Thursday, March 09, 2006

Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #41!

This is the forty-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 forty.

Let's begin!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Jack Kirby sued Marvel Comics.


The notion that Jack Kirby has sued Marvel in the past has become so prevelant that even fellow creators think that it is for real! In an interview at Comic Book Resources (I'd give you a link, but the link is busted), Gene Colan commented "I think Steve [Gerber] sued Marvel for ownership of Howard. Come to think of it, I think Jack Kirby did as well since he created most of the characters." In reality, though, Jack Kirby never sued Marvel Comics.

For further info, let me direct you to a resource I have been meaning to hype here, Mark Evanier's The JACK FAQ, where Evanier keeps track of frequently asked questions related to Jack Kirby.

Here is Evanier on the topic:
There were a couple of points where he was seriously considering it and talking to attorneys, and there were also other times when he threatened it — to Marvel or in the fan press. Ultimately though, he and Roz decided that neither his health nor bank account could withstand what could have been a very long, expensive and emotional war. Still, one sometimes hears — even from folks who worked at Marvel and should know better — that Kirby sued and lost, sued and won or sued and settled. None of these happened. I think the problem was that Marvel's lawyers always overreacted. They were constantly trying to strong-arm Kirby into signing this or that, or even threatening to sue him on some trumped-up claim. Whenever he threatened them back, they got hysterical and ran around yelling, "Jack Kirby's suing us," even though, at least on those occasions, Jack wasn't considering the possibility.
Thanks, Mark! Here is the link to The Jack FAQ.

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Marvel changed the name of the Black Panther because of the political group by the same name.

When the Black Panther, the first black superhero, was introduced in 1966, the Black Panther Party was not around for months, so Stan Lee and Jack Kirby did not think that their new character's name would have any special connotations.

By 1972, though, that was not the case, and the name "Black Panther" was known more for its connection with the political group than for the comic book character. Therefore, in an attempt to move the character away from the group, writer Roy Thomas wrote Fantastic Four #119.

In the issue, the Thing and the Human Torch get caught up in an international problem when T'Challa, in pursuit of some crooks, gets arrested in "Rudyarda," the stand-in for South Africa.

When Johnny and Ben free T'Challa, they are unprepared to hear the following...

Luckily, T'Challa makes sure to explain himself right away...

The change, as you are well aware, did not last long. Soon, it was the Black Panther once again!

Reader TV's Grady brought this question up, and good ol' Hoosier X supplied the issue number for me to look up.


COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Blue Beetle was originally going to star in a weekly comic anthology BEFORE DC came up with Action Comics Weekly.


With the solicitations this month for DC's impending 52 project, it is interesting to look at the history of the weekly comic book, and note that, well before they actually decided to do one in 1988 by turning Action Comics into a weekly book, DC was interested in the idea of doing a weekly comic book.

In fact, they went as far as to even choose a lead for the comic!

The lead?

None other than the recently acquired (via Charlton) Blue Beetle!

Writer Steve Englehart recounts the experience:
I wrote seven 4-pages chapters in BB's serial. In the competition to be the artist, the first one was illustrated by several people, including Deryl Skelton and my old COYOTE™ pal, Chas Truog - and I believe there were others as well. In any event, Deryl got the job, and went on to draw at least six of the seven chapters. But that's as far as we got.
Steve was so good as to share samples from both Skelton and Truog, which you can view at the aforementioned link. It is especially neat to see the two artists take different approaches to the same script.

According to interviews given by DC staff about the time period (thanks Dulaney and John for the Comic Book Artist #9 reference), the project first underwent development in 1983, with the intention of the book using all of the newly-acquired Charlton heroes in the anthology, with Superman being the middle anchor (just as he was in Action Comics Weekly).

Ultimately, for whatever reason (Bob Greenberger is quoted as saying that the higher-ups just did not think that the material could sustain a weekly series), DC decided not to go with a weekly series at this time, but almost all of the individual heroes got their own title ANYways, including, in 1986, Blue Beetle himself - written by Len Wein, though, not Englehart.

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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Blogger Dulaney said...

I believe the weekly book in question was mentioned in the issue of COMIC BOOK ARTIST that focused on the Charlton Action Heroes.

As I remember it, Beetle, Capt. Atom, the Question, Judo Master, Peacekeeper and Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt would each have four page chapters with Superman getting the "centerfold" with a two page Sunday style strip. (Not unlike what they did in the weekly Action.) I want to say they were going to use the old COMICS CALVACADE as the title for the book.

3/09/2006 08:55:00 AM  
Blogger John said...

The issue of CBA is #9 (August 2000) where Robert Greenberger talks about his involvement in the planned weekly. At first, it was called "Blockbuster Weekly" but then was changed to the Comics Cavalcade, as mentioned.

Greenberger says that planning started in 1983, and work on the characters was already completed to varying degrees, but the higher-ups didn't think that the material was strong enough to support a weekly series. By this point, it was 1985, and between Crisis, Dark Knight, and Watchmen, "the creative bar was being raised and the Charlton characters just didn't measure up."

3/09/2006 09:57:00 AM  
Blogger Shane Bailey said...

"By this point, it was 1985, and between Crisis, Dark Knight, and Watchmen, "the creative bar was being raised and the Charlton characters just didn't measure up."

That's kind of a funny statement as the heroes in Watchmen were stand-ins for the Charlton characters. It doesn't make a lot of sense to say they didn't measure up. Maybe the work they did on the Charlton characters didn't measure up, but the characters themselves had potential.

3/09/2006 10:26:00 AM  
Blogger John said...

I think that Greenberger must have meant that the work done for the new weekly series didn't measure up, not that the characters themselves were lacking. I remember enjoying the Blue Beetle, Capt. Atom, and the Question books back in the late 1980's and agree with Shane that there was a lot of potential in these characters.

He does follow up his "not measuring up" comment by pointing out that most of the Charlton characters had been featured in one way or another by the end of the '80's, between having their own series or being featured in books like Suicide Squad and All-Star Squadron.

As for his including Watchmen in his comparison, yeah, I found that a little ironic.

3/09/2006 10:58:00 AM  
Blogger glen davis said...

I think all the character but Judomaster got a major push. Peter Cannon's series could have lasted a lot longer but got cancelled due to legal problems.

3/09/2006 01:22:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Thanks a ton, Dulaney and John.

So my impression of the timeline IS accurate?

Good to know! I'll edit that into the piece.

3/09/2006 03:24:00 PM  
Blogger Dean Trippe said...

whoa thanks for all the info! i'm a black panther fan, but i didn't know about that short-lived name change!

3/09/2006 04:02:00 PM  
Anonymous C. Tynne said...

Roy Thomas also had T'Challa refer to himself as simply "The Panther" early on in his Avengers membership.

It didn't take.

3/09/2006 06:38:00 PM  
Blogger Apodaca said...

"Adventuredom". Yeah, that's not awkward AT ALL.

3/09/2006 07:01:00 PM  
Anonymous thekamisama said...

Good thing the Black Panther Party did not decide to name themselves the "Black Goliath Party". That could've ruined the career of a far greater 70's token character!

Seriously though, Black Panther was the least offensive of all the "Black" name characters.. seeing how he is named for an actual animal and not just because he is a black guy. Thank King Kirby that they changed it back! Otherwise, Storm might've become Mrs. Leopard!

3/09/2006 07:43:00 PM  
Anonymous stephen cade said...

I wonder if the next time the Black Panther appeared they just forgot the name was changed?

3/09/2006 10:22:00 PM  
Anonymous jake saint said...

Funny that the subject was changed, rather than the modifier.

"I also contemplate a return to Britain, where the name Deep Purple Panther has classic rock connotations."

3/10/2006 04:10:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Thanks for the idea, roel. I'll address that in the future.

3/13/2006 06:12:00 PM  
Blogger Angela Dixon said...

You got a really useful blog and I really your style of writing. Keep it up

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