How Lee & Kirby's "Fantastic Four" Birthed the Marvel Universe, Part 1
This is the 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 five.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: After the Captain Marvel decision, DC bought Fawcett’s characters.
The fact remains (as pointed out here) that Fawcett’s sales had gone down a lot by the mid-50s, as did most superhero titles. The Fawcett/DC suit had begun at the height of Fawcett’s sales, and by the time Fawcett settled, the books just weren’t selling.
So they agreed to stop publishing Captain Marvel, and they sold their remaining characters to Charlton.
Years later, in the early 70s, DC decided they would like to publish Captain Marvel themselves (Marvel, during the 60s, had decided to claim all uses of the word Marvel as a trademark, and upon rumors of DC wanting to bring Captain Marvel back, they rushed out their version to take claim to the “Captain Marvel” trademark).
Still, they were not OWNED by DC.
DC simply leased the characters.
Years later, DC eventually just bough the characters outright (this seems to be DC’s modus operandi…rather than have to do complicated deals, they just use their money to buy themselves out of complicated deals…see the Wonder Woman deal from here.)
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: DC had a Superman storyline set during the Holocaust that did not mention the word “Jew” or “Jewish.”
In 1998, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Superman’s first appearance, the Superman titles tried an interesting idea.
Each title would depict Superman in a different “era.”
Action Comics depicted Superman in the 70s.
Adventures of Superman depicted Superman in the 60s.
Superman depicted Superman in the future.
And Superman: Man of Steel depicted Superman during the 30s, in a “What If..Superman got involved in the Holocaust?” story.
The only problem was, in the two-part story, there was NO mention of the word “Jew,” “Jewish,” “German” or “Catholic.”
Editor Joey Cavalieri said he banned the words “Jew,” “Catholic” and “German” from the story because he feared they might be used derisively by young readers.
“Since this could be the first time [a reader] encounters the Jews in print, I would be heartbroken if this [story] went badly,” he said.
DC’s president and editor-in-chief, Jenette Kahn, told the Associated Press that Cavalieri “was worried about having Nazi characters use Jewish slurs. He was concerned that young kids would repeat the slurs, and that young Jewish kids would read it and be given a negative stereotype.”
Cavalieri said it was obvious by the comic characters’ names and graphic devices that they were Jewish.
The head of the Jewish Defamation League accepted DC’s apology on the issue, and made the point, “the intention was OK but the execution wasn’t. One can get so locked in trying not to offend, you offend.”
The quotes are from this Jewish News Weekly article.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Mark Bagley got his start by winning the original Marvel Try-Out Contest.
In 1985, Marvel had an interesting contest.
Called the “Marvel Try-Out Contest,” it was a twenty-dollar purchase (which was a lot of money in 1985). It was a standard Spider-Man story, only every once in awhile, something would drop out.
Like a page would have no colors.
Or a page wouldn’t be inked.
And then whatever your skill is, you would fill that in.
The comic was then to be published (which never actually happened).
The pencilling winner of the contest was future comic book superstar, Mark Bagley.
Here is Bagley on the topic (courtesy of Comic Book Resources)…
I thought it was a gimmick…something Jim Shooter came up with, and I didn’t buy it. Luckily, Cliff Biggers, the guy who publishes Comic Shop News, was a friend of mine. He owned the comic book store that I went to at the time. He told me, “If you don’t do this, you’ll hate yourself.” So, he gave it to me. And, I won first place. That got me a trip to New York and a chance to meet all the editors. I went, and they threw me out of their offices. The last editor I saw on the last day I was there said, “Hey, I bet you’d like something to draw, wouldn’t you.” I said, “Yeah!” That was, I think, Mike Higgins who was editing the New Universe which was kind of winding down. He was desperate for people to work on it, and I was desperate for work. I did 4 or 5 jobs for him. After about a year and a half of doing it, I was able to quit my regular job and do comics full time. And, I’ve never looked back.
Other interesting trivia from the contest.
The inking winner was Doug Hazlewood (currently John Byrne’s inker on Doom Patrol).
The lettering winner was Robin Riggs, who is currently a professional inker as well.
The second-place winner among the pencillers was Mike Worley.
That’s it for this week!
Feel free to tell me some urban legends you have heard, and I will try to confirm or deny them!
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