Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Jim Shooter Should Hire John Byrne For The Gold Key Revival

Yesterday’s post about Valiant Comics got me thinking about the recent announcement that Jim Shooter will be overseeing Dark Horse Comics' revival of the Gold Key characters that include Magnus, Solar and Turok.

I think it’s a smart move on Dark Horse’s part. The superhero genre is a gap in the market for the publisher, Shooter is a talented editor, these characters have been successful in the past and pairing Shooter with them again was a splashy announcement.

Shooter has said that he hopes to write much of the material in these revivals himself. Leaving aside the question of whether this is a good idea (his recent return to Legion of Super-Heroes would seem to suggest it is not) it seems clear that Shooter’s biggest job will be to act as the editorial director of the revival and to assign talent.

I think this is also where his strengths currently lie as a creator. Shooter has had enormous success in the past with “world-building” via tight editorial direction. This is a controversial way to produce comics and not all talent responds well to it, but when it works it can work out very well, as Shooter’s past successes at Marvel and Valiant can attest.

So who could Shooter recruit to work with him this time out? At his last two attempts at this sort of thing – Defiant and Broadway, Shooter relied on finding new talent like David Lapham to produce his books and he may go that way again. Certainly Dark Horse already has access to a stable of talented new creators who work on their various other titles.

But I think one of the major reasons that Valiant was a success (and perhaps that Defiant and Broadway met with less immediate popularity) was that he had a big name creator working with him. Barry Windsor-Smith had only rarely produced regular comics work before he began to contribute to Valiant, and the cache of having him on board brought the publisher extra attention and sales.

Windsor-Smith seems unlikely to be interested in returning once again to the monthly grind, so is there any other big name talent out there who might be both suitable and available? To me one name comes to mind immediately - John Byrne.

(The above John Byrne art is a recent private commisission for Christos Seros that I first saw here)

Byrne is a massively under-utilised talent at the moment. He is probably one of the most popular and successful super-hero comics creators of the last 30 years but at present he is stuck producing comics based on various science fictionand fantasy television series for IDW comics. His has had mixed fortunes with his work recently, but the image above shows that he still has the chops to produce quality super-hero work.

I have no idea how realistic this idea is. It is very possible, given the two people involved, that Byrne and Shooter hate each other’s guts and would never voluntarily work together again. But I am convinced that the pairing would make a lot of sense – Shooter needs the solid talent and the publicity boost that Byrne would provide while Byrne gets access to the type of established superhero properties he has done his most popular work with in the past.

It may seem counter-intuitive – Byrne is one of the most difficult personalities in comics and Shooter is reputed to be one of the most controlling editors – but I think these qualities may actually complement each other. Remember that Byrne’s biggest successes (on Uncanny X-Men and Fantastic Four) came at Marvel in the 1980s when Shooter ran the show.

Obviously I like this idea, but I know it’s only a remote possibility. If he has considered the idea at all, I imagine Shooter dismissed it out of hand as not worth the risk or effort involved. It will be interesting to see what he comes up with nonetheless.

Update: John Byrne has responded to this notion in his forum:

"Jim Shooter + Me = Hell Freezing Over"
Pretty succinct I think.


  1. Yeah given Byrne's very public mockery of Shooter by making him into a Villain that shoots his own foot off in Legends, and the decision (that I'm presuming byrne was in on) to nuke Shooter's home town in the new universe titles after Shooter had been kicked out of Marvel, I'm thinking there's some bad blood there for sure.

    Still, my love for The Man of Steel makes me think that Byrne would do some nice work with a new superhero univese to run amok in. I'd pick up a few titles, for sure.

  2. Holy...! That's Byrne like I haven't seen him in a long, LONG time. I almost thought it was George Perez, at first. Wow.