There are certain stories that stick with us as we age. Many of us never forgot the moment we read about Omri bringing plastic figurines to life with a magic cupboard and key. Some of us will never forget about a kid named Alexander and how he had a rough day once. Many of us will never get over the death of Cyrus, but we move on to more and more stories. For me, I will (probably) never be able to get over the day Peter and Mary Jane Parker gave up their marriage to save the life of an elderly and dying aunt May.
Spider-Man: One More Day tells the story of the desperation of Peter Parker as he frantically tries to save the dwindling life of his aunt May, a woman that has cared for him since he was a boy who had lost his parents. Taking a bullet that was meant for Peter, May is confined to the hospital for the entirety of the story as Peter runs about town calling in every favor he has in order to save the life of his aunt, only to hear, time and again, that his aunt can’t be saved. Finally, in what is to be the last day of aunt May’s life, Peter and his wife, Mary Jane, are given an offer by the devil himself, Mephisto, to save aunt May’s life. But are the details and the conditions of the offer enough to justify cheating fate?
Writer J. Michael Stracynski was seemingly forced to end his six-year run on The Amazing Spider-Man by then Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada, in order to fulfill one of his bosses’ primary conditions of accepting the editorial position; break up the marriage of Peter and MJ.
Taking place over the course of four issues, One More Day shows us a Peter Parker that has moved beyond desperate and arrived at frantic as he finds himself penniless and out of options when it comes to aiding his aunt’s failing health. Thanks to the 2006 Civil War crossover event, Peter Parker had revealed his identity as Spider-Man on camera to the entire world as he fought for the superhuman registration act, only to switch sides and end up a fugitive and technically a war criminal, hence why he can’t pay for his aunt’s medical necessities to save her life. Seeking out payment, Peter goes to Tony Stark (Iron Man) and demands that he pay for the necessary procedures to save his aunt’s life; something Tony understandably has no intention of doing. Not only did Peter betray him when Tony needed him the most, but Stark couldn’t be seen giving money to a deserter, it would ruin everything the Registration stands for in the eyes of the public.
“There’s nothing I can do without completely compromising my position.” Tony says. “I’m sorry.”
Frustrated, Peter considers resorting to crime to pay for a procedure that may save aunt May’s life, but quickly reconsiders when he thinks to ask Doctor Strange, the Sorcerer Supreme, for help.
For if medicine fails, consider magic.
But to Spider-Man’s frustration, Doctor Strange, with all his power, is no help.
“We all die, Peter.”
Eventually, after all resources have been exhausted, it all comes down to a deal with the devil for Peter Parker and his wife. A deal to save the life of his aunt May.
I have written about and talked about One More Day more than any other Spider-Man story before or since. While we often talk about stories that have had a positive impact on our lives, very few times do we focus on the stories that treated us like we were dirt. And by “we”, I mean “me”. I don’t like talking about stories or movies that I truly do not like because I don’t feel like wasting either of our time talking about something that, in my opinion, isn’t good. While it’s easy to go on YouTube and look at the many, many personalities that have made a decent living at talking down upon others and their creations, I choose not to do that because I don’t feel like contributing to any more negativity in the world when so many others love to prove that they’re “right”.
But with One More Day, I felt betrayed as a Spider-Man fan. I understand that Peter Parker is desperate and willing to do anything to save his aunt’s life, but to see him and his loving wife that he fought so hard to make it work with make a deal with a literal devil to take away their very marriage feels wrong and not like the Peter Parker I knew. I say “knew” because since this storyline ended in early 2008, I haven’t picked up a single Spider-Man comic book and hardly any by Marvel Comics.
I know that it is more than a little dramatic to say that I felt betrayed by a single comic book storyline because honestly, and simply, Marvel doesn’t owe me anything. So I have bought many, many Spider-Man comic books and action figures over the course of my life, that doesn’t mean that I own a piece of our friendly neighborhood wall-crawler. But to erase a marriage and to virtually obliterate a character and defend yourself by saying that marriage ages a character is just plain silly.
Many times throughout this storyline, Peter says that if May died from natural causes, he could handle that, but something tells me that this isn’t the case. I don’t think Peter could handle the death of aunt May any more than Marvel can handle Peter Parker being married to Mary Jane. Marvel Comics use to strive for change and challenging their heroes, so what better challenge would Spider-Man face than life without his aunt (basically his mother) there to be by his side with advice and a stack of wheat cakes? How would Spider-Man be Spider-Man without moral bedrock of his aunt there with him. Would he grow or regress? Would he have turned himself over to the authorities and accepted his new status as a war criminal? Would his marriage to Mary Jane strengthen or crumble under the pressure of Peter’s broken heart?
Unfortunately, we’ll never know we all need to move on. If the recent success of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Spider-Man on PS4 and Spidey’s recent inclusion into the MCU has proven anything, it’s that Spider-Man’s best interest is in the hands of people inspired by him than those that created him. I don’t know if I’ll ever read another Spider-Man story again because I honestly still feel hurt by One More Day. Sure the art is nice, despite noticing that artist/EIC Joe Quesada was under a deadline on that last issue, and see the lengths that Peter Parker is willing to go reminds us why he’s a hero in the first place, but it’s painfully obvious to me that what began as a story intended to break up a marriage, did nothing more than break up a fanbase for Spider-Man, Marvel’s flagship hero. As of right now, as far as I know, Peter Parker and Mary Jane are still split up (the deal with the devil included their marriage never happening, but their relationship did, so while they don’t remember being married, their souls still pine for one another), and this is fine, but I just can’t swallow the bitter mishandling of their split. Peter Park, or virtually any hero for that matter, didn’t learn anything from this storyline. He made no progression and only served to regress to the single guy still living with his aunt. The deal was done to make Spider-Man appealing to younger audiences, instead of making the character more compelling and earning your audience.
No one cares whether or not a character is married or single, they care about what that hero represents. Spider-Man represented the reader in a crazy way. Always being beat down by life while remaining steadfast in his resolve to do the right thing.