Friday, August 21, 2015

Limited Editions

In late 1998, Amazing Spider-Man ended its amazing 35-year run, only to relaunch in January of 1999 as--well, Amazing Spider-Man. It wasn't the only Marvel title to be inexplicably reset before the turn of the century; for instance, the web-spinner's sister mag, Spectacular Spider-Man, was given similar treatment at the same time and was replaced with Peter Parker, Spider-Man. (In both cases, the issue numbers would shift back to the original numbering after about three years or so--and, just to make sure readers were driven completely insane by the process, both sets of issue numbers would appear simultaneously for a few issues in order to ease the reader back into the original sequence.)

Writer Howard Mackie would initially script both new titles; while John Byrne, who had been writing Spectacular, took over as artist on Amazing. At least for a while. Byrne's limited appearances on various titles became almost a running joke, signing on to jump-start a title only to abandon ship after ten or fifteen issues--though to be fair, other writers and artists have made similar arrangements occasionally.

Byrne turned in truly exquisite work on the new Amazing (along with inker Scott Hanna and others) while he was aboard, and Mackie (who probably should be given credit for persevering through the dreaded "clone saga") took both Spider-Man and Peter Parker in some interesting directions. Featured here are a few of Byrne's double-page spreads from the book.

The same year, Byrne also took over as regular scripter on the relaunched Hulk title, with artist Ron Garney pencilling--again, beginning with issue #1, but this time shifting back to the previous title's numbering after just two years. Byrne would stay with the new title just seven issues, despite this optimistic wording in the welcome message on the new letters page:

" might be asking yourself... why start over? Well, perception is everything, and with a new team on the book and a new direction in store for Banner, we thought a clear demarcation was in order. After all, it's not every day that you get two of the biggest names in comics to join together with the express purpose of working on a character close to their hearts!"

And by all appearances, Byrne appeared vested in this title, even adding a clever insert of the Hulk's background while injecting himself and Garney into a briefing with Nick Fury. You'd certainly think they planned on more than seven issues worth of plans for the Hulk:

On the Hulk title, double-page spreads were again the order of the day--which might have been a good thing, as only the additional page space could have accommodated Garney's bold attempts to have the Hulk and his actions make as much of an impact as possible.

As for Byrne, he would pivot from these two titles to writing and pencilling X-Men: The Hidden Years until the series folded in 2001, at which time he would leave Marvel for DC.

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