Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #86
This is the eighty-sixth 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-five. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Mark Waid took his name off an issue of Captain America because editorial changed his story after approving Waid’s script.
Mark Waid’s run on Captain America right before Heroes Reborn was a highly critically-acclaimed hit, so it was great news when it was announced that he would be writing Captain America again following Heroes Reborn.
However, Waid’s second run on Captain America hit a bit of a snag with issue #14, which was an issue spotlighting Red Skull (who was seemingly killed in Waid’s first Captain America arc). The controversy actually resulted in Waid requesting that his name be removed from the issue, which Marvel acquiesced to on the interior, but actually failed to do on the cover of the issue!
Waid explained the situation in a message on AOL’s message boards (thanks to John C. Baker for transcribing the message):
Subject: Message from Mark Waid
Date: Wed, Dec 23, 1998 14:58
From: M Waid
I really, REALLY didn’t want to have to get into this here, but I’m tired of dealing with e-mail after e-mail, so here’s a blanket answer to the question, “Why isn’t your name in CAPTAIN AMERICA #14?”
Despite what the error of having my name on the cover might imply, the contents of CAPTAIN AMERICA #14 aren’t my work. The majority of the image descriptions and many of the early captions are my writing, but weeks after my story received approval from Marvel’s editor-in-chief, and after the book was subsequently lettered, colored, read and approved by several editors, separated, and made ready to print, that same EIC decided, as within his rights yet despite previous approvals, to have the story completely altered and substantially rewritten, dropping entire sequences and pages and assigning several other pages to staffers to redialogue from scratch. As a result, what was printed isn’t even close to the story I set out to tell, nor was I asked for input in any of the alterations made.
It is absolutely within Marvel’s editorial right to make any and all changes to Work For Hire as they see fit, and I in NO WAY challenge that right. They buy it, it’s theirs to do with as they wish, with or without my input. It’s upsetting and warrants the removal of my name only when
Marvel’s editors renege on prior approvals without warning and do so while delivering to me a lecture (as if I’d done Marvel an injustice by writing an APPROVED STORY) instead of even the vaguest hint of an apology or regret. To leave my name on a story no longer mine cheats the readers and cheats me, hence my insistence at distancing myself from the final printed
Waid was kind enough to actually share his original script with readers, which is very interesting, in how closely the book follows his script for the first ten or so pages, mostly changing things to eliminate references like “Japanese” and “Chinese” and replacing them with generic terms, but then the book starts skipping pages from the script, and just completely re-writing the story for a few pages, then re-connects with Waid’s original script in a way that just completely obliterates what Waid was attempting to do. I mean, a complete 180 from his original script.
It’s really quite fascinating, and I wish I could share more of the book with you, but I think I’m pushing it a bit with even these three pages (click on the page to enlarge the image)….
First, here is a page from early in the comic…
And here is Waid’s original script page…
FULL PAGE. IN THE HOTEL LOBBY, SKULL SEES A BIG PICTURE OF SMILING CAPTAIN AMERICA TOPPED BY A BIG “WELCOME” SIGN OR BANNER.
1 BANNER: WILKOMEN CAPTAIN AMERICA
2 CAPTION: The amnesia of my existence is threatened only by the sickening thunder of red JACKBOOTS.
3 CAPTION: Far ABOVE me treads Germany’s LEADER.
4 CAPTION: The AMERICAN SOVEREIGN whose TWISTED LIBERALISM has OVERRUN the fatherland.
5 CAPTION: His preening smile conveys no less than a REPTILIAN COLDNESS to those who might RECOGNIZE his EVIL.
Note that the changes are not dramatic ones.
Waid’s original script…
FULL PAGE. THE CENTER OF DOWNTOWN BERLIN–BUT IT’S AWASH IN MULTICULTURAL INFLUENCES, TIMES SQUARE BY WAY OF BLADERUNNER. IT SEEMS LIKE EVERY THREE FEET, THE CULTURE CHANGES: SUSHI SIGNS, BILLBOARDS FEATURING RICH BLACK ATHLETES, ASIAN SUPERMODELS, A JEWISH STOREFRONT TEMPLE–EVERYWHERE YOU LOOK, GERMANY’S BECOME A MELTING POT. AND THERE’S SKULL, SMALL IN THE MIDDLE OF IT AS HE WALKS UP THE STREET, LOOKING AROUND IN DISGUST.
1 CAPTION: There is no ESCAPE from his insidious sway even in the city streets.
2 CAPTION: ESPECIALLY in the city streets.
3 CAPTION: How FAR my proud homeland has FALLEN.
4 CAPTION: Once, we were the keepers of the TRUTH. That the ARYAN RACE is the MASTER race. That Nazism is a WHITE LIGHT BRIGHT and PURE enough to BURN AWAY the blacks and the yellows and the reds and the browns which darken the world.
5 CAPTION: Now the lie called DEMOCRACY has POLLUTED our virtue. Thanks to our LEADER, Germany has become INFESTED with strange CULTURES…inferior PEOPLE.
6 CAPTION: Don’t they REALIZE what RUIN they visit UPON us?
7 CAPTION: Of course not.
8 CAPTION: Look at them.
Note the changes – not GIGANTIC ones, but pretty clearly changing Waid’s tune a bit.
The next biggest change is when page eight of Waid’s script is eliminated entirely!
FULL PAGE. DAY. SKULL, HAVING BEEN HAULED OUT OF THE DUMPSTER, IS BEING HELD AND BEATEN BY THE CHINESE WHO OWN THE RESTAURANT WHICH OWNS THE DUMPSTER.
1 CAPTION: Always.
2 CAPTION: I awake to the fetid stench of the CHINESE or the JAPANESE or the AFRICANS…
2 CAPTION: …or WHICHEVER accursed minority has chosen to pretend it has any right to lay its HANDS upon one who would uphold the Nazi principles.
3 CAPTION: Animals.
Finally, Waid has a drawn out scene in his script designed to echo how Red Skull was discovered by Hitler and turned into the Red Skull. The parallel is that he refers to Captain America as he once did Hitler – he comes to Captain America as the bellhop the same way he came to Hitler as a bellhop.
Note that this is the entire point of Waid’s narrative – to show Skull reliving his first life, with Captain America in place of Hitler, so Skull can break free of this cycle by killing Captain America (his “leader” in this dream) instead of following him.
That’s the entire point.
Which is why, on page seventeen of Waid’s script, we have Skull the bellhop enter to his LEADER…
FULL PAGE. SKULL, TIMID, ENTERS A POSH SUITE. HE’S PUSHING A ROOM-SERVICE CART. BIG ON CAPTAIN AMERICA AND HIS AMERICAN ADVISORS IN THE ROOM, STANDING AROUND, HAVING A STRATEGY POW-WOW. ANDY, I LEAVE THE ISSUE OF THEIR FACELESSNESS TO YOU AND MATT.
1 CAPTION: My only REFUGE is in dream made FLESH. My only HOPE…
2 CAPTION: …is that our leader will ACKNOWLEDGE me.
The actual comic book?
The scene then plays out in the comic with Skull killing his enemy, which allows him to break free of his dream-like state, but Waid’s story makes SO much more sense, as he breaks free because he is able to not follow his LEADER, and for him to break free of the cycle of his own life (his leader makes him kill someone, here he manages to turn the table and kill his leader instead).
So, yeah, I really do not know why the changes were made.
Waid actually did not leave the book right after this change to his script. He stayed on the book for another eight or so issues.
Thanks to reader Evan Wiener for suggesting I do this one. I had totally forgotten about it.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Marv Wolfman used a rejected Lex Luthor revamp on Vandal Savage, instead.
In the early 1980s, the Superman writers were all given a chance to pitch revamps of Superman’s major villains, Brainiac and Lex Luthor.
Utlimately, the ideas chosen were Cary Bates idea for a new, more advanced armor for Lex Luthor to wear, and Marv Wolfman’s idea of turning Brainiac into an actual robot.
The revamps showed up for Superman’s 45th anniversary, in the pages of Action Comics #544.
However, Wolfman had made a pitch for BOTH characters. Wolfman explained the situation to Michael Eury in an interview for Eury’s recent (and excellent) book The Krypton Companion, where he detailed his original pitch for Lex’s revamp was to make Luthor into a ruthless corporate businessman, but that pitch was turned down, whether it was because it was “too cerebral,” or because editor Julie Schwartz didn’t want to have both revamps come from the same writer.
With his Luthor idea rejected, Wolfman retooled the idea, and used it for the villain, Vandal Savage, making his debut as the new corporate version, in Action Comics #542.
The idea, while kept with later writers who used Vandal Savage, didn’t exactly catch on big time.
And, of course, a few years later, there was the Man of Steel revamp, where Luthor was, indeed, turned into a ruthless businessman (and I am not going to touch “who came up with the idea to turn Luthor into a ruthless businessman for Man of Steel” with a ten-feet pole, thank you very much!).
Still, I wonder how things would have been different if the businessman angle had appeared earlier on.
Thanks to Graeme Burk for the correct issue of Action Comics featuring Savage.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Rob Liefeld drew the Chaos dimension sideways for no reason in an issue of Hawk and Dove.
In an earlier installment of Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed, we learned the story of the time that Rob Liefeld drew a chaos dimension in an issue of Hawk and Dove sideways without the writer or editor asking him to, leading to the editor actually cutting and pasting the story so that it appeared right-side up, then sending the pasted pages to the inker (and co-writer) Karl Kesel to lightbox on to a piece of paper and then ink.
That much of the story is completely true.
Erik Larsen, however, pointed out that there was one piece of the story that he felt was inaccurate, and explained on the Image messageboards awhile back that Rob based his Chaos dimension on a Chaos dimension that he, Erik Larsen, had drawn a little while before the Hawk and Dove issue, in an issue of Doom Patrol.
Rob was following MY example. When I had drawn the Chaos Dimension in the Doom Patrol I had the pages go to a landscape format. Rob was just following what had been established. The problem was (I was told) that “Rob didn’t ask” and that “if he’d have asked it probably would have been okay.”
The issue Erik is referring to, incidentally, was Doom Patrol #14, which also happened to be the first appearance of Dorothy Spinner, which is neither here nor there, but I just found kinda interesting.
Karl Kesel showed up in the comments section of the aforementioned Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed piece to concur with Larsen that yes, it was almost certain that that was, in fact, why Liefeld drew the Chaos dimension that way, pausing only to differ with Larsen’s contention that the Chaos Dimension in Hawk and Dove was the same one that appeared in that Doom Patrol issue, as Kesel states that Chaos Dimensions had appeared differently each time they showed up (as per the “chaos” aspect of the Chaos Dimension).
Well, that was a pretty interesting exchange, wasn’t it?
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free to drop off any urban legends you’d like to see featured!