Axel-In-Charge: Unmasking the "Totally Awesome Hulk"
This is the eighty-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 eighty-one. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Both the writer and creator of the first African-American comic book character to have his own book are unknown.
In late 1965, Dell Comics debuted a truly unique western comic book. The title? Lobo. The character? An African-American cowboy!
The character thereby became the first African-American comic book character to ever star in his or her own comic book.
The title only lasted for two issues, but after its second issue, there wasn’t another black headliner until Luke Cage, Hero For Hire, which was a good six years later!
A common perception surrounding this comic, which was drawn by Tony Tallarico, was that the writer (and creator) of the comic was unknown. Wikipedia lists it as unknown, as does the Grand Comic Book Database.
When Coville asks him about the origins of Lobo, Tallarico responds:
[A]bout that time I had an idea for Lobo. And I approached D. J. Arneson and he brought it in and showed it to Helen Meyer. Helen Meyer was the editor of all of Dell. She was the first female to become the president of a publishing company. A very important historical note, Helen Meyer. She loved it. She really wanted to do it. Great, so we did it.
We did the first issue. And in comics, you start the 2nd issue as they’re printing the first one due to time limitations. We did the 2nd one and it was being separated while the first one was being distributed. All of the sudden they stopped the wagon. They stopped production on the issue. They discovered that as they were sending out bundles of comics out to the distributors and they were being returned unopened. And I couldn’t figure out why? So they sniffed around, scouted around and discovered they were opposed to Lobo. Who was the first black western hero. That was the end of the book. It sold nothing. They printed 200,000 that was the going print rate. They sold.. oh.. 10-15 thousand. It was tremendous because they never got on to the newsstand.
So that was the end of Lobo. It’s kind of funny because after all these years Temple [University – School of Arts and Sciences] honored me for doing it. It never succeeded on the stands but it did break a little ground I hope.
But because Coville has a keen ear for comic book history, he decided to make sure about the great unknown, so he presses the issue later on:
Coville: Who wrote Lobo, the first issue?
Tallarico: We wrote it together D. J. Arneson and I. It was my idea and I knew what I wanted to do and he just put it together.
C:Okay that was the big question we all had. We knew that you drew it but we didn’t know who created the character and what was behind it.
T: I created and D. J. and I, we wrote it together. It wasn’t really writing, it was interpreting the character, I guess we wrote it.
C: Was he scripting it or more plotting it?
T: I really plotted it. He scripted it.
So there you have it, thanks to Jamie Coville, we now know who created Lobo, and who wrote it!
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Jim Steinman is attempting to make a Batman musical.
You may not know who Jim Steinman is just by hearing his name, but you probably have heard his work before.
Steinman is the brains behind the massively successful album, Bat out of Hell, with singer Meat Loaf.
He also wrote hit songs for Bonnie Tyler (“Total Eclipse of the Heart”) and Celine Dion (“It’s All Coming Back to me Now”).
However, what Steinman has been trying to get off the ground for years now, is a musical based on, of all things, Batman!
He sure loves his bats, huh?
Interestingly enough, the musical came VERY close to being done a little while ago, and Steinman has already written the songs for the show (with writer David Ives writing the book).
The website Dark Knight Of The Soul catalogues the developments of the musical, and here is how it describes what happened:
Not many people are aware that Warner Bros. Theater Ventures, a new wing of one of the most powerful entertainment forces in the world, announced a BATMAN musical in 1998. Believe it or not, this is true.
Jim Steinman, creator of Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell saga, was tapped to compose, alongside David Ives, who would write the book (the “spoken” parts). The Broadway “Premiere” was announced for 2001, which quickly deteriorated…
Then, in 2002, in the lead-up to the premiere of Jim Steinman’s “Dance of the Vampires” (at the Minskoff Theater, New York) a new break-through was announced. Tim Burton, director of the original and much-beloved Batman franchise, would helm the stage show for a 2004 out-of-town try-out and, then, 2005 Broadway premiere!
Everything seemed perfect. Warner’s were on the verge of discovering new heights with their Batman franchise, Michael Crawford – one of the greatest stars of the musical theatre – was to appear as the lead in “Dance of the Vampires” and Steinman’s 30-year struggle to get a show on Broadway was nearing an end. However…
“Vampires”, and Crawford’s performance, severely distracted from the show it was based on, still a phenomenon in Germany. The show was utterly trashed and closed in a matter of months. In the end it played 65 previews which was more than the 56 (troubled) performances it endured.
In the darkest hours of that production, worked continued on “Batman”. Jim Steinman, and his long-time recording associate, Steven Rinkoff, met and recorded “The Batman Demos” at The Hit Factory, New York. Later, this historic studio would be demolished. Rob Evan starred in the role of Batman, with Karine Hannah as Catwoman and contributions from Elaine Caswell, the original vocalist of Steinman’s HIT for Celine Dion “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now”, and Steinman himself.
Believing there was *still* hope for the project, while exploring other options, Warner Bros. (supposedly) called and announced the project was “cancelled”. Whatever the case, none of the announced dates were met. Tim Burton has released over four movies since. Steinman is working on “Bat Out Of Hell: The Musical”, a spectacular co-written with Terry Jones (of Monty Python fame) and Warner Bros. produced the mammoth flop “Lestat” as the production that *should* have been “Batman”
However, back in April of 2006, “Lestat” producer Gregg Maday stated that “he hasn’t given up on “Batman,” so there is hope!
Dark Knight Of The Soul also helps us by linking to all the songs that Steinman wrote for the musical (two of which, “In the Land of the Pig the Butcher is King” and “Cry to Heaven,” where included on Meat Loaf’s latest album), with lyrics and links to Steinman’s released versions of the songs. Here are the links.
As a fan of Steinman’s work, I hope this gets worked out. Imagine a Batman musical!!
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Kurt Busiek adapted his idea for Marvels II into Astro City: The Dark Age, years after the fact.
My hero, Scott Braden, of Overstreet Magazine, explored back in the late 90s a comic idea that fell apart, which was Kurt Busiek’s sequel to Marvels.
Here’s Busiek on describing his view towards a sequel to Marvels:
“At first, I wasn’t that interested in doing a sequel,” Busiek said, “while Alex definitely didn’t want to do one. On the other hand, Alex and I did talk about several different ways we would do a sequel to Marvels. At one point, we discussed doing just stories about different points in Marvel history and human perspectives on them. For example, we might see the story of a hospital worker who’s working in a Dallas hospital the night that the X-Men ‘died’, or we might tell the story of one of the bums who was living in a bowery flophouse when the Sub-Mariner was a amnesiac there. We’d sort of move back and forth and around in Marvel history.”
Though Busiek and Ross casually tossed around various ideas that they might’ve wanted to see in a sequel, there was one specific character that they didn’t want to touch. “One of the things that Alex and I talked about in the event that we did do a sequel, was not using Phil Sheldon. So I came up with a story that, instead of using the witness’ eye view of the Marvel Universe, would involve the fringe participant’s eye view at what life was like for the people that got involved in this superhero stuff.”
Ultimately, though, Busiek DID come up with an idea for a Marvels II. Here is the idea he came up with:
Charles and Royal Williams–two men whose lives changed forever after their parents were killed during a battle between Captain America and Hydra. The four issue series would tell the brothers’ quest for vengeance, as well as become a study in obsession that mirrors the new breed of Marvel heroes that were being introduced at the time.
“As a result, Charles would be driven to find a way to impose order and security on a chaotic world and become a cop, while Royal’s faith in society’s ‘rules’ would be shattered, driving him to rebellion and crime,” Busiek wrote in his original proposal for the series.
Intending to show how the brothers interacted with the Marvel Universe in the first issue, Busiek was going to have Charles, a beat cop at the time, be part of an attempt to bring Spider-Man in for questioning. At the same time, Royal would start his career in crime working as a petty thief; finding himself stopped by the likes of the Human Torch or Iron Man–heroes who wanted only to apprehend the criminal for authorities, not punish them. The problem for Royal was that times were changing, and a new type of “hero” was lurking in the shadows.
The comic, which was to be called, Marvels: Cops and Robbers, never materialized, mostly because Busiek did not feel as though the artist chosen for the project completely meshed with his vision of the comic.
However, does the above idea sound familiar?
If so, it should, as that is the plot of Busiek’s recent mini-series for Astro City, titled Astro City: Dark Age.
Busiek took the idea of Marvels II, and reworked it into Dark Age.
An amusing aspect of it all is that Busiek SAID he was going to do that (adapt his unused Marvels II story as an Astro City story), in Braden’s article, which came out almost a decade ago!
Funny, how time flies when you’re having fun, eh?
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free to drop off any urban legends you’d like to see featured!
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