But that doesn't stop me from fantasizing. There are plenty of artists from whom I would commission some artwork, if their prices made any sort of earthly sense. For whatever reason, though, my dreams of original art return most frequently to John Byrne. Byrne's commission work is hit or miss, but when it's good, it's very good. And if he was willing to take the request, I would ask him for a series of X-Men commissions. But since I'm never going to actually do it, I want to get this out of my system. So here's the fantasy letter I would write to Byrne's art dealer, Jim Warden, in a different world:
Dear Mr. Warden:
If Mr. Byrne is willing to accept, I would like to commission him for a series of seven X-Men cover mock-ups. I often think about the list of cryptic one-line issue descriptions which turned up in a fan's collection a few years ago, as well as some of Byrne's other aborted X-Men ideas. My concept for this series is: "What if John Byrne stayed with UNCANNY X-MEN until issue #150?", utilizing those long-lost ideas for the covers.
I would like the covers with full logos, trade dress, and corner boxes appropriate to the era. If easier for Mr. Byrne, I would accept these items as paste-ups rather than pencil & ink re-creations. In all of the following pieces, except where noted, the X-Men should all be wearing the costumes they had when Mr. Byrne departed the title (including Angel's red & white costume). The descriptions for each cover are:
Issue #144: "Cyclops Robot part 1". A cover featuring a main image and an inset. Main shot is of Cyclops battling Ultron, as Lee Forrester (UXM #143) either watches from the background or is held hostage by Ultron. Possibly Lee's fishing boat is crashed in the background. The inset features Wolverine, in his civilian "cowboy" get-up, crouched mournfully over a battered and brutalized Mariko Yashida.
Issue #145: "Cyclops Robot Part 2". Setting is Avengers Mansion exterior (time of day up to Mr. Byrne). X-Men (led by Cyclops) vs. Avengers. Mr. Byrne can choose any number and combination of characters from the following line-ups to be involved in the fight:
- X-Men: Storm, Angel, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Kitty Pryde. "Cyclops" (actually a robot) is the only mandatory X-Man, as he is the instigator. Wolverine is definitely not here.
- Avengers: Captain America, Iron Man, Vision, Scarlet Witch, Wonder Man, Beast (costumes should be appropriate to the era, circa the 200s of AVENGERS).
Issue #146: "Cyclops Robot Part 3". Setting is Ultron's base. Drawing from the same possible characters above, unconscious X-Men and Avengers are strewn about, as Colossus battles Ultron. Please ask Mr. Byrne to prominently show that the unconscious Cyclops is a robot (circuitry exposed/decapitated/beheaded/etc.). If possible, the real Cyclops (and Lee Forrester if there's room) can be watching from captivity in the background.
Issue #147: "Death of Mariko/Death of Sabretooth": Wolverine vs. Sabretooth. This would be the cover to the issue featuring what Mr. Byrne has previously described as "the most horrifying battle the Code would allow."
Issue #149: "Magneto Part 1": Setting is the X-Mansion interior. Magneto is making a full frontal assault. Cyclops, Colossus, and Wolverine are defending Professor X from the villain.
Issue #150: "Magneto Part 2": Setting is Asteroid "M", and the scene is a battle royale (I hope this can all fit) between Magneto and the united X-Men: Cyclops, Storm, Angel (still in the black & white costume), Wolverine, Colossus, Nightcrawler, and Kitty. If possible, Professor X is present as well. If anyone must be removed for space considerations, Kitty would be my first choice, followed by Angel.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I hope this project is of some interest to Mr. Byrne, as it is a dream of mine to see these pieces brought to life.
And there you have it. I'm not joking when I say this is a dream for me. I'd even consider it at Byrne's current rates, if I somehow won the lottery tomorrow. He's done full cover mock-up commissions before, so I suspect the likelihood is high that he would accept this project.
The "Death of Mariko and Sabretooth" story and the X-Men vs. Ultron (especially the X-Men vs. Ultron) are issues I would love to have seen from Claremont and Byrne. But that train sailed over thirty years ago, and these commissions are most definitely never going to happen, so I guess my imagination will just have to keep me sated.
(Fortunately, my imagination is pretty vivid...!)