Byrne Robotics : FAQ : Miscellaneous Questions


Frequently Asked Questions

Miscellaneous Questions


 Is the cover of Joe Satriani's "Surfing With The Alien" album drawn by JB?

Yes, the "Surfing With The Alien" album cover featuring the Silver Surfer was drawn by John Byrne. However, the drawing was not an original piece, and JB did not give permission or receive payment for its use. The art is lifted from panel 1 of page 6 of SILVER SURFER #1 published in 1982.

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 What's the story with the Byrne Robotics mascot ROG-2000?

I have been looking at pictures of ROG-2000 and wondering where his name comes from and/or what it represents? I also saw your drawing of Paty 200-89 just now and am wondering the same thing for her.

JB: Both names had the same source, Bob Layton.

Back in the Jurassic Period, Bob, along with Roger Stern and a few other names you'd be less likely to know, ran a fanzine called CPL, out of Indianapolis. I got hooked up with them, providing spot illustrations. One day I sent in a drawing of a robot with his arm blown off. Since there were several people named Roger "on staff" at the time, Bob decided this was the latest editor, and dubbed the robot ROG-2000. Roger Stern then got in touch with me and asked for more. Since I had no access to xerox technology at the time, I had to work from memory, and the robot I came up with was somewhat different from the original. The
illustration of him sitting behind a desk, reading mail, is the first official ROG-2000 drawing.

Further drawings went in over the months that followed. One was the "female" robot Bob dubbed "Paty" (Pay-Tee), after Dave Cockrum's wife. (5/4/2007)

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 Was JB once asked to write CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS?

I have read that JB was asked to do the original 80s CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS miniseries. Is this true?

Some time in the early 1980s -- I can't pinpoint the exact date, but I do recall that I was attending a convention in Atlanta -- DC's then-EiC Dick Giordano approached me about writing and drawing something that had the working title "The History of the DC Universe". This was proposed as a 12 issue "maxi-series" which would use the first 11 issues to lay out all the established DC lore, doing the best that could be done to shuffle all the conflicting details into some kind of cohesive whole, Then, in the 12th issue, everything would "blow up" due to some terrible cosmic catastrophe, and the next month all the DC books would "restart" with first issues.

As it happened, I was having dinner with Dick, Frank Miller and Frank's then-girlfriend Laurie Sutton, when Dick made the offer, and Frank was quick to say I would have to be crazy to accept such a project. I agreed -- but in any case, acceptance was unlikely since, as I told Dick, my knowledge of the history of the DCU was not as extensive as of the Marvel Universe. There were, in fact, huge tracts of DC lore (such as the Legion of Superheroes) about which I knew almost nothing.

So I passed on the project, and over the next couple of years it floated around, mutating as it went, until it became CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS. (12/28/2004)

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 Did JB coin the phrase "fanboy"?

JB: The earliest use of the word "fanboy" of which I am aware was in the "Obligatory New Pages" of Jim Engle and Chuck Fiala's FANDOM CONFIDENTIAL collection (from the pages of "The Comic Reader".) In a scene in which Jim and Chuck collapse into paroxysms of mindless adoration because they have been in the room with me for more than five minutes, Jim had me refer to them as "a couple of fanboys in bondage". This was a reference to/play on a Monty Python skit in which an Elizabethan character is scene reading "Gayboys in Bondage" which she claims is by William Shakespeare. (4/18/2005)

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 What was JB's involvement with the How To Draw Comics Comic?

Did a second issue of the "How To Draw Comics Comic"ever come out? I remember getting the first one ( very informative) but never seeing a second.

JB: Here we come to some of the Bad Things That Happen When You Trust People. I had nothing to do with the HOW TO DRAW COMICS COMIC aside from loaning the publisher a whole whack of my sketchbooks -- sketchbooks he never returned -- from which to lift any art he might feel was appropriate. I did not write a single word for the book, and I even had to stop him calling the dang thing "JOHN BYRNE'S HOW TO. . . " (11/12/97)

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 How is it that JB "created" Venom?

I had always thought Venom was one of the better spider-villains -- something I credit more to David Michelinie in spite of the fact that McFarlane got most of the credit.

JB: I've told this story before, but it's worth repeating for illustration purposes: Todd McFarlane likes to say he "created" Venom -- usually forgetting David Michelinie. When I hear this, I usually respond by saying "No! I created Venom!" And it goes like this: Iron Fist used to be getting his costume torn up all the time. By the next issue, it was usually repaired again. I didn't much like the notion of Danny Rand sitting in a corner with a needle and thread, so, extrapolating from Chris's (then) idea that K'Un L'Un was actually a crashed spaceship that used its warp drive to phase between dimensions (Chris being in a sci-fi mode that week), I suggested that the outfit was made of some kind of biological material that "healed" instead of having to be patched. We never got around to using that in IRON FIST, and years later, after Spider-Man got his alien costume in SECRET WARS, Roger Stern asked if he could use the notion, and added the idea that the suit was some kind of symbiote. Tom DeFalco (if memory serves) took this a few steps further, until David and the Toddler added a big, ugly mouth and gave it a name, Venom.

So, who "created" Venom?

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 How come JB doesn't work on Batman more often?

Was just wondering if had planned (or if you had already) done a run on Batman?

JB: I do Batman as infrequently as I do for a couple of reasons, but the main one is detective stories (good ones, anyway) are just to darned hard to write! I could not begin to imagine doing so on a monthly basis. (Blow up a couple of planets? Sure! No sweat! Solve a locked room mystery? My head hurts!!) (5/7/1998)

That's OK, when was the last time Batman functioned as a detective? I mean, obsessive compulsives with a revenge complex don't need no magnifying glass.

JB: And that's the OTHER reason I don't do much Batman. Logically, he should be the healthiest guy out there. After all, check out his GREAT therapy! To deal with his "inner demons" he actually gets to Beat People Up!! (5/8/1998)

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 What is the significance of the license plate number GNU556?

Does anyone know why the license plate GNU556 shows up in a lot of JB's stories? The first time I noticed it was FF #249. I've seen it all over the place since then, my favorite was in Danger Unlimited on a boat.

JB: When I was a lad I was introduced to the comedy stylings of musical team Flanders & Swann. One of their pieces was about a Gnu (the animal), and in setting up the song, Michael Flanders told the story of how he was inspired to write it by the licence plate number of a car that was park for some prolonged period in front of his flat. That number installed itself in my memory as GNU556, tho on several different recordings Flanders varied the number slightly. The CD version I purchased in England a few years back, for instance, has the number as 596GNU. Anyway, Flanders and Swann are both dead now, and have been for quite some time, but GNU556 is my little tribute to them. (6/23/2004)

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 Is it true that JB once drew the comic strip FUNKY WINKERBEAN?

JB: I did 10 weeks of FUNKY continuity as a favor to Tom Batiuk, who I have known for many years. The strips can be seen in the GALLERIES section of Every once in a while I get the urge to try doing a strip, but so far I have put no real effort into creating one of my own.

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 What was JB's fan-fiction plot for the third STAR WARS movie?

JB: Being such a fan of the first film and being hugely unimpressed with the second, I DID have my own third chapter worked out.

In my version all is as it has been shown to be. Darth is Luke's father. Darth's whole focus, then, is compelling Luke to join him on the Dark Side. He unleashed terrible forces against the universe. He destroys, kills, annihilates. Everything is designed to push Luke to the edge, as he is driven back by Vader's power.

The Moment comes. Vader has killed Someone Important. Leia. Han. Doesn't really matter. But Luke is pushed over. He's going to fight fire with fire. He opens himself to the Dark Side.

BAAAAAD Nastiness! A cosmic battle like we have not seen. Whole systems are destroyed.

But in the middle of it all, some spark of who and what Darth Vader used to be glimmers in the darkness. He sees his son become something more horrible than anything he has ever been -- and he sees that he has been wrong. He understands, perhaps for the first time, everything Obi-Wan taught him.

He kills Luke. He cannot do anything else. But in the process, he also ABSORBS him. They both become One with the Force, and out of this, Darth Vader is reborn -- HE is the "other" Yoda prophesized.

The reborn Vader sets out to restore order and peace to the Galaxy, his black armor now transformed into brilliant, blazing white. (I did a drawing of this. It looks WAY cool!)

And somewhere off in the great by and by, Obi-Wan looks upon what he set in motion, and knows that, in the end, he did the right thing.

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 Why doesn't JB appear at comic conventions?

MidOhioCon 2004 is billing your appearance as your last ever. How come?

JB: When I first got into the business, I used to look upon conventions as a kind of mini-vacation. I'd go to a con, hang out with folks, meet the fans, and be back at the drawingboard Monday morning. But as years went by, it got to be Tuesday morning. Wednesday. Thursday. Monday -- but of the next week. Basically, I found that I was needing more and more "recovery time" after each convention -- and that recovery time was time in which the real part of my job, drawing comics, was not getting done. So I weighed the advantages (interacting with a few hundred fans) against the disadvantages (not working on books that are for tens of thousands of fans), and I decided the former did not outweigh the latter. So, after MidOhioCon 2004, no more cons for me. (10/03/2004)

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 Has JB's comicbook work occasionally appeared to predict future events?

Over the decades, a few of JB's stories have contained elements that were later mirrored by real-life events. For example:

* JB drew an issue of MARVEL TEAM-UP with writer Chris Claremont that involved a blackout in New York City. Soon after the issue was released in 1977 (and months after JB had drawn it), New York City experienced a massive blackout.

* In UNCANNY X-MEN, JB and Claremont created a story where Japan was struck by an earthquake caused by supervillain Moses Magnum. In 1978, Japan was struck by a number of earthquakes.

* In the Superman reboot miniseries MAN OF STEEL, JB planned to have Superman introduce himself the world when he saved the NASA space shuttle from a disaster. While JB was still working on the issue, the Space Shuttle Challenger operated by NASA experienced a fatal disaster. JB was able to redraw the pages so Superman was shown saving a fictional space-plane instead of a "space shuttle."

* In late August 1997, WONDER WOMAN #126 hit the stands with a story about the death of Wonder Woman, Princess Diana of Themyscira. A few days later, England's Princess Diana was killed in a car accident.

JB's perspective on these coincidences, as published in Scientific American: My ability as a prognosticator…would seem assured—provided, of course, we reference only the above, and skip over the hundreds of other comic books I have produced which featured all manner of catastrophes, large and small, which did not come to pass.

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