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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #60

This is the sixtieth 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 fifty-nine.

This week is a special theme week. The theme is LEGION OF SUPERHEROES!

Let’s begin!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Right before becoming an X-Men, Nightcrawler was going to be a member of the Legion of Superheroes.

STATUS: False

A lot has been made about Dave Cockrum bringing over characters he created as DC over to Marvel when he began working for Marvel regularly in 1974.

However, what’s interesting is that, while Nightcrawler may have originally meant to be a Legion of Superheroes member, right before Cockrum left DC, that was not going to be where Cockrum was going to use him. Instead, Cockrum had bigger plans for Nightcrawler, as a member of a brand new team set in the Legion universe called the Outsiders.

outsiders.jpg

Here are a team of bad guys they presumably were going to fight, the Devastators.

devastators.gif

Reader Derek sent me the info from Michael Grabois’ “Bits of Legionnaire Business!” Thanks, Derek!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Keith Giffen originally meant for the adult Legion and the Legionnaires to battle, with casualties being chosen randomly out of a hat.

STATUS: True

Commenter Michael, of Legion Omnicon fame, managed to send in not one, but TWO Giffen Legion urban legends for this week! Not only that, but it was Michael’s website above that Derek sent to me! So all THREE urban legends are as a result of Michael’s work, which really isn’t THAT surprising, seeing as how it is a Legion theme week!

The first urban legend details what Keith Giffen originally had planned for the book had he not left the title.

Michael detailed it on a recent entry at the Legion Omnicron:

The story of what Keith Giffen was going to do with the Legion when the SW6 Batch came in is pretty far out. You might read this and not believe it, but it’s true. Giffen’s plan is known in Legion fandom as “The Hat Trick”, and it’s got nothing to do with hockey.

legion25.jpg

The name itself started either with the early mailing list [lsh-l] or on usenet’s Legion newsgroup, rec.arts.comics.dc.lsh. The earliest reference to the incident was in my 1995 San Diego Con report, posted to the newsgroup Aug. 9, 1995. In San Diego, a bunch of Legion fans got together to hang out. One of those fans was then-editor KC Carlson, who told us some interesting stories. The rest of this post is taken from my con report, Troy McNemar’s con report (not online), a Feb. 1999 AOL chat that Giffen attended, and Jef Peckham’s June 1999 Heroes Con report (not online).

According to KC Carlson, this was around the time when Giffen was debating on whether to stay with the Legion or not. KC was editor at the time.

Giffen described this time period in Legion history as “the one story I wish I could have finished up right.”

legion32.jpg

Stitched together from three different reports:

His plan was this: the SW6ers were the real Legionnaires, and the “adults” were clones created by the Dominators circa Adventure #348-349ish – so for the last 20 years or so, we had been reading the Legion of Cloned Super-Heroes. The adults’ secret programming would kick in and the two teams (kid SW6 and adult LSH) would have a “massive battle” to the death — with the victims chosen at random, their names literally pulled out of a hat by the writer(s). Then after it was all over, the two teams would make up, then the senior team would then leave United Planets space for the Vega System and call themselves THE OMEGA MEN in their own book.
KC at this point said, basically, “No way, this is not going to happen”, and that made up Giffen’s mind to leave the series.

Asked a few years later, according to Peckham’s Heroes Con report, Giffen corrected this version, saying he wasn’t going to have it where half would die and the rest join as one Legion.

He only planned that “some” would die, considerably less than half, perhaps 5 to 10, in the battle to free Earth from the Dominion. After that, the older Legionnaires were going to be given Earth and the defense of the UP headquarters, while the younger team were going to the edges of UP space and act as the last line of defense, in a new book to be called The Omega Men.

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I know it doesn’t really matter, as the title rebooted soon after (and the Legionnaires solo book WAS pretty good), but I know I would have been interested in reading that story!

legion1.jpg

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Keith Giffen managed to destroy the Earth in Legion of Superheroes due to nobody watching the book.

STATUS: True

This one dovetailed out of a comment by Giffen quoted in the above report, where it is mentioned “As a side note, he [Giffen] said that he destroyed Earth as he left because “no one was watching.”

legion38.jpg

Johanna Draper-Carlson e-mailed Michael, with information her husband, former Legion editor, KC Carlson, had on the story, and it is a doozy.

Keith says that he bumped off Earth because no one was paying attention, and he’s right. The book was editorially transitioning again, and the Earth blowing up issue wound up being my first. However, not many people know that TPTB had noticed what Keith was doing, and as soon as I started, they asked that that issue not be published. I had to fight for its publication, because that issue was virtually complete when I walked in the door. It was suggested it be cancelled, but it was so close to publication that trashing it would have thrown the schedule completely off, and I didn’t want to start by making the book late.

I also understood that several hoops had to be jumped through to get Neil Gaiman to sign off on the Death cameo, and I didn’t want that to go to waste, because I thought it was a good bit. Although I had nothing creatively to do with that issue, I was happy to fight for it, because I thought it was an excellent piece of work.

How awesome is it to be writing a comic book WITHOUT an editor!

Hilarious!

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!!

40 Comments

I can’t find the article now, but I read an interview all about the origins of Nightcrawler somewhere. As I recall, Cockrum was working on a character called the Punisher (remember, this is before the skull-shirted one would appear in Marvel comics) who was sort of half Batman, half Frank Castle. The guy’s sidekick was Baalshazzar, a demon from hell who’d been sent up with some mission, failed it, and was now afraid to go back. Afraid to go to hell? Imagine!

The character’s design, of course, is what eventually made it into the Outsiders pitch not as a demon, but as a feral alien. And when that got shot down, he became a mutant. Note the golden costume, rather than red. The whole time, Baalshacrawler had the same power: teleporting and disappearing in darkness.

Should also take this opportunity to re-link the CBULR about Nightcrawler’s parents, too. The reason Nightmare was nixed as Kurt’s daddy? Supposedly the editor declared that such a lineage would make him a cross-breed, not a mutant. Pfft! Like anyone would know the difference. He’d still be more of a mutant than the badger that walks like a man

Is it a coincidence or not that the Devastators (judging by that drawing) bear some resemblance to various Shi’Ar characters?

Not so much a coincidence as proof that Dave Cockrum is a bit of a one-trick pony…

Just as an aside, two of the members of the Outsiders were also amalgamated and reworked to become Storm.

I’ll let you guess who. :)

I don’t think this really implies that Cockrum is a one-trick pony. I think it shows that he really fell for some of these designs and characterizations and did not want them to go to waste, when he had the chance to use them he would…

For the record, in my original question, I wasn’t implying that Cockrum was recycling ideas. Since the Outsiders book was never published, he had every right to use his ideas for other publishers or titles. I just find it very interesting that he (apparently) readapted so many ideas from this unpublished title, for Uncanny X-Men. It gives some background to the very first “X-Men in space” stories.

I believe that Cockrum designed the Starjammers completely independently of the X-Men (not sure if he intended them to be Legion characters or to be their own feature) and he eventually got Claremont to incorporate them into the X-Men.

It’s sort of funny how right after his sci-fi Legionesque stuff got incorporated into the X-Men mythos, Cockrum left the title (for the first time anyway).

That’s some cool design work. Other than Kirby and maybe Gil Kane, I don’t think anyone else could design a cooler superhero costume than Cockrum.

It’s funny, LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #38 was the one issue I couldn’t find when I was assembling my run of it. I actually had to read the series without it, which was a little jarring but with a book that is as good as that comic was sometimes you have to make exceptions.

Anyway, I couldn’t find it at any of the comic shops in the area so I finally ordered it off of Mile High Comics. I swear to God the NEXT DAY after the issue got delivered I went into a shop called the Book Nook in Riverdale, GA, which was right next to the apartment I lived in at the time, and there was a short box that was halfway filled with LEGION #38. Copies and copies of that book, all fifty cents a piece. I had been in that shop the day before and nothing. I pay for the book plus shipping and handling (in addition to some other books I ordered) and then there are copies EVERYWHERE.

Ah, such is life I guess.

That is funny. I’ve never been able to find LSH v4 #38 either, and I’ve looked. I didn’t even know what the cover looked like until just the other day.

“The older Legionnaires were going to be given Earth and the defense of the UP headquarters, while the younger team were going to the edges of UP space and act as the last line of defense….”

This is probably just my ignorance–I concede that I quit reading LSH not long after Giffen STARTED on it–but this sounds exactly backwards to me, conceptually that is. Wouldn’t fighting for UP HQ on good old Earth be “the last line of defense,” rather than (presumably) meeting invaders out on the border/frontier/whatever-you-want-to-call-it? The only way I can see that “the edges of UP space” makes sense as the location for “the last line of defense” is against an internal rebellion starting on Earth at HQ and working its way out into the galaxy, and by the time it gets way-the-hell-and-gone out there, hasn’t it pretty much succeeded anyway, with just cleaning up the last shreds of resistance left to be done, and therefore doesn’t make THAT much sense?

John, James—Of course Dave C had every right to reuse his ideas in a different context. Doesn’t mean it was necessarily a good idea, though; sometimes you’ve got to let it go and start over again. Looking at this page about his later team book THE FUTURAINS, it looks like he was still flogging some of these concepts years later, again without notable success.

Not every idea is one for the ages, y’know?

The other interesting point of connection between Cockrum’s LSH and X-MEN work is the Shi’ar Imperial Guard, who were all analogues of various members of the Legion—Cockrum reinventing, again, characters he had already reinvented once. From the outside, it looks like he may have had a bit of a Legion obsession.

In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me: remember, Cockrum was part of the first generation of fans-turned-pro, and that generation of creators can get a little… possessive of their favorite characters (e.g., Paty Cockrum’s frankly deranged jeremiad against Grant Morrison for the way he treated “her” beloved Magneto).

Though the “fan-turned-pro” thing can also help sometimes, too — Roy Thomas’s JSA obsession produced some quite good Avengers stories, after all. Of course, Roy also had the advantage of having a 1950s liberal arts obsession as well, hence all the classical and literary lifts adding texture to his stories.

Shouldn’t the last one have mentioned that Giffen had wanted to blow up the earth a year or so earlier, but editorial, still existing at the time, vetoed the idea and so he had to settle for Dev-Em blowing up the moon?

At least, that’s the way I remember hearing it…

Good point, Jeff. Couldn’t find a cite for that, so I didn’t mention it in the piece, but that’s what I believe happened, as well.

It’s also of interest that Giffen had left the V4 title once already. He goes into detail in the Legion Companion, but, essentially, it was that the dicking around by editorial got so much that he quit around issue #15, but was talked into returning, which he did around issue #20. Most of the interference was due to edicts from the Superman offices about what could or couldn’t be used and, in particular, the removal and reinsertion of Superboy into Legion history and the use of elements from the Superman mythos.

Giffen ended up expressing a lot of his feelings on the matter in the “Son of Ambush Bug” series. :)

Hey, nice website. Can you please change the blue background or the gray font? Because this page takes a long time to load on dial up, it starts out in nearly impossible to read gray on dark blue and stays there until the page completely loads up. I’ve read the entire page by highlighting the text and now writing this post and the page is still not done!

Thanks

It doesn’t take THAT long – I’m on dialup, too, and the white pops in just fine.

Anyway, turns out I was wrong: the character Cockrum was working on was called the Intruder, not the Punisher. This interview goes into the story about the creation of the Intruder and his sidekick, but it’s obviously not where I found that original character sketch…

Cockrum does recycle ideas alot I noticed. He was the first person to draw Logan without a mask and he looked just like Timber Wolf. And boy did he love thigh-high boots on men!

We always here about editorial interference on books as a bad thing, something that ruins the writer’s vision for the worse, but in Giffen’s case, editorial interference helped, those ideas were stinkers. Also, if the adult Legion was made up of clones, why were they going to remain the legion of superheroes when the smoke cleared? Or am I getting mixed up?

Regarding the possessiveness of fans-turned-pro and their attitude towards other creators’ “mistreatment” of their favorite characters, I vaguely remember hearing that Roy Thomas was so enraged by reading the issue of Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman” where the Hector Hall Sandman was dismissed to the afterlife, that he tore the book to shreds and sent it back to DC.

Would this be another Urban Legend to look in on?

The SW6 bit did play as a nice contrast between where the Legion had started out and where it had ended up, and on that level I think it worked; as an ongoing element of the book, though, I’m not sure it was viable.

Of course, that was the trouble with the Giffen and Bierbaums Legion in general — great stories if you’re doing a “The End” type of story (as it finally turned out to be for other reasons), but the sorts of things that really leave a huge mess for anyone picking things up after they left the title.

Oh, and Roy Thomas is on record in interviws and such as thinking that DC’s revivals of Power of Shazam! and the JSA after he’d left were unfair to him as a creator.

He even slipped in as much when he covered the All-Star Comics 5th week event — the one that set up the most recent JSA series — in his otherwise wonderful All-Star Companion Vol. 1. (There is no Volume 2.)

Not sure if you’re aware of this but some of the archived postings have inactive images or the links to the images are inoperable. Just an FYI. Love the column.

Son of Ambush Bug came out some years BEFORE Legion of Superheroes V.4…

Aaron Kashtan

July 26, 2006 at 7:16 pm

The guy with the mohawk and the gun-hand, from the Devastators picture, looks very similar to Tyr. Does anyone know whether Tyr was introduced before or after that picture was created?

It is Tyr. He appeared after the picture was created.

It’s too bad someone hasn’t put together a book about the Legion of Super-Heroes to answer all those nagging questions about this-’n-that related to the Legion. But wait! Someone has! Back in 2003, TwoMorrows Publishing released the Legion Companion, a comprehensive tome featuring interviews with just about every living Legion creator about their time on the series. And it’s still in print – but just barely! Life isn’t complete without it!

Fixed, Jason!

With respect to Nightcrawler being a cross-breed, not a mutant, if his father had been Nightmare:

I believe that the possession of traits that came from neither parent still qualify one as a mutant in the Marvel U, even when one is a cross-breed.

See Namor and his power of flight/little ankle wings. And, at least in the most recent issue of WOLVERINE (#44), he’s referred to as “Marvel’s first mutant.”

RD Francis

FunkyGreenJerusalem

August 3, 2006 at 6:46 am

“I believe that the possession of traits that came from neither parent still qualify one as a mutant in the Marvel U, even when one is a cross-breed.”

Glad that issues finally settled!

Maybe now I’ll be able to sleep peacefully and tear-free at night!

Speaking of debatable mutants, I have long thought that what makes Wolverine a mutant—the cell structure/metabolism/whatever that gives him his healing ability and longevity—and what makes him an effective member of the Xmen—his adamantium skeleton and claws and resultant fighting ability—are two different things entirely. Yes, without the former the skeleton almost certainly could not have been installed, but that doesn’t make it any more a natural mutation in and of itself. Admittedly, I’m about 20 years out of the loop on Marvel-mutant continuity and was never THAT into it back then, so I’m wide open to being shown evidence to the contrary.

If going into the definition of mutant, isn’t Siryn normal? Her inhereted characteristics came from her father and her mother. No clearly defined powers beyond those her father had/could have had. Technically while she is a super-human, by definition, she isn’t a mutant. She’s ‘daddy’s little girl’.

Anastasios Pelekanos

August 28, 2006 at 7:58 pm

Is it me or is it odd that a group called Trio has four members?

Oh my God… A nice topic you have here comic urban legend… I dhould be visiting your place oon for the next

I was thinking the same thing Anastasios.

Also, I was wondering how Cockrum could use Reflecto as a character but since that team design was done in the early 70′s, Reflecto wasn’t revealed to be an alternate identity for Superboy in the 30th century until the early 80′s. Before then, he was just a statue in the “Hall of Dead Legionaires” in an “Adult Legion” story from the late 60′s.

Brian Cronin said: “Instead, Cockrum had bigger plans for Nightcrawler, as a member of a brand new team set in the Legion universe called the Outsiders.”

Actually, that’s not true. According to the interview with Dave Cockrum by Peter Sanderson in “X-Men Companion I” (1982):

Cockrum: “When I became a pro and I was doing Legion of Super-Heroes, I proposed four new Legionnaires and Nightcrawler was one of them. But Murray Boltinoff’s response was that he was too weird looking.”

It was after only after that rejection that Nightcrawler was added to the roster of Dave’s Outsiders pitch which, unfortunately, got rejected as well.

FYI, the other three that were also proposed were Typhoon, Quetzal and Starfire. The Starfire character was actually used but he was named to ERG-1 then later to Wildfire. Typhoon and Quetzal got shuffled off into the Outsiders to be rejected again along with Nightcrawler.

———————————————

Anastasios, I did some digging about Trio having four bodies. Turns out she has either three or one, just like Triplicate Girl was originally. You can’t tell in this non-colored picture but the front body is the “collected” form that wears a white costume while the other three are the singular forms that wear colored costumes. Kind of like white is all colors of light combined, when she combines her 3 separate bodies, her costume becomes white. Also, her singular form costumes have a solid circle belt buckle design while her collected form’s costume has the circular buckle trisected into equal sections as shown in the picture.

—————————————–

Information on Dave’s four Legionaire character submissions and Trio’s concept were found here:
http://www.nightcrawler.coolfreepage.com/
contained within scans of Dave Cockrum’s original character design sheets and sketchbook pages!!!!

If you read Nightcrawler’s writeup, you can EASILY see why he was rejected, and it wasn’t just for looks! :)

Patrick J McGraw

January 1, 2007 at 5:00 pm

Marvel Universe mutants are not quite like real-world mutants. Back when the Celestials were tinkering with humanity’s DNA, creating the Eternals and the Deviants, they also placed the seeds of the “X-Gene” (sometimes called the “X-Factor) into baseline humanity. An active X-Gene causes mutant powers to manifest. This is why certain effects will have a blanket effect on mutant powers (such as Leech, Mimic, and other characters whose powers work on all mutants but only on mutants). Mutants all share a common genetic deviancy, unlike real world mutants whose mutations are distinct genetic deviancy.

This means that the child of a mutant may have the active X-Gene, and so be a mutant even if they have the same powers as their parent (Syrin or Polaris), or they may not have an active X-Gene and so end up a normal human (Quicksilver’s daughter).

Patrick J McGraw:

That certainly deals with the question of how children of mutants with the same powers can still be considered mutants, but not with the problem of the great distinction between Wolverine’s mutant powers and his technology–based X–Men fighting skills (just pointing out the fact to anyone who might still be checking this board that my question stands, not faulting you for not dealing with it).

Even though this is supposed to be an LSH rather than an “X” board, let me point out something about the mutant situation in the Marvel Universe that has been bothering me for some time. This is the depiction of them as victims of unreasonable prejudice (or are those last two words redundant?). What do they expect when they refer to themselves as a separate species and call it “Homo Superior”? The bottom line there is B.S., as they can and do interbreed with the rest of us. “Star Trek,” et. al., to the contrary notwithstanding, that IS a contradiction in terms, and they are even BORN TO “normals” (please let’s not suggest that absolutely fundamental biology is different in the MU than in the real world). Beyond that, to dub themselves “SUPERIOR”—i.e., better than rather than merely different from everybody else—is just asking for trouble. They deserved it, and they got it. That’s how it looks to me.

Actually, only mutants like Magneto, who seek to separate themselves from humanity, or even to destroy humanity or dominate it, call themselves Homo Superior. Integrationist mutants like the X-Men don’t use the term, or at least don’t insist on using it.

Great Cockrum info.

MaGnUs: Sounds good on the face of it, but doesn’t fit my memories. I’m sure I encountered the term out of the mouth of no less than Prof. X on several occasions.

Ted Watson-

What exactly is in question? Yes, the powers that make Wolverine a mutant are his healing factor, and enhanced senses, and his (bone) claws are a result of that mutation. No, his adamantium skeleton is not his mutant power. What’s the problem? If you want to further classify him as a cyborg, go ahead. Why there needs to be a “great distinction,” or what about this makes him a “debatable mutant,” I do not understand.

Ted didn’t ask a question, he made an observation that wasn’t even an interesting observation, and which seemed to miss that it was precisely his mutant power that made him able to both survive the operation in the first place (ie, have the technology), and then carry it around with him. Wolverine’s healing power allows him to be the superhumanly strong and fit powerhouse that can move around with all that extremely heavy metal on his bones.

His enhanced senses and his “animalistic” fighting prowess both seem part of his mutant power set. I think he would be a deadly fighter and pretty fearsome without the claws or the skeleton. (I ignore all the post-Claremont crap about the claws being bone and part of his mutation.)

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