John Byrne Interview
I can’t deny that John was probably my favourite artist when I was a young comic fan in the 1980s and early 1990s. I did a couple of interviews with him. This is the ‘good’ one from August 1998, back when he was still working with Marvel Comics.
What more can be said about John Byrne? Anything that could be said about him has already been spoken. John talks to us about his upcoming runs on Amazing Spider-Man, Incredible Hulk, and the new X-men book.
Jamie: What will you do with Amazing Spider-Man that is different and exciting?
John Byrne: The main problem presented by the whole Spider-Man mythos in its present state is finding a way to fix something which, for a majority of readers, does not appear to be broken. Those of us who have followed Spider-Man through all the years of his existence remember times when there was something almost magical about the stories, the art, the whole package, and it is that which has, slowly but surely, eroded away, as mistakes were made which, to the people in charge, did not seem to be mistakes at the time. Thus, the best thing we can think of to make Spider-Man “different and exciting” is to press “REWIND”, but to do so in a fashion that will seem a logical outgrowth of all that has gone before, and not simply a massive erasure.
Jamie: Will you be creating new villains for Spider-Man or using old ones?
John Byrne: The intent is to use mostly new villains – and, indeed, a new supporting cast in AMAZING. Since the old tried-and-true villains will be appearing at the same time in my “Year One” project, this seems a good way to have our cake and eat it too!
Jamie: Will there be more “revamps” of Spider-Man villains (eg. Female Dr. Octopus)?
John Byrne: No such is planned. We would prefer the new villains to be just-that-new!
Jamie: When does your run on Amazing Spider-Man start and what will the first story be about?
John Byrne: Howard Mackie and I will begin with the issue of AMAZING that comes out in November of this year. That’s far enough away that, concerned as we are with wrapping up the storylines in the current books, we have not yet given much thought to the specifics of our first stories.
Jamie: Would you be interested in doing Alpha Flight again in the future?
John Byrne: Nope. Alpha is a definite case of “bin there, dun that”!
Jamie: What are your thoughts on the new Alpha Flight?
John Byrne: I have not read it.
Jamie: After many years of the Hulk having some intelligence, how do you plan on making “Hulk Smash” interesting?
John Byrne: The same way it was made interesting in the past-by creating interesting stories, places, people, etc. with which the Hulk can interact.
Jamie: What can you tell us about your first Hulk story?
John Byrne: Nothing – it’s not plotted yet. Still several months before Ron Garney and I will be prepared to actually get to work on the title.
Jamie: What will be the title of the new X-Men book your working on?
John Byrne: The working title is X-MEN: HIDDEN YEARS. It may be called something else by the time it actually comes out.
Jamie: It will feature the original X-men in new stories during the re-print era correct?
John Byrne: Correct.
Jamie: Do you know what kind of format the new title will be in? Will it be done “Untold Tales of Spider-Man” style, or like a normal comic?
John Byrne: The plan is to present it as a normal, ongoing monthly series. The “gap” it fills was about 29 issues long, but I am not restricted to that. If the series is a success it could run 100 issues. Not necessarily all by me, though.
Jamie: When does the first issue come out?
John Byrne: We’ve been talking about the fall of 1999, though that close to the Millennium, I would not mind seeing it pushed back to January 2000.
Jamie: Will we be seeing some X-men villains from the 60’s that we don’t see anymore?
John Byrne: At present I am still in the process of doing the background research necessary to determine who was available, not only in terms of familiar X-Men villains, but characters and villains from other Marvel books of the period. This also requires figuring out if any of the old, familiar faces can, in fact, have appearances during this period, of if established Marvel continuity has made that impossible. Luckily I have already discovered that it will be possible to do a Magneto story almost at once.
Jamie: Do you plan on creating new X-villians that could pop up in present day X-men titles?
John Byrne: Possibly. At this point there has been very little discussion of just how my book will impact on the present day X-Books-or vice versa. Clearly, since I am working in the past, it would be difficult, if not impossible to do anything that impacted on the present unless the writers on the present day books wanted it to.
Jamie: Will we be seeing a sympathetic Magneto or a pure evil Magneto?
John Byrne: We will see Magneto as he was then-a ruthless megalomaniac with a desire to subjugate humanity to the will of “homo superior”. Xavier’s precise opposite, in other words.
Jamie: Out of the original X-men characters, do you have a favorite?
John Byrne: Cyclops has always been “Mr. X-Men” to me.
Jamie: Do you think you will find some time to re-start Next Men?
John Byrne: It’s less a question of time than it is of the state of the marketplace. NEXT MEN sold very well in its original run – better than I expected in fact – but during what I planned to be merely a brief hiatus, the whole industry crashed, and now books like NEXT MEN are swept away without so much as a ripple. I would need to see a far greater stability in the marketplace before I would risk a relaunch.
Jamie: How will you deal with hostile fans at San Deigo?
John Byrne: The simplest way of all – by not being there. I have no plans to attend the San Diego Con.
Jamie: Do you have any desire to become an editor in the future?
John Byrne: Somehow that would seem like a step down. Sometimes I wonder what I would do if Marvel or DC offered me the top spot, the editor-in-chief job, but I think the answer would be “Turn it down”. The bean-counters are running the show, these days, and the job of most editors is to meet their demands. Perhaps this will change, and we can get back the a more creative approach to comics – something not driven by marketing-but until then, it seems as though an editorial position would just be frustrating.