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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #15!

This is the fifteenth 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 fourteen.

As I have mentioned in the past, the impetus for this whole thing came from when I, myself, fell for a false urban legend involving Walter Simonson. Well, today I get to address ANOTHER Simonson-related urban legend!

Let’s begin!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Walt Simonson based the concept of the Time Variance Authority in his Fantastic Four run on the Time Lords from Doctor Who.


Mr. Simonson addressed this here, with the following response…

Actually, the TVA had nothing to do with Doctor Who. Where do these ideas come from? Just curious. Did you read this somewhere? I’ve never seen any Doctor Who programs although I drew a few Doctor Who illustrations a zillion years ago for Marvel.

The TVA (Time Variance Authority) was a satire of bureaucracy in general and of Marvel at that particular time and place as the company was moving towards a more corporate model. (The initials of the TVA were taken from the Tennessee Valley Authority, one of the New Deal developments during the depression.) The point of the TVA is that it was an infinite organization and still expanding (a new desk and monitor for each new universe born out of every possible time bifurcation). The office environment was the perfect visual symbol for a bureaucracy as were all the faceless monitors. The one character with a face was middle management and his was the only face you ever saw.

Which is another way of saying that there was no upper management visible. It’s possible one didn’t exist. Or if it did exist, it was irrelevant to the operations of the TVA.

The purpose of the TVA was deliberately vague. Whether or not the TVA had anything to do with the actual management of time remains a mystery. It’s possible it existed to serve itself and had no real function regarding the regulation of time.

Its HQ had a great clock on the front of the facade and the hands of the clock denoted a non-real time.

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Kevin Smith killed off Mysterio without permission from the Spider-Man office.


In 1998, Kevin Smtih began his acclaimed run on Daredevil, with Joe Quesada on art, which helped launch the Marvel Knights line of comics (Marvel Knights was actually a separate branch of Marvel, with a separate editor in chief and everything! It was made up of the infrastructure of Joe Quesada’s own company, Event Comics). The main plot of Smith’s storyline was that an old Spider-Man villain, Mysterio, was dying, and decided to go out in a bang by thoroughly destroying his arch-nemesis, Spider-Man. However, at the time, Spider-Man was currently a different character (Ben Reilly), so Mysterio decided to adapt his plan to someone else, namely Daredevil.

At the end of the story, Mysterio kills himself.

The problem, continuity-wise, came when a month later, Mysterio appeared in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man…fighting Spider-Man!!

It all came down to the fact that, when Spider-Man editor Ralph Macchio was asked if they could use Mysterio, no one mentioned that they were going to kill him off! The Spider-Man editor already had plans to use Mysterio in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man a few months after the Daredevil story was to finish.

As you may recall, Daredevil ran a bit late, so the conclusion of the arc ended up coming out AFTER the Amazing Spider-Man arc had begun, so while Mysterio was dying in one comic, he was the big villain in another.

Smith later claimed that no one told him that he specifically COULDN’T kill Mysterio, which I do not doubt, actually.

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Mickey Spillane wrote comic books.


Mickey Spillane is one of the most published authors living today, with a streak of seven books in the late 1940s to early 50s where each book sold in the millions.

His protagonist, Mike Hammer, became one of the most famous private detectives in literary history.

And before all that, Spillane wrote comic books.

Before World War II, Spillane began work for a company called Funnies, Inc., which instead of publishing comics, they created comics that OTHER companies would publish, mainly Timely Comics (which later became Marvel Comics). Funnies, Inc. was a pretty bush league operation, so almost all of their characters have really been lost to history.

At this same time, due to the connection to Timely, Spillane would be asked for stories FOR Timely. Mostly he was asked to write text pieces for Timely Comics that were inserted in the middle of the comics, mainly to maintain the correct page counts. This work appeared in the pages of Sub-Mariner, Human Torch, the whole Timely line basically. In addition, he did a few short stories, mostly featuring characters that have not been heard of since.

It was even rumored that Mike Hammer was originally meant to be a comic strip titled Mike Danger!

Years later, in the 1990s, Spillane’s friend Max Allen Collins made Mike Danger a reality, doing a Mike Danger comic series for Tekno Comics.

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!


I had heard that text pages in the comics were there to maintain some legal status as “magazines” for postal reasons. At some point in time, comic books stopped being viewed as illegitimate stepchildren of literature and got their own legal standing and the text pages vanished pretty much overnight. Perhaps someone better informed will comment.

However, it’s worth noting that in the famous Captain Britain plotline involving alternate universes, recently collected in the Captain Britain TPB, the authority which deleted universes most likely *was* based on the Time Lords — in the same comic, the writer revived characters he’d created for the Doctor Who comic, and it was certainly on his mind.

Pity I can’t remember any names and don’t have access to my collection right now.

Wasn’t Alan Davis, was it? He was known for his Who references in comics…ala’ the “Weird Happenings Organization/W.H.O” in early EXCALIBUR issues, lead by a Lethbridge-Stewart (who was insinuated to be the daughter of the Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart that lead the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce/U.N.I.T in the Doctor Who television series). Sounds like something Davis would do.

At thetime that that whole Kevin Smith thing went down, i was amemeber of an early Daredevil emailing list.
Joe Quesada was known to be a lurker on that list. He occasioanlly asked research questions toget things right by the fans. For example, he asked about who should be at Karen Page’s funeral.

Anyway, when the word came out that John Byrne was bringing Mysterio back 1 month after Smith had killed him, some of us were pretty upset.
It seemed pointless.

I did not take into account the complications that DD’s delays had caused. I posted a long message that basically said that it seemed like Byrne was putting Smith in his place. “You ain’t paid your dues, kid. Until you do, there is nothing that you can do that I can’t undo.”

It was clear that a last minuet explanation piece of dialog had to be inserted. It could have jus as easily explained that this Mysterio was a different one than the one that had kileld himself. It really seemed to us that Smith was being taught a lesson in how to play in the Marvel toybox.

Once that message was up, Mr. Quesada re-postde my whole message and added at the top (paraphrasing) “I have agreed to not publicly comment on this subject, but I just wanted to re-post Josh’s message and look at it for a while.”

I thought it was pretty cool.

Josh Dahl

That is pretty cool, Josh.

You certainly could make the argument that Byrne should have been more accommodating of Smith’s mistake.

That’s all really nice Josh, but the article clearly states that it was Ralph Macchio’s decision to use Mysterio, not Byrne’s. If it was Macchio’s decision to still use him after Smith’s story, then shouldn’t the blame fall on him?

“It was even rumored that Mike Hammer was originally meant to be a comic strip titled Mike Danger!”


But, seven years after Mike Danger was rejected by his publisher, the unsold stories actually did make an appearance — in Crime Detector #3 and 4 in 1954.

I’m confused by the timeline of the Mysterio bit – you mention that this was in 1998, and then state:
“However, at the time, Spider-Man was currently a different character (Ben Reilly), so Mysterio decided to adapt his plan to someone else, namely Daredevil.”

Ben Reilly was killed in PETER PARKER: SPIDER-MAN #75, which was published in December 1996. I pretty much quit reading comics for a few years while after Marvel killed off Ben Reilly, but my impression since then was that they just wanted to forget about him as much as possible (or mock him in Spider-Girl and make him a bad guy in Ultimate Spider-Man).

So, what was happening with Reilly in 1998? Somehow, I’m missing something here. Since Ben Reilly/Scarlet Spider is my favorite super-hero, I’d love to know if there was something else happening in 1998 that I missed.


Sorry, Tyson, it was just a reference that Mysterio began adjusting the PLAN when Ben was Spider-Man.

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