John Byrne talks about Next Men

John Byrne’s Next Men was […]

John Byrne’s Next Men was a huge hit in the 90’s as part of Dark Horse Comics “Legend” line. The series featured Nathan, Jasmine, Jack, Bethany, and Danny as a group of escapees from Project Next Men, each with a unique super power. They were hunted by Aldus Hilltop and Sathanas who may even be one in the same person. Further, Danny discovered if the Next Men had sexual relations with normal humans, the human partner would develop super powers. It was an exciting series that ran from 1991 through 1995. Now 15 years latter IDW is going to bring back John Byrne’s Next Men. John was nice enough to catch our readers up to date with the Next Men.

First Comics News: For fans who may not have been reading comics 15 years ago, who are the Next Men?

John Byrne: A group of young people who were — somewhat violently! — let loose from a secret government genetics program that had been operating since the 1950s.  Each has what would be, in comicbook terms, a “super power”, but this is not a superhero book.

1st: You are returning to the team after a long absence. Are you going to pick up from where you left off as if this was issue #31 or will this be a fresh start?

John: Both!  It is important to me that new readers be able to jump in right from the start, without needing to do any “homework”.  I hope they will be inspired to seek out the various reprints of the earlier issues, of course, but reading those issues will not be necessary in order to slip into the new storyline.  I was embarking upon a major shift in tone and story when NEXT MEN went into hybernation, lo these many years ago, and I shall be picking up from there, so that shift serves now the double purpose of (hoperfully) reinvigorating the series and creating a “jumping on point”.

1st: The series has it’s own timeline from 1955 to 2112. Are you planning on dealing with the real world passage of time in the comic?

John: I thought about this — have fifteen years passed for the characters, as well as for me? — but I decided against it.  Since NEXT MEN was set in the “future” (though not a clearly defined period into the future), there is no reason for them to have been bound by real time during their “absence”.

1st: The world has changed and technology has changed over the years. Are there any major changes to the world of the Next Men?

John: Fortunately, the “future” setting of the book kept me from including too many “topical references” that would serve to seriously date it now.  I was fortunate that even the Soviet Union had conveniently gone away by the time I started NEXT MEN, so their trip to Russia did not contain any references that would now be anachronistic.

1st: Hilltop was racist and very much a man of his time. Has he mellowed at all over the intervening years?

John:   Not even a little bit!  If anything, he’s gotten worse!

1st: There was some insinuation that Hilltop was Sathanas, were they the same person?

John: Since that would be a substantial SPOILER for anyone who has not read the previous issues — Is he or isn’t he? — I’d prefer not to comment in case the new series does, indeed, inspire readers to seek out the reprints.

1st: You have stated that there is a definite ending to the series. Is this going to be an on-going series leading to that end or will it be a mini-series?

John: Ultimately, the whole thing will be a maxi-series, roughly fifty issues start to finish.

1st: Will M4 be part of the story?

John: Only as a historical reference.

1st: What can you tell the fans that will really excite the fans and get them ready for the new series?

John: J.R.R. Tolkien said that when it came to writing THE LORD OF THE RINGS, he had as a guide to what was exciting, what was humorous, what was fun, only the things he found exciting, humorous and fun!  It’s the same with me.  In writing the original NEXT MEN stories I poured in all the stuff that I thought would make for good comics.  I’ll be doing the same with the new series.  All I can do is hope the readers agree with my choice.

1st: The new series isn’t out until December. For new fans that want to catch up before the launch are both volumes of “John Byrne’s Complete Next Men” still in print?

John: I believe the “phonebooks” are still available — but, again, I must emphasize that no familiarity with the previous story arcs will be needed. I came up with an introductory sequence for the first new issue that sets everything on stage and starts it rolling.  For most of my career, after all, I have been guided by that most important mantra:  EVERY ISSUE IS THE FIRST ISSUE FOR SOMEBODY!

1st: For fans of Digital Comics, is John Byrne’s Next Men part of IDW Digital Comics?

John: I think so, tho I don’t pay much attention to that stuff.  I am a folded-paper kinda guy!

1st: Any last word for the fans?

John: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.

About Rik Offenberger

Rik Offenberger has worked in the comic field as a retailer, distributor, reporter and public relations coordinator since 1990. He owns and operates the e-mail bases Super Hero News service, and his published works in print can be seen in The Comics Buyers Guide, Comic Retailer, Borderline Magazine, Comics International and Alter Ego. On the internet he has worked as a writer and/or editor for Silver Bullet Comicbooks, Comics Continuum, Comic Bits Online, Comic Book Resources, Newsarama and here at First Comics News.