Thursday, December 29, 2005

Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #31!

This is the thirty-first 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 thirty.

Let's begin!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Frank Miller's lack of interest in Batman continuity ended up with Barbara Gordon being adopted.

STATUS: True

One of the "problems" with Frank Miller's Batman: Year One is that he really did not care about Batman continuity.

That is not a big problem, of course, but it tends to make things a bit hairy when those at DC who DO care about continuity got involved.

Stuff like having Alfred be the Wayne's butler from the start, or Catwoman getting a new origin, that really did not cause all that much rattles in the cage.

However, what DID was Miller's determination that Gordon was a much younger man when Year One began.

As a result, the baby his wife was carrying in the series could not POSSIBLY have been Barbara Gordon, as Miller intended (which, in and of itself, ALSO "violated" continuity as Gordon always had a firstborn son) as it would mean that Babs would have been born when Batman was already in his mid to late 20s, and that would not work well, time-wise.

Therefore, an off-hand reference to Gordon having a boy was turned into it BEING a boy.

And Barbara? She became his young "niece" who he later adopted (and Devin Grayson later wrote an issue that made it so that Gordon had an affair with his sister-in-law so that Barbara WAS his real daughter).

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Jack Kirby drew the very first cover featuring Spider-Man.

STATUS: False

You all know the cover.

It is has officially become an iconic image.

The cover to Amazing Fantasy #15.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

However, what you might NOT have known is that that cover, pencilled by Jack Kirby and inked by Steve Ditko, was NOT the first cover of Amazing Fantasy #15 produced.

Back in the days when Stan Lee was a very hands on manager of Marvel, Lee would often make decisions that were essentially spur of the moment things. If he did not like the way one artist drew, say, a panel, he would just get the closest good artist he could find to fix the "error."

Likewise, there is no "official" problem with Ditko's original cover, but I guess you could argue that Lee wanted a more "standard heroic" figure for the cover.

Compare, if you will, the published cover to the original cover, pencilled and inked by Ditko...

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

The original cover is, I think, much more in keeping with the style of the comic (as, duh, it was drawn by the guy who drew the comic), but I can certainly see why Lee felt that the Kirby cover would draw in a casual reader more.

Still, it must be awfully annoying to not only have your cover replaced, but to then ink the replacement!!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Steve Englehart protested an editorial decison by Marvel by using the pseudonym John Harkness.

STATUS: True

When Steve Englehart followed up John Byrne on Fantastic Four, one of the main things that Englehart felt were dragging down the series was that the group was too comfortable with each other.

To break up this seeming monotony, Englehart had Reed and Sue finally leave the team, to be replaced by Crystal and Ms. Marvel (later She-Thing).

Things went well enough, except that soon after Englehart took over the title, there was a shift in the top brass at Marvel. Out went Jim Shooter, and eventually, changes were asked of Englehart.

First, he had to get rid of Beyonder (who, I guess, symbolized Shooter's tenure, or something), but then, Englehart was forced to drop his Mantis storyline from Avengers West Coast.

He brought the storyline quickly over to Fantastic Four, but then the final straw occured.

He was told to just flat out return Reed and Sue to the team.

Which he did in #326.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

However, even before this issue, Englehart was already crediting himself as S.P.X. Englehart, and this issue, he just went all out, and for the rest of his run (another six issues), Englehart was credited as John Harkness.

That is it for this week!

Feel free to drop off any urban legends you'd like to see featured!!

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21 Comments:

Anonymous Iron Lungfish said...

See, the Year One bit is just proof that continuity obsession is lame. Who cares how it affects Barbara Gordon? Batgirl was a stupid character; Oracle is a roving plot device. Year One, on the other hand, is a very good story, and includes one of the best characterizations of Jim Gordon ever written. If you want a good story, read a good story. If you want an anal interweaving of decades of bit characters' convoluted histories, read Geoff Johns.

And another thing! I don't know who's drawing Birds of Prey right now - especially because I didn't pick up the book - but I've seen less cartoony art from an Archie comic. Gordon totally looks like Mr. Lodge.

12/29/2005 05:51:00 AM  
Blogger TheWriteJerry said...

"And Barbara? She became his young "niece" who he later adopted (and Devin Grayson later wrote an issue that made it so that Gordon had an affair with his sister-in-law so that Barbara WAS his real daughter)."

Great, just what we need - yet another example of infidelity. Just couldn't let Jim Gordon, be Jim Gordon - a man of honor whose human flaw was that he was willing to overlook the law and aid a vigilante for the greater good. Instead, they had to turn him into an adulterer who banged his wife's sister. He may as well take bribes and give mob bosses sweet kisses.

12/29/2005 09:13:00 AM  
Blogger Derek B. Haas said...

Call me goofy, but I think there's a subtle difference between having an affair and being a corrupt cop to the point of facilitating mob activity, in type if not in scale of offense.

12/29/2005 09:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Chuck T. said...

Man, those John Harkness FF issues...they weren't great. A bunch of "imaginary stories," nightmares while the FF was stuck in suspended animation by a rogue Watcher; and this was all made worse by the fact that Walter Simonson was due to take over the book. (How I knew that pre-Internet, I don't know.)

12/29/2005 09:31:00 AM  
Blogger Bastarður Víkinga said...

Y'know, to me, the obvious solution would have been to make Barbara his daughter from an earlier relationship.

Just saying.

Why always the obsession of making these convulated explainations?

12/29/2005 10:08:00 AM  
Blogger Chad said...

Actually, Anthony/Tony Gordon as Babs' older brother was in continuity pre-Year One. I remember at least one Superboy story with him in it, as well as an entry in Fleischer's Batman Encyclopedia.

CU

12/29/2005 10:20:00 AM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Well, if so, Chad (and I do not doubt you), then that was another bit of old continuity Miller was planning on ignoring, as his intent was to make the baby be Barbara, until they had him change it to the son.

Of course, even HAD he wanted the baby to be the older brother, then the editors would still have a problem, as if Barbara's OLDER brother wasn't born when Bruce was in his mid to late 20s, then Barbara would be even WORSE!

12/29/2005 05:40:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

"Great, just what we need - yet another example of infidelity. Just couldn't let Jim Gordon, be Jim Gordon - a man of honor whose human flaw was that he was willing to overlook the law and aid a vigilante for the greater good. Instead, they had to turn him into an adulterer who banged his wife's sister. He may as well take bribes and give mob bosses sweet kisses."

My guess is that Grayson figured that, since Miller already had written Jim as having an affair, that another one wouldn't be too much, which I think is fair enough.

In addition, she went out of the way to show that Jim was a good guy in the situation. He was only WITH the sister because her husband was beating her, so Jim went to stay with her to protect her.

12/29/2005 05:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tony Gordon was first mentioned as long ago as Batman #71 way back in '52. As I recall, he figured prominently in the Batgirl series that ran in Batman Family in the '70s. In fact, I *think* he died in that storyline.

Kurt (Cei-U!)

12/29/2005 07:51:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Thanks, Chad and Kurt!

Edited accordingly!

12/29/2005 08:35:00 PM  
Anonymous thekamisama said...

I agree with the mighty Lungfish once more.
Continuity be damned.
It wasn't like she was the original Batgirl anyways, she is not Batgirl now! Batman's origin has been reconned and revised so many times, I am pretty sure Year One is invalid by "continuity".

My favorite Bab's isn't even in the DCU anyways, cause Batman Beyond is not in "Continuity"

12/29/2005 11:09:00 PM  
Blogger TheWriteJerry said...

Brian Cronin wrote - "In addition, she went out of the way to show that Jim was a good guy in the situation. He was only WITH the sister because her husband was beating her, so Jim went to stay with her to protect her."

Oh, okay, taking sexual advantage of a woman in a scary, vulnerable, confused position is so much better than just straight up sleeping with your wife's sister...

This doesn't make Gordon more honorable -- it makes him even less honorable!

12/30/2005 09:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I liked how sometimes in the letters pages people wrote in asking for Steve Englehart to return even though John Harkness was Steve Englehart.

12/30/2005 12:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Omar Karindu said...

The "imaginary stories" in those FF issues were, in fact, extremely condensed versions of actual stories Englehart would have written if he hadn't left the book. (Engelhart says as much at his own website.)

As to Barbara Gordon -- she only got a second lease on life after Year One and the Killing Joke because John Ostrander took an interest in the character, and I will say that the slow buildup and reveal of Oracle in his Suicide Squad (a comic ahead of its time) was a fine story.

It really wasn't until Chuck Dixon's run on Detective Comics that Oracle became a substitute for Batman's actually doing investigative work. Prior to that, she was a pretty interesting character who made a fair amount of sense.

12/30/2005 03:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Charlie Anders said...

That rat Gordon! Who did he not have an affair with? I bet there's a Doug Moench issue where he sleeps with Julia Pennyworth!

12/30/2005 04:42:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

"Oh, okay, taking sexual advantage of a woman in a scary, vulnerable, confused position is so much better than just straight up sleeping with your wife's sister...

This doesn't make Gordon more honorable -- it makes him even less honorable!"

So you WERE irked by Year One? Sorry, I did not catch that.

If that's so, then that's cool.

If Year One irritated you, then it's perfectly reasonable that you would be put off by Grayson's story as well. I just thought for a moment that you did not have a problem with Year One, but did have a problem with Grayson's story.

12/30/2005 05:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm I read all of those--I'm not sure why I bought the FF ones--I was never a big fan--although I do like the Thing.

As to Batman Year One--as above--great story--I haven't read any new comics for a while now--so if they've mucked up the continuity--I'm in blissful ignorance, and living in a world where it still fits in the continuity.
But I also enjoy older Batman stories that aren't in continuity any more.

1/03/2006 10:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Willamette said...

A couple of Jim Shooter queries:

Did Jim Shooter really meditate, early in his tenure as editor-in-chief, killing off the old Marvel heroes so he could start new heroes and create the 'Shooter age of comics'? Supposedly the writer of Master of Kung Fu was a witness to that.

Did John Byrne intentionally wreck the Starbrand series in order to exact his revenge on Shooter?

1/09/2006 08:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Erik said...

Steve Englehart used his "John Harkness" identity before his run on Fantastic Four, in an issue of Mister Miracle in the 1970's.

1/09/2006 08:53:00 PM  
Blogger Phillip said...

I remember reading in Joe Simon's book, "The Comic Book Makers" that Stan "The Man" said Ditko's original AF#15 cover "lacked dynamism". Whatever.

1/17/2006 05:06:00 AM  
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