Byrne Derangement Syndrome
by Mike Baron

Any comic fan with a computer knows exactly what Byrne Derangement Syndrome is. A group of fans have fixated on John Byrne as a subject worthy of scorn, and scorn him they do in lengthy chat board posts that frequently degenerate into flame wars. Sometimes John provokes these wars with comments on his home page, Sometimes the offense is in the eyes of his "fans."

Most of the dust-ups occur on the comicon chat board, "News, Announcements, and Gossip." The "John Byrne's Career is Over" thread runs to thirty-six pages. The first entry sets the tone:

"When is John Byrne going to understand that his career is over. All of the books that he has done in the past decade have been critical failures - New Gods, Wonder Woman, X-Men: The Hidden Years, Doom Patrol (yuck), the Demon (what a joke).

"Lately he has resigned himself to insulting those that are currently popular. With the exception of Frank Miller, he holds everyone else to a high standard when writing the major characters (Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, etc.) Anyone who has been to his forum knows that he is so out of touch it is sad.

"Isn't it time for him to retire and do commissions for his fans and dream of the glory days when he was on the cutting edge?"

By the second page the thread has degenerated into personal insults between participants:

Agent A:

"Wow. So much free time to psychoanalyze via the Internet. And from self-professed Anti-Byrne Fanatics, too. That pretty much shoots down any credibility they "thought" they may have had. As usual, pathetically transparent in their hate-filled posting activity."

Agent B:

"Y'see what I mean about (X). A feigned lack of insight (hopefully feigned), wild leaps of illogic and spewed fountains of venom while allegedly decrying the venom of others. To expect a "straight" post from this guy, let alone any reasonable defense of indefensible positions is just plain silly.

"The only purpose of a (X) post is an unreasonable attack on someone else, so sit back and enjoy both the game and the absurdity. To do otherwise is to fall into a trap.

"(By the by and despite his protestations, calling him on his game is the best way to get him het up. He really has fun going ballistic when you recognize who he is and what he's doing)"

This thread runs through thirty-six freakin' pages.

The "Byrne: Defending Aquaman From a Three-Year Old" has been a personal favorite. Byrne posted on his board how he had removed one of his collectible Aquaman figures from the grimy grip of a visiting toddler. This is from one of the premier Byrne haters:

"I haven't started a Byrne thread since last Christmas... I just decided that I didn't want to spend any more time kicking someone who was so obviously depressed, had publicly claimed he had suicidal thoughts, and was the target of so many people already. When I started posting Byrne threads a few years ago, he wasn't universally derided as he is now.

"But now he's made it irresistible: (The following is from

"In my first studio in my former house, there was a fireplace with a wide mantle. I set my Super Powers action figures in a line along this shelf (in alphabetical order, which hardly anyone ever seemed to pick up on!)"

"One afternoon, during one of my summer parties, I wandered into the studio to find a small clutch of my fellow professionals had gathered in there. One of these was a good friend, who had brought with him his wife and small daughter (maybe three years old). I walked in to find her sitting on the floor playing with my Aquaman figure. "She was bored," said my friend. 'So I gave her Aquaman to play with. He doesn't matter.'

"His exact words, burned into my brain. I took the toy from the child and replaced it on the shelf. 'Does to me,' I said."

This one runs to only three pages. You get the idea. There's something creepy and obsessive about these Byrne haters, and there are enough of them to warrant psychiatric review. For the record, I believe I am the first to formally recognize Byrne Derangement Syndrome.

Mike Baron worked for the Boston Phoenix, Boston After Dark, and the Real Paper. He broke into comics with Nexus, his groundbreaking science fiction title co-created with illustrator Steve Rude. Baron has written Marvel's Punisher, DC's Batman, Deadman, and Flash. Nexus has garnered honors too numerous to mention, including Eisners for both creators. Baron has written Star Wars for Dark Horse, Turok, Dinosaur Hunter and Archer & Armstrong for Valiant, and has three issues of Legends of the Dark Knight in the works.

A prolific creator, Baron is at least partly responsible for The Badger, Ginger Fox, Spyke, Feud, and many other comic book titles. He currently has two new web comics up at Big Head Press. The Architect is a horror story based on the life of Frank Lloyd Wright. The Hook is rock and roll science fiction - think Farenheit 451 only instead of banning books they have banned music.
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