Byrne Robotics : FAQ : Questions about Aborted Storylines


Frequently Asked Questions

Questions about Aborted Storylines


Questions about Aborted Storylines

 The Rule

If you had stayed on X-Men provided that Jim Lee, Whilce Portacio and possibly Bob Harras had been more professional in dealing with you, what story ideas would you have come up with?

JB: I generally prefer to avoid discussions of storylines that did not pan out. Too many prying eyes, too few ethics. And too many times seeing my ideas repackaged under another writer's byline.

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 Exception to the rule #1: The Last Galactus Story

How did "The Last Galactus Story" end?

JB: At the virtual End of the Universe, Galactus is confronted by a Watcher. This Watcher turns out to be the same one who witnessed the "birth" of Galactus in our universe. The Watcher (not Uatu) was eventually driven mad by the accumulated guilt he feels for the acts of Galactus. He has been trying to move galaxies to somewhere Galactus cannot find them, but has been destroying them in the process. Galactus and the Watcher battle -- a huge cosmic confrontation that stretches over centuries, as the universe falls into near total entropy. Finally, to defeat the Watcher, Galactus sucks all the remaining energy out of the Universe. Nothing is left but Galactus and his loyal herald, Nova. Realizing at last what his purpose is, Galactus cracks the seal on his suit, starts to remove his helmet, and in that instant all the energy he has absorbed explodes out of him. He becomes the "big bang" of the next universe, and when the smoke clears, we see Nova has been reborn, as that universe's Galactus.

Incidentally, back when I was first approached about Marvel's "The End" project, I was asked to think about "last issues" for the X-Men and the Fantastic Four. One of the things that occured to me was using this as a way to finally finish the Last Galactus Story. Goes like this:

One day, out of a clear blue sky, literally, Nova falls into the heart of Manahattan. The FF go to investigate. They find her, and after a bit of trouble deciphering what she is saying they realize she has come from billions of years in the future. Reed's "universal translator" was having problems with her speech because she was speaking English, but English distorted by billions of years. Anyway, she finally tells them what's going on with Galactus and the rogue Watcher, and the FF race off to use their captured version of Doctor Doom's time machine to speed to the future and try to help Galactus. (Reed, you see, being Reed, has already figured out what Galactus' purpose is in the scheme of things.)

Uh oh! Using Doom's time machine alerts the good Doctor to what they are up to, and he goes after them. Pretty quickly he figures out what is going on, and realizes this is a perfect opportunity to steal the power of Galactus for himself. The universe may die in the meanwhile? What cares he?

So, of course, the FF end up battling Doom, who is doing all kinds of things to try to get Galactus' power, while Galactus is busy himself dealing with the rogue Watcher. Finally the good guys -- which includes Galactus in this case -- win, But Ben and Nova both die heroically in the process. Galactus wonders what it was all about, what it was all for. Reed tells him. Galactus understands. The FF (what's left of them) start to head back to their time machine with Doom as their prisoner. Galactus calls after them. "Leave him!" Moment of tension, but Reed agrees. The FF return to the present, and just as they wink out they see Galactus open the seals on his armor and begin to release all his stored energy.

The three are back on Earth, in the present. They mourn Ben, but they resolve to continue to fight the good fight, in his honor. The Fantastic Four are no more, but the Three shall fight on! Sue wonders what Galactus wanted Doom for.

Cut to somewhere, somewhen else. Energies roil. A Universe is aborning, and at its heart we see a great cosmic "egg" akin to the one that once gave birth to Galactus. It opens, and Galactus rises from its midst -- but when he turns to us, we see he now has the face/mask of Doctor Doom. Like a certain other human we all know, Doom is about to learn that "with great power must come great responsibility'. (2/15/2005)

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 Exception to the rule #2: Avengers West Coast

What's the story behind the unused Avengers West Coast cover with Kang?

JB: I'm going to break my own Number One Rule and tell a story that did not see print.

All this came out of the Immortus/Scarlet Witch debacle, of course. With the "realism" in Marvel at the time -- you know, like talking dragons being "telepathic", because that was more "realistic" -- it had become impossible to accept that Wanda's hex power could be something as prosaic as merely causing people to have "bad luck". So it had been decided that what she actually did was alter probabilities . Thus, if the probability of a badguy's gun jamming was 1000 to 1, she could make it 1 to 1, and the gun would jam. Bad luck for him!

When I came to do AVENGERS WEST COAST this was the accepted way of portraying Wanda's power -- but the more I thought about it, the more I realized this was really an incredible complication of something that had once been so simple. I mean, think about it! For Wanda to alter probabilities she would have to be reaching back thru the whole temporal chain of events that led to a single moment. She would have to be altering time -- retroactively!

Well, that sure seemed like something that could catch the eye of Immortus, eventually, and as I wrote the story, it did. Immortus, who had been seen pinching off alternate realities as part of a set up to this story, was engaged in a program of whittling the multiverse down to a single time-line. One which he would control.

Discovering Wanda's power, he was going to kidnap her and use her to further his plans. And the first thing he was going to do was alter probabilities so that when the Avengers battled Kang the first time, Kang won!

My story would reveal this in flashback, however, as we would open in the world long after this had happened. Pretty grim place, where most of the familiar heroes had been killed off or never become super powered in the first place. No FF, since they never took that rocket ride. No Hulk, since Rick Jone has never driven his car onto the Gamma Bomb test site. (One of the main characters was going to be Peter Parker, who had not become Spider-Man because of Immortus' manipulations.)

As the story progressed, we would learn slowly what had happened -- and also learn that we were not seeing "present day" Marvel, but rather a time a "few months" (Marvel Time) ago. The date would be just prior to when Thor, in order to save a wounded Black Knight, had used his hammer to open a portal in time and space and stuck the Knight into it. We would learn this when the Black Knight basically fell out of the air into the post-Kang's victory world. In that timeline, Thor had not placed him in the "time stasis", so when the changed world "caught up" to that moment, out popped the Black Knight. The multiverses intersected at that point, you see. Well, the Black Knight pretty quickly figures out what's going on, learns there is an underground (of course!) and helps the folk of the twisted version hunt down and stop Immortus, freeing Wanda (herself another link to the multiverse, by virtue of how Immortus has been manipulating her power) and setting everything right.

When all is restored, the Black Knight of course is back in that "hole in time", and Wanda is the only one who remembers how things were. A memory that fades, like a dream, very quickly. . . .


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 Exception to the rule #3: Uncanny X-Men

In response to the revelation of an outline of planned storylines for UNCANNY X-MEN through issue #150:

JB: Something that jumps out at me is the "death of Mariko" referece. That was going to be a hugely powerful story. In fact, when this list was made, with the death of Phoenix not even in the cards yet, it was probably the most powerful story we had planned.

I'm going to break one of my own rules here, since I have, at one time or another, discussed most of the details of Mariko's death as I had worked it out. So here it is all together, for those who haven't seen it before (and even those who have):

Sabretooth attacks Mariko as a way of getting to Wolverine. He brutalizes her beyond imagining. (Nothing sexual. This is sheer animal violence.) He leaves her for dead, torn and bleeding in a alley.

But she isn't dead, and the X-Men, tracking Sabretooth, find her. They race her to a hospital, and over the next several issues she lies in a coma, on life support. Other things occupy the X-Men's time for a while, but their thoughts keep coming back to Mariko. Wolverine returns to her bedside as often as he can. Her condition remains unchanged.

Finally, he can take it no longer. He begs Jean and Xavier to do something, to save her. Xavier scans her and makes a sad discovery. She is brain dead. Only the machines are keeping her alive.

Wolverine refuses to believe it. But Jean links his mind to Mariko, and he feels the emptiness where her soul used to be. He asks to be left alone with her.

Xavier and Jean depart, to wait outside. Wolverine sits by Mariko's beside, holding her hand, stroking her hair. He rises. He looks at the machines that are maintaining her life functions. In a sudden, swift movement he pops his claws and slashes the power cables. The machines fizzle and shut down.

Outside, in the hall, Jean and X have both "felt" what has happened. They move toward the door, but Wolverine comes out before they can enter. He stands for a moment in silence, looking at them. Finally he speaks. "She ain't meat," he says softly. And in an instant, he is gone, disappearing down a stairway.

Next issue, he finds and, in the most horrifying battle the Code would allow, kills Sabretooth (who was, at this point, to be revealed as his father.) (8/29/2006)

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Why did John Byrne stop working on...

 Alpha Flight

Second now only to FF, this book was the closest thing to you it seemed: a super-hero team spread across the vast space of Canada and not just Canadian clones of the Avengers. At what point did you decide to give up the book in lieu of the Incredible Hulk (a comparatively short run)? Any regrets in the long run?

JB: Alpha Flight was never much fun. The characters were created merely to survive a fight with the X-Men, and I never thought about them having their own title. When Marvel finally cajoled me into doing Alpha Flight, I realized how incredibly two-dimensional they were, and spend some twenty-eight issues trying to find ways to correct this fault. Nothing really sang for me. If I have any regrets, it would probably be that I did the book at all! It was not a good time for me. (from

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 Avengers West Coast

What was the (presumably editorial) disagreement that caused such a sudden departure from the book?

JB: The departure was as sudden as it was for a simple reason: a bone-head EiC who did not pay attention. Several months before the Immortus storyline got started, we writers and editors were summoned to the EiC's office for the purpose of concocting the latest . . . shudder. . . Summer Crossover. As I had a storyline coming up in AWC that would be pretty cosmic and wide reaching, I offered it as the basis for the Crossover. The EiC said no, he didn't want to do that for the Crossover. So Howard Mackie (AWC Editor) and I returned to our jobs on the book, and went ahead with the story as planned. One month before we got to the Big Reveal, as it were, the EiC suddenly noticed we were doing the storyline he had "rejected". He ordered us to change it, immediately. Howard protested -- the EiC had not said we could not do the storyline, only that he did not want to use it for the Crossover. Finally the EiC pulled rank -- we Must change our story, as we did not have "permission" to do it. (Permission was needed only if stories caused major changes to characters or continuity. This did neither.) Since there was nothing I could do with all my months setup, other than the story as planned, I quit in protest, with Howard's support.

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 Captain America

The collaboration between you and Roger Stern on Captain America in the early '80s was quite possibly the best version of Cap ever. Why did this run end so prematurely? I've seen the pages you drew that had Cap ready to depart from the UK after the Baron Blood two-part story. What the heck happened there?

JB: Start with Jim Shooter. One day he decided that all stories should be complete in one issue. There could be "continued stories" in the sense that subplots or locations could carry over from one issue to the next, but each issue had to contain a complete story unto itself. And, as with all such Shooter declarations, this was to be put into place +now+, immediately-with no consideration of the fact that some of us (say, Roger and I) might be already working on what was intended as the first chapter of a three part story.

To cut a long story very short, Roger came into contention with the CAP editor (Jim Salicrup) over this, and decided he would leave the book in protest. Although Salicrup asked if I would be interested in staying on as writer, I decided to support Roger, and left too.

A great pity, all things considered.

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 Fantastic Four

I just clicked over to eBay and saw the original cover to your last issue of the Fantastic Four which Marvel rejected. Any reason why they didn't use this cover? I feel that it was a lot more dynamic then the one that was used (the one that depicted She-Hulk being swallowed by the black dome).

JB: A lot of things happened in my last days on the FF. You may recall, this was when I was gearing up to being my run on Superman, and, being perhaps a bit Pollyanna in my younger days, actually thought I would be able to work on both books, without interference. I had even been given the blessing of Mike Hobson, then the putative publisher. But, alas, I overlooked the office of Editor-in-Chief. If you worked at Marvel in those days, one of the things that became increasingly apparent was that the books that were the most successful were the ones that came under the most stringent scrutiny by the EiC. One would think it would be the reverse, no? That the poorly selling books would be the ones that got their feet held, figuratively speaking, to the fire? Eventually it dawned on me that the EiC was not really seeking to salvage poor selling books, but, rather, was seeking to lay claim to the success of the books that were already doing well. Thus the X-Books were constantly under fire, as were the Spider-Books and, of course, the FF (which was one of Marvel's top sellers at the time). Since it became increasingly impossible for me to do anything right, in the eyes of the EiC, my decision to do Superman was just one more nail in the coffin. Suddenly, overnight, I could do Absolutely Nothing right. Remember the return of Jean Grey? Completely approved, in every detail, before I announced I was going to do Superman. After the announcement, redrawn and rewritten copiously. This is a rather long-winded way of saying that cover was rejected, for the same reason all the other changes were made: to punish me for being a Bad Boy.

If the powers that be at Marvel offered you the Fantastic Four would you do it? Or is your FF door closed forever?

JB: One of the things I have realized from reading umpety-ump postings here OnLine is that my work on the FF has been elevated far beyond its proper station. Sure, it was mostly good stuff, and some of it even flirted with greatness, but in many respects it shines because of the ol' Tiberius/Caligula scenario -- it looks so great because so much that followed was dross. Thus I face a terrible problem: if I were to return to the FF I would not only be expected to instantly "save" the book, I would be expected to "return" to those grandiose heights which I never really achieved in the first place! Frankly, I can live without that kind of pressure! (1/4/98)

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When you took over the Hulk's series, did you intend to stay beyond the six excellent issues you did, or did you find that those six stories said pretty much everything you wanted to say with the Hulk?

My adventures with THE INCREDIBLE HULK came about by a rather sad and curious route. I'd always liked the Hulk, but felt -- and this will shock and astound everyone, I'm sure -- that the character had drifted too far from his beginnings, and a "back to the basics" approach was necessary. To this end, I mentioned what I thought should be done with the Hulk to the Editor-in-Chief, and his response was "That's great! You should take over the Hulk book at once!" Well, I was up to my ears in other stuff at the time, so taking over the Hulk seemed unlikely -- until I realized I really had said all I had to say with ALPHA FLIGHT. So I called Bill Mantlo, who was writing HULK at the time, and asked if he would care to trade. Ultimately we did, and I set about doing all those things I had told to the E-i-C. Whereupon the very same E-i-C began saying "You can't do this! You can't do that!" Realizing I had been bushwacked, I took the only course available, and left the book after six issues. (1/18/98)

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 Indiana Jones

Were those two Indiana Jones issues the only ones you were supposed to do or was a longer run originally envisioned? If longer, why was it cut short?

JB: I'm going to do my best not to whine at you here. INDIANA JONES was one of the Worst Experiences I've had as a comicbook professional. It started out well enough -- I saw "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and came out of the theater with my brain abuzz with all kinds of story ideas for such a character, expecially set against the fascinating millieu of the 1930s. The first obstacle turned out to be Shooter (ser-prize!!) He didn't want to do an Indiana Jones book. Thought it would have no sales appeal. It was Jim Salicrup who pointed out that more people had heard of Indiana Jones than of Any Marvel character. So the book got greenlighted, written and drawn by yours truly.

Then came the second hurdle. Obviously, one of the chief attractions of such a book would be the Saturday Morning Serial feel one could evoke -- collosal, impossible cliffhangers at the end of every issue. Right? Well, not as far as Shooter was concerned. He was in his "one issue" mode at that time -- all stories must be resolved in one issue (except the ones he wrote himself, of course!). I could do "cliffhangers", he said, but only if I resolved them in The Same Issue. Some cliffhanger, huh?

Ahh. . . but this was only the Beginning! Next came the liason with LucasFilm, a woman who clearly understood nothing about the way comics were produced, and who had no inclination to learn. It went like this: I wrote the plot, submitted it to LucasFilm for approval. It was approved. Drew the pictures, likewise submitted, likewise approved. Wrote the script, submitted it -- she asked for plot changes. Er, no, we said -- that was two steps ago. No, she said, want plot changes!! And when the first issue was finally complete, she decided she liked the plot I'd submitted months earlier for the third issue even better, and wanted that to be the first issue. We talked her out of that one. After two issues of this insanity, I gave up the ghost.

There was no way to work if each step could be overturned by someone who did not understand the process. (This did not change after I left, by the way. Tom DeFalco later told me that when Marvel did the adaptation of the second movie, each step was approved as above, then one week before the book was to go to the printers, she called up and asked for a different penciler!!!!) Okay. . . . so I whined a little bit.

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 Iron Man

JB: When Howard Mackie, who was then editor of IRON MAN, called me up to ask if I would be interested in taking on the writing chores on that title, I was at first resistant. For one thing, the previous team had quit after solicitations had already gone out for their next storyline, so we were stuck having to produce something called "Armor Wars II" or Marvel would have to accept the book as returnable. I had not given much thought to what I might do with Iron Man, so the idea that I would have to start out with a retread of someone else's idea was in no way appealing. Then Howard said JRjr would be drawing it, and I said "Let me think about it."

The next day I called Howard and said "Okay, I have three Iron Man stories -- but only three. I'll sign on for those and see what happens."

What happened, at least at first, was the great pleasure of working with JR -- but, as noted, that lasted only 7 issues. He had his own, er, issues when it came to Iron Man, and apologized profusely for leaving. Paul Ryan came on in his stead. Paul is a solid artist, very skilled, but the magic was not the same. And then Howard left, too. So the project started out very well, but petered out rather quickly. (3/13/2005)

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 Power Man & Iron Fist

JB: POWER MAN AND IRON FIST was created primarily so that Chris and I -- who were yet to link up for X-MEN -- could continue as a team. Unfortunately, when the idea was hatched I was starting to find myself close to the end of my interest in Danny Rand and his doings. I hoped that the infusion of Luke Cage and his cast would reignite my interest, but this did not happen.

Years later, mind you, Iron Fist had been so messed up by a string of very bad ideas being shoehorned into him, that I saw a lot I could do in the way of a "rescue mission", and so picked up some of his threads for NAMOR.

Can't see myself returning to him, Cage or their team on any sort of permanent assignment, tho. (10/20/2005)

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JB: When I was asked to come up with a new "take" on She-Hulk for another try at a series, one of the first things Mark Gruenwald handed me (it was he who had done the asking) was the plot for a She-Hulk graphic novel that was in the works. Mark asked me to read it over and see what needed to be done to bring the plot into line with where I would be taking the new series. Dutifully, I read the plot and discovered that it pretty much missed the whole point of the character. Not only that, but it got huge chunks of Wyatt Wingfoot's history wrong (had him in the wrong tribe, for instance). It also got huge chunks of the real world totally wrong! In other words, pretty much of a mess.

I wrote copious notes thruout the plot, pointing out all the things that were wrong, and sent it back in. Frankly, I thought it was pretty much unsalvagable.

I started work on SENSATIONAL SHE-HULK and everything seemed to be going fine, until I discovered the editor assigned to the book was ignoring my notes on the graphic novel and was, in fact, actually rewriting my stuff to bring it into line with the G.N. I complained to the EiC who told me he "didn't want to be like Shooter" and so in any difference of opinion between editor and talent he would "always support my editors".*

So I was fired off SENSATIONAL SHE-HULK.

*This was the same EiC who "supported (his) editors" by rejecting an AVENGERS WEST COAST storyline the editor had completely approved and that had been in the works, as subplots, for several months. (12/11/04)

I'm currently re-reading the Comics Interview book that collected various interviews with you, and in it they have your cover to SENSATIONAL SHE-HULK #9 with "Roger the Robot". Since you left the book before that issue, can you share what your story idea was for that issue?

JB: I'd planned to introduce a very ROG-like golden robot as Jen's butler. She was going to meet him when she found herself prosecuting him for murder in a story I could not resist titling "Who Framed Roger Robot?" (4/11/2007)

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Can you talk a little about why you left Superman and the circumstances under which that happened?

JB: 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. During the whole two years I was on the project, although nothing happened that was not approved by DC editorial, there was no conscious support. 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 licensed material. After two years of this nonsense, I was just worn down. The fun was gone. (from

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 Wonder Woman and Jack Kirby's Fourth World

Wonder Woman and Jack Kirby's Fourth World Well, I've finally managed to receive a near complete run of JB's JK4W, and I was just wondering if anyone knew why this great series was discontinued?

JB: We're far enough away from the events now that some behind the scenes stuff can be revealed. Paul Kupperberg was planning on leaving his editorial position at DC (he was in charge of both books I was doing at the time, WONDER WOMAN and JK4W), and since my contract on both was coming to an end I thought it might be better to leave than to re-up for a year and find myself burdened with an editor I did not want to work with. So I wrapped up my stories on both titles, and went elsewhere. Paul's plans were a secret at the time, so I was not able to give any reasons for my departure other than "end-of-contract".

As it turned out, Paul did not leave editorial for quite a while (eventually he moved upstairs -- literally -- to Special Projects), so I could have stayed on both titles another year. Ah, well!

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 X-Men (the first time)

Are there any moments that you regretted leaving Uncanny X-Men? What kind of decision process did you go through to arrive at that moment?

JB: No real regrets, no. I'd reach a place in my life and my career that I needed certain reassurances. I'd become the Number One Artist in the business - deservedly or not - and I really needed to know if that was because of me, or because of the X-Men. Plus, I was increasingly unhappy with Chris's portrayal of the characters, and his scripting of scenes, many of which I'd plotted. So, I decided to leave.(from

From the JB board:

I have read your posts on the subject of your X days, and it seems that Chris was not much of a comic historian, and that drove you a little nuts when he would write the characters out of context.

JB: Chris will always sacrifice character to story -- or, more often, to "bit". In the X-Men folder I have mentioned his "writing to the moment", where frequently scenes we had plotted one way would be written another, points would be lost, characterization skewed, and when I asked Chris why he had made the change(s) he would say "That was how I felt at the time." Yes. It drove me nuts! So much so, I finally left the book. (4/7/1998)

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 X-Men (the second time)

What about working on the X-MEN series with Jim Lee and Whilce Portacio so soured you on the idea of working on that series even without Jim and Whilce? If the X-MEN spot were open and Jim and Whilce were not involved, why wouldn't you take it?

JB: Apart from the logistical nightmare working with Jim and Whilce turned out to be, the characters themselves had moved so far away from anyone I knew -- or wanted to know! -- I found absolutely no connection to them.

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All statements starting with JB: are 1997-2024 John Byrne Inc. and may not be reproduced outside of, in whole or in part, without written permission of John Byrne Inc.