If the name of tonight's Arrow villain-of-the-week sounds familiar, that is not because he has appeared on the show before. In spite of his story being a flashback that ties into the first half of Arrow's first season, Byrne is a new character to Star City, whose backstory was just fitted into the structure of the show's first season and Oliver's list. So if he's not an Arrow villain, who is John Byrne? Well, comic book fans will know that he is a veteran writer and artist whose contributions to both DC and Marvel are significant -- but who, ironically, never had much to do with Green Arrow.
Byrne, whose miniseries The Man of Steel reinvented Superman's world following the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths in the '80s, was one of DC's most prominent creators in the time that followed that event. He also worked on the Legends event that would introduce the Suicide Squad and reinvent the Justice League in the late '80s. And it seems pretty clear that "Crisis on Infinite Earths" showrunner Marc Guggenheim is a fan.
"I've been trying to name check John forever, and this literally was my last opportunity," Guggenheim told ComicBook.com. "He doesn't have a Green Arrow presence, but I had written him into an episode of Law and Order -- actually, my last episode of Law and Order, as it turns out, many, many, many years ago -- and I always wanted to name check him in Arrow. So I reached out to him, and he said he was into it, and we went from there."
Indeed, Byrne was named in the 2004 Law & Order episode "C.O.D.," in which John Byrne was the name of one of two murder victims. The episode, besides being Guggenheim's last, was also the final appearance of Jerry Orbach's Detective Lennie Briscoe in the main series. He would appear in a couple of spinoff episodes before retiring completely.
Both Guggenheim and Byrne have also done significant runs on the X-Men titles, with Byrne having collaborated with Chris Claremont on some of the most important stories ever told with Marvel's merry mutants. Besides Superman and the X-Men, Byrne had a memorable runs on Wonder Woman, Fantastic Four, and several creator-owned series.
Arrow airs its series finale tonight at 9 p.m. ET/PT on The CW, following a one-hour retrospective series titled Hitting the Bullseye, which will feature interviews that reflect on the series' history and legacy.