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Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #11!

This is the eleventh 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 ten.

Let’s begin!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Marvel killed off a Thunderbolts character because of a rights problem.


In the pages of Wizard, there was a contest held to let the fans figure out who would be the next villain faced by the Thunderbolts.

The winning entry was introduced in the pages of Thunderbolts #19, and his name was Charcoal, the Burning Man.

However, this character, invented to be a one-shot villain, turned out to be TOO good of a creation, as he was quickly added as a MEMBER of the Thunderbolts for the next almost 40 issues, but was abruptly killed in a battle with Graviton in the mid-#50s.

As it turned out, there was some debate over whether the creators of Charcoal had officially signed over all the rights to the character to Marvel, which was part of the contest rules, so since they just could not iron the kinks of the deal out, Marvel decided to instead just get rid of the character (with the intent, presumably, of bringing him back some time in the future).

So, basically, it is highly unlikely that you will ever see Charcoal in the pages of a Marvel comic again.

Which is too bad, as he was a good character.

(Thanks to Chris Arndt for filling in some details)

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: John Byrne left Jack Kirby off of the 20th anniversary cover of Fantastic Four.


In 1981, the Fantastic Four celebrated their 20th anniversary with a special double-sized issue for #236.

The story is considered to be one of the best stories in John Byrne’s five-plus years as writer/artist on Fantastic Four, but one notable problem seemed to present itself on the cover.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Pictured among the characters celebrating the Fantastic Four’s anniversary is Stan Lee, co-creator of the Fantastic Four, but nowhere in the picture is Jack Kirby.

Why did Byrne draw in Lee, but not Kirby?

Was Byrne making a statement about who he thought was the REAL creator of the Fantastic Four?

As it turns out, it was nothing of the sort.

When Byrne turned in the art, Kirby WAS in the drawing.

At the behest of Editor-in-Chief, Jim Shooter, Kirby was removed from the piece (for what reasons, we do not know, although it likely had to do with the arguments at the time over Kirby wanting his older art returned to him, but I honestly do not know what Shooter’s motivations were).

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Roger Stern left Avengers over Captain Marvel’s leadership of the team.


In 1982, Roger Stern introduced a new Marvel superhero, who he gave the (then available) name of Captain Marvel.

This young heroine joined the Avengers as a member-in-training, and soon rose in the ranks until the point, in 1987, that she became the leader of the Avengers. Which was a notable feat for one of the first significant black female superhero.

This was all fine and good, but in 1988, Avengers editor, Mark Gruenwald, had different ideas about the character. He wanted Captain America to become the leader of the team (conspiracy theories abound that since Gruenwald was the writer of Captain America’s book, that he wanted Cap to lead the Avengers to aid in publicizing Captain America’s title…which I do not think is fair to Gruenwald. It is just as likely that he just decided that it was better for the book for it to go down like this).

However, Gruenwald did not just want to have Captain America become the leader, he also wanted Captain Marvel to be shown as an inferior leader before she was taken off the team (presumably to further show how adept Captain America is at the role).

Stern, creator of the character, reasonably balked at this change, as he felt such a move would be hard to do without looking racist or sexist, and therefore, Stern, who had been writing the title for the past 60 issues or so, was taken off the book, and replaced by Ralph Macchio and then Walt Simonson, who both basically followed Gruenwald’s prescribed plot path (until Simonson then took the book in his own direction).

Which is a shame, as the decision really took Captain Marvel, who at the time had become as mainstream as you could get, off the road of “mainstream” basically for good.

Well, that’s it for me this week!

Feel free to tell me some urban legends you have heard, and I will try to confirm or deny them!


LOL, that’s just SO fitting w/ Captain America’s treatment of Captain Marvel in the flashback scence in NEXTWAVE #5.

Charcoal wasn’t killed because of copyright issues. He was killed and intended to be brought back.

However because of the creators (there were two of them, not one) trying to sue Marvel because Wizard magazine never got the copyright papers by the two creators it was decided to not bring him back to life. So he was previously killed before hand and just never brought back as planned because of the creators.

Then one of the co-creators tried to get fans in a rally to cry foul by posting on a message board that Marvel had the rights to Charcoal. One thing the creators failed to realize that the contest (Wizard Magazine: Dark Book) stated that all entries become property of Marvel comics. So just by entering the constest, you give up the rights to the character.

Yeah I remember that Wizard Contest and read that the characters rights reverted to Marvel from what was the rules. Of course they should have worked it all out and maybe Charcoal would be back. ( has he returned…been a year)

Then theres Avengers. My god was that a piss poor decision to force Roger Stern off that series ! The guy wrote some great issues and I suggest his run . He ranks up there with the bad Marvel decisions .

They killed off Charcoal? NO!

Totally agree , although I thought the art could have been better during Stern’s run, the story lines were first class. Captain Marvel / Photon hasnt been the same since , and she is overdue a return to the spotlight.

Ace of Hearts

May 29, 2010 at 10:18 am

I am begining to realize that the marvel I grew up with is not the same marvel we know of today.

That’s when things went awry with “The Avengers.” Capt. Marvel was great. They added Dr. Druid and had an awful storyline with Nebula play out to ruin the book. In addition, I thought it was lame that they use Reed and Sue Richards as members to rebuild the team. Not creative and not interesting.

I never liked Cap Marvel and was not happy when she became leader. I was happy when she was kicked off but not happy with the comic since the writing was bad.

Inasmuch as Rick jones became part of the captain Mar-vell cast, from mid 1969 till early 1982, when they flushed the character.I wish that he would have inherited the name,nega bands and costume.In that title he really came into his own, rather then just a teen sidekick to the hulk and cap.Just my two cents on it.

The funny thing is, Simonson didn’t present Monica as an inefficient leader–a hesitant one, yes, but more dogged by Druid subverting the team than anything else. Though I suppose from Gruenwald’s view, it got the job done.

The thing is, they could easily have had Captain Marvel step down in favor of Captain America. As stated, she was being subverted by Druid. Additionally, it was made fairly plain that her leadership was mainly due to membership lull which left her the longest continuously serving active member. She was certainly level headed enough to realize the more experienced Captain America was a more suitable leader and keep open the option that she could assume the role when she was more seasoned.

GHastly55 posted on the MarvelMasterworks message board:

As it turned out, John Byrne turned in the cover with Jack Kirby featured on the cover, but, according to Byrne, Marvel Editor in Chief Jim Shooter had the cover removed.

However, what was unclear at the time was WHY Shooter made the move. Most fans presumed that it was some pissiness on the part of Shooter that led to the removal of Kirby’s image.

The real reason, though, was in writer Ronin Ro’s “Tales to Astonish,” his book about Jack Kirby.

As it turned out, at the time period, Kirby was having problems with Marvel, and one of the issues he had was the use of Marvel of his name and likeness to promote their products. Which makes sense…after all, it is kinda messed up to see a company you’re having problems with using your likeness to sell their stuff without giving you anything in return.

Therefore, when Kirby was alerted to his image appearing on the cover to Fantastic Four #236, he (or a lawyer of his) requested that it be removed, which Marvel acquiesced.

So there ya go. Feel free to dislike Jim Shooter, if you will, but not for that, at least.

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