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Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #18!

This is the eighteenth 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 seventeen.Let’s begin!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: The recent Norman Osborn/Gwen Stacy relationship in Amazing Spider-Man was never intended to occur!

STATUS: True

In the recent “Sins Past” storyline in Amazing Spider-Man #509-514 (the title is currently on #525), writer J. Michael Straczynski surprised many readers (and I am sure disturbed many as well) when he revealed that the two adult stalkers of Peter Parker (and Spider-Man, separately) were children of Gwen Stacy that she had before she was killed.

In the storyline, the children, who were thought to be Peter’s, were revealed to actually be the offspring of Gwen and Norman Osborn, the Green Goblin!

As you could imagine, this storyline was controversial to say the least. Some readers did not like the idea of Gwen getting together with Norman Osborn, and I presume a decent amount of readers just did not like seeing Norman Osborn’s “O” face in a comic book…hehe.

In any event, at a recent Q&A at this year’s Toronto Comic Con, Straczynski revealed that the controversial decision was NOT his original plan for “Sins Past!”

As relayed here, Straczynski wanted Peter Parker to be the father of Gwen’s kids but editorial nixed the idea.

Apparently, editiorial felt that Peter Parker would seem too old if he had two adult kids running around. So Straczynski and the creative and editorial teams all huddled together and came up with the new, alternate story.

I wonder if the other way would have really had any better of a reaction?

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: The Golden Age Green Lantern’s name was originally Alan Ladd.

STATUS: False

When speaking about the origins of the original Green Lantern, Bill Finger always recalled that his original identity was to be “Alan Ladd,” based on “Aladdin,” but editor Sheldon Mayer insisted that no one would believe such a name and changed it to “Alan Scott.”

Well, first off, by this point in time, Alan Ladd had been acting in films for eight or so years already, but he was not very well-known, so I can reasonably believe that no one was familiar with him.

However, in Alter Ego Vol. 3 #5, Marty Nodell, creator of Green Lantern, had a much different view of the situation:

NODELL: What I had in mind was, first of all, having The Green Lantern’s incantation as an oath. Now, I had to give the character a name, so I looked through the New York telephone books, and got through “Alan,” which I held onto, and then I came onto “Scott.” So it was Alan Scott, that’s the name I gave him.

RT: You don’t remember another possible name, “Alan Ladd,” as various versions of the story relate?

NODELL: No, I didn’t know anything about it. I came up with Alan Scott, and I kept that. The storyline would be about an engineer. He was a graduate of college. I didn’t know what kind of engineering it would be, but he was an engineer in that he helped build bridges and all.

Now this is quite clearly a case of me choosing to believe one creator’s recollection over another’s, but in the rest of the interview, Nodell is quite specific about past events, and they all check out, so I am willing to take the leap of faith and believe that the creator of Green Lantern remembered the Alan Scott story best.

In addition, this certainly leaves open the possibility that Bill Finger SUGGESTED to Sheldon Mayer the name “Alan Ladd,” and Finger told him it was too much. The only thing that I am “debunking” is the idea that his name WAS Alan Ladd at one point, and then they changed it.

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Elliot S! Maggin’s big break came from a story he got from Jeph Loeb!

STATUS: True

One of Elliot S! Maggin’s first stories for DC (specifically, it apepars to have been his second ever!) was the classic “Must There Be a Superman?” from 1972 (Superman #247), where the Guardians of the Universe cause Superman to question whether his constant assistance to the human race actually had some effect on IMPEDING human progress.

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It is a very interesting tale, and definitely one that was a bit more sophisticated than other Superman stories of the time, and this is reflected in the comic being collected in “The Greatest Superman Stories Ever Told.”

Mark Waid has stated that this issue was one of his inspirations for Kingdom Come.

The funny thing was, though, was that it wasn’t Maggin’s idea!

Maggin explains the story in his introduction to the trade collection of the partially inspired by “Must There Be A Superman?”, Kingdom Come…

I have a friend named Jeph. You know Jeph. I was maybe nineteen or twenty and he was maybe twelve or thirteen and I was a student at this college and Jeph’s stepdad was a big muckamuck at the college and stepdad and I made friends. I went over to stepdad’s house for dinner one day and Jeph and I got to talking there about our mutual love for super-heroes and their stories. We came up with a nifty story over mom and stepdad’s dinner table. See, I’d just sold my first comic-book script, a Green Arrow story called “What Can One Man Do?” and I had a problem. I had a meeting soon with Julius Schwartz, the Bard of Bards, to see whether I was a one-trick pony or I could do this sort of thing again. I had to come up with a hit-it-outta-the-park idea for a Superman story or else spend the next three years in law school. I guess I told Jeph a few of my ideas and I guess Jeph told me a few of his. And Jeph came up with this thing he called “Why Must There Be a Superman?” It was about the Guardians of the Universe planting a new idea in Big Blue’s head. The idea was that maybe, in his zeal to preserve life and ease the path of the human race, Superman was keeping ordinary everday good humans from growing on their own. Maybe he was killing the butterfly by helping it out of the chrysalis. Not for sure, but just maybe. That was Jeph’s idea.

So I went to Gotham, to see the Bard and I had maybe a dozen little germs of ideas packed under my scalp. I’d try this one on him. I’d toss him that one. I’d pitch him another one. Some of them he liked; some of them he didn’t. Some of them inspired ideas of the Bard’s own; some of them made him snort or snore. By the end of a couple of hours – they were a loud, intense couple of hours, as hours I spent with the Bard of Bards always would be – I was emotionally exhausted and still he wanted to hear more. So I dredged up this idea about what might happen if the Guardians came calling on Superman with the tiniest little criticism of how he was doing his job. Now you’re talking fresh stuff, the old man let me know. He got excited. He yanked people in from the hall and made me repeat the idea for them.

I called the story “Must There Be a Superman?” and Saint Curt and Murphy drew it and it made me happy and I put words in Superman’s mouth pretty much steadily for the next fifteen years and never went to law school. And I swear I did not have a clue where the idea had come from. Who knows where ideas come from anyway? I didn’t remember – still don’t remember, in fact, but I believe Jeph – until Jeph told me about his contribution years later. Like twenty or so years later.

Jeph has never suffered, I don’t believe, for my inconsiderate oversight, and in fact has always been my friend. He’s done well, too. With his buddy Matthew he wrote the first great super-hero movie of the modern period, Commando with Arnold Schwarzenegger, and lots of other great stuff. And one day later on I was editor of Jeph’s first comic-book series of his own, an eight-issue masterpiece with Tim Sale called Challengers of the Unknown. Now he writes for Hollywood and he writes for DC and Marvel and he’s happy and he’s still my friend, and now I get to make this right too.

The post script on this story happened ten years later, as related in a Jeph Loeb interview here,

10 years later, I was working with Tim Sale on Challengers of the Unknown, Elliot was living in California, and we all went out to lunch together. There used to be a comic-book store right around the corner from my office, so we went to the comic-book store, and Elliot, flitting through the back-issue bins, pulled out “Must There Be a Superman?.” He said, “This was always one of my favorite stories.” And I said, “It was always one of mine, too, and I always wondered why you told the story that I sent to you.” And he turned pale. I said, “Elliot, please. (A) It was so long ago, and (B) you were so helpful, and (C) if I get anywhere in the comic-book business it’s because of your advice and friendship.” But he was just absolutely flabbergasted – in utter shock. And as we went back to have lunch, every 5 minutes he would look at me and he would say, “I can’t believe that I did that.” And I would just say, “Elliot, I don’t care. I was really flattered that I had come up with an idea that you might use.”

I guess ideas really DO come from all sorts of places!

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!

7 Comments

Thanks for the info on the Gwen Stacy/Norman Osborn development. I was livid at J. Michael Straczynski for what seemed like a cheap ploy that tarnished the memory of a beloved character for no more reason than shock value.

Although, the main story line with the two adult kids attacking their father reminded me too much of Kurt B. Astro City story where the “Jack-in-the-box” character met and faught his future kids.

I apologize for all the hateful things I said about J. Michael Stracynski and will now place that venom on the appropriate parties.

J. Michael Straczynski still decided that he needed to ruin the memory of Gwen Stacy, so I still think he’s one of the worst things to happen to Spidey and the main reason I don’t buy Spidey book anymore.

No one turns it on like Norman Osborn. I so wanted him to look up from that comic and do the ” BBBBOOOYYYAHHHH!! ” thing. Then I was pissed now I see it as grand comedy.

I wonder how they can explain Gaberial looking like Peter though ?

All JMS ever does is change the Spider-man over the past two years. I stopped reading Spider-man for good after that terrible Unmasking. It wasn’t even about Spider-man and apparently everyone from J Jonah Jameson to Betty Brant aren’t good enough characters for him to put in and explore what they think. They’re not even in Amazing and Flash is a bufoon in FNSM. THey’ve just bashed Spidey into a nobody character. They won’t even explore story telling with him in it anymore.

Oh yeah, Sins Past. for someone who complains about aging the character, Quesada sure lets a lot of dumb things happen to Spidey.

I find it interesting that ESM got an original idea from Jeph Loeb, since anyone who’s seen “Heroes” on NBC should recognize that nearly every plot point is cribbed from a previously published comic book.

In my opinion,the”Sins Past”storyline is a nail in every Gwen Stacy fan’s heart.I mean is not only a blasfimy for the character but it’s impossible as well.I mean Gwen has met Osborn only once or twice.SHAME ON JMS.

I have always wondered why they made Norman the father of Gwen’s children when the better choice would been the Jackal, Miles Warren. It would have explained his obsession with Gwen and would have made for better stories down the road, but no. Everything bad in Spidey’s life must come from the Green Goblin.

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