problem is that in order to keep the integrity of Spider-Man as a character you are stuck with finding a good way of making him able to raise a child and giving it that love and attention it deserves without stopping Peter from being Spider-Man and going on daily patrol. That’s hard. Especially since most fathers worth their salt aren’t comfortable being separated from their children for such a life-risk job. But then what about police officers and firefighters, right?
But this is a real issue with the character specifically. Spider-Man probably values good parenting more than a lot of other super heroes because of how he was bullied. Uncle Ben and Aunt May were the ones who helped him through a lot of that. He would jump at the chance to pass that experience onward to his own child. Never mind the possibility of Spider-Man dying in the field and inadvertently creating the exact same void in his child’s life that Uncle Ben’s death created in his. It’s really, really hard for any decent writer of Spider-Man to balance the two and keep Spidey as a decent character.
Of course attempting to preserve the character’s moral integrity by removing that choice and having Spidey make a deal with the devil is the most contradictory method possible. But that’s because One More Day is terrible. I mean, just look at the art by Joe Quesada. You’re telling me the man was an artist before he joined editorial staff?
So the man sucks at art and designing story. Good to know.
Still, the issue of having children extends to other heroes and it’s an issue that could really do a lot for the genre of superheroes if more creators dared to experiment with it. A big part of growing up is getting married and having kids and reconciling your life with this new responsibility. A lot of other mediums have fairly conventional means of dealing with this story element and comic book super heroes have a good chance to really break new ground with it. We have Franklin Richard and Cable’s adoptive daughter running around. Maybe more second generation heroes need to develop from the ranks?
Wait… Spidey was teaching a group of young superheroes at some point? Seriously? I gotta go check this out.
So too does this work exist.