So-- just for the sake of a public record--I was born in 1962 and started drawing comics for my own enjoyment when I was in 4th grade--or roughly 1972-- years before Byrne was doing anything of note. My dad had collected comics when he was a kid so I grew up with his comics--Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck by Carl Barks, Batman by Dick Sprang, Dick Tracy by Chester Gould, Powerhouse Pepper by Basil Wolverton, Plastic Man by Jack Cole, Captain Marvel by C.C. Beck and Pete Costanza and the EC line of comics by Wally Wood, Graham Ingles and all the rest. I wasn't buying comics yet so that's what I had to look at.
Years later an issue of Batman or Detective Comics drawn by Sal Amendola entered my life--the Dragon came from that--the earliest Dragon story had a few swipes from that issue. It was the first and last Sal Amendola comic I've ever seen and I lost it or destroyed it in short order.
Couple years later I discovered Herb Trimpe and he was a big influence. First I bought an isolated issue (#156) and then my brother came home from school with a stack of Hulk comics that he gave to me for doing the dishes. I was hooked hard. I stated buying everything in sight. I discovered Walter Simonson who was drawing Manhunter in the back of Detective Comics and Jack Kirby who was drawing Kamandi at the time and they became major influences. Later still I ran across E-Man by Joe Staton and that's where I first saw John Byrne's work. Both of those guys did work I liked but at that point neither were influences. Staton became an inker after that--on the Hulk over Trimpe and Sal Buscema and on the Avengers. I stumbled across some Gil Kane comics and I absorbed those like a sponge.
But I was never a sketchbook guy. I drew comics. Sure, I'd try and copy arms and torsos out of anatomy books on sheets of paper but I never kept those--I was more into storytelling and that's what I did--I drew comics.
I copied a few Herb Trimpe panels and some Kirby ones here and there. I even swiped a shot of Nova from E-Man at one point. But I wasn't a big swipe guy--for the most part I was telling my own stories and other people's poses didn't fit with what I was doing.
In early 1982 I drew a Dragon story that was published in a fanzine called Graphic Fantasy.
(24 page issue) This issue reprinted the Dragon story from Graphic Fantasy #1.
(24 page issue) This issue reprinted the Dragon story from Graphic Fantasy #2.
These are all a matter of public record--and while the covers of these collections were new, the interiors were not. Anybody can find these things and see for themselves what my early art looked like.
And it was nothing
like John Byrne.
So, in order to buy the theory that I grew up aping John Byrne you'd have to believe that I was aware of his work before in existed, copied it before it existed, forgot what it looked like when I was 19 and then really got into it again, later in order to have that influence later.
Which makes no sense.
I couldn't have traced John Byrne's work because John Byrne wasn't working in comics and when he finally did--he drew little like he would years later.
The timeline makes no sense.
In any case-- shortly after Graphic Fantasy was published I got my first paying gigs in comics--Vanguard, which ran in the pages of Megaton.
(32 page issue) This issue reprinted the Vanguard/Dragon stories from Megaton #2 and 3.
(32 page issue) This issue reprinted the Vanguard/Dragon story from Megaton #4 as well as an unpublished Dragon short story called "Angel Fueled Quake" and a one-page story from Giant-Sized Mini-Comics #4 and a few uninked pages from another Dragon story that I'd started but never finished.
Following that came a stint at AC Comics and then DNAgents with Mark Evanier followed by the Doom Patrol at DC and the Punisher, Marvel Comics Presents and Spider-Man at Marvel. After that came Image.
There were a few fill ins here and there along the way but that's roughly how things went.
My work fluctuated quite a bit over the years but the big change came in 1991 when I started inking my own stuff. I found that there were a lot of things that I drew in pencil that I was unable to do in ink and that there were things I could do in ink that I would be unable to communicate in pencil. It was then that I started rendering a lot more--adding more crosshatching and lines to make it look fuller and more complete.
I have a tendency to look at effects and try to replicate them. Much of my rendering style came from Terry Austin's inks on Frank Miller from Daredevil #191 and a lot of crosshatching and zip effects came from Klaus Janson. Some of the chunkiness and power came from Walter Simonson--some from Jack Kirby. Some of the dirty inking effects came from Bill Sienkiewicz. I've even tried to absorb some effects from Vinnie Colletta. Lighting comes from Frank Miller and Wally Wood. Those are the primary comic book sources--I've taken in a lot from other illustrators and cartoonists. I'm kind of all over the place but nobody works in a complete vacuum--they all pick and choose from their influences and a lot which ends up on the page is my failed attempts at approximating something I've seen from an old book or illustration--it all becomes my work in one form or another. If you see somebody in the mix it may not necessarily be that person but rather my failed attempt at approximating something else.
I've had people pick out influences before. Generally people will see Kirby, Miller or Simonson. But I've had a few artists say to me that they can tell it's my work by every line I put to paper. Your mileage may vary.
I've never worked with comics open at my drawing board. I've certainly read a few and tried to learn from what I've seen but I've always found swipes to be a visual speed bump. They're too jarring--and take me out of the story as a reader, so I try not to use them unless I'm completely stumped. I can count on one hand the number of times I've swiped and most often I've pointed them out in my letters pages. I'm not trying to hide anything.
So there you go. Full disclosure. Hopefully, this will put an end to the nitwit speculation and slipshod detective work.