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Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #75

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

Let’s begin!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Masters of the Universe was a reworked Fourth World movie.


A significant number of fans of the film Masters of the Universe suggest that the film is really a reworked Fourth World film.


The film features characters that seem like they have analogues from Jack Kirby’s classic Fourth World series of comics: Orion (He-Man), Kalibak (Beast Man), Kanto (Blade), and Darkseid (Skeletor).


The way that they travel in the film from Eternia to Earth is essentially a Boom Tube, and there’s a lot of other similar touches.

However, the film itself was not intended to be literally a reworked Fourth World, although the intent WAS to make the film a tribute to Jack Kirby – just a tribute to ALL of his work, not just the Fourth World.

Writer/artist John Byrne was quoted in Comic Shop News #497 as saying, “The best New Gods movie, IMHO, is ´Masters of the Universe´. I even corresponded with the director, who told me this was his intent, and that he had tried to get Kirby to do the production designs, but the studio nixed it.” This is probably where most of the confusion comes from, for while Byrne is basically correct, his statement that the intent of the film was to be a New Gods movie does not match what the director, Gary Goddard, wrote to Byrne in the letter column of Next Men #26, in response to a comment Byrne had made in an earlier column about the similarities between the film and the Fourth World comics.

In that column, Goddard wrote:

As the director of Masters of the Universe, it was a pleasure to see that someone got it. Your comparison of the film to Kirby’s New Gods was not far off. In fact, the storyline was greatly inspired by the classic Fantastic Four/Doctor Doom epics, The New Gods and a bit of Thor thrown in here and there. I intended the film to be a “motion picture comic book,” though it was a tough proposition to sell to the studio at the time. “Comics are just for kids,” they thought. They would not allow me to hire Jack Kirby who I desperately wanted to be the conceptual artist for the picture…

I grew up with Kirby’s comics (I’ve still got all my Marvels from the first issue of Fantastic Four and Spider-Man through the time Kirby left) and I had great pleasure meeting him when he first moved to California. Since that time I enjoyed the friendship of Jack and Roz and was lucky enough to spend many hours with Jack, hearing how he created this character and that one, why a villain has to be even more powerful than a hero, and on and on. Jack was a great communicator, and listening to him was always an education. You might be interested to know that I tried to dedicate Masters of Universe to Jack Kirby in the closing credits, but the studio took the credit out.

Still, whether the film was literally a Fourth World remake or not, the devotion to the work of Jack Kirby remains, and it is quite interesting on Goddard’s part.

Thanks to Bright Raven for finding me the right issue of Next Men and Ryan Day for sending me a copy of the letter. Thanks to yo go re for suggesting this one (it was on the to-do list anyways, but I figure, might as well mention it).

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I actually like the sound of that Puppet Master x-over more than the actual Onslaught story. Not that I didn’t enjoy the Onslaught storyline — mostly as a conceit to get to “Heroes Reborn” and for paving the way to the Thunderbolts — but there’s something interesting in having the Puppet Master as the lead villain in a major event.

Have a good day.
John Cage

A black woman that turns into a cat! Let’s call her Black Cat! There must’ve gone a creative process of at least 20 seconds into that one! That Tempest looks pretty lame too, so I guess they ultimately made the best decision.

“This gives the Thing the strength to get up. He’s groggy, but he manages to come face-to-face with the Puppet Master, whispering, ‘It’s clobberin’ time!!’”

He’s whispering “It’s clobberin’ time!!”

And that’s why Morrison and Millar are brilliant.

“A black woman that turns into a cat! Let’s call her Black Cat!”

Ben Grimm, you are a rock like thing of a man, you will be known as….The Thing! Sue Storm, you are a woman with the power to turn invisable, the Invisable Woman is your name from now on! Johnny Storm. You are a human, and yet, you are a torch! The Human Torch. Ah, and Reed Richards. You have the ability to stretch your arms like a rubber band. Your name? Mister Fantastic.

Eh, can’t all be winners.

The part of Adam Jones will be played by Norm MacDonald this evening.

Credit your sources!

yeah, I gotta say, the Puppet Master idea sounds TONS better than “Onslaught” was.

Of course, I’m sure there’s an alternate reality one or two removed from our own where the Urban Legend was all about how there was a scrapped plan for Professor X to wipe Magneto’s mind and turn evil, thus destroying the Marvel heroes. And the people there think it sounds TONS better than “Feat of Clay” was…

Re: the Black Cat… I think you have the wrong character in the top picture. I believe that’s Power Boy, based on the atomic sign on his costume and his atomic fists (and that’s Reflecto next to him). If you look at Urban Legends #60, that has the whole team picture. Typhoon was probably the one on the right side, Quetzal is the winged one and the large face in the middle.

The picture of Black Cat was from the X-Men Anniversary Magazine, which had this on Storm’s history:

“Storm is perhaps the best example of how a character’s look develops from creative conception to creative result. In the early 1970’s, Dave Cockrum had hoped to create a new super-group for use in DC’s Legion of Super-Heroes. Before that happened, he moved to Marvel and the X-Men project. For the new X-Men, Wein and [editor] Roy Thomas had conceived of a male X-Man with the power to manipulate weather. Cockrum had already designed an alluring female named Quetzal, but everyone thought Dave’s design for an African-American shape shifter named the Black Cat better fit the X-look, so the took the Black Cat’s powers, and Quetzal’s beautiful features, and combined them into Storm. The white hair was one of Dave’s last-minute inspirations (just as long as it doesn’t make her look like somebody’s grandmother, warned Wein), and the cloak was a holdover from the go-go Marvel Girl design. Nothing creative ever goes to waste.”


November 3, 2006 at 9:55 am

Here’s an Urban Legend that is SIMILAR to your “Evil Prof. X” story.

In the 2nd series of THE DEFENDERS, all the clues were laid bare as to having DOCTOR STRANGE go “dark”, and then HE’D be the one to be evil in “The ORDER” (which was originally to be titled “OVERLORDS”).

His taking possession of the STAR OF CAPISTAN (what had once turned him into the RED RAJAH – hack in the 1970’s DEFENDERS series) was but ONE of the MANY mind-altering artifacts that he collected in the 2nd run.
The Serpent Crown being another.

So, then the story changed and it became ALL the DEFENDERS were “turned bad” by YANDROTH.

So…what happened to the original tale?

I would have LOVED to have seen Dr. Strange go all epic on Marvel’s collective asses!


Oops, forgot to put a link. See this page for colorized pictures of Typhoon, Quetzal, Power Boy, and Black Cat, all from Cockrum’s original designs.

Wow, that X-Terminus story sounds pretty awesome. I’m really disappointed that Marvel passed on that.

Your absolutly right, I forgot to write that part.

Trust me, I’m not the kind of dude who takes credit for other people’s work. Just slipped my mind. My apologies to Norm, because I’m sure he reads these comments.

MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE may not have been reworked NEW GODS, but I read somewhere that the Van Damme movie CYBORG started off as MASTERS 2…

They didn’t get Kirby, but they did get William Stout on production design (according to IMDB).

I always thought Paul Chadwick worked on it (his Concrete: Fragile Creature seemed loosely based around the production of that movie), but he didn’t. Maybe Stout related production stories to Chadwick.

They didn’t get Kirby, but they did get William Stout on production design (according to IMDB).

Yeah, Goddard mentions that in the letter (I probably should have left that part in…hehe).

It’s weird, too, he got Stout solely because Stout had done film work before. That’s a sad statement on the thoughts of movie executives – turn down the inspiration of the movie because he’s a comic book artist, but accept a different comic book artist because he had SOME film experience.

Has the fact that Xavier had ALREADY spawned an evil world-destroying version of himself (in the X-Men/Micronauts miniseries, from the 80’s) been mentioned here already? No connection to Onslaught that I know of, still, the X-Men shouldn’t have been too surprised about Onslaught’s identity.

And that story using the Puppet Master as evil, with his daughter saving him, is ironic considering the fact that it was Alicia who caused his madness in the first place, in a story where she was accidentally sent to the past and tried to warn him, but only succeeded in causing the accident that killed her parents, blinded her, and drove PM nuts in the first place.

Re: Oops, forgot to put a link. See this page for colorized pictures of Typhoon, Quetzal, Power Boy, and Black Cat, all from Cockrum’s original designs.

There’s the same picture(but not original) used in #60 of Urban Legends

Thank god we were saved from another black superhero with the word “black” in their name.

You guys should mention that moebius was highered to do some concept design work…a pretty darn good/influential artist in his own right.

How about a urban legends covering VAN DAME “Cybor” movie, which was a He-Man sequel in disguise? If that one wasn’t covered already?

Actually I can confirm that “Master of the Universe 2″ script eventually morphed into “Cyborg”.

MotU was the last movie from Cannon Cinema as the company was not on good financial footing for a long while. This caused many changes to the script, such as changing the (constantly floating) Orko character into a dwarf named “Gwildor”, moving the setting from Eternia to Earth, and trunchiating the ending battle between He-Man and Skeletor.

Cannon Cinema was in bankruptcy by the time the movie was released.

Cannon Cinema reorganized into Cannon Films (great name change, your creditors will never find you) and tried to use their option to do a second “Masters of the Universe” and shoot it back to back with a live action version of “Spider-Man” (were James “Terminator” Cameron’s contract was at the time).

Both Mattel (owners of He-Man) and Marvel demanded up front licensing fees for use of the characters instead of the agreed profit sharing. Cannon Films could no longer afford the He-Man or Spider-Man rights, James Cameron’s salary, or Dolph Lungred (who was seen as a poor man’s Schwarzenegger at the time).

One of the only things Cannon owned of any value was the contract of Jean-Claude Van Damme, who was locked into a 6 picture $70,000 dollar deal. Intintially it was only thought that Van Damme with his limited English and boyish looks would never be a star, but “Bloodsport” proved them wrong.

So the script for Masters of the Universe 2 was quickly rewritten into a low budget, ultra-violent Van Damme flick with no connection to Marvel or Mattel. “Cyborg” was released and became a moderate success (due mostly to Van Damme’s $70,000 salary and use of paintball guns instead of prop firearms and squibs). This did not save Cannon films, which quickly went under, or Van Damme, whose early cinema success only netted him a total of $420,000 (“Bloodsport” thru “Death Warrant”).

Since Cannon went belly up directly after the distrubution of this film no one paid attention to the Asian distribution were it was billed as “Masters of the Universe 2: Cyborg”. Due to the trickle down effect it has appeared as such in a few US cable markets as MotU 2.

Consequentially, Cyborg became a bit of a hit in its own right, spawning direct-to-video sequels. I suggest finding “Cyborg 2″ just to see Jack Palance and a (pre-surgury) Angelina Jolie.

If you want to see a movie with a ton of Kirby references, check out the sci-fi flick “Abraxsus” with Jesse “the Body” Ventura. The villain comes to Earth through a Boom Tube-like portal and starts looking for the Anti-Life Equation. Ventura follows him here and tracks him with advice from a talking box. Unintentional hilarity ensues! If you check those $1 DVD sections in a few places, you’ll probably find it.

Thank you so much for clearing up the MoTU confusion; and I also second the validity of the MoTU II -> Cyborg information.

I don’t doubt the MoTU II-Cyborg thing, but it doesn’t really have a comic book connection, does it?

If it did, I’d gladly run with it!

Brian – are you going to update the article with the corrected picture of Tempest and the addition of Quetzal to the Storm mix? (See comments #7 and 9)

Afraid not, Michael, sorry.

Ack, sorry I screwed you up a bit, but thanks for updating the article. The character’s name is Typhoon, not Tempest, and Quetzal is the bird-like woman, not the black woman (who’s named Trio). For a scorecard of that group of characters (Cockrum’s Outsiders), go here.

Hehe…thanks, Michael.

The first link wouldn’t open, so I was totally lost. :)

Yeah I agree, there is not much of a comic book connection besides the fact that they wanted to use the same sets from MotU 2 for the aborted Spiderman movie. Figured it was best to clear it up in responses.

I always felt a little sorry for Van Damme. The period he was worth the most money was when he was paid the least.

But I would like to know more about the various rumors of Jack Kirby and Steve Gerber inventing Thundarr the Barbarian.

Is it true that artists Frank Quitely and While Portacio use pen names?

If you want to see a movie with a ton of Kirby references, check out the sci-fi flick “Abraxsus” with Jesse “the Body” Ventura. The villain comes to Earth through a Boom Tube-like portal and starts looking for the Anti-Life Equation. Ventura follows him here and tracks him with advice from a talking box. Unintentional hilarity ensues! If you check those $1 DVD sections in a few places, you’ll probably find it.

Dear lord, that was a horrible film. I can usually sit through some of the worst chessefests ever made, but when it came to “Abraxis,” I most have fast forwarded through at least a quarter of it, probably more. As for the repeated references to the Anti-Life Equation, well, I think Kirby must have been spinning in his grave.

Marcello S. Nicola

November 6, 2006 at 7:04 pm

I didn´t know about the MOTU film –
Kirby connection, but wasn´t the original
HE-MAN cartoon based on toys Mattel
originally made for the CONAN movie?

Quite Frankly Frank Quitely does!

Sorry, but you seem to have a couple mistakes in the “Storm” origin article.

First and easiest is you list the “Typhoon” character as a precursor to Storm but list his name as “Tempest” when giving credit (and blame!), even when the sketch of the cropped character sketch you reference clearly lists “Typhoon” as a name in the whole picture.

The other one is a little harder to figure out. You said: “When it came to Storm, the character who became Storm was originally two separate characters.

First, there was Quetzal, who Cockrum took Quetzal’s look and gave it to a character named Black Cat, who could shapeshift.”

This second statement is false, but mostly just semantically. Quetzal’s “look” was never given to Black Cat. Quetzal’s look (her blank eyes and hairstyle only) was ADDED to Black Cat as part of the creation of Storm.

You’re missing a character in the entire process: “Trio” from Dave’s rejected “Outsiders” pitch. To fix your statement above, it should read “First, there was Trio, who Cockrum took Trio’s look and gave it to a character named Black Cat, who could shapeshift. Then he added features from other characters…”

Sure, Black Cat was a redesign of Trio that VERY closely resembled Storm’s costume (minus the cloak) but she needs to be added into the mix not just for her inspiration of Black Cat, but also the Headdress and Gem-clasped cape!

That makes Storm an amalgam of no less than FOUR previous Cockrum creations!

1. Trio’s ethnicity, headdress and gem-clasped cape
2. Quetzal’s eyes and flowing hairstyle (not counting the color)
3. Black Cat’s ethnicity, main “bathing suit” costume piece and thigh-high boots
4. Typhoon’s powers and flowing long cape

But wait, there’s more! Dave also did a redesigned costume for Marvel Girl – at the same time as he did the Black Cat design – which included a cape attached to bracelets as well as having a gem-clasp. Sound familiar? That adds character FIVE to Storm’s original design!

5. Marvel Girl’s new (unused) costume’s bracelet-attached, gem-clasped cape


Most additional info found here:
which ironically contains a mis-typed reference to your own CBULR page. (CBULR #56 to be specific)

Thanks for the corrections, The Unnamed One!

Good work!

It kind of seems like the story of an alternate time/dimension wolverine meeting a younger version of his future wife and having to be around her was passed on to Bishop and Psylocke in the Ultimate X-men series.

Which is even funnier since on the cover of 84 Ultimate Psylocke looks a hell of a lot more like an Ultimate Jubilee.

Look’s like Cockrum also used Black Cat’s hair for Wolverine.

Another great Morrison-Millar pitch Marvel were too dumb to use. Shame.

I like how a lot of the answers to these legends are “false…but really true.” So Kirby’s New Gods WERE the inspiration for the He Man movie…but not really. Way to make this really confusing.

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