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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #82

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.

Let’s begin!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Both the writer and creator of the first African-American comic book character to have his own book are unknown.

STATUS: False

In late 1965, Dell Comics debuted a truly unique western comic book. The title? Lobo. The character? An African-American cowboy!

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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!

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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.

Luckily for us, Jamie Coville was on the case, in an interview at his regular Coville’s Clubhouse feature at Collector’s Times, with Tallarico himself.

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!

Cool, huh?

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Jim Steinman is attempting to make a Batman musical.

STATUS: True

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.

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He also wrote hit songs for Bonnie Tyler (“Total Eclipse of the Heart”) and Celine Dion (“It’s All Coming Back to me Now”).

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However, what Steinman has been trying to get off the ground for years now, is a musical based on, of all things, Batman!

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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.

STATUS: True

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.

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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.

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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!

49 Comments

FunkyGreenJerusalem

December 22, 2006 at 5:49 am

Personally I’m glad that there is no Batman musical.
I’m not a big Meatloaf fan (or that style of music), except after a few drinks at a party – and then it’s mainly for me to laugh at it.
I just can’t see any way that it wouldn’t be tacky affair. It’s been quite a while actually since I saw any musical that wasn’t a tacky affair.
I’d much rather sit through a 60′s Batman tv show marathon, and I feel that the Batman show is a joke that gets old after a couple of minutes.

You have a typo Brian when you say “Coville has a key ear”. I think you meen to say ‘keen ear’, unless you actually mean his ear can unlock doors and/or is intrinisic to a certain process. In both cases I hope he has it insured!

“… a superstitious, cowardly lot.”

That’s absolutely my favorite episode of Batman Beyond.

And it sounds like Punisher was going to be in the Blue Knight role in Marvels II

“As a fan of Steinman’s work, I hope this gets worked out. Imagine a Batman musical!!”

I tried but I’m with FGJ on this one, it would be worse than the 60′s show.

Are you sure about Lobo being the first African American to star in his own comic? I know from leafing through the Overstreet guide, there were a lot of comics like “Nergo Romances”, and I would have assumed that one of them had a lead, continuing character.

I’ll look though the Overstreet guide this weekend to make sure.

does anyone read frank and ernest? the Batman Musical should be called “A Riddler on the Roof”! Ha Ha! get it?

Is that Tallarico interview online? The link just points to the main site, and I’m unable to find the interview there.

Wasn’t there a comic in the 40′s that was handed out as a freebie to black people about STD’s, that was named after the protagonist? I remember Scott Shaw! doing an article on that.

The interview (both text and my recorded phone call) are online here:

http://www.collectortimes.com/2006_08/Clubhouse.html

I recall an tv episode of Batman Beyond where Terry convinced a clearly suffering Bruce Wayne to witness a Batman musical. I suppose if Steinman wanted to put a bat back into hell, this would be the way to do it.

I’ve listened to some of the songs for that musical. They are awful. And not awful in a cute way, or anything – they’re just plain terrible. They could cause physical pain.

I can’t believe newsstands refused Lobo because the character was black. How cheap.

So who’s writing the new Marvels II? The one Jay Anacleto’s been working on for, like, half a decade, now…

“I can’t believe newsstands refused Lobo because the character was black.”

Really? You can’t?

Here you are a newsstand owner, barely making ends meet, and you open up the box and see the black protagonist on the cover, and you think, “Gee that’s swell. Now i’m gonna have folks throwing bricks through the window or burning out my shop just because i put a lousy comic book on the shelf. Who needs the grief?” And with “folks” you aren’t thinking of everyone in town–you’re just thinking of that one guy down the street who’s always angry about stupid stuff, but still, it’s just a comic book. So you send it back.

You (and Dell) might not be able to see it, but apparently the distributors could.

Yes, there is prejudice at play here, but there’s also a need to pick your battles. i speculate that it wasn’t entirely unkind for the distributors to veto setting up this particular battlefield on the doorstep of their retailers without some form of previous buy-in or at least advance warning.

The take-away lesson for me is twofold:

First, that you have to lay groundwork for change on social justice issues. Meyer did in fact have an opportunity here, but she doesn’t seem to have made the necessary preparations to capitalize on it. She didn’t provide any preview of the content, she didn’t target the market, or consider the size of the print-run.

Very curious. And i’d really be interested in the answer. It’s 1965, and it’s getting hot out there, as far as race-related issues are concerned. Why didn’t Meyer anticipate this situation?

Second, is just a reinforcement of something it would be nice to forget: comics began, continue to be, always will be the illegitimate offspring of art and commerce. Can’t get around it.

Really a shame too. i would have liked this comic as a kid. At least until issue 2, where the gunfighter seems to have joined the SCA. But then, as a kid, i took myself much too seriously. :)

Is D. J. Arneson still alive? It would be great to be able to confirm Coville’s story of who wrote what how and who created the character.

I’m not saying he’s a liar, but a lot of years have passed. If Stan Lee can still get it wrong…

Yeah, that Batman musical sounds like the worst thing ever. I remember when this was announced a while back, and all my theatre friends made fun of it mercilessly. You know something’s lame when musical theatre people make fun of it.

the fact that Tim Burton was connected to the musical gave me some hope for the set designs, at least, but yeah… i’m not sure how Batman would translate as a Broadway musical. perhaps something operatic with heavy, gothic influences, but even then i’m not so sure.

the thing with stage productions is that it’s a completely different medium that uses different tricks and methods to convey the action and tell the story. they use a sort of visual shorthand and a language virtually all their own that’s not used in movies or print to convey passage of time, scene transitions, etc. in this day and age of successful super hero films with amazing special effects, translating Batman or any other super character to the stage would have to be done carefully… too much and it may look laughable, too little and you lose the fantastic elements.

as i think about it a little bit more, Batman may (MAY) work on the stage if they did a very stripped down version that focused on the tragedy of losing his parents and the torment and baggage he carries with him to adulthood, as he becomes this dark avenger of the night. stay away from the goofier and fantastical elements of the mythos, and it could be do-able, but then the question is how much to can you trim down and still have it be an effective Batman story?
-r-

Apododaca-

“Yeah, that Batman musical sounds like the worst thing ever. I remember when this was announced a while back, and all my theatre friends made fun of it mercilessly. You know something’s lame when musical theatre people make fun of it.”

Musical theatre people don’t understand the genuius of Meatloaf. It’s like trying to teach differential calculus to a baby. There puny little minds are just incapable of grasping it.

*I* want my damn Batman musical. And I want it to be the goofiest thing ever.

That reminds me- does anyone else remember how there was talk of a Captain America musical around 1987 or so?

“TV’s Grady said …

That reminds me- does anyone else remember how there was talk of a Captain America musical around 1987 or so?”

Sure. Marvel even put out a casting call on the Bullpen Bulletins page.

As for the idea of a Batman musical, I don’t see how it’s any worse an idea than musicals about the Phantom of the Opera or Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde or the life of Evita Perron. It’s all in the execution.

From Wikkipedia’s entry on Captain America:

Musical theatre

In 1985, a musical about Captain America was announced for Broadway. The piece, written by Mel Mandel and Norman Sachs, never actually premiered, although recordings of the score have surfaced.[58]

“Dance of the Vampires” crashing and burning makes me sad.

That is all.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

December 22, 2006 at 10:51 pm

“As for the idea of a Batman musical, I don’t see how it’s any worse an idea than musicals about the Phantom of the Opera or Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde or the life of Evita Perron”

Sure, no worse – but is it a good thing that we have those in the world?

“Sure, no worse – but is it a good thing that we have those in the world?”

Yes.

…the first one, anyway.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

December 23, 2006 at 4:07 am

“Yes.

…the first one, anyway.”

Have you listened to it lately?

Loved when I was young, but personally, I don’t think Webber’s love of the synth has aged so well.

It seems natural Steinman would thing about a Batman musical. Meat Loaf is to rock’n’roll what Adam West is to superheroes.

I wonder when did Busiek write the first pitch for Marvels II, as Marvel’s not-so-good-kind-of-a-sequel, Code of Honor, had the story seen from a cop’s POV.

And the revenge theme was used in 1996 in the “Punisher kills the Marvel Universe” one-shot.

PC

Even if it had been distributed, Lobo had Tallorico art — look at those covers again and tell me if you would buy that book when there’s such good other stuff from other companies out there.

and it’s very, very easy for us to forget the riots and violence happening in terms of race in 1965. This is three years BEFORE MLK, Jr. was assassinated, people. In 1965, Vietnam wasn’t the protest movement on the news every night, race relations were. and a newsstand dealer is going to risk that kind of negative reaction for 2 cents profit?

and still, it was Tallorico art. Plus, Dell and Western/Whitman had split — Dell was in the interesting position of being a huge comic book company with no product to sell since Whitman controlled all the licensing and had rolled the titles over to their Gold Key line. Dell needed product for their distribution channels. There is little to nothing produced by Dell after the Gold Key split that is worth reading. Dell, by that time, was the equivalent of the West-Coast version of Charlton.

Hmm, I VAGUELY recall hearing a similar story involving either John Stewart or Jim Rhodes causing controversy when they replaced a white hero, with stores refusing to carry it and whatnot. Any truth to this?

Re. Steinman/Batman: I have not yet listened to the sound files, but I scanned the lyrics and noticed that the chorus to the Catwoman’s first song–which goes, “I need all the love I can get/And I need all the love that I can’t get to(o)”–is directly cribbed from a circa-1990 song that Seinman cowrote with The Sisters of Mercy, called “More” (album, “Vision Thing”). I wonder what other Steinman back-catalogue trawling is going on in there?

Re. Steinman/Batman: I have not yet listened to the sound files, but I scanned the lyrics and noticed that the chorus to the Catwoman’s first song–which goes, “I need all the love I can get/And I need all the love that I can’t get to(o)”–is directly cribbed from a circa-1990 song that Steinman cowrote with The Sisters of Mercy, called “More” (album, “Vision Thing”). I wonder what other Steinman back-catalogue trawling is going on in there?

“I wonder what other Steinman back-catalogue trawling is going on in there?”

Are you kidding? The man’s turned cannibalizing his earlier work into an artform. Half the songs in Meat Loaf’s catalogue were written by Steinman for himself or another artist to sing first.

“Dance of the Vampires” could have been a Steinman Best-Of album.

“Bat Out of Hell III” could have been titles “Meat Loaf sings old Steinman songs that were written for someone else.”

“Have you listened to it lately?

Loved when I was young, but personally, I don’t think Webber’s love of the synth has aged so well.”

I actually heard it for the first time last year. It’s possible I’ll stop loving it years from now too, but that isn’t the case yet. :)

re: Batman Musical

It wouldn’t be the first…and I don’t mean the Captain America production…
There WAS a Superman musical.
Check it out here…
http://www.supermanhomepage.com/other/other.php?topic=w-broadway

Enjoy

I have seen a production of the Superman musical and it was quite a lot of fun!

Pack said (quoting Wikipedia), recordings of the score have surfaced

Got any links to those online? I relish the cringe factor. Links to songs from the Superman musical would be awesome, too.

Now wasn’t there also a Spider-Man musical at some point, too?

Hey… I don’t know if this is the correct way to submit new legend ideas to you, but maybe you could get to the bottom of this insane rumour, or bit of truth…

http://forums.comicbookresources.com/showthread.php?t=156672&page=3

Check out post #32, from the above thread on CBR’s own classic comics forum. Was Vince Colletta a pimp in the 50′s… owned by the mob? Love your look at legends of the comic book field!

B-D

Another urban legend that popped into my head

The first visual depiction outside of the comics of the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne was in Galactic Guardians Super Powers.

True

This episode also had the Scarecrow in it, similar to Batman Begins.

I suspect that Batman musical would be “Fabio, Dark Phantom Knight Of The Gotham Opera”, some barechested man-hunk with out-of-style flowing hair, acting all angsty in dramatic lighting.

A far better Batman musical would probably come from a combination of Dini, Timm, and the guys who did Avenue Q (as long as they didn’t write it too much as making fun of geeks.)

Instead of “Riddler on the Roof”, the could call it “Riddler on the Hoof”.

Actually, now that I think of it, I bet a genuinely good comic opera could be based on Mad Love, about the Joker and Harley Quinn.

1965? Hell, in 1965 there was still a sign at the limits of Garland Texas that read, “N* don’t let the sun fall on you in this town” I bring this up because I can totally see a comic book with a black hero on the cover to be refused at the distributor level. It’s a damn shame, and it took TOO LONG for things to change (and haven’t changed enough IMO). But yea.. Black Western? Newstands wouldn’t have carried it due to either their own rascism, or fear of reprisal.

*(I self-censored because I didn’t want to insult anyone overly sensative to it’s use, even in a historical context)

“… a superstitious, cowardly lot.”

That’s absolutely my favorite episode of Batman Beyond.

I never caught the opening of that episode on TV. However, thanks to the miracle of YouTube:

Batman: The Musical

Rob Schamberger said …

“Wasn’t there a comic in the 40’s that was handed out as a freebie to black people about STD’s, that was named after the protagonist? I remember Scott Shaw! doing an article on that.”

That’s LITTLE WILLIE from 1949, a comic that was written and drawn with the intention of starring black characters. However, the colorist colored Willie and the rest of the cast with white skin.

http://www.oddballcomics.com/article.php?story=archive2001-01-16

It’s weird that I had not had a Batman urban legend since JUNE, and now I had two in back-to-back weeks!!!

I’d love to see a Batman musical, especially if written by Steinman.

A few years ago a friend of mine talked me into watching a sci fi musical on DVD. She said it was very “Shadowrun-ish”. About half way through, I asked if it was written by Steinman, and she didn’t know the name. But, it was.

His music really lent to the setting. And, I think it would lend well to Batman also.

Theno

I can’t believe no one went and fixed the Wikipedia entry for Lobo. That’s how Wikipedia work, y’all. :) I’ve updated the entry.

PS – Great entry, Brian! Love the series.

Just to let you all know, this has been “published” (and linked to this URL) on the Batman: The Musical “memorial” site which is linked in that entry. Thanks for the mention, there are also about 3 – 5 new articles that have been added (including a new (and misleading) one that had come out this year)

Super-hero & Steinman-related, Jim also wrote the theme song for the ’94 movie with Alec Baldwin and Tim Curry, “The Shadow”. “Original Sin” performed by Taylor Dayne, even some lines are recycled in Batman’s “The Graveyard Shift”

Plans for a Batman musical were originally announced in ’75 or ’76 by Bob Kane in an appearance on the Joe Franklim TV show, but he said it was going to be done in Las Vegas.

ParanoidObsessive

November 11, 2008 at 11:18 am

>>> Have you listened to it lately? Loved when I was young, but personally, I don’t think Webber’s love of the synth has aged so well.

It isn’t the synth that has aged poorly, but the world which has grown cynical and joyless, and forgotten how to appreciate it.

Considering all the Marvel sorta sequels since this post, and of course, Spider-man: The Musical, this one doesn’t look so far off anymore….

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