Monday, September 27, 2010

SM:MIA - Cup O'M.I.T. Part 1

Spider-Man: Missing In Action

Okay, Spider-Fans (all two of you who still read), Quesada has started releasing an interview with CBR regarding the full nature of One More Day, Brand New Day, and One Moment In Time, and he has demonstrated more clearly than ever that he really does not get it.  The full interview (part one) can be found here:  CBR: Cup O'M.I.T.

Some responses:

Joe Quesada:  The original methodology that was pitched in the writer's room at that time by JMS, the methodology we'd all agreed to, was... one small thing was going to happen in Peter Parker and Mary Jane around the day or days of their wedding causing them to never get hitched ...  The one thing we as a group discussed at length, and didn’t want to do, was to have decades of stories that didn’t happen. That to me would have been disastrous.

Eric:  So in what way was OMD not disastrous?  Seriously, name one.  Peter and MJ make a deal with the devil.  Check.  Their marriage is eliminated in the most cowardly and overly-complicated ways ever.  Check.  Peter is relegated to a status as eternal child, eternal college student, eternal loser.  Oh, great.  I realize these are comics characters, but one thing that Quesada and company just do NOT seem to get is that they have played outside the bounds of the story to make this change, and that as long as this change stays in place, there is NO hope whatsoever of a Spider-Man story that matters.  But moving on...

Joe Quesada:  [On the problems with JMS's version of OMD] To put it bluntly, the ideas that were pitched at the summit and the parameters that we had all agreed to, was not what was in the script. Instead of a story that took us back to the wedding day and why it didn’t happen, what we were looking at was a story in which 37 years of Spider-Man continuity never happened and every issue since "Amazing Spider-Man" #98 no longer counted  ...  In this new version, Peter heroically manages to get Harry into rehab. Because of this, Harry and MJ never break up. That meant she and Peter didn’t start dating as originally happened and Norman would not become the Goblin, thus never killing Gwen Stacy. This was also a problem because we had also come to the decision a while before all of this that Gwen was going to stay dead. In defense of JMS, he did at one point pitch a version of this story at the summit, but it had been shot down by the room because of all the history it would wipe out, not just with Spider-Man, but across the entirety of the Marvel U.

Eric:  For what it's worth, with all the stuff I disagree with Quesada about, I completely agree with him here, that any option that rewrites that much history is a major problem.  I'm honestly surprised that JMS would pull this kind of thing, and I look forward to the almost inevitable response from the creator of Babylon 5.

Joe Quesada:  But, as E-i-C I’m confronted with decisions like this all the time, some bigger than others, but when I’m left between 37 years of continuity disappearing or leaving a story open ended to revisit on another day, I feel I made the absolute right decision.  

Eric:  So how is it that 20 years of marriage are just wiped out to suit editorial whim?  How is it that a room full of pros (all of whom have produced some stunningly awesome work over the years) can't deal with the idea of divorce or death?  How is it that these people think so little of a marriage that they'd rather make it so that it had never happened than deal with it in-story?  This is something of a false dilemma:  "our way or JMS's way."  Why were the other alternatives axed?  In no way was this a "right decision."

Joe Quesada:  Eventually the answers started to come to me as we patched it all together but there was still one nagging question that I couldn’t seem to come to terms with, what did MJ whisper in Mephisto’s ear?

Eric: Let's make one thing very, very, very clear here:  When you make a deal with the devil, no details change the fact of what you did.  Whatever MJ whispers, she (and SPIDER-MAN) are making a deal with the devil.  There's a reason why such deals never turn out well for the characters involved (unless, I suppose, Dan'l Webster's around to be your deus ex machina).  It sounds to me that Quesada was looking for an excuse to make this story happen, and MJ's whisper provides that excuse in his mind.  But it's a deal with the devil.

Joe Quesada: It was at that point that I realized that what MJ whispered to Mephisto wasn’t Earth shattering, in fact it couldn’t be. It just had to be heroic, heartfelt and keeping with her character. What MJ eventually whispers, while seemingly not all that important, makes her the hero of the story and in effect is Earth shattering in its simplicity.
Kiel Phegley: Okay, wait, how so?
Joe Quesada: Remember the twist I mentioned at the beginning of this conversation, this is what I was talking about. MJ unknowingly beat Mephisto at his own game. By agreeing to MJ’s terms, Mephisto has actually wiped himself from ever having been involved in their lives. In fact, looking at it linearly, those four issues never happened. Along with the wedding, "One More Day" and Mephisto have been wiped out of continuity and Peter and MJ never made that bargain.Ooooooh, me hears something breaking.

Eric:  And here, ladies and gentlemen, we see a true master of characterization at work.  Mephisto, the devil, prince of lies, schemer of schemers, is outwitted by Mary Jane Watson.  Whoopsy!  I guess the devil should have proof-read his contract!

Give. Me. A. Break.  That MJ wants the devil to "leave Peter alone forever" is touching, but in NO way does it erase what happened.  In no way does it wipe OMD from continuity.  Quesada makes such a huge point of telling us how "nothing really changed" except that Spider-Man has made a deal with the devil, but if that's true, then Peter and MJ are enough "the same" that they're the type of people who would do it again.  And while Mary Jane Watson might very well be someone who would be that weak, Spider-Man is NOT.  Spider-Man, one of the most morally-centered heroes in the Marvel Universe (and this was apparently made canon several years ago in Infinity War or some such nonsense, for whatever that's worth), does NOT make deals with the devil.  It does not happen.

And FWIW, the devil doesn't make mistakes in his contracts.  Not really.  And he certainly wouldn't be suckered by such an obvious "trick."  Find even a halfway decent lawyer and try this kind of thing on him.  See where it gets you.

The devil is not outmaneuvered.  He is not outfoxed.  He is outloved.  He is outworked in the name of virtue.  He can be defeated by anything sufficiently good and pure.  But you don't beat the devil at the lawyering game.  It does not happen.

Also FWIW, there's nothing heroic about going back on "for better or worse."  Nothing.  It happens, and it's not necessarily evil.  Sometimes it has to happen because of abuse or whatever, but any kind of abusive situation has already violated the traditional wedding vows' "to have and to hold, to love and to cherish" provision, so the vows could be considered null and void.  That wasn't the case here.

Make no mistake:  When they were married, Mary Jane and Peter were adults.  They had made an adult decision, they were living with adult consequences.  Divorce and death would have provided the characters with opportunities for growth and change.  Peter dealt with it (and the readers dealt with it) with Gwen.  Obviously, with 20 years of marriage behind them, MJ's leaving or death would have been a bigger deal, but everyone (fans, pros, characters) would have had an actual story.

Instead, the creators who dictate these characters' fates turned them into adolescents.  Peter and MJ are no longer allowed to handle adult situations.  They aren't grown-ups.  They're stranded in the land of children, minors, and invalids by editorial fiat.  You know why my daughter (who's six) can't get married right now?  She is not an adult and cannot accept responsibility for that size of a decision.  Now, according to Marvel, the same is true for their flagship hero.

When Spider-Man was a teenager making grown-up decisions and dealing with grown-up consequences, it enhanced him.  OMD/BND/OMIT diminishes him no matter what anyone whispers.

What relationship can Peter form now that I can care about?  He won't get married.  It won't go anywhere serious.  In the story, Peter has proven that he can't handle it.  Creators' motivations, extra-diegetic motivations, are immaterial in the story.  Spider-Man is a serial handled by different creators.  Retcons, revamps, and a general assumption of eventual reader amnesia are par for the course.  Quesada hates the marriage?  Let him get rid of it the old-fashioned way:  MJ was a Skrull.  Oh, wait.  That sucks like Bobby Ewing showing up in the shower.  Okay.  Deal with it the new-fashioned way:  MJ freaks out after the ID-reveal and leaves Peter.  Part of the secret-ID universe-wide memory wipe that we all knew was coming is that she forgets his secret ID.  Skip forward a couple months and avoid the tedious story of Peter crying over her.  But let them deal with it as characters.

"MJ is a Skrull" is superior to "Spider-Man makes a deal with the devil."  You know why?  Because MJ can be fatally flawed as a character.  Abusive dad, tough childhood, supermodel lifestyle...  MJ is a prime candidate for breaking a relationship.  Many of us are.  She can be that flawed.  Spider-Man... can't be.  He's a hero, and he wouldn't give up in such a cowardly, responsibility-avoiding way.

Choice is the greatest power we have.  Free will makes us what we are.  Bearing the responsibility of those choices is what makes us adults.  Removing responsibility from Spider-Man by deals with the devil and paradox-creating "technicalities" makes him an invalid. 

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