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CSBG Archive

Meta-Messages – Alan Davis Lets Us Know it Was All (Sort of) a Dream…

All October long I will be exploring 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.” Here is an archive of the past installments!

Today we look at Alan Davis explaining away some “problems” he had with an Excalibur story that came out between his first and second run on the title.

Again, do note that writers retcon older stories all of the time. What is interesting here is not that Davis decided to retcon an older story, but the WAY he does it makes it a “meta-message.”

So Davis was the co-plotter and artist on Excalibur for its first two years, then he left for awhile and returned with issue #42 in late 1991. Well, in early 1991, Michael Higgins and Tom Morgan did an Excalibur Special Edition.

In Excalibur #47, Davis has Captain Britain and Roma go over how that story made no sense…

Here are the pages being referenced above from Excalibur: The Possession, a special one-shot comic from 1991…

Reader Matt Bird suggested this one. If YOU have a suggestion for a future edition, e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com. E-MAIL me your suggestion. Do not post your suggestions in the comments section. Remember that – do NOT post your suggestions in the comments.


Alan Davis used a completely straightforward “all a dream” in ClanDestine, to cover the four issues not written by him (even more understandable there, since ClanDestine was entirely his baby).

Hey look, I’m famous! Yeah, as much as I head-over-heels love Davis’s second run on the book, this seemed like a rather petulant attack on a totally forgotten (and, yes, very bad) comic. Especially because Davis, as I understand it, was the one who requested that they run nothing but filler stories until he could come back to the book.

“Especially because Davis, as I understand it, was the one who requested that they run nothing but filler stories until he could come back to the book.”

Having actually interviewed Alan Davis when he took over the writing and art of Excalibur, that’s not the case at all, and I have no idea where that rumor got started.

Originally he and Paul Neary were slated to take over the book with #35 as co-authors; in other words, immediately after Chris Claremont’s final issue (#34). They got slightly delayed, so it was pushed to #37 and two fill-ins from Scott Lobdell were commissioned. (If you take a look at those two issues, they are quite different from what was about to come.)

Then the exchange rate between the dollar and pound shifted dramatically, to the point that Davis and Neary felt it was no longer economical for them to co-write the book. Neary dropped out of the project, and Davis had to start over in his plotting of the comic since the plots he’d developed with Neary needed to be thrown out.

As a result, his arrival was delayed to #42, but Davis specifically asked that those additional five issues (#37-41) wrap up some long-standing dangling plot lines that he’d planned on tackling himself, but with the additional delay felt it was best to just be taken care of in those issues. So, Lobdell was hired to write #37-41, and sure enough, the Soulsword is written out, Nightcrawler’s teleportation issues are fixed, and Excalibur discovers that the X-Men are still alive. (Based on how Davis and everyone else handled the character starting with #42, I think the dialogue in #37 is also supposed to state that Shadowcat is completely healed and her phasing is back to normal, but it’s not crystal clear. But regardless, that dangling plot line is certainly gone as of #42.)

And at any rate, none of those were the out-of-the-blue “Excalibur Special Edition,” which had been commissioned entirely separate from Davis’s arrival. As the story does not match up in any way, shape, or form with what Davis had planned on the book — in fact it flat-out contradicts several story ideas — I can see why Davis felt the need to address it.

Yeah, I love how unsubtle this is. It would really be hard to read this as anything other than one writer saying another writer’s story was stupid.

Okay, none of that made any sense at all. None of it. At all. Seriously. None. At all.

And people wonder why I gave up on mutant comics back when Psychlocke turned Japanese.

I didn’t care they made Psylocke Japanese. Actually, I barely noticed. I assumed that was there just because Jim Lee wanted to draw her that way and it started off in Japan. Seriously, the change in her appearance wasn’t mentioned until Kwannon (or Whomever) showed up. Maybe I missed it. Claremont put tons of words on the page.


Give Dvis some credit. He took what was (by accounts) a horribly wrong (as in getting all the details wrong) story and was able to make it fit into the main book’s storyline. Give some credit where it’s due.

Heh, I still love how Davis negated everything that happened to ClanDestine after he left the book in ONE panel in the X-Men/ClanDestine crossover.

Rory: “I had a weird nightmare…” [proceeds to describe all the events after Davis left the book]

As someone who bought the Special Edition when it came out – I rather enjoyed this. The Special Edition was released about a month before Davis returned to Excalibur proper and Davis shot it down just six months into his new run. I felt the Excalibur#47 sequence was as much Davis apologizing on behalf of Marvel for printing the Special Edition and attempting to placate those of us who bought it by folding it into his storyarc.

He did this with ClanDestine too.

Wouldn’t it be fascinating that subconsciously, this was the trigger for the “X-Men Forever” mini which gave, in part, the inspiration behind The Exiles series?

I hope someone can do this with the quality of Davis when it is time to put the X-Men back to stage one in 3 years.

As far as the concept goes Brian, I always found “meta-messages” to be fun nuggets of history on the comics landscape. Keep up the good work!

I agree that Davis did this because the Special got too many things wrong. Still, there was no need to actually deconstruct it, much less say “it was the doing of some Reality Manipulator even Roma can’t detect”. It could just have been a dream, or set in an Alternate Universe, or even better, just ignored completely. While I love continuity, Marvel sometimes goes a bit too far in trying to include EVERYTHING they put out in their continuity.

@The Mutt: Ha! I have you beat. I gave up on the mutant books before there was a Psylocke at all! (Around “Uncanny” X-Men 200, 1985.) Well, mostly. I sampled the Weezie Simonson and later Peter David’s X-Factor and a few story runs here and there (e.g., Whedon’s Astonishing), but mostly I have no clue or interest in many of the mainline X critters these days. In spite of Davis, I was mutanted out by the time Excalibur came around, though I always like what I see of his tenures.

Just to throw in my 2 cents.. Excalibur was one of my favorite comics of all time. I grabbed the origin story special edition on a whim, knowing nothing about Capt Britain or his universe, and was completely blown away by the art and the writing. When Alan Davis left, the quick decline into complete crap was unbearable, and I dropped it fast. But when he came back, not only did he bring the quality back, but to my perspective he took all the crap that went on in his absence and tied it together to mean something in issue 50. Masterfully done.

I asked Davis about this _exact_ issue back in 2006 and got a good response:


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