Sunday, 8 April 2012

A Literal Deal with the Literal Devil: Interests in Negotiating for Marriage

Welcome back to Funding the Kryptonite, a blog that will take a look at comic book super villains and discuss them from a business perspective.

First off, a quick shout out and thank you to the reddit community and others who have linked to my blog and made positive comments about my writing. I’m glad it’s being enjoyed and I hope you will like future content.

Today’s blog post is going to center around a negotiation in one of the most controversial storylines in Spider-man publishing history, One More Day. While I am not personally a fan of the storyline and how it played out on the pages or backstage in editorial, I do appreciate Mephisto and how he bargained for the marriage of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Parker.

Let’s recap:

Following the events of Marvel’s big Civil War crossover, Spider-man had publicly revealed his identity as Peter Parker. This caused The Kingpin to put out a hit on him and resulted in his Aunt May getting shot. Despite his best efforts to get her healed, Peter fails and May is in critical condition. This prompts Mephisto, one of the Satan analogues in the Marvel universe, to appear and offer Peter a deal: His marriage in exchange for saving Aunt May.


Negotiation is a huge topic, so I’m going to drill down and focus primarily on the concepts of positions, interests, and how managing them can lead to more successful negotiating. The classic example here is that of two people who both want the only orange in the house. One wants the skin for zest in making cupcakes, the other wants the pulp for orange juice. Those are the interests of the two participants, the cupcakes and orange juice respectively. However, in most situations, the positions of both participants are that they want the orange itself. The former is what the person really wants and usually underlies the position, while the position is what the person says they want because they feel that it is the best way to satisfy their interests.

Why that is important:

Understanding interests compared to positions is crucial to reach the best deal possible. In the above orange case, a lot of people would walk away with half an orange each instead of the best case scenario of all the pulp to one and all the zest to the other. Let’s break down how Mephisto approaches this negotiation.
-Position: Mephisto wants Spider-man’s marriage.
-Interest: Mephisto is interested in spiting God, because the manner in which the Parkers love each other is apparently quite rare and pure.
-Position: Spider-man wants his Aunt May to not die.
-Interest: Spider-man wants to not feel guilty that his actions in unmasking himself is what led to his Aunt May dying.

Convergence and Divergence:

The interests of the parties involved can either converge (overlap or come together) in some areas, such as when a manufacturer wants to sell their goods and a purchaser wants to buy them, and diverge (split apart) in other areas, such as on price where one pays more or less at the expense of the other. This is part of why understanding the interests of both sides is so important, because deadlocks in position that seem odd can be explained through divergence of interests. At the same time, new demands coming from one party can be accepted by the other party because there is still a convergence of interest.

How this comes into play with Mephisto is when Mary Jane introduces a new demand to the negotiating table. For her, it is insufficient for Mephisto to simply heal Aunt May because Peter Parker is still exposed at large as Spider-man and it would just be a matter of time before someone else takes a shot at him. This introduces a new interest and position:
-Position: Mary Jane wants Peter’s secret identity restored.
-Interest: Mary Jane wants Peter to have his life in good order again.
For Mephisto, the interest underlying this position does not diverge from his own interests. He still gets the satisfaction of having a “pure love” destroyed and, as he states, the souls of Mary Jane and Peter would both agonize over the loss even if neither of them remembers it consciously. Accordingly, for Mephisto, he secures Mary Jane’s buy-in to the deal by accepting her position because he recognizes it does not harm his interests. Peter also accepts the deal, because his interest in this negotiation overrides his other desires (like keeping his wife) and the offer from Mephisto converges with his interests.

The last word:

Mephisto handled this pretty well. He is fairly open with what he wants, and why he wants it. He doesn’t lie, per say, about the situation and does not resort to hard tactical negotiating, such as demanding more from the Parkers in exchange for Peter’s secret identity. He approaches them in good faith, and is rewarded for his trouble with a shiny new marriage out of the deal!

You said you would do anything to save her. Is that true, or was it just a lie? Are you or are you not interested in the terms of the bargain?” –Mephisto (One More Day)

Final Rating: Good business!

Thank you for reading and please hit me up with your comments.

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