- Next Men
John Byrne's Next Men (also known as Next Men or JBNM) is a comic book series written and drawn by John Byrne. The first volume of the series was published by Dark Horse Comics between 1991 and 1995. A nine issue miniseries was published by IDW Publishing in 2010 and 2011.
The Next Men made a prototypical appearance as "Freaks" in a lithography plate that was published within the History of the DC Universe Portfolio in 1986. Byrne had originally pitched the series to DC, but the series for some reason never surfaced. With some changes, Byrne changed the concept to fit in with his work on the graphic novel 2112 to become the John Byrne's Next Men series. Two characters from the "Freaks" artwork somewhat retained their physical looks and became the lead characters of the Next Men series: heroine Jasmine and villain Aldus Hilltop.
The Next Men saw their official debut in a four-part storyline in Dark Horse Presents #54-57 (later reprinted, in color, as John Byrne's Next Men #0). The series ran until issue #30 and ended with a cliffhanger. Byrne had intended to conclude the story in a second series, but the collapse of the American comic book industry in the mid-1990s made it financially unfeasible for him to do so, and he returned to working for hire at DC Comics and Marvel Comics.
On October 12, 2007, Byrne announced on his website that comic publisher IDW would release black & white "phonebook"-sized reprints of the Next Men series sometime in 2008, with the first collection released in May 2008. He stated on his message board: "All the Next Men stuff will be coming from IDW in big, honkin' black and white 'phonebooks' in the New Year. Don't have a more precise schedule than that, but when I know, you'll know.”
In an interview with IDW appearing in the publisher's April 2008 books, when asked about the possibility of a new Next Men series, Byrne answered, "If it looks like Next Men can be done as something other than a vanity project, I will certainly do it. The series has a definite ending--I even know the last line!--and I would very much like to shake those 20 or so issues out of my head someday!"
At the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con International, Byrne revealed that he was creating new issues of JBNM to be published by IDW Publishing. Byrne said that the new series would be both a continuation of the previous series as well as a place for new readers to discover the characters. He expects the entire story (previous series plus new series) to run about 50 issues. IDW's John Byrne's Next Men #1 was released on December 15, 2010.
It was revealed in February 2011 that Byrne and IDW will finish the Next Men series proper with issue #9 of the 2010-2011 series, but a sequel named "Aftermath" will immediately follow.
1991 - 1995
In 1955, an explosion in Antarctica draws the attention of a group of scientists. There they discover dozens of charred bodies, some of which don't appear to be human. Among them is a creature in a mechanical exoskeleton named Sathanas, who kills all but one of the scientists, whom Sathanas uses to meet Senator Aldus Hilltop. Together, with Sathanas' existence kept secret, the three construct Project Next Men, whose goal is to create superhumans. The project used babies who were given up for adoption by single mothers (due to Hilltop's racial concerns all of the mothers were white). The children were experimented on and grew to maturity in a lab while in their minds they experienced an idyllic virtual reality world.
Eventually five of these "Next Men" manage to escape from confinement, but once free they find that their powers are very greatly enhanced from how they were in their virtual world. The Next Men are:
- Nathan, whose mutated eyes allow him to see a wide spectrum of light.
- Jasmine, a young super-acrobat.
- Jack, who is super-strong but cannot control his strength.
- Bethany, who is invulnerable to harm to the point of having razor-sharp hair, but who loses physical sensation and whose skin bleaches white.
- Danny, who can run at superhuman speeds.
After escaping from the Project, the Next Men have a number of interactions with outsiders, including a previous escapee who is deformed. Eventually, they are taken in by a US government secret agent who works for an agency or individual known as Control. Tony Murcheson works as their handler from that point in the series, intervening when she can and offering a reality check to her naive charges. While the other Next Men are on a mission in Russia, Danny goes on a quest to find, and reunite with, his birth mother. He meets her along with his half-sister, who convinces him to take her away from her abusive mother. The two run off to New York City and meet up with a comic book publisher, who decides to exploit Danny and the other Next Men for a new comic book series. This brings the Next Men to the attention of law enforcement authorities investigating the damage left in the wake of the Next Men's escape from the Project. The Next Men are arrested, tried, and sent to prison, but later escape.
During his time at the comic book publisher, Danny is befriended by a young girl named Sandy who is in charge of babysitting him. The two eventually have sex and the woman goes on to develop reality-altering powers. These powers cause her to go crazy and attempt to remake the island of Manhattan. Once she is stopped by the Next Men it is discovered that the powers which they have are sexually contagious; anyone who has sex with one of the Next Men will develop their own superhuman abilities.
As the series progresses, Sathanas continues to influence Senator Hilltop, who becomes Vice President and then President, and attempts to manipulate the Next Men for his own ends. As part of this effort, he brainwashes Jasmine into believing that she is his lover, and that her time with the Next Men was merely an involved dream. Towards the end of the series, Hilltop has sex with Jasmine and develops powers similar to Sathanas, leading him to realize that Sathanas is in fact a future version of himself in an example of a predestination paradox.
In issue #7, a backup story, "M4" (Mark IV) started. It dealt with an android, Mark IV, or "Mark Ivey" as one character called him. Initially appearing as a separate storyline, eventually the series started to tie into the Next Men storyline, and finally merged with it in issue #23.
The 2011 miniseries (which Byrne labels with a "3" in superscript beside each issue number) expands on the time travel and alternate reality plots from the initial series, picking up from the cliffhanger ending by stranding each teammate and Agent Murcheson in divergent time periods. Elizabethan England, Nazi Germany and the American Civil War are among the exotic settings.
A sequel series called Aftermath, to be written by John Byrne and published by IDW right after the conclusion of the Next Men series proper, and according to some sources, expected to continue with the numbering from the original series, starting with #40.
JBNM was initially collected as a set of graphic novels published by Dark Horse Comics. These collections are in color, but do not include the early "M4" stories that were separate from the main storyline.
- 2112 (published in both prestige format and limited edition hardcover)
- Book One (reprints issues #0–6, published in both hardcover and trade paperback)
- Parallels (reprints issues #7–12)
- Fame (reprints issues #13–18)
- Faith (reprints issues #19–22)
- Power (reprints issues #23–26)
- Lies (reprints issues #27–30)
JBNM has also been collected by IDW Publishing. The "Compleat" volumes are in black-and-white; the "Premiere" volumes are in color.
- John Byrne's Compleat Next Men, Volume 1 (ISBN 1600101739) (May 2008) reprints 2112 and issues #0-12, including the first five "M4" stories.
- John Byrne's Compleat Next Men, Volume 2 (ISBN 1600102727) (Nov 2008) reprints issues #13-30, including the "M4" backup stories.
- John Byrne's Next Men: The Premiere Collection, Vol. 1 (ISBN 1600103650) (Mar 2009) reprints issues #0-10.
- John Byrne's Next Men: The Premiere Collection, Vol. 2 (ISBN 1600105491) (Dec 2009) reprints issues #11-20.
- John Byrne's Next Men: The Premiere Collection, Vol. 3 (ISBN 160010696X) (Jul 2010) reprints issues #21-30.
The IDW series has so far been collected in John Byrne's Next Men Vol. 1: Shattered (reprints issues #1-4).
- ^ Cronin, Brian Comic Book Legends Revealed #219 August 7, 2009 Retrieved December 13, 2010
- ^ Byrne Robotics: The Next Men....At Last!
- ^ IDW releases John Byrne's Complete Next Men Series, May 28
- ^ IDW and John Byrne Announce The Return of John Byrne's Next Men
- ^ John Byrne talks about Next Men
- ^ Byrne Robotics Forum, John Byrne posts from February 5th 2011, 12h39pm and 3h25pm
- ^ IDW To Publish Next Men Sequel, Aftermath
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