Thursday, January 12, 2006

Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #33!

This is the thirty-third 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-two.

Let's begin!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Marvel is sitting on an unpublished Peter Bagge Hulk comic book.


Fellow blogmate, MarkAndrew, asks, "Is Marvel just sitting on a completed Peter Bagge Hulk story like the dude at my comic shop said? Cause if they are... MARK SMASH PUNY HUMANS! (In the butt!)"

Well, I am afraid that you might have to smash away, Mark, as Marvel indeed is sitting on a completed copy of The Incorrigible Hulk.

Released in 2002, Bagge's The Megalomaniacal Spider-Man was a real fun treat, and fans of Bagge (and good comics period) were looking forward to the Hulk follow-up.

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As for what happened?

Well, let's let Bagge himself enlighten us (courtesy of this interview with Daniel Robert Epstein)
UGO: Will the Hulk comic you did ever come out?

PETER: I don't know. My editor at Marvel keeps asking me not to whine too much about it because there is still a chance it might come out. It all has to do with corporate politics.

UGO: Did it have anything to do with the Hulk movie?

PETER: No, let's back up a bit. About three or four years ago, a few guys were put in charge of Marvel when they were in really bad shape. They figured they had nothing to lose so they asked some people who don't normally do superhero comics to do them. They went kind of nuts, which is great, but if you ask me they didn't go nuts enough. Since then, Marvel has huge a string of huge blockbusters recently, especially Spider-Man. Now the company is worth a fortune, which has next to nothing to do with the comics. But what the comics sell is peanuts compared to the movies and the merchandising. Some new board members, who are trying to protect their investment, very carefully manage their more valuable brands. When the editors asked me to do Spider-Man, they were thinking the exact opposite because people who wouldn't normally buy it would buy it. But now the new people running it don't want Peter Bagge f**king around with their characters. My vision of the Hulk doesn't match with theirs.

UGO: I interviewed Kyle Baker a few years ago after he had done this story of Superman as a baby and all these crazy things happened to the baby. They never reprinted until the Bizarro book. When I asked him about it, he said he doesn't care about the story because he doesn't own it. "They could buy the story from me and toss it in the trash."

PETER: I'm not quite that cynical.

UGO: You?

PETER: To a degree, I agree with that. If it winds up never in print I won't be devastated like I would with something that was my own. But if this was my own thing I wouldn't be in this situation. It's because we don't own the right to these characters, we don't know when or if it will ever see print. Of course, working on it as much as I did, I spent six months on it, I hate to see all that labor wasted because I thought it came out pretty good.

UGO: Is the Hulk story like your Spider-Man one?

PETER: I think it's a little bit lighter. I tried to make it more action-packed with splash panels because I thought that Spider-Man was pretty verbose. The Hulk is about Bruce Banner with his dual personality, and I commented on how everybody can do that now to a smaller degree with modern medicine like with Valium and Viagra. Everybody is trying to control or alter their personality.
Now that is what I call a damn shame!

Here are some art samples that Bill Reed found from the above interview. The first is the cover, and the second is a sample page (click on the sample page for a larger version).

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COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Stan Lee created the Black Marvel


Stan Lee was a very busy young man for Timely (later Atlas, still later Marvel) in the 1940s, creating a number of characters.

However, thanks to some handy detective work by the awesome Jess Nevins and the esteemable Tom Brevoort, it turns out that ONE Golden Age creation has been misattributed to Stan Lee for years, misleading even by the great comic historian, Jim Steranko!

Namely, the Black Marvel, who made his debut in Mystic Comics #5 in 1941.

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And who fairly recently had a comeback in the pages of Slingers.

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This character has long been credited to Lee, but according to Jess Nevins (on his site that you should all visit - he is the ginchiest),
You'll note that I said that the intro to the Black Marvel's first appearance was very Stan Lee-esque. It is. Trouble is, it may not have been written by Stan Lee. See, Jim Steranko credits the Black Marvel to Stan Lee and Bob Hughes, but Greg Theakston says that Lee's first comic book story was in Captain America Comics #3, cover-dated May 1941. The cover date for Mystic Comics #5, the first appearance of the Black Marvel, was March 1941.

Steranko is partially wrong here; Tom Brevoort said that the folks Steranko talked to while compiling his book misremembered things, and this would seem to be one of them. While it's possible that Lee wrote the text page that introduced the Black Marvel - the "Warning! Don't turn this page!" - the rest wasn't him. The Marvel's firrst appearance was a back-logged story from Funnies, Incorporated, and--

I guess I should explain about Funnies Incorporated. Back in 1939, Lloyd Jacquet, the editor of Centaur Publishing (who produced Amazing-Man Comics), decided to form his own comic company. He left Centaur and took some people with him: Bill Everett, Carl Burgos, Paul Gustavson, and Bill Thompson among them. They formed Funnies Incorporated, which was originally supposed to be a comic book publisher, but due to lack of funds became an art packaging studio, creating material for other publishers. The stories in Marvel Comics #1 were created by the Funnies, Inc., stable of talent.

The Black Marvel was one of those characters created by the Funnies, Inc., stable. I say it was "back-logged" because after Marvel Mystery Comics became a success, Martin Goodman hired an in-house staff of his own and began squeezing out the Funnies, Inc staff in favor of his own. The Black Marvel's first story, as best I can figure, is one of those stories Timely had already purchased.
I find Nevins thought process to be flawless here. So a comic mystery solved that barely anyone knew NEEDED to be solved!!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Aquaman was not from Atlantis for his first eighteen years of existence.


We have already learned that poor Aquaman had to go NINETEEN years from his comic debut to his first cover appearance, but did you know that the origin that we all know so well of Aquaman did not come about until a mere YEAR before his first cover appearance?

In Aquaman's debut, More Fun Comics #73, all we know about Aquaman is that his name is Aquaman, and he is the son of a human scientist who had experimented on him and given him with the power to breathe underwater and survive deep sea pressures. This was inspired by Atlantis, but Aquaman himself had NO ties to Atlantis!

This was the status quo for EIGHTEEN years, until 1959's Adventure Comics #250.

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It was this tale that writer Robert Bernstein, alongside artist Ramona Fradon, gave us the origin we all (okay, MOST of us) know and love.

His name, Arthur Curry.

His ties to Atlantis.

His lighthouse father bedding an Atlantaen woman named Atlanna.

Within a year, all the other Atlantis tie-ins began to swarm in, like Aqualad.

Talk about good timing, though, huh?

A cool, new origin JUST in time for his Justice League of America debut (which was his cover debut, as well!)!!

Aquaman knows how to work the system (for the record, the "experimented on" version of Aquaman became the "Earth-2 Aquaman," although he was very rarely seen in comics ever again)!!

Well, that's it for this week, thanks for stopping by!

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

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

hmm, don't you mean the 'experimented on' version was the Earth-2 Aquaman? I think the last time anyone saw him was in a single panel in All-Star Squadron 31....

1/12/2006 09:34:00 AM  
Blogger Mark Fossen said...

That "experimented on" version is one of the inspirations for Kurt Busiek's Sword of Atlantis.

Now that I've wasted my morning digging for linkage:

”The original Aquaman, back in the Golden Age, was the son of a scientist, a human being biologically-augmented to be a water-breather,” Busiek explained. “And over time, we learned that, no, he wasn't that guy, he was the half-breed son of a human lighthouse keeper and an Atlantean princess. But wait, no, he was a foundling, discovered by that lighthouse keeper. He was actually the son of an Atlantean wizard, was the latest bit we learned -- so by the time you get all through this, he's not human at all, and not the product of science, but entirely Atlantean, and the product of magic.

”I thought it'd be an interesting exploration to start with something more like that original idea, and plunge him into the world that's built up around the other guy over all these years, and see what happens."

1/12/2006 10:52:00 AM  
Blogger Eli said...

Megalomaniacal Spider-Man was great, and it's infuriating to know there's a similar Hulk story gathering dust. I always though MSM was a pretty personal work, dealing with Bagge's own political trajectory.

1/12/2006 11:28:00 AM  
Blogger Bill Reed said...

I really want that Bagge Hulk comics.

Here's the cover, and here is a preview page I *just* found. Go go Gadget Google.

1/12/2006 02:56:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

"hmm, don't you mean the 'experimented on' version was the Earth-2 Aquaman? "

I was going to try to say that I was making the argument that Earth-2 for the original world is insulting, and that I was not going to use that terminology.

But I think I will instead just cop to the typo...hehe.

1/12/2006 03:33:00 PM  
Blogger Apodaca said...

I hate Marvel Comics.

I NEED The Incorrigible Hulk!

1/12/2006 09:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's an urban legend that I heard many years ago (early 90's).

Of course, I might be the only one who doesn't know the truth of it all.


KIERON DWYER. When he first emerged at Marvel, there was a rumour that he was the son (legitimate, ILLegitimate, HALF-, STEP-, whatever) of John Byrne.


1/13/2006 09:09:00 AM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Fair enough, that will be on next week's edition.

1/13/2006 04:00:00 PM  
Blogger MarkAndrew said...

Thanks, Cronin.

Stupid Marvel pisses me off no end.

It felt liberating to me, that year-or-so period where Marvel was really taking some artistic chances and allowing some new interpretations of their characters.

So, yeah, I see the Shit-canning of Bagge's Hulk story as symbolic of the transition from Marvel as a company that would occasionally let artists use their properties to make good commercial art to a company concerned with protecting it's brand identity.

It's sad, but fuck 'em. I got other comics to buy.

1/19/2006 12:32:00 AM  
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