Thursday, April 13, 2006

Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #46!

This is the forty-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 forty-five.

Let's begin!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Dave Cockrum's resignation letter from Marvel was placed into an issue of Iron Man as a prank.

STATUS: True



In Iron Man #127, David Michelinie and Bob Layton really began the push for their "Tony Stark is an alocholic" storyline, which would famously come to a head the next issue with the popular "Demon in a Bottle" story.



In the issue, a visibly drunk Tony Stark cruelly berates his longtime butler, Edwin Jarvis.

The next day, a sober Tony is surprised to learn that Jarvis is resigning from his position.



The text of Jarvis' resignation letter reads as follows:
To: Anthony Stark

This is to notify you that I am tendering my resignation from my position. This resignation is to take effect immediately.

I am leaving because this is no longer the team-spirited "one big happy family" I once loved working for. Over the past year or so I have watched Avengers' morale disintegrate to the point that, rather than being a team or a family, it is now a large collection of unhappy individuals simmering in their own personal stew of repressed anger, resentment and frustration. I have seen a lot of my friends silently enduring unfair, malicious or vindictive treatment.

My personal grievances are relatively slight by comparison to some, but I don't intend to silently endure. I've watched the Avengers be disbanded, uprooted and shuffled around. I've become firmly convinced that this was done with the idea of 'showing the hired help who's Boss.'

I don't intend to wait around to see what's next.

Sincerely,

(Jarvis)

cc: The Avengers
Well, soon after the issue was released, in the letter pages of Iron Man #130, David Michelinie explained that the wrong letter was placed into #127.



Well, as it turns out, the letter that was statted in was none other than the resignation letter that Dave Cockrum gave to Marvel upon his resignation of his staff position that year (1979). Someone just changed the "Marvel" references to "Avengers" references.

I asked Bob Layton about it, and he confirmed that that was the case. According to Bob,
The particular issue was Iron Man #127, although I can't remember who the culprit was. But, it did cause a big stink in the offices at the time. It was a totally bonehead move.
Agreed. That is a pretty crummy prank to pull.

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Orson Welles once teamed up with Superman.

STATUS: True

One big advantage that the panelists on What's My Line? had for the mystery guest is that they knew who had a new movie coming out, because, generally, if you want to plug your movie, you would show up on What's My line?

The producers of 1949's Black Magic took this one step further, by having their star, Orson Welles wrangle an appearance in an issue of Superman!



Black Magic starred Orson Welles as Cagliostro, hypnotist who wreaked havoc in King Louis XV's court. Nancy Guild played Marie Antoinette, and Raymond Burr even made an appearance as Alexandre Dumas, who would write the story that the film was based on.



The team-up appeared in late 1949, in a Wayne Boring-illustrated tale in Superman #62.



Notice the movie plug worked into the cover of the comic!

The plot involves Welles, while working on Black Magic, accidentally being trapped in a ship headed for Mars, where he learns of the Martians plans for invasion of Earth (their leader, Martler, was a huge Hitler admirer).

Welles remarks, "When I fooled the world with my Martian invasion broadcast, I never dreamed I would invade Mars myself!"

Who would, Orson?

Who would?

Luckily, Orson notifies Superman of the plan, and the duo quickly mop up the Martians, and leave Martler on an uninhabited asteroid.

Thank you, Orson Welles!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Michael Fleisher's Spectre issues had so many problems with script continuity that they needed a separate writer to keep the continuity straight.

STATUS: False

For years, people wondered exactly what the deal was with Russell Carley's "script continuity" credit in Michael Fleisher's Spectre stories (beautifully drawn by Jim Aparo) in Adventure Comics #431-440.



What does a "script continuity" man DO, exactly?

Did Fleisher have a problem keeping everything that was happening in the comic straight?



In the 1988 collection of these stories, Wrath of Spectre (issue #2, to be precise), Peter Sanderson (Click here for the latest in Sanderson's excellent series, Comics in Context, over at IGN) wrote an article explaining exactly what it was that Carley did:
Michael Fleisher explains that, 'When I first started writing comics, my friend Russell Carley, who's a fine artist, and I used to work on them together. We would get together on a Saturday afternoon and we plotted the story together. Then Russell would take the plot and break it down into panels, and I would write the script.' When Fleisher started writing comics, he only had experience writing prose. 'I had never written any kind of script in my life.'

He believed that Carley had a stronger visual sense than he did, and therefore would be better at determining how the story should be expressed through comics panels. 'We wanted to come up with some kind of title that expressed what he did as opposed to what I did.' But Fleisher believes that the credits they came up with for Carley failed to make his actual contribution clear. 'All we succeeded in doing was confusing everybody,' Fleisher concludes, adding that whenever he is asked about the SPECTRE series, he is invariably asked just what Russell Carley did.



'A lot of the ideas for the Spectre, like the giant scissors cutting a man in half, were Russell's ideas,' Fleisher reveals. (Jim Aparo singled this scene out as one his own favorites in the series.) 'We had a lot of fun,' Fleisher continues. 'But then he lost interest. I think we only did this for a year. He wasn’t really interested in comics, and I was. So he dropped out. We're still good friends, but professionally we went our separate ways.'

Fleisher took over the work of breaking the story down into panels once Carley left the series.
So there you go! Thanks to John Wells for the heads up AND the transcription!

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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21 Comments:

Anonymous Zard said...

That resignation letter nails the Avengers pretty accurately.

4/13/2006 10:46:00 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Wow. I've read that Iron Man issue at least 50 times, and confess that the "showing the hired help who's Boss" line always struck me as non-Jarvis-y, and wondered if there was something deeper going on there.

Now I know! Thanks!

4/13/2006 11:57:00 PM  
Blogger Bully said...

Does that same letter appear in the IRON MAN: DEMON IN A BOTTLE trade paperback that came out yesterday? Did they fix it or just let it get reprinted again?

4/14/2006 12:38:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Sims said...

"Does that same letter appear in the IRON MAN: DEMON IN A BOTTLE trade paperback that came out yesterday?"

It's totally illegible in my copy.

4/14/2006 02:23:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Sims said...

Ah, but wait!

There's a page about it in the back of the trade.

4/14/2006 02:24:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Griswold said...

Crummy prank?

I just sat here laughing as I read it. That is so much funnier than most of the stuff people try to slip into the backgrounds of comics.

4/14/2006 02:51:00 AM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

"Crummy" as in "Crummy thing to do to a guy."

4/14/2006 02:59:00 AM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

" Ah, but wait!

There's a page about it in the back of the trade."

Now I must read this new collection!!

4/14/2006 02:59:00 AM  
Anonymous FunkyGreenJerusalem said...

The Jonah Hex Showcase had a few issues in it with a script continuity credit as well.

-Ben.

4/14/2006 03:27:00 AM  
Anonymous FunkyGreenJerusalem said...

I just checked it out and those issues were written by the same guys, so that solves that mystery.

-Ben.

4/14/2006 07:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not only was it a crummy prank, but it's evidence in itself that Cockrum had a point.

-- James Moar

4/14/2006 10:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Dan Coyle said...

Did Layton confirm it was Cockrum? Because the new printing of the trade contains a Feb. 2005 quote from Michelinie saying he still doesn't know who it was.

4/14/2006 04:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Ted Watson/tbrittreid said...

Concerning Russell Carley's credit line on the Adventure/Spectre stories, not only did the text piece in the Wrath reprint mini quote Fleisher's description of the truth in 1988, but a Comics Journal interview with Mike in 1980 also did, so I had no reason to suspect that any significant number of people thought it was anything else, at least since the late 80s. However, there were a number of admittedly small anomalies in those three "newly drawn from old scripts" stories in Wrath #4, not the least of which was that the page counts were well off those of the three Aquaman stories that were published in their places in Adventure #s 441-443 (and the back-up at that time was a serialized presentation of a newly-drawn Seven Soldiers of Victory script left over from the 40s which would seem to commit the page counts well in advance), that when added up and combined with the fact that the interview stated no less than three times that TWO--not the Wrath-presented three--scripts were left undrawn, I couldn't help but suspect that at least the third of Wrath's stories was a phony. Over the years, however, I determined an almost satisfactory explanation for the differing page counts, and the other things were, as I said before, quite minor individually, so it never advanced beyond a slight suspicion. Then the archive edition of the first nineteen of the 40s Spectre/More Fun stories came out, and was so incompatible with many statements about that series attributed to Fleisher in the TCJ piece (and understand that the intro to the interview categorically stated that Fleisher had not only then-recently read the entirety of that run but written an article on it for his never completed comic book encyclopedia), that ITS authenticity was called into question in my mind. Throw in the fact that said interview was published in #56, just three issues after the one with Harlan Ellison that Fleisher sued both man and mag over, and I REALLY wonder. Anybody know if Fleisher's suit included a claim about "his" interview, or, for that matter, virtually anything else about it? My web search on the suit turned up only very superficial accounts stating that Mike lost, and referring those interested in more details to issues of TCJ, hardly objective. I repeat my question: Anybody know more?

4/14/2006 04:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Almost forgot:

Virtually every story written by Michael Fleisher in his first couple of years in the business, including several pieces for DC's "mystery" (read: horror) titles, had the Carley credit, though it did vary between "script continuity" and "art continuity" a lot.

4/14/2006 04:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whoever swapped in that letter must have done at least a little editing, because you can't just substitute "Marvel" for "Avengers." I don't recall Marvel ever being "disbanded"--although it probably should have been around 1990.

4/14/2006 04:53:00 PM  
Blogger AFKAP of Darkness said...

Whoever swapped in that letter must have done at least a little editing, because you can't just substitute "Marvel" for "Avengers." I don't recall Marvel ever being "disbanded"--although it probably should have been around 1990.

you could substitute "the Bullpen," though (even though i don't think that was ever disbanded either.

4/14/2006 06:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Dan Coyle said...

Fleisher seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth. I did hear he went back to college and became a professor of Anthropology- and there's a book on Tanzania by him that's on Amazon.

You'd think with the arrival of that TCJ book he'd have something to say... but nope, nothin'.

4/14/2006 09:30:00 PM  
Blogger Sleestak said...

That letter in Iron man was printed during the big upheaval at Marvel and the Creator Rights issues that were raging at the time.

makes me wonder if the Cockrum/Marvel relationship had something to do with their eluctance to give David any dollars for hsi creations when he became ill.

Oh, and Bob Layton was something of a prankster so I can easily imagine he inserted the letter. At least whomever did it didn't get fired (afaik) like Milgrom did when he slammed someone in the art.

4/17/2006 03:27:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Fine question, Chris. I'll check it out.

4/17/2006 04:44:00 PM  
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