For Your Consideration: DC’s DC Universe by John Byrne


Robert Greenberger

Robert Greenberger


by Robert Greenberger

When you talk about John Byrne and DC Comics, you automatically think about his two years of work on the Superman titles in the mid-1980s. After all, he did the first major revamping of the mythos since the 1950s and it garnered tons of attention during the character’s 50th anniversary. He then did a run on Wonder Woman but after that was only seen sporadically, which has been a shame.

DC Universe by John Byrne

DC Universe by John Byrne


But Byrne is one of those artists whose speed as a writer and/or artist allowed him to explore other corners of the vast DC Universe. He is one of those stylists who looks good with a wide variety of heroes and villains, making him a versatile addition to the company. DC recognizes this and will celebrate it in the forthcoming DC Universe by John Byrne collection.

The hardcover surveys his contributions as either a writer or artist beginning all the way back in 1980 with his first DC work, penciling issue #1 of Untold Legend of Batman, the Len Wein-penned miniseries exploring the Caped Crusader’s origins and operations. Compare his work with the subsequent issues, by Jim Aparo (who inked part one), and you can see his distinct storytelling.

World of Metropolis #1

World of Metropolis #1


During the Superman hoopla, he conceived of and wrote three four-issue miniseries, providing covers to all twelve. While his World of Krypton is not here, having been collected elsewhere, his World of Smallville and World of Metropolis are seen here. The former was illustrated by the unusual team of Kurt Scharffenberger and Alfredo Alacala, which revealed that Martha Kent had been previously married to Dan Fordman before Jonathan Kent won her heart. The latter, from veteran Win Mortimer and the inking team of Dick Giordano, Frank McLaughlin, and Sal Trapani, devotes single issues to young reporter Perry White, 15 year old Lois Lane getting her first scoop, Clark Kent’s first days in the big city, and finally how Jimmy Olsen developed his signal watch.

Somehow, Byrne had time to write and draw Superman and Action Comics and still have time for other art assignments. In Superman Annual #2, “Love’s Labors”, Byrne tells the story of hard-as-nails Dan Turpin, recovering from an attack by Barrage, being visited by Maggie Sawyer in the hospital. It’s a strong character-driven story, something Byrne doesn’t always get enough credit for writing.

One of the earlier non-super offerings appears in New Teen Titans Annual #2, a fun little short written by Marv Wolfman, wherein Donna Troy tells her step-daughter, Jenny Long, a bedtime story involving the Titans, aliens and dinosaurs. With inks by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, it’s a lovely little tale.

He also helps Mike W. Barr define Halo’s auras in a backup found in The Outsiders #11 and partners with Scharffenberger once more in a story from Green Lantern Annual #3 about a member of the fabled corps. Speaking of team-ups, Byrne and his Marvel cohort Roger Stern are reunited for a one-off in Power of the Atom #6. The story, inked by Kez Wilson, recounts the Atom’s history.

Secret Origins Annual #1

Secret Origins Annual #1


When I was asked to assemble the first Secret Origins Annual, I decided to shine the light on my other title, Doom Patrol, and had scribe Paul Kupperberg recount their tortured past. He recruited Byrne, who somehow managed to find time for the cover and 30-pager.

Green Lantern: Ganthet's Tale

Green Lantern: Ganthet’s Tale


It wasn’t all superhero action, either. Byrne traveled across the cosmos for the Green Lantern: Ganthet’s Tale one-shot. Editor Denny O’Neil brought in acclaimed SF novelist Larry Niven to write this story, exploring the GL Corps’ past and he delivered a project large in scope but not necessarily ready for print. Enter Byrne, who adapted Niven’s script and then executed the entire story which introduced Ganthet, a Guardian of the Universe. A renegade Guardian, Dawlakispokpok, must be brought down and Ganthet turns to Hal Jordan for help, allowing us to explore a post-Crisis history of the Guardians including Krona, who is once again a figure in the tale. It also leaves a cosmic secret which could have had repercussions for years to come except no one in Editorial remembered it.

Byrne also tugs on your heart strings throughout the book, perhaps most successfully with Enemy Ace in Christmas with Super-Heroes #2, inked with verve by Andy Kubert. Byrne also penciled a Hector Hammond-centric story for writer/inker Keith Champagne for 2007’s DCU Infinite Holiday Special #1.

Of course, there are tales of derring-do, as well, starting with a tale of two Flashes versus the Shade as seen in The Flash 80-page Giant #1 and a fun Batman and Robin black and white story from Batman: Gotham Knights #2. And then there’s another Atom story, this from writer Gail Simone, found in DCU Brave New World #1, helping reset Ryan Choi’s status quo.

Finally, there’s the Julie Schwartz Tribute story from DC Comics Presents: Hawkman #1, where Byrne, inked by Lary Stucker, explains how the master editor was convinced by two aliens to complete the story scheduled for an issue of Hawkman to heal a rift in the multiverse.

There’s plenty of variety in tone and content, but this was a writer/artist having fun, working with people he respected, and having fun exploring the universe. It’s a fine collection of adventures, well worth a look.

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DC Universe by John Byrne