Thursday, September 08, 2005

Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #15!

This is the fifteenth in a series of examinations of comic book urban legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous fourteen.

As I have mentioned in the past, the impetus for this whole thing came from when I, myself, fell for a false urban legend involving Walter Simonson. Well, today I get to address ANOTHER Simonson-related urban legend!

Let's begin!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Walt Simonson based the concept of the Time Variance Authority in his Fantastic Four run on the Time Lords from Doctor Who.


Mr. Simonson addressed this here, with the following response...
Actually, the TVA had nothing to do with Doctor Who. Where do these ideas come from? Just curious. Did you read this somewhere? I've never seen any Doctor Who programs although I drew a few Doctor Who illustrations a zillion years ago for Marvel.

The TVA (Time Variance Authority) was a satire of bureaucracy in general and of Marvel at that particular time and place as the company was moving towards a more corporate model. (The initials of the TVA were taken from the Tennessee Valley Authority, one of the New Deal developments during the depression.) The point of the TVA is that it was an infinite organization and still expanding (a new desk and monitor for each new universe born out of every possible time bifurcation). The office environment was the perfect visual symbol for a bureaucracy as were all the faceless monitors. The one character with a face was middle management and his was the only face you ever saw.

Which is another way of saying that there was no upper management visible. It's possible one didn't exist. Or if it did exist, it was irrelevant to the operations of the TVA.

The purpose of the TVA was deliberately vague. Whether or not the TVA had anything to do with the actual management of time remains a mystery. It's possible it existed to serve itself and had no real function regarding the regulation of time.

Its HQ had a great clock on the front of the facade and the hands of the clock denoted a non-real time.

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Kevin Smith killed off Mysterio without permission from the Spider-Man office.


In 1998, Kevin Smtih began his acclaimed run on Daredevil, with Joe Quesada on art, which helped launch the Marvel Knights line of comics (Marvel Knights was actually a separate branch of Marvel, with a separate editor in chief and everything! It was made up of the infrastructure of Joe Quesada's own company, Event Comics). The main plot of Smith's storyline was that an old Spider-Man villain, Mysterio, was dying, and decided to go out in a bang by thoroughly destroying his arch-nemesis, Spider-Man. However, at the time, Spider-Man was currently a different character (Ben Reilly), so Mysterio decided to adapt his plan to someone else, namely Daredevil.

At the end of the story, Mysterio kills himself.

The problem, continuity-wise, came when a month later, Mysterio appeared in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man...fighting Spider-Man!!

It all came down to the fact that, when Spider-Man editor Ralph Macchio was asked if they could use Mysterio, no one mentioned that they were going to kill him off! The Spider-Man editor already had plans to use Mysterio in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man a few months after the Daredevil story was to finish.

As you may recall, Daredevil ran a bit late, so the conclusion of the arc ended up coming out AFTER the Amazing Spider-Man arc had begun, so while Mysterio was dying in one comic, he was the big villain in another.

Smith later claimed that no one told him that he specifically COULDN'T kill Mysterio, which I do not doubt, actually.

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Mickey Spillane wrote comic books.


Mickey Spillane is one of the most published authors living today, with a streak of seven books in the late 1940s to early 50s where each book sold in the millions.

His protagonist, Mike Hammer, became one of the most famous private detectives in literary history.

And before all that, Spillane wrote comic books.

Before World War II, Spillane began work for a company called Funnies, Inc., which instead of publishing comics, they created comics that OTHER companies would publish, mainly Timely Comics (which later became Marvel Comics). Funnies, Inc. was a pretty bush league operation, so almost all of their characters have really been lost to history.

At this same time, due to the connection to Timely, Spillane would be asked for stories FOR Timely. Mostly he was asked to write text pieces for Timely Comics that were inserted in the middle of the comics, mainly to maintain the correct page counts. This work appeared in the pages of Sub-Mariner, Human Torch, the whole Timely line basically. In addition, he did a few short stories, mostly featuring characters that have not been heard of since.

It was even rumored that Mike Hammer was originally meant to be a comic strip titled Mike Danger!

Years later, in the 1990s, Spillane's friend Max Allen Collins made Mike Danger a reality, doing a Mike Danger comic series for Tekno Comics.

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!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, wasn't the TVA guy, the middle manager, based on Mark Gruenwald? I couldn't tell if that was mocking, or tribute. The TVA guy was a tool and a lackey, but who else would know all that continuity?

9/08/2005 04:27:00 PM  
Blogger Bill Reed said...

How about something I read from... er, someone, a while back: "Mario Puzo quit the comics business because it was too hard and went off to write the Godfather"?

9/08/2005 05:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As the editor of the comic in question, I can assure you that Frank Miller only drew the cover of the first issue of Mickey Spillane's Mike Danger. The artists (at least initially) were Eduardo Barreto and Steve Liealoha.

9/08/2005 08:11:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Thanks for the heads up, Christopher!

'Tis corrected.

9/09/2005 04:27:00 PM  
Blogger Ragnell said...

I hate to be the one to bring this up, but there's a legend that has been driving me crazy. Since DC started using Power Girl prominently again, I've heard this in several different places:

Is Power Girl shaped the way she is because the artist (Wally Wood) really thought it would be funny to keep drawing a feminist character's chest a little bit bigger each appearance?

9/10/2005 05:48:00 AM  
Blogger thekelvingreen said...

Heh. It was me that asked Simonson about the TVA and Doctor Who. But of course now I can't remember where I saw the original "urban legend", so I can't go back and tell them to correct it!

9/12/2005 04:01:00 PM  
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