Editor’s note: This column contains mature language.
The Irony is mind-staggering. It’s unfathomable. A man whose most famed and prolific comic book work was writing a group of ragtag outsiders fighting to live in a world that hates and abuses them solely for being different has completely ruined decades of good will in the fight for everyone whose lives colour outside the lines by saying something ridiculously ignorant and bigoted. Except it’s nothing new. It’s just the first time he’s gotten any real mainstream press for it.
John Byrne is a comics industry legend who is making the news right now for using the Caitlyn Jenner story as an excuse to compare transgendered people to pedophiles and the severely mentally ill. He was talking with fans on his website when the subject of Caitlyn Jenner came up.
“Many people are tortured and driven by a desire to have sex with children. Our society frowns on this, and such people are considered mentally ill. We do not accommodate them, we do not respect them.
How is being “transgender” different? Given all the twists and turns that have happened in our general understanding of how the brain and mind work — still a work in progress — how difficult is it to imagine a future in which it will be determined without doubt that “transgender” is, indeed, a mental illness?
How will we feel about all those people who, instead of actually helping them, we encouraged in a program of self-mutilation?”
Obviously, many people were shocked and offended by this ridiculously ignorant and uneducated transphobic statement. And a few of my trans sisters who know I submit articles here on occasion who were shocked and surprised because they remember Byrne’s excellent X-Men comics dealing with the same kind of vicious bigotry he himself is now spouting suggested I write a post decrying his hate speech and railing against his sudden lapse into ignorance.
Except I can’t, because I’m not shocked or surprised. Byrne saying something ignorant, bigoted and vile is nothing new to me. You see, what he said about Trans folks isn’t even close to the most offensive thing that he’s said. John Byrne is a bloated, racist, creepy old has-been, who hides behind the his website where he and he alone can control who says what. He frequently deletes comments and bans commenters who disagree with him in ANY way whatsoever. He polices comments on his site with almost naziesque fervour. He doesn’t give interviews so he can’t be held to task for anything that he says.
Hell, even Frank Miller and Alan Moore give interviews to try to justify some of the godawful BS they spew. But not Byrne. Byrne spouts his bile in a vacuum chamber on his site and silences any and all contradictory opinions or attempts to get him to discuss his boneheaded statements. The good old days of him being the most sought after artist in the industry are long behind him. He’s a bitter, angry old man, furious at an industry that has passed him by, where once his work often sold upwards of a million copies a month are long since over, but the best work he can get now is drawing Star Trek Fumetti books that barely crack 5,000 copies in sales per month. He’s the real world equivalent of Grampa Simpson, yelling at the clouds and lamenting how much better things were in his day.
Let’s have a look at some of the boneheaded crap he’s let dribble out of his mouth over the years so you lot can see why his sad little transphobic rant doesn’t surprise me in the least.
Said after 9/11
“The only acceptable response, now that we are officially in a new world, is for the American government to go Old Testament on these motherfuckers. Operation Flaming Sword. Find them and kill them. And kill their wives, their children, their mothers, their fathers, their brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, butchers, bakers, candlestick makers. Go Super-Israel, and let them know what it feels like to be “at war” with the United States.” (2001)
“I’ve been thinking this since the various lunatic cells of the IRA began loudly declaring themselves “at war” with Great Britain, imagining immediately what woud happen if the British government said “Righty-ho, war it is!” and sent over the RAF to turn Dublin into a smoking crater.“
Basically, he’s saying “nuke them all and let the survivors sort out the pieces.
“Pedophiles are almost certainly “born that way”. Again, we go to evolutionary conditioning. Seek the youngest, strongest, most healthy, for breeding purposes. A sure (or as sure as it gets) way to guarantee the survival of your genes. Pedophilia also brings along a big heaping helping of learned responses, however. In a society like ours, where “normal” sex is considered by many to be filthy and disgusting, “abnormal” sex is of course even moreso. “Abnormal” in this case meaning anything—even simple physical attraction—that is not “age-appropriate”, heterosexual, and strictly for procreation. Preferably missionary position. Thus, any confused individual who finds himself attracted to young girls is likely to find himself attracted to increasingly younger girls, as part of his pattern of self-loathing. So much emotional torment—in victims and victimizers—would surely be set aside if our society was sexually liberated enough to even be able to say “Sure, it’s okay to be attracted to eleven year olds. Just don’t do anything about it!“
So according to Byrne, no one would ever be an active pedophile if society would just lighten up and tell pedos their desires are super cool as long as they keep it in their pants. RIIIIIGHT.
On Comics For Adult Audiences
“I repeat, bullshit. Pull your head out of your ass for a moment and look at this not as a long time comic book reader, but as a civilian. This looks like a comic book, feels like a comic book, smells like a comic book, tastes like a comic book. No “uninitiated” person is going to look at this and think “Ah! This lurid cover illustration indicates this book must be intended for mature readers!” They are going to think “Look what they are selling to my children!!”* And those children are going to think “Co-o-o-o-o-o-ol!!!”
Because no one EVER notices that whole “For Mature Audiences” label, and comic shops sell adult books to small children willy-nilly all the time right?
On the Comics Industry
“A time machine would come in handy, right about now. Go back about fifteen years and shoot all those people who didn’t listen when I predicted the present state of the industry as the natural outcome of what the industry was doing, or starting to do, then. Basically—we must get the product back into the maximum number of venues, in cheap and accessible packages. Comics are primarily a cyclical fad, and they depend upon new readers being able to spontaneously discover them, on a spinner rack, at the drugstore, or the Mom & Pop, or the grocery story, or the bus depot, etc., etc. As long as new blood has to make a conscious decision to walk into a comic book shop, looking for comics, and as long as the comics we produce continue to be aimed at the wrong audience—witness Gareb Shamus and his insane attempts, of late, to rekindle the speculator mentality!!—the industry has slim hope of recovery, or even survival.”
“Face it—for the most part, when you say “comic book professional” what you mean is “unprofessional yahoo who is more concerned with making a name for himself and masturbating all his emotionally retarded fans than paying any attention to the history of the titles, the characters, or the work done by other creators.”
“Get this into your tiny brain: trade paperbacks are not the “future” of this industry. They are another industry entirely, as movies are to TV. And, like movies, they are going to become increasingly dependent upon new material as the prima donnas who work in comics these days increasingly demonstrate themselves incapable of producing their product on schedule—even schedules which, as in this instance, they have set themselves! Go on—continue congratulating these unprofessional elitists for their failures. Pretty soon there will be nothing but trades—and then, without reprint material to fill them up, those will start coming out later and later and later.“
Translation; “Everything was better when I was the industry darling and without me you’ll all go down in flames! You’ll see! YOU’LL ALL SEE!!!”
On Superman and Whiny Immigrants
“Being an immigrant myself, I have something of an insight, I think, into the way Clark’s mind works. I was born in England, and I am proud of my English heritage (I was also quite a lot older than Kal-El when I left “home,” so my connections would be stronger) but I grew up in Canada and I have lived for the last 25 years in the US, and I don’t ever—ever—feel like a “displaced Englishman.”
Clark would be proud, too, of his Kryptonian heritage, but later portrayals of him have tried to shoehorn in too much of the pychobabble of adopted children longing for and seeking out their biological parents. Excuse my French, but to me, they fall under the heading of “ungrateful little sh*ts.”
Clark grew up as human, thinks as a human, reacts as a human. He lives and loves as a human. And that is what really defines him.”
In other words, wanting a connection to where you came from is ungrateful whiny nonsense and you damn well better appreciate what you have you swine!
On Christopher Reeves’ Death
“I have noticed that people have begun referring to Christopher Reeve as a hero. I do not wish to take away one iota of the courage he must have needed not to wake up screaming every single day, but the hard truth is there was nothing heroic in what happened to him or how he dealt with it…In fact, as far as how he dealt with it he didn’t even have a choice. We could imagine he spent every hour of every day when not in front of the cameras begging family members to simply kill him and get it over with—but none of them did so he had no choice but to deal with each day as it came.* Heroism I believe involves choice.
*Not in any way suggesting this is what was happening, just in case there are those who are paralyzed from the neck up who might be reading these words…“
Well gee Johnny I’m sure that little caveat at the end made Cristopher’s family feel SO much better about you saying that FOUR BLOODY DAYS after the man passed away.
There’s a BOATLOAD more I could post here, but I think those are enough for you to get the idea. John Byrne isn’t a nice man and he’s spent pretty much every year since he “left” the big two, (read; was fired but refuses to admit to it), bitching, moaning, predicting the death of the industry without him, and basically being an insensitive, ignorant crotchety douchebag to anyone he doesn’t like or understand.
So no, I’m not the least bit shocked or surprised to hear that Johnnyboy thinks us icky trans people are yucky. I can’t even bring myself to feel offended by it. Mostly I feel sorry for him. He’s a bitter old man clinging to a reputation he’s long since burnt to the ground lashing out at a world he doesn’t understand because it evolved and he didn’t. Now he shouts garbage from behind a computer screen desperate for some attention, ANY attention, any at all. And like a small child throwing a tantrum and throwing his spaghetti on the floor, he doesn’t care if that attention is positive or negative so long as he’s at the centre of it.
Yes John Byrne IS an offensive bigoted asshole. But he’s so out-of-touch and insignificant that he’s honestly not even worth being offended BY. All you can do is say he’s wrong, point out why, and move on. He just isn’t worth our outrage.
Tags: John Byrne, Transgender, X-Men