Excuse me while I geek out here for a minute.
I’m sure very few of the hypothetical “you” have heard about the big changes that have gone down recently in The Amazing Spider-man. It’s been discussed all over comic book forums, so do a quick search on Newsarama or Comicbook Resources and read up if you’re interested. The short story is that Peter and MJ are no longer married. In an arc called “One More Day”, They made a deal with one of Marvel’s devil characters, Mephisto, to undo the marriage to save Aunt May, who’d been shot. Yeah. It makes no sense. That’s the point. It completely changed continuity. Nobody remembers Spidey’s secret identity, which was revealed to much fanfare in last year’s Civil War “event”. Harry is back alive and well. Pete and MJ aren’t divorced, but they’re not married either. It’s a mess. I stopped reading Spidey a few years ago when they had a big reveal that Gwen Stacy had boned Norman Osborne back in the day and gave birth to secret twins who come back years later to torment Pete/Spidey. It was insanely stupid. I had to drop the book. So I have no investment in the character of Spider-man any more. This story has absolutely no effect on me.
That said, I think it sucks. It just reinforces in the mainstream mind that comics are kiddie fair where a character can’t get a divorce (like it’s 1950’s Ohio or something and the stigma would just be too much, thereby implying that Marvel thinks divorce is a taboo subject), but they can end their marriage (which none but God should tear apart, right?) by making a deal with the devil. Idiotic.
Assuming that you wanted to get to the point they’re now at with the start of the arc “Brand New Day”, I a way that would have been a lot better and not nearly as stupid.
1. The flash forward. At the end of one issue, Peter goes to bed with his life in tact. Everything is as it was before the events of “One More Day”. At the start of the very next issue, he wakes up and everything is different. It’s a year later and Pete’s life is a mess. MJ’s gone. Aunt May is alive, but sickly, having never quite recovered from her wounds. And most surprisingly of all, Harry is back. And not only that, but apparently nobody knows that he’s Spider-man. Just what the hell happened here? Over the course of the next however many issues, Pete tries to piece everything together. He tracks down MJ to find out what happened to them as a couple. She tells him that he lost his powers. He doesn’t remember that? He lost his powers one night and got the shit beat out of him by Doc Ock or Venom or whoever. Hell, Shocker. At any rate, they rip the mask off and discover Parker and realize that there’s no way in hell that Peter Parker is Spider-man. The whole thing is a PR stunt dreamed up by Tony Stark or somebody. The bad guy or guys leave Pete to die, but a good samaritan calls for help and Pete winds up in the hospital for a good long time. While he’s in the hospital, word gets to him that Spidey is still out there fighting crime. But how? Was he ever really Spidey at all or was it all a delusion? No, that shit happened!
Pete gets out of the hospital and tries to trace the new Spidey using the technology he has at his disposal. It’s tough, though. People aren’t exactly friendly toward him, thinking he hoaxed them all into believing he was Spider-man. What kind of a sick, sad sicko would do such a thing?
At any rate, things spiral down quickly for Pete. He really hits the skids. MJ just can’t take it anymore. She loves him, but she can’t bear to watch him slowly kill himself like this. Maybe if she leaves he’ll hit rock bottom and can then begin to rebuild. She does the hardest thing she’s ever had to do. She leaves him. I mean, this would be gut-wrenching stuff, folks. And would play off as more realistic, don’t you think? And we could make up for the lack of Spidey-action by cutting to this mysterious new Spidey and start to learn little bits about this new player on the scene.
So MJ leaves. Pete’s at an all-time low. He goes for a walk to sort things out. To try to come to some sort of grips. That’s when Iron Man appears, saying, “Peter, I think it’s time we had a little talk,” and blasts him with a repulsor ray. Tony doesn’t believe that Pete is not Spidey. You see, I don’t think you should completely make everyone forget Pete is Spidey. The general public shouldn’t think Pete is Spidey, but the people that KNOW independently still know.
Anyway, Iron Man is really wailing away on Pete. Pete’s running, diving, rolling, just trying to stay a step ahead of his former ally. Then there’s a blast of webbing, a few quick punches, and Iron Man is down. Pete’s swept up in the arms of a blue and red savior, to the roof of the Bugle. Spider-man and Pete stand looking at each other, and then Spidey takes off the mask. Undernearth, smiling at him, is Harry Osborne.
This stuff writes itself, really. You can go pretty much anywhere from here, but the new status quo is set. MJ’s divorced Peter. Harry is back. Nobody knows that Pete is Spidey except for a few close friends (and, if you want, Aunt May. Otherwise, just make the memory loss a part of her overall ill health). You have another year or two’s worth of killer stoylines as Pete tries to figure out why Harry is back and how he stole his powers. I’m not going to state outright what I’d do here. But I have a killer Year Two in mind. There’s so much to play off here. And when it’s all over and things are back to normal? Peter gets the powers back (obviously, but it doesn’t have to happen for a while), but when he does, would MJ take him back? If not, why not? That’s an interesting story worth exploring right there.
At any rate, you don’t have to have the flagship character of your company make a pact with an embodyment of evil. You don’t have to go to such hokey extremes as magic and making everybody forget and all that other crap. Write it straight up, using character as the basis for the story. What would Peter do in a situation where he lost his powers involuntarily? If it were me? I’d be really super depressed. One minute you’re fuckin’ Spider-man and the next you’re regular Joe Nobody. It would be an incredible adjustment to make. You probably would fuck up every relationship in your life as you wallow in self pity.
As for the fast forward, I think that initial jolt would be a great way to kick off a new direction. A great jumping on point for new readers. Everybody is in the same place, confused as hell. As the story progresses, answers start coming. By the end of the first year (or four issues or six or whatever), we’re brought up to date, wherever you want that to be. At the end of the unmasking of Harry as Spidey? Easy. Pete reacts violently and Harry uses some Goblin gas to put him out, temporarily affecting his memory.
It’s comic books. Superhero comic books. You can get away with ALOT. It’s not rocket science. Almost anything goes. But it has to make logical sense within the confines of the rules already establshed. One More Day/Brand New Day didn’t play fair with the readers and people are upset. They feel stupid. I can’t blame ’em. This sounds like an awful turn of events for ol’ Spidey. But, like he always does, I’m sure he’ll escape this new threat and live to fight another day.