SPIDER-MANDATE: The Lowe-down on "Secret Wars," Tie-Ins and Stacey Lee
This is the forty-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 forty-five.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Dave Cockrum’s resignation letter from Marvel was placed into an issue of Iron Man as a prank.
In Iron Man #127, David Michelinie and Bob Layton really began the push for their “Tony Stark is an alocholic” storyline, which would famously come to a head the next issue with the popular “Demon in a Bottle” story.
In the issue, a visibly drunk Tony Stark cruelly berates his longtime butler, Edwin Jarvis.
The next day, a sober Tony is surprised to learn that Jarvis is resigning from his position.
The text of Jarvis’ resignation letter reads as follows:
To: Anthony Stark
This is to notify you that I am tendering my resignation from my position. This resignation is to take effect immediately.
I am leaving because this is no longer the team-spirited “one big happy family” I once loved working for. Over the past year or so I have watched Avengers’ morale disintegrate to the point that, rather than being a team or a family, it is now a large collection of unhappy individuals simmering in their own personal stew of repressed anger, resentment and frustration. I have seen a lot of my friends silently enduring unfair, malicious or vindictive treatment.
My personal grievances are relatively slight by comparison to some, but I don’t intend to silently endure. I’ve watched the Avengers be disbanded, uprooted and shuffled around. I’ve become firmly convinced that this was done with the idea of ‘showing the hired help who’s Boss.’
I don’t intend to wait around to see what’s next.
cc: The Avengers
Well, soon after the issue was released, in the letter pages of Iron Man #130, David Michelinie explained that the wrong letter was placed into #127.
Well, as it turns out, the letter that was statted in was none other than the resignation letter that Dave Cockrum gave to Marvel upon his resignation of his staff position that year (1979). Someone just changed the “Marvel” references to “Avengers” references.
I asked Bob Layton about it, and he confirmed that that was the case. According to Bob,
The particular issue was Iron Man #127, although I can’t remember who the culprit was. But, it did cause a big stink in the offices at the time. It was a totally bonehead move.
Agreed. That is a pretty crummy prank to pull.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Orson Welles once teamed up with Superman.
One big advantage that the panelists on What’s My Line? had for the mystery guest is that they knew who had a new movie coming out, because, generally, if you want to plug your movie, you would show up on What’s My line?
The producers of 1949’s Black Magic took this one step further, by having their star, Orson Welles wrangle an appearance in an issue of Superman!
Black Magic starred Orson Welles as Cagliostro, hypnotist who wreaked havoc in King Louis XV’s court. Nancy Guild played Marie Antoinette, and Raymond Burr even made an appearance as Alexandre Dumas, who would write the story that the film was based on.
The team-up appeared in late 1949, in a Wayne Boring-illustrated tale in Superman #62.
Notice the movie plug worked into the cover of the comic!
The plot involves Welles, while working on Black Magic, accidentally being trapped in a ship headed for Mars, where he learns of the Martians plans for invasion of Earth (their leader, Martler, was a huge Hitler admirer).
Welles remarks, “When I fooled the world with my Martian invasion broadcast, I never dreamed I would invade Mars myself!”
Who would, Orson?
Luckily, Orson notifies Superman of the plan, and the duo quickly mop up the Martians, and leave Martler on an uninhabited asteroid.
Thank you, Orson Welles!
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Michael Fleisher’s Spectre issues had so many problems with script continuity that they needed a separate writer to keep the continuity straight.
For years, people wondered exactly what the deal was with Russell Carley’s “script continuity” credit in Michael Fleisher’s Spectre stories (beautifully drawn by Jim Aparo) in Adventure Comics #431-440.
What does a “script continuity” man DO, exactly?
Did Fleisher have a problem keeping everything that was happening in the comic straight?
In the 1988 collection of these stories, Wrath of Spectre (issue #2, to be precise), Peter Sanderson (Click here for the latest in Sanderson’s excellent series, Comics in Context, over at IGN) wrote an article explaining exactly what it was that Carley did:
Michael Fleisher explains that, ‘When I first started writing comics, my friend Russell Carley, who’s a fine artist, and I used to work on them together. We would get together on a Saturday afternoon and we plotted the story together. Then Russell would take the plot and break it down into panels, and I would write the script.’ When Fleisher started writing comics, he only had experience writing prose. ‘I had never written any kind of script in my life.’
He believed that Carley had a stronger visual sense than he did, and therefore would be better at determining how the story should be expressed through comics panels. ‘We wanted to come up with some kind of title that expressed what he did as opposed to what I did.’ But Fleisher believes that the credits they came up with for Carley failed to make his actual contribution clear. ‘All we succeeded in doing was confusing everybody,’ Fleisher concludes, adding that whenever he is asked about the SPECTRE series, he is invariably asked just what Russell Carley did.
‘A lot of the ideas for the Spectre, like the giant scissors cutting a man in half, were Russell’s ideas,’ Fleisher reveals. (Jim Aparo singled this scene out as one his own favorites in the series.) ‘We had a lot of fun,’ Fleisher continues. ‘But then he lost interest. I think we only did this for a year. He wasn’t really interested in comics, and I was. So he dropped out. We’re still good friends, but professionally we went our separate ways.’
Fleisher took over the work of breaking the story down into panels once Carley left the series.
So there you go! Thanks to John Wells for the heads up AND the transcription!
Well, that’s it for this week, thanks for stopping by!
Feel free to drop off any urban legends you’d like to see featured!!
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