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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #30!

This is the thirtieth 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 twenty-nine.

Let’s begin!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Frank Brunner and Steve Englehart faked a fan letter to themselves.

STATUS: True

In an interview in Comic Book Artist #6, Frank Brunner shared an interesting story about how he and Steve Englehart managed to wriggle their way out of a small controversy over a storyline in their Doctor Strange series in Marvel Premiere involing Sise-neg/Genesis, which basically revolved around Dr. Strange following “God” along as he creates the universe

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We had just completed Marvel Premiere #14-well, I had just completed the pencils, most of the art, but for some reason or another, nobody took notice of what we were doing. When the book came out, Stan finally got a hold of it, and I don’t know, somebody pointed it out, or he read it, and he wrote us a letter saying, “We can’t do God. You’re going to have to print in the letters column a retraction saying this is not ‘the’ God, this is just a god.” Steve and I said, “Oh, come on! This is the whole point of the story! If we did that retraction of God, this is meaningless!” So, Steve happened to be on his way to Texas for something, this is when we were in California, and we cooked up this plot-we wrote a letter from a Reverend Billingsley in Texas, a fictional person, saying that one of the children in his parish brought him the comic book, and he was astounded and thrilled by it, and he said, “Wow, this is the best comic book I’ve ever read.” And we signed it “Reverend so-and-so, Austin Texas”-and when Steve was in Texas, he mailed the letter so it had the proper postmark. Then, we got a phone call from Roy, and he said, “Hey, about that retraction, I’m going to send you a letter, and instead of the retraction, I want you to print this letter.” And it was our letter! We printed our letter!

Cool story, eh? Now how do we know Frank is his real name?!!?

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Mike Deodato used to draw four books a month during the mid-90s.

STATUS: False

In July of 1995, Mike Deodato was credited as the artist on Avengers #398, Glory #5 and Wonder Woman #99 and 100.

Mike Deodato did not draw all those comics, which was a common occurance in the mid-90s, much to Deodato’s chagrin, as he has to deal with the ramifications of those days even now.

In the early 90s, Mike Deodato was a very hard worker. Never one to turn down a challenge, when a company offered him work, he accepted it. And when they asked him to form his own studio, it became “the biggest mistake of his life.” According to Deodato,

I signed to do six issues of Glory at Extreme, with the understanding I’d do as much as I could before I moved on to an exclusive contract at Marvel after Wonder Woman was over. They asked if I could set up a Studio of other people who could more or less work in my style to continue it. Marvel was sort of looking for the same thing on some of their titles…so I said OK, as long as the artists’ names got listed. Extreme ignored that, slapped my name over everything — including numerous books I’d never even heard of — no matter who did them or what the style or quality was. Artists Ed Benes, Mozart Couto, Emir Ribeiro, and Rene Micheletti got the short end of the stick there. I remember a Glory cover — it may have been #8 — that Ed Benes signed his name to, and in the printed book my signature was pasted on overtop it.

While Extreme was the more egregious example, Marvel was not great, either,

I had to report back to Marvel every incident where it happened. It was sad. Marvel also put the Studio on books where they wanted my style and I was too busy or the budget couldn’t afford me personally, because I was getting a real good rate. Marvel was more conscientious about the credit, but didn’t always get it 100% right. The result was I was credited — or blamed — for a ton of work I had nothing to do with, and it haunts me to this day.

And, as Deodato mentions later, even to this day, he has to deal with the suspicion that he is not doing his own work, which is certainly something that can weigh upon a creative talent, as it resulted in situations like, as Deodato describes,

An X-Men editor hired me to do a 12-page Nightcrawler story, saying, “I want Deodato’s best work! Really tight, powerful pencils, the best he’s ever done, and I want HIM to do it, not his Studio.” Even at Marvel, one of the places where they asked me to do that Studio for awhile, it still haunted me years afterward. Dave said, “Deodato doesn’t have a Studio,” and the editor replied, “I don’t care, I don’t want his Studio doing this.”

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Ferro Lad was originally meant to be black.

STATUS: True

It was the late 60s when the young Jim Shooter began working on Legion of Superheroes, and he wanted to try new things. One of the ideas he had was to have the first black superhero (a feat achieved very soon after Shooter made his proposal, in the person of the Black Panther over in Fantastic Four). The character who was to BE the first black superhero? Legion of Superhero member, Ferro Lad.

According to Shooter,

Ferro Lad (who was masked, remember) was supposed to be black. My plan was that when this was revealed, no one would bat an eye—it would be a total non-issue as one might expect in the enlightened future. Mort vetoed it on the grounds that if we had a black character ID wholesaler distributors in the South would refuse to carry DC Comics. Hmf.

The question is open, though, as to whether this decision by Weisinger directly led to Shooter’s decision to soon after kill off Ferro Lad.

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I do not know about whether the refusal to make him black led to Shooter killing off Ferro Lad.

Well, that’s it for this week, folks!

Feel free to drop off any urban legends you’d like to see featured!!

4 Comments

great, the supposed first major black hero makes his debut MASKED. AND he gets killed.

Shooter told me exactly the opposite. About ten years back, I had lunch with Shooter at the Chicago Comicon (before it became WizardWorld) when he was working with Broadway Comics. A friend of mine was shooting a documentary about gays and comics and Shooter was one of his interviewees.
What he told us then was that he wanted to be able to kill a Legionaire, but guessed DC wasn’t going to let him (the story was his first and written/illustrated on spec), so he introduced the Shooter Four (Ferro Lad, Princess Projectra, Nemesis Kid and Karate Kid). Ferro Lad was the deginated victim. He decided he liked the character and got the idea about making him black. He was to one day take off his mask rather non-chalantly, be shown to be black and the Legion were to not react at all. Mort killed the plan for the reason cited above and he went with the original plan.
So, he was cannon fodder that almost got a reprieve.
I actually doubt BOTH versions of the story. That night, I got out my Archives (which reproduce coloring errors, btw) and back issues. His hands and skin around his eyes are white from the first appearance.
His death was also obviously the entire point of his character. He only made one appearance between his introduction and death – in the Satan’s Dozen/Sir Prize and Miss Terious story. There, he is shown his future as a pile of ash, “predicting” his incineration by the Sun Eater.
Shooter also believes the Rampaging Hulk story where Banner was almost raped in the YMCA shower was “gay-positive,” so his view of history is not exactly reliable.
That being said, he’s a really nice, interesting guy whom I really enjoyed spending time with.

According to Rob Liefeld, at the time it was happening, Extreme Studios would request a Deodato cover and pay for a Deodato cover from Glass House Graphics (Deodato Studios) liaison/business manager/American rep David Campiti and they would get a cover that didn’t look even close to Deodato’s style. Liefeld would tell Campiti that it didn’t look like a Deodato cover and that they had paid for Deodato and Campiti’s response would always be, “I’ll have to get back to you on that” and never hear anything about it again.

Liefeld is definitely not someone you should go to for reliable information about his own fuckups. In any case, Deodato is far more believable. He probably didn’t want to screw over his own buddies. Giving them credit would have cost him nothing. Comic book companies love to squeeze as much money as they can from their readers and creators. That maxim was particularly true in the 90′s.

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