Because a prominent comics professional demanded it!
For those whose lives are busier than mine, please enjoy the edited highlights of the current John Byrne/Peter David fight. It’s nothing new, of course, just the continued bad blood of two men with beards and too much love for Spider-Man in their hearts, but that doesn’t stop it be entertaining.
It all started in a thread on the Byrne Board called “Has the Internet Ruined Comics?” (The answer, by the way, is “Only if you’re a retailer who liked Dragon Head“), when Byrne explained that spoilers were hard to avoid no matter where you lurk:
Peter David handed out xeroxes of Guardian’s death at a con about a month before the book shipped… To this day, he maintains he was. “I was doing my job!” — as PR flak for Marvel. Someday, I hope some asshole does the same to him.
Peter David replied over on his blog:
Nnnnnno. A popular lie of John’s, but no. Number one, it wasn’t at a convention; it was at a get-together for retailers. Number two, it wasn’t Guardian’s death. It was an unlettered two page dream sequence in which Heather was seeing a dessicated Guardian tearing out the ground. Number three, it was part of a package of about two dozen photocopied highlights from assorted Marvel titles. Number four, the material in question was handed to me by Denny O’Neil, the book’s editor when I–in my capacity as sales manager at the time–was going around collecting material to put into the package. And when I said to him, “Are you sure you want me to include this in the material?” Denny replied, “Sure, what’s the harm?” Number five, retailers at the get together had no idea that the sequence actually indicated that Guardian really died. I know this because when John showed up at the get-together, he looked at the material, screamed at me at the top of his lungs, “How could you be showing this to retailers?!? It gives away the fact that Guardian dies!” and stormed out of the room, slowing only long enough to kick over a standing ashtray on his way out. At which point stunned retailers said, “Guardian DIES?,” started looking at the xeroxes again, and were muttering, “I thought it was just a dream sequence…”
Suddenly, the battle was joined!
Byrne has problems with David’s recollection:
Well, not surprisingly, Peter David’s version is nearly completely wrong.
Let’s check the details. First, it was a convention. I was sitting at my table signing books and doing sketches when a fan came up to me and said “So Guardian is the one who’s gonna die, huh?” I smirked my best smirk and said “That woud be telling.” The guy smirked back and thrust the xeroxes at me. “No, I know it’s Guardian. Peter David is handing out xeroxes.”
I then sought out David and discovered that he was, indeed, doing just that, sitting behind his table and handing out xerox copies of the death scene (which did have Heather in it. He got that much right.) I exploded. I threw a fit — but nothing else. I demanded to know what the %#$@ he was doing sabotaging a story I had been working on for more than a year. A story whose Big Reveal the Alpha office had somehow managed to keep out of the fan press. David did his best deer-in-the-headlights impression, and said it was his “job” to promote the books. “BY GIVING AWAY THE ENDINGS??” By this time I was pretty much on the verge of having a stroke. To prevent myself throttling the little sh*t I left the room, in the process stumbling and falling over a chair. Howls of laughter in the room. (This became, in earlier iterations of the story, the chair “Byrne threw at Peter David.”)
When I confronted Denny, later, he professed complete ignorance of the whole thing. And, of course, he absolutely assured me there was no way in hell he would ever have authorized David handing out xeroxes of the end of the story.
It’s a typical tale that has grown in the telling, but this is the true version. And, as noted above, there are witnesses who support this version.
Post Script — I notice David leaves out of this version of his tale the bit of embroidery where he and Tom DeFalco had to come up to my room to “calm (me) down.” It’s a tangled web. Hard to keep track of all the strands.
David doesn’t find it such a delicate situation:
Well, at least now John is coming up with brand new lies. It’s a complete fabrication. Total bullshit. The only accurate part is this:
“Post Script — I notice David leaves out of this version of his tale the bit of embroidery where he and Tom DeFalco had to come up to my room to “calm (me) down.” It’s a tangled web. Hard to keep track of all the strands.”
Yes, I did leave that out since it wasn’t especially germaine to the lie. Tom and I went up to Byrne’s hotel room to try and calm him down, and I apologized profusely for having inadvertently upset him. I also assured him that I’d gone through the photocopies and removed the offending material, which I had.
Other than that, complete nonsense.
Meanwhile, Byrne has moved onto how David got his hands on the artwork in the first place:
Nothing more complex there than walking into an office and picking up the artwork. Sales and Marketing did that all the time. Sometimes there were mad scrambles to retrieve artwork that was not supposed to get out. This time, that didn’t happen.
As to the how and the why, if I have to chose between believing Peter David and believing Denny O’Neil, guess who wins?
Unsurprisingly, David has a different take on this:
The ONLY way I could have gotten it is to have it handed to me by the editorial office, and the ONLY person who would make the call as to what to show the public would be the editor overseeing that office (i.e., Denny.) The only other possible concept is that I snuck around to offices, found stuff I liked, took it without their knowledge, photocopied it and put it back. In which case I would have been fired. Does that scenario make ANY sense?
So, someone tried to contact Denny O’Neil himself to get his take on the situation. Except Denny ain’t playing. And who can blame him? Luckily, with the He Said, She Said coming to the end of everyone’s attention span, both David and Byrne try to sum up their positions. Peter, you can go first:
What it comes down to is this: People can construe it as my word vs. John’s. But that’s often the case in most court situations as well, at which point the requirement is to look for two things: Opportunity and motive.
Motive for my doing what John said I did? None. Nothing credible. Nothing even worth responding to.
Opportunity? To take the material in question (NOT the death of Guardian, as John keeps falsely maintaining, but a dream sequence from a subsequent issue) without editorial blessing? Could I have walked into an empty office, snuck out with it, and then returned it after having it photocopied, all without editorial sanction. Yes. Why would I? Goes back to motive: None. Risk my job, my sales career (my comic writing endeavors were still a year away)? Why? John offers no reason. There is none.
The only comment of John’s that borders on truth is when he asserts, in terms of the art, “Nothing more complex there than walking into an office and picking up the artwork. Sales and Marketing did that all the time. Sometimes there were mad scrambles to retrieve artwork that was not supposed to get out. This time, that didn’t happen.” Except sales and marketing never “picked up” artwork. We were always given artwork by the editorial offices, typically for solicits. On occasion, yes, they came by and asked for it back…typically because corrections still needed to be made. Doesn’t mean it wasn’t given to us by editorial in the first place.
Think about it. Think logically: What sort of insanity would it have been if we just walked away with artwork whenever we felt like it? Editorial would be in a constant state of panic…well, more than typical.
Everything was cleared. Everything.
Do I sound unapologetic? Damned straight. Know why? Because I felt miserable enough at the time. As John alluded, I desperately tried to make amends at the time (and keep in mind we’re talking only about two dozen photocopies; it went only to the retailers, no matter what lies John is now foisting upon his more credulous followers). I apologized profusely at the time. I even assured John that, if the AF office gave me artwork for solicits in the future, I’d call him personally to make sure it was okay (which I did).
Over a decade later he was bitching about it on the AOL boards.
Y’know what? When you do your best to make amends and it’s still not good enough–and you’re accused of being an art thief and liar to boot twenty two years later–being apologetic wears thin.
Final thought: Why do I remember it so clearly when others may not? Because I’m the one who had to come into the office Monday where my boss, Carol Kalish, said to me first thing–referring to the retailer cocktail party where the whole thing had happened–”So…I understand we spent $300 of Marvel’s money Friday night to host a John Byrne anecdote,” because that’s all anyone was talking about.
Failures like that tend to stay with you.
Now, you, John:
Just to sum up for late-comers: I am a liar, Denny O’Neil is a liar, but Peter David, whose story is different every time he tells it, is a bastion of truth.