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CSBG Archive

Meta-Messages #2

This is the second in a series (of indefinite length and regularity) explaining the context behind, using reader danjack’s term, “meta-messages.” A meta-message is where a comic book writer comments on/references the work of another comic book in their comic. Each time around, I’ll give you the context behind one such “meta-message.”

Today we look at some commentary on DC Comics by then Marvel writer, and now DC writer, J. Michael Straczynski…

In Amazing Spider-Man #516, Peter Parker (Spider-Man, donchaknow) and his wife, Mary Jane, are getting ready in the morning when, in the background on the news…

This is a subtle shot at DC Comics, who was part of the publishing division of Time Warner.

Amusingly enough, as you know by now, Straczynski would start working for DC Comics a few years after this issue came out, presumably to correct their lack of “inventiveness.”

Thanks to Sean Whitmore for helping me remember which issue this appeared in (I remembered it as being early in JMS’ run, but Sean knew that it was later on).

52 Comments

Obviously the deficiency and “lack of inventiveness” over at DC was that they hadn’t hired JMS yet! (In his humble opinion?)

A Watchman was killed? Does Rorschach know?!

So um, where’s the first? I apparently missed it.

I don’t know if I would describe this as “subtle.” And considering this was the same regime that eventually hired him, it makes me wonder how he was able to talk his way out of this page.

Or if he even had to, maybe JMS just meant this as a joke and Didio and Levitz understood it as such.

I love JMS, but sometimes…

Just so you know, DC Comics is NOT a part of Warner’s publishing. It’s listed under it’s animation wing in the Warners’ financial statements.

I don’t know if I would describe this as “subtle.”

I was being a bit facetious. :)

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

January 12, 2010 at 1:32 pm

As to talking his way out of the page, I imagine he just pointed to his sales numbers.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

January 12, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Actually, there’s a good distinction between fans and publishers: fans care more about thing sliek this than they do about the numbers, and publishers don’t. See also the Vikings hiring Brett Favre despite decades of Vikings/Packers fan rivalry.

Was this before or after JMS brought Aunt May back to life again?

love the shot jms was taking about warner brothers not being able to use the dc library to its fullest in other media . and dc operates separtly from time warner they own it but it still operates by itself it its own way.

Was there a reason for this shot at DC that i’m not aware of? It seems to me like its coming out of the blue without any context. Was JMS upset with DC or is this just a funny ‘dig’ at them with no maliciousness? Thanks again for this Brian!
DFTBA

How can you fit a mug inside a cereal box? I imagine it would be something more like send in a coupon from the back of the box to get a mug, not fit a whole actual mug inside the box. Eh, whatever.

@T. That confused me as well. That have been some Sam’s Club-sized box of cereal.

“Was this before or after JMS brought Aunt May back to life again?”

JMS didn’t bring Aunt May back to life. Howard Mackie did that.

Had JMS not experienced anything in TW’s Vertigo line or was he just playing dumb for the sake of imagined reader satisfaction? It’s kind of weird when someone takes a shot at the creative output of a company when that company’s creative output far outstrips one’s own.

Louis Bright-Raven

January 12, 2010 at 2:48 pm

Gee, is this crap like this why I lost all faith in JMS as a writer roughly a decade ago? I think it is.

Or maybe it was him recycling his previously published novels OTHERSYDE and DEMON NIGHT as main arcs on BABYLON 5. Or maybe when he recycled the resurrection story from his CAPTAIN POWER & THE SOLDIERS OF THE FUTURE series for Sheridan on B5. Or maybe it was when he went to Top Cow and did his remix of Wild Cards meets the New Universe as RISING STARS…

Lack of inventiveness, thy name is Stracynski.

Louis Bright-Raven

January 12, 2010 at 3:06 pm

I meant to say “is it crap like this” just to clarify

I hadn’t see this one before. This is utterly childish. It is a misguided attempt at being provocative for the sake of it, lacking any more substantive commentary. Shame on the editors for letting that pass.

Given the era of Marvel this would’ve been published in, the editors may well have encouraged or even asked for it.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

January 12, 2010 at 4:22 pm

Gee, is this crap like this why I lost all faith in JMS as a writer roughly a decade ago? I think it is.

You lost faith in him for background gags?

Lack of inventiveness, thy name is Stracynski.

The thing is, you’ve been raving on about Babylon 5 using his old stories for years.

He’s moved on, you haven’t.

I think you either need to find something in his recent work to hate, or move on.

Brian,

How about the scene in DAMAGE CONTROL II #4, where a “certain company” buys their building with the big “DC Logo” on top?

Is it me, or are these things more common from Marvel than from DC? Marvel’s go back at least to the days of Stan Lee; heck, MARVILLE could be considered one big jab at DC Comics. But I can’t recall any shots from DC at Marvel. Either the DC people are nicer, less talented when making jabs, or just don’t care.

If memory serves, Quesada has said that he believes a feeling of rivalry between DC and Marvel is good for the industry and spikes overall sales levels. So, both on his own tenure and during the Quesada/Jemas era he’s gone out of his way to take shots at DC as part of building up a certain image for Marvel.

Back in the early days, DC tore into Marvel every chance they had. Before the internet, Marvel letter columns had a good number of readers outraged at DC’s parodies of Marvel’s characters (the old Inferior Five comic was pretty much a complete jab at Marvel).

Does anyone at Marvel or DC actually take offense at this stuff? If it was addressing one particular writer or artist, I can see someone caring but wise-ass remarks about the company in general comes off as just a joke.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

January 12, 2010 at 7:48 pm

heck, MARVILLE could be considered one big jab at DC Comics

I always thought it was a slap in Peter David’s face and a big joke on those who brought it, but there ya go.

Why Peter David in particular?

(the old Inferior Five comic was pretty much a complete jab at Marvel)

I hadn’t heard this before. How was the Inferior Five a jab at Marvel? I just checked the Wikipedia entry (I know, I know), and while it states that it was intended as a parody of The Fantastic Four, but other than the name, I don’t really see anything that would imply a satire of Marvel.

Well, Marville came about because of that whole brou-ha-ha over David’s Captain Marvel going up in price, so you could figure he was exorcising a bit of remaining petty spite over it. It certainly blew up in his face, though, as the Captain Marvel relaunch was the only U-Decide book worth a damn.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

January 12, 2010 at 8:29 pm

Why Peter David in particular?

I’m vague on the details of Jemas’ particular issue with it, but despite decent sales for Captain Marvel, he wanted the book canceled, and I believe bad mouthed it several times in interviews.

After David complained Jemas, over Quesdada and several other editors objections, came up with the idea where he was going to write a new book in direct competition with Captain Marvel, and whichever book sold the least would be canceled.

It was pointed out it was rather unfair to expect David’s book to compete with a new #1, so ‘U-Decide’ was started, where Captain Marvel was relaunched with a new #1, Jemas launched Marville, and there was some other Ultimate Book launched by Marvel’s then golden child (at the offices if not with the fans) Ron Zimmerman.
The book that sold the most would keep going, the other two would be canceled, and whomever sold the least would get put in a dunking booth for charity at a con.

Captain Marvel won by a landslide – people who had no interest got the book just to stick it with Jemas, who had hit his peak as saviour of Marvel and was just about to hit the massive fan backlash… especially as in the first issue of Marville, David appears as a homeless drunk or something.

As it became clear Jemas was losing U-Decide, they stopped talking about it publicly, and the dunking booth never happened.

But yeah, the publisher put his ego in front of sales, and thus Marville was launched – a book whose purpose was to get another book canceled… a book so hilarious it had to come with a guide to explain the jokes in the first issue, and it’s seventh issue was a guide to getting a book published at Marvel.
(And included Jemas’ oft-repeated by him, yet totally incorrect, example of how comics should be structured like Star Wars, as it started quiet and had all it’s action at the end – despite the fact the film opens with action).

FunkyGreenJerusalem

January 12, 2010 at 8:32 pm

It certainly blew up in his face, though, as the Captain Marvel relaunch was the only U-Decide book worth a damn.

And David now works on several well selling books, where as Jemas has a net based company that paints peace slogans on naked ladies.
Seriously – http://thebeginningisnear.org/

Was there a reason for this shot at DC that i’m not aware of? It seems to me like its coming out of the blue without any context. Was JMS upset with DC or is this just a funny ‘dig’ at them with no maliciousness?

From JMS himself:

“I wrote that scene the same day I heard about an arc from DC called Absolute Power that looked like it was trying to co-opt some of what I was doing with Supreme Power, right down to the title, so I poked back.”

So, walking the line between light-hearted and petty, I guess.

Not worth getting uptight about. I’m much more a DC guy than a Marvel one, but I still chuckled when I originally read this.

DC Comics is NOT a part of Warner’s publishing. It’s listed under it’s animation wing in the Warners’ financial statements.

Really? It’s things like that that make me wonder if the higher-ups at Time Warner even know that they publish comics.

{Shrug} To me it is just a little joke between peers. This is no different than the ‘Brand Echh’ or “Distinguished Competition’ of earlier days.

From JMS himself:

“I wrote that scene the same day I heard about an arc from DC called Absolute Power that looked like it was trying to co-opt some of what I was doing with Supreme Power, right down to the title, so I poked back.”

So, walking the line between light-hearted and petty, I guess.

Wait, wasn’t that arc written by Jeph Loeb. In that case I change my mind, this scene is a masterpiece. I didn’t realize it was a professional instance of Loeb-bashing.

MARVILLE was indeed part of the David/Jemas feud, but the book itself seemed aimed more at DC (starting by parodying SMALLVILLE right down to the “scarecrow Clark” ad, not to mention the hero being called Kal-AOL, being sent by his parents to Earth, etc.

Does anyone believe it’s possible that DC’s publishing business could cause a 3% drop in TW stock?

Thanks Sean Whitmore!
DFTBA

Funky:

I never raved about it; I ranted. Two totally opposite things.

“I think you either need to find something in his recent work to hate, or move on.”

If you’re going to pay me SFWA pro rates to write an extended article dissecting JMS’ body of work in comics since, say, RISING STARS, then I’ll take the time to do so. Otherwise, I have better things to do, Funky.

As bad as anything that Stravesty of a writer as ever done.

Best,
Hunter (Pedro Bouça)

“How was the Inferior Five a jab at Marvel?”

I didn’t know about the Inferior Five being a parody of the FF (although in hindsight, I can see it) but many of their villains were parodies of Marvel heroes. It might have been another humor comic but DC had a version of Captain America who was an escaped Nazi war criminal.

Do writers and artists really get upset about dumb jokes like these? Even Liberace said he just cried to the bank about them. Is the comic industry less manly than Liberace?

Mark said:

Is the comic industry less manly than Liberace?

Do you really want an answer to that? :D

Just a side note on the Marville U-Decide. All the covers were pointless soft porn stuff by Greg Horn showing that Jemas thought that alone would give him the win, showing what he thought of the typical comic book fan. LOL

FunkyGreenJerusalem

January 14, 2010 at 4:12 pm

I never raved about it; I ranted. Two totally opposite things.

Raving… as in like a raving lunatic.

If you’re going to pay me SFWA pro rates to write an extended article dissecting JMS’ body of work in comics since, say, RISING STARS, then I’ll take the time to do so. Otherwise, I have better things to do, Funky.

I don’t know why I’d ever want to do that – I meant more for your own piece of mind, to give your posts a feeling of modernness about them.
Maybe check out The Twelve, or watch Changling.
(Although then you’d probably have to change your tune).

Ouch…

funny how he made spider-man relevant.
here’s hoping he does the same to superman & wonder woman.

SPider-man was made irrelevant and unrecognizable. At the end he just kept introducing concepts then never finished any of them. ‘Oh, Aunt May is sick well we can’t have her die again let’s forget all the big things we were promised.’ He also made Peter Parker into the weakest character. He has no backbone at all and doesn’t use his head.

Funny that JMS would take a shot at anyone for lack of inventiveness.

“How was the Inferior Five a jab at Marvel?”

The Inferior Five jabbed at everything. The members themselves were based on the JLA (Merryman = Batman, Awkwardman = Superman, Dumb Bunny = Wonder Woman, the Blimp = the Flash, White Feather = Green Arrow). They were the children of the Freedom Brigade, a parody of the JSA. Various issues mocked the Avengers (the Vendetta), the X-Men (the Eggs-Men), the Fantastic Four (the Kookie Quartet, led by Mr. Manplastic), the Hulk (Man-Mountain), Giant-Man and the wondrous Wasp (King Size and the terrible Tsetse Fly) and Thor (well, uh… Thor; Norse gods’ names aren’t trademark-protected). Other issues spoofed Tarzan, the THUNDER Agents, the Green Hornet, the Man From UNCLE, the Scarlet Pimpernel, Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities,” and even the DC Comics offices.

Around the same time, Marvel was publishing Not Brand Ecch, which took just as many jabs, and was even less subtle. So no harm, no foul.

Was this the same JMS that went on to write yet another Superman origin story for DC?

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