The "One More Day" Interviews with Joe Quesada, Pt. 4 of 5

Thu, January 3rd, 2008 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Jonah Weiland, Executive Producer/Publisher

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"Amazing Spider-Man" #545. All art of this page from this issue.
In parts one, two and three of our interview with Marvel EiC Joe Quesada concerning "One More Day," he's addressed any number of subjects – his approach to art on the series, the delays the series saw and the reasons for them, what the open letter from JMS meant and how he responded to it, what changes were made to JMS' script, why he feels marriage doesn't work for Peter Parker, what the deal with Mephisto means for the characters and much more. After all that, you might think there's nothing more to discuss.

You'd be wrong.

In part four of CBR's exclusive interview with Quesada, we go further into specific story details in "One More Day," why certain characters were used to bring this story to a head, the online reaction to the story and much, much more. Friday, we let Joe have a little fun.

If after this interview you still have unanswered questions, this is where you get to join in and play interviewer. We'll take the 15 best questions sent to us by next Tuesday afternoon, January 8th. Simply send your questions to Jonah Weiland with the subject line "One More Day Questions." We'll pass them on to Joe and publish his answers later right here on CBR.

SPOILER ALERT -- Once again, major plot points from "One More Day" are discussed in detail below. If you haven't read the story yet and would like it not spoiled, stop right here.

Story continues below

Joe, I'd like to get into some specific story beats in "One More Day." I should mention I don't have an encyclopedic level knowledge of Marvel characters so you may need to smack me around a bit on these next questions, but it seems to me that the Marvel Universe has to have some healers out there somewhere that could have helped Peter's Aunt. Was there no one in the Marvel U who could help Peter? Or is the better question was there simply no one in the Marvel U who Peter knew who could help him?

There are certain things that we accept and have to suspend belief on when we tell any of these stories. Couldn't Superman just save the world and we'd all be fine? Couldn't Cap, Namor and the Human Torch just have captured Hitler and there would've been no more war? There are a number of characters who could probably have prevented death or resurrected her if she had died, but wouldn't that be the case with every single comic death that was ever written? Sure, if we dig deep enough, maybe there's someone out there who could do those things, and Mephisto is definitely one of them, and he's the one we chose for several reasons.

Remember, Peter did his due diligence with the time he had. There was a ticking clock; he went to Doc Strange who put him on the path to trying to figure it all out. Peter's astral form visited some of the best and brightest and even evilest in the Marvel U. Some couldn't help, I suspect some could care less, and some just didn't want to help. Mephisto, on the other hand, saw something that was worth taking and decided to throw his hat in the ring at just the right time.

It's important to also remember: Peter didn't seek Mephisto out -- he wasn't looking to make a deal with a guy like that. It's not like he sat there and asked someone or decided to conjure him up because that was the best option. But as is Mephisto's way, he appeared at just the right moment, when Peter was at his lowest and completely out of options.

Speaking of Mephisto, from what I remember and what I've read, I don't believe Mephisto has ever been portrayed as being quite this powerful. Certainly powerful, but not time-changing powerful as he has been depicted in OMD. What's the thinking behind this increase in power, if that's the case, and will readers learn more about that in "Brand New Day?"

I don't know. To me this is the kind of thing that fans can debate over for time eternal. As far as I know, Mephisto is one of the most powerful bad guys around. Some describe him as the Devil, some as a character that thinks he's the devil -- he's been open for interpretation for some time now. I don't see him changing stuff as a stretch of the imagination. I think all he needs, in order to do something like this, is the right reason. Something truly worthy. Something so precious that he's willing to take the chance, to go out on the limb and use the maximum potential of his power. Taking souls, messing in the affairs of man, sure they're a bit of fun and perhaps a minor distraction, but ultimately they're small doings in the grand scheme of the universe.

Let me also add that Mephisto can't just do what he did at a whim, he needed the consent of the two of them to do something that powerful.

I've had some fans ask me, Why Peter and MJ -- what makes them so special? Mephisto could have made this deal with anyone in a similar situation. Well, what makes them so special is their love. It is a legendary love, the kind of love that comes around almost never. As Mephisto said, not only is it one of the great loves of the universe, but it was made holy through matrimony in the eyes of the Big Guy. For Mephisto to be able to take that, to remove it from existence and to get a rare opportunity to get a win against the Guy Upstairs, to me, that's an incredible motivation for him to push his power. This was something now worthy of him going all out and changing bits and pieces of reality.

In reading comments on message boards, a lot of fans suspected Loki would be involved due to his appearances previously in the JMS run, and not Mephisto. Was there a specific reason why Mephisto was used and not Loki?

There were several reasons. Mephisto made more sense. He had the potential power and he also hasn't been seen in a while. There was also the fact that he had dabbled in affairs of the heart before with the Silver Surfer -- and, let's face it, this is quite simply the kind of thing the devil would do. Also, from a neophyte's point of view, a new fan picking this up, it's very clear who Mephisto is. A deal with Loki doesn't strike the same chords and would tie this story into Thor mythology -- and that just complicates matters. And why would Loki honestly care? Quite simply, the story of "One More Day" revolves around one of the most classic devices in literature, the Faustian Pact.

OK, that makes perfect sense. Now, I've also read comments on message boards from readers who believe some of Peter's actions were out of character in OMD. His attack on Iron Man, his defiance of Doctor Strange, etc., but it actually seems less out of character to me and more the actions of a desperate man hoping to avert a profound tragedy.

Yeah, I'm with you, this isn't the first time Peter has acted like this in his history. That's the beauty of Peter -- he's the most human of all super heroes. When I hear comments like that, I tend to shrug because I just don't get it. If Uncle Ben had never died and "One More Day" was about the death of Uncle Ben. If in that story, Peter let the thief go, you know the guy who eventually kills Ben, then folks would be saying that Peter was doing something out-of-character.

In the past -- and this is just off the top of my head -- Peter has made deals or gone into uneasy partnerships with the Kingpin, the Punisher and even his most psychotic villain, Venom -- and all of these were done under considerably less duress than when he was approached by Mephisto.

You're absolutely right, he was a desperate man, he messed up, he went public, it got one of the most beloved people in his life shot and on death's door. Tony Stark was responsible for pushing him in that direction. By the way, while Peter lashed out at Tony, to me he was also lashing out at himself because while Tony told Peter that going public was the right thing to do, it was ultimately Peter who decided to do it. He may be angry and hate Tony, but really he's angriest at himself.

And when you consider historically Peter's not exactly been the type of guy who forgives himself easily, made even worse in a situation like this, it just feeds into his growing desperation.

Yes, of course. This has been a hallmark of Spider-Man stories since the beginning. Do I save the world or do I get Aunt May the medicine she needs to live? Because if she dies, I'll never forgive myself.

I think, for me, outside of the final moments between MJ and Peter, the biggest emotional impact in the story had to be the moment we discovered the little girl in the story would have been MJ & Peter's daughter, had they remained together. Any chance this will be touched upon again?

As of this moment, we don't plan on ever going back to it again. The little girl was again a peek at what Spider-Man books would have been like if we allowed him to continue along the path of growing as if he were a real person. While it's fun in theory and cool stuff to play with within books that are out of current continuity or in another universe, it's counterintuitive to what we want our Spider-Man books to be.

I will say this: If Mephisto had revealed that the little girl was their daughter before they agreed to do the deal, I'm pretty sure Peter -- or MJ -- wouldn't have made it. But leave it to the Mephisto to show Peter his cards once he folded.

I think most readers were expecting Peter to make the deal with the devil, as it were, but in the end it was MJ who made the leap and she even had a little conversation outside of ear shot with Mephisto. Why let MJ make the deal and not Peter?

Ah, thanks for noticing. It is interesting so many fans are saying that Peter made this deal with the devil when, in fact, Peter was vacillating and who knows what he was going to do if left to his own devices. It was actually MJ that forced his hand by agreeing first without really consulting him. She'd heard enough from Mephisto and she knew Peter well enough that she agreed to the pact. Perhaps, in her own way, she knew that he would say no, but she also knew that if May died with Peter feeling that it was his responsibility, he would never be the same man again and the guilt would devour him forever. Perhaps she felt that this would be the end of Spider-Man and the world needs a Spider-Man.

Let me digress for a bit, I promise there's a point to this story.

I was raised by a very middle-class family. We went through some very rough financial times, but for the most part we were eventually okay. Both my mom and dad were old-school: To them, what was most important was that their kid had more in life and more opportunities than they had growing up. Many years ago, after my grandfather passed away, my father inherited the house owned by my grandfather. My dad was an amazing man, but he wasn't great with money and he had a tendency to worry about things to extremes. My mom, having known him for so many years, knew this all too well. They had separated for some time and eventually reunited, so there was a lot of water under that bridge. Sometime after receiving the house, both he and my mom decided that they wanted to sell it, take the money and move to Florida, and buy a house there. My mom was especially pleased with this idea because owning a house was a proper inheritance to hand down to their son when the time came.

So, as planned, off they went to good ol' Miami. My mom was thrilled, but only momentarily. They had some money in the bank, but my dad decided to rent a home instead of buying one. For three years, he rented, despite my mom and I encouraging him to stop wasting money on rent buy a proper home. My dad always panicked when it came to big money issues and I suspect that's why he hesitated. But one day he finally gave in and decided to go house shopping.

After months and months of looking and finally finding a place, and then going through all of the time it took to close the deal, he did it -- he signed on the dotted line. The very next day, my mother showed him a half dollar-sized bruise and lump over one of her breast. It was cancer and it was very advanced. We were both floored. How could she hide this from us? I asked my mom how long she knew she had the lump, and she said that she'd discovered it right around the time that my dad started to get the itch to buy a house. She had decided not to say anything because if my father had known that she had this medical issue, he would have begun worrying about medical bills and would have never bought the house.

I was furious at her; I understood why she did it, but the cancer eventually took her from us way to soon. In her world, she wanted to make sure that our family had a home and she put that above her health. After knowing my dad for all those years, she knew exactly how he would have reacted. The truth of the matter is that she was right -- he would have stopped looking for a home, he would have worried himself sick about what was coming down the road. What she failed to see, however, was that no house, no inheritance, could ever make up the loss of her in my life.

So, to me, MJ was doing the same thing. Not only did she force the issue, but she did everything she could to make sure that Mephisto wouldn't screw Peter in the deal. And then in the end, when Peter is at the crossroads, she gives him the okay and the confidence to join her in the pact when she simply says, "Be my hero."

What is significant about this is that MJ is not just an ornament in this story -- she is the driving force behind it and the major driving force in the end.

But here it is, here's how to me it all gets weighed. Peter wasn't told by Mephisto that MJ would die if he made this choice -- he was told that their marriage would be taken away. Life and death vs. relationship. And when MJ says, "I know in my heart of hearts that you and I were always meant to be together. Whatever he throws at us, whatever he does, whatever he undoes, it doesn't matter. Because whatever he does to pull us apart would have to be bigger and stronger than what brought us together and kept us together, no matter what happened. And there's no power in the universe big enough for a job like that. Not the devil, not god, not anybody," I think she puts it all in context.

Now, as a fan you either believe what she's saying or you don't.

So, from a creator and EIC standpoint, just out of curiosity, what do you think Peter would have done if he was left to make the decision on his own?

How about if I answer that question with a question and you tell me.

What do you think Peter would do if Mephisto came to him and said, "Do you see that woman standing there on the street corner? I know you don't know her, but I'm going to kill her. Or, perhaps "She's dying of cancer and I can save her." However, if you give me your marriage, it'll save her life."

How would you feel, how would fandom feel if Peter said, "Nope, sorry, go ahead and let her die."

One question I think fans will be asking, though, is why is MJ making a deal with the devil an easier one for you to swallow as Editor-In-Chief versus a straight up divorce? Earlier you had mentioned you really didn't like the headline potential of a Peter/MJ divorce, but is not making a deal with the devil equally controversial?

Perhaps if they conjured up the devil for selfish means, yes, but it's Mephisto who presents himself to them. Also, to me there is a very big difference between Mephisto and divorce. Mephisto is part and parcel of the fantasy world and super/bogus/ science and the supernatural that are part of the Marvel U. Whereas, divorce is a real issue that affects real lives and is a hot button subject for a lot of people. It also says a lot about Peter and MJ as characters. Would fans be happier if they sacrificed their love in order to save someone's life or would they rather see them give up on their relationship and get a divorce?

Also, as I stated, they didn't conjur up Mephisto nor did they seek him out. They also didn't go looking for him in order to fulfill some selfish needs. It's Mephisto who presents himself to them.

OK, now let's turn to the how these "One More Day" changes affect Spider-Man history and the rest of the Marvel U. As we know, Harry's back, Peter's no longer married and Peter's alter-ego is no longer known to the public at large. In addition, since Peter and MJ have been married, she's been involved in many of his life decisions and action. So, a lot's changed. Let's stick with the Spider-Man portion of the Marvel U for now -- how does a fan reconcile that which has changed with that which is the new status quo for long time Spider-Man readers? Do they just need to be patient and wait for plans to unfold in "Brand New Day?"

Very simply, Peter and MJ were together, the wedding didn't happen. Peter proposed but something happened that cause the wedding to get derailed. What was that thing, what monkey wrench did Mephisto throw into their lives to prevent it, well that's a story for another day. There's also a very obvious rift between Peter and MJ at the end of OMD, what caused that is also something yet to be revealed. And then there's the Harry piece of the puzzle, ah that pesky Mephisto! So, yes, a lot of this will eventually be dealt with in "Amazing Spider-Man" moving forward, but not right away as we want to spend the majority of our time in "Brand New Day" looking forward to establish the new world and then later on deal a bit more with the past as it comes up.

So, really, "Brand New Day" isn't just a new beginning for Peter, it's also a new beginning for readers and it sounds like a good place for new readers to jump in on the title.

Yes, it's a perfect time for some many reasons, chief of which is the fact that there will now be one continuous Spider-Man story, as opposed to three or four separate books. The life of Peter Parker will be much easier to follow and hopefully more consistent because of that. Every issue will have great implications towards a larger story, but all arrows will be pointing in the same direction. What we have planned within "Brand New Day" is going to be a heck of a lot of fun.

Let's get back to the ramifications of this story and focus on the larger Marvel U implications. It seems reversing the unmasking causes some major continuity issues, especially events in "Civil War" like the unmasking. Will this be addressed outside "Amazing Spider-Man?"

I don't know if it'll be directly addressed, as the methodology behind this is as simple as the methodology behind the Sentry's origin, if Reed Richards can do it why can't Mephisto? Everything that happened in "Civil War" happened, the unmasking happened, people just don't remember whose face was under the mask. Tony Stark also did something like this when he brainwashed the world to forget he was Iron Man. They remember the event, but they can no longer recall who the guy under the mask was. This again was the reason why we went with this Faustian pack story as opposed to shifting way too many continuity blocks. It doesn't cause all of those past Spider-man stories to be discounted. Almost all of that stuff that happened, happened, except Peter and MJ weren't married.

As I said before, is it perfect? No. But it keeps years of history from being wiped out and collections from being destroyed. Those were the issues we had to weigh. There was one other very simple solution and that would have been to kill off MJ. But I love MJ and what she brings to the book. I think that would have been a mistake. And let me point something out that seems missing in all of this…

MJ is still around.

How does Harry's reappearance fit into the larger picture of changes to the Spider-Man universe?

Read "Brand New Day."

Will do. Now, have these changes to the Spider-Man portion of the Universe caused any confusion with other editorial officers or creators at Marvel?

No, we worked it all out by the very first BND Spider-Man Summit. As far as I can tell, our creators and editors are on the same page. Also, these guys really have their sights on moving Spider-Man forward and bringing in some cool new twists and turns into the Spidey mythos.

We also have to talk about online reaction to "One More Day" which has, frankly, been very much less than positive. As we finish up this interview, the final issue has been released and I've visited multiple forums and the reaction is very vocal. What's your reaction to the comments made online? Have you been following the reaction and reading the reviews?

I'll be completely honest with you. When we made the decision to go ahead this story, every person at Marvel and the creators involved knew that it was going to be something that was going to get lot of people upset. None of this is a surprise; I will venture to say that this is one of the reasons it wasn't attempted before this. Those in charge knew it would be quite a lot to do, but that doesn't mean it wasn't the right thing to do. Knowing that, and having a way to do it, we decided to go and just take the hits as they come. I completely appreciate everyone's passion over this -- even those that want to curse my name to the high hills. It's that passion that makes them Marvel fans and it's that passion that tells me they're engaged in what we do. So, even though some may not think so, I respect them and their feelings beyond belief. But, I have a job to do and I have to think about keeping these characters fresh and interesting and whole beyond my tenure here and way into the future.

Some of my favorite remarks are when I'm accused of playing god with Spider-Man. Ummmm, yeah, all of us who create these stories are playing god with the characters with every single story we create. That's what all of us in comics do for a living, we play god in the lives of the characters.

Joe Quesada's digital artwork printed on Marvel boards (lef), and Danny Mikki's tight inks over Quesada's blue-line pencils from "Amazing Spider-Man" #545
So, anyway, I get it, this is a tough issue for Spidey fans and they're reacting to it on a very emotional level as they should. But because of that, what I do find interesting is how so many fans are assuming things and reading things into the story that aren't there, like assuming that we were retconning twenty plus years of Spider-man comics which was never the case. In many cases, it seems like people reacting without having read the actual issue. So many of the answers and clues are right there in the issue if you look for them. ;-)

Now, with everything you've said and everything that's happened in and around "One More Day," thinking back on it, would you have done anything differently?

Yeah, I would have started two weeks earlier. Outside of that and the last issue confusion with JMS, nope, not a thing.

As we leave "One More Day" behind, I'd like to spend a quick moment talking about Spider-Man moving forward. I know this is more editor Steven Wacker's domain, so I'll let Steven handle the story questions at a later date, but that said, I'm curious about the ambitions for Spider-Man in the coming year. A thrice-monthly series, a new lead editor and a new direction for Peter. Obviously a lot is riding on this series. Is there a benchmark for success that "Amazing Spider-Man" is expected to achieve? Is there a bottom threshold that, if not met, would change publication plans for the title?

Truth be told, there isn't that kind of pressure on this title. For that kind of pressure, you have to look at larger, more universe expanding projects like "Secret Invasion." What we're hoping for first and foremost with "Brand New Day" is to see how the ongoing thrice monthly schedule works out for us. While DC has had great success with "52" and "Countdown," those are marketed more as self contained events. With "Amazing," we're doing the ongoing adventures of Spider-Man and Peter Parker which is more akin to the way that DC Editor Mike Carlin ran the Superman books many years past. So, for us and for this current era in comics, it'll be interesting to see. If it succeeds, that could have some interesting effects on our future publishing plans and other titles. That one thing, most of all, is what we'll be looking at moving forward.

We're back tomorrow with the final part of these "One More Day" interviews, but next time it'll be something a little different. Not "One More Day." Stay tuned.

While we have you, want to see a preview of the first chapter of "Brand New Day?" Our partners at MySpace Comic Books have an exclusive preview of the first issue right now. Head on over to MySpace Comic Books right now to read a preview of "Amazing Spider-Man" #546 by Dan Slott and Steve McNiven, on sale January 9th.

Previously
The "One More Day Interviews" with Joe Quesada, Pt. 3 of 5
The "One More Day Interviews" with Joe Quesada, Pt. 2 of 5
The "One More Day Interviews" with Joe Quesada, Pt. 1 of 5

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