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Meta-Messages - Mister Fantastic Disses Heroes Reborn

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 John, we take a look at Scott Lobdell's not-so-subtle swipe at Heroes Reborn in the first issue of Fantastic Four following Heroes Return...

In 1996, Marvel made headlines when it essentially farmed out four of their oldest superhero properties to outside comic book studios, both studios which were then part of Image Comics. Dubbed "Heroes Reborn," Marvel gave Fantastic Four and Iron Man to Jim Lee's Wildstorm Studios (which was still a couple of years away from splitting from Image when Lee would sell the studio to DC Comics in 1998) and Captain America and the Avengers to Rob Liefeld's Extreme Studios (who was less than a year from splitting from Image, as well).

Jim Lee personally saw to Fantastic Four, as he and his writing partner, Brandon Choi, and his inker, Scott Williams, rebooted the series in Fantastic Four Volume 2 #1.

What always struck me about the reboot was just how much reverence Lee clearly had for the concept. Of the Heroes Reborn books, the WIldstorm Studios books were a step above the Extreme Studios books (Marvel actually gave the Extreme Studios books to Wildstorm after just six issues), and Fantastic Four was a step above Iron Man, so I guess you could say that Fantastic Four was the top of the line for Heroes Reborn. And that was the issue, in a nutshell, as it still wasn't all that good, as the reverence was great, but it then led to essentially just a jazzed up version of the original Stan Lee/Jack Kirby origin, only with an extra-sized first issue (plus most of a second issue) to tell the same origin story Lee and Kirby told in a few pages...

In the second issue, after SHIELD rescues them from Monster Island, they get their new team name...

In 1997, after the experiment ended (WHY it ended is still up for debate - I guess I'll just have to address it in a future Comic Book Legends Revealed!), Marvel revealed that Franklin Richards was responsible for creating this alternate Earth in an attempt to save his family (and the other heroes) after their final showdown with the malevolent being, Onslaught, at the end of the Onslaught crossover (it was that crossover that launched Heroes Reborn). So now the Fantastic Four and the other heroes were back on Earth.

Dubbed "Heroes Return," the four titles (and eventually Thor, as well, who was part of Avengers during Heroes Reborn but did not have his own solo title) relaunched with high profile creative teams.

Fantastic Four #1 (Volume 3) was done by Scott Lobdell, Alan Davis and Mark Farmer (although their run was only three issues before Chris Claremont and Salvador Larroca took over the book)...

The first issue was basically a sort of meta-fictional celebration of the FF's return, from both their enemies...

and their fans...

While also including a bit explaining where they went...

But the bit we're really discussing this time around is the not-so-subtle swipe that Lobdell takes at Heroes Reborn (which was weird, since Lobdell worked on Iron Man during Heroes Reborn) through the mouth of Mr. Fantastic...

It's a good thing Johnny Storm was on hand for such a burn!

Okay, that's it for this installment! Thanks again, John! John actually also suggested a Things That Turned Out Bad for later today, as well!

If anyone has a suggestion for a Meta-Message, drop me a line at bcronin@comicbookresources.com.

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