DC History Club: John Byrne's Superman and Wonder Woman

byrne gif
On the title page of most modern comics you will find a small note that reads something like “Superman created by Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster.” Recognizing these iconic creators is important, but the world of Superman we know today is also the result of generations of writers and artists building that world story by story. And then, there are those who’s individual contributions change how we view characters for generations. John Byrne is one of those of writers and artists. Byrne’s modernization of Superman, Lois Lane, Lex Luthor and the rest of Superman’s world fundamentally impacted how we view them today. As a plus, Byrne’s two year run directing three different Superman titles are among the most readable and entertaining stories of the 1980s. Returning to DC Comics half a decade later, Byrne’s mission on Wonder Woman was not to change the character but to build on the work of George Perez. This second tour at DC is not as historically important, but it is a fast paced all-star stocked run of first rate Wonder Woman stories. Join the DC Comics History Club as we examine two of Byrne’s biggest DC assignments, how they impact our view of these characters, and the question of ‘how important should continuity be?”

In this short club session we have:
Recommended Reading: A short list of recommended readings that are both representative of Byrne’s Superman and Wonder Woman and are pretty darn entertaining.
Topic Suggestions: A short list of questions about these runs, Byrne’s long-term impact on these characters; and the broader issue of how important should continuity be?
Research: A research wiki for articles and interviews about Byrne, focusing on his Superman and Wonder Woman stories.
Polls: Since this is only a two week block, we will also have a short list of polls each week.
Quiz: At the half way mark, look for a mini quiz.

Week 1: While Byrne directed and eventually wrote three different Superman titles, this week’s suggested readings focus on his relaunched Superman flagship title. While there are running subplots, each issue is relatively self-contained and little is lost by by hitting a few highlights. These issues should give you a good feel for how Byrne portrayed Clark, Superman, Lois, Lex and Jimmy and how he built a modern Superman universe.
Recommended Reading:
Superman (1987)
#1, Heart of Stone with Metallo DC Universe
#2 The Secret Revealed with Lex Luthor DC Universe
#9 To Laugh and Die in Metropolis with a past face clown who belongs in Gotham and a backup Lex story Byrne describes as his favorite DC Universe
And a 'pick ‘em’ between #10 and #11, in the first The Name Game Lois falls for Mxy, and the second Lost Love Clark falls for Lori Lemaris DC Universe DC Universe

Discussion Suggestions:

  1. Bottom line assessment, Byrne was brought in to clear away decades of less believable elements and modernize Superman’s universe. How well did he do that? What were his strong points or weak points?
  2. How close are his versions of the characters to those we see today, how different are they from their Silver and Bronze age versions, and which characters made the most dramatic changes?
  3. Which characters do you believe made the most dramatic changes in their portrayals? What do you think of those changes?

Wonder Woman: Week 2 coming soon

Need more Superman or Wonder Woman? Check out the ongoing goodness at World of Wonder and the Superman Fan Club.
@Don-El at Superman Fan Club


@nu52 at World of Wonder

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Vote, and post your opinions below.

  1. Byrne had the greatest historical impact on which character?
  • Superman
  • Clark Kent
  • Lois Lane
  • Lex Luthor

0 voters

  1. Byrne made a number of changes to other elements of Superman’s world. Vote among these for those you think were correct choices.
  • Ma & Pa Kent alive and younger
  • No Krypto
  • No Fortress
  • Clark develops powers later, plays high school football
  • Clark looks bigger and fitter
  • Superman depowered to a degree

0 voters

  1. Some argue that Byrne’s two years helming Superman produced the best sustained stretch of stories in the character’s history.
  • Agree completely
  • It’s near the top of the list
  • It’s fine, but one of many
  • Disagree completely

0 voters

Vote, and post your opinions below.

  1. Byrne made attempts to fill gaps and fix continuity problems caused by Crisis on Infinite Earths and George Perez’ relaunched Wonder Woman series. Which of Byrne’s significant addition to Wonder Woman’s universe did the best job of filling in these gaps?
  • Queen Hippolyta as Wonder Woman joined the JSA in WWII
  • Donna Troy is a secret Wonder Woman clone
  • The invisible jet is a shape shifting tech gift to Queen Hippolyta/Wonder Woman
  • A new Wonder Girl gifted power by Zeus in Cassie Sandsmark
  • Diana gains a love interest in Gateway City cop Mike Schorr

0 voters

  1. The Donna Troy problem vexed writers for years, which of these origins is the most satisfying for today’s DC?
  • Magical clone of Diana
  • Magical golem sent to challenge Diana
  • Diana’s little sister
  • An anomaly from a lost timeline/universe

0 voters

  1. Just your opinion. Does Byrne’s 90s look Wonder Woman still work today?
  • Yes, there’s some exaggeration by still looks great
  • It does put it in the 90s, but still looks good
  • It’s okay, but really dated
  • Just doesn’t work anymore

0 voters

Take a mini quiz on John Byrne and DC Comics.

  1. Who did Byrne want to also survive the initial destruction of Krypton and arrive on Earth at the same time as Kal-el?
  • Zod
  • Krypto
  • Lara
  • Jor-el

0 voters

  1. Which Byrne created character is confirmed to make an appearance in an upcoming DC live action movie?
  • Cassie Sandsmark
  • Queen Hippolyta as Wonder Woman
  • Bloodsport
  • Dark Angel

0 voters

  1. Which Byrne written Superman title was turned into a team up book under his direction?
  • DC Comics Presents
  • Action Comics
  • The Adventures of Superman
  • The Brave and the Bold

0 voters

  1. Diana became the goddess of what under Byrne?
  • War
  • Peace
  • Justice
  • Truth

0 voters

  1. Byrne later wrote an 18 issue run of what DC team?
  • Titans
  • Outsiders
  • Infinity Inc.
  • Doom Patrol

0 voters

  1. The first main character Byrne drew for DC Comics was?
  • Batman
  • Superman
  • Adam Strange
  • Etrigan

0 voters

Answer Key:

  1. Lara
  2. Bloodsport
  3. Action Comics
  4. Truth
  5. Doom Patrol
  6. Batman

Grade:
1-2: You may apply for the job of inking background objects.
3-4: Congrats, you’re our official fill-in artist for the next issue
5-6: You’ve earned your own run on a comic series.

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Research Wiki: If you know something to add, click on the pencil to the right and add to the wiki.

Byrne

Tour Byrne studio

Bryne’s is the best two year run on Superman?

https://whatculture.com/comics/why-john-byrnes-superman-run-is-still-the-best

Byrne on reinventing Superman and Lois Lane

Byrne quoted in indepth 1988 Time Magazine article published on Superman’s 50th year:

The famous cover:


(Signatures added I’m sure how much later)

@Vroom and the Superman Book Club covered Byrne’s Superman introduction The Man of Steel in their initial reading. Check it out for their take.

Former Marvel editor Jim Shooter recounts John Byrne’s 1984 pitch for Superman when DC was in negotiations with Marvel for the house of ideas to publish DC characters.
http://jimshooter.com/2011/10/superman-first-marvel-issue-byrnes-plo.html/

An argument against this being a great Superman run.
https://comiconverse.com/superman-john-byrnes-wrong-turns-6139

Perez’s deaging of Wonder Wonder after Crisis on Infinite Earths caused a number of problems from removing her from World War II’s JSA to throwing Donna Troy’s origin into complete confusion. This article examines how Byrne attempted fix those problems.

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While we’re focusing on two titles written and penciled by Byrne, that’s far from his only DC Comics work. Below his entire contributions to DC.
• Action Comics (writer/artist) #584–600, (artist) #827–835; (writer) Annual #1, (writer/artist) Annual #6 (artist)
• Adventures of Superman (writer) #436–442, 444; (inker) Annual #2
• All New Atom (artist) #1–3
• Batman (artist, one page) #400, (writer and cover artist) #433–435
• Batman 3D graphic novel (writer-artist)
• Batman/Captain America (one shot intercompany crossover, published by DC, writer/artist)
• Darkseid/Galactus (one shot intercompany crossover, published by DC, writer/artist)
• Blood of the Demon (writer/artist) #1–17
• Doom Patrol vol. 4 #1–18 (writer/artist)
• Genesis (miniseries, August 1997) (writer) #1–4
• Green Lantern Annual (writer/penciler) #3
• Green Lantern: Ganthet’s Tale (one-shot; scripter/artist, from a story by Larry Niven)
• Hawkman vol. 4 #26 (May 2004) (artist)
• Jack Kirby’s Fourth World #1–20 (writer/artist)
• JLA (writer/artist) #94–99, with Chris Claremont
• JLA: Classified #50–54 (artist)
• Lab Rats #1–8 (writer/artist)
• Legends #1–6 (miniseries) (artist)
• The Man of Steel #1–6 (writer/artist) (miniseries)
• New Gods vol. 4 #12–15 (writer/artist)
• New Teen Titans Annual vol. 2 (penciler) #2
• OMAC vol. 2 #1–4 (miniseries)
• Secret Origins Annual vol. 2 (artist) #1 (Doom Patrol)
• Superman (artist, one page) #400
• Superman vol. 2 (writer/artist) #1–22 (writer only #18); (artist only) #50
• Superman & Batman: Generations #1–4 (miniseries) (writer/artist)
• Superman & Batman: Generations 2 #1–4 (miniseries) (writer/artist)
• Superman & Batman: Generations 3 #1–12 (miniseries) (writer/artist)
• Superman: True Brit graphic novel (artist)
• Untold Legend of The Batman #1 (miniseries) (artist)
• World of Krypton #1–4 (miniseries) (writer and cover artist)
• World of Metropolis #1–4 (miniseries) (writer and cover artist)
• World of Smallville #1–4 (miniseries) (writer and cover artist)
• Wonder Woman vol. 2 (writer/artist) #101–136, Annual #5–6

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Awesome add from our Superman Fan Club leader @Don-El with a cover I’d love to own.

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Thanks!

A quote from that 1988 super long Superman turns 50 Time magazine article:

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I agree with Byrne’s assessment except, I can just assume my heroes use the can, I don’t actually need to know it.
More importantly, look at those sales numbers. Half a million of X-Men (most popular book at the time, Teen Titans was close) and they were concerned because Superman slipped below 100,000.

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A different time for sure.

At the time, having all this in Time magazine was a much bigger deal than it would be today. There was no world wide web, and everything was still basically paper or satellite TV for news and information sharing.

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I also want to call out @Vroom, if memory serves me correctly the Superman Book Club covered Byrne’s Man of Steel mini that leads into the Superman/Action series. Wanted to link to that thread but couldn’t find it. Can ya help a dude out?

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a.

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I’d love to meet Byrne and have a tour of his studio, my god the amazing art!

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Glad you brought up the art, because though he’s clearly a great artist, when I look back at these two books I think more about his impact as a writer. But, Byrne really puts out some great art.

Byrne gains fame as first the penciller, then later also as co-plotter on Chris Claremont’s X-Men. This is the run that got me back into comics in my early 20s. Today, Byrne is not complimentary about working with Claremont but this book and Teen Titans revolutionized comics.

Leaving the X-Men, Byrne took over writing, pencilling and inking the Fantastic Four for an incredible four year run.

Moving to DC and Superman, Byrne gives an updated look to everyone. Here we not only see the bulked up Superman but a Jimmy that no longer looks like he’s stuck in 1957. This also shows Byrne as a master of giving movement in even the simplest scenes.

When I think of Silver Banshee (and I do) I think of Byrne’s version.
silver ban

Byrne’s version of Wonder Woman is also a little bulked up, but still long and lean. You can also see the attention to detail in the background pencils.

Where Superman has a cape, Diana has hair. Byrne uses to give images movement and speed.

Finally, Byrne has created his universe outside of the big two with NextMen.

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I’ve added this above in research also. That’s right a book club discussion on DCU is research material in my book. Who better to ask their opinion of Byrne’s Superman introduction The Man of Steel than the good people here at the DCU.
DCU Superman Book Club created by @Vroom and appears by special arrangement with @Vroom

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Byrne Burns: Like the disaffected Roy Thomas on All-Star Squadron, John Byrne was unhappy with his working relationship with DC during his Superman run.
Byrne-“DC hired me to revamp Superman, and then immediately chickened out. They backed off at the first whiff of fan disapproval, which came months before anyone had actually seen the work… They even continued to license the ‘previous’ Superman. At one point, Dick Giordano said ‘You have to realize there are now two Supermen - the one you do and the one we license.’ Seemed counter-productive, to say the least, since far more people saw the lisenced material. After two years of this nonsense, I was just worn down. The fun was gone.”
It would seem that the licensing issue was likely the crux of Byrne’s issues with DC as he likely would have been in line for significantly greater royalties if his image of Superman were to appear on products, ads, etc.

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In my opinion I think John Byrne was a genius and a Geoff Johns of his days, he was a very talented writer and DC Comic made a right choice hiring him to write for Superman. I love that the Kents are still around, and Lex Luthor as a evil businessman who own part of Metropolis.
If it wasn’t for him, Lois & Clark and Superman the animated series might’ve have been a bit different TV show. :superman_hv_4:

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@Reaganfan78 I knew I enjoyed Byrne’s Superman, it reading it again for this club I was surprised by how darn fun the series is. The action is crisp, the characters interesting, and Superman has that light touch of humor in his personality that Reeve (and Cavill when they let him) have.

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Ya, going back now, though I have many issues, I wish I’d collected the whole Byrne Run on all this stuff. I do have a full run of his FF, but I shouldn’t have stopped there. He is Genius!

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The first Superman comic book I ever read was from John Byrne, and I can just remember how excited I was to read it. Byrne was one of the reasons I got into comic books. I just loved how the whole Superman world felt and looked. As time went by I loved seeing the influence of Byrne’s work in later comics to the Smallville tv series.

I simply loved the video about Byrne’s collection!! I just love watching videos about other’s collection and why certain items carry sentimental value to them. My collection is so small in comparison.

When I was younger I lost all my John Byrne Superman comics. I was quite upset. My father and I searched and hunted for them, and even went back to our old house to get them. They were lost somehow. Due to graphic novels/collected editions, I was able to collect all of John Byrne’s Man of Steel run. One of my treasured runs in my collection.

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