John Byrne & The Hulk: A Post-Script

Hey, folks,

A while back, I posted a four-part analysis of John Byrne's original tenure on The Incredible Hulk that found some measure of popularity and acclaim. (Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4) Interestingly, former Marvel Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter, who recently began blogging thanks to his friend JayJay (Janet) Jackson, today posted an article that answered a fan's question and at the same time raised another interesting point surrounding Byrne's departure from both Hulk and Marvel altogether for DC's shores in mid-1986.

I've heard all the theories out there about John Byrne's 1986 exit. The main literature out there tells that he may have felt that he had no choice but to leave due to the editorial climate. In my previous blogs, I pointed to comments made by Byrne that he and Editor-in-Chief Shooter had initially agreed to the direction he had in mind for the Hulk, but after the issues came out Shooter refused to let that direction continue as-was. A reply from Brian to the fourth entry suggested an alternate explanation, that it was less over the book's direction and more a disagreement about the storytelling device used for what would have been issue #320--the story that eventually became Marvel Fanfare #29, told entirely in splash pages. By some accounts Shooter didn't like that a story would be told in such a way and killed the story, driving Byrne from the book. It seems, from Shooter's commentary, that the latter is closer than I suspected.

There's a major caveat in this blog entry. Now, I suppose in light of recent comments made by Gary Groth at The Comics Journal website about how Shooter may have distorted the facts about Marvel's 1980s dealings with Jack Kirby, the details of this chain of events may also be suspect. I'll go ahead and repost Shooter's musings just the same, and you can make your own judgments. If you care to read further, the full text is at his blog.
During the nine plus years that I was EIC at Marvel, only three times did an assistant editor come to me privately to complain about the editor he or she worked for. Two times, it was an assistant of [Denny O'Neil's], two different assistants. The complaint from both was that Denny left too much work to them, and spent the day writing his freelance scripts.


[A] number of issues from Denny's office made it into print that had serious flaws or things that were unacceptable -- including several by John Byrne.

After one particularly bad incident, I finally confronted Denny and told him he'd better start doing his job. That very day, I think, a John Byrne Hulk job came in, finished, lettered and inked, that was all splash pages. Denny thought I'd go ballistic when I saw it, so he rejected it! And he told John it was because I, Jim Shooter, didn't approve.

John was the one who went ballistic. He quit, contacted [Jim Galton] the President of Marvel and demanded I be fired. The President called me and asked who the hell John Byrne was, and to please keep these people from bothering him.


At any rate, as previously stated, when the above happened, Publisher Mike Hobson ordered me to fire Denny, and I did.

Here's the twist ending. I never even saw the rejected book! I assumed that Denny had given it back to John. I didn't even know why Denny had rejected it, only that he did. I didn't know it was all splash pages. Months later, Al Milgrom found the rejected book in a drawer and brought it to me. He liked it. So did I. I thought it was great. Al looked into the situation and found out that Byrne hadn't been paid for it, got him paid and ran the job in Marvel Fanfare. (Fanfare jobs paid rate-and-a-half, so it turned out to be a good deal for John.)

Know this: John and I weren't on the best of terms before all of the above happened. I had objected to some things he'd done in the books, and nixed a few things he'd wanted to do; and he had objected to my objections. So, maybe he would have left Marvel eventually anyway because of me.

If true, this situation explains not only why we had a new writer/artist with issue #320 in Allen Milgrom, but also why editor O'Neil was gone, replaced in the same issue by Bob Harras. It makes a degree of sense, since it seems highly unusual for two major creative shifts to occur in the same month.




  1. Very interesting article Gary. I read the blog entry on Jim Shooter's site and noticed that he said he and Byrne were having other disagreements around this time? Do you know what those were about? Maybe that could give us more insight into what was going on. If Al Milgrom or Denny O'neil have websites maybe we could get there side of the story on this. What do you think?

    1. Zeno. You can read the book Modern Masters which includes a long conversation with Byrne. He said Shooter objected some issues of Fantastic Four even though the editor of the tittle gave them the ok. Byrne left the FF and Shooter fired the editor making him responsible for Byrne's departure. Shooter also went after the tittles that sold well and tryed to impose his ideas...cause he thought that HE was Marvel...that's what Byrne said.

  2. Have you asked Shooter about the Barry WIndsor Smith Hulk story that Smith claims to have submitted? I don't know if Shooter has ever talked about that.

  3. I actually found you when I was perusing John Byrne's site (which I can't join as I only have an AOL e-mail account!). Have you read any of the comments on your posts over there?

  4. MOCK!, Gary is a member of John Byrne's forum and posted in the thread discussing his fine articles.

    I never did see if you replied to John when he said...

    "Although the stories themselves may be lackluster in certain facets…"

    So I'm reading along, and thinking This is all WAY too positive! Does this guy actually have the stones to simply say he LIKES what I did, and damn the Byrne Bashers?

    Then I hit that line, and the cosmic balance was restored.

    It's hard to be a John Byrne fan. Unless you are 100% at all times positive about him you have no "stones" and are appeasing Byrne bashers.

  5. I never did reply to Mr. Byrne over at the board, mostly because everyone who speaks out to disagree with him, no matter how well-reasoned, always seems to end up never being seen again. And if he didn't like what I said before, I'm confident he wouldn't like this entry at all!

    Glad everyone enjoyed my series of articles...well, mostly everyone, anyway. Look for a follow-up with another early Hulk writer soon!


  6. You write great, informative articles AND you know the best way to deal with Byrne is to not deal with him at all?

    Today, you are the winner.

  7. Excellent series of posts, very comprehensive and eye-opening. It certainly set me straight on a few misconceptions I've had over the years about the Byrne run. Looking forward to reading future columns about my favorite character! :-)

    Glenn Greenberg
    Writer, THE RAMPAGING HULK (1998)


  8. Just saw this article. Loved it.
    I know how this will sound. But back at Mid-Ohio con I saw Byrne there. Back when he was doing superman. He was talking to someone. Don't remember who, but it was about the Hulk. Byrne was having an animated conversation with this gentleman. It was just before the sit down signing that was done at that time.
    I heard Byrne clearly state that it was "shooter who made it clear he should leave". You can take that to mean a hundred different things.
    but as you stated. Byrne was lead to think it was Shooter who nixed his splash page issue. And he may have felt that it was time to go.

  9. Peter David - far from Shooter's biggest fan - has confirmed Shooter's account of the Kirby/Marvel mess. These are firsthand accounts.

    Considering Groth a) wasn't there and b) is a Kirby fanboy of the most rabid sort who got most of his "facts" from Kirby himself (or Mark Evanier, who at least acknowledges Kirby's habit of 'misremembering') - and considering that Kirby's decades of lying are a matter of public and legal record (did you know Jack created Superman? and Joe Simon had nothing to do with Captain America? and Stan Lee never wrote a word of dialogue - pity Jack *ahem* lost his touch with dialogue as soon as Stan's name stopped appearing alongside his own. and that Ditko was so incensed by Kirby's claims re: Spider-Man he forced Kirby to apologize?) - the evidence speaks for itself, imo. I haven't seen ANYONE who was actually there back up Kirby's/Groth's ridiculous slanderous libelous claims, though there are plenty who refute them.

    1. Who is the rabid one, exactly? Not you, of course, you don't come off like that at all.


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