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Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #13!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Justice Society of America was canceled for a reason other than sales.

STATUS: True

In 1991, Len Strazewski and four different artists did a mini-series starring the Justice Society of America, who had not appeared in comics since DC’s Crisis event from six years earlier, in a flashback story set in 1950.

Justice Society of America #1
Justice Society of America #1

Surprisingly enough, the series was a success. I say a surprise because the mini-series seemed to be designed just to keep Strazewski and the four artists busy while waiting for their !mpact line of comics to launch, as Stezewski and the four artists all worked on various !mpact Comics, so this probably was not created with the thought that it was going to be all that popular.

Therefore, in 1992, as a sequel to their popular summer crossover, Armageddon 2001, DC had a mini-series called Armageddon: Inferno, where they finally rescued the Justice Society of America from the limbo that they were sent to (to keep them from making DC stories confusing, DC literally sent the JSA to limbo, to fight eternally…how odd is that?).

Armageddon Inferno #4
Armageddon Inferno #4

This lead to a new ongoing series titled, Justice Society of America, written by Len Strazewski and drawn by the late, great, Mike Parobeck.

Justice Society of America #1
Justice Society of America #1

This new series was a critical darling, but was cancelled after only ten issues in 1993.

A year later, a good portion of the Justice Society was killed off in the pages of Zero Hour.

Why was the book cancelled?

Low sales?

Was it because Dan Jurgens planned to kill them off in Zero Hour?

As it turned out, it was neither of those two reasons.

As Len Strazewski recounts (in this interview with Mike Aragona), “It was a capricious decision made personally by Mike Carlin because he didn’t like Mike’s artwork or my writing and believed that senior citizen super-heroes was not what DC should be publishing. He made his opinion clear to me several times after the cancellation.”

Now clearly, one must take Strazewski’s claims with a grain of salt, after all, he was quite close to the project, however, his explanation appears believable enough that I think it is essentially true.

Justice Society of America was cancelled not because of sales, but because Mike Carlin no longer wanted to publish it.

And hey, he was the head honcho, so it was his right to make such a decision (That last statement brought to you by “People for the ethical treatment of Executive Editors”).

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: The Protector was created to co-star with the Titans in the pages of their Anti-Drug comic book.

STATUS: False

Here is George Perez on the matter, referring to changes made in the Teen Titans anti-drug comic book (from Comics Collector Magazine, Spring 1984),

Keebler, the cookie company, was sponsoring the first drug book, and through the licensing of superhero cookies, Robin was licensed to Nabisco. So we couldn’t use Robin on a Keebler-licensed product, even though it was a totally different type of marketing. Dave Manak – who was editing that book – whited out the entire costuming on Robin and drew this costume they quickly designed, and renamed him The Protector. So you have The Protector doing all the Robin-type things, like flying the T-jet, and giving all the orders – and who is this guy? Every single pose he’s in, that was Robin in the original pose. Anyone who has the original artwork can see all the whiteout on that Protector figure and, if you hold it up to the light, you’ can see Robin’s costume underneath.

So while Marv Wolfman quickly came up with the idea of The Protector on the spot, he was not, in fact, created TO star in the title, for he was NOT in the comic – Robin was! Protector got all of Robin’s lines!!

Look at the cover!

The New Teen Titans
The New Teen Titans

The Protector is clearly Robin there!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: In 1975, Marvel came up with four new titles in one lunch.

STATUS: True

In response to the statement, “I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when someone made the pitch for the Black Goliath solo series. Now, THERE’S a salesman,” Kurt Busiek relayed the following story…

As I understand it, there was no pitch. The execs upstairs decided they needed five new books in a tearing hurry, and there was no time to think about it, so Len Wein (who was EIC at the time), Marv Wolfman (about to become EIC) and several staffers went out to lunch and made up books they could get rolling that very day. BLACK GOLIATH, INHUMANS, MARVEL CHILLERS (featuring Mordred), MARVEL PRESENTS (Bloodstone) and ADVENTURES ON THE PLANET OF THE APES [NOTE: Marvel already had a Planet of the Apes comic book, so they did not have to acquire the license to produce this comic]were the books they made up, I think. Once they had a chance to think, the contents of CHILLERS and PRESENTS changed (to Tigra and Guardians of the Galaxy, respectively), but none of the books lasted.

BLACK GOLIATH came out a few months after the others, but if what I’m told is right, it was cooked up at that lunch.

Please note that Kurt says, “if what I’m told is right,” so it is perfectly natural that perhaps there was a slight discrepency in the telling.

Luckily, Mr. Busiek clarifies it for us later…

Len Wein has since told me that neither BLACK GOLIATH nor ADVENTURES OF THE PLANET OF THE APES were born at that lunch, though INHUMANS, MARVEL PRESENTS and MARVEL CHILLERS were. He thinks there were only four titles and the fourth was CHAMPIONS.

I had been under the impression that both CHAMPIONS and INHUMANS were started as Giant-Size titles and then converted to regular size when the G-S line was scrapped, though Len doesn’t remember this being the case. If so, then all four books may have been built from existing material — the Bloodstone and Modred series in PRESENTS and CHILLERS had both been intended as backups in other books (“Modred,” I think was even announced as a replacement for the moldy old reprints in the back of GIANT-SIZE WEREWOLF), which is why those two series were so swiftly replaced; that material was published simply to buy them time on the schedule to get the Tigra and Guardians of the Galaxy series under way.

So, presuming that Mr. Wein is remembering it correctly, here are those four titles…all released in 1975.

Marvel Presents: Bloodstone
Marvel Presents: Bloodstone
Marvel Chillers featuring Modred the Mystic
Marvel Chillers featuring Modred the Mystic
Inhumans #1
Inhumans #1
The Champions #1
The Champions #1

Pretty weird, huh?

Thanks for the clarification, Kurt!

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Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #12!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Marvel HAS to publish a Captain Marvel comic book.

STATUS: For all intents and purposes, True

As I stated in two (here and here)earlier Urban Legends Revealed, after they settled with DC, Fawcett ceased publication of Captain Marvel.

In the mean time, at one point in the 60s, Marvel decided that they should trademark well, anything with Marvel in the title.

That was all fine and good, you can trademark something, but for the trademark to be ENFORCABLE, you have to actually PUBLISH something.

Marvel did not do that until they heard rumblings that DC was considering bringing back Fawcett’s Captain Marvel character.

So, in the late 60s, Marvel released their Captain Marvel character, therefore protecting their Captain Marvel trademark.

This is why, when DC got around to publishing Fawcett’s Captain Marvel characters in the 1970s, they had to call the book “Shazam!,” as the name Captain Marvel was a trademark owned by Marvel (note the difference between trademark and copyright. Fawcett still owned the copyright on Captain Marvel, so when they licensed the character to DC, DC was able to use the name Captain Marvel IN the comic book, just not when promoting or advertising the comic book. That is where trademarks come into play).

Well, as you can imagine, if Marvel ever LOST the trademark on Captain Marvel, DC would be quick to swoop in and grab it, so Marvel knew very well that it could not let the trademark lapse.

To do so, there is no hard and fast rule, but a safe bet would say they had to come out with a Captain Marvel publication at least every year or so.

So, what did Marvel do?

They published the adventures of the Kree warrior, Captain Marvel, from 1968 until 1979 (the last few years as a bi-monthly).

Then the Death of Captain Marvel in 1982.

Then the mini-series the LIFE of Captain Marvel (reprinting his most significant achievements) in 1985.

In 1982, Marvel introduced a new Captain Marvel (as mentioned last week), and in 1989, when no Captain Marvel book had been released for awhile, suddenly, she had a one-shot!

In 1994, once again, she had a one-shot!

In 1995, the first Captain Marvel’s son had an ongoing series for less than a year.

In 1997, Marvel published an Untold Tale of Captain Marvel.

In 2000, Peter David gave Marvel’s son another boost, with a series that lasted until 2004.

So while no, Marvel does not HAVE to publish a Captain Marvel comic book, if they want to keep their trademark, they will.

And, well, they want to keep their trademark…so they WILL keep on finding ways to publish a Captain Marvel comic book.

Note that, in House of M, Ms. Marvel is known by a certain familiar name?

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Lisa Marie Presley made Nicolas Cage sell his comic collection.

STATUS: False

When Nicolas Cage sold off his vast comic book collection awhile back, soon before his marriage to Lisa Marie Presley, it sparked off rampant speculation that Presley was the reason behind the sale.

However, John Petty, who was heavily involved in the sale, has this to say about the situation…

When Nic auctioned his comic collection through Heritage in October, 2002, there were a lot of stories going around as to why he was doing so. I was in the thick of this whole thing, as I was the Director of Heritage Comics at the time, and I also was liaison with the media for this event.

The official story that we got from Nic’s people (we never did talk to Nic himself, just his business manager and his publicist) was that Nic was simply “moving into other areas of interest.” There were lots of other stories floating around at the time (including that Lisa Marie “made” him sell his collection), but those are all apocryphal at best. To the best of my knowledge, Lisa Marie had nothing to do with Nic’s decision to sell.

Sounds good enough to me!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Aquaman’s first cover appearance was with the Justice League, nineteen years after he first appeared!

STATUS: True

Aquaman has had a long career playing second fiddle to other superheroes.

His first appearance was in the pages of More Fun Comics #73, in 1941. Which would be a big deal, except, in the SAME issue, Green Arrow!!! How’s THAT for coincidence!

Of course, back then, comics were much different, in that each comic came with a whole pile of stories. That particular issue had EIGHT stories in it, including the cover feature of Garnder Fox and Howard Sherman’s Doctor Fate.

Fun Comics #73
Fun Comics #73

Aquaman continued on in More Fun, but Green Arrow soon became quite popular, and the cover was Green Arrow’s for the rest of their time together in More Fun.

Fun Comics #83
Fun Comics #83

Aquaman even continued on to Adventure Comics (where most of the features moved a couple of years later).

However, this move also coincided with a popular NEW character, by the name of Superboy.

Well, as you can imagine, the next 14 years, Aquaman kept swimming along, but the covers of the book kept going to Superboy (can you wonder why, look at him stop this train!)!

Adventure Comics #186
Adventure Comics #186

Therefore, that is how Aquaman made his FIRST cover appearance in the year 1960, when he and four other costumed fellows appeared together fighting, of all things, a giant starfish in Brave and the Bold #28.

The Brave and the Bold presents Justice League of America #28
The Brave and the Bold presents Justice League of America #28

Weird, huh?

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Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #11!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Marvel killed off a Thunderbolts character because of a rights problem.

STATUS: True

In the pages of Wizard, there was a contest held to let the fans figure out who would be the next villain faced by the Thunderbolts.

The winning entry was introduced in the pages of Thunderbolts #19, and his name was Charcoal, the Burning Man.

However, this character, invented to be a one-shot villain, turned out to be TOO good of a creation, as he was quickly added as a MEMBER of the Thunderbolts for the next almost 40 issues, but was abruptly killed in a battle with Graviton in the mid-#50s.

As it turned out, there was some debate over whether the creators of Charcoal had officially signed over all the rights to the character to Marvel, which was part of the contest rules, so since they just could not iron the kinks of the deal out, Marvel decided to instead just get rid of the character (with the intent, presumably, of bringing him back some time in the future).

So, basically, it is highly unlikely that you will ever see Charcoal in the pages of a Marvel comic again.

Which is too bad, as he was a good character.

(Thanks to Chris Arndt for filling in some details)

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: John Byrne left Jack Kirby off of the 20th anniversary cover of Fantastic Four.

STATUS: False

In 1981, the Fantastic Four celebrated their 20th anniversary with a special double-sized issue for #236.

The story is considered to be one of the best stories in John Byrne’s five-plus years as writer/artist on Fantastic Four, but one notable problem seemed to present itself on the cover.

Fantastic Four #236
Fantastic Four #236

Pictured among the characters celebrating the Fantastic Four’s anniversary is Stan Lee, co-creator of the Fantastic Four, but nowhere in the picture is Jack Kirby.

Why did Byrne draw in Lee, but not Kirby?

Was Byrne making a statement about who he thought was the REAL creator of the Fantastic Four?

As it turns out, it was nothing of the sort.

When Byrne turned in the art, Kirby WAS in the drawing.

At the behest of Editor-in-Chief, Jim Shooter, Kirby was removed from the piece (for what reasons, we do not know, although it likely had to do with the arguments at the time over Kirby wanting his older art returned to him, but I honestly do not know what Shooter’s motivations were).

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Roger Stern left Avengers over Captain Marvel’s leadership of the team.

STATUS: True

In 1982, Roger Stern introduced a new Marvel superhero, who he gave the (then available) name of Captain Marvel.

This young heroine joined the Avengers as a member-in-training, and soon rose in the ranks until the point, in 1987, that she became the leader of the Avengers. Which was a notable feat for one of the first significant black female superhero.

This was all fine and good, but in 1988, Avengers editor, Mark Gruenwald, had different ideas about the character. He wanted Captain America to become the leader of the team (conspiracy theories abound that since Gruenwald was the writer of Captain America’s book, that he wanted Cap to lead the Avengers to aid in publicizing Captain America’s title…which I do not think is fair to Gruenwald. It is just as likely that he just decided that it was better for the book for it to go down like this).

However, Gruenwald did not just want to have Captain America become the leader, he also wanted Captain Marvel to be shown as an inferior leader before she was taken off the team (presumably to further show how adept Captain America is at the role).

Stern, creator of the character, reasonably balked at this change, as he felt such a move would be hard to do without looking racist or sexist, and therefore, Stern, who had been writing the title for the past 60 issues or so, was taken off the book, and replaced by Ralph Macchio and then Walt Simonson, who both basically followed Gruenwald’s prescribed plot path (until Simonson then took the book in his own direction).

Which is a shame, as the decision really took Captain Marvel, who at the time had become as mainstream as you could get, off the road of “mainstream” basically for good.

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Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #10!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: DC dictated the format of Marvel comics for more than a decade.

STATUS: True

In the late 1950s, publisher Martin Goodman was expanding Atlas/Marvel’s place in the marketplace. However, they ran into a MAJOR problem in 1957.

They had signed a distribution agreement with American News Company.

However, due to some problems of their own, ANC ceased to distribute comics in Fall 1957!

Suddenly, Marvel was facing a MAJOR problem! They couldn’t publish any comics!

This was, suffice to say, a major blow.

Desperate to get the books back on to the market before too much valuable time had passed, Marvel signed a deal with Independent News, with was a part of the same company as DC Comics!!

Yes, that is right, Marvel was being distributed by the enemy!

Part of the onerous deal was that Marvel could not publish more than eight comics a month (since their comics were all bi-monthlies at the time, this worked out to sixteen titles total, but by the time the superhero boom made the amount of a titles a real problem, Marvel had already finagled themselves to the point where they could have about six monthlies, with about ten comics that they would plug into the schedule at various times).

This became a major problem when they decided to get into superheroes in the early 60s, as they had to slowly phase out their other titles and convert those titles into superhero titles.

Not an easy feat to achieve, certainly.

In addition, this was why Marvel had so many anthologies. They WANTED to have more titles, but they were not ALLOWED to!

The original deal was modified over the years to allow for more titles, and finally, in 1968, Marvel was a big enough sales success (and DC was in a major sales slump) that they were able to negotiate their way out of the deal entirely, allowing themselves to sign with Curtis Distribution.

You may have noticed that 1968 saw the end of Tales of Suspense and Tales of Astonish.

That was because finally, Marvel was completely free to make title decisions fully on their own!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Thunderstrike was outselling Thor and Avengers combined when it was cancelled.

STATUS: As far as I can tell, False

Courtesy of the always fun to read, Life of Reilly (chronicling the Clone Saga in excrutiating detail), Tom DeFalco says,

Since I had access to the actual sales during that period, I can attest to the fact that at the time it was canceled THUNDERSTRIKE was actually selling more copies than both THOR and AVENGERS combined. Why were profitable titles like THUNDERSTRIKE, WAR MACHINE and all the 2099 books cancelled? The answer I was given was that the guy in charge of marketing had decided that these additional titles were hurting the core company franchises. He believed that the sales on THOR would go up as soon as THUNDERSTRIKE was cancelled, and AMAZING SPIDER-MAN would increase with SPIDER-MAN 2099 gone. Nice theory…but I still think it was nonsense.

And this is not a one-time deal, as I have seen DeFalco make this same claim in more than one interview.

Now, is it true?

On the one hand, I totally believe DeFalco in that sales very well may not have been the reason why Thunderstrike was cancelled.

Quite often, titles are cancelled when they ARE still profitable for the company, for all sorts of various reasons (in fact, one non-sales driven cancellation in particular is going to be fodder for a future bit).

So I believe DeFalco there.

But the reader’s initial response when seeing a statement like that, “How could Thunderstrike outsell both Avengers and Thor COMBINED?” is, as far as I can tell, on the money. It does not appear as though it did sell more than those two books combined.

Now I, of course, cannot say what the official sales were. I am sure DeFalco, as Editor in Chief, was privy to many sales figures I could never see, but I COULD see the figures released by the distribution companies.

According to the sales figures of THEM, in January 1995, months before the cancellation of Thunderstrike was announced, Avengers was ranked a disappointing 74th overall.

Thor? An even worse 96th.

Thunderstrike? 144.

A few months later, Avengers was #70, Thor #98 and Thunderstrike #139.

So I just cannot see how Thunderstrike possibly, even presuming these rankings aren’t TOTALLY accurate, how could a book ranked 144 outsell two books, ranked 74 and 96?!

So I am going to have to say that I think that Mr. DeFalco’s claims are mistaken.

Although, again, clearly, DeFalco has access to figures I do not – so I am certainly open to the possibility that I am mistaken here.

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Charlton printed its comics using a cereal box press.

STATUS: True

Charlton Comics was the home of such famous heroes as Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, Nightshade and The Question (otherwords, the cast of Watchmen!).

It was also quite a unique operation, basically in how it managed to avoid spending much money on comics.

First of all, it did not pay its creators a great deal. They were generally on the low end of pay rates (but in return, their creators generally had a lot more freedom. Ditko, in particular, cited this reason as why he preferred working for Charlton over Marvel, despite being paid less).

In addition, rather than being in New York City like most publishers, they were headquartered in Derby, Connecticut.

Finally, they printed their own comics on site, and yes, the press that they used was first used to cut cereal boxes!!!

This very box press, which was used when the company formed in 1931, was used right until the company folded for good in 1986.

If you have any Charlton Comics from the late 70s or early 80s, take a look at them – the system did not hold up particularly well!!

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Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #9!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Marvel and DC own the trademark of the word “Super Hero.”

STATUS: True

Reader Jason asked a question about a Captain America T-Shirt that he had that had a DC copyright on it.

It is likely that Jason’s T-Shirt was, in fact, an error.

However, it did remind me of something that DC and Marvel DO share, and that is a trademark on the word “Super Hero.”

Here is a copy of the accepted US federal trademark…

Word Mark SUPER HEROES
Goods and Services IC 016. US 002 005 022 023 029 037 038 050. G & S: PUBLICATIONS, PARTICULARLY COMIC BOOKS AND MAGAZINES AND STORIES IN ILLUSTRATED FORM [(( ; CARDBOARD STAND-UP FIGURES; PLAYING CARDS; PAPER IRON-ON TRANSFER; ERASERS; PENCIL SHARPENERS; PENCILS; GLUE FOR OFFICE AND HOME USE, SUCH AS IS SOLD AS STATIONERY SUPPLY;] NOTEBOOKS AND STAMP ALBUMS )). FIRST USE: 19661000. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19661000
Mark Drawing Code (1) TYPED DRAWING
Serial Number 73222079
Filing Date July 3, 1979
Current Filing Basis 1A
Original Filing Basis 1A
Published for Opposition June 9, 1981
Registration Number 1179067
Registration Date November 24, 1981
Owner (REGISTRANT) Cadence Industries Corporation a.k.a. Marvel Comics Group and DC Comics Inc. CORPORATION DELAWARE 575 Madison Ave. New York NEW YORK 10022
(LAST LISTED OWNER) DC COMICS PARTNERSHIP BY ASSIGNMENT NEW YORK 1700 BROADWAY NEW YORK NEW YORK 10019

(LAST LISTED OWNER) MARVEL CHARACTERS, INC. CORPORATION BY ASSIGNMENT DELAWARE 10474 SANTA MONICA BOULEVARD SUITE 206 LOS ANGELES CALIFORNIA 90025

Assignment Recorded ASSIGNMENT RECORDED
Attorney of Record JONATHAN D. REICHMAN
Type of Mark TRADEMARK
Register PRINCIPAL
Affidavit Text SECT 15. SECT 8 (6-YR). SECTION 8(10-YR) 20020819.
Renewal 1ST RENEWAL 20020819
Live/Dead Indicator LIVE

DC and Marvel have, since 1981, owned a trademark of the phrase “Super Hero,” in regards to publications, toys, costumes and the like.

Todd VerBeek had an interesting column on the topic a year or so ago here.

I thought about this when I was wondering whether Jason’s T-Shirt mentioned the phrase “Super Hero,” in which case it could have had a trademark on it mentioning both Marvel and DC.

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: DG Chichester left Daredevil with #332.

STATUS: False

Writer DG Chichester followed Ann Nocenti on Daredevil, and had an interesting run.

He brought the character back to his New York City roots, and his Last Rites storyline with artist Lee Weeks was pretty good.

Later on, working with artist Scott McDaniel, Chichester made the controversial move of both A. Bringing Elektra back from the dead and B. “Killing off” Matt Murdock and giving Daredevil a new armored costume and a new secret identity, Jack Batlin.

With issue #332, Chichester took a break from the book, and writer Gregory Wright did a fill-in arc for the next five issues. Chichester was to return after the arc.

However, the name DG Chichester would not appear in the credits of Daredevil again until the very last issue of Daredevil Volume 1 (#380).

What happened?

Well, during the fill-in arc (late 1994), Marvel had an in-company shake-up. Tom DeFalco was removed as Editor-in-Chief, and instead of naming a successor, Marvel named five separate “Editor-in-Chiefs,” each of whom was given a certain amount of titles to be in charge of.

Bob Harras kept the X-Men book, Mark Gruenwald got Marvel Heroes, Bob Budiansky got Spider-Man, Carl Potts got the Licensed Books and Alternaverse books (books that fell in the cracks), and Bobbie Chase got “Marvel Edge.”

“Marvel Edge” was basically throwing together all of Marvel’s “edgier” titles, like Hulk, Punisher, Ghost Rider, and yes, Daredevil.

Not much of a theme between the bunch, but that was what Marvel said must be.

Well, Bobbie Chase did not want DG Chichester to write Daredevil (for whatever reason), so she went out and got a new writer.

The thing is, Chichester was already working on his upcoming issues, and Chase did not want him to know that after those issues were done, a new writer would be taking over.

Someone secretly let Chichester in on this, and as a protest, he insisted that his name be taken off these remaining issues.

That is why Daredevil #338-342 are credited not to DG Chichester, but to Alan Smithee (the infamous pseudonym that directors use when they want to distance themselves from a project that they did not like…Chichester went to film school, dontcha know).

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Christopher Priest killed off a character in a comic because of ownership rights.

STATUS: True

In the pages of Justice League Task Force, writer Christopher Priest introduced a new hero, an asian teenager who disguised herself as a male hero named Mystek. Awhile after joining the team, while on a mission in space, Mystek was tragically lost out of the spaceship and died.

That was the last that anyone spoke of Mystek.

Why such an ignominous fate?

Well, as it turns out, Priest had created Mystek, and was in the process of selling Mystek to DC as a creator-owned character to star in her own mini-series. He was told to put her in Justice League Task Force to get people interested in her.

Well, the deal fell through.

At that point, DC did not own the character, but they were (in a way) making money off the character.

You can understand how this would not be a good thing for Priest, so off she went.

It was too bad, too, because she was a good character.

Read here for Priest’s take on it.

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Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #8!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Jimmy Olsen, Perry White, the Daily Planet and Kryptonite all appeared on the Superman radio show before they ever appeared in the comic book.

STATUS: True

As Superman grew in popularity in the late 30s, he gained a radio program.

The radio program quickly outgrew the amount of stories that were supplied to it by the comic books (remember, the radio show began in February 1940, so there was less than two years worth of Superman stories to draw from as resources), so the show was forced to invent new stories and characters of its own.

In the second episode of the series, editor Perry White was introduced. The comic would follow later that year by changing the newspaper Clark Kent worked at from the Daily Star to the Daily Planet, and rather than George Taylor, Perry White became Kent’s boss.

Copy boy Jimmy Olsen followed soon after (in episode #28).

In 1942, another major addition made an appearance.

According to the radio announcer…

Superman for the first time in his life faces an enemy against which he is entirely powerless. That enemy is a piece of the planet Krypton-kryptonite, it is called – which a few days ago struck the Earth in the form of a meteor. A full understanding of his danger came to Superman when he approached the kryptonite for the first time. As he came within five feet of the mass of metal, which glowed like a green diamond, he suddenly felt week, as if all his strength had been drained from him.

Heck, in 1945, the radio show even featured the first Superman/Batman pairing!

For more info, check out this wonderful resource about the Superman radio show.

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: C.C. Beck based Captain Marvel’s appearance on a movie where Fred MacMurray daydreams about being a superhero.

STATUS: False

E. Nelson Bridwell, speaking of the origins for the look of Captain Marvel (nee Captain Thunder), had the following to say in 1977…

The twenty-nine-year old [C.C.] Beck came fresh from a job on a movie mag and possibly inspired by a dream sequence in which the star became a kind of superhero modeled Captain Thunder on Fred MacMurray.

MacMurray DID, in fact, star in a film called “No Time For Love,” in which MacMurray, in a dream sequence, dressed up as a caped superhero.

The only problem is that “No Time For Love” was released in 1943.

Captain Marvel’s first appearance?

1940.

However, just because Bridwell was wrong about the specific film that inspired Beck to choose MacMurray to base Captain Marvel on does not mean that Beck did not, in fact, base Captain Marvel’s appearance on Fred MacMurray.

According to Beck himself, “Captain Marvel himself was based on the actor Fred MacMurray.”

Or according to Jim Steranko, “With the movie job fresh in his mind, he began the task of translating Bill Parker’s ideas into graphic form. He chose film star Fred MacMurray as the model of Captain Thunder, giving him the same black, wavy hair; bone structure, and cleft chin.”

And many others agree.

So it is likely that Beck DID, in fact, base Captain Marvel’s appearance upon MacMurray…just not that particular film.

Fred MacMurray
Fred MacMurray
Captain Marvel
Captain Marvel

What do YOU think?

(Quotes and photos courtesy of the amazing Marvel Family Webpage)

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: A DC comic character invented in 1964 did not make his debut until 1992.

STATUS: True

In 1964, the 50th issue of Showcase was released.

Here was the cover of that issue…

Showcase presents I--Spy
Showcase presents I--Spy

As you may notice, it is a repackaging of old King Faraday “Danger Trail” comics under the banner of “I-Spy.”

The reason why that happened, though, is because the ORIGINAL #50 was never released, and no art was done but the cover.

And that very cover (with art by Mike Sekowsky) was never seen at all until 1992, when it was released as the cover to Doom Patrol #51, with no changes made except the removal of the title…

Doom Patrol #51
Doom Patrol #51

DC wanted a spy comic, with the success of James Bond, so editor Lawrence Nadle worked upon the creation of a spy who was a master of disguise.

However, tragically, Nadle passed away before Yankee Doodle got any further than a cover.

Never one to leave a concept alone, though, DC ultimately reused the master of diguise angle (along with the patriotic feel) for the Unknown Soldier. Likewise, Ditko’s The Question’s method of disguise seems awfully similar as well.

Still, Yankee Doodle never made a comic book appearance until 1992, when Grant Morrison and Richard Case (with Stan Woch on inks) gave us the origin of Yankee Doodle, managing to tie in the Question as well.

Pretty cool by Morrison, no?

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Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #7

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: DC had an ongoing comic that simply repackaged old TV tie-in comics.

STATUS: True

In 1969, in the 81st issue of Showcase, DC tried out a new pair of teen characters, Windy and Willy, who were two hippy friends.

Windy and Willy
Windy and Willy

The first story was titled “The Haunted Hippie.”

The story was popular enough to launch a Windy and Willy ongoing title, which only last four issues.

However, the really interesting thing about Windy and Willy is that they were really Dobie Gillis and Maynerd G. Krebs!!

Ya see, DC once put out a tie-in comic based on the TV series, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.

Well, years later (while DC was in the midst of still trying to compete with Archie for the, well, Archie demographic), DC dusted off the Gillis stories (from 5-6 years earlier), retitled the characters, changed their hair colors, and switched out any outdated references, and ta da….

This comic (Dobie Gillis #18)….

Dobie Gillis
Dobie Gillis

became THIS comic (Windy and Willy #1)…

Windy and Willy
Windy and Willy

Luckily, Bob Oksner drew the first series and was still available to do the retouches.

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: The woman on the cover of House of Secrets #92 (Swamp Thing’s first appearance) is Louise Simonson.

STATUS: True

Here is the 1971 cover…

The House of Secrets
The House of Secrets

I cannot do it any better than he can, so I will let artist Bernie Wrightson explain (courtesy of this excellent interview:

I recall Len offered me the ‘Swamp Thing’ short story to draw that night. The deadline was really tight and I remember doing most of the work on a weekend. I had help from Kaluta, Jeff, Weiss and Louise. I remember that to save time we photographed the whole thing. The bad guy is Kaluta who could make himself look really oily. I parted his hair in the middle and he had this great moustache. Of course, I was the hero because the girl was Louise Jones, Jeff’s wife, who I had a crush on and I got to put my arm around her.

Cool, huh?

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Superman once got into trouble for spilling American nuclear secrets.

STATUS: False

Alvin Schwartz wrote Superman stories in the 1940s and 1950s, including the daily comic strips at one point.

In one story, Superman fought Professor Duske, who had a cyclotron (one of the earliest types of particle accelerators).

According to the Amazing World of DC Comics #16, the United States War Department was alarmed by this story, and in a letter from the War Department to the District Engineer at the United States Engineer Office in Tennessee, expressed their concern.

They were not, as some people feared, upset about the level of detail the books went into, but rather, the fact that having a cyclotron appear in a comic book would cause the public to take the device less seriously, and the government wanted its citizens to have a healthy amount of fear about the nuclear devices the government used.

So no, Superman was never a Benedict Arnold!

That’s it for this week!

Feel free to tell me some urban legends you have heard, and I will try to confirm or deny them!

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Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #6

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: After the Captain Marvel decision, DC bought Fawcett’s characters.

STATUS: False

The fact remains (as pointed out here) that Fawcett’s sales had gone down a lot by the mid-50s, as did most superhero titles. The Fawcett/DC suit had begun at the height of Fawcett’s sales, and by the time Fawcett settled, the books just weren’t selling.

So they agreed to stop publishing Captain Marvel, and they sold their remaining characters to Charlton.

Years later, in the early 70s, DC decided they would like to publish Captain Marvel themselves (Marvel, during the 60s, had decided to claim all uses of the word Marvel as a trademark, and upon rumors of DC wanting to bring Captain Marvel back, they rushed out their version to take claim to the “Captain Marvel” trademark).

Still, they were not OWNED by DC.

DC simply leased the characters.

Years later, DC eventually just bough the characters outright (this seems to be DC’s modus operandi…rather than have to do complicated deals, they just use their money to buy themselves out of complicated deals…see the Wonder Woman deal from here.)

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: DC had a Superman storyline set during the Holocaust that did not mention the word “Jew” or “Jewish.”

STATUS: True

In 1998, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Superman’s first appearance, the Superman titles tried an interesting idea.

Each title would depict Superman in a different “era.”

Action Comics depicted Superman in the 70s.

Adventures of Superman depicted Superman in the 60s.

Superman depicted Superman in the future.

And Superman: Man of Steel depicted Superman during the 30s, in a “What If..Superman got involved in the Holocaust?” story.

The only problem was, in the two-part story, there was NO mention of the word “Jew,” “Jewish,” “German” or “Catholic.”

Editor Joey Cavalieri said he banned the words “Jew,” “Catholic” and “German” from the story because he feared they might be used derisively by young readers.

“Since this could be the first time [a reader] encounters the Jews in print, I would be heartbroken if this [story] went badly,” he said.

DC’s president and editor-in-chief, Jenette Kahn, told the Associated Press that Cavalieri “was worried about having Nazi characters use Jewish slurs. He was concerned that young kids would repeat the slurs, and that young Jewish kids would read it and be given a negative stereotype.”

Cavalieri said it was obvious by the comic characters’ names and graphic devices that they were Jewish.

The head of the Jewish Defamation League accepted DC’s apology on the issue, and made the point, “the intention was OK but the execution wasn’t. One can get so locked in trying not to offend, you offend.”

Indeed.

The quotes are from this Jewish News Weekly article.

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Mark Bagley got his start by winning the original Marvel Try-Out Contest.

STATUS: True

In 1985, Marvel had an interesting contest.

Called the “Marvel Try-Out Contest,” it was a twenty-dollar purchase (which was a lot of money in 1985). It was a standard Spider-Man story, only every once in awhile, something would drop out.

Like a page would have no colors.

Or a page wouldn’t be inked.

Etc.

And then whatever your skill is, you would fill that in.

The comic was then to be published (which never actually happened).

The pencilling winner of the contest was future comic book superstar, Mark Bagley.

Here is Bagley on the topic (courtesy of Comic Book Resources)…

I thought it was a gimmick…something Jim Shooter came up with, and I didn’t buy it. Luckily, Cliff Biggers, the guy who publishes Comic Shop News, was a friend of mine. He owned the comic book store that I went to at the time. He told me, “If you don’t do this, you’ll hate yourself.” So, he gave it to me. And, I won first place. That got me a trip to New York and a chance to meet all the editors. I went, and they threw me out of their offices. The last editor I saw on the last day I was there said, “Hey, I bet you’d like something to draw, wouldn’t you.” I said, “Yeah!” That was, I think, Mike Higgins who was editing the New Universe which was kind of winding down. He was desperate for people to work on it, and I was desperate for work. I did 4 or 5 jobs for him. After about a year and a half of doing it, I was able to quit my regular job and do comics full time. And, I’ve never looked back.

Other interesting trivia from the contest.

The inking winner was Doug Hazlewood (currently John Byrne’s inker on Doom Patrol).

The lettering winner was Robin Riggs, who is currently a professional inker as well.

The second-place winner among the pencillers was Mike Worley.

That’s it for this week!

Feel free to tell me some urban legends you have heard, and I will try to confirm or deny them!

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Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #5

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: All-Star Comics #3 was an inter-company crossover.

STATUS: True

A good deal of comic book fans are familiar with All-Star Comics #3, as the late 1940 comic features the first appearance of the Justice Society of America.

Written by comic legend Gardner Fox, the team was made up of (in their first pairing) Flash, Hawkman, Sandman, Atom, Spectre, Dr. Fate, Green Lantern, and Hourman.

However, what may not be as familiar to some readers is that these characters did not all belong to the same company!

What we now refer back to as DC Comics in the early Golden Age was actually three separate companies, publishing under the same banner.

The three companies were:

* Detective Comics, Inc. (founded by Harry Donenfeld and J.S. Liebowitz),
* National Allied Publications (founded by Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson) and
* All-American Publications (founded by M.C. Gaines).

In 1937, Donenfield and Liebowitz bought out Nicholson, but Gaines’ All-American Comics continued to exist as a separate company.

In fact, at one point in the 1944, All-American Comics were published with a different logo!!

Eventually, Gaines sold his company to Donenefield and Liebowitz as well, when he left to go form EC Comics.

However, in 1940, All-American was still its own company, so when the JSA was formed, half of the original team were NOT DC/National characters!

Those characters?

Green Lantern and Atom (from All-American Comics)

and

Flash and Hawkman (from Flash Comics).

Each company supplied two characters each from two of their superhero anthologies.

So Marvel and DC were about thirty-five years late when they came up with their Superman and Spider-Man meeting.

Thanks to Jim VanDore and friends (and also Kurt Mitchell) for correcting the amount of heroes All-American Comics supplied.

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Marvel changed the names of X-Force, Deadpool and Cable to avoid paying Rob Liefeld royalties.

STATUS: False

In 2002, Marvel Comics relaunched three of their series, Cable, X-Force and Deadpool.

Deadpool, by Gail Simone and UDON Studios, became Agent X.

Cable, by Darko Macan and Igor Kordey, became Soldier X.

X-Force, by Peter Milligan and Mike Allred, became X-Statix.

At the time, some conspiracy theorists argued that the move was done by Marvel because of a clause in Rob Liefeld’s contract with Marvel that stated that they had to pay him royalties on sales of any titles created by Liefeld, which would include Cable, Deadpool and X-Force.

However, this appears to be extremely unlikely (so much so that I categorize it as false).

For one, it is highly debatable that simply changing the names would change any deal Marvel had with Liefeld.

But most importantly, the move would not make sense…because Marvel WASN’T PAYING Liefeld ANY ROYALTIES at the time!!

Here’s Liefeld on the situation,

So the idea that they would kill the books in order to save on royalty payments to people like myself is simply unfounded. It would be much more devious if the books were selling exceptionally well and Marvel re-named them in order to keep the riches for themselves, but in the case of these titles, there are no riches to keep as they are barely posting profits at all.

Liefeld had not received royalties on the books in years.

It was likely that any royalties would kick in at 100,000 copies sold (or perhaps even higher).

The sales on all three titles barely (if even) reached 40,000 before the relaunch.

And none of them improved dramatically post-relaunch.

Therefore, I think it is safe to say that Marvel was just trying to jumpstart low-selling titles, and give what they felt were good creative teams (in particular, the critically-acclaimed, but low-selling Milligan/Allred combo) a boost of publicity.

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Woody Allen was once featured in an issue of DC’s Showcase.

STATUS: True

In the late 60s, DC was searching to try to duplicate anything that was popular for any other comic company (specifically Archie), and the best place to try these concepts out was, naturally, Showcase, which served host to so many successful comic debuts for DC.

The success of Archie led to the creation of Binky, and with the success of Josie and the Pussycats (who debuted in 1963), DC tried a fictional rock band, and so the Maniaks were born!

Writer E. Nelson Bridwell not only wrote the series, but also supplied songs!!

With art by Mike Sekowsky, the Maniaks weren’t just musicians, they were MOD musicians!

In their final Showcase appearance (and I believe their final appearance period), the Maniaks had a special guest – a comedian who was quite famous at the time, but not for the slightly higher brow stuff of the 1970s, Woody Allen!

Here is the cover…

Maniaks
Maniaks

It seems poor Woody was trying to get them to star in a movie by him (isn’t it funny that the same jokes made about Allen in 1967 are appropriate in 2005?).

Shouldn’t have turned him down, lead singer Silver Shannon!! You might still be being published today!

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Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #4

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Artist Joe Jusko dressed up as Captain America for the cover of a comic book.

STATUS: True

Artist Joe Jusko is well known for his comic book paintings (amongst other paintings he does).

In fact, here is a sample of his art on a Captain America print…

Captain America
Captain America

However, that is not Jusko’s only Captain America experience – for in 1982, he posed wearing a Captain America costume on the cover of Marvel Team-Up #128.

Captain America
Captain America

Jusko is a big man, so he certainly fills out the Cap costume well.

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: DC changed the outcome of a comic book because the original ending had been leaked to the public.

STATUS: True

For conspiracy theories regarding moves in the comic book industry to really truly exist, there must be some precedent for said moves.

The ending of the Armageddon 2001 mini-series is an example on which all future conspiracy theories rest.

In 1991, DC had a summer crossover among all their annuals. A man from a future ruled by a despotic former superhero named Monarch travelled from 2001 to 1991, to discover what former hero became Monarch.

This man, Waverider, had the power to see people’s futures upon making physical contact with them.

Each of the annuals that year he would check out the future of those characters, so each annual would be a story of the future.

In any event, DC had it planned to be Captain Atom to be revealed as Monarch. However, news of this event had leaked well before it was revealed (or, as one other rumor goes, the folks who licensed Captain Atom to DC were not pleased with DC making him a big villain – but that is unlikely to be the real reason, as people on the “inside” all refer to the incident as “the news was leaked, so we had to change it quickly”).

Hawk, from Hawk & Dove, ended up being the sacrificial lamb.

Here is Barbara Kesel, writer of Hawk & Dove, on the topic (courtesy of the great resource Titans Tower):

Let’s get one thing clear: that wasn’t a planned ending of Hawk and Dove. That awful story was an Armageddon 2000 special created after somebody at DC spilled the beans about Captain Atom’s being Monarch. Then, a small number of people worked feverishly to find some other character to sacrifice, and since H&D had just been cancelled! ”

If you’ve ever pitied anyone, pity Jonathan Peterson, the poor person who had to give me the news. I wasn’t pleased, and wasn’t shy about sharing. If there’s anything I hate with a passion, it’s characters behaving out of character, especially when it involves a smart woman being stupid for no reason. H&D becoming Monarch could have been a clever idea: if they BOTH became the character, their innately opposite natures could explain a schizophrenic villain. As it was… it was a last-minute fix that sucked.

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Nicolas Cage took his last name from Luke Cage, Hero For Hire

STATUS: True, depending on when you talk to Nicolas Cage

Nicolas Cage originally began acting under his birth name, Nicolas Coppola, which reflected the fact that he was the nephew of acclaimed director, Francis Ford Coppola.

However, since he did not want to appear like (in his words) “some nepotistic asshole,” he decided to take a stage name.

The origin of the last name choice, though, has changed over the years. Originally, Cage (an avid comic collector, with a collection once worth in the millions, before he sold it recently) was quite up front about the fact that he took the name from the comic character, Luke Cage.

In the last decade or so, though, Cage has also begun citing the avant-garde musician John Cage as the inspiration for the name.

So they both could be influences, I suppose, or a more cynical person would say that he wanted a more “sophisticated” inspiration behind his name when he became an Oscar-winning actor.