web stats

CSBG Archive

Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #92

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

Let’s begin!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Namor the Sub Mariner was created as a movie tie-in.


There was a lot of talk a little while ago about Namor being the next Marvel property to make his move to the big screen.

This is especially interesting as it turns out that Namor came into being AS a movie tie-in!

A marketing idea in the late 30s was to give away comic books at movie theaters. The comic was called Motion Pictures Funnies Weekly, and in the book (featuring a few stories), Bill Everett introduced Namor, the Sub-Mariner! The idea quickly fell apart, though.

Until 1974, most everyone thought that Namor’s first comic book appearance was in Marvel Comics #1, but that very same story appeared in Motion Pictures Funnies Weekly!


Only about nine or so copies exist, with almost all of them coming courtesy of the publisher of the comic book (his death led to the discovery of the copies in his estate).

With the series cancelled, Everett pitched the idea to Timely Comics’ Martin Goodman, who bought the rights to the character and published Everett’s story (expanded from 8 pages to 12 – you will even notice a box on page 8 that once read “To Be Continued” but is now just colored in blank) in Marvel Comic #1.


Namor graced the cover of Marvel Comics #4, and the rest, as they say, is history.


COMIC URBAN LEGEND: John Byrne almost followed Walt Simonson on Fantastic Four!


Walt Simonson’s Fantastic Four run was a marvelous take on the characters, and besides John Byrne’s run, was probably the highlight of the book since Stan and Jack left the book, so when he left the book in the early 90s, it was quite a shame.


Astonishingly enough, though, he was quite almost followed on the title by none other than John Byrne himself!!1482_4_0236.jpg

Paul Ryan explained how this amazing reunion almost took place in an interview with Sean Kleefeld over at the fantastic Fantastic Four web resource site, FFPlaza.com (Please note that Daniel Best, from the awesome Adelaide Comics, also mentioned this one to me a few months ago):

Sean Kleefield: How did Marvel first approach you about doing the Fantastic Four? What was your initial reaction? At the time, did you know Tom DeFalco would also be working on it?

Paul Ryan: It is kind of funny how my tenure on the series came about. When word of Walt Simonson’s decision to leave the FF was announced I got a call from John Byrne asking if I would be interested in working with him on the title. John and I had recently collaborated on Avengers and Avengers West Coast. I was very excited at the prospect of not only working with John again (his FF run was one of my favorites) but working on my favorite Marvel title. I bought the first issue at the tender age of 11.

What John failed to mention at the time was that editor Ralph Macchio had not offered him (John) the book. John was of the opinion that because Ralph knew that John wanted the book that Ralph should call John. In speaking with Ralph I discovered that Ralph was of the opinion that if John wanted the book, he (John) should call Ralph. I made repeated calls to both parties. They wouldn’t budge. I could see the FF series slipping through my fingers. Finally I just gave up and continued to work on the two Avengers titles.

Not too much later John asked me to pencil Iron Man. I gave up the WCA to do Iron Man. The following Friday, Ralph called to offer me the penciling chores on the FF. DeFalco was to be the writer. I said NO, along with a few expletives. I had just taken on another series and I wasn’t too happy at the prospect of having to give up the Avengers to take on the FF. That’s how we left it on Friday. All weekend long I kept thinking about the FF and how much I loved that series. First thing Monday morning, even before office hours, I left a message for Ralph, “I’ll take the book.”

Story continues below

My timing couldn’t have been better. On Friday, after I turned down the offer, Ralph called Dan Jurgens to offer him the book. Unable to reach Dan, Ralph left a voice mail message. I got through to Ralph first and the rest is history.


Imagine how different things would have been!

Tom Brevoort wrote into me recently to give some more context to Paul’s recollection. Apparently, Byrne and Macchio eventually did get on the phone with one another, but Macchio felt that some changes that Byrne wanted to make to the title with regards to continuity were too much, so he ended up turning down Byrne’s return on the title, leading to DeFalco replacing Simonson. Thanks for the info, Tom!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: T.M. Maple’s real name was never revealed.


Reader John Kuczaj wrote in a few months back, asking if I could address the rumor that “[t]he identity of prodigious letter column writer T.M. Maple was never revealed.”

As it turns out, the late, great T.M. Maple did reveal his name, in the late 80s, where, in the pages of Zot! #21, he revealed that his name was Jim Burke.

T.M. Maple, for fans who do not recall him, was one of the greatest letter writers in comic book letter column history, with well over 3,000 letters written.

He originally signed his letters “The Mad Maple,” but when Jim Shooter became Editor-In-Chief of Marvel, he instituted a policy in which Marvel would not publish letters from letter writers using pseudonyms (which isn’t a half bad policy, really). Editor Tom DeFalco got around this by abbreviating The Mad Maple as T.M. Maple.

Burke liked this abbreviation, and used it for the rest of his letter-writing journey.

Sadly, Burke died in 1994 of a heart attack.

But fans of letter columns will always have his great letters to look back upon and read!

Okay, that’s it for this week!

Feel free to drop off any urban legends you’d like to see featured!


Wasn’t TM Maples’s real first name “Jim” rather than “John”?

On a similar note, who was (and what ever happened to) DC letter-writer “Uncle Elvis?”

I liked the FF legend – sure, I recognize that Byrne’s Fantastic Four run was one of the greats, but since Paul Ryan was the guy on the book when I started reading it, he’s “my” FF artist. And all because of the timing of a phonecall. Huh!

Wasn’t TM Maples’s real first name “Jim” rather than “John”?


Talk about an unfortunate place for me to make a typo! :)

Yeah, it was Jim, not John as I originally wrote by mistake. Thanks for the correction, Allan!

So, this Burke fellow was like the Brian Cronin of his day? You just know he’d have a blog and a message board if around today.

I remember reading forever ago that Leonard Nimoy originally moved to Hollywood to try out for a Submariner movie.

Hey here’s a CBUL I heard-

Todd McFarlane and Sam Kieth forged and backdated paperwork to “allow” McFarlane to make the MAXX action figure when MTV had the cartoon and the rights to do so.

MTV got mad and the MAXX figures were pulled.

any chance of looking in to that?

The Maxx figures were released (Maxx, anyway) but they were a little hard to find. Not super hard, but it took some looking.

On a similar note, who was (and what ever happened to) DC letter-writer “Uncle Elvis?”

His real name is Elvis Orten and I think he used to be a movie critic in New York, but that was years ago.

Now that is an amusing piece of happenstance. I’ve been reading all of my DC books in chronological order and try to at least glance at the letters page as I’m doing so. At one point I noticed some books signed by “The Mad” Maple and then, a month or so later, saw that change to T.M. Maple. And I thought, “Wow, that’s what that stood for.”

A buddy of mine was once convinced that T.M. Maple was Todd McFarlane because of his initials and the fact that McFarlane was Canadian. I didn’t buy it.

I mean if Todd is going to write something he is going to sign his name.

I’d be cautious about accepting Ronin Ro’s assertion regarding a proposed Columbia SUB-MARINER serial as fact with some serious documentation.

For one thing, it’s highly unlikely that ANY serial would have been filmed in Technicolor. The process was very expensive, and was generally reserved for such prestige projects as THE WIZARD OF OZ or THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD. Serials were seen as cheap, quick entertainment, typically with very low budgets. It’s unlikely that Coulmbia would have jumped into the serial arena (the first serial the studio released was 1937’s JUNGLE MENACE) in such a big way. Even their adaptations of existing comic book properties, such as BATMAN or THE PHANTOM, both released in 1943, betray the low budgets their directors had to work with. The SUPERMAN serials may have cost a little more, but Superman already had a successful radio show behind him by 1948, when the first serial was released.

Also, its odd that, if this were the case, Everett never talked about a potential serial as the inspiration for the character. He did a rather extemsive interview with Jim Steranko in THE STERANKO HISTORY OF COMICS, VOLUME I, and never mentioned a Columbia connection.

It’s true, of course, that Sub-Mariner appeared in the first and only issue of MOTION PICTURE FUNNIES WEEKLY, but that hardly seems like conclusive evidence of a Hollywood connection. MPFW was a promotional comic packaged by Lloyd Jacquet, whom Everett had worked for previously at Centaur Comics, as a give-away for movie theaters. There’s never been any evidence that it was anything more than that. It was extremely common a tthe time for independent studios to put together “packages” of comics that could then be sold to publishers. Eisner ran a studio like that, as did Simon and Kirby. When MPFW failed, Frank Torpey, sales manager for Funnies, Inc., the compnay that created and packaged MPFW, convinced Martin Goodman to get into publishing comics, and had the Funnies, Inc staff, which included Everett, Carl Burgos, Paul Gustavson and others prepare what would become MARVEL COMICS #1.

In the absence of serious nad solid documentation from Ro regarding a serial connection for Sub-Mariner, I’d advise filing this story away with the story about Orson Welles’ BATMAN movie.

In fairness, the Orson Welles Batman story was a deliberate hoax perpetrated by Mark Millar; I suspect that the Ronin Ro story is more a case of undocumented rumor.


March 2, 2007 at 8:52 am

Wow, I don’t think it’s too professional to let egotism get in the way of accomplishing your goal (writing Fantastic Four / hiring a writer for Fantastic Four). It’s just a comic book.

I interviewed Jim/T.M. for Dave Kraft’s old Comics Interview magazine. He was a nice guy who would have absolutely become a web star in today’s internet. Not that there is a total lack of non-hysterical criticism out there today, but every reasoned voice we do have is a treasured resource.

The T.M. Maple story–that brings a smile to my face. He was omnipresent in the lettercols during the exciting explosion of independent titles in the early 80s; particularly I remember him commenting on/in issues of Nexus and The Badger–man, those books were wild–and always signing off with “See you at Munden’s,” a reference to Munden’s Bar from Grimjack (which was published, like the two above, by First Comics. After reading that signoff enough times, I finally picked up Grimjack myself. Glad I did.

Nexus, The Badger, American Flagg, DNAgents, Grimjack, Zot!…and all those others that stormed into the comics shops in those years really shook up the readership and the industry. You could compare it to the dawning of the Marvel Age in the sixties, but that was the vision of mainly Stan and Jack (and Stan and Ditko, of course): No, as an explosion of so many very individual visions, this was more like sixties pop radio after the British Invasion.

Back to the subject at hand, here’s my real point: I’m glad that titles like Nexus and Grimjack are finally being collected in trades and archives–but without the letter columns, with their wider range of commentary and voices–such as T.M. Maple’s–than were found in the mainstream books at the time*, a cool component of what made reading those comics fun is lost to history. The same point could be made about the Marvel lettercols of the mid-sixties, too.

Or maybe I’m just another grumpy old fan.

*Maple did regularly appear in DC and Marvel letter columns as well. He was everywhere!

I thought the Ronin Ro book had too many typos and contradictions in the narrative (one of the more notorious ones – he has Kirby dischared from the US Army in two different years, on the same page). I don’t know if this story is correct or not, but the book reads as if it was written too quickly, and no sources are provided at all (there is no index, either). Just saying.

There was a film critic in New York named Elvis Mitchell (who also wrote a television column for Spin magazine, if I remember correctly). Not sure if that’s who you were thiking of, or if he was “Uncle Elvis,” but I wouldn’t be surprised if he was. Mitchell was one of the post-Kael film writers (“Paulettes”) with a firm grip on the pulse of pop culture, including comics.

Never mind me. I just googled around and figured out Uncle Elvis was Elvis Orten, not Mitchell.

“Wow, I don’t think it’s too professional to let egotism get in the way of accomplishing your goal (writing Fantastic Four / hiring a writer for Fantastic Four). It’s just a comic book. ”

Ummm… welcome to the comic book industry. There are lots of instances like this where editors run their lines like little fifedoms. It happens even to this day. (Actually, it happens in all business unfortunatly. People whine about late artists being unprofessional, thats nothing compared to what happens with editors, writers, and pitches)

By the way, I’m not the biggest Byrne fan in the world, but wow. Just the thought of being spared the DeFalco FF makes me giddy.

I remember seeing that Motion Picture Funnies cover before and even reading something about Namor with it, but I never heard the full story behind it. Cool.

Walt’s run *was* awesome and the Byrne/Macchio feud is hilarious.

Neat to hear about T.M. Maple. I’d love to do some 365 Reasons columns on famous letterhacks, but finding information on them is harder than one would think. So feel free to continue delving into the pasts of all these cool peeps so that I can then steal your information and put it in another form. Hahaha.

Awesome column. As usual, of course.

Could that Macchio/Byrne thing have been anymore High School? They were like a teenaged couple who had a spat after homeroom, sitting on their beds, staring at the phone, trying to will the other one to call and apologize.

T. M. Maple also revealed his name in the letters page of Action Comics Weekly #615. He said it was the 10th Maple anniversary. Both ACW and the Zot issue have Aug. 1988 publication dates.

Todd McFarlane and Sam Kieth forged and backdated paperwork to “allow” McFarlane to make the MAXX action figure when MTV had the cartoon and the rights to do so.

MTV got mad and the MAXX figures were pulled.

Like Joe said, the figure wasn’t pulled, it was just the shortpack – the figure in a case that is included in lower supply than its fellows.

So while it’s possible that there was some sort of back-door shenanigans related to sneaking the figure out (gonna look into it, Brian?), the figure was released, it stayed on shelves until it (very quickly) sold out, and the Collectors Club even sold a back full of mixed black and white Isz later…

I can’t begin to tell you how much I miss T.M. Maple. I think the first letter of his I remember seeing as a boy was in a “Metropolis Mailbag,” and yes, E. Nelson Bridwell ran his name as “The Mad Maple.” Ah, the good old days…

Didn’t Uncle Elvis have a letter read on David Letterman one time? I remember he had Archie characters on his stationery, and I couldn’t tell if it was doctored or not, but Letterman pointed this out and said, “And look here’s the Reverend Al Sharpton!” :-P

Another letter writer I remember is Henry Kujawa, from nearby Camden, NJ, who wrote a lot to Usagi Yojimbo. I just happened to see the other night while looking up the Mr. X Collection from iBooks that now he’s doing reviews on Amazon.com! So I guess, counting Augie DeBlieck and others, there’s still a LOC presence around, on the Internet.

For fun letter columns, I always loved the ones in Julius Schwartz’s DC books of the sixties. Maybe it was because Schwartz started in SF fandom but he had a great eye for picking intelligently written letters both pro and con, and it’s still fun to reread the columns when I go through my old books.

The Mad Monkey

March 2, 2007 at 11:38 am

Jack Kirby was a genius (don’t get me started on “Lyin'” Stan Lee). I believe the vast majority of us can agree on that. But, I think he was also able to see into the future.
How else can you explain the creation of Ego, The Living Planet and how much it looks like John Byrne’s over-inflated head?
But, I digress…
It would have been very interesting to see a second Byrne run on FF. Even if he only wrote it, Paul Ryan has always been one of my favorite artists (just based on the fact that he is one of the few artists who deliver constant quality and work ethic (like George Perez and Jerry Ordway)) and I think that run would have been another comic classic.

Jeff Albertson

March 2, 2007 at 12:21 pm

I’ve got to join in the chorus of warnings about relying on anything in Ronin Ro’s book. He’s enthusiastic about his subject, but not a diligent factchecker.

Check out http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ComicsHistoryMistakeHunters/msearch?query=ronin+ro&submit=Search&charset=ISO-8859-1

for more errors.

And whatever, you do, don’t ever bother checking a rumor wtih Crawford’s Encyclopedia of comic books! That’s got even more errors.

John Byrne is a pretty vicious guy. I’ve learned this over the years. Vicious and petty…petty enough to let his ego get in the way of what might have been another epic run on FF. But I doubt it…John’s work has suffered tremendously over the years.

Paul Ryan, on the other hand, is the consumate pro.

As for Elvis Orten, he didn’t just write letters into DC…I remember seeing his name everywhere, along with TM Maple.

You guys might want to check out the TM Maple Memorial Leaf Pit for some letter transcriptions.

Old letterhacks…

Old letterhacks…

I think I could tell you what happened to ONE of them, anyway, myself. Al Schroeder III—I didn’t equal T.M. Maple’s published record, but I was within shouting distance, anyway.

I met my future wife through Julie Schwartz’ lettercolumns. I’m happy to say we’re still married, having celebrated over 26 wedding anniversaries—

Have had three kids…(and unfortunately, buried one)…

But I haven’t lost my interest in comics, and in fact am currently writing/drawing two webcomics, as anyone clicking the link can find out.

I fully agree with John Petty, and amplify him, that an old–time serial in Technicolor is an absurd suggestion, even if the early and relatively cheaper, two–strip process instead of the full three–color one. Of course, THAT could have been some form of misunderstanding by itself.

One other surprise here: it was “Uncle Elvis” Orten who regularly signed his letters, “See you at Munden’s.” I’m not saying that the late Mr. Burke NEVER did it (didn’t know he was gone, either; thanks for that sad but good–to–know–about news, Brian), but it was Elvis, not the Maple, who made a habit of it. Can’t imagine why nobody else has pointed this out, especially since Orten himself had been mentioned before this was said.

As I recall, T.M. Maple went through a brief period signing his letters “Theodore Maddox Maplehurst”…

Here’s an Urban Legend I’d like to see sorted out. There was a Cartoon Network series called “Dial M for Monkey,” which had an episode entitled “Barbequor,” which featured a parody of Galactus of the same name, along with the Silver Surfer parody, “Silver Spooner,” who rode a gigantic spoon. In the story, Barbequor succeeds to consume the world, but Monkey goads him into vomiting it back out into orbit. The short was pulled, and replaced with a Dexter’s Laboratory cartoon in syndication. No one is sure why this is, but there are two main theories: 1. The censors at Cartoon Network didn’t like Barbequor vomiting up a world. 2. Marvel Comics’ legal team pressured Cartoon Network into pulling the short, as they were developing a Silver Surfer cartoon for Fox Kids at the time. Is Theory #2 true or false?

Al! Corresponding with you over the internet is like speaking to a legend, or perhaps summoning up a god through the mists or something.

And that T.M. Maple memorial page is awesome.

Damn, I love this blog.

heh heh

I was just about to post about Al and Barb Shroeder, but Al beat me to it. :)

I used to read all these letters back in the day, I also loved to read Dale Coe’s letters. Had nothing to do with the fact that we had the same first name tho.




I love this blog, but I REALLY love the Internet—the way it bypasses publication hurdles and you can just…put it out there.

I like doing an old-fashioned Silver Age comic, with one additional twist, and that’s exactly what I’m doing. And LOVING every minute of it.

A legend, maybe. A god in the mists? VERY misty, I think.

Namor was NOT created “for” the movie tie-in, which is slightly misleading, but only slightly. Everett had the intitial concept of the character developed, and the movie comic was just the chance he was waiting for to get it published.

Ronin Ro’s book is actually one of the most purposely misleading and dishonest books ever published. I got confirmation of this from Roy Thomas and John Romita Sr. who both thought some of the stuff was sketchy, and certain quotes from them both were made to look misleading. I wouldn’t cite that as a reference, when theres dozens of questionable statements in it.

Three urban legends I’d like to see featured:

1) Did Al Rio some issues of Gen 13 (and other books), which are credited to J. Scott Campbell? Check out the hair, Campbell started out, drawing hair without (for the lack of a better word) “reflex-lines”.


2) The Marvel/Top Cow crossover “Devil’s Reign” should have resulted in the two companies swapping 2 characters. Why didn’t it happen?

3) Recently the Wildstorm imprints Homage Comics and Cliffhanger merged into “Wildstorm Signature Series”. Long before that, Homage wasn’t just a Wildstorm imprint (the Homage Swimsuit Issue featured also characters of Top Cow), or was it?

Homage was originally just a studio, which included both Jim Lee and Marc Silvestri – the “Swimsuit Special” indicated that it was their art, not that it was their characters. It wasn’t until later that Wildstorm applied the name to the section of their books that were more about the writing than the art…

Speaking of pulled cartoons and Gen 13 for future columns, what ever happened to that Gen 13 movie from the mid-1990s. I remember reading a lot about it for a while and that it was going to be released, but I did never hear a final word on it either way.

Love the column, by the way. Great stuff.

Have a good day.
John Cage

(geeze, why do I know so much about Wildstorm?)

It got scrapped, for whatever reason. It was made – you can buy a copy at any decent-sized convention – but Disney had the distribution rights and chose to do nothing with it. Cronin could definitely look into WHY they didn’t even do it as a direct-to-video release (now would be the perfect time, what with all the Avengers and Hellboy stuff), but can you imagine trying to get a real answer out of Disney for a comicbook blog?

I remember The Mad Maple, and reading this colunm made me realize how much better it was back when fans and pros communicated via letter pages. Back then, you needed to have a point (and be polite) to get your comments printed, and you often got a response (usually brief) from the Editor of the title. These days, anyone can go on and on online about whatever, even if only to insult creators or their work. :(

Here’s another TM MAPLE fact almost nobody might remember: he actually had a comic book character based on him! Well, sort of:

In the 1980s DC Comic book series, AMETHYST, PRINCESS OF GEMWORLD (the second one, I believe) Amethyst finds herself briefly sent to the wrong magical world. She arrives in a world of sentient plants, where she finds out that a “Princess Amaryllis” is expected to appear to defeat the evil ruler, “Dark Maple.” Now, obviously this was just a little in-joke about the series, with Amaryllis and Dark Maple being parodies of Amethyst and Dark Opal, respectively. But the fact that Dark Maple was also a tribute to The Mad Maple was confirmed in the Amethyst Letters page later, with Maple being tickled pink about it. Series Writer Dan Mishkin can probably be contacted to confirm this.

As a kid, I idolized T.M. Maple. In 1989 I went to my third (and to date last) comic convention and got to meet Jim Burke. I didn’t come away with the best of impressions. He was 40ish, pudgy, bearded (and I think balding) and he was awfully cranky about a lot of the post-Crisis changes. He disliked Death In The Family (“It’s not even set in Gotham City”) and I remember trying to argue with him about Ma and Pa Kent being allowed to live (“It takes away Superman’s sense of mortality” he told me. I thought at the time, and still think, it was a good change) and came away from the whole experience thinking “he was my hero but he’s just a very opinionated man.” That said, I did want to subscribe to the Batman fanzine he was putting out (though I never did)

16 years later, I listen to myself fuming about post-Infinite Crisis changes to the DC universe (“Byrne’s ‘Krypton-that-deserved-to-be-destroyed’ was good for the character because it kept him focused on earth”) and I realize that while I’m a couple of years younger than Burke/Maple was in 1989, I’m not far off from his temprament and disposition– I guess it’s the common complaint of the comic book fan nearing middle age!

Graeme, pudgy, bearded, not balding and 37

TM once sent me a letter, getting my name & address from a comics letter I had published. (I think it was in a Batman comic.)

I didn’t write anywhere near as many letters as he did, nor did I have as many published. there were certain books and editors that were more likely to publish my letters, but often there was one from TM or Uncle Elvis as well. I remember TM’s letter giving his real name–I didn’t know him, but it seemed momentous.

As to uncle Elvis–I remember his last name appearing on some of his letters.

I haven’t written to a comic in years, and had a couple of periods where I took breaks from it. But it was fun seeing my letters in print. The Incredible Hulk was the first book to print one of them. I later received a No-Prize as well, the empty Marvel Envelope arrived in my mailbox one day—I won it for something in a SPider-Man story.

“Here’s an Urban Legend I’d like to see sorted out. There was a Cartoon Network series called “Dial M for Monkey,” which had an episode entitled “Barbequor,” which featured a parody of Galactus of the same name, along with the Silver Surfer parody, “Silver Spooner,” who rode a gigantic spoon. In the story, Barbequor succeeds to consume the world, but Monkey goads him into vomiting it back out into orbit. The short was pulled, and replaced with a Dexter’s Laboratory cartoon in syndication. No one is sure why this is, but there are two main theories: 1. The censors at Cartoon Network didn’t like Barbequor vomiting up a world. 2. Marvel Comics’ legal team pressured Cartoon Network into pulling the short, as they were developing a Silver Surfer cartoon for Fox Kids at the time. Is Theory #2 true or false?”

This is all just from my memory, so I can’t necessarily say it with any authority, but if my memory serves…

Dial M for Monkey was not it’s own series. It was a recurring supplemental bit for episodes of Dexter’s Lab that ran a little short. The “Monkey” character is a small part from Dexter’s show.

Chances are that audiences just displayed a preference towards Dexter over Monkey, and that’s what influenced the scheduling change.

That’s my theory, at least.

Actually, Dial M for Monkey appeared consistently in the original run of Dexter’s Lab, and was featured in the original series finale. After the departure of original creators Craig McCracken and Genndy Tartakovsky (along with other major staffers like Seth MacFarlane) for other projects, the reruns proved so popular that Cartoon Network commissioned another series of Dexter’s Lab cartoons made by another team of relatively green Hanna-Barbera animations.

There were numerous alterations to the formula in the new cartoon. A lot of the “secondary” features like Justice Buddies and Dial M for Monkey were removed, the Dexter’s main characters were redesigned, Dexter himself was recast, and new characters were introduced. The new show ended up feeling very different from the original McCracken/Tartakovsky run of Dexter and ultimately was not as popular. The changes seem to just be creative decisions made by the new team.

The Dial M for Monkey short mentioned probably just stopped being aired on Cartoon Network when the old Dexter’s Lab episodes stopped airing. Recently Dexter’s Lab has resurfaced as a Boomerang show, and I bet the short in question shows up from time to time there.

I knew the Maxx was the chase figure- came with White or Black Isz and rarer with 2 of each.

But typically back then, Todd Toys would do a reissue with repaints of each toy line. When the re-issue for that series came around there were no MAXX toys in the re-issue.

Rumor was they simply backdated a contract that gave Todd toys permission.

As well you could probably add the “ART OF SAM KIETH” book from IDW to an urban legend- delayed since 2004!

(no relation to Uncle Elvis)

That was SPAWN SERIES 4 from 1996 BTW


People used to grouse about Maple having so many letters published, but they were always so intelligent and well thought out, it was hard to blame the editors. Perhaps the greatest honor Maple received was a grass roots campaign to star in an issue of ‘Teen Titans Spotlight’. They might as well; it’s not like that book was any good anyway….

Yeah, the Maxx rumor I’ve had sent to me a couple of times, and it certainly is an interesting one, but as far as PROVING it, who’s going to do that, ya know?

“Oh yeah, we totally violated the rules of contracts. Thanks for your inquiry!”

surely there is an ex-Todd Toys sculptor out there- or even Al Simmons himself is always good for an honest answer… they may not go on record with their name…

and if its NOT true than Todd or Sam should be willing to verify that.

hmm, you know, I may be able to do some research on that one for you.

But typically back then, Todd Toys would do a reissue with repaints of each toy line. When the re-issue for that series came around there were no MAXX toys in the re-issue.

But what would Maxx’s repaint have been?

If you could find it out, yo, I’d gladly use it. :)

Found something on


“I was really upset that, apparantly Sam Kieth and McFarlane had creative differences, because I remember talking with one of the heads of McFarlane’s marketing department on the phone one time (back when the company was smaller), and he said they were in negotiations with Sam Kieth to try and repackage the Maxx figure because when they first started selling older figures through the Collector’s Club, he says they had more Maxx figures than any other figures, and they sold out of it first. The plan was to repackage him with a trenchcoat and hat with Mr. Gone’s head instead of the Isz.

Wouldn’t that have kicked ass???”

Re: Dial M for Monkey.

From the wikipedia entry for “Silver Surfer”, noting that the entry says “citation needed”.

“In the cartoon Dexter’s Laboratory, there was a side-story cartoon entitled “Dial M for Monkey”, featuring a monkey superhero. In the episode, “Dial M for Monkey: Barbequor”, it featured a parody of both Galactus and Silver Surfer as Barbequor, a powerful alien and master of cooking that eats planets, and his partner, the Silver Spooner (who rides a giant silver spoon). This episode was removed from broadcast syndication after complaints were made about the “effeminate” and “narcissistic” parody of Silver Surfer.”

I am a contributor to Wikipedia—which should put a number of posters to these boards off of it—and have gotten “citation needed” to a couple of simple and superficial items (e.g., the day–for–night photography on TV’s Green Hornet show getting obviously less effective as the series progressed), but not on a few very specific additions (the lack of a first name for The Lone Ranger’s brother, not just for the hero himself, during the character’s original radio/early TV era, that is, when his creators were in control). They’ve got some very weird program “deciding” whether or not to put that note up.

While it was great being reminded of the great letter writers of yesteryear–TM Maple, Uncle Elvis, et al–I was kind of surprised I didn’t see any reference to a real rarity among prolific letter writers, a woman named Irene Vartanoff.

Maybe she was ahead of the times for some of the commenters here. She wrote a lot of letters in the 60’s. I remember picking up a copy of the Ross Andru-Mike Esposito Metal Men series when I was a kid. That issue featured one of the Metal Men reading the text of a fan letter in the course of the story. The letter was from one “Irene Vartanoff.”

After that, I seemed to see her letters in lots of DC comics.

(That’s how much of an impression that made–I can’t for the life of me remember the story, but I remember Irene Vartanoff and her letters).

…Ah, so it was Ralph who was responsible for putting DeFalco on the FF after all. Good to know who was responsible for setting up that debacle, whose only positive aspect was Paul Ryan’s superior art.

Bottom Line: Wanna know the real reason that Spider-Girl keeps getting saved from cancellation? It’s so that Tom DeFalco will have something else to do besides ruin another book like he did Thor!

There’s something oddly settling about knowing you will always show up to rip Tom DeFalco when he comes up in conversation. :)

Was T.M. Maple really the inspiration for the comic book guy on The Simpsons?

Not a fan of Defalco’s FF, but I thought his Thor was decent.

Speaking of letter writers….does anybody remember the Wu sisters?? They wrote to Superman a lot.

And wasn’t TM Maple sickly?? Something congenital??

Ahhhh.. ripping into Tom DeFalco, a good sport. He has put the mockers on so many good books. Thor F.F. Spider-Man…anyway, he’s a plague and I stopped reading Marvel when he became EIC.

I was a massive fan of T.M.Maple and Uncle Elvis Orton, wasn’t there an English chap called Malcolm Bourne whop was prolific in the Vertigo titles and ended up with his own, short-lived, book?

Thanks for the information on why Tom DeFalco/Paul Ryan were on the FF. i did buy that book when Reed/Doom ‘died’ until about 400, then i dropped it and simply read up until about 410 or so [as i worked in a comic store i could simply read them without paying for them!]. i couldn’t stand the writing of DeFalco or the artwork of Ryan. Simply terrible stuff. i was horrified when Ryan was put on Flash [one of my favorite titles at that time]. i had to suffer thru his artwork on my favorite character…ugh. Tom DeFalco should also not be allowed anywhere near comics; writing, editing, scripting, penciling, or EIC’ing. Double Ugh.

It’s ironic that I just entered my name, …which is by the way my real name….in the goggle search and found this site. Who would ever think something like that could happen to a real person and find out I was a comic book figure?

Ronnie Gonzalez

June 5, 2009 at 3:47 am

T.M. Maple used to write letters to The New Teen Titans, when Wolfman & Perez were on the title, and I remember his letters vividly — they were always of the highest and most impeccable quality. It was just another flourish that made DC and the NTT such a class act in the early to mid 1980’s.

Another prolific letter writer was Paul Gambaccini, on whom the character Paul Gamba – the tailor who created the costumes for Flash’s Rogues Gallery – was based. He eventually moved to the UK and became a DJ with the BBC and still appears on TV from time to time.

I still miss the lettercols – yes, you can post comments on the Internet but it’s not the same thing. When you’re sitting down to reread a stack of comic books, it’s a lot easier to have the relevant letters in an issue from three or four months later rather than having to log on and try to locate the comments for the book in question.

It’s funny that I just spent half an hour reading the comments after the article – more time than it took me to read the article – and that it actually just occurred to me as I came to leave a comment that maybe my enjoyment of the comic book letter columns is why I enjoy reading the comments sections of articles so much… again, sometimes more than I enjoy the article itself. Interesting. (Note to author: not saying I didn’t enjoy THIS article, lol … I did)

The reason I wanted to comment though is to say that though I never watched Dexter the name Dial M for Monkey reminds me of Dial H for Hero. It took me a minute to remember that comic (I was stuck on Dial M for Mogwai at first), but I remember reading it when I was young. Weird book. lol

I spoke with ronin ro once and he said he had everyones interviews on tape, even romita and Roy Thomas. He also said he interviewed Evanier for a long time, until Evanier ended their interview by saying HE had to go, and also spoke with Greg Theakston.

Thanks for the TM Maple memory. He was a lettercol god among men. I kept track of mine published when I was younger, and had over 200. (I really liked the JLI turn, and go to be known by the editors I think). But I was just a babe compared to the greats. Then the letterpages died, mostly, as did snail mail, and it wasn’t the same. I miss those days, and reads.

-Chris Connelly

I had a few letters published, and it was nice to see my name in print, but I could never muster the energy to write as many letters as TM Maple or Al Schroeder got printed. And I’m not certain that I could always come up with insightful commentary or criticism, either. Just saying that I liked or didn’t like something didn’t really seem to be worth a letter.

Brian, are you planning to check out that link X-Te posted? Even if you think Byrne is misremembering, the article should at least mention that he says it never happened.

I’d also be very interested to hear exactly what “changes to continuity” Brevoort says Byrne had in mind. Given that Simonson had just finished implying that the last few years of Dooms had been Doombots, and DeFalco would start off by revealing that Alicia had been a Skrull for a hundred issues, what could possibly have been a bigger retcon?

By the way, I’m not automatically taking Byrne’s word here — I’m just not willing to write it off either. When it comes to office politics, normally honest people will lie like dogs. There are any number of cases where respected comic writers and editors stand by irreconcilable stories. In fact, I just now mentioned another one — when DeFalco did his Alicia thing, editor Ralph Macchio said in the lettercols that it had been planned since Byrne’s run. (Well, technically he said Tom said so.) This contradicts not only Byrne’s account but also that of Steve Engelhart, who claims he originally got the FF writing gig with a different Alicia retcon idea — Franklin had subconsciously influenced the characters involved because he knew (as seen in that classic Byrne adult-Franklin issue) that Ben’s fear of Alicia rejecting him was the reason Reed could never cure him for long. He eventually told that story in a dream-sequence issue, #332. Engelhart’s FF run was godawful, but I have to admit his Alicia plan was much better than what was ultimately done.

Much love. I was just reading an old Warlord I grabbed at a dollar bin and got to the letters…and there was missive from TM Maple. I remembered seeing him all the time in the 80s, all the time. Is volume was astounding. I never much cared for his critiques, but even a young boy can respect Purpose.

So then I realized internet and I can finally know. Not disappointed. Sorry he’s not around anymore, imagine he’d be tickled to be first on search.


Leave a Comment



Review Copies

Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.

Browse the Archives