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Meta-Messages – Christopher Priest Makes Fun of…Christopher Priest?!

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 we examine Christopher Preist’s first issue of Deadpool, where he makes fun of the past work of…Christopher Priest?!?

Joe Kelly’s acclaimed run on Deadpool ended with #33. Christopher Priest took over the book with the following issue.

At the end of #33, Deadpool was seemingly killed, but in #34, we see Deadpool is in limbo, along with a familiar group of characters. All of the characters featured starred in books that Priest wrote the final issues of their respective series (well, in the case of characters with more than one series, at least ONE of their series), including characters like Xero that Priest created himself.

The whole thing is basically making fun of Priest’s reputation at the time of the guy you give struggling books to that are almost certainly destined for cancellation.

Priest also makes light of the change in the book’s direction from Kelly’s run to his (as shown by the tossing aside of “everything that made the book work”). It is quite impressive self-effacing humor (I especially enjoyed the bit where we spotlight the similar hair styles of Steel, Black Panther and Xero).

28 Comments

I normally don’t like anything Priest does, but this really works. He did a good job.

Tom Fitzpatrick

October 12, 2011 at 5:17 am

@ T.: Really?!? Not even Quantum & Woody?

Not Black Panther? Its been a decade since I read it myself, but I’ve never heard of anyone not liking his MK Black Panther.

I never tried Quantum and Woody, so maybe that’s pretty good. I’m just talking about the Priest things I have tried, like Spider-Man, Green Lantern, Steel Captain America and the Panther and Black Panther.

Unlike some writers I don’t like, I don’t think Priest is untalented or unintelligent in the least. It’s more the overall tone and a few stylistic things he does that aren’t personally up my alley. I can see why others would like him though.

Not Black Panther? Its been a decade since I read it myself, but I’ve never heard of anyone not liking his MK Black Panther.

Wow, it was just a throwaway line, I didn’t expect me saying I don’t like Priest to be so controversial! Okay, with Black Panther, it seemed okay but whenever I read it it just often seemed, like a lot of other Priest stuff, to be written by someone with this weird chip on his shoulder. It’s hard for me to explain, but I just get this cynical, snarky vibe from reading his stuff that almost borders on bitter. Maybe it’s my imagination, who knows. I’ve felt it from him since his Jim Owsley days. It works better on some characters than others, but his BP just came off like an arrogant prick a lot to me. An arrogant protagonist is fine, but to me in the case of BP it always felt like the character was being used as a channel for the writer’s arrogance.

But what I especially didn’t like about his Black Panther whenever I read it was his overreliance on in media res and timeskipping when it wasn’t necessary to the plot or adding anything to the experience. His work just read as confusing. Like a book like Brubaker’s Sleeper used a lot of in media res and timeskipping, but it totally had a purpose. Something would happen, you’d think you understood it, and then Brubaker would use a time skip to reveal something that would pull the rug out from under you and totally change the context of what you just thought you read. If Brubaker told the same sequence linearly something major would have been lost. Another example is how some of the better episodes of Lost used flashbacks.

When Priest would do it, it was often for a story that would work just as well if not better told linearly, and it felt like he was just doing it to try to make it seem edgier or deeper or more mysterious, and it often just made the story more confusing. I had to reread some of his stories just to make sure I totally got the timeline right.

cool run. love how dead pool goes nuts when he walks in the room and sees all the characters priest worked on who wound up canceled. even if priest at times can be controversial he sure had a sense of humor with dead pool

t works better on some characters than others, but his BP just came off like an arrogant prick a lot to me. An arrogant protagonist is fine, but to me in the case of BP it always felt like the character was being used as a channel for the writer’s arrogance.

Priest seems to have intended this; towards the end of T’Challa’s role as headliner, his arrogance started to backfire on him badly. He gets beaten very badly and spends the last quarter of the series suffering from a hallucination-inducing brain aneurysm. And it happens because he’s too proud to acknowledge that Iron Fist can beat him in a straight fight, and takes a lot of head shots when IF is possessed by a villain. T’Challa suffered in the aforementioned fight. In a different future timeline, we see that T’Challa’s son has picked up the arrogance, but not the honor, and the son kills the daughter and ends up jailed for life by T’Challa, ending the Panther line.

And present-day T’Challa deals very, very badly with Killmonger taking his ceremonial role away, and his own inability to regain that role fairly. T’Challa’s story-arc ends with Wakanda torn in half by tribal war, and with T’Challa himself him basically becoming the villain at a critical moment in issue #48, when he signs off on wiping out Man-Ape’s tribe and, in the midst of an aneurysm-induced hallucination, viciously attacks a friend. He ends up so horrified with himself that he all but left his throne. Priest’s Panther was meant to be a tragedy of hubris dressed up as a superhero story. (All that stuff early on about how T’Challa’s not a superhero, but a king…that’s foreshadowing his .

I’m a big Priest fan since his PM&IF days. He has never disappointed. One of my favorite writers and I wish he would be involved in comics more. I used to read everything on his website and agree with nearly everything he says. (comics, life, etc)

Didn’t he write the 12 issue Unknown Soldier back in the 80s? It was one of the “baxter” books with the great paper.
What a great series that was.

Priest is a great writer. I enjoyed his work on The Ray and Justice League Task Force back in the 90’s. On a lark, I asked him why JLTF changed direction when he took over the book, and he actually wrote me back, saying the decision had already been made when he was given the title (which was a shame, because I loved the rotating cast). VERY cool of him to write back. Nice guy.

Omar, maybe that was my problem. Maybe the arrogance was supposed to be part of a longer, redemptive arc and I missed that latter part of it. One of these days I may track down the rest of his run and see what you are referring to.

One thing I’ll say in fairness to Priest is that in recent years I’ve been reading the original Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four run with the Black Panther’s first appearance, and now I see that the Panther did start off way more arrogant than he was depicted by later writers.So there was much more precedent for the characterization than I previously thought.

Personally, I thought this article was going to be about Christopher Priest, comic book writer, poking fun at Christopher Priest, the English novelist, and author of The Prestige.

Ha — he’s even got the Goat in there.

>One thing I’ll say in fairness to Priest is that in recent years I’ve been reading the original Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four run with the Black Panther’s first appearance, and now I see that the Panther did start off way more arrogant than he was depicted by later writers.So there was much more precedent for the characterization than I previously thought.

In point of fact, the Black Panther’s first appearance had a major influence in how Priest characterized T’Challa – he noted how T’Challa prepared a series of devices and traps to defeat the Fantastic Four and only lost because he hadn’t anticipated Wyatt Wingfoot’s involvement; from this, Priest made T’Challa the master planner, to the point where it became a running gag (witness the scene where Ross finds an envelope concealing T’Challa’s plan for dealing with Galactus). Priest also noted how Wakanda’s technology was supposed to be past the cutting edge, as Mr. Fantastic was constantly amazed by it in that first story, so he reestablished Wakanda as a secret superpower whose greatest threat was that the outside world might find out just how powerful they really were and try to bring them down.

there’s a lot of guys wearing red and gold there …

Funny how The Ray is completely in shadow except for the gold stripes on his arm.
(Yes, I know how he looks when using his powers)

It’s a fine man who can make fun of himself and his own works (mighty or not).

Jorge said “I wish he would be involved in comics more.”

I wish he had been more involved in the comics he wrote in the past.

His Deadpool run was plagued by terrible art that rendered some scenes confusing and some action unintelligible. When people kept complaining on Usenet, Priest eventually posted pages from his scripts for people to compare, and it was immediately obvious the problem was entirely the artist.

However… Priest wouldn’t do anything about it. He wouldn’t complain to the editor or the artist, taking a “make no ripples” approach to his job. The problem itself went undiagnosed for so long because Priest wouldn’t take the time to look at a published comic. Marvel wouldn’t send him comp copies, and he apparently wouldn’t go out of his way to even occasionally flip through a copy at a comics shop or anything. Even after months of hearing people complain, he only posted part of his script online and asked others to figure out the problem for him.

Mind, things didn’t turn out well if he did make ripples, either. I remember he was happy to finally get Tom Brevoort as editor. From what I recall, Brevoort then told him some bad story ideas to implement, then had Priest replaced by another writer when bad stories resulted.

I really like Priest’s work, but after a while he seemed to just be going through the motions to collect a paycheck, just accepting fate.

Brian . . . nice choice. How about bringing in the first few pages of Priest’s last issue, where Deadpool successfully whacked him and shoved him into a bag, much to the delight of the third-stringers*.

If Marvel does a fifth volume of “Deadpool Classic” with Priest’s content, I would pass. It’s not that he sucked, but the damn status quo kept changing. I would’ve liked the Wade/Constrictor/Titania roommate dynamic, but then that was aborted. Watching Constrictor yell about how sweepstakes entries without subscription orders were thrown out immediately was actually funny. But then there was the Thom Cruz thing, the “Loki is Wade’s father” thing (the bit with Deadpool fulfilling his twisted wishes with a copy of Mjolnir was kinda sweet), the Frightful Four flashback, the Lob- . . . erm . . . “Dirty Wolff” issue, and the crossover with Black Panther (which might have torqued off those not wanting to get dumped into T’Challa’s year-long plot**). Messy stuff.

* Yes, I know, Luke Cage and Iron Fist aren’t scrubs . . . but they weren’t taken so seriously back then. Also, Priest kicked ass with Solar: Hell On Earth . . . and that’s before taking in Woody messing with all of the characters. Good times.

** Why doesn’t Marvel reprint any of Priest’s Black Panther run beyond the initial “Marvel Knights” offering, including the “Killmonger takes over Panther’s role” run from issues #13-25? Hell if I know. The crossover with Deadpool was fun, including stuff like Wade meeting the madman Achebe (whom dropped off the face of Marvel Earth after that), Killmonger and Deadpool talking about martial arts during their fight, and Triathlon getting some depth.

I think Marvel did reprint “Sturm und Drang,” the later Genosha War storyline from #26-30, mostly because it was one of the only stories they had to prop up the Storm/Panther wedding in Hudlin’s series.

Marvel did allow basically the whole Priest run to be reprinted…in France. Sal Velluto and Bob Almond even did entirely original coversfor the TPBs over there.

T: Quantum & Woody was very good. A fun “buddy” series with several unforgettable moments.

Priest is the freakin man. Give him an issue one with a stellar artist and an a-list character (GASP! NEVER! We have to save all that for ANOTHER Bendis or Fraction title!) and I guarantee you he’ll hit out of the park farther than Brubaker on Cap or Fraction on Iron Man or Waid on Daredevil.

Easiest guarantee ever.

Back on usenet in the 90’s, the joke used to be that the crowd on rec.arts.comics was the Christopher Priest Fan Club. He never seemed to get the buzz he deserved elsewhere but he was very, very well regarded there. (It’s where I first heard of him and turned into a fan.)

I really wish he was still writing, his work was amazing.

Reading Priest’s website (highly recommended) sorta gives the impression that his early reputation as an ‘angry young man’ means that editors don’t trust him with high profile characters/books, so he invariably gets landed the soon-to-be-cancelled duds.

I’m with T.

I didn’t enjoy Priest’s work when he was called Jim Owsley – I liked him even less when I found that the issue of the Ray that I bought wasn’t in fact by the excellent novelist, but by a writer who I didn’t like who’d changed his name.

I also tried the first couple of TPBs of Black Panther after hearing so much about it and didn’t enjoy them either.

I’m with Adam in that I loved his Task Force and The Ray (and Steel!) but I gotta say that I LOVED the TF cast! The disfunction between them all is what was so great.

Its also nice to see Steel in one of the panels – and is that Ray and Gypsy too? (Triumph is alway left out! haha…) Their belt seems to have TF?

I miss his writing!

Okay, we’ve got Power Man & Iron Fist, Ka-Zar & Zabu, Moon Knight, Triumph & Gypsy from Justice League Task Force, Black Panther, Steel, Xero, the Ray, Hawkman, H.A.E.D.U.S. from Quantum & Woody and Solar. So who’s the guy in the mask by Hawkman? I’ve wondered ever since this issue came out…

That’s Green Lantern. Priest wrote GL’s run in Action Comics Weekly.

Mychael Darklighter

July 29, 2012 at 7:11 pm

“I liked him even less when I found that the issue of the Ray that I bought wasn’t in fact by the excellent novelist, but by a writer who I didn’t like who’d changed his name.”

please don’t tell me you liked the damn book before you knew it was him.

Ah the meta commentary works better for me now that i understand what he was trying to say.

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