In this feature I explore 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 (or sometimes even themselves) 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 take a look at something that I’ve been meaning to spotlight for as long as I’ve been doing this feature but a few people have also suggested it to me over the years, including our very own Greg Hatcher. The moment is in 1987’s Legends #5 by Len Wein, John Ostrander, John Byrne and Karl Kesel and the target of their teasing was Byrne’s former boss at Marvel Comics, Jim Shooter.
The setup for the issue is that Jim Shooter was the Editor-in-Chief for Marvel Comics for about nine years at this point. Whether fair or not, Shooter had gained a reputation for being a bit egotistical. Byrne had clashed with Shooter a bit, especially when Byrne began working on Superman for DC Comics the previous year.
In addition, in late 1986 Shooter had launched a new initiative for Marvel Comics, a new line of comics dubbed the “New Universe.” This line was based on a basic concept of “What would superheroes be like in the real world?” Shooter wrote the flagship title of the New Universe, Star Brand, about a young man who lived in Shooter’s hometown of Pittsburgh who gained a mysterious brand that gave him amazing powers.
Oh, and Jim Shooter was a tall, thin man with dark hair.
So now view the villain Guy Gardner fights in Legends #5 before Dr. Fate summons him to a new Justice League…
Do note that Byrne only DREW it, though. Ostrander plotted the issue and Wein scripted it. I don’t know if either guy had any issue with Shooter at the time.
NOTE: I am well aware that both Byrne and Shooter were involved in other similar meta-messages, including another one involving Byrne and Star Brand. Please do NOT discuss these other meta-messages in the comments. If you really want to share them, you can e-mail them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!