John Byrne…The Ogre

Now that I've got your attention, I would like to have an open discussion regarding John Byrne. I think without a doubt he is one of the most prolific and important artists from the Bronze Age to today.

Now that I’ve got your attention, I would like to have an open discussion regarding John Byrne. I think without a doubt he is one of the most prolific and important artists from the Bronze Age to today.

I have heard all the stories about the negative press he has received over the years, from his opinion that the deals that Kirby and the other Gold and Silver Age artists received, were nothing more than what the market place was like in those days.

That he was “difficult” at  conventions and hard to work with, but really…who cares? He writes and draws some of the best comics to have come out in the last 40 years. That’s right, over 40 years in the business, and still producing entertaining stories.

John Byrne is like the Paul McCartney of comic artists! The debate has raged regarding McCartney just like Byrne, that his best work is behind him and that is that. Again…who cares? No one is putting a gun to anyone’s head to buy any of his books so you are voting with your pocket books.

There were many series that I didn’t follow at the time when they were being produced, but you know what, every year at one Comic Con or another, I pick up a complete series of something or other that Byrne has done that I never read, and find myself thoroughly enjoying it.

Wonder Woman issue 101 page 4 by John Byrne

When you were a part of one of the greatest story lines ever in the Bronze Age, and of course I am speaking of the Dark Phoenix storyline and Days of Future Past, it is a tough act to follow. But follow it he did with thousands, make that tens of thousands of pages, of some of the best runs and memorable runs of the last 40 years. Lets just name a few shall we? How about The Fantastic Four, The Avengers, Amazing Spider-Man, Superman, Wonder Woman, Alpha Flight, Jack Kirby’s Fourth World, Iron Man, Hulk, Sub-Mariner, John Byrne’s Next Men, Marvel Two in One, The Thing, She Hulk, Spider Women, and on and on it goes! There is a longer list of titles that I didn’t mention, than the list I did.

I have kept my eye on Byrne since Doomsday + One for Charlton and all the way right up to Doomsday.One for IDW. I really enjoyed the IDW storyline and at Fan Expo I picked up a 4 issue mini series from last year called “The High Ways” as well as the complete run of Byrne’s Doom Patrol. Both very enjoyable indeed.

So if you are looking for something interesting, may I recommend something that Byrne has done over the years that you may not have purchased and give it a read. The runs are usually very reasonable to purchase and in high grade to boot!

I recently read that for the first time in his long career he hasn’t much of a desire to slave on page after page of sequential art but is having a blast with the current Star Trek photo books, and busy doing commissions.

I for one hope he gets the bug back very soon and starts spinning some more great stories for a long time to come.

In closing, there is a great book called Modern Masters Volume Seven from TwoMorrows Publishing that has a great interview as well as a ton of great John Byrne artwork from all eras of his career (see below).

I hope you enjoy the Wonder Woman artwork from Issue #101 page 4 from my collection.

Continued happy collecting!

Dennis De Pues
Dennis De Pues

Dennis is an admitted "Son of the Silver Age", having grown up with the influences of Silver Age greats: Kirby, Colan, Romita and Buscema.Three decades later, he is the creator of Crash!! and Galloway Park. More is definitely on the way.

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James Colby
James Colby
9 years ago

Byrne has done some really good work. But since this is an open discussion, here’s my take:

Being opinionated is one thing. Proudly announcing your controversial opinions on a variety of subject gets you labelled (right or wrong) as racist, sexist, etc. Throwing your co-workers under the bus gets you despised and lampooned (Booster Cogburn).

Who cares you ask? Usually not me – there seem to be a lot of artists that people idolize yet wouldn’t be able to be in the same room with them for ten minutes. I can separate the work from the person, unless it’s in my face, which John Byrne has historically allowed it to become through lack of discretion and sense of self righteousness. Then it affects how I see the work, and as you said, I”ll vote with my pocket book. And I’m sure he’d be the first to agree – he “doesn’t suffer fools gladly”, and if you don’t like the way he is, don’t buy his stuff.

But I’m also the type that would turn the channel if Baltimore was playing Monday night and Ray Rice was on the field, even though I’ve got no problem with his work as a football player. It would taint what I saw on the field, and the NFL knows it.

PS: taking a break, for whatever reason, is probably a good thing for Byrne. The general consensus is that his early work is his best, and later work is “uninspired”. Maybe there’s a price to be paid for being so prolific.

Charlie Kim
9 years ago

James, a very well thought out commentary. I wish people would offer more honest opinions on this site as you have. It shows you care and your train of thought demonstrates your smarts.

I think too many people attach a celebrity status to creatives. While I admire and have been inspired by many people, they are “people” none the less and by definition flawed. For me, the question isn’t why am I not more like Brad Pitt… but rather, why isn’t Brad Pitt more like me? Although I’ve heard and read about… and even met some of these celebrated people I don’t really know them. Guys like Jackson Pollock were major league a-holes but history has defined him as a genius… Go figure, means nothing to me.

I hear young kids in comic stores talking about how Byrne hasn’t been able to change his style… but these guys don’t get it. Byrne has always been about making the “fantastic” seem real. His craftsmanship has slipped over the years but who’s hasn’t? That’s what becoming old is all about and none of us can escape it. The fact that Byrne can keep it going is pretty impressive in my book.

I’m not defending or making excuses for Byrne. Byrne may or may not be a douche but I still collect his books. I don’t buy his books so he can pay his bills or because “he’s so awesome”… While it’s true that there are very few people who can match his skill for telling stories… at the end of the day… it’s not about him, it’s about me. As long as I continue to enjoy his work I’ll keep collecting.

mel taylor
mel taylor
9 years ago

Talk about Byrned bridges. I remember when he was doing Alpha Flight he wore his Canadian identitiy on his sleeve. Just last year, though, when he was approached to do a pin-up for the Nelvana reprint project, he declared that he no longer considered himself Canadian, from what I heard, and declined. Do I think he is arrogant? Take a look at that great Fantastic Four documentary that came with the extras for the DVD. Many creators weighed in on their time with the title. When it gets to the John Byrne run, there is something akin to an ethereal choir singing as his images of the FF are flashed by. No personal appearance. No comments or insight. He’s a no-show. Byrne may have done a stellar run on the FF, but can’t be bothered weighing in. That was my cue to dispose of his entire output. Add to that his snotty remarks about creator rights way back when, and you have the makings of a genuine dick!

6 years ago