The Credit Where it’s Due Department: Why no Byrne Variants?

A happy mail call today. I got my Alex Ross variants of the new Fantastic Four #1. These look great. Both honor one of the most iconic covers of all time; the first FF #1 from 1961. I’m not usually one to be enthused about variant covers, but I’m really happy to get these. It’s a fitting tribute to Lee and Kirby who created the team and set the standard for everything that came after that first book. It’s also nice to mark the occasion of the FF’s return to the Marvel Universe with something special. That’s a big deal to me and I think it’s a big deal to a lot of people.

But I seems to me that this variant nonsense has kind of gotten out of hand. There are literally something like forty different versions of this book. Many different artists, homages to many different eras. Lots of them look great. Many of them don’t. The anatomy in some of the artwork makes me cringe. They metaphorically raised Mike Weiringo from the dead so he could have his own variant.

Don’t get me wrong. Mike Weiringo deserves his own cover. More than almost anyone else whose artwork was featured. As I said, I’m not really one for variants, but I want one of those too.

But here’s the thing: in the last 57 years, there have been three really well regarded runs on the World’s Greatest Comic Magazine. The first was Lee/Kirby. The third was Waid/Weiringo. The second? John Byrne. Byrne took over FF after a long run of inconsistent creative teams; the quality had been uneven and interest in the book had waned. Byrne almost singlehandedly reinvigorated the title as writer, artist and inker and returned the FF to both popularity and importance.

So why isn’t there a John Byrne variant of the new FF #1? Did Byrne refuse? Is there bad blood between Byrne and Marvel? Is he just too hard to work with or was this an intentional slight? I for one would like to know. Eschewing a Byrne variant is a strange and indefensible oversight. It’s especially strange given that the same thing happened with Action Comics #1000. A Byrne variant there would seem to be a no-brainer, especially with Schuster and Swan unavailable. Byrne’s impact on Superman was significant. But once again in a sea of uneven variants, Byrne gets overlooked. I wonder if he’ll even be asked back when NextMen gets revived. I think Byrne and his fans deserve better.