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Monday, April 25, 2016

USENET Fandom - Fan reaction to John Byrne taking over Superman in the mid-80s: Feel the Byrne

Before we had the World Wide Web, we had UseNet. Developed in 1980, UseNet allowed a collection of computer users to interconnect via dial-up modems and post messages onto newsgroups (which resemble BBSes). Anywhere and anytime comic fans are able to congregate, you know they will be exchanging opinions and ideas about comic books - particularly DC comic books. In today's segment, Chris Sheehan examines what online comic fans were saying about Crisis on Infinite Earths. Please note: usernames have been removed for privacy reasons.

Over the past several entries, we dove in on SM’s discussion piece wherein he opines on the no-longer-rumor of John Byrne coming in to revitalize the Man of Steel for the complex 1980’s DC Comics fan. Today we will check in with some more of the conversation his post encouraged.

On October 19, 1985 negative-nelly TM adds:

Here’s a good example of an oddly contextualized complaint, in the form of questioning another’s Bible-literacy. The more things change, right? Byrne’s initial mission statement, which appeared in Comic Buyer’s Guide #623 (July, 1986) simply states (and I’m paraphrasing a bit here) that if he wants to read about a "supremely powerful guy who never screws up" he’d read the Bible. This was a comment that wasn't really begging for a response. Perhaps then, as now... the mere mention of religion and/or the texts thereof give certain folks an itchy throat that just needs clearing. No need to dig any deeper with that complaint... on to the next...

Byrne’s Fantastic Four having only "a years-worth of good stories" is a perfectly reasonable opinion to have. It has been many years since I made my way through it, though upon reflection, I would have to disagree with TM’s assessment. I may be more of a Byrne-booster (or victim, depending on one's mileage and vernacular), but I felt as though throughout much of the Fantastic Four run, he was able to keep things rather fresh. He renamed the Invisible Girl the Invisible Woman and made her a force to be reckoned with, he had a fantastic (pun intended) Galactus tale which led into the thought-provoking and controversial Trial of Galactus storyline. He shook up the team roster following Secret Wars with She-Hulk replacing the Thing. I’m not saying TM is necessarily wrong, as quality is surely subjective... however, to say Byrne only had a years-worth of stories in him, is a bit difficult for me to swallow.

Next up, about a week or so later on October 23, 1985 JSDY offers:

Well, did continuity die with Crisis? I suppose there is an argument to be made for that. I feel, however, the Crisis was a way in which to make DC continuity a bit more linear than it had been. Whenever I read I pre-Crisis story, be it in single-issue or collected edition format... I’m never quite sure what "matters" or even what "mattered" at the time. You can think back to creators like Bob Haney (who actually had a World named after him in the DC Multiverse to explain away how many of his stories took place... because he did not care about continuity). One issue, Batman would have a secret brother... who would never be heard from again. Somehow, on Earth-1 Justice Society members were having team-ups with Justice Leaguers as though they always occupied the same Earth.

With Crisis, everything was brought into one Earth. Everything suddenly tied together... and (at least to me) mattered. It very much felt like (and this was cause for many a complaint) the early Marvel Universe. Apropos of nothing, whodathunk emoticons existed in the mid-1980’s?

To discuss his closing shot, World’s Finest Comics finished its FORTY-FIFTH year (books barely last 45 weeks these days) run with issue #323 (January, 1986) with Superman and Batman going their separate ways. Get this... Batman was upset at Superman, for his recklessness and impetuosity. This is the pre-Crisis, not yet powered-down Superman, here... a guy who can more than take care of himself. I’m pretty sure Bats was also upset that Superman was infringing on his turf of back alleys. I think I gotta agree with JSDY on this one. This really was an odd way to dissolve their almost half-century (our time) partnership.

With Crisis on Infinite Earths winding down and a brave new DC Universe in the offing, it was decided that Superman and Batman while coexisting wouldn’t be the bosom buddies they were before. Many of their meet-ups post-Crisis would feel fairly contentious. It would be almost two full decades before the next Superman/Batman team-up book... which was called, well... Superman/Batman and would run from 2003 until the dawning of the New-52 in mid-2011.

That’ll do it for this time. Next time we will conclude our coverage on the discussion prompted by SM’s post, including some more minor criticisms on Byrne and another Power Girl theory. As I mentioned in our last few pieces... I know some corners of the interwebs have amazingly knowledgeable and passionate Superman fans, so if you have any additions or corrections, please feel free to contact me in care of this website. Thank you for reading.


Can't wait for the next installment in this series of articles? For more of Chris Sheehan, check out his highly recommended Chris is on Infinite Earths blog.

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