John Byrne and I met more than a third of a century ago, back when we were both just fans, before I'd started on staff at Marvel Comics. And since it's traditional to embarrass old friends on their birthdays, here's a blast from the past even he may have forgotten about! I know I almost had.
John's first professional comic-book art was published in the Skywald black-and-white horror magazine Nightmare #20 (August 1974), just about the time I started in the Marvel Bullpen. My own first professional comic-book script appeared about a year later, in Dead of Night #11 (Aug 1975). It was the first story about the Scarecrow, which Marvel seems to be calling the Straw Man these days.
The character had gone through many incarnations before it saw print, incarnations which John had known about and, as you'll see, even participated in. In May 1975, I received a fan letter from him in which he wrote—
Just got the first issue of SCARECROW (D. O. N. #11). Love it! Really tremendous. And I much prefer this version to my pumpkin rendition.
Enclosed is a subtle hint.
The letter was accompanied by the sketch you see above right. [Click through a few times to see it at its largest size.]
Now you might think as you read that note—what pumpkin version? And you know something ... I was just thinking along those lines myself.
I started writing this post only expecting to share the drawing above, but once I transcribed John's note, I remembered that he did an earlier drawing before the Scarecrow ever saw print. I suddenly thought—Hey! Don't I have one of those drawings packed away with all the other original artwork I got back on the comics I wrote?
And you know what? It turns out I did.
Here another Scarecrow image, unseen since ... I have no idea, since I can't remember what this was done for, why it was done, or when it might have been published.
[Once more, click through several times to view at a larger size. And forgive the difference in tone between the top and bottom halves of the illustration—I don't have a large enough scanner to accommodate the entire image, and so scanned each half separately and put it all back together again in Photoshop.]
Was it done for a fanzine? Perhaps. Could it have been done for one of the ACBA portfolios? I think maybe it was, but I can't be sure. I'll leave it to some detective of 1970s' comics ephemera to track down its place of original publication. As for me, I'll just say—
Happy birthday, John!
Have I made you feel old enough yet?