13 Outstanding — and Obscure — JOHN BYRNE Works: A Birthday Salute

The great writer/artist was born 73 years ago on July 6, 1950...


I’m an unabashed, unapologetic, undeterred John Byrne fan, and have been most of my life. I knew his work before I knew his name, but when I picked up a copy of the brand-new X-Men #108 back in 1977, I had a name to connect with that work, and from then on, I was a so-called Byrne Victim.

To me, John’s one of the quintessential writer-artists of the comics industry, and rightfully so. He has set his indelible mark on some of not only the biggest properties in comics, but in pop culture in general. His credits are the bucket list that all other industry creators aspire to.

X-Men #108

And yet, I think it’s some of John’s more obscure works that are my favorites. Sure, I think his Superman and Fantastic Four are required reading and always will be, but for every one of those—and for every X-Men, Iron Fist, etc., etc.—there is a lesser-known issue or series that may feel like more personal projects for him, and therefore just as worthy.

Sadly, and again in my opinion, I think John’s beginning to be forgotten a bit among comic fans, and that’s troubling to me. But that’s what I’m here for today, to wish the guy a Happy Birthday, and to tell you about 13 of my favorites among the Obscure Byrne — in chronological order. Enjoy.

Space: 1999 #5 (Charlton, 1976). John did four issues of Charlton’s seven-issue Space: 1999 run, but I think this is the one I dig the most. That cover is still one of my most favorite Byrne covers of all, and I love the “Gods of Planet Olympus” story he did with writer Nicola Cuti. It’s like a primer for similar things he’d do later.

Incredible Hulk Annual #7 (Marvel, 1978). I can remember the day I bought this off the rack at Sam’s Drugs, and how much I loved it after devouring the story. It’s got everything, and the Master Mold just for good measure. John wrote and drew this one, with a plot assist from another all-time favorite of mine, Roger Stern.

Bob Layton inks

OMAC: One Man Army Corps #1 (DC, 1991). A longtime Kirby fan, John produced many of his own takes on Jack’s characters and concepts, and this is one of the most ambitious of them, I think. The interior art is all black and white with some shading, endowing the story with a stark reality.

Green Lantern: Ganthet’s Tale (DC, 1992). Anyone remember this one? I loved it when John would devote the time and energy to a graphic novel like this, and while I was never the biggest GL fan, I got swept up in his interest in the franchise, and the bigger story of the Corps he was trying to tell.

Action Comics Annual #6 (DC, 1994). As you’ll see, 1994 seemed to be some kind of halcyon year for the Obscure Byrne. I’m not the biggest fan of alternate-universe superhero stories, but this is one great alternate-history Superman story, kicking off during the American Revolution.

Mike Mignola cover

Babe #3 (Dark Horse, 1994). Remember back in the ’90s when John and an incredible cast of creators operated under the Dark Horse imprint known as “Legend”? This was one of the oddball projects he produced then, a four-issue series that while probably not terribly “PC” today, was a fun alternative to the mainstream superhero books. Oh, please remember that “PROTOtykes” name there on the cover…

Byrne art painted by Gary Cody

PROTOtykes Holiday Special (Dark Horse, 1994). John followed up the debut of his humorous “kid gang” creation in Babe with this one-shot, probably a true Obscure Byrne curiosity. I loved the way he was trying so many different things back in the Legend days.

Aliens: Earth Angel #1 (Dark Horse, 1994). Sometimes you never really knew where John was going to turn up next to offer up a look at a popular franchise that was wholly his own. Track this one down if you’re a Xenomorphs fan.

Darkseid vs. Galactus: The Hunger (DC Comics, 1995). Big guy at DC, big guy at Marvel—so it only stood to reason the two companies would let John take two of their biggest (literally and figuratively) characters, both created by Jack Kirby, natch, and match them up in a death match that was made in fanboy heaven. There was no one else but John who deserved to do this one. By 1995, he’d earned it.

Torch of Liberty Special (Dark Horse, 1995). This one was “only” scripted by John, but I love it for several reasons — it’s obscure; I dig the Captain America-inspired character; and it’s drawn by John’s then-stepson, Kieron Dwyer, an amazing artist in his own right.

Kieron Dwyer

Lab Rats #4 (DC, 2002). Another somewhat experimental book, this time with DC. It only lasted eight issues, which is a shame because it was part of the DCU at the time (see that Superman costume on the cover?). The book also holds special meaning for me due to the fact that I had a letter of comment printed in it.

Cold War #1 (IDW, 2011). John’s Bond-esque thriller concept, which I always wanted to see more of, because it was a lot of period fun. Another one I recommend you track down.

Trio #1 (IDW, 2012). Here’s John, back to doing what I think he did best: superheroes. Another fun ride.


— Here’s Your Second Chance to Get JOHN BYRNE’S X-MEN ARTIST’S EDITION. Click here.

— MARVEL Solicits Two Big JOHN BYRNE Omnibus Editions For the Fall. Click here.

When JIM BEARD’s not editing and publishing through his two houses, Flinch Books and Becky Books, he’s pounding out adventure fiction with both original and licensed characters. In fact, he’s put words in the mouths of Luke Skywalker, Superman, Fox Mulder, Carl Kolchak, Peter Venkman and the Green Hornet… and lived to tell about it. His latest pop culture non-fiction tome is D20 or Die!, available here.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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  1. I agree about John being forgotten. I wish we could get new work from him if he has the desire to do so. I’ve always enjoyed his X-Men, FF and Superman….. Doom Patrol. I didn’t always agree with some of his takes on things, but they were never so out there to tear down what came before.

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  2. Have a few of those. Big Byrne fan. Really catapulted Wolverine into legend status. Nice post

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  3. Contrast that Space 1999 cover with the Aliens cover… I really perfer the more clean lines of the Space 1999 one, rather than all the debris noodling he relied on in later years. As a matter of fact, when I think of that OMAC series, that’s all I picture in my mind – dark, violent, full of debris.

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    • Then my work here is done (keyboard drop).

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  4. Next Men was really outstanding too. And his recent Leonard McCoy, Frontier Doctor is fantastic.

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