Tag Archives: John Byrne

Happy Birthday Big Red S!


Seventy Five years old!  Great Rao!

I have a lovely essay that I wrote on the occasion of Superman’s 70th Birthday, and rather than rethink it, I’ll just link to it below.  Click on the image and you’ll be taken to a much larger and readable version of the article.   When you’re done (or once you’ve ignored the article and scrolled below it), you can rejoin the regular blog, still in progress.


What I said still holds true (unless the upcoming movie REALLY sucks).

I’ve had a long and unexpected association with Superman through the years, and I consider it quite an honour to have contributed to the great character’s legacy. Working out of the Superman office in the late 80s and early 90s gave me the whooping-giggle thrill of collaborating with some of the legends of this comics industry.  I got ink over such childhood heroes as Jim Mooney:

mooney superboy

And John Byrne…

Superman Splash 598

 Dan Jurgens…

jurgens superman

…and the definitive Superman artist for a generation: Curt Swan.


…as well as a dozen other artists working out Mike Carlin’s Superman office.  My single favourite image I contributed to while I was a Superman inker was this cover for Superboy: The Comic Book #4…penciled by Kevin Maguire and rendered by your humble blogger.  I rarely put my own artwork up on the walls of my house, but I consider this a Kevin piece anyway, so it sat on my wall for years.

I dare you to tell me that isn't a great cover.

I dare you to tell me that isn’t a great cover.

Superman was on hand the first time I co-wrote a story with my pal Dan Slott.  Though we’d worked together as a writer/artist team a few times, this was our first collaboration as co-writers, and our little tale featured Krypto and his big flyin’ master.   Go find a copy and read it, you’ll let go of a few honest tears when it’s done.  I’m proud of this one.


I got to work with Jerry Seinfeld because of Superman.  I was asked to design the look of  Superman for a series of Seinfeld/American Express animated commercials, as well as creating some odd Jerry and Superman scenes for billboards and print ads.

Superman Jerry 1The original photo is Jerry grabbing at “no one” in the air, and I had to draw Superman to fit where Jerry’s hand was.  Kal-el is supposed to be saying “this guy’s crazy”, but it looks equally like he’s tickling the comedian.

Superman and Jerry bond over their dogs.

Superman and Jerry bond over their dogs.

Is there any better job than being paid to illustrate Krypto starting a bromance?

Working for Superman offered me to opportunity to design collectable action figures:


and crayon boxes, and puzzles and t-shirts and colouring books and darn near anything with an S on it.  Of the many many images of Superman I’ve drawn for DC Comics over my career, this is my favourite:

JLA 31I know there’s other characters on this JLU cover, but there’s something about the Superman figure that sits just right with me.  His proportions, his expression, even the colours of his costume, all came together in this image and I didn’t screw any of it up.  I actually don’t hate this cover and my wife will tell you how rare that is for me.  I might be wrong, but I think it’s the last time I drew Superman for the mother corporation…once I get it correct, I scoot off and don’t do it again.

So happy birthday Mr. Cape.  You’ve been a delightful character to read as a child, to work on as a young adult, and to come back to every few years like a comfortable trip back home.   I hope I get another chance at him someday…and I treasure the time we spent together.

I’m always a little jealous when he dates someone else.

Ty the Guy OUT!

Here now, your BONUS Superman Moment- You knew this one was coming.


Thank Canada! Thank Canada!


Don't make us put on our antler costumes and come down there.


It’s Thanksgiving weekend in Canada.  We do it early, which proves (by the science of common sense) that we invented it, and gave Thanksgiving to the world as a gift.  The United States later introduced our introspective holiday into their calendar, retroactively attaching it to a big dinner that starving English settlers shared with local Indians a few years before the shooting started.  But it’s our holiday obviously:   It’s based on politeness. Don’t look it up or you’ll insult me.  It’s ours.

Besides Canada’s generosity in giving humanity a moment to reflect on their good fortune, I’ve created a list of the other things the people of the world SHOULD be thanking Canada for.


Thank you, Mr. Shatner.


And no, it’s not going to be about Bill Shatner, though obviously it could be.  It’s about the world of comic books, and that fact that it simply wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for Canada, and that’s a fact.

So on behalf of the bacon-eating hockey players of this proud nation everywhere… Eskimos and fur trappers, and frozen Frenchmen…

…you’re WELCOME, comic fans.




8)  John Byrne

Normally these are top SEVEN lists, but John Byrne is so insistent that people include him in things, that I let him have his way, even though, technically, he’s a Brit.  Canada should be thanked because we educated the Byrne boy.  Took him in from that wretched England, and raised him up from the tender age of eight, until we let him go into the world in middle age.  Turned out he was the biggest thing in comics for most of the late 70s, and to politely thank us back, he made Canadian comic star, WOLVERINE, into the most popular comic book character for the last thirty years.


And made "Snikt" a household word, along with "beer".


7)  Hal Foster

His Tarzan comic strips were phenomenal, but Foster’s PRINCE VALIANT Sunday pages throughout the 40s and 50s are often considered the most beautiful illustrations ever done for the comics page.    Here, look…


That's just one panel.


Wally Wood, Al Williamson, Mark Shultz, Joe Kubert, Dave Sim and literally hundreds of other illustrators of the Golden and Silver ages cite Nova Scotia local boy Hal Foster as their primary influence.  Gee, you think Kirby might have borrowed the look of his “DEMON” from somewhere in panel three…?  Say “Thank you”, Jack.
6)  Our Trees.


Marvel Comics, slightly before they're collectable.


Every American comic book you’ve ever held in your hand started life as a Canadian tree.  You can forget that the printing industry of the North East has ALWAYS used our fine Quebec forests as their principal source of paper, as long as you remember that since the 80s, damn near every comic book published by every publisher, large or small, was printed at QUEBECOR PRINTING in…you guessed it, Quebec.  Thank the French-Canadian lumberjacks for this one.


Oh ho! Ze Comics...they all rely on Jacques to exist, mais non?


5)  Darywn Cooke

Besides being the only man who can collapse civilization by saying “sudden lesbian” in an online video, Darwyn Cooke is comics current “it boy”, with critical gushes and swooning fans following him from project to project.   His retro style has earned him every award the biz has to offer, and he’s done all this while being a dead ringer for Slam Bradley – an achievement in itself.  Without Darwyn, comics nowadays would be nothing more but hyperbolic close up details of forearm veins.  Thank the stars, he stems that tide.


That's a very patriotic American image there, Darwyn...


4)  Lynn Johnston.

FOR BETTER OF FOR WORSE is easily the best comic art ever given to us by a female creator, and for the whole time it was being published, Lynn drew it from her home a few hours north of Toronto.

This magnificent series (only recently finished up) aged along with its readers, and touched the lives of millions in a way that the comics hadn’t since the early days of the century.  Along with Doonesbury, Peanuts, Pogo, Li’l Abner, Krazy Kat, Popeye, Little Nemo, Prince Valiant and Calvin and Hobbes, FBOFW is one of the ten best comic strips ever produced.  If you know who Farley is, and the mere mention of his name doesn’t start to choke you up, you’re an inhuman monster.


The series finale from 2008


3)  Dave Sim


a rare photo of Dave with his mouth shut


The creation and the COMPLETION of the astounding run of CEREBUS THE AARDVARK is the No. #1 most inspiring story the world over for both indie cartoonists and people prone to spelling mistakes.


Yes, that's a typo. A thirty year typo...


Dave Sim proved that if you have an insanely long, mind-bogglingly intricate story that’s going to take you twenty seven years to tell…then BY GOD, it can be done, even if you have to do it yourself!!  CEREBUS is the longest running series ever written and drawn by the same guy – don’t even bring up the part about publishing it and promoting it himself (with the help of his temporary wife and temporary publisher Deni Loubert, of course, and his inker/background assistant GERHARD).  300 issues, 6000 pages, 12,000 loud mouth opinions in the letters pages.  When people say Sim wrote the book on self-publishing, he literally did.  Image Comics, wouldn’t exist without his ground-breaking influence, and apparently, neither would Babylon 5.

2)  Todd McFarlane


The '90s: they were his fault. But at least he has balls.


Speaking of Image Comics…  We must give thanks for our man of the Western Praries:  Todd McFarlane.  Without him, we wouldn’t have all those extra fidgety lines on all those drawings for the last twenty years.  Besides re-inventing Spider-Man’s face mask, Marvel’s sales figures and humanity’s basic anatomy, Todd re-invented the toy industry by adding so many bendy bits to action figures, that they are now too cool to remove from the box.


Don't you DARE play with this. It's not a TOY, it's a McFarlane Action Figure!


Because of the twin revolutions of Image Comics and McFarlane Toys, the fanboy universe would not be the same without him, and neither would the million dollar home-run-collectible baseball market, as I think Todd owns them all.  I think he part-owns the Edmonton Oilers too, but there’s no American who needs to thank him for that.


The Million Dollar Balls of Todd


1)  Joe Shuster


Shuster, hard at work cheating himself out of millions.


Ah, you knew I was going here.  Joe Shuster was the Canadian artist who co-created Superman to help out his American friend Jerry Seigel accomplish SOMETHING in his life.


He helped create this guy.


Canadians know this because we have the stamps, the “Heritage Minute”,  the street named after him in Toronto, and the cousin he left behind to create WAYNE AND SHUSTER.  (It’s absolutely true, they were blood relatives!)


You'll note the resemblance to Jor-El.


Superman is practically a Canadian citizen we hear about this so much.  Metropolis is based on Toronto.  The Daily Planet is based on Toronto’s


He was not born on this street, but it's in the right town, at least.


“Daily Star” newspaper, and the original editor “George Taylor” was named after a real Daily Star Editor, and former boss of former Star copy boy, Shuster.   I don’t  have to tell you that comics in America would have died out long ago without the fellows in the capes, and that the fellows in the capes are ALL a variation on the Man of Steel in one way or another.

So you’re welcome, world!  Thank Canada!

Honorable Mentions:

Stuart Immomen, Ian Boothby,  Dave Ross, Kaare Andrews, Win Mortimer, Ken Lashley, Chester Brown, Tom Fowler, Pia Guerra, Bryan Lee O’Malley, Seth, Max Douglas, Richard Pace, Dale Keown, Bernie Mireault, Gabriel Morrissette, Yanick Paquette, Travis Charest, Diana Shutz,Tom Grummett, Howard Wong,  Steve McNiven, David Finch, Gene Day, Sam Agro, Kate Beaton, Richard Comely, Denis Rodier, Gibson Quarter, David J. Cutler, Clement Sauve, Steve Platt, George Freeman, Dean Motter, Ken Steacy, Adrian Alphona, Pat Davidson, Ramon Perez, Ho Che Anderson, Martin Pasko, Rand Holmes, Cam Stewart, Marcus To, Francis Manapul, Ryan Sohmer, Bob Smith, Mark Shainblum, Kent Burles,  Lar Desouza, J.  Bone, Kalman Adrasofszky…and K.T. Smith.

Just off the top of my head.


Here now, your comic book moment of zen:


Art by Joe Shuster, for adult publishers, shortly after he stopped drawing Superman.



A recent spate of internet chatter involving something Darwyn Cooke said about making Batwoman gay got me thinking about homosexual comic characters in general.   Cooke was worried that DC was being exploitative of Batwoman’s lesbianism, rather than sensitive and intelligent about it –  something he’s concluded without reading the actual Detective Comic series, I’ll wager, or he’d know it’s being done quite well.  But I’ll give Darwyn the benefit of the doubt, as the pre-release Batwoman hype seemed more aimed at titillation than acceptance, and it’s not like comics haven’t had an appalling track record when creating gay characters.

You can just see the tolerance and acceptance in this image.

LGBT people were routinely played as odd, creepy or predatory in our biz, if they were even mentioned at all…check out Jim Shooter’s infamous Bruce-Banner-Nearly-Raped-in-the-Shower scene in the Rampaging Hulk to get a typical view of the subject from the Seventies.

And if they weren’t sinful weirdoes, they ended up dead from AIDS or being killed off-panel unceremoniously, because, well… no one will miss them.  Count how many X-Men have come out over the years, and now count up how many of them are dead.  The numbers don’t add up well.

Even when strong, positive gay characters showed up, there was still something “off” about ‘em.  Spider-Man’s cop friend Jean DeWolff was brusque and unpleasant (and has since been killed off). The Flash’s gay pal, Pied Piper, (written excellently by Mark Waid) was an evil Rogue named after a character who lured young children away from their parents by blowing on something.  (Flash Rogues with more problematic names if they’d popped out of the closet:   “the Top”, “the Rainbow Raider” and “the Golden Glider”.…)

It’s been a long road to get to where Batwoman, Midnighter, Rene Montoya, Apollo, Anole, Obsidian, and John Constantine can be out and still be decent characters with more or less regular lives, and who are not portrayed as creepy, or bad or sinful.  Well, except for Constantine, but that’s how we like him.  Along that road, there have been bumps and mistakes — Attempts to be inclusive that ended up making LGBT folk seem odder to mainstream readers.  And of course,  wherever there is awful comics…I’ll be there to share them with you….

Here now–


7)  Sebastian O

Created by writer Grant Morrison in 1993.  (Grant shows up again later in this list so keep an eye peeled).  I believe he’s the first gay character to have his own comic series from a mainstream American publisher (Vertigo), if you don’t count characters ret-conned into their GBLT status (such as DC’s Shade the Changing Man/Woman).

Sebastian O is set in a steampunk version of Victorian England, wherein Sebastian is more or less a revenge-killer version of Oscar Wilde, only more gay…Oh sure, his mission is to hunt down and slay someone who got him tossed unjustly into prison (mostly for writing a “sinful” book), but it’s hard to be on O’s side when he’s friends with an admitted (and unrepentant) child molester, and when he murders innocent people, and feeds their bodies to his cat if it suits his needs.  There’s too much overt pederasty through the story for it to be helpful to anyone’s understanding of a gay lifestyle, and I’m not sure a homicidal Wilde is even the best place to start…

It IS a gun in my pocket, but I'm still glad to see you.

Here’s the strange part:  The series is actually readable, and Mr. O is easily the least annoying character on this list.

6)  Tasmanian Devil

Because there are no bears in Australia.

Taz was the first openly homosexual member of the Justice League, and it sure made him into a household name in the world of comics, didn’t it?  After coming out, the Devil was continuously played as a background character (rarely with even a single line of dialog), who shows up to be beaten senseless during REALLY BIG crossover events, and that’s about it.  You can find him buried in rubble on page eight in any book with the word CRISIS in the title.  After his second class status in the Justice League went nowhere, he was relegated to the astoundingly forgettable GLOBAL GUARDIANS, where he did nothing there either.  Eventually he’s killed and turned into a throw rug by Prometheus in the recent miniseries, JUSTICE LEAGUE: CRY FOR JUSTICE.
It’s not like Taz was ever a good character to begin with, but if they were going to make him gay, for god’s sake, don’t make him SO F***ING LAME!

5)  Monsieur Mallah and the Brain.

Ah...l'amour. C'est fou! A talking gorilla and a disembodied jar of goo, in love.

Dateline: Early Doom Patrol.  The Brain (when he was a regular mad scientist with a body) did some mad science-y experiments on a regular mountain gorilla until the ape became a simian genius with the power to speak French, and the desire to do evil.  Then the scientist lost his body in some sort of science-y accident and ended up a brain in a jar.  You’d think that would make this pair weird enough…

But during Grant Morrison’s 80s run of the DOOM PATROL, the Brain was put into one of the spare robot bodies belonging to Doom Patrol member ROBOTMAN and the fun began.  As soon as he had arms and legs (and other body parts), Brain tells Mallah that he has been secretly in cross-species love with the furry beastie for years, but couldn’t confess it when he was just squishy lumps of tube stuff.   Mallah sends his bestial gay love right back at Brain, and they move in for the weirdest kiss in Western fiction… until … well, you’ll just have to read it to believe it…

…yup.  The Robotman body self destructs the moment the monkey plants a smacker on the android’s lips, as it simply can’t exist in a world that odd.  It sure brought home the idea that homosexuals are JUST like you and me.  A great leap forward for tolerance.

(NOTE:  The characters have since been revived and killed again, this time Mallah being beaten to death with Brain as the weapon.  They always die together, though…so it’s KINDA romantic.)

4) Freedom Ring:

Quick Quiz: Whose costume is more macho?

Though at first glance, the character of Curtis Doyle’s FREEDOM RING (first appearing in Robert Kirkman’s “Master of the Ring” 5 part story arc in Marvel Team-Up a few years back) seemed like a decent character to make into a gay-positive super-hero.  He’s well adjusted, intelligent and casually “out” about his lifestyle, when he acquires a bit of the Cosmic Cube in the form of a ring, and is ready to save the world as essentially Marvel’s version of a Green Lantern.

But then this happens.

It could have gone well, except Curtis is killed dead,  penetrated by many phallic looking “things” (tendrils, spikes?), shooting out from a bad guy’s body (another subtle one there, guys) exactly one month to the day after he was being promoted as Marvel’s new Gay Superhero by Joe Quesada in interviews.  The story in which he was killed had already been written and drawn when Quesada felt the need to do the media promotion thing.  It’s hard to believe they weren’t aware of the F*CK YOU involved when they quickly impale Freedom Ring dead, in one of the worst bait-and-switch messages since Bill Jemas’ MARVILLE was described as “readable”.   Author Kirkman now claims he “didn’t mean it” to be so bluntly homophobic, it just sort of turned out that way… 

3)  The Rawhide Kid

I hear guns can be metaphors for something.

Probably the worst dialog for any gay character in comics belongs to Rawhide Kid….perhaps for any straight character as well.

Ha ha! It's funny, see?

The “Kid” had been a Marvel Western mainstay since the late fifties, usually taking third place behind Kid Colt: Outlaw, and the Two-Gun Kid in popularity.  But, in 2003, editor Axel Alonzo and writer Ron Zimmerman took this somewhat outdated Atlas era gunfighter and made him into a prancing joke, supposedly to introduce more gay-positive characters into the Marvel world.  For a book about straight shootin’, it’s ironic how MUCH THEY MISSED THEIR TARGET.

And if he gets bored, he's scratch your eyes out.

The mini-series “RAWHIDE KID:  SLAP LEATHER” (beautifully drawn by the legendary John Severin) is an aimless generic plot (about saving a rancher  from evil land developers or something) that has no reason for existence, beyond fruity double entendres and an obsession with keeping one’s leather gear looking fabulous. It’s as though Zimmerman’s entire knowledge of homosexuality came from a screening of THE BIRDCAGE, and then he checked with a Westboro Baptist minister to ensure he was writing a script “faggy” enough to be absurdly hateful.

Guess what?  It was.

Hey folks. Do you get it? It's like it's a gun, or maybe it's a dick. It's all too subtle for me.

2)  Northstar

What DIDN’T Marvel handle badly about this character’s history?  Let us count the ways…

1) John Byrne created him to be Marvel’s first openly homosexual character, but the editors refused to let Northstar’s orientation be discussed for more than ten years- until issue #106 of ALPHA FLIGHTNorthstar had been gay since Alpha Flight #1.

The world of Canadian Superheroes gets all "real".

2)   A few years before he was officially “out”, he got a mysterious illness that was very AIDS-like, and he was only cured of it when…

3)  …It was revealed that he was actually a ….I swear to god….FAIRY. The kind with little fly wings, you know…like Tinkerbell?  Being part fairy gave him some sort of immunity in his blood or something, I don’t remember the details, only that I threw my copy across the room when I read it.

4)  Bless his heart, Northstar adopts a baby girl he finds in a dumpster, but the kid dies of AIDS before long.  AIDS and Fairies, folks, that’s what being gay in the Marvel Universe is all about.

5)   He’s never had a date, or a romantic moment in his entire publishing history so far as I know, and his orientation barely comes up in his own mini-series.  For Marvel’s first “gay” character, he’s sure not very gay.  But at least he’s currently alive (though Wolverine DID kill him once).  That’s fairly rare for olde-tyme homosexuals in the funny books…

Don't forget, he's a professional skier, so he goes "swish" whenever he goes down.

and finally…

1)  Extraño

Like a fine wine, this drawing only gets better with age.

Created by Steve Englehart and Joe Staton in the DC MILLENIUM mini-series of the late 80s, and later spun-off into THE NEW GUARDIANS super-hero team with fellow token character “Pieface”, the Inuit mechanic from Silver Age Green Lantern comics…(clearly the Spirit’s EBONY WHITE was busy.)
Extraño is the Spanish word for “strange” or “queer”, so you know you’re in for thoughtful writing from the get-go.  This caricature of a flaming queen was the first openly gay super-hero in DC history (and I think in comics generally), and boy-howdy was he a sensitive portrayal.  First there’s his whole “look”: a billowy purple cape, bling that would embarrass Flavor Flav, thigh-high leather pirate boots (rolled down), and a goofy mustache that would someday inspire Prince.  Oh, and he’s  constantly referring to himself as “Auntie”.  I think the editors were going for gay-positive but they clearly had no idea what that was.   I guess they figured a flamboyant, hair-obsessed Hispanic with magic powers would simply write itself.   He was kind of a Dr. Strange character that could levitate and do mystical shit, but that was never what he was about.  It was the gayness.  The gay clothes, the gay attitude, the ASTOUNDINGLY large blow-dried ‘do… Aaaand, of course, because he was, you know…GAY…, he’s trying to kill himself when we first meet him (stopped by the Flash) aaaand he eventually had to contract AIDS, which he got from a possibly-gay vampire called Hemo-Goblin.  Though after he got himself the AIDS, he never seemed to ever suffer from it in any way…and kind of forgot he had it.
I guess the suicide attempt was Englehart’s attempt at insight, but it came off as a patronizing cliché, even in the 80s.

This is the least flamboyant image I could find of this guy.

BONUS POINTS:  Since Extraño wasn’t just an collection of homosexual stereotypes, but also Hispanic stereotypes, they managed to knock down two minorities in one go.
Of course, readers got tired of this crap, and DC recently killed him in a big explosion that dropped most of a house on his ass.


The Seven BEST Gay characters in Comics…because the glass is finally half full.

Ty the Guy OUT!

Here now, your comic book moment of zen: