I didn’t pick up on this the first time I read Legends, but a few years later I re-read the series and was like, “Holy cripes! Those cats are roasting the bejeezus out of Big Jim Shooter!” I actually said that, yes. I talk like that all the time.
The scene in question introduces Sunspot, a rampaging villain who brags about how he has attained “the ultimate power."
Take note Sunspot’s outfit and the glowing “sunspot” in the palm of his hand, a not-so-subtle visual reference to Star Brand, the flagship title of Marvel’s New Universe line of books. Shooter was one of the key architects of the New Universe, which set a number of superhero titles in a pre-conceived shared universe that was supposedly “the real world.” The new Universe shared the same fate of all just-add-water comic universes - it imploded, sucking a number of titles and careers into a black hole from which there was no escape.
Anyway, Guy shows up and immediately begins talking smack and insulting Shoo - er, Sunspot. He is the perfect hero for this scene – all the other DC characters would have been too nice about it.
“You have no idea what atrocities I committed to gain this power – and now that I have it nothing will ever take it from me!”
Snarky! From what I understand, Shooter’s tight editorial control and management style put him in constant conflict with a lot of Marvel’s top talent, and a number of them defected to DC. I don't know if Ostrander and Wein were part of that exodus or if personal conflict was the reason why superstar artist John Byrne left Marvel in the Eighties to do Man of Steel for DC, but there clearly seems to be no love lost here. I mean, if you go out of your way to mock someone by proxy in a comic book, you either love the guy and are just screwin' with him, or you hate him. I'm going with b) in this case.
Anyway, back to the book. Guy Gardner is Guy Gardner after all, so he gets a couple of digs in at his fellow Green Lanterns during the fight, who he considers poseurs and lightweights. He may have a point: could any other Green Lantern pull of a fabulous turtleneck like Guy does? Kilowog, maybe, but beyond that?
Guy punctures a hole in the side of the oil tanker that Sunspot is holding over his head, spraying the dude with black goo. Guy easily shrugs off Sunspot's attacks - he's clearly not taking the situation very seriously:
Despite Sunspot's statement to the contrary, Guy makes a fool out of him. Dangling helplessly from a lariat of green power with mud (or oil) on his face, Sunspot can only rave maniacally about his ultimate power and about creating a New Universe. Then Sunspot makes what we parents call a "bad choice": he attempts to free himself from Guy's power ring by blowing his foot off.
Jim Shooter blew his foot off! Har Har!
This whole scene is just as catty as hell, but I like it. I have nothing against Jim Shooter - he doesn't owe me money or anything - so I don't know if he's deserving of the four-color diss, but Ostrander, Wein, and Byrne manage to work their big F.U. into Legends #5 without disrupting the flow of the series. Like I said, when I first read it as a wee bairn I had no idea they were blasting Shooter.
I do think that if you are going to pick one comic book character for a dirty job like that, you gotta go with Guy Gardner. It could have been worse for Shooter - they could have gone with Lobo.