A while back, I posted a four-part analysis of John Byrne's original tenure on The Incredible Hulk that found some measure of popularity and acclaim. (Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4) Interestingly, former Marvel Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter, who recently began blogging thanks to his friend JayJay (Janet) Jackson, today posted an article that answered a fan's question and at the same time raised another interesting point surrounding Byrne's departure from both Hulk and Marvel altogether for DC's shores in mid-1986.
I've heard all the theories out there about John Byrne's 1986 exit. The main literature out there tells that he may have felt that he had no choice but to leave due to the editorial climate. In my previous blogs, I pointed to comments made by Byrne that he and Editor-in-Chief Shooter had initially agreed to the direction he had in mind for the Hulk, but after the issues came out Shooter refused to let that direction continue as-was. A reply from Brian to the fourth entry suggested an alternate explanation, that it was less over the book's direction and more a disagreement about the storytelling device used for what would have been issue #320--the story that eventually became Marvel Fanfare #29, told entirely in splash pages. By some accounts Shooter didn't like that a story would be told in such a way and killed the story, driving Byrne from the book. It seems, from Shooter's commentary, that the latter is closer than I suspected.
There's a major caveat in this blog entry. Now, I suppose in light of recent comments made by Gary Groth at The Comics Journal website about how Shooter may have distorted the facts about Marvel's 1980s dealings with Jack Kirby, the details of this chain of events may also be suspect. I'll go ahead and repost Shooter's musings just the same, and you can make your own judgments. If you care to read further, the full text is at his blog.
During the nine plus years that I was EIC at Marvel, only three times did an assistant editor come to me privately to complain about the editor he or she worked for. Two times, it was an assistant of [Denny O'Neil's], two different assistants. The complaint from both was that Denny left too much work to them, and spent the day writing his freelance scripts.
[A] number of issues from Denny's office made it into print that had serious flaws or things that were unacceptable -- including several by John Byrne.
After one particularly bad incident, I finally confronted Denny and told him he'd better start doing his job. That very day, I think, a John Byrne Hulk job came in, finished, lettered and inked, that was all splash pages. Denny thought I'd go ballistic when I saw it, so he rejected it! And he told John it was because I, Jim Shooter, didn't approve.
John was the one who went ballistic. He quit, contacted [Jim Galton] the President of Marvel and demanded I be fired. The President called me and asked who the hell John Byrne was, and to please keep these people from bothering him.
At any rate, as previously stated, when the above happened, Publisher Mike Hobson ordered me to fire Denny, and I did.
Here's the twist ending. I never even saw the rejected book! I assumed that Denny had given it back to John. I didn't even know why Denny had rejected it, only that he did. I didn't know it was all splash pages. Months later, Al Milgrom found the rejected book in a drawer and brought it to me. He liked it. So did I. I thought it was great. Al looked into the situation and found out that Byrne hadn't been paid for it, got him paid and ran the job in Marvel Fanfare. (Fanfare jobs paid rate-and-a-half, so it turned out to be a good deal for John.)
Know this: John and I weren't on the best of terms before all of the above happened. I had objected to some things he'd done in the books, and nixed a few things he'd wanted to do; and he had objected to my objections. So, maybe he would have left Marvel eventually anyway because of me.
If true, this situation explains not only why we had a new writer/artist with issue #320 in Allen Milgrom, but also why editor O'Neil was gone, replaced in the same issue by Bob Harras. It makes a degree of sense, since it seems highly unusual for two major creative shifts to occur in the same month.