a Long Time Ago
A long time ago (in the UK), back in the dim dark past of my childhood, I had the good fortune to stumble across a corner shop that had a pile of American comics hidden in their magazine display.
I recognised a lot of the characters on the covers because I'd been reading Mighty
World of Marvel ever since my Grandmother bought me my first one - which
introduced me to the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Avengers (not John Steed &
Emma Peel), Iron Man, Captain America, Incredible Hulk, Doctor Strange and many
Until then, I'd known that comics across the sea were printed in more than 2 colours at a time, but I'd never been lucky enough to see one. Now I could see many all in one place.
Calm down. It wasn't that great a treasure trove. No early editions of the Fantastic Four or
Action Comics. But I did manage to persuade my Dad to part with his hard-earned cash (for the cover
price of 5p or 6p per issue) so that I could have 10 nearly consecutive issues of the
Defenders (from #2) and 6 issues of Dr Strange (second series from #2). I was in heaven.
Rediscovering The Uncanny X-Men
The following week, seeing as I'd bought every comic the vendor had available, he nicely displayed some of the newer imports - and one called Uncanny X-Men caught my eye. The cover art was incredible but, best of all, the same artist also did the inside illustration. That artist was John Byrne. Dad cheerfully forked out the 15p for that issue and I was truly lost in wonder.
In the following months, I discovered a guy who sold both new and back issues out of his lounge every weekend, so Dad and I went on a voyage of discovery and (slowly) began to amass a serious collection of new and old Marvel comics. There was no internet for me to learn all about Marvel, DC and the various types of comics - and I wasn't rich enough to buy everything my greedy eyes espied. So I had to make do with the UK reprints of the material (usually in black & white).
Within a short period of time, I was weeping (belatedly) after reading Uncanny X-Men #137 as a back-issue. How could the b**t**ds have possibly killed Jean Grey? I'd grown up with her. It was devastating. The next depressing thing was that Mr Byrne left the X-Men within a few months of me starting to read it. That was usually the form for me. I'd pick up a comic mid-way through a creator's run and the next thing I knew, they were off doing something else. You never got that kind of experience reading the Beano, let me tell you.
To my young eyes, John Byrne was one to watch. I'd eventually figured out that he was the same artist who'd drawn some of my Space:1999 comics. If he drew it, I tried to buy it. I was lucky enough (for a change) to pick up the first issue of Fantastic Four that he authored and I was in Marvel heaven for as long as he was on that title.
Anyway, I'm not here to bore you with my reminiscences of days spent with my nose buried in a musty newsprint comic. I'm here to tell you that in June 2019, John Byrne did something absolutely fantastic. He had an itch that he just had to scratch. He went back to the X-Men, picking up from his original version of #137 (the one where Jean Grey does not die), and continued the story the way I'd always thought it should have been done. Best of all, he was doing it for his own personal satisfaction (and for the many Byrne/X-Men fans who read it) as fan-fiction for free.
On his website Byrne Robotics under the FanFic option, there are now 31 consecutive issues of a magical story known as X-Men: Elsewhen. Each issue has at least 19 pages. They are presented at a rate of usually 1 page every weekday - with an issue being finished each month - and so far 11 issues a year.
I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that JB doesn't run out of itches to scratch any time soon.
This story gives me the same sense of wonderment that I had when reading Marvel comics back when I was younger.
ADDENDUM: All good things come to an end. John Byrne may not have run out of itches to scratch, but after eye surgery, even though he's physically okay, he's simply been unable to get back to his drawing desk with any of his prior enthusiasm. As a result, X-Men: Elsewhen ends with Issue #32, just like life, right in the middle of a story. I wish JB all the best, his enjoyment of these characters has given us all 32 more issues of a fabulous comic when we never even imagined it would be possible. And, on the off-chance he swings back into action, we'll be ready and waiting to applaud.
Uncanny X-Men Issues
produces the comic without covers.
They're not really necessary for the story. It's just the kid in me remembers the comics
that Dad would bring home from the Newsagents where the covers had been ripped
off (they were free, so I wasn't too concerned, just appalled that anyone would
treat comics in such a cavalier manner) and I'd always wonder what they looked
In this case, I decided to do something about it myself. It's fairly amateur-hour as I'm no artist/colourist by any means, but I'm quite satisfied with the way some of them turned out. You can see my attempts in the links and gallery below. Feel free to enjoy them (or not). They cost the same as the comics on which they're based.
As you may have seen earlier on the page, I've included a zero issue cover. That one was actually published by Marvel when they eventually printed the original version of Uncanny #137 where Jean Grey survived the experience (mostly) - generally known as Phoenix: The Untold Story. It's kind of the jumping off point for this (true history) version of the X-Men in Elsewhen.
I've also included covers in the Elsewhen style for Uncanny X-Men #138 - 143 as #0.1 - 0.6 respectively (along with adjusted pages where Jean Grey's death would otherwise be referenced).
As a side note, I particularly like the alternate (nostalgic 70's style) cover for #25.