#6 – Even the Guy Writing It Didn’t Think It Was a Good Idea
The following are excerpts from postings by former Amazing Spider-Man writer J. Michael Straczynski on Newsarama and his own site, JMSNews:
“Spider-Man belongs to Marvel, not to me, and at the end of the day, however much I may disagree with things, and however much I may make it very CLEAR to all parties that I disagree, I have to honor their position.”
“In the current storyline, there’s a lot that I don’t agree with, and I made this very clear to everybody within shouting distance at Marvel, especially Joe. I’ll be honest: there was a point where I made the decision, and told Joe, that I was going to take my name off the last two issues of the OMD arc. Eventually Joe talked me out of that decision because at the end of the day, I don’t want to sabotage Joe or Marvel, and I have a lot of respect for both of those. As an executive producer as well as a writer, I’ve sometimes had to insist that my writers make changes that they did not want to make, often loudly so. They were sure I was wrong. Mostly I was right. Sometimes I was wrong. But whoever sits in the editor’s chair, or the executive producer’s chair, wears the pointy hat of authority, and as Dave Sim once noted, you can’t argue with a pointy hat…So at the end of the day, all one can do is try to do the best one can with the notes one is given, and try to execute them in a professional way…because who knows, the other guy may be right.“
“…the primary reason I finally threw up my hands on the book, which had mainly to do with how the resolution was handled.
To explain, here’s the conversation I had with Marvel, in sum:
“So what does Mephisto do?” I ask.
“He makes everybody forget Peter’s Spider-Man.”
“Uh, huh. So Aunt May’s still in the hospital –“
“No, he saves Aunt May.”
“But if all he does is save her life and make everybody forget he’s Spidey, she still has a scar on her midsection.”
“No, he makes that go away too.”
“Then he wakes up in her house.”
“The house that was burned down?”
“But how –“
“Mephisto undoes that as well.”
“Okay. And the guys who shot at Peter and May and were killed, they’re alive too? Mephisto can bring guys back from the dead?”
“It’s all part of the spell.”
“And Doc Strange can’t tell?”
“And the newspaper articles? News footage?”
“Joe, it’s been forgotten.”
“I’m just asking is that stuff there or not there?”
“Not there. And Peter’s web shooters are back.”
“Is this the same spell or a different spell?”
“How does making people forget he’s Spidey bring back his web shooters?”
“It’s magic, okay?”
“I see. And Harry’s back.”
“And Mephisto does this too.”
“So is Harry back from the dead, or has he been alive? If they ask him, hey Harry, what did you do last summer, will he remember? And the year before? And the year before? If he says they all went on a picnic two years ago, will they remember it?”
“Because if he now has a life he remembers, if he’s not back from the dead, then you’ve changed the continuity you said you didn’t want to change. Those are your only options: he was brought back from the dead, and there’s a grave, and people remember him dying –“
“Mephisto changes THEIR memories too.”
“– or he’s effectively been alive as far as our characters know, so he’s been alive all along, so either way as far as our characters are concerned, continuity’s been violated going back to 1971.
How do you explain that?”
“It’s magic, we don’t have to explain it.”
And that’s the part I had a real problem with, maybe the single biggest problem. There’s this notion that magic fixes everything. It doesn’t. “It’s magic, we don’t have to explain it.” Well, actually, yes, you do. Magic has to have rules. And this is clearly not just a case of one spell making everybody forget he’s Spidey…suddenly you’re bringing back the dead, undoing wounds, erasing records, reinstating web shooters, on and on and on.
[Note: Straczyniski’s original outline for the changes to Spider-Man in OMD involved changing one thing in Spidey’s history, that being Peter calling out Harry on his drug addiction and forcing him into rehab. Harry gets clean, he and MJ stay together. Thus, Harry never becomes the Green Goblin, never dies, and Peter and MJ never get married. Joe Quesada didn’t like this option because he thought it invalidated more than twenty years of Spider-Man continuity. Of course the plan he ultimately went with didn’t do that at all, did it? Ugh.]
What I wanted to do was to make one small change to history, a tiny thing, whose ripples we could control to only touch what editorial wanted to touch, making changes we could explain logically. I worked for weeks to come up with a timeline that would leave every other bit of continuity in place. It was rigorous, and as logical as I could make it. In the end of OMD as published, Harry is alive and he’s always been alive as far as the characters know…so how is that different than he was alive the whole time?
It made no sense to me.
Still doesn’t. It’s sloppy. It violates every rule of writing fiction of the fantastic that I and every other SF/Fantasy writer knows you can’t violate. It’s fantasy 101.”
“Mainly, the book was rewritten in the editorial offices to a degree that the words weren’t mine any longer, to a certain degree in three, and massively in four. If the work represents me, I leave the name there and take the rap; if it doesn’t, then that’s a different situation. There’s just not much of my work there, especially once you get to the last dong of midnight…everything after that was written by editorial.
Whether my work is good or it sucks, it’s mine. What came out of the end of OMD wasn’t, hence my desire to omit the writing credit. Joe graciously offered to share it on the last issue. I think that helped. Credit where credit is due.”