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Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #11!

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


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.


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.


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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