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Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #61

This is the sixty-first 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 sixty.

Let’s begin!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Alias was originally going to star Jessica Drew, but writer Brian Michael Bendis had to change Jessica Drew to Jessica Jones.

STATUS: False

This is an interesting one, as “Alias was originally going to star Jessica Drew, but Bendis was forced to change it to a new character named Jessica Jones” seems to be EVERYwhere. Wikipedia, articles about the book, everywhere.

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I ultimately had to go all the way back to a Comic Book Resources piece that isn’t even available online anymore, but was thankfully reprinted in the letter column of Brian Michael Bendis’ Powers #11, to get the scoop.

Here it is, from the article:

You may have heard that ‘Alias was originally going to star Jessica Drew, Marvel Comics’ original Spider-Woman. You would have heard wrong, though.

[Bendis:] ‘Nope. This is an urban myth that I believe I will never live down. I was at one time toying with doing Jessica Drew because she has the best hair of any superhero in comics, but this book is entirely different than what that idea was to be.

This character is totally different in every way but sexual gender. And there’s that Jessica name that’s not going to help me convince anyone.

Any writer can tell you that the development process can be a sparkling and surprising one. You start in one place and end up in an entirely different one. I was also toying with a pornographic version of Dial H for Hero, doesn’t mean that this is that book either.’

Look, Bendis even CALLS it an urban legend (well, myth, but who’s counting?)

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Igor Kordey once drew an issue of New X-Men in a week.

STATUS: Basically true

Commenter Matt Little wanted to know the truth behind rumors about how quickly Igor Kordey had to draw issues of New X-Men when he substituted for Frank Quitely.

The answer is truly amazing. Here it is, courtesy of an interview with Kordey at Newsarama (No credit, so I presume it was Matt Brady who conducted the interview…a really nice piece, by the way).

Newsarama: When you came to Marvel, what was the impression that you were under in regards to your workload? Was it going to be, from the outset, just one book, or were they (or you) wanting to look to expand your load to include more projects?

Igor Kordey: It was just Cable in the beginning. I would always deliver finished artwork a bit ahead of time. I knew, by previous experience, that anything can happen to you physically, and that is better to have episode or two in stock in advance, that to be late.

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At same time Mr. Tischman, the writer, started to be involved in writing for some TV serial and being late with scripts. I started to ask for new jobs, to fill bigger and bigger gaps. So came Black Widow, and bit later, an offer to fill in for New X-Men. Issue #120 was first, and after I did it in ten days – pencils and inks, editors were so happy, that they offered me #119 to do – the other guys were still late with their part.

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And then it started: offers for Captain America and the Storm “Arena” story; everybody wanted me to work for them. I phoned and said: I can do it, but if you like me so much, give me higher rate per page. After two days I was offered exclusive contract – and the rest is a legend.

NRAMA: Over the years you were at Marvel, it seemed as the pendulum of quality swung in wild arcs, with your Cable and Soldier X being quite solid, while your New X-Men fill ins, while good, had almost a manic energy behind them, and in the eyes of a lot of readers, not up to the quality of your Cable work. What happened? Were you just overloaded?

Kordey: Yes. In May of ’02, I ended up finishing four books in parallel: the last Cable, the first Soldier X, the last part of Black Widow and New X-Men #124. It was insane! And it was logical to fail, at least in on one of them – New X-Men happened to be that horrific book.

NRAMA: In those days where you had what many artists would see as an overloaded plate, what was your timetable to complete a full issue?

Kordey: A week. The Shi-ar arc looks really horrible, but I still like my Fantomex arc – it’s strong, man! Actually, I received a lot of support and appreciation for that arc from numerous fans from Europe, who were ecstatic about such grittiness and expressiveness in X-Men world.

NRAMA: That said though, did you ever turn in an issue where you felt it wasn’t up to your normal standards for quality?

Kordey: …from today’s point of view, many of those books are bellow my standards of quality…that’s the fact. I got lost in delusions that this expressiveness is the right way to do it, and nobody stopped me. I received a very polite call from my X-Men editor about necessity to become slick, but at that time I didn’t have a clue what the heck is that suppose to mean, and nobody complained too much as long as books were coming on time.

I think, that’s the crucial moment – nobody said “Hey, stop! Wait a second! Put yourself together! Let’s work it out together; this, this and that is wrong! Try again and take it slow…” I was my only judge, jury and executioner all the time. In the publishing industry editors are skippers, they navigating the writer through all storms, whirlpools, and quicksand of novel writing. Those are people with vision, and for most comic editors you can not give such attribute… I never had luck to work with strong visionaries like, Axel Alonso, for example.

It is too bad that a lot of Kordey’s reputation is tied up in those rushed issues.

I really enjoy a lot of his work.

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Archie Goodwin’s passing led to how the last Manhunter story appeared.

STATUS: True

In the late 90s, DC released a new tradepaperback collecting the classic back-up series Manhunter, written by Archie Goodwin with art by Walt Simonson. The collection had a new story in it, credited to Simonson and Goodwin, which was without dialogue. Goodwin had passed away before the collection came about. How that story was produced, then, is a sad story, but a touching one as well.

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Jon B. Cooke discusses it with Walt Simonson in an interview from TwoMorrow’s Comic Book Artist #10,

Cooke: I have to confess, with the recent Manhunter book, I was really touched by the new story you did, probably because I really liked the original “Manhunter” series so much, and because of the poignancy that Archie is gone now, and he was very easy to love… as a comics reader, not ever personally knowing him-and I never met him face to face-he was very easy to love, because there was a kindness about him. What was touching was there are no words in the new story. Whose idea was that?

Simonson: It was Weezie’s suggestion, and it was not a happy accident. About the life and the work of Archie: One of the qualities Archie had as a writer is that tremendous ease of the reading in his words; there are no bumps. Conversations flow, exposition is all worked in very carefully, and you never felt that you were being handed a clunky block of exposition. Archie had a great gift that artists have-with or without a capital “A”-of creating the illusion apparently effortlessly. It seems so easy that you feel, “Oh, well, I could do that.” But of course, you can’t. That’s a measure of the great craft and skill in Archie’s work. There was such economy. The labor that fashioned it so was hidden.

As far as that last “Manhunter” story goes , it’s wordless because Archie didn’t write a script, it was as simple as that. We were going to do that story Marvel style, which was to say, Archie had the idea for the plot, and we threshed it out in detail in his office one day. And it wasn’t all fixed. The last scene, for example, which takes place on the bridge, was still up in the air. We hadn’t decided if it would be on a bridge or in a railroad yard. We thought a railroad yard at the edge of Gotham might be a good place for the scene. In the end, I drew the bridge. It seemed a stronger visual border for the city limits of Gotham. But while bits of the plot were still flexible at the time I left his office, we had the main points nailed down.

The idea was that I would do layouts-it was going to be an eight-page chapter as most of the chapters in “Manhunter” were-and it would be a prologue to reading the original series in a trade paperback reprint. Well, I was working on the Michael Moorcock Multiverse right then, and that was taking up most of my time, so I got some cover sketches done and gathered some reference material together, but I didn’t get the layouts done and Archie died before I did. I just had the plot in a page-and-a-half of notes I’d scribbled, a few doodles, that was about it. And I thought that was going to be the end of it. Then, a couple of months after he died, Weezie and I were talking about the story one day.

I had the notes sitting on my drawing board where they’d been for a year, and Weezie wondered if maybe I could do it as a silent story. Although I’d written a lot of comics, I always felt that “Manhunter” was the combination of Archie and me. I wouldn’t have written him but I thought a silent story might be possible. So I talked with Denny O’Neil, the editor, and in the end, worked out a 23-page story that covered the plot Archie and I had developed. However, once there were no words, Denny’s feeling-and I agreed with him-was that a story without words could no longer work as a prologue. I was sorry to move it, because I wanted to be as true to Archie’s intentions as I could, but I felt Denny was right, you wouldn’t know who these guys were, and it made a better epilog at that point. So, we moved it to its proper position chronologically.

I had told DC when I began working on it that it would take longer than eight pages to do without words, and they said if I could do it, they would print it. It was very unusual for me not knowing how many pages are going to be in the job. I work to a 22-page comic, or a 10-page back-up, some specific format. So here, it was hard, especially in the beginning. I must’ve relaid the first eight pages out about eight or nine times, changing stuff, doing this, moving that. I had no sense of pacing, because I wasn’t sure what I was working against, and I found that difficult. Eventually, once I got past page eight, it began to pace itself out naturally, I could really see where I was going, and it worked out very well. DC was still game to publish it in that length.

Archie, before he had died, had talked to Klaus about coloring it, because Klaus had colored the ’83 Baxter reprint, and he did a beautiful job on this last story. I did my own sound effects again, because in the original “Manhunter,” I was drawing all my own at that time, and I felt that would harken back to the past visually. I tried to capture whatever I could of the original series, even though I draw somewhat differently now. It was interesting to go back and rethink my proportions and layouts, and still do it as a silent story. It was challenging, and it was a hard story to do, emotionally it was tough. It took me several months to do. I didn’t make a lot of money that year! [laughs] Fortunately, my wife had a job, so I could afford to take the time I needed to finish that story.

Touching story.

Goodwin was a great writer and editor, and he certainly seems to have been a great person, as well.

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!!

19 Comments

For proof of Kordey’s talents, look no further than the Alex De Campi comic Smoke (now available in trade, I believe), a damn good read and great art.

frankly, that Bendis denial sounds like a classic non-denial denial to me.
He says the J. Drew book would have been different, I believe him and it’s to be expected, but that doesn’t deny that he hadn’t planned something similar (yet different) for J. Drew.
Plus, he fails to explain why he called her Jessica, given his public infatuation with J. Drew, it’s more than a little odd.
On the whole, I think it’s highly likely that Mr. Bendis recollections are a little distorted by time and impression management here. At any rate, the word of the editor in question would be infintely more cedible (unless it’s Quesada).

Bendis does talk about the “development process”, and doesn’t seem to entirely rule out the possibility that ALIAS started life as a Spider-Woman concept. However, the urban myth is that ALIAS was originally going to be a Spider-Woman *title*, and she was swapped out due to editorial pressure. Bendis seems (perhaps) to be saying that he started off with a Spider-Woman concept, but she’d dropped out of the picture anyway by the time it evolved into ALIAS.

You know, I read an interview with Bendis where he said the exact opposite about the origins of Alias and Jessica Drew as the protagonist. I believe he said that editorial blocked the idea because they were developing a “Spider-Woman” project that eventually fell threw… I wish I had the source for this, I could be wrong in my recollections but I don’t think I am.

Hey, this has nothing to do with the article. I just wanted to let you know how much I’m enjoying all your Urban Legend stories. This is quite possibly my favorite weekly column about comics on the web, and I wish it had higher exposure. It should be on CBR’s main page.

I’m glad Chris mentioned Smoke, because I just got the trade, and it’s beautiful. I could not hate Kordey’s art more on X-Men, but it’s obvious that it’s rushed. Smoke is very nice. Even that old Conspiracy book that he did in 1998 is better than his X-Men work.

Bradley Bradley

July 28, 2006 at 8:23 am

Besides the similarites of the first name “Jessica”, there’s also the coincidence that both are private investigators.

I’ve always dug Kordey, and I didn’t even mind his rushed, ink-heavy stuff on New X-Men (though, of course, I wish he would’ve had more time to complete it), and yeah, Smoke just looks fantastic.

And, dammit, I’ve had that Manhunter trade on my list for ages. Now I have to get it.

Bendis already had his SPIDER-WOMAN project approved by Marvel years before he ever proposed ALIAS. It was a limited series to be drawn by Rick Magyar, and Jessica Drew was going to become an agent of SHIELD in the series.

The series was canceled when Marvel shut down their west coast offices and let a bunch of employees go, including the editor Bendis was working with on this project. As I recall nobody else seemingly wanted the title (editor wise), so it was cut from the schedule and Bendis didn’t appear at Marvel in any capacity for another three, four years I think.

I believe it was Rick Mays as the penciller, no?

And yeah, that was in the works, too, but Spider-Woman was in costume in that series, from the cover art, which has survived, so it was a different type of pitch (although certainly she could have been an Agent of SHIELD as well, just a superhero agent of SHIELD).

Hm, the thing is, though, I’ve got a fairly vivid memory of several interviews where Bendis said that the original plan for Alias didn’t involve a new character, but when that got blocked he realized how much better the project was with a newly created character.

I’ve never seen him specify who that character was (and all the similarities made people presume it was a clumsily-disguised Jessica Drew) but I’m positive I’ve seen him say that Alias originally was about an establish and discarded character.

My roommate used to say that Jessica Jones’ situation perfectly fit a minor Avengers character who’s name I always forget…. Shatterstar?

Regarding the Spider-Woman artist of the 90’s, it was Rick Mays.

http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?threadid=36281

BENDIS: …Marvel came at me guns a blazin’. They know exactly how to hit my geek buttons. My first book at Marvel in ‘94 or ‘95 or so was to be a Spider-Woman series with art by Rick Mays. They offered me and Rick this little chance to relive what almost was. I couldn’t say no.

http://www.comicbookresources.com/news/newsitem.cgi?id=5711

WWC, DAY 1 – SPIDER-LOVE: BENDIS ON “SPIDER-WOMAN: ORIGIN” AND NEW ONGOING SERIES
by Jonah Weiland, Executive Producer
Posted: August 5, 2005

quote from the Bendis interview: “Originally, “Alias” was going to star Jessica Drew, but it became something else entirely. Which is good, because had we used Jessica it would have been off continuity and bad storytelling. So, when we were putting together “New Avengers,” I put her because I had all these ideas for her and thought this was a place where I could finally do it and no one will be mad or care.”

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You say the myth is “Alias was originally going to star Jessica Drew, but Bendis was forced to change it to a new character named Jessica Jones”, and that Bendis denies it, but one year ago said “Alias was going to star Jessica Drew.” Sounds like history rewriting itself. Is Joe Quesada punching a hole in reality somewhere?

Thanks for the interview link.

It’s really absurd, in that Bendis, in his own zeal to be succinct, is helping to foster the very urban legend he bemoaned FIVE years ago!

Bendis was going to do a book – it was going to star Jessica Drew. His ideas developed and he moved on from that idea (which was Jessica Drew, Agent of SHIELD) until he came up with the idea that became Alias. Jessica Drew was never part of the deal for “Alias,” which is the urban legend – that the Jessica Jones we see in Alias was just Jessica Drew redone when Marvel told him he couldn’t use Jessica Drew in the title.

So when Bendis says “She was originally going to star in Alias,” he means “She was originally going to star in the comic book that, after I changed the idea behind the book, became Alias.”

So yeah, I totally agree that Bendis is not helping to clarify things, which is quite annoying.

That being said, Bendis gives a detailed history on the evolution of Alias in the Alias Omnibus from last (or was it this year?) year, and that history matches his comments from five years ago fully.

But I agree, him being unclear is annoying.

cool article.

little bit of [sloppy of my part, as I forgot wher I read about it] context:

Igor Kordey was the second fill-in artist for Morison’s NEW X-MEN; Ethan Van Sciver was brought in when Frank Quitely was assigned whole arcs that were scripted ahead of time, as Marvel realized FQ wasn’t able to produce a full book month in and month out.

but EVS apparently couldn’t also, or it was an X-Office fuck-up, I don’t know, so Kordey was called in last minute. and did a very good job, given the circunstances.

I second the SMOKE recommendation. great thriller.

I’ve always loved Kordey for this imagining of Flight 93 from one or Marvel’s 9/11 books (unfortunately rather small image here):

http://www.kordey.com/kordey/pages/archive/inks-archive/27.html

I’ve always been a Kordey supporter. His work on Cable and Soldier X was steller, and while his New X-Men work seemed rushed, it contained an organic vitality that made it stand out.

Well, this IS Bendis we’re talking about. Its not like he hasn’t had to change tunes before when he gets taken to task for running his mouth. He had to backpedal from things he said over the whole Batman/Daredevil fiasco a few years back.

Really, he was going to use an established minor heroine named Jessica with a connection to the Avengers and SHIELD that became a PI after quitting costumed crimefrighting. But instead he used a BRAND NEW minor heroine named Jessica with a connection to the Avengers and SHIELD that became a PI after quitting costumed crimefrighting.

Personally,I don’t see how Alias would’ve been so differant with Jessica Drew. She wasn’t exacly a well-defined character at that time and had been out of the spotlight so long Bendis most likely could’ve done whatever he wanted with her. I got the old Spider-Woman series (hooray quarter bins!) and there really wasn’t anything that would have to be altered about her any less radically than the retcon-o-rama going on in Spider-Woman: Origin.

And since the whole reason for Bendis taking the characters from Alias to The Pulse was Marvel wouldn’t let him use their more well-known characters in an “adult” comic (hence the first arc in The Pulse involved Spider-Man), his latest statements sound more like damage control afer he realized his previous statements didn’t make his bosses too good. Especially that one saying he wanted to use Spider-Woman in New Avengers where no one would “be mad or care.” Gee, sounds kinda like he had some trouble with using Jessica Drew somewhere in the past…

Then Jessica Drew ended up just being a damn Skrull, so the whole thing did not matter in the end anyway.

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