Superman is kind of an asshole. His powers are basically unlimited, but he does not save everyone. Danger and crime are constantly happening around the world. Superman can hear cries for help across the globe, and he possesses the strength and speed to intervene anywhere. In theory, Superman could spend 24/7/365 saving lives, but he still chooses to take some time to live as Clark Kent.
How does Superman decide when he should bother saving people? Does he only leave a meeting at The Daily Planet if an American needs to be saved? When Superman is getting frisky with Lois Lane, is it awkward to hear the screams of an Indonesian grandma getting mugged?
How does Superman balance his professional obligations and personal desires with his duty to save people? This should be the fundamental conflict of most Superman stories, but instead most Superman stories are about how he is allergic to a green rock.
On the other hand, Spider-Man stories almost always about that idea. Peter Parker struggles to balance his relationship with Mary Jane, taking care of Aunt May, shooting photos for The Daily Bugle, and saving the city from Scorpion. That struggle is relatable to every reader and is the reason why Spider-Man is more popular than Superman in the modern era. Once you strip away the costumes, the superpowers, and all the other metaphors, Spider-Man stories are usually about work-life balance.
Time management is bullshit. Work management is all that exists. We all only have 24 hours a day, and there is only so much efficiency you can squeeze out of each minute. At a certain point, you have to give up on certain aspects of your life to focus on what is more important to you. Do you go home at 5pm to see your family or stay at work? Do you study for that test or go to the gym? Life is a set of competing interests.
You can have anything you want, but not everything. And that is something Peter Parker refuses to accept. He believes he can save the city while having perfect relationships and being an effective student/photographer/scientist. The most childish aspect of Spider-Man is not that he wears a mask but that he believes trade-offs are not a guaranteed facet of life.
And that is what makes One More Day a quintessential Spider-Man story. Peter must choose between Aunt May’s life and his relationship with Mary Jane. And because he is not mentally equipped to handle that sort of decision, he makes the wrong choice. Peter sacrifices his wife and unborn child to give an old lady a few more years. After taking Mephisto’s deal, he believes one day him and MJ will be reunited, but the reality is their relationship is still gone in the comics.
The problem with One More Day is the effect it had on the rest of the Spider-Man series. But taken by itself, OMD is a perfect Spider-Man tale where Peter tries and fails to get everything he wants. And that is a mistake we all make. I want to work full-time, go back to college, develop games, write, lose weight, and spend plenty of time with my friends and family. There are not enough hours in the day to achieve all of that, but I am still going to try like a fool.
Peter Parker won the jackpot when he found a beautiful redhead who fell in love with him. That should have been enough for him. His marriage should have been the one thing he never sacrificed, but he still risked and lost it in pursuit of getting everything that he wanted. And that refusal to take a loss and reject the inherent need for sacrifice and trade-offs in our lives is so god damn human. In the words of Don Draper, “You don’t want most of it. You want all of it.” Anything less than everything is nothing.