BYRNE-ING FOR YOU!

Jedi Master KC Carlson

Jedi Master KC Carlson


A KC COLUMN By KC Carlson

The DC Universe by John Byrne

The DC Universe by John Byrne


Recently out is The DC Universe by John Byrne — a 352-page hardcover jam-packed with stories either written or drawn (or both!) by John Byrne. All of the work in this volume was produced from 1986 through 2006. It’s not his earliest work for the company — that was pencilling the first issue of the 1980 Untold Legend of the Batman miniseries. Behind-the-scenes shenanigans with DC meant Byrne only worked on that first issue before leaving the series.

He returned to DC in 1986 as a key part of the team that revamped and relaunched Superman, post-Crisis on Infinite Earths. This was huge comics news, even being reported in media outside of the comic book world. At the time, Byrne said, “I’m taking Superman back to the basics … It’s basically Siegel and Shuster’s Superman meets the Fleischer Superman in 1986.”

The Man of Steel #1

The Man of Steel #1


Byrne’s revamp first appeared in the six-issue Man of Steel miniseries. The first issue made history by being the first use of variant covers in the American comics industry. Both covers of Man of Steel #1 were by Byrne, and I’d bet that most of us still have both in our collections. (I do.)

Byrne wrote and drew two monthly comics starring the Man of Steel, beginning with Superman #1 and Action Comics #584 (which became a title where Superman teamed up with other DC characters). A year later, Byrne also picked up the writing on The Adventures of Superman for about a year. After The Man of Steel miniseries wrapped up, Byrne also pencilled the six-issue DC crossover Legends (which was plotted by John Ostrander, scripted by Len Wein, and inked by Karl Kesel).

Byrne produced the Superman books for about two years before leaving. One of the things that was reportedly frustrating for him was that the images of Superman used for licensing purposes were still based on the old art style for the character. Ironically, after Byrne left, DC did start using his version for licensing and other media (specifically television, with Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, and possibly parts of the DC Animated Universe).

By the early 1990s, Byrne had returned to DC Comics (not exclusively) and that’s where this The DC Universe of John Byrne collection comes into play — it reprints a large amount of Byrne’s DC work, as described below:

New Teen Titans Annual #2 (1986): Donna Troy tells a fairytale bedtime story, featuring some familiar characters. Written by Marv Wolfman (who has a cameo).

Outsiders #11 (1986): A short featurette about Halo’s auras, with kibitzing by Metamorpho. Written by Mike W. Barr.

Secret Origins Annual #1

Secret Origins Annual #1


Secret Origins Annual #1 (1987): Featuring the Secret Origin of the Doom Patrol(s). Yep, both new and old. Written by Paul Kupperberg, who cameos, as does Byrne.

Power of the Atom #6 (1988): The Atom takes on Chronus, for a heck of a time! Written by Roger Stern.

Christmas With the Super-Heroes #2 (1989): A short, wordless story of a misunderstood Enemy Ace. Story and art by Byrne, with art finishes by Andy Kubert.

Batman 3-D (1990): A seldom-seen 48-page Batman tale featuring many of the Rogues Gallery — but especially the Penguin! It’s printed from the black plate only, featuring the original B&W line art by Byrne — without the 3-D effects. A seldom-seen treat! Story also by Byrne!

Green Lantern: Ganthet’s Tale

Green Lantern: Ganthet’s Tale


Green Lantern: Ganthet’s Tale (1992): Another long tale (60 pages — and this time in color!) featuring a celebrated collaboration with sci-fi author Larry Niven!

Action Comics Annual #6 (1994): An Elseworlds tale set in 1768. Worth it just to see Lois Lane punch “Kal” in the face! Plus, Superman’s grandfather?

Batman Adventures Annual #1 (1994): Starring the Joker in “Laughter After Midnight” by Paul Dini and Byrne. Byrne’s take on the classic DC animated “style” is fascinating. The Joker also beats up a cop with a doughnut!

Speed Force #1 (1997): A Jay Garrick Flash story set in 1942 is written, drawn, and lettered by Byrne! There’s a plot thread that doesn’t really resolve itself until Wonder Woman #129 (1998) (which isn’t included in this book), but I don’t think you‘ll be missing much.

Flash: 80-Page Giant (1998): “Dark of the Sun” is another Byrne-does-everything (except coloring) story which features the Allens and the Garricks out for a lovely dinner — until the Shade kidnaps the ladies. His mistake.

Batman: Gotham Knights #2 (2000): A quickie black & white story featuring a past version of the Batman and Robin team. Byrne is obviously having fun with this one, as it appears he needs a straightedge to render the outlines of Batman’s jaw!

Hawkman #26

Hawkman #26


Hawkman #26 (2004): The high point of this story is Byrne’s unusual — but highly dramatic — layouts. There’s a lot of stuff going on in this story, much of it highly dramatic or off kilter, and the angular layouts (as apposed to the usual grid) help tell this story visually.

DC Comics Presents: Hawkman (2004): Another Byrne-drawn Hawkman story. This one a tribute of sorts to DC Comics’ much-beloved editor Julius Schwartz.

DCU Infinite Holiday Special (2007): A Hector Hammond Christmas. Story and inks by Keith Champagne, pencils by Byrne. Mind games between Hal Jordan and his long-time foe create new holiday memories from old ones.

Superman Through the Ages (2006): An updated two-page Superman origin recap pencilled by Byrne, written by Paul Kupperberg, and inked by José Luis García-López.

Interspersed throughout the book are dozens of memorable John Byrne covers from across the DC Universe over the years: from Hawkman to Legion of Super-Heroes to Christmas With the Super-Heroes to Batman to Superman: The Wedding Album. It may be a little late as a gift, but if you got some Santa-cash in your stocking this year, this would not be a bad purchase for yourself — especially if you’re a DC Comics fan or a John Byrne supporter! There’s something in this book for everyone!


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KC CARLSON had to turn this column around quickly to allow for him being out of town for several days to spend time with his family. (Hope that doesn’t show too much!…) Also wishing your holiday was filled with hope for a great New Year ahead!

WESTFIELD COMICS is not responsible for the stupid things that KC says. Especially that thing that really irritated you. I got a rock. Oh, wait… That was Halloween. (sigh)

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  1. Michael J Schumann Says:

    John Byrne still remains one of my top 5 creator/writer/artists in the Comicbook medium who has left a lasting legacy at both Marvel and DC working on most of the icon characters and creating many memorable story lines that set the standards for those who would come to follow. Some of my favorite books he’s worked on are the characters created or co-created by Jack Kirby like the New Gods at DC, and just like he accomplished on the Fantastic Four, John has added a loving tribute in honor of the “King” which would have left Kirby proud. My only regret is these two great Creators never took the opportunity to work together and it would have been interesting to see a DC or Marvel series plotted and penciled by Kirby at the height of his abilities and scripted and inked by Byrne at the height of his work throughout the late 70’s or early 80’s. Maybe in Comicbook Heaven someday we’ll see these 2 titans working together or perhaps in a Parallel Universe…or Elseworlds!