CUP O'M.I.T.: The Final Chapter

Fri, October 1st, 2010 at 3:57pm PDT | Updated: October 2nd, 2010 at 6:58am

Comic Books
Joe Quesada, Columnist

Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada knows how to get fans attention – particularly, it seems, when it comes to the Amazing Spider-Man. After four days of debate-filled responses to the Marvel's honcho's exploration of his work on the recent "One Moment In Time" story line, he's back again on CBR for the final inside look at the final fate of Peter Parker.

With Mephisto's role in the unmarrying of Peter and Mary Jane now effectively "omitted" from Spidey lore, CBR News swings its week-long, in-depth commentary on one of the most controversial Spider-Man stories ever told towards the most recent chapters of "O.M.I.T."

Below, we'll go inside the "One Moment In Time" arc from Quesada and artist Paolo Rivera's "Amazing Spider-Man" #638 – 641 and the drastic changes to the Spider-Man continuity and status quo they helped usher in. In part five of our talk (read part one, part two, part three and part four), Quesada revisits his own work both creatively and editorially from the viewpoint that shook the Marvel Universe in the wake of "Civil War" to the fate of secret identities at Marvel to the final pages of "One More Day" and what they mean in the wake of "O.M.I.T."

Kiel Phegley: So here we are, the last chapter.

Joe Quesada: Is it Friday already? I’m going to miss you, Kiel. I’m going to miss everyone on CBR.

Kiel Phegley: Can you hold it together for just a bit?

Joe Quesada: I’ll try, but I get real emotional at times like this. It’s a separation thing.

Kiel Phegley: Well, then I guess we should get right to it. You were saying earlier how this whole story has been in part about how all these big changes in Spider-Man's life are rooted in Peter's own choices. Here in the final issue, we see that idea extended as Dr. Strange, Reed Richards and Tony Stark all take a bit of the responsibility for what happens to Peter and the world on their own shoulders. It almost feels like the three of them are having a shared internal Peter Parker monologue. Did you want to open this up to make "One Moment In Time" a Marvel Universe story while keeping about Spidey's big themes?

Joe Quesada: Looking back at when "One More Day" occurred in the Marvel timeline, a whole cascade of life altering events started to happen to Peter beginning with "Civil War." That’s why I thought it was absolutely important to bring Tony, and in part the Illuminati, into this story. When you think of the mountains of poop that flowed downhill on Peter at that time, it all stemmed from Tony advising him to take a stand for what he felt was right and unmask himself to the public. And when it comes to wiping memories, who has more experience than Strange, Reed and Tony? Strange had his identity revealed once and magically wiped peoples minds as did Tony. And both Strange and Reed have the Sentry in common and were involved in the world forgetting he existed.

So who better to bring into the story as well as reveal that it wasn’t the snap of Mephisto’s finger that caused the world to forget? It was all, once again, instigated by Peter by going back to Doctor Strange with a more reasonable request than keeping May off of death’s door.

Kiel Phegley: That debate goes on between Dr. Strange and Tony where the Doc says to Iron Man, "You've had the chance to get your secret identity can you deny Peter?" and it reminded me of how when "Civil War" came out there was a debate going on over whether the secret identity was dead for superheroes. People were really starting to talk like there was no need or no practical way for that concept to work anymore. Do you believe that that tide is turning a bit again where secret identities can be useful for stories in the Marvel U again?

Joe Quesada: I honestly don’t think there is any hard and fast rule, I think it depends on each character. For some, it’s absolutely necessary. For others, it doesn’t really make any real world, practical sense.

I think there came a point in the creation of super heroes that having a secret identity was just the way it was done. It was a given because that’s how the most popular characters with a long iconic history were built and kids dug the dual identities. But I remember one day when it occurred to me, how in the case of a guy like Tony Stark – it really didn’t make sense. The Fantastic Four were public about their identities. There was already a logical precedence created a long time ago by Stan and it wasn’t like I was reinventing the wheel here. Thinking about it in the simplest of terms and looking at it through a modern lens – Tony is a public figure, a celebrity and a billionaire. In the world that we live in today, celebrated public figures of Tony’s magnitude will rarely, if ever, walk around without bodyguards or security. In reality, they and their loved ones are as much a target for bad guys as a fictional unmasked superhero and his family would be. Yet, Tony was walking around with either the armor secretly in a briefcase or with Iron Man robotically walking behind him as his “Bodyguard.” From a practical sense this is one degree of separation for Tony that wouldn’t make sense and could end up being detrimental. In his world, he would figure, heck, my loved ones are already at risk. What’s a more credible deterrent, that I have a guy in an Iron Man suit who’s my bodyguard or that I am that bad mofo in the suit. It probably helps him in the business world as well, it only serves up to build on the myth of Tony Stark, genius, industrialist and Renaissance man.

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Now while it makes sense for a character like Tony, for one like Peter Parker, it doesn't. I mean it can give you some great stories, but eventually those stories will run their course and then you're left with a character who's either constantly on the run, or a celebrity super hero whose family is always in danger. It takes Peter Parker away from the trappings that make him relatable to a lot of people, which is having a semblance of a normal life amongst normal people. It was fun to do the unmasking and run those stories to see where it took us, but we did the unmasking fully aware and with the absolute intention of making the world eventually forget.

So, while you may see more unmasked heroes than there were in the 60s, it’s only indicative of one major rule at Marvel. Our books are based and tend to react to the changes in the real world, society and technology more than most.

As an aside, we live in a world today where everyone one has a camera on them, where high tech surveillance can be found on the street corner of every building. When you start to think about it, it’s getting increasingly difficult for a super hero to find a spot in a major city to change from his street clothes to his super hero duds. Just looking at my own block here in Manhattan, there are cameras in every dingy alleyway.

Kiel Phegley: So was this the third question that need to be answered? We needed to know what MJ said to Mephisto, we needed to know why they couldn't get married, and we needed to know how exactly the secret identity was put back into the bottle?

Joe Quesada: Yes, and a few smaller ones like does MJ remember his secret identity.

Kiel Phegley: And we finish the story...I'm not quite sure on this because I don't have "One More Day" with me, but that's all the same pages at least from that story, right?

Joe Quesada: Yes, those are the exact same pages only the conversation is completely different and once again, demonstrating how Mephisto never shows up.

Kiel Phegley: So are you saying that not only did the deal now no longer happen, but Mephisto didn’t take their “True Love” for each other?

Joe Quesada: I’ll leave that up for the fans to decide. [Laughs] I have my own very strong thoughts about it and there is a line near the end in the fourth issue that might give everyone a clue, but let me leave it at that.

Kiel Phegley: Now I’m going to have to go back and look.

Joe Quesada: Go crazy.

Kiel Phegley: So to wrap on the "framing device" I talked about when we started in regards to how this story changed from original conception to final version, we all know you've had a lot of changes in your life and your job as E-i-C and now CCO over the past year. Did everything going on at Marvel impact how this was put together? Were you writing this book on plane trips to and from the West Coast?

Joe Quesada: [Laughs] Actually, the art was done much in that way. The scripts were written probably a year to a year and a half ago before Paolo ever put ink to paper. My artwork was done in many different locations including San Diego Comicon. I had my little Cintique tablet with me wherever I went. With respect to the scripts the only thing done on the road were the edits. But that’s only natural as with any full script, at least for me, when you’re working with an amazing storyteller like Paolo, things will naturally change for the better. Suddenly you see characters posed and acting in ways that it actually cuts down on the amount of dialog necessary to convey the story points. Never once did I encounter a panel drawn by Paolo where I thought, “Oh man, I have to add a bunch of exposition here because you just can’t tell what’s happening.” He’s just an amazing talent.

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A view of Quesada's workspace in his San Diego Comic-Con hotel room.

Kiel Phegley: It's fortuitous that this has synched up right with the end of the Brand New Day era. There were big questions about the entire launch of this past few years of Spider-Man from "One More Day" to a thrice-monthly schedule and beyond. How do you view it all now that that era is coming to a close? Is this what you'd expected when the idea was dreamed up?

Joe Quesada: The idea to now break from the thrice-monthly format to the next big chapter in Spidey’s life, “Big Time,” kind of happened behind the scenes without me being involved as I was traveling so much, so I wasn’t aware that the shift was happening right after "OMIT." But, in a way, the bookending is perfect and serendipitous. I’m sure Tom and Steve will claim they planned it that way. They probably did. They’re much smarter than I. But I’m going to call it kismet and blame it on the cosmos and stars aligning – even the name of the story. When I came up with "One Moment in Time," it didn’t occur to me immediately that its acronym was OMIT. Sometimes things happen for a reason

Kiel Phegley: In the end, is that really what the title of the story encapsulates, the omission of Mephisto from Peter and MJ’s continuity?

Joe Quesada: No, it’s only part of it. The reason the title came into being, aside from the fact of it’s obvious similarities to "One More Day," was that the story wasn’t just about one single moment in time, but a series of single moments that made such a huge difference in their lives. If you were to ask me which one of those moments was the most important, you might think I would say it was the pigeon unlocking the police car door and setting Eddie free. Perhaps, but to me, it’s when Peter decided to let MJ remember his secret identity when the rest of the world forgot. That, to me, was the significant moment in time.

Kiel Phegley: One more question about OMIT, does this now close the book on Peter and MJ?

Joe Quesada: No, absolutely not! What we have now is MJ back in the cast fulltime as a significant part of Peter’s world. To me that’s a good thing. And by the way, while there are no immediate plans, (I mean this is Peter Parker, Spider-Man we’re talking about) no one’s life takes more twists and turns than Peter’s.

Who says that perhaps one day Peter and MJ may not find themselves trying it again?

Kiel Phegley: Are you saying - -

Joe Quesada: Shhhh, leave it be, Kiel. Let the Internet go crazy.

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

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