Thursday, February 02, 2006

Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #36!

This is the thirty-sixth 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-five.

Let's begin!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Rob Liefeld once drew a book in landscape style without being asked, leading to the book having to be cut and paste to look like a normal comic book.

STATUS: True

Rob Liefeld's big break in comics came in the late 80s, when he was the penciller on the Hawk and Dove mini-series for DC. Written by Barbara and Karl Kesel, with inks by Kark Kesel, the mini-series became a really big hit for DC (and led to the Hawk and Dove ongoing series).

In any event, so it goes that in the last issue, Hawk and Dove are in a chaos dimension, and (someone linked me to this particular version of events on a messageboard, but I am afraid I have since lost the link, so if someone finds the link for me, I'll gladly credit it here)
Without consulting his editors, Rob drew all of this sequence in "landscape" (i.e. you would have had to turn the comic to read it). When asked by the baffled and shocked editor why he had done this, Rob said that's how it had been drawn the only other time this dimension had been shown.

Inker Karl Kesel had to rotate all the panels and paste them together into a new flow as part of his inking job. The letter column to issue #5 contains an oblique reference to this incident, mentioning that Rob "showed something new to an editor who thought he'd seen everything".
Here is the issue in question:

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I asked Karl Kesel if this version of events was true, and here is Karl's answer:
Yes, Rob did draw the entire Chaos Dimension sequence sideways or "landscape" style. He did this without consulting anyone. I'm sure Rob saw this as cool and different and exciting, but the editor, Mike Carlin, was not quite as thrilled. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of having to turn a comic sideways to read a story, especially not in the middle of an issue. It pulls you out of the story by calling far too much attention to itself. It can be done-- there was a great issue of the Moore/Bissett/Totleben SWAMP THING that actually had you turn the comic completely around as you read it that was an amazing use of the device; and John Byrne did a FANTASTIC FOUR story set in the Negative Zone where it worked well-- but generally I think it's best to avoid.

Anyway. By the time we reached the last issue of the mini-series, Rob's sights were clearly on other horizons. He had gotten later and later on deadlines, and more and more often forgot to drawn character's hands and feet. The Chaos Dimension sequence seemed to be the last straw for Carlin. As I remember it, Mike called me up to tell me that Rob had drawn the sequence sideways for no good reason, and that he (Carlin) was going to cut-and-paste it (using xeroxes) into a readable form and send those to me. Which he did. I lightboxed them onto DC paper and inked them.

By the way: Rob did NOT draw the dimension sideways because that's how it had been drawn the only other time it had been shown. THIS was the first time it had been shown-- Barbara and I created it for this story.

Mike Carlin once said of Rob: "He has it. He just doesn't have it yet." And I couldn't agree more. Rob is one of the most energetic and charming people I've ever met-- you can't help but like him-- and at the time of H&D his work showed great potential. But success came far too quickly and easily to him, and he never felt the need to develop that potential. Which is really too bad, because if he did I'm certain he would have left a very different mark on the industry. Not that things worked out that badly for him...
Thanks for the info, Karl!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Simon Bisley once drew a penis on Lobo's arm on a comic cover.

STATUS: Seemingly False

The background on this one is very straightforward...on the cover to 1992's Lobo's Back #2, artist Simon Bisley appears to have drawn what looks to be a penis on Lobo's left arm.

See for yourself...

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Wizard interviewed Bisley in 1994's #31, and asked him about the incident:
Wizard: So how did that penis get on Lobos arm?

Bisley: Well, this is funny, because it wasn't a penis. The editor, Dan Raspler, was really worried about it...but it wasn't a penis, it was just a fold in the elbow, on the back of the arm, and it just happened to look like a penis. That's funny, isn't it?

W: Was there a lot of flak over it?

B: No. What's the big deal about a penis? I mean, we've all got them.

W: And it was for mature readers.

B: Yeah, but I'm quite sure that even juveniles have got them. I know that's not the point. But it wasn't something that I was trying to sneak in there. It wasn't the juvenile in me trying to stir things up. It just looked like a penis.
So, basically, it comes down to, do you believe Bisley? I personally do, but I can see folks choosing not to believe him.

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Batman and Superman began to team-up because of inflation

STATUS: True

It's amazing to note that Superman and Batman, who are probably the most famous superhero team-up pair, did not have a SINGLE team-up in the first THIRTEEN years of their shared existence (except, of course, when they appeared in the Justice Society of America together).

This was especially odd when you consider the fact that the heroes shared a magazine since 1941!!

World's Finest Comics made its debut in 1941 under a DIFFERENT title, World's BEST Comics.

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The very next issue marked a change to World's Finest Comics, and the comic was 100 pages for 15 cents!

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The format was a pile of stories starring a variety of heroes, but always one Superman story and one Batman story. The heroes never appeared TOGETHER, though, except for the covers - and the covers were often quite fun.

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This was the standard until 1954, two years after Batman and Superman's first ever team-up, in the pages of Superman #76, where the heroes learned each other's secret identities (talk about an interesting FIRST team-up!!)...

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In World's Finest #71, in 1954, Batman and Superman had the first of many team-ups.

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However, the reason WHY they teamed up was because of inflation!

Here's a good time to explain how comics used to deal with inflation back in the Golden Age. Rather than raise prices, what publishers did was to reduce the SIZE of the comic, in both size of the actual comic and amount of pages. For instance, World's Finest had 100 pages through #9, 92 pages through #12, 84 pages through #18, 76 pages through #54, and 68 pages through #70. In addition, the height and width of the comic slowly shrunk as well.

Well, with #71, the book made it's biggest jump, from 68 to 36 pages. At this point, the book did not have ROOM for both a Superman AND a Batman story, so instead, they decided to team the two heroes up, and that was the way the book continued (except for a short period in time where World's Finest became a Superman and ____ book) until the book finally ended right before John Byrne's Man of Steel revamp.

Thanks to Michelle Nolan's fine column for providing the page size information.

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!!

Read More

21 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"What's the big deal about a penis? I mean, we've all got them."

A very telling comment about the world of comics.

2/02/2006 09:48:00 AM  
Blogger Apodaca said...

That's what I thought, too. Except I would've included a joke about the women in his life, too.

2/02/2006 10:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"showed something new to an editor who thought he'd seen everything".

Nicely put, that.


James Moar

2/03/2006 07:06:00 AM  
Anonymous C. Tynne said...

Batman and Superman teamed up on radio years before they met in the comics.

2/03/2006 03:29:00 PM  
Anonymous thekamisama said...

Once again this is my favorite weekly article.
I never noticed that before on the Lobo cover, but it has been years since I have seent that book. I am sure someone out in internet land can invent us a crude joke that will questions the sexuality of anyone who looked that hard to find it when there was a gratuitous ass shot. But I am not going there.

c.tynne is totally right, the Batman + Superman teamup happened on the radio show first. There were a few other first appearances on the radio show I think too. The only one I can remember is Kryptonite.

2/03/2006 08:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Superman and Batman ... did not have a SINGLE team-up in the first THIRTEEN years of their shared existence (except, of course, when they appeared in the Justice Society of America together)"

It's worth noting Superman and Batman only ever appeared in Golden Age JSA stories twice--a brief cameo in All-Star #7, then a full-fledged guest appearance in All-Star #36.

2/03/2006 09:13:00 PM  
Anonymous A.L. Baroza said...

I remember reading somewhere that the Daily Planet, Perry White, and Jimmy Olsen, as well as Kryptonite, all made their debut on radio.

2/05/2006 05:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Hoosier X said...

The evolution of Superman contains NUMEROUS elements that were based on the realities of other media. Perry White and Jimmy Olsen first appeared on radio because they needed more people for Superman to talk to when establishing plot points and describing the action. Kryptonite first appeared on radio because Bud Collyer, who played Superman, wanted to take a vacation and radio was live. Also, Superman was on radio five days a week! So while Collyer was on vacation, the action centered on other characters while Superman was being exposed to Kryptonite. They had another actor playing Superman and groaning for several days.

Superman's power of flight came from the Fleischer cartoons. In the comic books, he jumps! Look at the position of his body in early Action reprints: His torso is vertical but his arms and legs are bent like he's jumping over a ditch. The animators of the Fleishcer cartoons felt this looked kinda dumb, that the effect of motion when he landed made it seem likely he would leave a big hole in the ground. Watch the Fleischer cartoons in order and watch how he goes from jumping to flying (and back again) as the cartoons progress.

(See "The Secret Origin of Superman" by Tony Seybert in the fanzine Comic Effect #26, published by Jim Kingman, for more info.)

2/05/2006 12:18:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Don't worry, folks, the radio influences have been addressed in this space before (including the Batman/Superman team-up!).

http://goodcomics.blogspot.com/2005/07/comic-book-urban-legends-revealed-8.html

I was only referring to comic team-ups.

The Fleischer stuff is new to me, though. Thanks, Hoosier X! Hoosier X is quite helpful. He also gave me an urban legend awhile back, regarding Hank Pym. Feel free to pass on anything else you think would make for a good Urban Legends Revealed, Hoosier X (cronb01@aol.com, natch)!

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