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Forgotten Comics Wars
Or: How Angry Freelancers Made It Possible for A New Mainstream Comics Era (Including Vertigo) to Exist, Part 8
Here’s a taste — just a taste — of the various voices raised in the debate.
John Byrne was, at this time, working for DC Comics, writing and drawing Action Comics and Superman, and scripting Adventures of Superman. He had left Marvel Comics early in 1986 at peak sales of his work at that company; Byrne departed over reported friction with then-Marvel Vice President and Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter, an animosity reflected in DC Comics‘s Legends #5 (1987), penciled by Byrne (from a John Ostrander plot scripted by Len Wein), in which a villain named Sunspot was drawn to resemble Jim Shooter (mouthing dialogue like “I will remake this sorry world in my own image!… I’m in control! I am always in control!…” etc.).
Mark Martin was already known in some circles for his 1986 The Dark Knight Returns satire GnatRat: The Dark Gnat Returns, and was dosing us weekly with the celebrated (well, by some of us!) 20 Nude Dancers 20 for The Comics Buyer’s Guide, which was a tonic in these troubled times. The following letter appeared in the January 30, 1987 “O’So?” column in TCBG:
Matthew Levin had been working behind the counter of a New England comicbook store — Moondance Comics, in fact (Matt may have been teaching by the time this letter saw print, but if memory serves he was still working with Moondance). He was in the most vulnerable position of the trench war imaginable, albeit in states (Massachusetts, Vermont) that weren’t particularly targeted in these cultural turf wars:
Mark Evanier was among the most rational and seasoned voices raised in the controversy, in that Evanier had worked in both the comics industry and television and animation industries longer than almost any of the involved debate participants.
Mark had begun in comics working as an editorial assistant to Jack Kirby in the early 1970s, and at the time of this ratings debacle was enjoying considerable success (in comics) with his ongoing collaboration with Sergio Aragones on the terrific Groo the Wanderer, among other titles.
Mark was also one of the few participants who knew, from hard experience, what working within prescribed Standards & Practices really entailed, and he was among the most articulate and thoughtful critics of DC‘s proposed new policies:
Next: DC’s Response; Harlan’s Broadcast; DC’s Revisions…
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