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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #72

This is the seventy-second 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 seventy-one. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.

Let’s begin!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Denny O’Neil named Optimus Prime.

STATUS: True

With the great success of the G.I. Joe toyline, which was based upon story ideas invented by Marvel editor Larry Hama, Hasbro decided that they would go to Marvel once again for their new toyline, Transformers, which was made up of a combination of two lines of toys by the Japanese toy company, Takara.

Since they were taking two toy lines and merging them into one, not to mention the fact that the toy names were all Japanese, Hasbro went to Marvel for a new background for the new toyline and for names of the figures.

Longtime Transformer comic writer, Bob Budiansky, relates how the situation went down, in a 2004 interview with Matthew Karpowic and Andrew Sorohan for ASM.

ASM: In an issue of Marvel Age from 1984, it was stated that Jim Shooter and Denny O’Neil created the background story for The Transformers and came up with the personalities for the first 28. Jim Shooter has gone on to say that he brought you in to name all of them. Can you tell us exactly how far in the development process were you actually brought in?

Bob Budiansky:My recollection is different, but only slightly. Shooter and O’Neil came up with the backstory, that’s true. I had nothing to do with that. Shooter brought me in when most of the initial names and at least some of the character profiles were rejected by Hasbro. For whatever reason, Denny declined to revise them. So, facing an imminent deadline, Shooter scoured the Marvel editorial offices looking for someone who could write at least basic English. The first few Marvel editors Shooter approached, all with more writing experience than me, wanted nothing to do with Transformers. I was probably Shooter’s third or fourth choice. I turned around the revisions over a couple of days — right before Thanksgiving of 1983 — and Hasbro was very pleased with what I wrote. I renamed most of the characters (Optimus Prime was Denny’s, Megatron was mine), and revised some character profiles.

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ASM: Some character names mentioned in the Marvel Age article (such as BLOW-OUT and SPIN-OUT) differ from the final ones (they became CLIFFJUMPER and SUNSTREAKER, respectively). Were name changes from promotion to finished product common?

Budiansky:For that initial 28, yes. But for most of the Transformers that I developed over the next four years or so, I’d say 80% of the names I submitted got approved on the first try. Most of the rest I got on the second try. Hasbro was usually thrilled with what I submitted. One thing I did to improve the odds of getting Hasbro’s approval was to give Hasbro more than one choice of a name for a new toy. Often, I’d come up with three or four that I thought could potentially fit a particular character. I must have named well over a hundred during that period.

ASM:One thing that set the Transformers apart from other toylines in the ’80s was its use of Latinate names – Optimus Prime, Ultra Magnus, Fortress Maximus, and Omega Supreme spring to mind. Was this an aesthetic decision on your part, or due to a mandate from Hasbro?

Budiansky:Give Denny O’Neil credit for that. He started it by naming Optimus Prime. Generally, Hasbro wanted more literal names for most of the toys, but for some of the really major toys, they preferred names with more grandeur to them, so they pushed me to follow in the vein of Op Prime on those. I think I named Fortress Maximus, and possibly Omega Supreme.

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Optimus Prime was called Konboi (Convoy) in Japan.

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Ethan Van Sciver took over from Alan Davis on Green Lantern: Rebirth.

STATUS: False

When Green Lantern:Rebirth was first announced a couple of years back, there was a lot of confusion over who was going to be involved in the project.

One rumor was that Alan Davis was going to be the artist with writer Geoff Johns. There was enough talk that Alan Davis actually addressed the topic on his official website.

Davis states:

I have had a number of questions about the Green Lantern relaunch, (which I haven’t seen yet), and I’m happy to set the record straight.

When I was nearing completion of Another Nail, Peter Tomasi asked me if I’d consider writing and pencilling one of the proposed Green Lantern relaunch titles. I agreed, enthusiastically, with the proviso that I submit a proposal prior to signing any contract. Peter had said DC wanted to ‘shake-up’ the book(s) and I needed to ensure the new direction would be one I’d enjoy working on. I sent in a proposal which initially seemed to have been accepted but was eventually refused because it was too radical. Which was fair comment because I had overhauled some of the most essential elements of GL mythology in an attempt to rationalise the convoluted continuity– by redefining the reasons for the 24 hour recharge, the colour yellow weakness, why there are three or four Lantern’s on Earth when there are only 3600 in the entire galaxy– and why Hal became the Spectre.

Dan Didio suggested that I could do my story in an Elseworlds but, not only had I just spent a year on Another Nail, my GL story specifically arose out of the mainstream continuity– as a solution to problems arising from that continuity. It didn’t really seem as much an Elseworld as a ‘What IF..?’.

There was never any animosity or ‘falling-out’ over the situation. In fact, despite the fact I had written my proposal without a solid commission, Dan bought out my idea and I was paid for my time. I do regret that I never got the chance to do the story I conceived but I had always thought it a long-shot and all in all I was treated more than fairly by Peter and Dan.

I, for one, think it would have been pretty darn cool if we had gotten this on Green Lantern: Rebirth…

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Ah well.

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Scott Lobdell became the writer of Uncanny X-Men by happening to be walking in the right place at the right time.

STATUS: True

After Chris Claremont left X-Men, artists Jim Lee and Whilce Portacio drew and co-plotted X-Men and Uncanny X-Men, respectively. They brought in John Byrne to script the stories, but ultimately, Byrne was given far too little time to reasonably script the issues. That is how Scott Lobdell was brought into the picture.

Lobdell’s first issue was #286 – he took over the book solely a few issues later.

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But exactly how Lobdell was chosen is an interesting anecdote, which Fabian Nicieza related on usenet a few years ago:

You know — I was NEVER “officially” OFFERED the monthly writing of the X-MEN book by my editor. Bob asked me for an emergency scripting job on an X-MEN issue (I forget the #) because John wouldn’t script it under the ridiculous deadline that was imposing on the books and when Bob came down to my office to ask me, I just smiled and said, “Nope.”

And Scott Lobell walked by my office on his way down the hall to talk to another editor and Bob looked at me and I looked at him and Bob said, “Please, no” (he might have even said, Please, DEAR GOD, no!!” I don’t recall ;-) ) and I smiled even wider and pointed my finger in Scott’s direction knowing Scott could script on that deadline (and knowing he would do a good job too). Bob walked down the hall with a hang-dog look of resignation on his face and that’s how Scott got involved in scripting over Jim and Whilce’s plots.

Then I pitched in by plotting two scheduled “fill-in” issues #12-13 (which were being prepared pending the possibility of Jim leaving the book), then we just sort of agreed I would work on the X-CUTIONER’s SONG issues (after Jim and Whilce and Rob left to star Image) and then I kept working on the book while Scott worked on Uncanny.

In all honesty, it just sort of ended up “happening” with no real premeditated plan on my part of the editor’s to put the pieces into place (there was such a flurry of uncertainty and awkwardness over the whole Image thing combined with a giddiness over the incredible sales at the time that it was more a locomotive chugging forward that you had to grab on to as it passed by much more so than a locomotive making planned station stops, if you get the analogy).

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

46 Comments

As much as I love Optimus Prime, the name “Convoy” is pretty cool too.

I always wondered why the other Autobots had names that related to what kind of car they were and Optimus was so different.

Great article as always, Brian.
One thing that always confused me about the Transformers, though… what were the characters that are named after their vehicle modes called before they actually had vehicle modes? Like, was Soundwave called that on Cybertron? And then, in an Otto Octavius level coincidence, he just happened to turn into a boombox on Earth? Or was there an explanation that I’ve forgotten?

I just bought the original series on DVD, i suppose I could just watch it and find out.

Cruel, I know, but I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one who shouted, “Please, DEAR GOD, no!” on considering Scott Lobdell as writer for Uncanny X-Men. :)

My (very hazy) memory on the early issues of Transformers has it that the robots transformed into Cybertronian vehicles/weapons on that planet. When the Ark landed on Earth, the ship’s computer analyzed Earth vehicles/weapons/technology (in the mistaken assumption that these things were the dominant life form on the planet, as they were on Cybertron), and “refitted” the transformers to change into Earth devices (closely resemblingv whatever they changed into before, only in an “Earth” approximation). Therefore, Shockwave would have transformed into whatever the heck the Cybertron version of a boom-box was, before the move to Earth. Am I remembering this correctly? And, dear God, why do I remember this? :)

Scott Lobdell, for at least the first two years of his run, was one of the best X-writers ever.

Actually, if I remember correctly, Soundwave was an intelligence agent on Cybertron and transformed into… well, god knows really. He just kinda stuck his legs together, pulled his head in and stuck his arms out to either side. Maybe some sort of antennae? Or computer relay? Futuristic clothesline? Tumble dryer/washing machine combo? But seriously, I think he was meant to transform into some sort of relay machine that he could transmit his gathered info back to HQ. Hence, “Soundwave”. Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it! LOL

Soundwave turned into a communications relay on Cybertron. Bumblebee and Wheeljack turned into futuristic cars, and the Decepticon jets turned into tetrahedral space-jets.

I don’t know if anyone is interested, but Hasbro is making some Transformers now that are their “original” cybertron versions.

I’m not sure if this is the right place to drop off ideas for legends, but here goes: Didn’t Kevin Smith buy the rights to the Sub-Mariner a few years ago? I’m not just talking the movie rights, I’m talking intellectual property rights. What ever came of that?

garbonzo

“Scott Lobdell, for at least the first two years of his run, was one of the best X-writers ever.”

While I’ll agree I was a bit harsh in my initial assessment (I can never pass up a good straight line), I think this is a statement I’ll have to profoundly disagree with. Scott Lobdell has his positive qualities, yes. But I think it’s safe to say that he is more than a little underqualified to write their flagship title, especially coming less than a year after the departure of the writer who single-handedly made the book into Marvel’s most important comic.

Of course, Claremont had about as many qualifications when he started writing X-Men. But then again, back then it was a bi-monthly, verge-of-cancellation title that he made into the book that kept Marvel #1. (Yes, with a stable of unbelievably talented artists year in and year out. But Claremont was the constant.) If Lobdell had been able to do the same with Alpha Flight, I’d be eating these words. But he didn’t, and he was still given a much higher-profile, higher-chance-to-screw-it-up title that would have been difficult for any writer. (Ask Peter David.) I think it’s a pretty clear sign of how the departure of the Image crew threw Marvel’s strategies out of whack that they were willing to throw such a big book at such an undistinguished writer.

garbonzo, I believe the Kevin Smith acquiring the rights to Sub-Mariner was one of the joke article’s in one of Wizard Magazine’ April (Fools) issues.

Anyhoo…

If you think most of the Transformers’ names are a bit “on the nose,” then be glad you’re getting the American versions – while “Convoy” is indeed quite the cool name, “Lambor” (for Sideswipe, the red Lamborghini) is much less creative. Mirage was “Ligier,” which is apparently supposed to sound like “mirage” but really doesn’t…

yo go re- Actually, Ligier is the name of the company that built the race car Mirage’s vehicle mode was based on: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ligier

Although I still agree that “Ligier” isn’t a very good name for a Transformer.

From what I’ve read, the names of the TF’s on Cybertron were considered unpronouncable on Earth (this is brought up in a couple of spots in both the Marvel and Dreamwave comics in passing by various bots…I’m thinking Jazz says something to that effect in the Insecticon story arc in the Dreamwave comic [issues 7-9, I think], though it’s not in front of me).

Ergo, I guess they just created their own names once they were on Earth to communicate with the populace (though that’s never formally explained). Though why they use they’re Earth name in stories that take place before they get to Earth is a good question…

Does anybody know why Chris Claremont actually left the X-Men? I remember reading an interview with him shortly after he left that sounded like he was forced off the book.

TVG: thanks, I didn’t realize. Obviously, I need better sources…

The “Why Claremont left the X-Men” thing should probably be a UL itself, but I recall it being, in part, about the direction they wanted to take with Xavier. In Claremont’s version, they weren’t going to re-cripple him; instead, the battle with the Shadow King was going to burn out his mental powers, leaving him an ordinary human. Ensuing storylines would have dealt with him dealing with the loss of a power he’d possessed for his entire adult life, and with him questioning whether he still belonged at the mansion. (Parallels with the current storylines are evident.)

Claremont was told he couldn’t do it; I think that was the final straw, after a few years of crossover upon crossover, the whole Jean Grey thing (which I don’t think he ever got over), and just a general bad taste about too much editorial interference. He did leave the book voluntarily, technically, but I’m sure that by the time it all ended, they were ready to ask him to leave (as I say, it sounded like the discussion was a contentious one.)

The Xavier plot sounds vaguely familiar, but a much bigger deal to Claremont based on an interview in Wizard circa #22 was how his plans for Wolverine were rejected.

Claremont was going to have Wolverine kill an exhausted, broken down Wolverine (the plot started with the crucifixition in #250). Wolverine was then going to be resurrected as an assassin of the Hand with the whole shabang concluding in #300.

Funny how much of that wound up being used later (The Twelve, Enemy of the State, Fatal Attractions).

“But I think it’s safe to say that [Scott Lobdell] is more than a little underqualified to write their flagship title, especially coming less than a year after the departure of the writer who single-handedly made the book into Marvel’s most important comic.”

Claremont had his glory days, it’s true — but those days were long gone by the time he left the book. How many years did we have to suffer through just plain embarassing storylines? My favorite had to be, “Let’s fake our deaths and then leave hints that we’re still alive”.

Lobdell may not have been the equal of Claremont in the 1970s, but neither was Claremont by the late 1980s.

There’s a Curious Cat question for you: “when did Claremont lose his luster?”

I may be out of the loop, but are there any details left uncovered about the Joe Quesada/Kevin Smith challenge to Todd MacFarlane for a Spawn/Spider-Man crossover? All I remember is the official announcement of a challenge; I never saw Todd’s response.

Maybe that doesn’t qualify as an urban legend, per se. I just figured I’d throw that out there.

I would say that Claremont’s luster faded in the Outback stories where is reimagined the X-men on the outs of society and leaving the familier trappings of the school and mansion. Either then or right after the Mutant Massacre. IMO.

Claremont lost his luster shorty after the death of the X-Men in Dallas. UXM 228 should have been the series’ final issue; it ends the story he had been telling since UXM 98. His final 40 issues offer dimishing returns (the rot really sets in around UXM 250 or so). But that said, even that material was better than the absolute trash Marvel gave us for the rest of the ’90s. Scott Lobdell in particular had no idea what made the characters tick. Awful writer. Just awful.

James, I don’t know if anyone answered this, already but that’s how I remember it, as well.

The Cybertronians were damaged in the crash so the ship went about its task to repair them – both Autobots AND Decepticons.

It searched the Earth and found vehicles and devices it could use as models/inspiration for their new transformation designs.

Then it repaired each robot in a fashion not completely dissimilar from the way Unicron repaired Megatron and the other Decepticons in the animated movie… but that part is taxing even my geek memories.

Paul, the Cybertronian Transformer line is based on Dreamwave’s Transformers: The War Within miniseries. The first was really good, but I never read the later ones (and I think the last was never finished due to Dreamwave going bankrupt).

I wasn’t too happy with Lobdell scripting X-Men at the time, but in retrospect those stories weren’t that bad. There was some good character development during that period. I remember somebody saying recently that Bobby Drake and Rogue would never have gotten together in the main Marvel U. (referring to their relationship in Ultimate X-Men), but I seem to remember just such a connection during the Lobdell/Nicieza era. (just before Age of Apocalypse) Of course, they kinda left that story hanging afterwards.

I think people are being too hard on Claremont. His final story (X-Men #1-3) was one of his best ever and one of the best Magneto stories ever. He really came full circle with that story and should be remembered for that final farewell, and not his return to the X-books years later. The Claremont/Lee issues was a colloboration that I believe rates right up there with the original Claremont/Byrne team. Though “The Dark Phoenix” storyline will always remain the best X-Men story ever.

Hey, is it true Kevin Smith is going to finish Daredevil – Bullseye? If I remember correctly I think the first issue was pretty good…

Lobdell is why I dropped the X-Men. The character’s I’d been reding about for ten years had been replaced by strangers.

Lobdell’s stuff is some of my favorite as well. Look at Onslaught and Operation Zero Tolerance. Those were GREAT X-stories, much better than Claremont’s “The Neo,” and his most recent slop run on UXM that THANKFULLY Brubaker is correcting.

Since the 70s, the only thing Claremont has done well was his run on Fantastic Four post Heroes Return.

I’m thinking Jazz says something to that effect in the Insecticon story arc in the Dreamwave comic [issues 7-9, I think], though it’s not in front of me)
Jazz definitely says as much in the “Man of Iron” story from #9 of the Marvel UK comic (reprinted in the US comic around #33), from 1985.

Though why they use they’re Earth name in stories that take place before they get to Earth is a good question
Universal Translation. They’re calling each other by Cybrtronian names but we, as readers, see names we’re more familiar with. Or something.

Simon Furman managed to get a great story arc out of the misnaming of the Dinobot Swoop in various territories. Swoop was called Divebomb in some places, and we UK readers got a cracking story to explain it.

That’s one huge ass Optimus crushing things on that cover…

Lobdell had at least one good story in UXM: the phalanx story where the creature chases Storm and Gambit through New York. I thought that was a great story, good character bits for both Storm and Gambit, and the phalanx was actually pretty menacing.

Okay, here’s one since we’re all sorta on the subject: Claremont was ousted from the X-office over clashes with Bob Harras regarding Jim Lee and Whilce Portacio’s level of input on the books.

Well, on the TRANSFORMERS: BEAST WARS show, the characters have names that match the animal forms they take on while they’re still in space – and the nature of locating an animal form to assume is (throughout the series) represented as a sheer chance proposition – whatever critters were in range were used.

“Lobdell is why I dropped the X-Men. The character’s I’d been reding about for ten years had been replaced by strangers.”

To be fair, that isn’t entirely Lobdell’s fault. He came in during the horrible Image Era/90′s speculator boom where

a) half assed writers like Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld were giving creative input

and more importantly

b) they had those stupid “mega crossover” events every 2-3 months which pretty much forced writers into a corner as far as plotting and characterizations were concerned.

Oh, as for an urban legend, here’s one that sorta ties in with Lobdell: Is it true Lobdell was a stand up comedian? Is it true Larry Hama was in an episode of MASH? Did George Perez really direct apartment wrestling videos?

RE – “Claremont was ousted” –

I’ve heard that rumour too, but I have to give it some skepticism. Claremont and Jim Lee teamed up a year or so later on a WildC.A.T.S run (those were Lee’s last issues as regular artist). I have a hard time believing either one would WANT to work together if there was any bad blood from the X-Men days.

Kelvingreen wrote:

“Jazz definitely says as much in the “Man of Iron” story from #9 of the Marvel UK comic (reprinted in the US comic around #33), from 1985.”

That was probably what I was thinking of and had DW on my mind. I never got that story, even on re-reads, since it seemed to be part of the UK continuity that I wasn’t getting at the time.

BTW, if anyone is familiar with that story or the UK storyline: Did Trailbreaker actually bite it, or was he simply injured (despite the fact that he was blown to bits if I remember it correctly.

“Simon Furman managed to get a great story arc out of the misnaming of the Dinobot Swoop in various territories. Swoop was called Divebomb in some places, and we UK readers got a cracking story to explain it”

Which explains why Grimlock calls Swoop “Divebomb” in War Within vol. 2, if memory serves. I thought that maybe it was foreshadowing something else, like the predacons working with the dinobots or something. That makes far more sense.

I one time read that John Romita Sr had a hand in designing Transformers into their cartoon forms for the show & the Marvel comic. Does anyone know if it’s true?

Transformers #6 I believe it was I bought at store when I was a kid. What a great issue: All the good guys were dead! Optimus Prime was a head on device and Ratchet was the only working one with a little human friend. You would never see anything like that in the cartoon. I always wondered why those old toy related stories were better than others, now I know.

As for Lobdell on the X-men, according to John Byrne, Portacio and Lee didn’t follow their own plots. Sure it Claremont left, but that story gave us Omega Red and Bishop. Well, Omega Red was still really cool. Bishop’s story was ‘solved’ in the whole Onslaught thing leading the traitor to be Xavier himself… the X-man who was supposed to kill Xavier was himself?

Well, whatever.

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I gotta wonder, just what exactly did Alan Davis’ idea for Rebirth entail?
What little is mentioned here sounds very damned interesting, more than the actual story Rebirth ended up being.
Alas, the world may never know.

ParanoidObsessive

November 10, 2008 at 9:39 pm

>>> Soundwave turned into a communications relay on Cybertron.

In the original cartoon mini-series, Soundwave basically transformed into something that looked suspiciously like a Cybertronian lamp-post.

>>> Ergo, I guess they just created their own names once they were on Earth to communicate with the populace (though that’s never formally explained). Though why they use they’re Earth name in stories that take place before they get to Earth is a good question…

It’s usually referred to as a translation convention – the premise that giant alien talking robots are using their own language, names, and terminology (most likely in some sort of binary language or digital computer-speak humans could never understand), and that they’re only presented as speaking English so that the READER (ie, us) have a chance to actually understand what’s going on.

Thus, since they’re already translating everything the various robots are saying to each other on Cybertron into English (millions of years before the English language actually existed, mind you), they just go ahead and translate their names as well, into the versions that the readers would recognize.

For Lobdell fence sitters, check out those early Gen X issues. Beautiful stuff. (Or maybe it’s just my love of Bachalo showing.)

Lobdell is no 1980s Claremont, but he’s no Austen, either. It kept the book alive during a horrible decade.

I agree that Claremont post Dallas is lackluster, but my first contact with the X-books (outside Wolverine’s Canadian appearance in McFarlane adjectiveless Spidey) was Claremont/Lee’s three issues of adjectiveless X-Men and it really drew me in as a sprawling, beautiful world of great, strong characters. (Yes, I read the books out of order.)

I think X-Men Forever is certainly very addicting, even if I’m still waiting for it to become either good or bad. (There’s been some great moments but some missing characters and some really weird decisions—mutants die young? And it was a secret? And now every Tom, Dick and tertiary character talks about it all the time?)

Overall, Claremont is one of my heroes. Just cross out 90% of the captions and you have masterful, compressed comics!

“”There’s been some great moments but some missing characters and some really weird decisions—mutants die young? And it was a secret? And now every Tom, Dick and tertiary character talks about it all the time?”"

What even more ridiculous is that even 40 is enough time to make them a viable species (heck, going on Carousel at 30 worked just fine), so there’s no point to the hubbub in that regard.

It’s just strange to me to read what you guys have to say about 90′s comics. I guess I’m just getting old. I started collecting comics in the late 70′s, but got burned out by the mid-80′s. Since, then I mainly buy back issues or collections, plus the occasional new issue that interests me, but If keeping up with continuity was daunting in the 80′s, it’s no less daunting now, even given the occasional “house-cleaning’ that Marvel and DC do. Or perhaps even because of it.

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