web stats

CSBG Archive

Meta-Messages – Peter David Has Some Fun With Hulk: Chapter One

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 creator comments on/references the work of another comic book/comic book creator using the characters 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, I’ll feature one that I was planning on using from the start, but I’ll note that reader Ben Herman suggested it recently, as well. It is Peter David using Rick Jones to comment on John Byrne’s revamped Hulk origin.

In 1998-1999, John Byrne did a revamped origin for Spider-Man.

In 1999, Byrne also did one for the Hulk…

That particular story also worked as set-up (at least the Skrull twist that it added to the Hulk’s origin did) for a new maxi-series Byrne did with Roger Stern called The Lost Generation, where Stern and Byrne would fill in the history of the Marvel Universe between Captain America’s disappearance and the introduction of the Fantastic Four.

Well, in late 1999, Peter David began work on a new ongoing Captain Marvel series. Rick Jones was once again connected to Captain Marvel, and David was once again writing the adventures of Rick Jones and Marlo Chandler (who had been supporting characters during David’s run on Incredible Hulk).

So in Captain Marvel #2, Rick Jones is seen at the local comic book store reading the aforementioned Hulk Chapter One Annual and, well, not finding it credible…


5th week stunt, a slam on DC? Is it a two-fer?

Marvel was doing 5th week events back then, too, so it was probably just a general commentary.

Yeah, definitely a general commentary.

Wasn’t pretty much everything Peter David wrote with the Hulk after a certain point a Meta-Message?

Man, I’m tired of the Byrne/PAD feud. Nine times out of ten I agree with PAD about Byrne’s needless retcons, but the way he goes about nuh-uhing them seems really childish.

Wow, that was quick. Thanks, Brian.

In general, I am NOT a huge fan of the whole “it was all a dream” and variations of it such as this. But in this specific case, I certainly did *not* mind at all that Peter David did this. John Byrne’s retcon in the Hulk annual, turning Igor Drenkov into a Skrull infiltrator, totally invalidated one of David’s best stories, “The Closing Circle” from Incredible Hulk #393. And this was the Hulk’s big 30th anniversary issue that had been published only seven years previously, so it was not some minor point of obscure continuity that Byrne was rewriting. I don’t blame PAD for being annoyed, and I think he found a humorous way to respond to Byrne’s story.

Tom Fitzpatrick

October 8, 2011 at 3:23 pm

Personally, I’m tired of Retcons, and re-boots, and re-launches, and Ultimates do-overs, and deaths that doesn’t mean any-thing, and late books.

Is there anybody else that PAD has a feud with? I seem to remember a Todd McFarlane/PAD fight some years back.

Is that also a dig against Kevin Smith, that Rick says he’ll have time for those books “Later” (possibly referring to Smith’s inability to keep his deadlines)?

love the little slam at dc s 52 plus how rick runs out of the shop to track down marlo proably for fear that she may run into the hulk and also love the little dig at kevins rep for being really late finishing his comic projects

David and Erik Larsen had an ongoing feud for years–I think the McFarlane slap-fest actually grew out of it.
In fact, I think it’s still going on to a degree.

It actually got so distracting that it drove me away from comics for about 10 years.
There’s such a thing as knowing too much about the industry I guess.

I love reading a lot of Peter David – usually Star Trek and Captain Marvel, but was never partial to his Hulk run. It’s not the Hulk I was interested in reading.
I have always loved reading John Byrne, and sure, he brings a lot of criticism his way with his opinions etc. As for the Hulk retcon, well, I doubt he went out of his way to do it – it was clearly a “work-for-hire” gig that the editors wanted, not John Byrne. I doubt he was that invested in it.

Slam on DC’s 52? Where is there a slam on DC’s 52 when this book came out like… a decade ago?

I was always curious, was “Marvel:The Lost Generation” part of Marvel continuity?

This, along with the unfinished “The Twelve” always annoyed me because I wasn’t sure if this was a seperate alternate universe thing or part of the Marvel main line.

Marvel:The Lost Generation was supposed to be in continuity, but since no one outside of both creators (Roger Stern and John Byrne) has ever referenced it – and none of them has done much for Marvel since, it is debatable.

It hasn’t been actively retconned, as far as I know.

Is it possible that the bwahaha was a meta comment about how awesome the Giffen/Dematteis/Maguire Justice League was?

Do you think when Rick said “the Canadian woods” that was a comment about how lost in the woods John Byrne, Canadian, was?

“Do you think when Rick said “the Canadian woods” that was a comment about how lost in the woods John Byrne, Canadian, was?”

In the comic Marlo and her crew come across the Wendigo – I think Rick (who in the comic was hyper-aware of everything to do with the Marvel Universe re: “fanboy”) comments reflect his amazement that anyone with commonsense would actually walk around the Canadian Woods and NOT expect to come across the Wendigo, Wolverine, and/ or the Hulk. The comic was all about Rick’s inside knowledge of how the Marvel Universe worked.

“love the little slam at dc s 52″

I don’t think it had anything to do 52 — this issue would’ve been way before that.

“David and Erik Larsen had an ongoing feud for years–I think the McFarlane slap-fest actually grew out of it.
In fact, I think it’s still going on to a degree”

I remember getting into an online feud with Erik Larsen myself. It was all about DC’s Captain Marvel. I remember it started out by me writing how much I enjoyed the character, especially when I first started reading about him during and after the “Legends” limited series, the four issue limited series with Tom Mandrake art, and subsequent DC appearances, and then hunting down the issues in the 70’s by Don Newton etc.

He told me that I didn’t really know who the character was, and that those comics I read/ were reading were not Captain Marvel, and the only people who were truly “fans” of the character were the ones who read the C.C. Beck comics. I replied that although I had read some of those comics, the child like nature of them, and the art didn’t interest me overly (I do recognise how important/ significant they are). He started calling me out, saying that if I was a “real” CM fan I would only recognise those comics as the “real deal” and the ones I enjoyed as “the watered down” versions. This went on for a while, as I had an opposing POV, and stated that just because I preferred a more modern take of the character didn’t invalidate my love of the character or made me less of a fan. But he just kept, going on and on, to the point where it was obvious he would not have stopped until I had written “You’re right Erik, what was I thinking – you are a bigger CM fan than I am, I am a fool for enjoying anything CM not by C.C. Beck.” But I didn’t write that – I just stopped reading his replies. The funny thing was, that at the time I was a huge Savage Dragon fan and buying the book. His attitude and bullying really turned me off him and I dropped the book.

So personally, I don’t think these little creator rants and raves have any positive outcomes whatsoever. Although, truth to tell, I will buy Erik Larsen comics – but only from the 50c back issue bins.

@ John re: Marvel the Lost Generation.

I think, as with all limited series that have had little impact on the Marvel Universe in general, the series has just been forgotten. No retcon, just generally ignored until/ unless some creator comes along who may have enjoyed it and wants to play with some elements in a current storyline. I enjoyed it at the time, but it hasn’t had any significant impact since that time. I wonder if “The Marvel Project” will end up the same way as it seems to have not really been followed up much.

sgt pepper wrote:
“Is it possible that the bwahaha was a meta comment about how awesome the Giffen/Dematteis/Maguire Justice League was?”

I’d be interested to see how many times “Bwa-ha-ha-ha” has been referenced in a comic outside of the DC Universe. It’s so alligned with the JLI I can’t see how it couldn’t be a meta comment.

sean wrote:

“love the little slam at dc s 52?

“I don’t think it had anything to do 52 — this issue would’ve been way before that.”

You’re right – DC’s 52 was written in 2006, 7 years after this comic came out.

I’ve only ever read a couple of issues of this Captain Marvel series, and this just happens to be one of them.
I had no idea he was criticising John Byrne– I didn’t even know what this Hulk book was until now. I assumed he was making fun of one of his own Hulk stories.

I don’t understand why they keep publishing all these Year Ones and altered origins and such. Does anyone actually like them? (And now they’ve started re-writing classic stories like Secret Wars and Inifity Gauntlet. What is the point of this?)
It always seems like a monumental ego trip for the writer to me. A writer wants to be responsible for the important moments of a character’s history, but is unable or unwilling to simply write a great story that will last, so instead he tries to replace the great stories that came before so that future writers will have to build on HIS foundations instead.
It always sounds like a horrible idea to me, and I don’t understand why editors or publishers would be willing to go along with it.

I thought Marvel: TLG was an interesting concept that was poorly executed. At the time, it seemed interesting: given the expanding gap between Cap’s disappearance and the start of the Heroic Age (which, by then, would have been around 1989), what happened in-between?

Unfortunately, Byrne’s desire to put a twist on the story resulted in the ridiculous backwards storytelling which made things hard to follow. You had a time traveler going back through the story, but each issue took place earlier than the last, so in effect every issue was a prequel to the one before it. To top it off, Byrne introduced some characters and never followed up on them in earlier (later?) issues. I think he was hinting at a sequel, but the market just didn’t want one (although he followed up on one story thread in X-Men: The Hidden Years).

To this day, I still don’t know if I’m supposed to read the comic from issue #12 to #1, or vice versa. Neither method feels correct.

Mary –

I am not really a fan of retconned origins myself, but I understand why some people would feel the need to mess around with some origins, as the Marvel Universe was created at the height of the Cold War and Stan Lee liked to use then-current real world elements.

Since we have a sliding timeline, some elements supposedly can’t work without revision. Iron Man in Vietnam is an example. I think the Hulk retcon has a similar motivation of uncoupling the Hulk from the Cold War, so let’s make the spy a Skrull.

Someone else, I think it was Kurt Busiek, wrote a story about Tony Stark’s origin taking place in a generic Asian conflict instigated by the Mandarim.

Adam said:

“To this day, I still don’t know if I’m supposed to read the comic [Marvel the Lost Generation] from issue #12 to #1, or vice versa.”


Sorry, tried to be funny. But I do believe that Roger Stern and John Byrne intended it to be readable both ways. However, I’m missing a few issues and haven’t been able to try it.

And man, trying to figure out which issues I’m missing is annoying, because they were all double numbered (the first issue had both #12 and 1 of 12 on it, as we see above), and trying to figure out which ones I still need is a pain, because I list both on my sheet (and with my handwriting…)

I believe that the Lost Generation series was referenced in some of the preliminary stuff for Secret Invasion, as it deals with Skrulls. It might just be in the Secret Invasion Saga special, and not referenced at all in SI, but I don’t know that for sure….

Lost Gen came out around the time that Joey Q got Marvel Knights going, and Jemas was the Marvel bigwig (iirc), so anything that might be, y’know, old school and fun had to be jettisoned for serious serious stuff. Or so it seemed, at least.


Well, my impression is that it was literally intended to be read from #12 to #1, since the time-traveler story drives the whole crux of the tale, and scenes from her future constantly show up as well. Those elements don’t work unless you’re reading it in reverse. One problem, though, is that the time traveler doesn’t show up in every issue…it’s more like every other issue. I also recall that she did “skip” at one point–she shows up and causes an explosion (or something), but the events triggering that aren’t until a few issues later. Or something. And then she later jumps *forward* to an old issue of Fantastic Four, as all semblance of chronology fell apart. I just remember I was really annoyed at the time.

That, and issues #12-2 run in a fairly consistent timeline from 1989 (ish) to 1947 (ish), but then #1 cuts ahead to just after Fantastic Four #1. I remember feeling like the ending was kind of slapped together at the last minute.

I will throw out there: the time traveler DID show up in a Byrne/Mackie issue of Amazing Spider-Man just prior to TLG’s release. As I said, it was also referenced in X-Men: The Hidden Years. Finally, as someone else mentioned, they made a few nods to it in both Civil War and Secret Invasion. At some point, somebody will use these characters again.

Re: Marvel TLG – personally, I loved it (as I pretty much like anything done by that dynamic duo, Stern & Byrne). Don’t care where it fits into continuity, if it even fits into continuity, etc. It’s just a fun story, and I had little trouble following it. By the way, I think it’s best read in the order the issues originally came out, i.e., from 12 to 1.

Wow, Rick Jones looks more like Eddie Brock in that strip!

And, about the whole 52 thing: I think that guy just regurgitates points from the article or other comments and says I always wondered about that without periods or speling like a reading incomprehension test

I remember Peter David explaining the deal with the Kevin Smith reference online. Originally, it wasn’t “Kevin Smith comics” but rather two specific titles that David was writing at the time for other companies. Presumably for legal reasons, Marvel changed the line to “Peter David comics.” David wasn’t happy with that, as his desire was to promote the books, not himself, so he changed “Peter David” to a name that was approximately the same length and could be inserted in its place. “Kevin Smith” is what came to his mind, being another name that was five letters + five letters long.

that was pretty swwet.

Hey man – lay off Chad ok?

I believe this was after Tom Brevoort essentially said in an interview or a letters page that Byrne’s Hulk rebbot wasn’t “official” or “canon’ or whatever.

“I wonder if “The Marvel Project” will end up the same way as it seems to have not really been followed up much.”

Brubaker just followed up on the character John Steele in Secret Avengers. That aside, most of The Marvels Project was just tweaking and altering already established stories. Not an entirely new (awful, imo) creation like the Lost Generation.

12 years later and John Byrne still brings this up a few times a year as an example of how unprofessional and what a bad writer PAD is.

Yeah, well John’s the one who did a “Starbrand” parody sequence for DC depicting “Starbrand” looking exactly like Jim Shooter–right down to the acne scars, and in an attack gone wrong, winds up incinerating his own foot. Jim shoots himself in the foot; we get it. I suppose it was kinda funny, but it was vicious and pretty nasty. Way nastier, I think, than anything I ever did.

I poked fun at John’s work a couple of times. The work’s fair game. Never went after the guy himself.

Years ago there was an issue of Spider-Man which featured the Hulk–during the time that he was leader of the Pantheon–flying on a commercial airline from Europe to NY, a sequence that didn’t work on so many levels I didn’t even know where to start. The editors hadn’t run it past Bobbie Chase’s office, which they really should have done. I was so annoyed that in a subsequent issue of Hulk I wrote off the entire Spider-man story as being a dream. No one ever points to that and declares that I was having a feud with David Michelinie. It wasn’t about the people behind the stories; it was about the stories themselves.


John Byrne complaining about other writers being unprofessional at this point is just funny.


I’m pretty active on the board and I disagree with the “a few times a year” part.

Leave a Comment



Review Copies

Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.

Browse the Archives