Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practise to deceive!

backissue54coverBack Issue #54
Feb 2012

Published by TwoMorrows Publishing eight times per year, Back Issue celebrates comic books of the 1970s, 1980s, and today through a variety of recurring (and rotating) departments. That unassuming description from the TwoMorrows website hardly comes close to the level of awesome of this magazine. Recently changed at issue #52 to 84 pages of full color in a nice square-bound format, Back Issue is filled with lengthy articles about comic book characters, creators and events, not to mention tons of original art, unpublished pencil sketches and the occasional commission piece. Alpha Flight appears in this issue in one of those commission pieces, but under dubious circumstances.

In an article “Phoenix Rising” by Jim Ford, the entirety of the Dark Phoenix Saga, a story found at or near the top of nearly every “best X-Men story” list on the Internet, is told in great detail, along with several rare and unusual images of Jean Grey. A few of these are Byrne commissions, and one of them is quite an odd choice: a montage of X-Men characters commissioned back in 2010. Yes, Jean Grey is in the image but is so small and among so many other characters that it’s rather puzzling why this image was chosen in a Dark Phoenix Saga article.

backissue54bclick to enlarge

The actual image as published is a bit small, so here is a higher resolution version. The Alpha Flight characters in the image are Mac (costumed), Heather (not costumed), Northstar (scowling), Aurora, Sasquatch, Shaman and Snowbird (prev 4 all smiling). Aurora is holding a sign, that reads, “Bon Jour Nathan! Je T’amie!” For those of you who were reading Alpha Flight comics instead of paying attention in French class, that means, “Hello Nathan! I love you!”

More information about the original commission piece, and some interesting Alpha Flight tidbits, can be found at the official John Byrne website. The owner of the original commission piece is the extremely talented Nathan Greno, director of the Disney movie Tangled, and John Byrne fan extraordinaire.

An amateur colorist decided to download a scan of the commission, freely available at John Byrne’s website, colored it, and posted it online, which TwoMorrows then lifted, crediting it only as “artist John Byrne’s drawing of the X-Men cast of his legendary tenure.” The original commission piece from 2010 is shown below.

backissue54aclick to enlarge
(note: the link leads to a very high resolution image which is a rather large file)

Nathan later found out about TwoMorrows using this image without his permission. Unlike other instances when commission owners were publicly acknowledged in a subsequent issue after contacting TwoMorrows, no such acknowledgement has ever been published. When Joe Hollon wrote to TwoMorrows regarding an uncredited contribution published in Back Issue #53, TwoMorrows published an apology in issue #58:

Joe, our sincere apologies for that goof. We juggle so many images and image sources that occasionally an error like this occurs. Thanks for understanding-and for your art contribution.

The most likely explanation for the lack of apology to Nathan is that TwoMorrows was never contacted and informed of the error, but it’s still odd for them to have published the colored version of the piece without properly crediting it.

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