Artist and writer John Byrne has been a notable figure in comics for over 40 years. He rose to prominence in the mid-1970s on many popular superhero comics, especially known for work on Marvel’s X-Men and Fantastic Four along with DC’s Superman.
Byrne was born in Walsall, England on July 6, 1950 then moved to Canada when he was 8. In 1962 he read his first comic, Fantastic Four #5 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. After high school he went to Alberta College of Art and Design in Calgary, where he created Gay Guy, a character that parodied a stereotypical homosexual art student. The comic, which appeared in the college newspaper, also included a prototype of Snowbird, a character he’d create later.
In ’73 he left college and in August of the next year he illustrated a two-page black and white short for Skywald Publications’ Nightmare #20. He freelanced for Charlton Comics, working on the backup feature Rog-2000.
Byrne’s first Marvel project was drawing the X-Men in Marvel Team-Up #53. In 1977, starting with issue 108, he began working on The X-Men with Chris Claremont, on stories like “Dark Phoenix Saga” and “Days of Future Past.” By issue 114 he started co-plotting the story as well as penciling. In the late ’70s he regularly penciled The Avengers then worked on Captain America #247-255.
His five-year run on Fantastic Four began in the early ’80s. During his tenure he added She-Hulk, replacing The Thing; and the Invisible Girl became the most powerful member of the team, changing her name to the Invisible Woman. At the same time, he wrote and drew Alpha Flight about a Canadian superhero team. He and Claremont co-created Northstar, Marvel’s first openly gay superhero.
Byrne moved on to DC, revamping Superman by reducing his powers, removing the Fortress of Solitude, and he kept Martha and Jonathan Kent alive into Clark’s adulthood. His version made Clark more aggressive and an extrovert, along with explaining why Superman’s disguise works.
In ’89 he wrote and drew a new series for The Sensational She-Hulk. His version was comedic and self-aware, regularly breaking the fourth wall, even having a love-hate relationship with the creative team.
He moved on to another superheroine, working on Wonder Woman making her into a goddess who ascended to Mount Olympus. He also featured supporting characters like Queen Hippolyta in her own storyline.
Byrne returned to Marvel to write and draw X-Men: The Hidden Years for 22 issues then moved back to DC to work on JLA and Action Comics. For IDW he worked on adaptations of Star Trek stories and comics based on the Angel TV show.
From his work on Marvel and DC to the smaller publishers, Byrne has developed a significant fan following. Those interested in collecting his original art have a new opportunity in the current auction at Hake’s Americana & Collectibles. In lot 1480, they are selling Byrne’s pen and ink original art for the cover of Fantastic Four #289 (April 1986). Drawn on 11” x 17” artboard, the cover depicts Human Torch standing amid wreckage in Flame On mode with Mister Fantastic, Invisible Woman, and She-Hulk unconscious at his feet. Johnny reacts with the line “It can’t be…not you?!” in response to the villains Blastaar and Annihilus. The art was signed by Byrne at the lower left and the issue scribe Jim Shooter at the lower right margin.
Hake’s Auction #222 closes on November 14-16, 2017, so get bids in soon at hakes.com.