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Cronin Theory of Comics – Keep Insults of Other Creators Out of Comics

The other day, someone linked to a blog post Tom Brevoort did awhile back, and in it, Tom makes a comment that I completely agree with, and I’ve been meaning to post about for awhile.

To set up the quote, Tom was talking about a “Year One” Hulk Annual by John Byrne that had some changes to the Hulk’s origin, including effectively changing an earlier Hulk story by Peter David.

Tom says:

Months later, once John had left HULK, Peter David asked to do a scene in an early issue of CAPTAIN MARVEL, a series in which Rick Jones was the co-star. In the sequence, Rick is reading a copy of this Annual and laughing his head off at how wrong they’d gotten all the facts. There was a certain satisfaction to letting Peter do that, but that was a bad call as well. There’s a place and a time for such criticism, but within the stories themselves isn’t it.

(emphasis added)

I absolutely agree, and I was struck by how concisely Tom put it.

I don’t have a problem with creators speaking their minds about comics and other comic creators. But when they begin to take their issues with other creators into the comics themselves, I think that’s crossing a line into pettiness, which is not a good thing. If a change to a character/story is so offensive, then fine, reverse the change if you think it is important enough. Just don’t use your story to take shots at another creator/creators.

There’s plenty of places where you can get your views across (blogs, message boards, interviews) that there should be no need for it to appear in the comics themselves.

82 Comments

In a Spider-Man comic, Erik Larsen had Doc Ock immobilize the Hulk with special adamantium arms and them wallop the hell out of him. A few months later, Doc Ock shwos up in Hulk…except he’s a schlub tipping over slot machines for quarters. Hulk taps him on the head and knocks him out. he said Doc Ock’s earlier win was “petty larsenry.”

It was just as bad, but that pun absolves a lot of sins.

On the one hand, I totally agree with Brevoort – it’s unprofessional, it’s tacky, and it can even distract from the story.

On the other hand, I almost always find that stuff hilarious.

“Petty Larsenry”…c’mon, that’s gold!

It’s hard to draw the line between cheap shots and friendly kidding, though. In a recent Nova issue, Rich Rider made a comment (Re: Ego, the Living Planet) about how nobody would be foolish enough to induct a planet into an interstellar police corps. Obviously, that was just a joke, not a potshot at Alan Moore. Still, without knowing creators’ specific feelings towards one another, it’s hard to judge.

Amen, there is a time and a place to break the fourth wall, but that ain’t it.

Paging John Byrne for your 2 o’clock appointment….

I don’t agree, given the example you choose. Peter David’s run of Captain Marvel was in many ways an exercise in fourth-wall breaking, and in that context, commentary about other comic books and other comic book writers and artists can be fun. I’d give the same leeway to John Byrne’s run of She-Hulk, for the same reason.

A more on-point example might be Byrne’s use of a caricature of Jim Shooter in Legends, way back in 1986. Didn’t you do a Comic Books Urban Legends on this?

There was also the time Betty got the Hulk a disguise: a green helmet with a fin on it. When the Hulk wore it, he said something to the effect of “This is stupid…everyone will say, ‘Look, it’s the Hulk with a fin on his head!’”

Cheap shot? I dunno. I remember laughing at the time. And to my knowledge, the Hulk and Savage Dragon have nothing in common except muscles and skin color.

Does John Ostrander killing Grant Morrison count?

Roquefort Raider

March 18, 2009 at 9:29 am

You know, I agree with what Peter David did. Unless Rick Jones said things like “this author is an idiot”, his comment would seem to be about the work itself and not the author. And in this case, because the work in question was undoing David’s own previous work, I see it as warranted.

Even if we agree not to be hopelessly tied down by the minutiae of continuity, writers should show a modicum of respect for the people who came before them. Undoing their stories just because it is convenient or because we don’t like them shows a lot of disrespect. It’s hard to cry foul when people react to their past work being made irrelevant.

I don’t see that example as unprofessional. These guys are cartoonists (both of those guys even wrote She-Hulk at one time or another), they should be able to take a non personal joke. “He had a character call my comic inaccurate.” I don’t want to read comics if that’s what editors consider extreme. And if Larsen didn’t find that “Petty Larsenry” thing funny he should have taken a break from comics immediately after it came out.

The Jim Shooter parody in Legends went much further, maybe even a bit too far, but if Shooter was really hurt by it I’d think he was wound too tight. Cause hey, it’s still not straight up showing the guy turn into a reptile and try to beat Captain America with a flag.

WHAAAAAAAT?!?!? Peter David petty about something?!?!?!?

Chris Schillig

March 18, 2009 at 9:46 am

Didn’t Byrne also blow up Jim Shooter’s hometown of Pittsburgh in THE PITT mini-series, set in Shooter’s New Universe? If that’s not some sort of commentary …

I disagree, but I think we are considering different segment of comics.

Insulting or lampooning another creator can help make good comics, especially in works of satire. Consider how Dan Clowes uses the personages of Stan Lee and Art Spiegelman in Pussey!, or Pearls Before Swine’s ‘crossovers’ with Family Circus. Here it’s used to snipe at an office-mate, and the results are less fulfilling.

More generally, I feel that no technique should be off-limits to comics. When they are used poorly, as the case may be here, then the results should be derided, but that’s not enough to declare that those techniques should never be used.

Now, is it different when dealing with big, interconnected universes? It’s probably harder to pull off, but I don’t think it’s fundamentally different.

So Tom Breevort is speaking out about a creator in one book dissing another creator’s book, both books being things he was the editor or over editor on?

Scavenger: Yeah he is. The title of the blog post was “Comics I Screwed Up pt 2″.

Hmm. While I think it’s a probably pretty good editorial policy for Brevoort or whoever to not allow this kind of stuff, but I think there is a place for satire of other comics creators, or the industry as a whole.

There HAVE been times when charged, negative commentary of other creators was used to hiLARious results.

I’m referring to E-MAN (his 1980′s “First Comics” series) # 2 and 3 and the treatment of Chris Claremont (as Ford Fairmont; the leader of the “F-Men”), John Byrne (as “Companyman” cranking out pages like a Xerox machine) and Jim Shooter (as an overaged cowboy, “Sniper”).

Marvel as a whole was given a good poking (calling it “Stanley Presents” if memory serves).
Funny stuff, but I don’t know if it was friendly joking or something deeper.

Hmmm…Now I have the urge to go dig out those old issues.

~P~

Peter David and John Byrne have had a standing rivalry since before PAD was even a writer. Teh thing is that it’s not petty, it’s funny. Both of them are relatively comedic individuals so more often than not it’s used to provide humor, not out of mean-spirit. The scene in question is a poor example.

I agree that “insults” should be kept out of comics. But friendly jabs and jokes? Let’s not read more into things than we need to.

You have a weird idea of what’s funny.

I think there was a bit in a Spider-Man issue written by JMS that had a radio announcer saying how WB stock was down because their comics weren’t very good. *That* is the type of thing that just seems over the line (especially since I think we got the “Spidey bites a guy’s head off after being transformed into the Spider Totem” stupidity almost immediately after that – stones, glass houses, etc.). But David’s Captain Marvel – that series, at least – was basically an excuse for him to poke fun at comics in general. That’s not too bad in my eyes.

There are insults and there are jokes and without the behind the scenes knowledge, it is really difficult to distinguish the two.

Theno

I think the example cited is pretty tame. It’s not really an insult to another creator, but towards a specific comic. It seems more like a simple continuity patch than anything else.

I find Al Milgrim’s and even Joe Madureira’s insults to Bob Harras and Roger Cruz (respectively) much worse, because their criticisms were directed at the people, not the work.

I remember an issue of Shadowhawk where two characters, a former Valentino editor at Marvel, was walking through Manhattan Park. They get approached by muggers, and the character grabs his girlfriend and yells at them something like, “take her, do what you want but leave me alone”. That always seemed to me as being really f’ed up.

I also thought that the cannibal in Sin City had a striking resemblance to a former Miller collaborater and I think there was one where Madueira got in a dig at Cruz for ripping off his style.

I agree with you Thenodrin, when its good natured, the in-jokes are neat, when they are mean spirited, there isn’t any place for it in comics. The thing is that we as readers don’t know which way to take it and along with the internet can quickly make a mountain out of a molehill.

Yeah, Peter David had some light fun with Larsen and John Byrne lampooned Shooter – but even in this, Jack Kirby did it first! After “the King” left Marvel, he parodied Stan Lee with Funky Flashman at DC.

Agreed. A real pro would be MORE hesitant, more reluctant, more cautious about degrading, mocking, or unnecessarily eliminating the work of someone he disliked than he would a close friend, because he would be self-aware enough to recognize that maybe his objectivity had been compromised and he was doing something childish rather than serving the greater good of a story.

The difference is not usually hard to spot, either.
Even putting aside the fact that David and Larsen have a history of unfriendly sniping and Byrne has done a seeming endless amount of whining about half of comicdom, Rick Jones laughing at how wrong they got everything doesn’t have a punchline. Neither does Byrne’s Doom belittling Claremont’s Doom and anyone stupid enough to believe that Claremont’s Doom is the real Doom. Those aren’t jokes; they’re grown men sacrificing storytelling pages to air personal grievances, at best, and acting like eight-year-olds at worst. At times, the insults MAY be funny, but it’s still a dick move if it’s directed against someone you don’t like.

Also, the only time continuity really needs patching is if what’s done has somehow ruined your status quo to the point where you can’t tell the stories you want. Jason Todd as Robin. Married Spider-Man. These things, at least arguably needed to be changed because they affected future stories. Byrne and David where still free to write the Hulk and Doom that they wanted, so going out of their way to negate earlier stories that other people had read and enjoyed is petty jackassery, even putting aside the extreme “coincidence” of both of those negated stories having been penned by men that the negators had personal problems with.

The worst thing about most of this stuff isn’t that it’s inappropriate; it’s that it’s bad writing. One of the many reasons I’ve always found it hard to take David seriously as a writer is he tends to write his stories to service his Star Trek references, nerd in-jokes, terrible puns, and digs at fellow creators, rather than the other way around.

Hell, I don’t even think comic creators should insult each other outside of comics.

Just because it happens in lots of other mediums (like music or cinema) doesn’t mean they should follow the example. In fact I think most of comic writers and artists tend to be very PC when refering to others’ work.

One exception is Keith Giffen, who has a column on this very website where he pretty much criticises everybody that pisses him off(and gets paid for it, I guess?). It’s funny, I guess, but I don’t enjoy it. If there’s one thing the internet is full of is snark. We don’t need more of it.

I wonder if Jones laughing wasn’t David’s critique on Byrne, but rather his attempt to have “the last word” so to speak and reiterate his version of Hulk continuity in the MU.

Yeah, seems a bit silly, as did the Red Raven thing in the next piece.

Although, honestly, I’m not completely sure that Tom Brevoort needs to be airing this stuff in public in the first place.

Taking a dig at at someone is one thing but the “Petty Larsenry” example was the one I was going to cite. Okay, you don’t like Erik Larsen. Fine. But the story Larsen wrote was designed to establish Doc Ock as a major threat again after being overshadowed by Venom, Carnage and the like. It seems pretty stupid to tear down a character just to insult the writer.

I always thought Kirby’s digs at Roy Thomas were far more cruel than the Funky Flashman character itself.

I think a better example would be the time Peter David was depicted (by Joe Quesada, I believe) as a petty, crazy homeless guy living in a park. There wasn’t even any resemblance to the real guy (of whom I am a big fan), but it was still an unbelievably cheap shot at a guy who was working for Marvel at the time…

J.

Yeah, Peter David isn’t homeless!

I always thought Kirby’s digs at Roy Thomas were far more cruel than the Funky Flashman character itself.

TOTALLY.

I think even Kirby felt bad about that one.

Yeah. I don’t really know the situation… Maybe Thomas put a dead duck in Kirby’s gas-tank or something… But from where I’m standing that seemed like a dick thing to do.

Didn’t Alan Moore Make fun of stan lee’s editorial positions in 1963. Also, Larsen totally deserved that hate.

You should know that David only accepts insults in the form of Hulk comic books, Joe. So, you’d better get on selling that story arc filled with jabs at him.

“Didn’t Alan Moore Make fun of stan lee’s editorial positions in 1963. Also, Larsen totally deserved that hate.”

The only thing I remember distinctly (beyond the fact that the whole thing was a parody/pastiche of SIlver Age Marvel) was some gag about Rick Veitch complaining about work for hire in “the Comics Gazette”, and Affable Al explaining it as them having an old dude who worked in the office named Hiram who they were always making more work for. That always cracked me up.

What’s the story on the Kirby/Thomas stuff?

Jack came up with this con man character in Mister Miracle based on Stan. That was fairly lame in and of itself, but it was not even really all THAT harsh (and you had to know it was about Stan to really get that it was Stan – there was no physical resemblance).

However, he saved the worst venom (you could argue whether Kirby intended it to be worse or not) for Roy Thomas, who is depicted as Funky’s sycophantic lackey, Houseroy.

What’s worst about it is that I don’t believe Thomas and Kirby even really had any noticeable issues. Kirby just lumped him in with “Marvel effed me, so I’m going to rip on all of them.”

Ah, I knew about Funky but not Houseroy. Heh.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

March 18, 2009 at 4:21 pm

One guy removed a story from continuity, one guy put it back in.
Pretty easy way of doing it.

I think a better example would be the time Peter David was depicted (by Joe Quesada, I believe) as a petty, crazy homeless guy living in a park. There wasn’t even any resemblance to the real guy (of whom I am a big fan), but it was still an unbelievably cheap shot at a guy who was working for Marvel at the time…

J.

No, that was by Bill Jemas in Marvile, and was tacky as the book was put into ‘competition’ against one of David’s own because Jemas didn’t like David’s books, but they sold too much to get flat out canceled (much like Waid and Ringo’s FF), so he came up with U-Decide.
(Which was promptly ignored once David out sold both Zimmerman’s and Jemas’ books).

“Didn’t Alan Moore Make fun of stan lee’s editorial positions in 1963. Also, Larsen totally deserved that hate.”

Dude, I like me some Peter David (ie – 90′s & new X-Factor, his Death of Jean DeWolff-era Spider-Man stories, big chunks of his Hulk run), but Erik Larsen was absolutely right then & even more so now. Wedged between McFarlane’s non-story series of pin-ups & years of mediocre go-nowhere schlock from Mackie & Lyle, I’d daresay Larsen’s run on Spider-Man is the highpoint of the entire title. Sure, it summarizes like a Loeb comic (Spidey, the Hulk, the Torch, Sleepwalker, Ghost Rider and-wait for it-Deathlok take on the Sinister Six, who between panels murder an entire alien world to establish their badassery. Along the way, ‘Lok lends Spidey some kewl bionic gear so he can rock the Cable-look for the Final Stand. Also, much, much fighting), but it was a great, well-drawn read that *did* establish Doc Ock & his crew as credible, exciting villains for the Image Age. Conversely, all Peter David did was shit a little bit more over one of Ditko’s finer creations – to more firmly prove the oft-doubted notion that Hulk Is The Strongest One There Is, apparently. So, in a nutshell, no. You’re wrong. Very wrong.

Houseroy should have saved the day in All-Star Squadron’s big JLA/JSA Crisis crossover.

Rohan Williams

March 18, 2009 at 4:37 pm

Yeah, Roy Thomas really did get a raw deal in Mister Miracle (I was expecting the Funky Flashman stuff, but the level of dickishness towards Thomas surprised me), but most of the other examples don’t seem that bad to me.

@ tijmen.

I probaly should have explained myself more over that off handed comment.

I was talking about the man himself.

@ Brian Cronin:

Not really sure I agree with your theory just yet. What do you think of the recent example in Deadpool, where the titular character (as written by Daniel Way) breaks the 4th wall by saying “Right, Rob?” after muttering to himself/some victims/both about the general handiness of having lots of pouches or somesuch. Now, obviously, this moment falls flat if you don’t know Rob Liefeld, his drawing style and the fact that he created Deadpool. There might not be a Larsen/David-level feud between Way & Liefeld as far as I now, but the former is speaking his mind on the latter in the comic, despite other venues for this opinion indeed existing. Now, is this bad? Petty? Does it detract from the story?

I’d argue that, like those Monty Python references Peter David is so fond of, feuds or other ‘industry-related meta-commentary’ ideally should add something for the reader in the know, entice the curious reader to dig deeper, and not bother the casual reader. Example: the first issue of the Savage Dragon I picked up, #24, had She-Dragon encountering Johnny Redbeard & his Nixed Men. As a 16-year old, first-time reader of the book, I just thought he was mysterious bad guy with a cool gimmick (creates powers in others) & a colorful retinue of minions. Much later do I discover it’s Larsen making a potshot at Byrne & his tendency for leaving books prematurely. Didn’t bother me a bit at the time, doesn’t bother me now – it just works on different levels.

@Randy: really? Why the Larsen-hate?

Obviously, that was just a joke, not a potshot at Alan Moore.

Right, so it would not be an insult and not fall under “Keep Insults of Other Creators Out of Comics.”

Not really sure I agree with your theory just yet. What do you think of the recent example in Deadpool, where the titular character (as written by Daniel Way) breaks the 4th wall by saying “Right, Rob?” after muttering to himself/some victims/both about the general handiness of having lots of pouches or somesuch. Now, obviously, this moment falls flat if you don’t know Rob Liefeld, his drawing style and the fact that he created Deadpool. There might not be a Larsen/David-level feud between Way & Liefeld as far as I now, but the former is speaking his mind on the latter in the comic, despite other venues for this opinion indeed existing. Now, is this bad? Petty? Does it detract from the story?

No, not an insult, so does not fall under “Keep Insults of Other Creators Out of Comics.”

Example: the first issue of the Savage Dragon I picked up, #24, had She-Dragon encountering Johnny Redbeard & his Nixed Men. As a 16-year old, first-time reader of the book, I just thought he was mysterious bad guy with a cool gimmick (creates powers in others) & a colorful retinue of minions. Much later do I discover it’s Larsen making a potshot at Byrne & his tendency for leaving books prematurely. Didn’t bother me a bit at the time, doesn’t bother me now – it just works on different levels.

That’s an insult, so that would fall under “Keep Insults of Other Creators Out of Comics.”

Hey, that’s comedy gold–Brevoort telling other people to stop taking shots at other creators.

“The title of the blog post was “Comics I Screwed Up pt 2?.”

Wake me when he gets to pt 73. I actually liked that one.

“Even putting aside the fact that David and Larsen have a history of unfriendly sniping…”

Whereupon Larsen opens his checkbook, smiles, and says: SCOREBOARD!

Geez, it’s just an Easter Egg for the fans, who might well be interested in any inter-creator rivalry — and would doubtless have their appreciation for the work improved by realizing that the work is produced by fallible human beings having a bit of a laugh.

Also, what about All-Beard and No-Beard in Seven Soldiers?

I mostly think that making fun of other stories is fair game. (That’s not what “Houseroy” did– that’s insulting the creator.) And given that the shared-universe settings inevitably have stories that pull against each other, I often like these little jokes as a way for the creator to say, “for my purposes, I’m ignoring that one, I want to acknowledge that but I don’t want to pull a Zero Hour about it– let’s just move on.” And as far as I’m concerned PAD is one of the best at this (as well as one of the best at the cross-company jokes).

Always liked Hulk blowing up Doomsday with a BFG in a Danger Room sequence.

@ Brian: if not an insult, it’s not exactly the same as getting a street named after you in Powers or Gotham Central either – and more importantly, without any previous knowledge, the scene in Deadpool just sits there whereas the one containing an actual jab/insult in the Savage Dragon works out fine. Hence, *why* exactly ‘keep insults of other creators out of comics’, so long as it doesn’t take me out of the story?

And even if it does, so what? Too many mainstream comics suffer from being so inoffensively bland all the time for me to complain when, lo & behold, the creator’s personality shines through for once. Sure, it might be ugly, awkward or mean-spirited, but at least it’s memorable and genuine. When I read Uncanny #325 I felt sympathy with Joe Mad writing ‘Cruz Swipes Again’ because it bugged the hell out of me too.

Imagine if John Byrne had put a fraction of his online commentary on the state of the industry and his contemporaries into a comic or two over the years. Instead of *ahem* exciting fare like FX, Doom Patrol & Lab Rats, we might have had Angry Man Comix: petty, vindictive, incendiary – but worth spending your money on, at least.

One fairly mean-spirited attack on a creator that hasn’t aged well is the Cogburn character in “Destroyer Duck.” It’s apparently in reference to an interview John Byrne did at the time in which he said he was happy to be a cog in the Marvel machine (mind you, this didn’t make much sense if you hadn’t read the interview in question; I had to piece it together from the letter column). The character looked sort of like Byrne and was drawn in a style resembling his; he was a mass-produced lifeform who was explicitly stated to have no spine and implicitly had no balls. This may have been a biting satire at the time, but now that Byrne has quit Marvel half a dozen times it comes off as overkill. (Not that Destroyer Duck was ever noted as a masterpiece of restraint in that regard.)

Not to mention David’s recent return to the Hulk, in which he had Nightmare declare that an unspecified number of post-David stories were dreams; I didn’t like all of Bruce Jones’ issues either, but you could just ignore them.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

March 18, 2009 at 8:52 pm

This may have been a biting satire at the time, but now that Byrne has quit Marvel half a dozen times it comes off as overkill.

He quit them to be a cog in DC’s machine, but did he leave the times after that?

He turned his back on them this last time (again to go to DC), but that was after they canceled the book he was working on…

How did John Ostrander kill Grant Morrison? I’m really curious.

Morrison famously wrote himself into the last issue of his Animal Man. That meant he was now a part of the DC Universe, and fair game for Ostrander in Suicide Squad– who featured a very pale Scottish chap called “the Writer” in one issue. It’s very funny, and I’m sure Grant thought so as well.

Considering Byrne’s own history of ignoring stories that don’t jibe with his vision, it’s hard to feel much sympathy for him in this instance. I don’t really think it’s a case of airing dirty laundry, but several of the other things mentioned are in poor taste.

Surprised no one has mentioned the Grand Poohbah of Comic Book Creator Parodies/Personal Shots– Dave Sim.

I guess the point ultimately is: we (fans AND pros alike) need to keep the creator and his materials separated. If we hate something in a comic, we have all the right in the world to attack it- but not the person responsible. It’s JUST comics, you know. Of course, the reverse is also true- sometimes, we are shocked to find out that the author of a series we love IS an *sshole. There’s just no way to know just from reading comics. (And Net rumors, even less.)

I do agree that, if I were an editor, and I caught something that (intentionally or not) might be interpreted as a personal attack, I’d eliminate it. Even if it was meant well, people can be very sensitive sometimes. (AND they have lawyers.)

One way to tell if something is a personal attack: if you read the story from the average reader’s POV and cannot tell it refers to some real person, it can be allowed. But stuff like “Larsenry?” No way that’s not an attack… or a really bad typo (in either case, out it goes.)

FunkyGreenJerusalem

March 18, 2009 at 10:39 pm

I do agree that, if I were an editor, and I caught something that (intentionally or not) might be interpreted as a personal attack, I’d eliminate it. Even if it was meant well, people can be very sensitive sometimes. (AND they have lawyers.)

Well some say that if it’s not helping or telling the story, then it has no business being in the book at all – be writing or artwork.
(Christopher Priest, formerly editor Jim Owsly, has a letter on his website he used to give to talent laying out that it’s all about the story and nothing else.).

Yeah, agreed with that. If you find yourself doing this kinda shit all the time… Well, you might not be a mediocre writer. But you’re probably closer to the Peter David end of the talent spectrum then the Alan Moore/Neil Gaiman end. (Although the Kirby examples kinda disprove my point.)

Ok. That was pretty harsh. The Peter David middle of the mainstream-comic-writer-talent-spectrum, not the Alan Moore end.

Ah, beaten to both Houseroy and Booster Cogburn* references, buggeration! Both are fairly harsh parodies, but I think the argument could me made that since the Cogburn character was featured in an explicitly satirical series it was mitigated by being contextually appropriate, as opposed to the depiction of Houseroy, which felt like more of a gratuitous cheapshot. If so, where’s the line? Contextually? The meanness of the snipe? Its affect on the story as a whole?

*I have to go write a story starring Dim Callahack and Dog Fatkinson now.

“Also, what about All-Beard and No-Beard in Seven Soldiers?”

I guess it’s possible All-Beard and No-Beard were supposed to be Moore and Morrison, but there doesn’t seem to be that much resemblance to the actual persons besides baldness/beardedness and some obscure reference to magical rituals. Also, they’re both depicted as equally crazy, and both end up dying horribly, so it’s hard to see a big insult there.

Zatanna #1, on the other hand, is quite clearly meant to be a comment on Promethea. But since Morrison isn’t really insulting Moore in it, rather than gently criticizing the “magic-by-numbers” approach Moore took in Promethea, I think it’s fair enough. I have no problems with comic writers commenting on other comic writers’ work in their own comics, as long as it doesn’t regress to the level of petty personal insults and doesn’t jar the actual story. Even if Morrison was poking fun at Promethea in Zatanna #1, he still got a pretty good story out of it.

“He quit them to be a cog in DC’s machine, but did he leave the times after that?”

Yeah, saying “half a dozen” times was an exaggeration; I was thinking more of Marvel books he’s left/been fired from rather than leaving the company for good. I think it’s fair to say that most people don’t think of Byrne today as someone who quietly follows the corporate line, though, which still leaves the Cogburn parody as limited in scope to a particular time. (Which, in fairness, is probably all it was meant to be.)

One example of a related matter immediately springs to mind: Image’s DART limited series. The whole storyline is a scarcely disguised reference to the artist’s seemingly negative experiences with a previous employer. I won’t name names, as I have great respect for all involved – isn’t that what the internet is for…?

Tuomas – Huh? Zatanna #1 as an attack on Promethea? I don’t see this as even a remote possibility. I’m a big fan of both and I just reread Zatanna 1 again… how is this story critical of magic-by-numbers, let alone Promethea, which is certainly methodical in its approach, but hardly formulaic?

It seems like there’s fodder for, like, ten Comic Book Legends columns in the comments here alone.

Neither does Byrne’s Doom belittling Claremont’s Doom and anyone stupid enough to believe that Claremont’s Doom is the real Doom.

Well, see, when I first read the subject line of this CSBG entry, I thought that would be the example that Brian would use. Instead, he used the PAD jab at Byrne’s retconning the Skulls into creating the Hulk.

Considering the aforementioned insult at Claremont, well, Byrne certainly is not blameless, and is actually one of the creators who helped start this whole trend going in the first place. Really, if Byrne was so upset over Claremont’s characterization of Doctor doom, he should have simply ignored it. Instead, he threw in a blatant swipe at Claremont in the pages of FF and, a quarter century later, we’re still talking about those stories. Would anyone still even remember the scene between Doom and Arcade in X-Men it if Byrne hadn’t made such a big stink about it?

In any case, so Byrne thinks it’s wildly out of character for Dr. Doom to have just stood there and let Arcade light a match on his armor? Well, he’s entitled to his opinion. But it’s a much bigger, blatant insult to both other creators and to readers to, say, reveal the Scarlet Witch’s children weren’t real, or say that the Skulls created the Hulk, or do half the stuff that went on in Spider-Man Chapter One.

Just my opinion, mind you :)

Stefan: in Zatanna #1, I think Zatanna’s and the other magicians’ trip through different magical realms is quite similar to Promethea’s trip through different levels of existence, right down to a breaking-the-fourth-wall scene, where the characters can see their future/past across the comic book page by looking at the preceding and following panels. The difference is that Morrison’s attitude to the whole trip is less didactic and more about having fun. (By this I don’t necessarily mean Moore’s work is worse, just that it has a different tone.) And in the end of the issue Misty tells Zatanna: “I love the way you write about magic. It’s so like, down-to-earth and non-preachy.” Which I think is a rather direct comment on how Moore wrote about magic in Promethea as compared to the way Morrison writes about it.

Ordinarily, I agree. However, the David/Byrne example stops making sense (haha), because David’s Captain Marvel (much like Slott’s She Hulk) played heavily on the existence of “Marvel Comics” within the Marvel U. So references to the comics themselves actually added greatly to several elements of the overall story he was telling.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

March 19, 2009 at 4:36 pm

But is it actually an insult to Byrne, or just a way to retcon a story nice and quickly without actually having to do a whole issue about it?

Which I think is a rather direct comment on how Moore wrote about magic in Promethea as compared to the way Morrison writes about it.

Well, Moores story was much more ground breaking, beautiful and epic, Morrisons had a girl who spoke backwards.

COMIC BOOKS.

SERIOUS BUSINESS.

Nothing happens in comics that hasn’t been happening in the world of writing since…well, since there was writing. Aristophanes dismissed Euripedes as “a cliche anthologist.” Go read “Don Quixote.” Cervantes just absolutely shreds and satirizes the work of tons of other writers. One of the most insanely popular books of the early 20th century, “The Prophet” by Kahlil Gibran, was destroyed in a full blown satire called “The Profit” by someone writing as Kellogg Allbran.

Anyone who makes “Shame! Shame!” noises about writers snarking other writers or the work of other writers is either ignoring centuries of tradition or simply ignorant of it. Part of the fun of writing is occasionally wielding words and thoughts as javelins, to puncture both people and pretensions.

I cannot recommend highly enough a book by James Charlton entitled “Fighting Words: Writers Lambast Other Writers, from Aristotle to Anne Rice.” If nothing else, you’ll see that by comparison, the slings and arrows I may have fired at John or Erik in my career are nothing compared to the glorious vitriol hurled by writers far greater than I could ever be.

PAD

“I think a better example would be the time Peter David was depicted (by Joe Quesada, I believe) as a petty, crazy homeless guy living in a park. There wasn’t even any resemblance to the real guy (of whom I am a big fan), but it was still an unbelievably cheap shot at a guy who was working for Marvel at the time…”

Actually, I didn’t have a problem with that. First, as someone else pointed out, that was Bill Jemas, not Joe. Second, it depicted me as an alcoholic, which I found hilarious because I hardly ever drink, and never to excess. Third, the art depicted me as having more hair and less waist than I did in real life. Actually, it looked more like Steve Saffel than it did me. I guess the complete lack of resemblance which you point out is why I just kind of shrugged and said, “Okay. Whatever.” For satire to have bite, there has to be some grain of truth in it. To depict a fat bald non-drinker as a thin drinker with hair dilutes it of any acidity it might have. At least to me.

PAD

Anyone who makes “Shame! Shame!” noises about writers snarking other writers or the work of other writers is either ignoring centuries of tradition or simply ignorant of it.

Or they think it was wrong back then too.

Personally I don’t have a problem with this kind of thing, but the “they did it in the past therefore it’s okay” argument is very weak.

I like things that work whether or not you know the back-story: for instance: in the New Mutants, Claremont’s response to the FF saving Galactus is completely reasonable, and works in-story (even it it’s a bit of a non-sequitur). However, what Claremont’s response does is take the other writer (Byrne?) at face value, and then respond to it. That, I think, is the most effective at creating stories which stand up years later.

Just my $.0143 (adjusted for inflation)

“He quit them to be a cog in DC’s machine, but did he leave the times after that?”

Sounds like Kirby. Fed up of not owning his creations at Marvel, he goes to DC where he… doesn’t own his creations either.

Mychael Darklighter

July 28, 2012 at 10:58 pm

“However, the David/Byrne example stops making sense (haha)”

brilliant. you are a god among insect, sir. =0)

Mychael Darklighter

July 28, 2012 at 11:00 pm

“Well, Moores story was much more ground breaking, beautiful and epic, Morrisons had a girl who spoke backwards.”

you’re right, *that’s* all seven soldiers was.
[/sarcasm]

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