When I first became seriously interested in comics, John Byrne was at the top of my favorite artist list. He drew many of the classic “new” X-Men books, and was the artist on that series when it first became massively popular. The stories Byrne drew (and co-plotted along with writer Chris Claremont) are the ones that are being adapted to the movies these days.
His work on X-Men was amazing (or uncanny), with bold lines, great storytelling clarity, and charming facial expressions. He created the Canadian team called Alpha Flight, who first appeared in the X-Men and later moved over to their own series.
I followed that book not because they were Canadian like me, but because John Byrne's art was so captivating. Alpha Flight's first twenty or so issues are still some of my favorite comics ever.
I was thrilled when Byrne moved over to the Hulk, my favorite character (though I didn't really like what he did with the character, and his run only lasted four or five issues), but maybe it was just a stepping stone to my other favorite Byrne work (along with Alpha Flight): The Sensational She-Hulk.
John Byrne turned the Hulk's cousin into a sassy, funny character (and series). Shulkie also gained the power of knowing she was in a comic book. That made for some really fun, unique moments (I'm pretty sure this iteration of She Hulk predated Deadpool, the other fourth-wall destroyer.
Of course, Byrne did other stuff. A legendary run on Fantastic Four, and Wonder Woman, and a stint on Superman (he draws Superman better than anyone). I read his more mature work in “John Byrne's Next Men”. Pretty cool story.
One other thing I remember about the guy is how opinionated he was, and how engaged he was with his readers. There were some fairly vicious back-and-forths between Byrne and his readers, and between JB and other comic creators. This stuff found expression mostly in the letters pages of various comics, in the days before the Internet.
I don't think my interest in comics would have lasted so far into my teenage years without John Byrne. Cheers to you, sir!
Among his many other honors, John Byrne was inducted into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame in 2015.
And deservedly so!
Bye for now!
Banes at 12:00AM, April 28, 2016
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