Poor John Byrne. If you listen to him, he’s the most misunderstood person in comics. Of course, if you listen to him, he’s reasonable and never gets into snitty arguments and fights with anyone. The latest target of his misguided ire is his entry on Wikipedia. Originally an informative retrospective of his entire career, detailing not only the work he’s done throughout the years, but the documented fan and industry response to his various projects, Byrne discovered it the other week and immediately set about to “correct” things.
Here’s the problem. Byrne didn’t just want to go through to clarify points or streamline the entry – he wanted to dismantle the entire page. He deleted everything except for the opening biographical paragraph and the bibliography. He deleted every bit of information regarding his career stages, his interactions with fans, pros, etc., claiming that the entire entry was fraught with inaccuracies and lies.
Thing is, they weren’t. Sure, some of the entries contained opinions, but the opinions were those that have been documented (sometimes by Byrne himself) as being opinions held by a sizable portion of fandom, right or wrong and have been well documented online and off, ie: Byrne’s self-inked artwork isn’t as well received as when Austin’s inking him. People may disagree, but over the years, this has been an opinion pretty strongly held by a good proportion of fandom to the degreee where it’s been reported in articles and discussed with Byrne himself in interviews. The Wiki entry mentioned this as being one opinion of his work, without presenting it as a stone cold fact. In any well researched biography, you’ll read accounts of the person, both positive and negative. So discussing, for example, Byrne’s relationship with Jim Shooter as it was reported in the press and through interviews during and after the time they worked together, is fair game. If Byrne doesn’t like how he comes off when people relate anecdotes or revisit his old interviews and message board postings, perhaps he should just become more conscious of what he’s saying or typing.
Unfortunately, Byrne will have none of this. In their anger and inability to understand how something like Wikipedia is a good thing, he and the fans on his messageboard went off on the entire site. Denouncing the entire concept of the Wikipedia project as something prone to lies, slander and outright poor information, they managed to raise such a stink that the head of the Wiki project himself stepped in and edited Byrne’s entry down to what Byrne wants. Think about that for a minute – the head of the Wikipedia project, a project consisting of thousands and thousands of entries which are self-policing and oftentimes are more accurate than even the printed Encyclopedia Brittanica, had to take time out of his day to edit the entry of a chronically bitter and angry comic book artist.
It’s a horrible precedent, allowing the subject of an entry determine what can and cannot be written about them. It would be one thing if the slanderous and innaccurate entries from one particularly psychotic fan were allowed to go through and remain in place, but the entire Wikipedia project has shown that self-policing is it’s greatest strength. If Byrne and Co. had actually followed the rules about correcting and modifying the entry, things would have worked out just fine and Wiki users wouldn’t have such a threadbare and useless entry as the result.
If you want to compare the old entry versus the one that Byrne edited it down to and then forced through by complaining to the head of Wikipedia directly, click here. I really don’t know if there’s a time limit on Wiki caching these, so enjoy it while you can.