After perusing the first three entries in this nearly forgotten list of comics that will never be made into movies, it dawned on me that it’s so far been comprised of nothing but DC Comics from the late 60s/early 70s. Well, there’s an easy way to rectify that situation. Ladies and gentleman, may I introduce to you one of the most reviled storylines in modern comics, nay, in all of comics… Spider-Man: One More Day.
First, a little back story. One More Day was published on the heels of Civil War, the company-wide crossover event that pitted all of Marvel’s superheroes against each other in a frre-for-all over whether or not they should be forced to reveal their secret identities and accept government oversite (Yes, this was the same story that inspired the soon to be released film, Captain America: Civil War). With every hero forced to pick a side, Spider-Man throws in with Iron Man’s pro-registration side and reveals to the world that he is Peter Parker. Seeing this as an opportunity to harm his old foe, the imprisoned Kingpin sends a hitman to kill Parker’s wife, Mary Jane. Spidey manages to pull MJ out of the way just in time, but his Aunt May, who was standing right behind her, isn’t so lucky.
And that’s where One More Day begins, with poor old Aunt May dying in a hospital bed (again) and Peter desperate to find a way to save her (again). He first beats the crap out of Tony Stark in an effort to convince the Armored Avenger to help with the medical costs, but since Peter flipped sides in the Civil War after May was shot, Tony refuses to cough up any dough. Stark does eventually filter two million dollars to Peter through his butler Jarvis, but the doctors inform them it doesn’t matter because May is beyond the help of medicine anyway. Shaken but undeterred, Peter decides to call on some of his other super friends for a solution.
His first stop is at the sanctum santorum of Doctor Strange because, well, magic. Sadly, the Sorceror Supreme who has in the past altered the very fabric of reality and fought the living embodiment of the universe to a standstill, explains that even his talents have their limits. He can, however, use his magic to allow Peter to instantaneously consult with every genius on the planet, even Doctor Doom, in the hopes of finding a way to save Aunt May. Unfortunately, the answer is the same everywhere. No dice. Even when Peter activates a time travel spell while Strange is distracted, he finds he cannot alter history. May, it seems, is destined to die.
On his way back to the hospital to be with May during her final hours, Peter experiences a succession of odd philosophical discussions, first with a little red headed girl who claims to have the solution to all his problems, and then with a series of strangely familiar middle-aged men who tell Peter how much they wish they could have been like him instead of going down the path they chose. Finally, a confused Spidey bumps into a mysterious woman in red who explains that the men were all alternate versions of Peter Parkers who never became Spider-Man. Then, before a befuddled Peter can figure out what’s going on, the woman reveals herself to be Mephisto, one of the multiple versions of the devil running around the Marvel universe.
Mephisto offers to both save Aunt May and make the world forget Peter Parker is Spider-Man, but at a cost. However, the cost is not Spider-Man’s soul, as you might expect, but something else. What Mephisto wants is to erase Peter and Mary Jane’s marriage, make it as if it never happened, something he can only do with their consent. “You will not consciously remember this bargain.” Mephisto tells the couple, “But there will be a very small part your soul that will remember, that will know what you lost. And my joy will be in listening to that part of your soul screaming throughout eternity.”
And so, here it comes. The moment that lierally made thousands of Spider-Man fans rise to their feet and scream “@#$% you, Marvel Comics!” After a whole issue of hand-wringing, Peter and Mary Jane make a deal with the devil because neither of them believes Peter is strong enough to continue on with the knowledge that his decision to reveal his identity led to his Aunt’s death. True to his word, Mephisto begins to weave his spell as the midnight hour arrives, but there’s a catch. Right as the change begins to take affect, Mephisto reveals to the couple that the little red headed girl Peter met earlier was the child who will never exist now that her parents were never married. It’s a really dick move, but hey, he is the devil.
As the final bell tolls, Peter and Mary Jane declare their eternal love and vow that one day, devil or no devil, they will find each other again. And then Peter wakes up, heads downstairs to where his Aunt May is making breakfast, and then rushes off to a welcome home party for his mysteriously alive pal Harry Osborne. There, he catches a glimpse of a bitter Mary Jane (we later learn it’s because she’s distraught over engagement falling apart) as she enters an elevator to exit his life. The End.
Now, you might be wondering just who the heck thought the whole notion of a superhero making a deal with the devil was a good idea. That would be Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Joe Quesada, who had always considered Pete and MJ’s marriage to be the worst thing to ever happen to the character. In his opinion, which he claimed was backed up by sales figures, it made Spider-Man completely unrelatable to the majority of comic readers. Now, I have no doubt that at least some portion of comic readers probably could relate better to a thirtysomething year old slacker living in his elderly aunt’s house, but Marvel was already publishing a comic for them with Ultimate Spider-Man, a title which told tales of an unwed teenaged Peter Parker. Really, it just came down to the fact that Quesada thought stories with married heroes were dull and assumed nobody else was interested in marriages either.
Except for the devil apparently. Quesada stated that he believed Mephisto was an appropriate choice for a deus ex machina because it would show a powerful villain taking advantage of a beloved hero at his weakest moment. Just about everybody else on the planet, on the other hand, thought the idea of Spidey bargaining with Satan was was the epitome of stupid. Series writer J. Michael Straczynski (of Babylon 5 fame) even publicly threatened to take his name off the story despite the fact that he was an avowed atheist. Even a non-believer like Straczynski understood the concept that while a hero might occasionally have to do something he normally wouldn’t, as in killing an enemy to save millions of lives (yeah, I’m still defending Man of Steel), he wouldn’t make a deal with God’s main nemesis just to avoid feeling bad. @#$% you, Marvel Comics!
So, yeah, the very idiocy of the premise and the damage it does to the moral character of Spider-Man is one of the main reasons this story will never find itself adapted to the big screen. But there’s also another, one that might not be so obvious at first. You see, as much as it pains me to admit it, Quesada was right about one thing. If you were going to choose to do a story in which a bad guy’s main goal was to wreck a marriage, Mephisto really was the perfect villain for it. And that’s because Satan does, in fact, hate the sacrament of marriage and would do whatever is in his power to destroy it.
As the Catechism reminds us, when a man and woman enters into a sacramental marriage, “their mutual love becomes an image of the absolute and unfailing love with which God loves man.” Of course the devil would hate such a thing. And Straczynski, whose work on Babylon 5 showed him to be no stranger to religion despite his own non-belief, understands this. So, when questioned by Peter and MJ about what he has to gain from the deal, Staczynski has Mephisto respond thusly…
“It is because yours is the rarest love of all. Pure, unconditional, and made holy in the eyes of he who I hate most. A love like yours comes about but once in a millenia and to take that away from him… to deny him… is a victory like none other imaginable.”
Ouch. Pretty much gets right to the point, doesn’t it? And that’s why, In a nation where the divorce rate is hovering at 50% and the government is doing its best to remove all traces of religion from the sacrament, there’s no way in hell a major studio is going to release a comic book movie that implies by wrecking marriage we’re doing the devil’s work for him.