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Spider-Man: No Way Home lifts from a key Marvel comic about the devil

One More Day had Mephisto, but Marvel’s new movie has Doctor Strange

Peter Parker stands in the middle of swirling magic energy looking worried in Spider-Man: No Way Home. Image: Sony Pictures

The trailer for the much-awaited Spider-Man: No Way Home set the Internet aflame in theories and reference-hunting. But nothing loomed quite so large over the clip as One More Day, a 2007 comics crossover that changed the webslinger’s life forever.

One More Day played out the most tragic possible consequence of Peter Parker’s secret identity being revealed to the world and what Peter did to try and avoid it. Initial reaction to the series was fairly negative, but while it might be a story many fans wished hadn’t happened, they couldn’t say that it wasn’t told well, or didn’t have compelling details. And it looks like some of those details will showed up Spider-Man’s next appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

At the very end of 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Homein the film’s second post-credit sequence – a familiar face pops onto the screen. It’s J. Jonah Jameson sharing Mysterio’s last ditch effort to ruin Spider-Man’s life — revealing his true identity. The film ends on a banger of a shot, with Spidey’s lenses wide as he realizes what an absolute mess his life is about to become.

Peter Parker unmasks in front of flashing photographers, saying, “My name is Peter Parker and I’ve been Spider-Man since I was 15 years old,” in Civil War #2, Marvel Comics (2006). Image: Mark Millar, Steve McNiven/Marvel Comics

“One More Day,” a four-issue arc, was the ultimate result of a similar unmasking issue. During the original Civil War event, superheroes were asked to register their secret identities with the government. Peter resisted the call at first, but when Tony Stark convinced him it was the right thing to do he came clean in a press conference. The most cited reason for superheroes to keep their identities secret is to protect their loved ones from villainous reprisal, and that’s exactly what happened to Peter next.

Kingpin sent an assassin after Peter, and Aunt May was shot in the process. “One More Day” opens with Peter lamenting his choices and horrified at their effects: Aunt May lies in a hospital, and doctors have told Peter that it’s only a matter of time before she passes. The first issue ends with an ominous internal monologue, “Nothing’s going to stop me from saving her. Nothing.” Which is how Peter ends up seeking out Doctor Strange, just as Peter seems to do in Spider-Man: No Way Home.

But in the comics, Strange tries to make Peter realize that there is nothing they can do: Sometimes people have to die. Strange steps into the role of mentor and friend here, allowing Peter to grieve and rage, but never budging on his stance, and Peter nearly comes to terms with May’s death. But he doesn’t quite, and that’s where things get weird.

After meeting several passersby who represent the untaken paths in Peter’s life, Peter runs into Mephisto. Yes, Mephisto, the Satan of Marvel Comics. Mephisto says he’ll save May’s life, and all he wants in return is Peter and Mary Jane’s marriage. The couple have one day — hence the “One More Day” — to decide. Why is Satan so particularly interested in making Spider-Man and Spider-Man’s wife forget that they ever got together? He says he’ll enjoy listening to the piece of their soul that remembers their love screaming for all eternity.

Spider-Man: No Way Home seems to use this potential loss — Peter’s dismay at the idea that MJ won’t remember their relationship — as the impetus for all the multiverse shenanigans. In the comic, Peter and MJ decide together to agree to Mephisto’s terms, only demanding that Mephisto also erase the world’s memory that Peter Parker and Spider-Man are the same person. Their marriage is erased from time, the secret identity cat goes back into the bag, and Peter can go back to being single, awkward Spider-Man again.

Peter Parker and Mary Jane are married, with J. Jonah Jameson, Aunt May, and other Spider-Man characters in attendance in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21 (1987). Image: David Michelinie, Paul Ryan/Marvel Comics

Peter and MJ were originally married to great acclaim in 1987’s The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21. That’s 20 years of marriage out the door, as if it never happened. Fans were largely confused and upset with the choice, feeling as though the comics were retconning one of their most beloved relationships. The creative team stood by the decision though, citing it as a way to keep Peter interesting and fun.

Obviously, the MCU is going to take pieces of this, not the whole thing — and we’ll likely see influences from things like Brian Michael Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man or Chip Zdarsky’s Spectacular Spider-Man, which also feature a young Peter reacting to being unmasked and engaging with his older self. Who knows, maybe they’ll finally pull in Mephisto after all.

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