|"Amazing Spider-Man" #544
"One More Day" Chapter 1
All art in this interview is from issue #544.
When a sniper's bullet meant for Spider-Man ended up striking his dear Aunt May, Peter Parker's world was thrown into absolute chaos. The guilt Peter felt drove him to the brink of madness and set-up the storyline called "One More Day," which concluded today in the pages of "Amazing Spider-Man" #545.
"One More Day" was controversial from the moment it was announced. The story would be long-time "Amazing Spider-Man" writer J. Michael Straczynski's swan song on the title where he'd be joined by Marvel Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada on art, but it was the title "One More Day" that really got people talking.
For some time, Quesada has made it clear he was not a fan of the marriage of Peter Parker and Mary Jane, feeling it just never felt right for Peter to be married. Immediately fans began to speculate that "One More Day" would in some way dissolve the marriage of Peter and MJ, setting up a new status quo for the character and title. When it was announced that "Amazing Spider-Man" would become a thrice-monthly shipping title following the conclusion of "One New Day" and would launch with a story called "Brand New Day," what was previously just speculation was now looking to be fact.
The debate raged -- how would the dissolution of the marriage be handled? Would it simply be a divorce? Or would something happen that would erase it from the memories of everyone who knew Peter and MJ? If the latter, how could they pull that off? How would it affect the Marvel Universe?
While the debate played out on message boards and in comic shops, new controversies emerged. First, the title's shipping schedule began to slip with each subsequent chapter of "One More Day" finding its publication pushed back weeks. In fact, the final part of "One More Day" was originally supposed to be delivered in November. Readers began to point the finger at Quesada for the delay, citing his duties as Editor-In-Chief getting in the way of his production schedule.
As much as the delays the title experienced may have upset fans, it was a statement from writer J. Michael Straczynski posted on Usenet that really faned the flames of controversy. In the statement, JMS said he disagreed with changes made to the story in "One More Day" and had even gone as far as to ask for his name to be taken off the final chapter ultimately agreeing to keep his name on it at Quesada's request. For a writer to take his editor to task publicly is rare. For a writer to take his Editor-In-Chief to task publicly is virtually unheard of in this industry.
There have been no official comments from either Marvel or Quesada about the delays, nor any sort of reaction to JMS' public comments.
In a CBR News Exclusive, CBR Executive Producer Jonah Weiland sat down for a lengthy chat with Joe Quesada in which he discussed, well, everything. Over the next week (with a break for New Years Day), CBR will publish this interview in five parts, touching on all aspects of "One More Day." Today we focus on Quesada's return to the drafting table and the revelations at the end of "One More Day," setting up a new status quo for Peter Parker. Over the course of the next week, we'll go even further into "One More Day," digging deeper into Quesada's art, exploring the meaning and reasons for the changes in Peter's life, how these changes will affect the Marvel Universe as a whole, why the series saw so many delays, what Quesada's reaction was to the JMS statement, what it means to their working relationship, and much more. At the end, there will even be a chance for you, the reader, to get involved -- stay tuned.
SPOILER WARNING -- We've warned you once, but we'll do it again. The following interview contains major spoilers from the end of "One More Day" right in the beginning of the interview. If you'd rather not know what happens next, stop reading now, pick up "Amazing Spider-Man" #545 and return once you're caught up.
Joe, first off thanks for joining me today.
Having just read the finale to OMD, a number of things are quite clear -- it's not just that the marriage is dissolved, but Peter's world is quite different. Harry's back, two new female characters have been introduced who appear to be set up as potential love interests and quite interestingly, the Web shooters are back! (Those guys who ran no-organic-webshooters.com will be sad they let that domain go!) Let's talk about the new status-quo a bit and the creative journey you and JMS took in getting here. And why were these three items important to you in setting up the story for BND?
Lets get into the nitty gritty, as some like to say, but let me say that there are some things that I'm going to have to be vague about because there are more stories to be told. To reveal all would mean that the guys working on "Brand New Day" will be showing up at my home to put coal in my stocking. For example, there are quite a lot of Easter Eggs and subliminal hints that I've littered throughout the series, especially the last issue. ;-) Some of it I'll be able to point out, some of it will just have to wait or perhaps never be divulged and remain my little secret.
For example, there were more than two potential love interests in the "New Day" portion of the story and who says that the two girls that we had an opportunity to meet ever so briefly are going to be love interests? That's a pretty big assumption for anyone to make at this juncture. But let's address each of the three items you mentioned briefly. We can get deeper into them if we want later.
Okay, let's start: Face it, the book is so much more fun with Harry in it. ;-)
The two new girls, much like Harry and Flash, are symptomatic and significant in one very important way, "Amazing Spider-Man" (on sale thrice monthly, kids!) will bring back relationships of all kinds into Peter's world -- friends, lovers, frienemies, family, etc. Lilly and Carlie are only two of many new people entering Peter's inner circle, and we're going to see some old pals returning, too. What you got a taste of in the "New Day" sequence is exactly that, just a taste, because cast and relationships and soap opera is what's going to be at the heart of "Amazing Spider-Man" moving forward. Over the years we've done so much damage to one of the greatest casts in all of comics and we wanted to bring it back and add some new cast members as well.
As for the webshooters: Again, it's an element that I felt needed to be brought back into Peter's world, and I felt that the fans would dig it as well. If I'm going to live by the theory that I've always believed in --that a Peter being single is an intrinsic part of the very foundation of the world of Spider-Man -- then the same can be said about mechanical webshooters vs. organic. While organic is cool and all, the mechanical webshooters demonstrate Peter's ingenuity and overall smarts. It also put him in situations in which he may just plain run out of web fluid! Organic webshooters took those tools away from us. So while good for a while and some stories, it was time to bring as many of the elements that make a Spider-Man comic a Spider-Man comic.
OK, that answer begs numerous questions. Let's start with the webshooters -- the organic webshooters were an important difference seen in the films. Now, the Spider-Man film franchise seems to be on hold a little bit as cast and crew decide whether they'll return or not. Out of curiosity, is this kind of change -- because there's a very recognizable and successful film franchise out there -- that requires a discussion with Marvel Studios as well?
First let me say that Marvel Studios never asked us to change the webshooters from mechanical to organic, we did that ourselves as a story element in our books. I was the one that suggested it to Paul Jenkins at the time that he was doing his run. The fact that there would be synergy with the movies was an added plus, but in my mind it was never meant to be permanent. "One More Day," I felt, was the perfect opportunity to put a stake in the sand and bring back all of the Spider goodness.
As for a discussion with Marvel Studios, we always try to give them as much of a heads up of our future plans as we can just as they let us know what's on the burner out West. It helps us creatively as a company and makes for a wonderful springboard platform for ideas. But stuff like this comes from our publishing division and doesn't come down as a corporate mandate.
A perfect example of this is our Marvel Creative Summit that just ended a few days ago. We came up with some amazing stuff and once we've compiled all of our notes we'll pass them along to Kevin Feige and the crew so that they have an idea of what's coming down the road and how we deal with Daredevil having been a Skrull for the last 20 years. Whoops, I don't think I was supposed to say that.
People, remain calm. He's only joking. I think. Actually, I'm not quite sure. "Secret Invasion's" going to drive the kids nuts, ain't it?
Are you kidding, it's driving me nuts already, I can only imagine how the fans are going to feel.
Now, as for the "Brand New Day" sequence, you're absolutely right about more than one love interest -- how could I forget M.J.? She gives up her love and BAM, I forget about her.
Horrible, simply horrible, I can't believe how insensitive you are, Jonah. That said, how do you know I was talking about MJ? There was a party full of people in that final sequence.
Damn, you got me again. Wait, you're not talking about Aunt May are you?
Dude, that's just wrong, even I can't go there, this interview's over. ;-)
You used a word in your description of where "Amazing Spider-Man" is headed that for many reading this might find to be a bad word -- soap opera. Now, one of the hallmarks of television soap operas is melodrama. Are you saying that Spider-Man stories are headed in a more melodramatic direction, with an emphasis on plot and maybe some action?
No, what I'm saying is that Spider-Man is always its best when it's about the life of Peter Parker and how being Spider-Man collides with that life. By the way, that's the hallmark of every great Marvel character -- what separates them from DC characters in many ways. Batman is about Batman, Bruce Wayne is not what's important, Bruce is a facade. But the best Spider-Man stories are about Peter and his circle of family and friends, with Spider-Man thrown into the middle of it all. If fans want to bristle at the description "soap opera," well then call it what you want. But whatever you call it, it's the "soap opera" aspect of Spider-Man that made the character great in the first place and it's really at the end of the day what makes the character different from any other.
"Amazing Spider-Man" (did I mention thrice monthly?), will be chock full of wall-to-wall action and brimming over with interpersonal stuff between new and old cast members. I personally think the balance is perfect and there are some amazing new villains that will be popping up as well.
All right, let's get back to "One More Day" for a bit here. Let's talk about your art. Looking at these four issues, it's clear you poured yourself into each page. Let's talk about that detail -- did you find yourself approaching the art on this series differently? Did you set new goals for yourself as an artist?
Well, I try to set goals for myself with every project I do; if not, what's the point? These four issues were a huge emotional journey for Peter and I wanted to convey within the art, as best I could, what he was going through internally. Sometimes, if done right, you can convey that through the storytelling and pacing, sometimes you can do that though lighting and or art style. I was hoping that I could achieve it by using all of those techniques. Hopefully, coupled with Joe's incredible words, the reader would get a sense of what we were trying to convey -- the hopelessness, the pain, etc.
The style in that "Brand New Day" sequence at the end was noticeably different when compared to "One More Day." It's much more airy and has far less shadow work. Was this done simply to point out the very different tone the two stories will have, or was there something else behind it?
Yes, absolutely. The issues start out gritty and as they progress, Peter's world, from a stylistic point of view, starts to become more and more real -- to the point where it's much more photorealistic by the fourth issue.
Sometimes when I look at the way that the lines of opinion have been drawn in comics about the marriage, I see the argument falling into two basic camps. The fans may not perceive it this way on the surface, but it is what's happening when you look at it clearly. When we fall in love with these characters, we claim ownership over them in our own way; so for some fans, Peter belongs to them and no one else. So, the way I see it, there are two sides of the argument, two segments of fans. On one side, there is a contingency of fandom that wants Peter to age along with them and live life as they do. He needs to get married, have kids, then grandkids, and then the inevitable. One the other side, there are fans that realize Spidey needs to be ready for the next wave or generation of readers, that no one can lay claim to these icons, no one generation has ownership and that we need to preserve them and keep them healthy for the next batch of readers to fall in love with.
To me, only one side of this argument is correct. If Spidey grows old and dies off with our readership, then that's it -- he'll be done and gone, never to be enjoyed by future comic fans. If we keep Spidey rejuvenated and relatable to fans on the horizon, we can manage to do that and still keep him enjoyable to those that have been following his adventures for years. Will everyone be happy with the decision? No, of course not, but that's what makes it a horserace. At the end of the day, my job is to keep these characters fresh and ready for every fan that walks through the door, while also planning for the future and hopefully an even larger fan base.
So, to that point, by the time we're in the fourth issue, I'm drawing Peter and MJ as real as our readership perhaps unconsciously wants them, at least as real as my abilities will allow. I wanted to give the reader a sense of what it would really be like if we made Peter's world an echo of our real world, and he was flesh and blood and started aging along with us. The Peter and MJ in this segment of the story aren't twentysomethings, they're definitely in their thirties to mid thirties.
Also, you'll notice that there is a singular light source, a harsh, florescent white light coming from the most mundane room in the motel, the bathroom. Peter and MJ have a very simple yet devastating decision to make at this juncture -- there was no gray area, it is very simply black and white, do or die.
By contrast to that, the "Brand New Day" segment was drawn in a manner to reflect the fact that Peter/Spider-Man is perhaps the greatest comic book character in the world today, and, in the end, it's exactly that -- a comic, not real life. And, while Peter goes through trials and tribulations, his world should be fun, bouncy, colorful and fantastic. Every page of "One More Day" that I drew over the four issues were drawn the way they were in order to make the last nine pages an emotional release. For over three and a half issues, I wanted to make the art dark and heavy, with the weight of Peter's world pushing against it, solely because I wanted the last nine pages to feel like the clouds had parted after the worse storm ever. It's a new day full of hope, color and, yes, the unknown just around the corner and while there is incredible sadness that this great love has been derailed, perhaps there is something amazing on the horizon.
On Monday, Quesada & I pick up this discussion by talking about those easter eggs he mentioned, why the series hit so many delays, whether you'll ever see Quesada draw another monthly book while Editor-In-Chief of Marvel and we begin our discussion of his reaction to the statement posted by JMS. There's lots more to come.