10 Amazing Comic Storylines Derailed By Editorial Politics
4. Death And Return Of Jean Grey
The Dark Phoenix Saga is widely considered one of the greatest comic book stories ever created, and yet the story was strongly guided by editorial input that went on to have a negative impact for Marvel years after it was first published.
In its original form, the storylines creative team, Chris Claremont and John Byrne intended for Jean Grey, who had been consumed with the dark cosmic Phoenix Force, to atone for her sins (which included the destruction of an entire planet) and survive the ordeal. But Marvel's editor-in-chief, Jim Shooter, refused to publish the story unless Jean faced legitimate consequences for her actions. Shooter essentially dared Claremont to kill Jean off, and that's exactly what he did in the arc's final chapter in Uncanny X-Men #138.
As it worked out, Shooter's interference arguably made for a better story, despite the shock of Jean's death. But the story doesn't end there. By the mid-1980s, Byrne had moved on to begin an epic run writing and penciling Fantastic Four, producing some of the title's greatest stories since the original Stan Lee/Jack Kirby collaboration.
During this time, Marvel decided to resurrect Jean for its new X-Factor series. Taking a suggestion from fan (who turned out to be future comic book writer Kurt Busiek), Jean's body was found in a cocoon in Jamaica Bay and it was just the Phoenix Force impersonating her during the Dark Phoenix Saga. Despite the contrivances of this story, the idea was green-lit and Jean was to be brought back in issues of the Avengers and the Fantastic Four. However, Claremont continued to take ownership of the character even though he was not involved in either series.
According to Sean Howe's book, Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, Claremont convinced Shooter to change two of Byrne's pages in Fantastic Four, which infuriated the writer/artist. That incident, combined with some other clashes with editorial, convinced Byrne to leave his exclusive contract with Marvel (in the middle of a Fantastic Four arc) for DC, where he played a key role in rebooting Superman in the mid-1980s.
Mark is a professional writer living in Brooklyn and is the founder of the Chasing Amazing Blog, which documents his quest to collect every issue of Amazing Spider-Man, and the Superior Spider-Talk podcast. He also pens the "Gimmick or Good?" column at Comics Should Be Good blog.