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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #47!

This is the forty-seventh 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-six.

Let’s begin!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Marty Nodell created the Pillsbury Doughboy.

STATUS: False

Martin Nodell is known to a lot of comics fans as the man who created the original Green Lantern, and that’s true. But what’s interesting is that he was not exactly intending to be IN comics.

When Marty Nodell was first breaking into comics in the early 40s, breaking into comics was not his main goal. As he told Roy Thomas, in an interview in Alter Ego #5,

Nodell: “Mart Dellon,” to me, was a pseudonym for doing comics. Mayer told me, “You can have your name on it; I think that’ll be fine.” And he added Bill Finger’s name, which was good. But I didn’t know whether I would work in comics for any length of time – I thought maybe one year, maybe a little more. But in those days there were various people who were against comics, completely against children reading comics.

Thomas: Right. It didn’t all start with Fredric Wertham in the late ’40s and early ’50s.

Nodell: Let’s put it this way: If I were to work on comics at all, I would never have a chance to get into advertising.

Thomas: You felt there’d be a prejudice against you because you’d worked in comics?

Nodell: Yeah, and my main effort was to get into advertising.

Eventually, in the late 40s, Nodell got his wish, and began to work in advertising, ultimately ending up working for one of the pioneering ad agencies of the 20th Century, Leo Burnett’s company in Chicago.

In 1965, the Leo Burnett agency was working for Pillsbury on an ad campaign.

Here‘s how Pillsbury describes the event (warning, the link is a pdf),

In 1965 a small group at the Leo Burnett advertising agency sat around a table surrounded by cans of dough trying to create an advertising and marketing campaign for Pillsbury’s refrigerated dough account. Rudy Perz, a copywriter at the time, popped open one of the cans and envisioned an image of a doughboy popping out. The “spokescritter” was dubbed “Poppin’ Fresh,” personifying the product’s freshness and quality. Perz’s first inclination was to animate the Doughboy with illustration, but changed his mind after seeing the stop-action motion technique used in the credits of “The Dinah Shore Show,” which he liked better. The ad agency’s founder, Leo Burnett, thought the character was a great idea, as did Pillsbury.

doughboy.gif

In 2004, Rudy Perz wrote into Nolan’s Pop Culture Review about the topic,

I’m a writer not an artist. After I thought of the concept of a “dough something” hopping out of a package of biscuits I sketched my thoughts which came up looking like Casper the Ghost. I discussed my sketch and concept with Milt Schaffer, a Leo Burnett animation expert and he came up with the design of the Doughboy which is still being used.

In addition, Mr. Perz stated,

A few years ago, I got a phone call from a Palm Beach or West Palm Beach editor who said he was doing a story on Marty Nodell creating the Pillsbury Doughboy. I told him Marty was an artist in my group and had nothing to do with the concept or design. He may have done some storyboards but so did other artists in the group.

So, I think we can say with confidence that Marty Nodell did not create the Pillsbury Doughboy.

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: New editions of Grant Morrison’s Zenith tradepaperbacks were printed but are currently stuck in a London warehouse due to rights issues.

STATUS: True

Kelvin Green asked a few months back, “I’d love to know if the story about Grant Morrison’s Zenith tpbs being printed and then left in a London warehouse due to rights issues is true.”

Well, the story apparently IS true.

Zenith was a serialized superhero comic book story by Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell (with designs by Brendan McCarthy) that ran in 2000 AD from the late 80s until the early 90s.

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Zenith was a superhero who was also a pop star. There were a few collections of the stories published in the late 80s, but they are out of print now.

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Recently, Titan Books began plans to release new editions of the stories, however, there was a snag in their plan.

According to an interview (I am afraid I do not know who conducted the interview) with Zenith artist, Steve Yeowell…

Q: There have been a heap of rumours concerning alleged Zenith collections sitting in a warehouse dues to copyright issues. Can you shed any light on this or is this just Internet nonsense?

A. There are indeed copies of a new edition of Zenith Phase One sitting in a warehouse that are waiting for legalities to be sorted out. A couple of dozen actually sneaked out into the market place when Titan, under the impression that everything was about to be resolved, sent some out for a signing. Funnily enough at Dreddcon I signed a copy someone had bought on Ebay. They are at the moment genuine collector’s items and I myself have two that Titan sent me at the time (as I believe does Grant).

Let’s all hope that the legalities (rumored to be an issue with whether Morrison ever actually signed over the copyright to the property) get settled so that everyone can enjoy a good work by two good comic creators, and all say “Zenith’s back!”

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I know, I know…what can I say? I couldn’t help it!!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Marty Pasko wrote a short prose story for Marvel Comics under the name “Kyle Christopher.”

STATUS: True

Our own Greg Hatcher brought this up last year, over at Comic Book Resources, and I only bring it up now because Mr. Pasko just confirmed it today, so latebreaking Urban Legends get to supercede the legend I originally had in this spot!

Greg said

In the 70′s, Marvel put out a series of original paperback novels from Pocket Books. I loved these books and had them all, then somehow lost them in a move, probably when I purged the collection when I went off to college. Anyway, these books were on the short-list of MUST REPLACE AT ANY COST items that I always have in my head when I’m shopping at shows. I have replaced them all except two of them, #8 and #9.

I finally nailed down #9 from an online dealer. Here it is:

msh009s.jpg

Okay, now here’s what had been bugging me. This particular volume was a collection of four short stories. The second one in the book was a Daredevil story and it was brilliant. I still think it’s one of the best Daredevil things anyone’s ever done, it predated Frank Miller’s noir take by a couple of years and did it better — well, I think so — but since it was a prose one-off throwaway, no one saw it. The story was by “Kyle Cristopher” and I was certain it was a pen name, but I couldn’t figure out WHOSE. For a while I thought it might have been Chris Claremont, but I couldn’t quite convince myself of it — if he was going to do a story in that book it would have been the X-Men story, it seemed to me, and I couldn’t figure out why he’d use a pen name. But it had that FEEL, it was very angsty and character-driven.

Well, I just found out who “Kyle Christopher” was, and it was a guy I’d never have considered as even a long-shot suspect. Martin Pasko wrote it, and I guess it was because he didn’t want DC to know he was moonlighting or something.

Anybody else know anything more about this?

And today, Mr. Pasko replied,

Yeah, I Was Kyle Christopher. To answer your question about the pseudonym: When I was invited to contribute to the volume by my old friends Marv Wolfman and Len Wein, I believed I had an opportunity, from another prospective client, to establish myself as a writer of mainstream fiction. I didn’t want the byline “Martin Pasko” to be associated with SF or fantasy which, at that time, were a “ghetto” out of which it was very difficult to climb once you were “typed” as a genre specialist. As it turned out, that other prospect fell though…while I was so pleased — indeed, surprised — with the way the Daredevil novella turned out, I submitted the ms. under my real name. Ironically enough, I was told that it was *Stan Lee* who vetoed using the “Martin Pasko” byline because he felt it was too closely associated with DC Comics. So the piece ended up running under my WGAw-registered pseudonym of “Kyle Christopher.” I’ve always been proud of that job, and I thank you all for the recognition. But how the hell did you find out who wrote it?

Pretty darn cool, no?

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!!

7 Comments

if nodel didnt create the pilsbury dough boy why does he sell sketches of him at comic shows? he credits himself quite openly as the creator…

Rudy Perz mentions that, too, about how Nodell should not be doing that. My presumption is that Pillsbury really doesn’t care enough to get involved.

I’ve also heard Nodell and his wife at conventions, claiming credit for Zero Hour.

About a year ago, Marty Nodell was told by the General Mills legal department to cease and desist his selling drawings of the Doughboy, (General Mills now owns Pillsbury and the Doughboy)

I loved those Marvel novels! I think what really made them good was the fact that they were (mostly) written by comic book writers who had a firm grasp of the characters. But I never knew that “Kyle Christopher” was Marty Pasko.

Many years ago, when the Comics Journal was still mostly oriented around mainstream DC and Marvel stuff, they reviewed this paperback, and the reviewer mentioned that “Kyle Christopher” was a pseudonym for a well-known comic book writer, that everyone in the industry knew who the writer was, and that the reviewer didn’t particularly understand the author’s need for anonymity. But the reviewer respected the author’s wishes and didn’t out him. So, I have been curious for some 30 years now who “Kyle Christopher” was. Now I finally know!

I am Milt Schaffers Grandson, thank you for the clairification

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