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 a time that Dwayne McDuffie worked some of his frustrations over how his Justice League was handled into the comics themselves!
As I explained in last week’s Comic Book Legends Revealed, the late Dwayne McDuffie had a lot of trouble with editorial interference on his run on Justice League of America.
Besides seeing his stories halted or changed to tie in to whatever crossover was going on at the time, he also saw almost the ENTIRE team that he took over when he became the writer on the book be taken away for various reasons (“This guy’s dead.” “This guy we have other plans for,” etc. etc.).
After a year or so of this, McDuffie did a storyline that was all ABOUT the idea of seeing the Justice League pulled out from underneath you. Beginning in Justice League of America #25, the trickster god Anansi spins his web and alters reality, changing the origins for all the members of the Justice League, leaving Vixen alone in a world she doesn’t know…
Vixen, however, manages to convince these alternate world Justice League members to help her, even if success would result in their destruction…
There are a number of metafictional comments by Anansi in the story arc, like how Animal Man became “too serious” to wear a costume, or the great line above about the problem with shared continuity.
As far as Meta-Messages go, this was more subtle than most, and in fact, if McDuffie had not specifically laid it out on is wbesite back in the day, I would be unsure of whether to even COUNT it. But, as he said himself, the whole story WAS a big ol’ meta-message:
Yes, Anansi is supposed to be me, and the story arc is about my not having control of the stories in my book. Ironically, both [the Anansi/Vixen] story and the parallel Red Tornado arc were supposed to be smaller B and C plots in a much larger arc (involving Luthor’s plan from my first arc, Starro, and Despero) that I wasn’t able to do because of other plans in the DCU.
One of the alternate Justice League members (not shown here) is also a fun critique by McDuffie about an old unpublished DC story. I’ll feature that one in the future, so please don’t spoil it in the comments, folks!
Okay, that’s it for this installment!
If anyone has a suggestion for a Meta-Message, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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