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, based on a suggestion from reader Smokescreen, we take a look at an amusing piece of meta-commentary by Chris Claremont and Alan Davis about Claremont and John Byrne’s rival Marvel crossovers from the late 1980s.
It is interesting to look back now, when the company-wide comic book crossover has become such an ingrained part of our comic book culture, that there was a time when they were a true novelty. When Marv Wolfman and George Perez began Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985, few titles wanted to tie in with the crossover, figuring it wouldn’t be of much use to them. By the time the series concluded, practically every DC comic had a tie-in.
Soon, being the person in charge of the company wide crossover became a real feather in your cap, a tradition that has continued to this day.
But up until 1989, Marvel had only had one company-wide crossover driven by one person, and that was Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter’s Secret Wars II (the original Secret Wars was a slightly different format).
In 1988 and earlier in 1989, Marvel used their annuals for a companywide crossover, but there was no central writer behind either the Evolutionary War or Atlantis Attacks.
That changed with 1989’s Inferno, which spun out of Chris Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men run and was coordinated by Claremont (Claremont had been involved in both Evolutionary War and Atlantis Attacks). Later in 1989, John Byrne (who had played a significant role in Atlantis Attacks upon his return to Marvel after finishing his run on the Superman titles at DC Comics) took his spot at the head of the crossover class with Acts of Vengeance, which spun out of the Avengers books, which were both written by Byrne at the time.
One major companywide crossover followed so shortly by ANOTHER major companywide crossover was a big deal at the time, and it was something that Claremont did not let pass without some commentary in the pages of Excalibur #14, written by Claremont and Alan Davis and drawn by Davis and Paul Neary.
The cover of the comic parodied Marvel’s Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe…
The issue was part of the long-running Cross-Time Caper storyline, where Excalibur traveled all over Marvel’s Multiverse to various interesting alternate Earths.
This Earth is basically a parody of companywide crossovers, with Byrne’s “Acts of Vengeance” crossover being spotlighted in particular (it hadn’t even BEGUN yet, oddly enough, but already Claremont was teasing it – the idea of Acts of Vengeance was that all the biggest bad guys got together and decided to organize a calculated assault on the world’s superheroes by having villains trade off and fight heroes they normally wouldn’t fight)…
Finally, we see that this world is being controlled by two men, one wearing an X and one an A, who keep trying to top each other…
In the end, Galactus decides to destroy this Earth because it is just too silly…
We then learn that it was created by this universe’s Impossible Man.
In any event, this was some cute commentary by Claremont and Davis on the inherent silliness of companywide crossovers (they are awesome, though, even if they are silly).
This is not the end of the Byrne-related Meta-Messages in Excalibur, by the way, but that’s for another time! So don’t discuss it in the comments.
However, if you have an idea for ANOTHER Meta-Messages, feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks again to Smokescreen for this week’s suggestion!