Taking stock of super-villains

Usually, when I review a comic in this space, I like to focus on the bad guys. After all, when you do a comic about a corporation that’s run for super-villains by super-villains, it’s kind expected.

So, I’d like to take a crack at Spider-Man: One More Day from the perspective of the villains.

Mephisto? Nah…

Writer J. Michael Straczynski and Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada.

OK, so we know that this wasn’t the ending that JMS originally wanted to write, but nonetheless, he did -– at Joe Q’s behest – and now comics fans are in an uproar.

But I’m here to tell you that – as always – the villains had the right idea.

This wipes out several years of Spider-Man history, resets Peter’s timeline to before his marriage to M.J., and brings back many of the core cast from the old days of the Spider-Man mythos. And it’s all done with a magical sweep of the hand. Poof! We’ve been retconned again.

Maybe that’s where we should start… retcons. We all hate them, right? How many of them have we suffered through? We’ve seen it happen to Captain America, Jean Grey, Joker, Batman – heck the entire D.C. universe. We’ve seen origins tinkered with and re-explained and re-re-explained.

But let’s face it, you have to be able to roll with a retcon here or there if you’re gonna be a comics fan.

Why?

Well, let’s get back to Spidey. He got bit by that radioactive spider in 1962. That makes him about 46 by now. It gets worse for characters like Batman and Superman. Those characters have been retconned several times over before many of you even started reading comics. And you know what…?

You probably read comics because of the retcons that made it possible for you to jump aboard.

Retcons make it possible for comics publishers to continue to draw in younger readers, and we want them to do that, because if they don’t, they get stagnant and die. Would you like to see what happens to comics that don’t make some changes to appeal to a new generation of readers? Pick up a newspaper. (Chances are, if you do, it will be the first time you’ve done so in years.) Take a look at the comics in there. I’ll ruin it for you. Garfield still hates Mondays and loves lasagna, Dagwood’s eating a big sandwich, and Leroy Lockhorn is saying something incredibly cruel to his wife, Loretta. Comfortable? You bet. Great comics? Not for decades.

And “Spider-Man OMD” was comics at its best. When was the last time you felt a lump in your throat when you were reading Spider-Man? When was the last time you felt tears well up in your eyes?

This was story-telling at its absolute apex. It was complex and painful and difficult to process and… and…

And it was everything that we tell our friends they’re missing by not reading comics.

Did it end the way I wanted it to end? Heck no. I’m still a little grief-stricken by the whole thing. I so very much yearned for something – anything – that would allow Our Hero to find a way to come out on top in his deal with the devil.

But he didn’t.

And, despite the lump in my throat, deep down, I’m happy that he didn’t.

Let’s face it, nobody wants to see Romeo and Juliet lying lifeless on the stage at the end of their tale of woe. But, a good playwright – and a good comicwright – knows when the time is right to deny us what we want and give us, instead, what we need.

So, JMS and Joe Q get the villain community’s highest rating – a VQ of 10 – for being the best kind of villains of all – the kind that do what they do because they know it’s the right thing to do.

Brad Guigar

(If you have a suggestion for “TWiV,” please e-mail me.)