Thursday, August 25, 2005

Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #13!

This is the thirteenth in a series of examinations of comic book urban legends and whether they are true or false. The first one can be found here, the second can be found here, the third can be found here, the fourth can be found here, the fifth can be found here, the sixth can be found here, the seventh can be found here, the eighth can be found here, the ninth can be found here, the tenth can be found here, the eleventh can be found here, and the twelfth can be found here.

Let's begin!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Justice Society of America was cancelled 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.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

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?).

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

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

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

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!

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

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.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Pretty weird, huh?

Thanks for the clarification, Kurt!

Well, that's it for me this week!

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

Read More

48 Comments:

Blogger David Campbell said...

As usual, brilliant.

8/25/2005 08:31:00 AM  
Anonymous David C said...

What about Adventures on the Planet of the Apes, though? It doesn't seem to fit the bill as something that could be cooked up over lunch, as it was a licensed title, right?

8/25/2005 10:26:00 AM  
Blogger kelvingreen said...

Adventures... was a secondary title. Marvel already had a main Planet of the Apes comic, so they already had the licence.

8/25/2005 12:35:00 PM  
Anonymous David C said...

Ah, that makes sense, then. But, wow, it's interesting that for a while Planet of the Apes was big enough to carry two titles!

8/25/2005 02:08:00 PM  
Blogger Lex said...

I like how a couple of those 1975 Marvel books have "Because you demanded it" on the cover when, if the story is correct, was not the case.

Funny.

8/25/2005 02:08:00 PM  
Blogger T. said...

I think you're kind of splitting hairs. Whether or not Robin was originally drawn in or not, the Protector is still a character created primarily for the drug issue.

8/25/2005 02:50:00 PM  
Blogger Graeme said...

I hated his version of Starman and was lukewarm toward the 1991 miniseries but I absolutely loved Strazewski's Justice Society ongoing-- the idea of a superhero team being like your father's bowling team was a great concept. It was charming and fun and Mike Parobek's art was absolutely gorgeous. Reading it now it seems more like a product of its time-- everyone's all about metagenes and DC continuity circa 1992. But the first issue with the Flash and Green Lantern deciding to suit up again was one of the best JSA stories ever, and I loved the bwa-ha-ha era dialogue like the response to the Flash telling the other JSAers that Joan has suddenly turned against him thanks to a diabolical spell "What's going on? You didn't forget your anniversary again?"

The funny thing was that the cancellation was announced like three issues before the end of the run. Strazewski's editorial in the last issue was wonderful, I recall.

It guts me that it was possibly cancelled due to editorial capriciousness. It should have had a much longer run.

8/25/2005 02:59:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

"I think you're kind of splitting hairs. Whether or not Robin was originally drawn in or not, the Protector is still a character created primarily for the drug issue."

Agreed, it was kind of splitting hairs.

Cool story, though, right?

8/25/2005 05:17:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

That's a fair point, though, David.

I should have mentioned that in the piece.

But thanks for picking me up in the comments, Kelvin.

8/25/2005 05:18:00 PM  
Blogger kelvingreen said...

No probs. I suppose netiquette demands that the host answer these questions, but it's one that I knew, so... :)

8/25/2005 05:29:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

There's netiquette?

I thought the only rule of netiquette was don't SPAM!...hehe.

8/25/2005 05:35:00 PM  
Blogger T. said...

"Agreed, it was kind of splitting hairs.

Cool story, though, right?"

Oh without a doubt. Read it in 7th grade, I think, it was given out in my class. Made me try the Teen Titans comic, but I dropped it because they cried, hugged and whined too much and always got their asses kicked. X-Men were badass and sexier, so I switched to them.

8/25/2005 05:44:00 PM  
Blogger T. said...

"There's netiquette?

I thought the only rule of netiquette was don't SPAM!...hehe."

Oh, that reminds me!

Speaking of SPAM, check out my blog, johnnytriangles.blogspot.com.

8/25/2005 05:46:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

I should have been more specific.

I actually don't care if people drop comic-related spam.

Not even talking about you, T, I mean in general.

If someone wants to hype his blog or site here in his/her comments, that's fine by me.

Just not this spam that has nothing to do with comics at all. Totally lame.

8/25/2005 05:54:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Marvel already had a Planet of the Apes comic book, so they did not have to acquire the license to produce this comic.

The first Planet of the Apes title was in the magazine format of The Savage Sword of Conan, Dracula Lives, and Tales of the Zombie. As I recall, Adventures on . . . was a colorized reprint of stories that had already appeared there.

8/25/2005 05:55:00 PM  
Blogger T. said...

"Just not this spam that has nothing to do with comics at all. Totally lame."

Wasn't there some spam for a gardening blog a few weeks ago? That was ridiculous.

8/25/2005 06:09:00 PM  
Blogger kelvingreen said...

Both Apes titles predate my existence, but I'd have guessed as much regarding one containing reprints of the other. I certainly can't imagine Marvel having enough all new material for both comics!

8/25/2005 06:32:00 PM  
Blogger Bill Reed said...

I had no idea Mike Carlin was such a jerk. Or that it was possible to dislike Parobeck art. I liked those comics.

God, lots of pounding pulses and shattering of senses back in the 70's. Probably killed off the elderly or something.

But, c'mon... if a group of creators *can't* come up with five new titles over lunch, then they're not much good, right? Get me and a few writer pals together and we could come up with a dozen.

I must look up these Black Goliath comics. I had no idea they gave him a series.

8/25/2005 07:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Kurt Busiek said...

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.

kdb

8/25/2005 07:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Kurt Busiek said...

Oh, and ADVENTURES ON THE PLANET OF THE APES was an easy and cheap book to do, however it was initiated, since it was reprints from the b/w magazine.

kdb

8/25/2005 07:58:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Thanks, Kurt!!

I will change!

8/25/2005 08:51:00 PM  
Blogger Marc said...

This is really only related to comics tangentially, but something I've been curious about for awhile is this:

I've heard, though never seen a truly "official" source on it, that Hulk Hogan of World Wrestling Federation/Entertainment fame was, for a time, billed as "The Incredible Hulk Hogan" (And that WWF's Vince McMahon grudingly paid Marvel royalties for this privilege, hence how it relates to comics). Can anyone confirm/deny this?

8/25/2005 10:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Dan Coyle said...

I think Marvel has been licensing the "Hulk" name for over 20 years to the WWE, but haven't they gone to court over it recently?

8/25/2005 11:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Chris Griswold said...

Yes, they have.

But they mayu be licensing to Hogan directly.

8/26/2005 03:05:00 AM  
Blogger Devon said...

So who actually owns "The Protector" character? DC or Keebler?

8/26/2005 10:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Kelson said...

Those New Teen Titans anti-drug giveaways actually got me into comics (or, I should say, into super-hero comics). I picked one up at the county fair, and the next time my parents took me along to the comic store (they were reading X-Men at the time), I started reading the Titans. (It was The New Teen Titans vol. 2 #2, the one with the seance on the cover where they try to contact Raven.) Once I was buying the new issues, I discovered back-issues, and began a multi-year quest to track down the previous four years worth of Titans within my allowance. Once that was done I started tracking down the original series, and by the time I finished that, I'd started reading The Flash...

Yep, that anti-drug freebie turned out to be a gateway to a lifetime of addiction.

8/26/2005 11:02:00 PM  
Blogger Shawn said...

Quibble section: Burchett did not do all the art on that JSA mini-series. The series was created to give work to the four artists (and one of the writers) who were waiting for the launch of the new DC imprint, featuring all the old Archie Adventure characters, which went over like a lead balloon. But the JSA mini was good.

8/27/2005 02:06:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

You go to hell, Shawn!

I will never change it!

NEVER!

Okay, I just did.

8/27/2005 06:38:00 PM  
Blogger Daniel said...

I would really love to see a trade collection of that JSA miniseries.

I never knew the !mpact connection, though. I have trouble with the idea of Green Lantern, the Flash, and Hawkman being used to keep artists busy until the Shield, the Comet and the Fly were available.

9/01/2005 09:31:00 AM  
Anonymous Mike Aragona said...

That's interesting. I just came across this and was about to post the link to the interview I had with Len when I realized that your quote of Len was actually lifted from my interview! I'm... shocked. Usually there is credit given where due...

At any rate, should anyone want to read the full interview, you can find it over at my site at http://www.savagewriter.info

The direct link to the interview is:
http://www.savageland.com/articles/inconvo/iclstrazewski.html

12/13/2005 12:48:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

You are correct, Mike, that IS how things should be done, and that IS how I usually do them. I do not know why I fouled up this time, but I apologize, and have edited it accordingly.

12/31/2005 03:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Mike Aragona said...

Thanks a lot, Brian. I appreciate it.

12/31/2005 09:36:00 AM  
Anonymous Ted Watson/tbrittreid said...

1: The "Apes" color comic reprinted the serialized adaptations of the theatrical movies that had been run as part of the comics offerings in the b&w "Apes" magazine, and ceased publication after reaching the conclusion of the first one. Consequently, this does not sound at all like a title that would have been "cooked up" with the others over a group lunch.

2: There WERE two Marvel titles launched as "Giant-Size" comics, both super-hero groups, but they were Roy Thomas' World War II-set "The Invaders" and "The X-Men" (introducing Colossus, Nightcrawler, Storm, etc.). Only one issue of each was released, with both continuing as standard format comics, the latter picking up the previous run's numbering.

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