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Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #3

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Al Milgrom was fired by Marvel after sneaking an insult to Bob Harras into a comic book.


Al Milgrom apparently was not a fan of former Marvel Editor-in-Chief, Bob Harras.

Milgrom was formerly a member of Marvel editorial, but had left to be a freelancer.

In the late 90s/early 00s, Milgrom had a deal with Marvel to do freelance inking for them.

In Auguest of 2000, Bob Harras was replaced as Editor in Chief of Marvel Comics by Joe Quesada.

A few months later, Universe X: Spidey was released, which was a one-shot story tied into the Earth X/Universe X/Paradise X trilogy by Jim Krueger and Alex Ross.

The story was drawn by Jackson Guice, with inks by John Stansici, Johm Romita Sr. and Al Milgrom.

At one point in the story, Al Milgrom snuck into the backround of a panel, along the spines of books on a bookshelf, the phrase, “Harras, ha ha, he’s gone! Good riddance to bad rubbish, he was a nasty S.O.B.”

Thanks to Credo for the following scan of the page in question.


In any event, this mistake was caught, but somehow STILL managed to end up in the issue, which Marvel pulped and then republished.

Milgrom’s freelance contract was terminated, although he is still (in theory) able to work for Marvel as a non-contract employee.

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Wonder Girl was added to the Teen Titans by mistake.


In the 1960s, writer Bob Haney was writing The Brave and the Bold. He used the title to team up various DC superheroes, like The Atom and the Metal Men or Aquaman and Hawkman.

In any event, in mid-1964, he teamed up the sidekicks of three major superheroes in The Brave and the Bold #54, which starred Robin, Kid Flash and Aqualad.

The pairing was quite popular, so exactly a year later, Haney reintroduced the team in The Brave and the Bold #60, only this time known as the Teen Titans.

However, in the late 50s, writer Robert Kanigher, in the pages of Wonder Woman, had decided to give Wonder Woman the same approach that Superman was given, by telling tales of when Wonder Woman was a toddler (Wonder Tot) and a young girl (Wonder Girl).

These stories proved to be quite popular (so popular that, by 1965, there would be issues where Wonder Girl’s name would be larger than Wonder Woman’s on the title of the comic), so Kanigher’s next step was, in the early 60s, to tell “impossible tales” where there would be a team-up of Wonder Woman, herself as a toddler, herself as a girl, and her mother.

Like this issue, for instance…

Wonder Woman #134

Or this one (gotta love how Wonder Tot spoke)…

Wonder Woman #133

Or, finally, this one (notice how it stresses that this pairing is IMPOSSIBLE)…

Wonder Woman #145

Well, Bob Haney must have casually glanced at one of these issues (which were coming out at the same time he was writing The Brave and the Bold) and when he decided to make a team of sidekicks, he figured that this Wonder Girl was Wonder Woman’s sidekick, so he added her to the Teen Titans in #60.

A sea of complicated origins explaining this Wonder Girl were still to come.

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Swamp Thing is a rip-off of Man-Thing/Man-Thing is a rip-off of Swamp Thing


Man-Thing first appeared in Savage Tales #1 (May 1971), written by Gerry Conway with art by Gray Morrow.

Swamp Thing first appeared in House of Secrets #92 (June-July 1971), written by Len Wein with art by Bernie Wrightson.

So, since they are both similar in appearance, and since they both live in the swamp, you would think that perhaps that one of them is inspired by the other, but this is not so, according to the writers (note that editor Roy Thomas is also credited with inventing Man-Thing, along with Conway and Morrow).

From a nice interview here, here is Len Wein on the topic:

One of which is that I was rooming with Gerry Conway who wrote the first Man-Thing story. It was just independent creation. We were doing Swamp Thing and Gerry and I think Gray Morrow was doing Man-Thing. Neither of us knew the other was doing the same thing. The weirdest aspect is that I actually wrote the second Man-Thing story; the whole “Whatever knows fear burns at the Man-Thing’s touch”. In Gerry’s first story anything the Man-Thing touched burned. It was a protagonist who could never interact with anybody so I came up with the idea of fear.

So they did not take the idea from each other.

However, it is very likely that both men drew their inspiration from the same source, which is the classic 1940s character, The Heap.


The Heap, drawn by Mort Leav and written by Harry Stein, was a popular comic book by Hillman Periodicals during the 1940s.

He is basically the same concept as both Man-Thing and Swamp Thing, and was actually revived for a comic book the SAME YEAR as Man-Thing and Swamp Thing (after the fact, though).

So it is quite likely that this character existing during the Golden Age is the explanation for how two men both managed to come up with the same idea without taking it from each other, they were both just influenced by a THIRD character.

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Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #2

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Youngblood was a reworking of a pitch Rob Liefeld made to DC for Team Titans.


Yes, amusingly enough, in the early 90s, Liefeld was in negotiations with DC to create a spin-off title of the Titans, tentatively called either Titans Force or Team Titans.

From an interview with Newsarama, here is Liefeld discussing the situation:

Question: And for fans who may not know, in the early ’90s you were in negotiations with DC about doing a Titans limited series with Arsenal and Speedy which eventually morphed into…

Liefeld: I proposed a new Titans book in 1991, Team Titans was the proposal, Jon Peterson who edited the book approved it, Marv Wolfman signed on to co-write it and then I couldn’t make the deal with Dick Giordano. God bless him, we just couldn’t make the numbers work. So I took my proposal and merged it with an existing indie project I had called Youngblood. Next thing you know, POOF…Image comics was born.

Question: Can you tell us about the circumstances surrounding that time and that project?

Liefeld: Shaft was intended to be Speedy. Vogue was a new Harlequin design, Combat was a Kh’undian warrior circa the Legion of Super Heroes, ditto for Photon and Die Hard was a Star Labs android. I forgot who Chapel was supposed to be. So there you have it, the secret origin of Youngblood.

Thanks to Ian Gould for the suggestion!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Jim Steranko was the inspiration for the escape artist character in Michael Chabon’s Kavalier and Klay as well as Jack Kirby’s Mister Miracle.


This is actually a three-part legend. The first part is “Was Jim Steranko an escape artist?” and the second and third parts are “Did Chabon base the escape artist character on Steranko?” and “Did Kirby base Mister Miracle on Steranko?”

The answer is yes to all three.

Steranko was, indeed, an escape artist during the 1950s, well before he became a notable comic book artist.

From a nice biography of Steranko,

In his early teens, he spent several summers with circuses and carnivals, eventually working his way up to sideshow performer, where he did fire-eating, the Hindu bed of nails, and sleight-of-hand effects on stage. In school, he joined the gymnastic team, specializing in the flying rings and parallel bars. Later, he focused on boxing and fencing, studying the latter with saber and foil master Dan Phillips in New York City.

By the time he was in his late teens, Steranko had reaped a wealth of newspaper and TV publicity as an escape artist, after being laced into straitjackets and suspended by his heels; shackled with a dozen pairs of handcuffs and locked into prison cells by police officials; entombed in huge vaults; buried beneath the earth; tied to giant ferris wheels; nailed into packing crates, stuffed into government mailbags and dropped to the bottom of rivers in the confines of heavy trunks (his death-defying performances inspired the character Mister Miracle). Almost always, he’d free himself in less time than than it took to lock him up!.

As for the Kavalier and Clay connection, here is what Michael Chabon had to say on the point (from Wizard #122…courtesy of Nate Raymond, who has an awesome Kavalier and Clay website), “I was westling with the question of how to get my character of Joe Kavalier out of Nazi-occupied Prague when I read an article about Steranko’s career as an escape artist. So both Kavalier and the Escapist share the same inspiration as Kirby’s Mister Miracle.”

And as for the last point, DID Kirby use Steranko as his inspiration for Mister Miracle?

Well, I have not been able to find any statement by Kirby himself on the subject, but Mark Evanier is about as reliable as you can get for Kirby info, and here is what he has to say on his great Kirby FAQ, “[T]he characterization between Scott “Mr. Miracle” Free and Barda was based largely – though with tongue in cheek – on the interplay betwixt Jack and his wife Roz. Of course, the whole ‘escape artist’ theme was inspired by an earlier career of writer-artist Jim Steranko.”

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Fawcett Comics had to stop publishing Captain because it lost a copyright lawsuit brought by DC Comics.

STATUS: A lot of truth to it, but the basic assertion that Fawcett was forced to stop publishing Captain Marvel due to a court decision is false.

Here is the straight story, right from the mouth of noted comic legal expert, Bob Ingersoll,

DC (here a shorthand for National Periodicals Publications, Inc.) sued Fawcett over Captain Marvel claiming copyright infringement At the trial, the court ruled that Captain Marvel did infringe on DC’s copyright on Superman (citing to the former Superman/Wonderman lawsuit as precedent). Specific panels of Captain Marvel flying and performing deeds were used in evidence to show his adventures and exploits swiped those of Superman.

But the trial court also ruled that DC (or NPP as it was called back then) couldn’t enforce its copyright, because it had abandoned it. The basis for this ruling was that the Superman comic strip, which the McClure Syndicate did under a license from NPP, did not include any of the necessary copyright notices which are required by law to secure and maintain a copyright. So, the trial court ruled that NPP had abandoned its copyright on Superman and couldn’t enforce it. This was a victory for Fawcett. The court ruled it did violate copyright, but also ruled NPP couldn’t enforce the copyright.

The federal court of appeals in New York affirmed the trial court in part and reversed the trial court’s decision in part. The court of appeals agreed that Captain Marvel violated NPP’s copyright on Superman. It also ruled that NPP hadn’t abandoned its copyright. It noted that an intent to abandon copyright has to be clear and unequivocal. NPP continued to attach copyright notices to the Superman comics that it published, so any intent to abandon the copyright wasn’t unequivocal. The Court of Appeals also ruled that NPP couldn’t be held responsible for the lapses of its licensee, McClure. For those reasons, NPP didn’t abandon its copyright on Superman and could enforce it.

The Court of Appeals sent the case back to the trial court for more proceedings. At this point, Fawcett had already lost the important question, did it violate NPP’s copyright. It knew it would lose the trial. At the same time, sales on CAPTAIN MARVEL had declined. So Fawcett chose to settle, rather than go on with a trial it knew it would lose to publish a character that was slipping. In the settlement, Fawcett agreed not to publish Captain Marvel anymore.

Thanks to Paul Newell for the suggestion!

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Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #1

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Jim Shooter wrote comic books when he was 14 years old.


Future Marvel Editor-in-chief Jim Shooter began writing comics in 1966 when he sent in a story proposal to Legion of Superheroes’ editior Mort Weisinger at the age of 14.

Adventure Comics #346, cover-dated July 1966, marked the first comic work (writing AND pencilling the issue) of Jim Shooter, still 14 years old.

The interesting thing to note is that Shooter was not even the ONLY teenager working at DC regularly at the time.

That same year, Mort Weisinger purchased a story by 17 year old Cary Bates. Weisinger had already used a cover idea sent in by Bates that Bates had done three years earlier.

According to Bates, “And I started doing covers, drawing up ideas. I sent them to Mort Weisinger, and the first that he used featured Luthor and Brainiac snarling at Superman, six inches high, suspended in a cage. I sent that one in sometime in 1963 and he used it later.”

Presumably, he is referring to this cover, cover-dated February 1964…

Superman #167

Cool, huh?

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Mark Gruenwald’s ashes were mixed in with the printing of a comic book.


When Mark Gruenwald tragically passed away at the “too young” age of 42 in 1996, one of his farewell wishes was that he be cremated, and that his ashes be mixed in with the print run of a comic book.

Bob Harras and his widow, Catherine, decided on the first printing of the trade collection of perhaps Mark’s most memorable series, his 1985-86 mini-series, Squadron Supreme.

“This is something that he really wanted because he really loved comics,” said Bob Harras, Marvel’s editor-in-chief. “He wanted to be part of his work in a very real sense.”

Marvel has since done newer printings of the trade, so they do not currently sell copies with Gruenwald’s ashes mixed in, but I’m sure you can find some on Ebay!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: DC must publish at least four issues of Wonder Woman a year or else lose the rights to the property.


It has long been said that if DC did not publish Wonder Woman at least four times a year, that the rights would revert back to the estate of William Moulton Marston, creator of Wonder Woman.

Writer Kurt Busiek addressed the rumors earlier this year,

They are no longer true, but they were true for a long time – as I understand it, the terms were that DC had to publish at least four issues with “Wonder Woman” as the banner lead feature or rights would revert. That’s why DC did the LEGEND OF WONDER WOMAN mini-series that I wrote and Trina Robbins drew – the Perez revamp was in development, but coming along slowly, and they had to publish something to fulfil the contract terms.

They specifically didn’t want something that would be attention-getting, because they didn’t want to undercut the revamp. So they wanted something gentle and nostalgic, and we had fun doing it.

In the intervening years, though, I’m given to understand that at some point DC bought the character outright, and thus those contract terms are no longer in force.

So there you go!