I do not read Spider-Man titles with any regularity. Occasionally I pick up a trade, if it looks interesting. And I may very well be the only person you’ll know who actually liked “Sins Past.” But I just don’t care to read Spidey’s adventures on a weekly or even monthly basis. Along the same lines I seldom pick up a Superman book or a Batman title, though I will get much of the latter’s in trade eventually. I think it’s mostly a matter of over-saturation. I get Supes and Bats from Justice League and an almost weekly cameo somewhere. I get Spider-Man in the rebel Avengers. So it’s not that I don’t like the guy.
In fact, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — what makes Spidey work so well is his “everyman” appeal. He works for a living, as a teacher or a photographer. Both are fine, average or below paying occupations that seldom get the recognition they deserve. We’ve seen Peter grow from bookish class nerd to the kind of guy most of us would have as a friend and most girls wish for in a boyfriend (they’ll never actually go out with them because they enjoy their abusive relationships with “Bad Boys” too much, but that’s a whole ‘nother story). We felt his pain with the loss of his Uncle Ben and his guilt with the loss of Gwen Stacy, who may have been the love of his life. And we cheered and threw rice (metaphorically speaking) at his marriage to Mary Jane. Let’s face it, Pete hit the jackpot on that one. Wouldn’t we all like to come home to a gorgeous redhead model/actress? I know I would. Heck, I know GIRLS who would too.
So then how could Joe Quesada screw it all up so royally?
As I said at the top, I don’t read Spider-Man’s monthlies. I am gathering information about the “One More Day” arc from a variety of other sources, including Wikipedia, IGN and pieces written here at Comicsnexus, including a couple of articles from our own Starman Matt Morrison’s Looking To The Stars and his own, very cool 2007 Starry Awards and by our man Paul Sebert’s Words of Questionable Wisdom column. But I did skim through the last issue of the arc at my usual shop. So with that in mind let me ask the obvious question: Who is Quesada answerable to?
It’s not the readers. Many of us who write about the industry and even the more casual bloggers (damn I hate that word) have expressed skepticism from the moment the arc was announced. Sure, there’s a percentage of those skeptics who are “Doom & Gloom” naysayers about everything, so it’s easy to blow them off with a simple comment like, “Trust us, we can’t get into details but if you could see the scripts J. M. Straczynski has turned in you’d be more anxious about when you can get this amazing book — pardon the pun — in your hands!” And to some degree, the speaker, likely Quesada, would be right. We don’t know how good or bad a book is going to be until we see the execution. I didn’t have much of a problem with the content of that now somewhat infamous New Avengers issue, I had a problem with the execution of a deaf character answering a knock at a door. So as long as J. M. Straczynski does a good job, and the art team doesn’t drop the ball, hey, maybe it could be good. Right? Well…
What about the creators? Is Joe answerable to them? Not really. As Editor In Chief, the writers, artists, colorists, letterers, production personnel and editors are all ultimately answerable to him. So when J. M. Straczynski said, as quoted in numerous places, that he disagreed with Quesada to the point that he didn’t even want to take a writing credit on the final two issues, wouldn’t that sort of raised a red flag? Faceless internet scribes are one thing, but a guy who wrote successful television shows and well-received comic stories voicing discontent with the “One More Day” arc is something else.
I don’t get paid by our site to write, so therefore I’m note “work for hire.” I don’t really have to answer to anyone, and it’s been pretty rare that my editor has asked me to tone anything down. He knows that I know what we’re about and he trusts me not to write something ridiculous inflammatory. I’ve expressed my opinions about various occurrences at all of the major comic publishers, and even got a rise out of Fabian Nicieza and Tom Brevoort. I don’t know if they like me, and frankly they don’t have to. They know I’m critical of certain things because I care deeply about those things. J. M. Straczynski is a passionate man too. But he’s also “work for hire.” He doesn’t won Spider-man, or Thor, or even his new book, The Twelve. All of those are Marvel-owned characters. J. M. gets to play with them, but at the end of the day the characters still belong to Marvel. But I’ll say this, I personally don’t know too many people with a damn asteroid named for them! 8379 Straczynski is currently swinging around the Sun approximately 3.75 astronomical units away from us right now. If I was Joe Quesada and a guy who had his own asteroid told me he had some issues with an editorially mandated story proposal, I would not only listen but likely offer to adjust the concept accordingly. I mean, the dude has an asteroid. In the world of rock-paper-scissors, nobody beats Straczynski.
If Joe isn’t answerable to the consumers of the product he shepherds, nor to the creators whose collective job is to in fact create said products, nor to critics like me whose self-appointed task is to discuss and promote (whether I like the comic or not) these products, then Joe should at least be answerable to the characters themselves. DC spent several decades prior to the Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns jogging in place, letting Superman rescue kittens. Over the last 10-15 years, writers and their editors finally let Peter Parker grow up, long after his closest DC analogue, in my opinion, Dick Grayson had left the cave. He got out of school, got serious with Mary Jane and got married. He joined the Avengers, publicly unmasked, and still found ways of helping people despite his outlaw status following the Civil War. And for some reason, Joe slammed the brakes on Peter’s march into maturity and threw it into reverse.
In the last two years I’ve lost both of my grandfathers. One was a World War II veteran, the other was a baker, and I loved them both. But when their time came, I paid my respects and moved on. Aunt May is old. Older than Galactus. Her time was years ago. When I perused that last issue of “One More Day” and found Mary Jane and Peter agreeing to forget each other to save May completely inconceivable. Peter has to let May go. He’s been a full-fledged adult long enough to get over this strange Oedipus Complex he seems to have developed. Mary Jane certainly would NOT have agreed to dump her husband and her life to save an old woman. And how all that brings Harry Osborne back I have no idea. What’s more, I don’t want to know.
What I want to know is if Joe is planning on rewinding anyone else’s life. Tell me now so I can quit wasting my money on those books. People get married, Joe. They fall in love, they get married, they might fight, they might divorce, or they might get killed by a Skrull invasion. Over half of marriages in the US end in divorce. Wouldn’t that have made more sense and added another layer to the onion that is Peter’s life than just magically annulling the marriage? Think of the catfights we’re missing out on when Mary Jane runs into Pete with Firestar or the Black Cat or even the Silver Sable — you know how Pete is about older women. Aunt May should die. It‘s the nature of all living things to die eventually, and May‘s “eventually” should have come long ago.. Ben and May can always come back in Peter’s dreams; heck, whole issues could go that way. The “Talking With David” issues of Starman were always brilliant. The whole magic thing seems grossly out of place. Peter was a science-based superhero. And besides, wouldn’t Doctor Strange have rushed to repel Mephisto as soon as he appeared in the mortal plane? In a relatively brief story arc, Joe has completely ignored established characterization and common sense.
I know, eventually someone else will come along and say, “Hey, let’s get Pete and MJ back together!” I say you can do that in about three pages. Newhart this whole thing — have Pete wake up in a cold sweat next to Mary Jane who asks, “What’s wrong, Tiger? Bad dream?” Pete comes back with a witty, “MJ, remind me to never order the Kung Pow Chicken after nine, no matter what Shang Chi says. *BURP!*” Have him swing out the window in whatever Spidey-tighties he’s wearing these days and arrive at the side by side gravestones of Ben and May Parker. He can miss them, he can love them, and he’ll be much more interesting than he is now, partying with dead friends while Aunt May waits patiently for a Macleod to finally take her immortal head. I know this will all end eventually, but I’m voting with my wallet and not buying any Spider-books. If any of this garbage trickles into his Avengers appearances, I’ll be done with those too. And if I ever take a “work for hire” job where someone insists on running with a bad idea that no one else wants any part of, I’m not sure I can bottle my pride like J. M. Straczynski did. I’d tell Joe to write it himself and likely find myself suddenly unemployed. After all, I don’t have an asteroid to use as an instrument of negotiation.
Welcome to my nightmare.