CUP O'M.I.T.: Mary Jane's Story

Wed, September 29th, 2010 at 3:56pm PDT | Updated: September 29th, 2010 at 10:18pm

Comic Books
Joe Quesada, Columnist

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Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada knows how to get fans attention, for better or for worse. From his regular stops at conventions and here on CBR to take fan Q&A as part of his signature Cup 'O Joe spotlight to the many stories he's written, drawn and greenlit over his time as Marvel's top editor, Quesada has learned what can drive Marvel die-hards up the wall in the short term and sometimes how to win them back with the long game.

All of those skills have come to bear in recent years on Marvel's signature web-slinger as the life and times of the Spectacular Spider-Man have seen drastic amounts of upheaval and public reaction. But now that the full story of how Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson went from married to unmarried, the story behind the story can come to light.

So this week, CBR News is happy to present an in depth commentary on one of the most controversial Spider-Man stories ever told…something we like to call "Cup O'M.I.T." All week-long, we'll go inside the "One Moment In Time" arc by Quesada and artist Paolo Rivera. Running in "Amazing Spider-Man" #638 – 641, "O.M.I.T." made drastic changes to the Spider-Man continuity and the modern life of Peter Parker in the wake of the equally shocking "One More Day" story. In part three of our talk (read part one and part two), Quesada explores the character of Mary Jane Watson and her role as an equal partner in "Amazing Spider-Man" over the years with or without a wedding band as well as finally answering the debate of the Spider-Baby.

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Kiel Phegley: Back again, ready to go another round?

Joe Quesada: I should be asking you the same question.

Kiel Phegley: I started working out extensively in preparation for this interview, I’m good.

Joe Quesada: I ate a cheeseburger, I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.

Kiel Phegley: As we get into the second issue, the title shifts from "Something Old" to "Something New" which is MJ's previously unseen side of this whole story. "Amazing Spider-Man" is a book about Peter Parker first and foremost even though MJ has been a major part of it for so long. Did you feel a real need to open the book up beyond Spider-Man to tell this story fairly?

Joe Quesada: Yeah. I mean, it takes two to tango and this is a story about the two of them and their relationship. Also, OMIT wasn’t just going to be a story about continuity bookkeeping – it was the story of one of the most significant events in these two people’s lives. That said, MJ has a lot to say and her own point of view on things. To be honest, it’s the stuff between Peter and MJ that I had the most fun writing.They're both imperfect, and that's what makes them fantastic Marvel characters. One of the beautiful things about Peter Parker as a character is that he's incredibly human. He at times does things, like most of us, which are unintentionally stupid or even inadvertently selfish. He makes mistakes, and sometimes that bites him in the butt, and that is no better exemplified than in the death of Uncle Ben. But that’s just one in a long line of things that have come back to haunt Peter based upon just how human he is.

Kiel Phegley: Do you find that his humanity as a character gives him a different appeal or that hardcore Spider-Man fans take the stories more personally?

Joe Quesada: Absolutely. I think Spidey fans are unique among comics readers. We all envision Peter Parker differently because we all see some aspect of ourselves within him. I think that's what makes the character work so well and why he stands the test of time, changes with generations while still remaining relatable. What that does is, each of us sees a little part of ourselves in Peter. It means that each of us has a slightly different interpretation of what he should be or who he is. That variance of course differs from person to person and is as personal a connection as one can have with a character. I find that's true more with Spider-Man fans than fans of any of the other character… outside of perhaps Captain America. It’s also incredibly evident when you ask Spider-man fans about their favorite era of Spidey. I’m often surprised at how much it varies from fan to fan and even writer to writer and so much of it has to do with when we first discovered the character and at what age.

Kiel Phegley: And one of these days, you'll be at a convention and some young fan may come up to you and go "Remember the good ol' days of Spider-Man where 'One More Day' happened?"

Joe Quesada: [Laughter] To be honest with you, who knows what will happen in the future and quite frankly, it’s not important. I remember when I first came to Marvel how certain fans use to universally hate the Clone Saga and use to site it as a cautionary tale. What I found fascinating is that as time went on, what started as just a few e-mails suddenly became a big deal amongst fans that wanted to see the Clone Saga collected in a single tome because they remembered it fondly and wanted to reread it in one big chunk. We even had Tom Defalco and Howard Mackie retell the story in their own way using their original notes. By the way, let me add that the Clone Saga was the greatest-selling storyline in the history of Spider-Man. Time is a funny thing, I currently live in a world, that as much a vocal segment of fandom hated the idea of Bucky coming back from the dead, when we poll fans today as to who they’d like to see as Cap on an ongoing basis, the vote is nearly split 50/50. And after much venom thrown our way, while there are many that would like to see Jean return to the world of X-Men, we hear just as much from fans as to how much they really dig Scott being with Emma. I guess the bottom line is that you just don’t know what the future will bring despite how sure you may be right now.

But to that point, we’re already hearing, admittedly to an even greater extent than I ever expected at this juncture, how much fans really love the Brand New Day world and the new extended cast. That to me is just an amazing tribute to all the great writers, artists and editors who have been working on the books and exactly the outcome we were hoping for and to me, that’s the important part.

Kiel Phegley: As we get into Mary Jane's view of Spider-Man in this story, there's a little detail that I'm not sure you or Paolo threw in where she sees Spider-Man saving the day one night while she's estranged from Peter, and the next day it's on the front page of the Bugle as "Spider-Man Terrorizes." So even within the story, were you playing with the idea that the character is always in the eye of the beholder?

Joe Quesada: That was in the script, and it was there for two reasons. First, as much as she wanted nothing more than to get away from it, she couldn’t escape Peter and Spider-Man. He's everywhere! But that scene was really there to drive home the point that Peter cannot not be Spider-Man. MJ obviously knows that even though he stood her up at the altar, like her – he’s in terrible emotional pain. Like her, he's just gone through this heart-wrenching moment that is the breakup of their life. Yet, there’s something inside of him that compels him like a force of nature to put on that costume and do the right thing, no matter how miserable his life may be or how emotionally traumatized. And that's what ultimately makes her come back and knock on his door; it’s at that point that she totally understands being Spider-Man is out of Peter’s hands. He is the scorpion in the frog and scorpion story and the scorpion does what a scorpion does – only in this story, the scorpion does heroic deeds. Understanding that, she realizes that asking him to give up being Spider-Man was in essence, asking him to do the impossible. That causes her to reconsider and come back but on her own terms which meant Peter needed to agree that marriage was no longer in the cards as long as he was Spider-Man.

Kiel Phegley: That brings up an interesting aspect of this. MJ had a very firm stance on what marriage means to her

Joe Quesada: Yeah, to her, living with someone for the rest of her life is perfectly fine, she isn’t so old fashion that she considers it inappropriate. However, when it comes to the idea of kids, MJ in this story is a firm believer in the fact that she wants to be married when that time comes.

Kiel Phegley: By the way, during that scene there’s a glimpse into what MJ imagines her child with Peter looking like, is that the same little girl from One More Day?

Joe Quesada: Yup. As MJ tells us, this is the little child she’s always dreamed of, it’s her fantasy. What we’re seeing is what she imagines their child will look like. So, in OMD when Mephisto shows them a vision of their child, it’s pulled right out of MJ’s imagination because quite simply… he’s not a very nice guy. Also, when we cut away into MJ’s imagination in OMIT, I used the exact same layout as one of the panels between Peter and the little girl from the third issue of OMD. Like I said, there are Easter eggs.

Kiel Phegley: So was the question of why they'd stay together without a marriage the second big question you wanted to answer with this story?

Joe Quesada: Absolutely. If after missing the wedding, Peter and MJ could have easily have broken up and never reunited, but this is problematic, because it would mean that all continuity and every issue after the wedding annual didn’t happen and we didn’t want that. So, at the end of the day, there had to be a compelling reason why after kissing and making up they didn’t just say, "Okay, we’re cool. Let's just reschedule!" [Laughter] One or both of them had to learn something from that botched wedding experience; in this case it was MJ who learned it the hard way.

Here we have a girl who came from an abusive relationship with her father who's just had a very vivid moment of clarity on her wedding day as her husband-to-be nearly gets killed yet again. It’s a pretty harsh conversation she has with Peter and her comparisons anger him, but ultimately they find a compromise and work their way through it. Now, from this point on, they go to Paris as they did after the Wedding Annual, only this time they’re not married and with the exception of that fact, their lives and continuity remain pretty much intact.

Check back tomorrow on CBR for an inside look at "One Moment In Time" Part 3 including Quesada's rewriting of the fallout of "Civil War" and the choice that changed Spider-Man forever.

TAGS:  cup o joe, joe quesada, spider-man, one moment in time, one more day, paolo rivera

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