JOHN BYRNE ON FX, ANGEL, NEXT MEN AND MORE - NEWSARAMA





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Old 01-08-2008, 06:57 AM   #1
MattBrady
 
JOHN BYRNE ON FX, ANGEL, NEXT MEN AND MORE

by Benjamin Ong Pang Kean

For those who�ve been out of the loop since the start of the new year, it was announced that one of comics� living legends John Byrne will be exploring new frontiers when he tackles a couple Star Trek comic book projects, namely Star Trek: Alien Spotlight: Romulans and Star Trek: Assignment Earth, for IDW Publishing in 2008.

He�ll also be introducing a new hero for the ages in FX, a comic book commissioned by creator and writer Wayne Osborne and the first of six issues is due in stores from IDW in March.

This week will see the release of the first part of a five-part bi-weekly JLA Classified epic which reunites him with veteran creator Roger Stern.

So, what�s next for the 57-year-old Byrne?

Although well-known for his works on Uncanny X-Men, Fantastic Four, Alpha Flight, and the 1986 relaunch of DC�s Superman franchise, Byrne ventured into the unpredictable waters of creator-owned works in the early 1990s when he launched John Byrne�s Next Men through Dark Horse in 1991. This was around the speculator boom period led by Valiant Comics and Image Comics, which later led to an industry-wide implosion in the late 90s. �Jim Lee asked me to join Image before it was even Image,� Byrne posted on his Byrne Robotics forum. �I had just signed on (metaphorically) with Dark Horse, to do Next Men, so declined since I am a man of my word. It still saddens me that such a thing seemed an elusive concept to Jim. He really could not understand why my having promised Next Men to Dark Horse meant that I could not just walk away from them and do the book with Malibu/Image.�

Following he success of Next Men, he went on to create the four-issue Danger Unlimited and another four-issue miniseries Babe in 1994. Just when things were taking off, Byrne ended Next Men with issue #30, although he had repeatedly stressed that Next Men was not cancelled. In another thread on Byrne Robotics, he posted that �I put the book on hiatus so I could clean the pipes and return envigorated, and thru bad timing I happened to do so at precisely the moment the bottom fell out of the market. I have been waiting for some kind of sanity to return to test the waters once again with this series.�

There was also a prequel/sequel to Next Men entitled John Byrne�s 2112. �2112 began as a sci-fi graphic novel,� he posted. �When Stan Lee contacted me about becoming his co-creator on a Marvel "Futureverse" [Newsarama Note: This was The Marvel World of Tomorrow, announced by Lee in his �Stan�s Soapbox� column, which was then changed to Marvel 2093 before finally being published as Marvel 2099 in 1993.] I realized many of the elements I had in mind for my GN would work well with what Stan had in mind. So I reworked my plot to add Marvel Universe elements. Then the deal with Marvel went south and I reclaimed the elements that were wholly mine. This sat in a drawer for several months, until I decided to do Next Men, and realized the sci-fi graphic novel could find a new life yet again, as a "sequel" to Next Men.�

Well, several of those projects will be returning to comics once again, this time as black and white reprints in the form of �phone books� from IDW.

We spoke with Byrne about his views on the current comic book industry, his work on FX, a Lorne story for the Angel comic series, his "big, honkin' black and white� John Byrne�s Compleat Next Men �phone book� and possibly a continuation of his Next Men series at IDW?

FX

Newsarama: What drew (no pun intended) you to Wayne Osborne's creation in the first place? I'm sure (and I hope) that it wasn't just about the money that he paid you for the commissions!

John Byrne: Well, it wasn't not about the money! For 20 years or more I have been putting out this general offer -- for X amount of dollars, I will create a whole comic book, just for you! I assumed someone would come along and ask for Batman vs. Iron Fist or something of that nature, but Wayne had his own characters he wanted to see me draw. Initially, it was just the one issue. Then Wayne got himself a publisher, and asked me to do five more.

NRAMA: How do you view the current comic book industry?

JB: With a jaundiced eye. Much of what is being produced today seems more like fanzines than professional publications.

NRAMA: How do you think veterans in the industry could contribute to and play their role in shaping the future of the industry?

JB: The comic book industry has never really been one to pay much attention to its past, and this includes the talent. When I got in, back in the mid 1970s, Jack Kirby was being dismissed as "Jack the Hack" and Steve Ditko was already having trouble getting anything but the most marginalized of work.

NRAMA: Do you think that special event series like Civil War and Infinite Crisis have helped the comic industry raise its game or merely re-hashed old storylines?

JB: They have certainly been no help, except in the most limited financial sense. And there only by playing almost exclusively to the lingering remnants of the speculator mentality, the selfsame mentality that almost destroyed -- some might argue did destroy -- the industry in the 1990s.

NRAMA: Do you think that FX stands a chance against the increasingly overcrowded comic book market nowadays?

JB: Depends on how you define "a chance". Will Wayne make his money back? Maybe. Will the book be a huge, breakout success? Depends on whether the shifting winds blow its way, and for some reason it is chosen as a "hot" book. Unfortunately, if the latter happens, it will have little or nothing to do with content.

NRAMA: What do you and Wayne hope to prove with FX?

JB: Not sure about Wayne, but I have no notions of proving anything.

NRAMA: As a veteran writer yourself, did you find it easy to work with a fan of your work who's just starting out as a comic book writer?

JB: I went into this with some degrees of apprehension, to be sure. I expected to earn every cent of my fee! But I was able to persuade Wayne to approach this "Marvel Style" -- plot, art, script -- and that eliminated about 90% of the mistakes newbie writers make.

NRAMA: What're Wayne's strengths as a writer?

JB: He has a very clear vision of his characters. I tossed in a few ideas along the way, which he incorporated, but mostly everything on the page is who he wanted those people to be.

NRAMA: Have you completed all six issues?

JB: Four out of six are done. I should be getting #5 and #6 done by mid-February.

NRAMA: How much time did you spent drawing FX? How long did it take for you to finish a page?

JB: These are pages done in the "modern" style, with the lettering (after the first issue) to be done on computer overlay. That means I am having to pencil and ink into areas which would normally -- or what used to be normally -- covered by captions and balloons. That has cut my production rate from the 3 pages per day I used to do on X-Men, FF, Alpha Flight, etc, to 2 pages per day, pencils and inks.

NRAMA: How would you compare a project like this to recent work-for-hire ones like JLA, Doom Patrol, Action Comics, The All-New Atom and JLA Classified with Roger Stern?

JB: This is the first job I have inked for a while, excluding private commissions, and I am seeing quite a dramatic shift in the line. Mostly, this is due to the PITT pens I now use, but also I think doing the oversize commissions has refined my line.

NRAMA: What was your inspiration for Tom Talbot aka FX?

JB: First face that popped into my head. 99% of the time, that's how I work.

ANGEL

NRAMA: Around the time that it was announced that the Angel TV series would be ending, you were of two minds about it. Being an Angel "convert/geek/fan," you would have liked to see the show go on "pretty much forever but I would also like to see it avoid what befell Buffy in Season 7." So, did you like the fifth season and series finale?

JB: One of the best last episodes ever. And the rest of the season was pretty good, too. No complaints.

NRAMA: How are you liking Season 6 in comic book form so far?

JB: Again, have not seen it.

NRAMA: What brought about your involvement in the 4-page Lorne story for IDW's Angel comics?

JB: Favor to Chris, mostly.

NRAMA: Will it be set in Pylea? Around the time when he was The Hose at the Caritas karaoke bar? When he's the head of Wolfram & Hart's Entertainment Division? After his final TV appearance?

JB: It's set in Hell. Nuff said!

NRAMA: What appealed to you about Krevlornswath of the Deathwok Clan?

JB: Fun character. Hard to pin down just what it is.

NEXT MEN

NRAMA: More recently, in a post on your forum, you�d announced that the Next Men will indeed return in "big, honkin' black and white �phonebooks"" from IDW in 2008. How did this deal with IDW come about?

JB: They asked, I said "Sure!" (I am doing serious damage to my rep as an absolute ogre to work with here, aren't I?)

NRAMA: You've make it known that you had intended to return to the series no longer than six months after you'd set Next Men aside the first time. It would seem that the virtual collapse of the whole comic book industry postponed things off till now. In your opinion, why would the story of five young people who were the product of a secret government experiment appeal to today's readers in the current market environment?

JB: I don't know that it would! That's sort of what the "phonebooks" will discover. Testing the waters.

NRAMA: Additionally, there is also a deal in place with IDW to continue the story beyond the first 30 or so issues, right? In fact, in an earlier interview from way back in 2002, you told us that you've got more Next Men stories in the backburner. What can fans and readers expect next?

JB: Chris and I have talked about continuing Next Men at IDW, but it will all come down to how the "phonebooks" do. Plus, I have some other things I want to do first.

NRAMA: Any hints as to what they might be?

[b]JB[b/]: Not a one!

NRAMA: Will you guys be collecting the Next Men prequel/sequel, 2112 as well?

JB: That is my understanding. I look forward to seeing that in black and white, actually. I think it may look better that way.

MISC.

NRAMA: What about other creator-owned works such as Danger Unlimited, Babe and Lab Rats? Any plans to bring them back or have the old stories reprinted for the current generation of comic book readers?

JB: We're planning a "phonebook" of the other "Byrne-verse" stuff. An anthology volume, with DU, Babe, etc all between the same covers.

NRAMA: There was an earlier rumor that you were bringing You Go, Ghoul! to IDW. Was there any truth to it?

JB: No. I've been talking to someone else about the Ghoul!.

NRAMA: Is the JLA Classified story your last DC work for the time being? No plans for more Generations?

JB: Nothing planned. The Powers That Are have said no more Generations, as they don't want to do "imaginary stories" for a while. This was, of course, followed by the announcement of more New Frontier, so I am not sure how they are defining "imaginary stories".

NRAMA: What was it like to be working with your pal, Roger Stern again?

JB: Always fun to work with Rog.

NRAMA: Will you ever miss writing and drawing Superman?

JB: If I never, ever do it again, I suppose I will miss it! But, as they say, never say never.

NRAMA: What about Marvel? Any urge to return to the Fantastic Four or the X-Men anytime soon?

[b]JB[b/]: "Soon"? No. For the future, I would love to return to Hidden Years. I still have a lot of stories to tell, and they won't fit anywhere else.

NRAMA: You�ve said that your favorite X-Men stories were the first half dozen of X-Men by Stan and Jack, and those issues by Roy and Neal, right? Have you been following the recent X-Men stories, especially Messiah CompleX?

JB: No.

NRAMA: Did you ever consider retiring from the business? Why or why not?

JB: Based on the experience of those who came before me, I would say this is not an industry from which one "retires". There are those who can always find work, and there are those who are involuntarily shoved aside. Which I turn out to be, only time will tell.

NRAMA: What�s still driving your passion for comic books after all these years?

JB: There is an eight year old who lives in my head. Every time I sit down at the drawing board, he is practically vibrating with delight. �THIS IS SO COOL!� he shouts.
 
Old 01-08-2008, 08:10 AM   #2
RichJohnston
 
I have a space waiting on my bookshelf for those Next Men phonebooks... probably squeeze those FX issues in there as well.

In fact, I'm selling all this stuff to make room for it.
 
Old 01-08-2008, 08:13 AM   #3
edyhdrawde
 
I'm looking forward to a new "Next Men". I loved the original series.

I've always liked Byrne's stuff.
 
Old 01-08-2008, 08:19 AM   #4
Spider-Man
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by RichJohnston
I have a space waiting on my bookshelf for those Next Men phonebooks... probably squeeze those FX issues in there as well.

In fact, I'm selling all this stuff to make room for it.

Wow, you're not even trying to mask the fact that you just posted here to shamelessly hock your old crap, are you?

Nice, Rich.

Regarding the topic, I'm looking forward to Byrne's take on Trek. His style will fit the universe well.

Spidey
 
Old 01-08-2008, 08:33 AM   #5
Rodrigo Baeza
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MattBrady
JB: The comic book industry has never really been one to pay much attention to its past, and this includes the talent. When I got in, back in the mid 1970s, Jack Kirby was being dismissed as "Jack the Hack"

As John Byrne, for some reason, is constantly reminding us. The number of times Kirby was actually called "Jack the Hack" in the 1970's probably pales in comparison to the number of times Byrne has mentioned this in the past 10 years.

Rodrigo
http://comicscommentary.blogspot.com
 
Old 01-08-2008, 08:34 AM   #6
theodoros
 
NRAMA: How do you view the current comic book industry?

JB: With a jaundiced eye. Much of what is being produced today seems more like fanzines than professional publications.

NRAMA: Do you think that special event series like Civil War and Infinite Crisis have helped the comic industry raise its game or merely re-hashed old storylines?

JB: They have certainly been no help, except in the most limited financial sense. And there only by playing almost exclusively to the lingering remnants of the speculator mentality, the selfsame mentality that almost destroyed -- some might argue did destroy -- the industry in the 1990s.


I agree 100%.
 
Old 01-08-2008, 08:42 AM   #7
Chris Noeth
 
Finally new Next Men!!?

John Byrne's 'Next Men' is one of my favourite series! I remember buying the graphic novel first and later started to read Next Men and discovered both are connected. I couldn't believe it! What an amazing start into a new universe. I'm still loving this books like hell and you can count me in for the B&W books. As an artist myself I'm very curious to see the B&W pages.

For everyone who don't knows 'Next Men': You have to read it! It will blow your mind.

Best wishes and good luck with sales!

Can't wait to read new issues!

Best,

Chris
 
Old 01-08-2008, 09:20 AM   #8
FChamberlain
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rodrigo Baeza
As John Byrne, for some reason, is constantly reminding us. The number of times Kirby was actually called "Jack the Hack" in the 1970's probably pales in comparison to the number of times Byrne has mentioned this in the past 10 years.

Rodrigo
http://comicscommentary.blogspot.com

Which takes nothing away from his point, which he has consistantly been making since he was a central figure in the industry, working on the top character books.
 
Old 01-08-2008, 09:28 AM   #9
genetic freak
 
Woot! Compleat Next Men just made my day.

Those FX art looks wickedly cool.
 
Old 01-08-2008, 09:29 AM   #10
Nobody
 
John Byrne's output of the past 10 or 15 years has done nothing for me, but I will eagerly buy the Next Men collections.
 
Old 01-08-2008, 09:47 AM   #11
I-Ching
 
John Byrne is a true talent and a genuine living legend....however....I would categorize him more as a "george lucas" than a "steven speilberg" with his best work being behind him and his more recent efforts missing the creative mark much like Lucas and his final Star Wars entries.

Give Byrne a strong editor and some to do finishes and quality inking and you'll get the goods....if not...you'll get what Byrne gave us on Wonder Woman or Hidden Years or Spider-Man, etc etc.
 
Old 01-08-2008, 09:52 AM   #12
bomaya
 
More Byrne comics = good news.

Never tried an IDW comic before but I sure will be now.
 
Old 01-08-2008, 10:04 AM   #13
Duke Jupiter
 
Byrne's got my support. He knows how to make good comics moreso than the majority of the kids in the industry today.

Welcome back, JB.

- DJ
 
Old 01-08-2008, 10:08 AM   #14
Ace
 
JB: These are pages done in the "modern" style, with the lettering (after the first issue) to be done on computer overlay. That means I am having to pencil and ink into areas which would normally -- or what used to be normally -- covered by captions and balloons. That has cut my production rate from the 3 pages per day I used to do on X-Men, FF, Alpha Flight, etc, to 2 pages per day, pencils and inks.

-----

Just curious but does anyone think this change in the industry have anything to do with late books?
 
Old 01-08-2008, 10:09 AM   #15
DanVandafan
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by I-Ching
Give Byrne a strong editor and some to do finishes and quality inking and you'll get the goods....if not...you'll get what Byrne gave us on Wonder Woman or Hidden Years or Spider-Man, etc etc.

Agreed. I shudder to recall what happened when Byrne got hold of Spider-Man and he started playing around with history, getting the book back to basics, sidelining MJ etc. What has that guy got against change and character development?

Thank goodness he's not on the book now and we don't have to worry about that kind of thing happening again!
 
Old 01-08-2008, 10:22 AM   #16
Aaron
 
Not a fan of Byrne's passive-aggressive (and sometimes outright aggressive) manner of communication, but I'm a huge fan of the man's work. His Next Men stands as one of my favorite self-contained epics of all time. Glad to hear it's being collected! Even though I collect the Essential books, Next Men is still easy enough to find in color that I won't be buying the phonebook, but I'd love to see it continued in some form or fashion.

Sorry, also, to hear DC has nixed any further iterations of Generations. That was a great series, but if it means avoiding having the book co-opted as one of the "52" like the New Frontier earth was, I'd rather it be left alone. I shudder to think what they would have done with some of those characters in Arena.

I'd still love to see more Hidden Years. Maybe when Quesada eventually leaves someone with some sense and less of an agenda will allow Byrne to complete this series.

Aaron
 
Old 01-08-2008, 10:25 AM   #17
Roy Batty
 
Mr. Byrne,

if you happen to read this, I skipped the 3rd Superman & Batman Generations series in hopes of a TPB compilation, but that never came. Any chance of it ever being released as a collection?

thanks!
 
Old 01-08-2008, 10:27 AM   #18
Caleb Gerard
 
Book or Books?

Is it phone book or phone books? I'm going to assume it is at least 2 volumes given the amount of material in the usual Showcase or Essentials. Either way, like Rich, I'm going to have to make room... guess the local Boys Club is getting a few more comics from me.

CJG
 
Old 01-08-2008, 10:30 AM   #19
Sluggo
 
I liked this interview. Byrne's upcoming work shows a lot of promise and perhaps reflects a renewed enthusiasm. Maybe he's realizing that people are getting tired of the bitter old curmudgeon routine and just want to see him get back to what he does best, creating comic books. The less time he spends on his message board and doing comissions the better.

I am also excited about the Compleat Next Men. I missed the boat on that when it first came out and look forward to finally reading it.
 
Old 01-08-2008, 10:33 AM   #20
DarkNomis
 
John Byrne is unquestionalbly a legend in the comic art field (my 3rd Favortie Artist after Neal adams and Mike Grell) but at times his opinions is a hard pill to swallow.

While I agree with a lot of what he said in the interview about the current state of comics (in particular looking more like Fanzine than done by professionals) and things he has said in the past about the lack of content in books (in particular his beef with the creators of IMAGE back in the day), he does come of sometimes as an egotistical, ungrateful prick.

Not that he's wrong, but how he says it, so condescendingly is really unappealing.

Edit: oh yeah...Not to mention the racist/sexist statements he's made in the past.

Last edited by DarkNomis : 01-08-2008 at 10:39 AM.
 
Old 01-08-2008, 10:38 AM   #21
vbartilucci
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ace
JB: These are pages done in the "modern" style, with the lettering (after the first issue) to be done on computer overlay. That means I am having to pencil and ink into areas which would normally -- or what used to be normally -- covered by captions and balloons. That has cut my production rate from the 3 pages per day I used to do on X-Men, FF, Alpha Flight, etc, to 2 pages per day, pencils and inks.

-----

Just curious but does anyone think this change in the industry have anything to do with late books?


Considering that he's doing two pages a day, it's safe to say if he were on a regular Big Two title, it would not be late.

And BTW, exactly why would the artist HAVE to fill in areas that word balloons cover? I always figured that when laying the page out, they'd have to leave space for the balloons and captions in each panel anyway, and if not leave them blank, at the very least put very little detail in those areas. Walls, sky, etc. Doesn't seem like THAT much extra work. Does a third of an average comics page really get covered with lettering?

I would be quite pleased to see JB get more mainstream work, and spend less time on his (own) bulletin board. One could get a sort of Elvis vibe if one spedns all ones time in a place where only positive talk about one's work is allowed.
 
Old 01-08-2008, 10:43 AM   #22
drnorge
 
Thrilled to see John Byrne's work been collected and really hoping to see the Next Men sequel story. I would love to see his original vision finished. If you missed out on the work when is was a Legend title, it is well worth it.
 
Old 01-08-2008, 10:57 AM   #23
DanVandafan
 
Note to Michael Huber...

It was a joke man, glad I gave you a belly laugh!
 
Old 01-08-2008, 11:06 AM   #24
Ace
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by vbartilucci
Considering that he's doing two pages a day, it's safe to say if he were on a regular Big Two title, it would not be late.

Not for JB in particular, but for other artists between last decade and this one?
 
Old 01-08-2008, 11:12 AM   #25
Jamal Y. Igle
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ace
JB: These are pages done in the "modern" style, with the lettering (after the first issue) to be done on computer overlay. That means I am having to pencil and ink into areas which would normally -- or what used to be normally -- covered by captions and balloons. That has cut my production rate from the 3 pages per day I used to do on X-Men, FF, Alpha Flight, etc, to 2 pages per day, pencils and inks.

-----

Just curious but does anyone think this change in the industry have anything to do with late books?
No, It doesn't. For myself, I have the speed, I can do two pages of full pencils when I have to. I could probably do two books a month and I have had periods where i've pencilled two books and inked one at the same time. However the quality suffered. I still have two page days but i space them out more since I got married. And I haven't missed a deadline since 2000.

Last edited by Jamal Y. Igle : 01-08-2008 at 11:19 AM.
 
 
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