I dare say that 25 years is a long time to have missed out of Byrne's material to date. But it is good to take in an intelligent response, which I'll address in similar format. None of this is meant to be derogatory or combative, let's get that up front. At its best it may even enlighten:
"Most versatile comic-book talent of the 20th century" covers a helluva lot of territory. More versatile than Will Eisner? Than Jack Kirby (taking into account his entire career, not just the tin-eared writing in his post-1970 work)? Than Walt Kelly * (who did outstanding comic-book work before settling into a newspaper comics career)? Than Harvey Kurtzman? Than Carl Barks? Than Walter Simonson?
First, to address your closing point: it is not my intention to degrade the efforts of some of the fine stalwarts in the business today. I can name drop a few you missed: Robert Kirkman, Mark Millar, Jamie Delano, Terry Moore, Garth Ennis, Warren Ellis... but not Brian Bendis... these are all superstars in their own fiefdoms and deserve all the credit they have earned. But I do stand by my point. As far as unified talent (meaning the chores of writing and artwork and in great volume/consistency), to me the only one that comes close to Byrne is Walt Simonson. Other than him (and Kirby which I gave an affectionate nod), no I think Byrne runs rings around Barks and Kurtzman for the simple reason that Byrne's work is so accessible by so many. I would go so far as to guess that roughly 10 people in this forum, and less than 5% of the customers in my LCS have even read Uncle Scrooge.
No argument regarding Byrne's X-Men run (assuming you are referring to the Claremont-Byrne run, and not any later re-visitations (YES)); if those were the only comics he ever drew, Byrne would have to be acknowledged as a great comic-book artist. As for Fantastic Four, as a fan of an earlier version of the series, I had to stop reading FF when I realized that JB's handling of particular Lee-Kirby elements (e.g., Aunt Petunia) was ruining those elements for me when I went back to re-read the earlier classics. And I just can't see that his work on Superman was much of an achievement (in artistic terms, not commercial). As we now see on a regular basis, creators given free rein to wipe out what went before and start over can always goose fan interest for a few months.
True, but he kicked off this trend, for better or worse. I, too am a big fan of the legacy FF works but I think Byrne did a greater justice by restoring that magazine to its former glory. The cosmic stories alone justify his entrance to the book (e.g. I've always considered Trial of Galactus
to be his Magnum Opus
you continue and wrote:
On the few occasions I have recently looked at JB's new art, I have been surprised and dismayed at how little resemblance it bears to his outstanding work on X-Men. The current work seems scant in detail, and lacking in the vivid depictions of action and emotion that characterized his X-Men work.
If I had to flake away a crack in the wall, I would say his inking has gone downhill, and I'm sure you know he was color blind so we can't fault him for any of that. But again, 25 years is a long time to not follow his catalog of work, so your judging his detail/depictions begins to look a little arbitrary.
you pontificate and wrote:
Not having read a JB-written story in over 25 years, I probably ought to let this one pass, but.... "best writer in the business"? In a business that has had Steve Englehart, Alan Moore, Will Eisner, Neil Gaiman, Stan Lee, Carl Barks,
Archie Goodwin, Harvey Kurtzman, John Broome, Jules Feiffer *, and John Stanley? I'm afraid my mileage varies.
Certainly nothing wrong with this bullpen, and pound for pound Stan Lee and Alan Moore will always be remembered for their deeds as writers/creators, but they were omnipotent at different stages during separate generations of readership. And frankly, and we all know this is about taste, I always feel "better" after reading a fine Byrne story than say, Neil Gaiman. God bless him, but comics should also be fun.
out of left field you wrote:
And then there is the matter of his personal pettiness, and his tendency to settle personal scores in the very public forum of the pages of his comic-book stories. Remember the issues of Uncanny X-Men, shortly after JB left the title, in which the X-Men encountered Dr. Doom? A character (Arcade, IIRC) struck a match on Doom's armor. Byrne, a few months later, wrote a story in which Doom was examining Doom robots, and noticed a scratch that appeared to have been caused by the striking of a match. The implication was that "Doom" in the X-Men story wasn't the actual Doom, but a robot, thereby unilaterally undoing a significant story point by his ex-collaborator (and by then, his enemy) Chris Claremont. I believe JB also portrayed an unflattering version of Jim Shooter in Legends (DC 1980s mini-series). I think there are other examples, but I can't bring the details to mind right now.
Not really fair to bring personalities into this, I reckon. Although anyone who is willing to smear the helmet of a writer as self-absorbed as Claremont (who was ultimately fired from the X-Men books because of comments overhead at a bar by a Marvel editor) is OK with me. Not to say I would want my children following in his manner and approach, but like John MacEnroe and Joe Theismann... sometimes you just want to support the winner, in spite of their egos.
you closed and wrote:
I'm happy that you enjoy reading JB's work; just as I am almost always happy when I know that anyone is enjoying any comic anywhere. But it seems to me that the level of praise offered here is more extreme than the man's actual achievements warrant, and that it (perhaps unintentionally) denigrates work of other creators no less deserving of praise.
No, that wasn't my intent. And there's nothing wrong in agreeing to disagree either; I do stand by my statements but it's good to address these urgent, world-pressing matters light-heartedly in this forum
. At the very least, what can come out of this is your pursuit of his later works (Next Men
is a good choice) and I'll hunt and peck material from some of the vintage authors you've listed *
as a comparison.