After the success of the two-volume X-MEN COMPANION project proved it to be a profitable venture that helped to underwrite some of Fantagraphics other more high-minded publications, the company looked around for similar things that could be done that might likewise bring in some operating capital. By this point, the earlier amicable relationship with Marvel and Jim Shooter was breaking down, so their access to materials was a bit more limited. But Marvel was close to 70% of the marketplace at this time, and Fantagraphics mastermind Gary Groth knew that this was a market that he had to tap into in order to generate revenue. And so, Fantagraphics started to produce a series of albums each dedicated to a particular hot artist of the period–thus sidestepping the need to get direct permission from Marvel.

This particular volume focused on the work of John Byrne, probably the most popular artist then in the field. Like X-MEN COMPANION, it was conducted by Peter Sanderson, who was on good, friendly terms with Byrne. Rather than the X-Men, this conversation covers much of John’s FANTASTIC FOUR and ALPHA FLIGHT work.

With limited access to reproduction materials from Marvel, Fantagraphics had to get graphics from other sources, such as Byrne’s early fan work and work for other companies., as well as stuff they could get directly from Byrne himself.

2 thoughts on “FOCUS ON JOHN BYRNE

  1. “By this point, the earlier amicable relationship with Marvel and Jim Shooter was breaking down…”

    I’m not sure about that. The publication date on the copyright page says August 1984, but Byrne’s cover illustration is dated 1983. Shooter had hired Fantagraphics in 1983 to typeset the Mary Shelley text for the Wrightson Frankenstein book. There were no apparent problems with that project. I’m guessing work on this book began shortly after they finished. While Shooter doesn’t appear to have been involved with this project, Fantagraphics would have still needed a license to use Byrne’s cover illustration and the Marvel art on the inside. They couldn’t feature Marvel trademarks on a cover that prominently without permission, and the interiors would have been more than would have been allowable under fair use. I assume Shooter would have been able to veto any licenses for Fantagraphics if he’d wanted to. The copyright page says the Marvel liaison on the book was Sally Pomeroy, whom I gather worked in marketing.

    The rift between Shooter and Gary Groth seems to have happened in 1985, after Shooter voluntarily testified on Michael Fleisher’s behalf in the libel suit against Harlan Ellison and The Comics Journal. Shooter’s testimony provided evidence for reckless disregard for the truth re: DC’s editorial practices, and for the injury to Fleisher’s reputation in the comics market. Shooter probably would have been subpoenaed if he hadn’t agreed to testify, but doing so willingly was what burned his bridges with Groth. It was after Shooter was deposed that you begin seeing all the tendentious, cherry-picked anti-Shooter reporting in The Comics Journal. The most infamous example was the disgraceful coverage of the Kirby art-return situation.


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