Project Next Men is a decades-long project to develop super-humans. Hundreds of failed subjects were killed over the years. Because of an impending visit from Antonia Murcheson - a Washington Agent, Senator Hilltop is forced to initiate close down of the project, in order to cover up the activities from the government. The chief scientist Dr Joseph Bremmer is reluctant to close it down and lose all the work they had achieved. He had tipped off the government to send an investigator earlier than expected, in the hope of exposing Hilltop and perhaps making the project legitimate. Meanwhile, five live subjects remain, cocooned in a virtual reality known as The Greenery, but this all comes to a halt when one of them inadvertently breaks free from the electronically simulated life they have lead almost since birth. This leads to all five of them awakening from their virtual environment into the real world. These five Next Men break out from the facility with the aid of Murcheson. Upon discovering they have escaped, Senator Hilltop destroys the facility and consequently all the people working in it. Now that the Next Men have escaped, they soon realise that there is much they don't know about the real world. Over the next few months, Murcheson's boss Control looks after them, keeping them under observation and readying them for whatever missions come their way. The Next Men are aware of having first names only. To their knowledge they have never been given surnames and never saw the need. Up until their escape from the Greenery, they knew nothing else but what the Greenery presented and provided them with. They know nothing of where they actually are in the real world and have never heard of places such as Washington, where Control and Agent Murcheson are based. They are also ignorant of concepts such as school. They never needed to attend school before as The Greenery itself provided all the education they thought they needed. The physical mutations and disfigurements they discover about themselves when out in the real world were never evident while they lived in The Greenery. It would appear that as their powers grow, so do their physical mutations with the possible exception of Jasmine.
John Byrne's Next Men (a.k.a JBNM or Next Men) is a comic book series created by John Byrne and originally published by Dark Horse Comics, most of which came under their Legend imprint. The Legend imprint being a showcase for creator-owned characters and stories ( Frank Miller's Sin City and Mike Mignola's Hellboy being other examples). It is intended for a mature audience as it features scenes of attempted rape, child abuse, and scenes of a sexual nature. 31 issues (later re-released as a series of trade paperbacks) were published from 1992 to 1994. John Byrne is responsible for both the story and the art of every issue. More issues are forthcoming.
With the help of Control they have managed to stick together but not without some hardships along the way. Control decided that he could make good use of them as a team to be sent on secret missions. They have agreed to do this, but soon find it's harder than they expected. Danny is keen to turn himself and the others into heroes by giving them names to match their outfits and abilities. He names himself Sprint, names Nathan as Scanner, Jack as Brawn, Jasmine as Bounce, and Bethany as Hardbody. With the exception of Jasmine, the others are not so keen to share Danny's enthusiasm for the names and costumes, and these new names don't stick .
| Nathan has the ability to see in the full spectrum of light. He can use infra-red in order to see incomplete darkness. He can utilize x-rays so as to see through solid objects. He can also perceive TV and radio waves, saying that "they look kind of like swarms of bees in the air". He is unable to close his eyes and the more his ability grows, the more disfigured his eyes become. A special pair of glasses were developed for him to help him regulate his vision, prevent him from being blinded by too much input, and conceal his disfigurement. He has unspoken strong feelings for Bethany and knows she feels the same way.|
| Bethany is invulnerable to physical attack. She can also use her body as a lethal weapon. A relatively mild example of this was when Jack reached out to touch her hair and cut himself. He compared it to "grabbing a handful of knives". The drawback to all this is that she begins to lose sense of touch, taste, awareness of temperature etc. The more this happens, the more she isolates herself from other people, including the other Next Men. She is aware that Nathan has strong feelings for her and reciprocates the sentiment on a subtle unspoken level.|
| Jack is Super Strong but has difficulty controlling it. He wears a restraining harness to help keep his strength in check so as to not inadvertently harm those around him. He also has a certain level of physical resistance, he can survive being shot but is not completely impervious to harm like Bethany is. He is constantly afraid of hurting those closest to him, especially Jasmine with whom he is romantically entangled.|
| Jasmine (a.k.a. Jazz) has incredible acrobatic abilities. She is romantically involved with Jack and is frustrated when he ceases physical contact with her through fear of her coming to harm. She is very protective of the others and reacts instantly when they appear to be in danger. This is especially the case where Jack is concerned.|
| Danny is the youngest of the five. He possesses super-speed. The side-effect of this being that his legs are disproportionately muscular to the rest of his body. No shoe he wears can withstand the punishment given at super speeds, either that or they start to overheat and burn his feet. So his feet have been put through a conditioning of sorts that has made them tougher than boot leather in order to withstand the incredible friction caused when using his super-speed. He is a big fan of comic books and wants to emulate the heroes he reads about (such as Action Maxx).|
| Senator Aldus Hilltop was the head of project Next Men. He is utterly ruthless in achieving his ends and thinks nothing of killing anyone that stands in his way. He is politically well placed and has the ear of the President. He has Sathanus (see below) hidden away in a secret basement. Sathanus advises and guides Aldus, promising he will become president some day.|
|Sathanus is some sort of energy vampire. He can literally suck a person's lifeforce from them. He was discovered at a mysterious site of devastation in the Antarctic wastes in 1955 by a group of scientists. He sucked the life from all but one of them, leaving Dr Fleming Jorgenson alive. He subsequently colluded secretly with Aldus Hilltop and Fleming Jorgenson in order to create the Next Men project. He devised The Greenery, a system for conditioning and educating subjects with the ultimate goal of them becoming super-human. His motives are shrouded in mystery but he is a nefarious character and can only be up to no good.|
|Dr Fleming Jorgenson was part of a scientific expedition in the Antarctic wastes in 1955. They had discovered the mysterious site littered with dead bodies where Sathanus was the only one alive. Sathanus had sucked the lifeforce from everyone there but Jorgenson. With the help of Sathanus' knowledge of technology and Aldus Hilltop's financial and political muscle, Jorgenson became the chief scientist of the Next Men project. He didn't stay for long as he strongly disagreed with Aldus Hilltop's militaristic goals for the project. He quit and was replaced by Dr Joseph Bremmer who would be the chief scientist in the decades to come until its closure. Meanwhile Jorgenson, claiming to have communist sympathies, elected to collaborate with the Russians in setting up a rival Next Men program known as Project Omega. Jorgenson's project appeared to be spiraling out of control which alarmed the Russian government. The original Next Men in their first assignment would be sent to investigate this rival project at the request of the Russians (Read issues 7-12, re-released in TPB form as Parallel for the full story of this investigation).|
| Antonia Murcheson is a government agent sent by Control to investigate the project. She ends up aiding the Next Men in escaping from "The Greenery". Her life is filled with personal tragedy - her father died when she was only three years old; her stepfather raped her at fourteen, she became pregnant as a result and sought abortion from a back-street clinic that botched the job. This resulted in her uterus being removed which meant that she could never have children of her own. She became a prostitute for a while until Control discovered her and recruited her into his department. She fell in love with and married a fellow agent - Joe Murcheson, but he tragically died two years later while on a mission with her.|
| Control is Murcheson's boss and Hilltop's adversary. He is determined to bring him down but is well aware of the fact that he needs evidence a mile long before he can do so. He takes the Next Men under his wing - training them and preparing them for the real world. He manages to keep their existence a secret for the first few months. However, events conspire against his desire to keep the Next Men a secret: - their overt mission to Russia; Danny spilling all their secrets to the owner of the comic book company Dollar Comics. Control decides if their existence is to be made public, he might as well make it in as controlled a way as possible in order to create the least amount of panic. He makes a deal with Dollar Comics, in order to manage the Next Men's public image.|
Sandy Tolliver works at Dollar Comics and is charged with looking after Danny while they work on promoting his public image for the company. In a moment of weakness she has sex with Danny. Later she regrets having done it and makes it clear to Danny that they have no future together. Strange things start to happen to Sandy. She appears to grow another ten inches in a matter of weeks and seems to have the ability to make fictional characters from her dreams temporarily take solid shape in the real world.
On 24th July 2010, John Byrne and IDW publishing announced that a new series of Next Men is to be published. The first issue of which was available in stores in December 2010. John Byrne had said that he had been waiting for the marketplace to recover enough before releasing new Next Men comics. But he had come to the conclusion that that may never happen (at least not quickly enough). And so he finally decided (after Chris Ryall, of IDW publishing, had asked "How about Next Men?" for the 437th time) that now is the right time to continue the story.