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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #94

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

Let’s begin!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: J. M. DeMatteis planned to kill Captain America during his run on the title.

STATUS: True

Reader Garrie Burr asked me this one just last week, which was quite topical considering the death of Captain America in last week’s Captain America #25. Burr asked:

I cannot recall where I saw this, but I remember that the end of DeMatteis’ long run on Captain America was supposed to wind up with Steve Rogers dead and a new character taking up the Red-White-and-Blue. An urban legend?

I posed the question to the man himself, J.M. DeMatteis, and he offered me this extremely interesting story:

It’s true. My last year on the book was one long ongoing saga involving Captain America’s final battle with the Red Skull. It was to reach a turning point with a double-sized CAP #300 in which the Red Skull dies and Cap, after (at the time) forty-plus years of solving problems with his fists, begins to wonder if there’s another way to live his ideals and change the world. In the proposal I presented to my editor, the late, great Mark Gruenwald, Cap was, ultimately, going to disavow violence as a tool for change-essentially rejecting the entire superhero mindset-and start working for world peace. (Keep in mind that this was at the height of the Reagan “evil empire”/cold war period, so it was a pretty radical idea for its day.)

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My plan was to have the world turn against Cap, his own country rejecting him as un-America, other world leaders shunning him: The only allies he was going to find in his quest for global change would be the Sub-Mariner and Doctor Doom. This was the period when Jack Monroe-aka Nomad, the Bucky of the 50’s-was Cap’s partner…and Jack, with his cold war mentality, would be manipulated by Cap’s enemies. In the climax, as Cap speaks at a rally of his few remaining supporters, Nomad (perched on a roof across the way) assassinates him. Only then, with Cap dead, would the world realize what they had. In tribute to Cap, all nations of the world would lay down their weapons for one hour. One hour of peace on Earth.

The plan was then to find Cap’s replacement. I toyed with the idea of Sam Wilson, the Falcon, becoming the new Cap

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…but (as I recall-and, let’s face it, it’s been a while) I finally settled on Black Crow, a Native American character I’d used in the book, as the new Captain America.

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Who better to represent America than one of the first Americans?

Gruenwald approved all this, I wrote the double-sized Cap #300, went ahead and plotted the next two or three stories in the arc; but editor-in-chief Jim Shooter, hearing what we were planning, shot the idea down. Jim said, essentially, that my idea violated Cap’s character, that Steve Rogers would never act like that. 1860_4_300.jpg

Cap #300 was then cut down to a normal-sized issue and substantially rewritten, I think by Jim himself-or perhaps Gruenwald under Jim’s direction. (Which is why I used a fake name in the credits and quit the book.) At the time I was angry but, in retrospect, I totally understand Shooter’s POV. Jim-a brilliant editor and a guy who really helped me along in the early days of my career-was the custodian of the Marvel Universe: he had to protect the characters as he understood them. As noted, my idea was extremely radical for its day: I mean-Captain American involved in political controversy and then assassinated? How could anything like that every happen?

Just goes to show you how times change.

Ha!

Pretty darn interesting story, yes?

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Musician brothers sued DC over the use of their likeness in a Jonah Hex comic book.

STATUS: True

In 1995, DC released a sequel to the popular Joe R. Lansdale/Timothy Truman mini-series, Jonah Hex: Two-Gun Mojo, titled Jonah Hex: Riders of the Worm and Such.

In the comic, Jonah faces off against two brothers who were half-human, half-worm creatures with green tentacles sprouting from their chests. Their names?

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Johnny and Edgar Autumn.

This was not taken well by albino brothers, Johnny and Edgar Winter.

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Edgar Winter is famous for his song, “Free Ride.”

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The brothers claimed that it was defamation for DC to depict them in the comic as evil killers, and when that claim was thrown out, they sued DC for violating their publicity rights.

The first case was thrown out in the late 90s (Comic Book Legal Defense Fund was a great help), and the second one was dismissed in 2003 (click here for a nice description of the first case and here for a nice description of the second one).

The judge essentially gave Lansdale and Truman protection under the theory that, although clearly based on the musicians, “the books do not depict plaintiffs literally,” Justice Ming Chin wrote for the unanimous court. “They are distorted for purposes of lampoon, parody, or caricature.”

In an amusing side-note, in an interview with Andy Diggle awhile back, Alan Grant explains how the lawsuit affected his writing as well:

At the moment I believe that DC is being pursued by Johnny and Edgar Winter. They’re blues guitarists who were also pop stars during the late Sixties and early Seventies. They’re albinos, they’ve got white hair and pink eyes, and they’re shit-hot blues guitarists. I’ve got one of their albums still around. Anyway, Joe Lansdale – I think in a Jonah Hex comic – as a tribute to the Winter Brothers, used a pair of villains called the Winter Brothers who were – and I quote, I think – “Pig-fucking cannibals”. (laughter) And of course when this came out in print and the Winter Brothers saw it, they failed to see it as the homage which Joe Lansdale meant it, and they’re now suing DC.

I got a call from the editor of Lobo to say that he was in a bit of a quandary because in an issue of Lobo that I did with Martin Emond, I had called them Johnny and Edgar Summer, and although they weren’t cannibals and they weren’t pig-fuckers, they were remarkable mainly for their stupidity… (laughter) But the DC lawyers had sent a memo around asking everybody if they had ever mentioned these brothers, and to let them know. So they had to be handed over, and since then Lobo scripts have been subjected to quite a lot of scrutiny.

Free speech is a fine thing, I believe!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: The last issue of Marvel Comics’ Star Wars sold so poorly that it was not even released on newsstands.

STATUS: False

Reader John Kuczaj wrote in with the following urban legend awhile back (John has gotten a bunch of his answered!):

Sales on Marvel’s Star Wars series were so poor that the final issue of the book (#107) never hit the newsstands and was only distributed to the fledgling direct-only market, making the book a rare collectible.

John is partially correct, in that Star Wars #107 is, in fact, a pretty collectible book, in that it is a lot rarer than other Star Wars comics, but the reasons are simply as John mentions in his own urban legend, that sales of the comic were so poor that the book just does not exist in the same quantities of other Star Wars comics.

Marvel’s Star Wars line was quite popular for many years, but a couple of years after the release of the “final” Star Wars film, the comic stopped selling as well as it once did. By 1986, the comic was coming out bi-monthly, and finally, sales grew too low for the license to be worth it to Marvel.

However poor the sales were, though, the book was released on the newsstands. I discovered this by hunting down a newsstand copy myself personally.

Just to make sure, though, that I did not have some flukish copy, I checked with the great Web Guide to Star Wars Comics, which lists a Direct Market AND a Newsstand comic existing, with photos of both.

Here is the newsstand edition.

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So there you go, while it IS a collectible, it wasn’t so rare that it did not exist on newsstands.

Thanks, John, for the suggestion!

Okay, that’s it for this week!

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

68 Comments

This urban legend does seem to illustrate to me one of Jim Shooter’s great strengths as an EIC. (Yes, he did have them.) He was always thinking of the brand identity of the periodicals his company published, and he was always thinking of the long game.

Sure, DeMatteis’ story would have been interesting and thought-provoking, maybe even well-remembered…but where would it leave the comic in five years’ time? Ten years? Would a “pacifist” Cap be a character readers wanted to read about, let alone a dead-and-replaced Cap? If it proves to be something that doesn’t work for the readers, what do you do? Resurrect Captain America, and do a story where he renews his committment to violence? How well will that come off? Is it maybe better to sidestep all the issues this is going to bring up by not doing the story? What does it cost us if we don’t do it?

Jim Shooter asked these questions, and I think it worked out well for Marvel that he did so. (Ask yourself: Would Jim Shooter have approved “Teen Iron Man”?)

What the hell is up with Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian on that cover? Does C3PO look jealous to anyone else?

And is that a tank top and beret wearing alien in the background?

That cover is freaking me out.

I was wondering who the blonde guy cuddling R2D2 was cause he doesn’t bear any resemblance to any Star Wars characters I know. Come to think of it what happened to all of the blue windowy bits on R2D2’s head?

And when did Zorak (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zorak) become a Star Wars character?

I think the blond is Luke (98% sure there) and about the whole Lando and Chewie pose, I guess in the past (you know, a long time ago) being into the furrie fetish was way easier and more accepted.

Gosh, why the hate for Cynthia Martin? I loved her Star Wars work. Whatever happened to her?

Commenting on the urban legends in order:

1) I remember wondering at the time why CAP #300 wasn’t a double-sized issue. Years later I know.
2) Being a rabble rouser here, but does that really qualify as an urban legend? It’s an extremely well-known and documented story.
3) I actually bought my copy of Star Wars #107 at a newsstand…a 7/11 in Albany, New York, to be precise. Certainly the last comic I ever bought at a 7/11, which makes a nice bookend, because the first comic I ever bought was Star Wars #21…at a 7/11. The book did suffer a meandering of plot after all the good baddies were dead in Return of the Jedi, so it’s no surprise it got cancelled. But by gosh golly, I really liked Cynthia Martin’s art. It was like the good animated film Star Wars never got.

I loved the Marvel Star Wars series. I had no idea there was any kind of urban legend about the last issue. I bought it at in a bookstore when it first came out. I remember the series ending very abruptly (no internet back then, no way to get the news out) and being sad about it.

I can see what you guys mean about the artwork…it’s by Cynthia Martin, who brought a highly stylized, cartoony/anime look to the series for its last 20 or so issues, long before “Japanimation” art was popular in the US.

The beret-wearing alien skulking in the back is a Hiromi, one of a race of devious blowhard would-be insectoid conquerors. The little rabbit-looking fellows are Hoojibs, telepathic allies of the rebellion. If you have never read the Marvel Star Wars comics, you cannot appreciate the glory of the Hiromi or the Hoojibs, not to mention the Nagai, the Zeltrons, Rik Duel, Drebble, Crimson Jack, Valance the Hunter, Den Siva, Dani, Kiro, Admiral Giel, Lumiya the Dark Lady, and our heroes kicking much, much more butt than they kick in the movies (and providing, for the most part, much better stories than those wretched prequel films gave us).

Good times.

I agree with John Seavey, that Shooter made the right call here. I could see Steve Rogers becoming a lot of things, but never a pacifist.

Anybody remember those storybook/record combos they used to put out in the early 80’s? I had a bunch of those when I was a kid, mostly Star Wars themed. I remember one in particular called “Planet of the Hoojibs” that featured a run-in with those crazy little telepathic rabbits (and had some seriously kick-ass painted art). I didn’t know they were in the comic series, too.

And for the record, Chewie is totally grabbing Lando’s ass in that cover, and Lando is totally into it. And Chewie looks completely wasted because he just took a hit of Lando’s fatty blunt. And Threepio looks jealous because they left him out of the rotation. WTF?

How can Chewie be grabbing Lando’s arse if his hands are both clearly visible in front of Lando?

And to the people who say Jim Shooter was right – that means that Archie Goodwin was wrong and I’m pretty sure that’s a sacrilegious thing to say!

What I want to know is what is Lando WEARING? Dear lord.

Let me be the first to say, any comic book article talking about Joe Lansdale is a-okay with me.

Though I wish that the book would be collected like ‘Two Gun Mojo'; I assume DC didn’t want to re-visit the controversy.

I don’t know if the situation is similar to the last issue of Star Wars (though I wouldn’t be surprised), but the last issue of the original Excalibur, #125, is tough to find. No comics store I hit ever seems to have a copy. I haven’t tried e-bay yet, though.

The idea that a license for Star Wars comics was once worthless is astonishing. I mean, I can understand why it was, but it was only a few years later that Dark Horse stepped up the plate.

I haven’t tried e-bay yet, though.

There’s an Excalibur eBay auction going on now with no bids for #121-125.

The idea that a license for Star Wars comics was once worthless is astonishing.

There really was about a ive-year period after 1986 when there really wasn’t any new Star Wars product or merchandising at all, and it looked like the franchise would fade dramatically from the public view to become the property of hardcore fans. It took until 1991 when the Timothy Zahn Expanded Universe novels started coming out for the franchise to get jumpstarted. More novels, comics, the restart of the action figure line, the announcements of the Special Editions and the prequels all built the interest back up to the megalith it is today, but it really was out of general layperson pop culture consciousness except as a fandom love and a Trivial Pursuit: The 1970-1980s Edition question.

The franchise is going stronger than ever, even with the final of the films having come and gone, and a new TV series may keep it going, but entropy and aging means the same cycle will likely happen again. The downwards curve is less steep primarily because of the connection of fans on the internet and the permanence of the films on home video, but you can bet there will indeed be a time when Star Wars will cease to be profitable for some merchandisers, and until or unless a successor to Lucas jump starts it again in the national consciousness…well, in the words of Miss Shirley Bassey: “Just another case of history repeating.”

Remember when there used to be a new Star Trek novel, and sometimes two, every single month of the year?

The DeMatteis run has always been my favorite Cap run, but I always thought it petered out at 300. Now I know why.

Star Wars was one of the comics I had a subscription for through Marvel, so I got the issues in the mail.

Although I think that Jim Shooter had some problems in his managerial style can we (the comic book fan community) please begin to acknowledge the following facts about his tenure as EIC:

1) He worked very hard to maintain continuity in the Marvel Universe.

2) As mentioned above, he did his best to protect the profiles of the major characters in the Marvel Universe.

3) He made sure that no matter what, his product came out on time.

If we can accept the following three points, then we must accept the fact that Jim Shooter, despite his drawbacks, was a superior EIC to many of his successors including Joe Quesada.

Geeze.
Glad shooter didn’t approve THAT cap 300.
I mean…
DOOM as the only guy who’ll help cap?
WHA???

Have to agree with an earlier comment about the Winter lawsuit; who doesn’t know about that one? Perhaps the UL should be centered around a Lobo book also involving a parody of the Winters.

I was a big fan of those Jonah Hex Truman/Lansdale books, but it is a real stretch for Alan Grant to say that the weirdos in Riders of the Worm were some kind of homage/tribute to the Winters. This seems like an obvious case where they should have gotten their permission first.

When I was five we went on a beach vacation and it rained the whole week, so my parents bought me my first comics at the 7-11 across the street from our motel.

Even though I quickly found a comic shop back home to supply my ever-growing habit, I still felt that 7-11 retained some magical power, and whenever we drove by one, I would scream “SEVEN-ELEVEN SEVEN-ELEVEN” and make my parents pull over so that I could buy some comics. Sure enough, the 7-11 would always had some comics on the rack that I’d been looking for.

Eventually, I realized what that magic power was: 7-11 got their comics weeks or months after the comic shop, so they give me a second chance at comics I’d missed. (This also explains the gap between the first comic I got at that 7-11, Avengers #207, and the issue I bought when I found that comic store back home, #210)

“How can Chewie be grabbing Lando’s arse if his hands are both clearly visible in front of Lando?”

Lando isn’t standing up. Chewie’s carrying him and yes, he is totally grabbing him.

There is so much wrong with that cover. First, why is R2D2 facing away from front, or more aptly, pointed directly at Han’s crotch? Second, when did Luke join Menudo? And third, it really does look like Lando – rockin a nice ascot – is having a post coital smoke.

While I was no great fan of some of Shooter’s stuff – crappy Secret Wars, I’m looking at you – I have to say that his insistence on maintaing not only continuity but a deadline make him infinitely better than Quesada. The current “you’ll get it when you get it” scheduling drives me crazy. I say bring Shooter back and have him find a way to get Dr. Strange to retcon the last three years away.

the guy who sang free ride is an albino Scientologist?!?!? WTF

AstroZombie– your storybook/record set of “Planet of the Hoojibs” is an adaptation of David Michelinie & Walter Simonson’s story from Star Wars#55, the first appearance of the Hoojibs.

If Urban Legends hasn’t checked with Michelinie & Simonson about their Star Wars work before, they should; Simonson informed me that the “Tarkin” story from Star Wars #51-52 was originally going to feature a second Death Star, but Lucasfilm nixed it; likewise, the Hoojibs would have been more humanoid, but Lucasfilm was already working on the Ewoks. Even though Lucas didn’t share specific details for ROTJ with the book’s creators, they began to have a fair idea of what was in store just due to what they *couldn’t* print.

I purchased my copy of “Planet of the Hoojibs” around 1990, back when Star Wars merchandise went for pennies…it was shocking to see the same shops that sold me my Star Wars back issues for $0.25-75 in the late 80s turn around and jack them up to $10 each in the 90s.

I bought my copy of Star Wars 107 from a waldenbooks. For some reason, I always remember that. I hadn’t read the book in years and picked it up on a fluke.
One of the villains used in the comics towards the end of the series, Lumiya, is now a major character in the latest Star wars novel series, Legacy of the Force.

Bully – no rabble roused there! :) I, too, was surprised to note that not as many folks as you would think knew about it. Whenever I hit a possible one that I’m not sure if people know or not, I ask about 10 “average” comic fans if they know it (by average, I mean, I’m not asking, say, Neil Alien if he heard a Doctor Strange story, ya know?).

I went 0 for 10, so I figured that enough time has passed (or the story wasn’t as big of a deal, perhaps?) that folks just don’t know about it.

It’s past time people recognized Shooter as a great EIC. The guy did a few very evil things (Secret Wars, Avengers #200, and bringing Jean Grey back just a few of them), but with him we had 10 years of stories that, for the most part, had consistency and quality.

Guys like Claremont, Byrne, Miller, Simonson, Micheline, Stern, Mantlo, deMatteis, all were at the top of their game under Jim Shooter’s watch. Is it a coincidence that many of these creators devolved into indulgent parodies of themselves when they had more “creative freedom” after Shooter left?

To me, Shooter’s period as EIC was the greatest period Marvel ever had, except perhaps for the Lee/Kirby/Ditko days. With Quesada we have some very talented people working at Marvel, but no order, no direction, no purpose, no one to say “no” when some writer wants to make Wanda a nutjob all of a sudden or give Gwen Stacy secret kids. It’s not change that bothers me, it’s chaos. The status quo changes so fast that the MU just blurs into a big mess to me these days.

I’ve only bought 3 Captain America comics, but I definitely would have started following the book if that story came out. It could be published today with no changes at all and still be a unique and important story (if not, let me know, I’d like to read something with a similar premise!).

My Dad was introducing his (kinda hoosier) little cousin to rock and roll in the 70s and played him Edgar Winter. When asked what he thought about it, he said, “Do you think Edgar Winter knows Jesus?” I found that story endlessly hilarious.

I would have to agree that yes, Marvel continuity has gotten a bit out of hand these days. And yes, by this point Jim Shooter would have been sending Bryan Hitch his family members fingers in the mail by this point over Ultimates 2, but hey it’s not all bad. And that’s because without some of those seemingly retarded plot twists we wouldn’t see the characters grow. And while the Mahtma Gandhi Cap wouldn’t work after like 2 years and would be retconned with LMD’s or Changeling’s long lost brother Rangeling being the dead Cap it’d still be something new. And hey, it’s not like Marvel hasn’t had it’s share of black eyes before…clone saga Spidey…Peter’s parents being freaky ass synthoid things…Uh Spidey with bone claws as well as the rest of the Other arc?…Fake Aunt May…Iron Spidey…Wolverine Origins…um, Teen Doctor Strange…Heroes Reborn…Gambit (Yes, he looked cool at the time and he’s sassy and we all loved him growing up and on the TV show, but he’s not well developed or well used)…Maximum Carnage…The past few years of Uncanny X-men…Tentacle Callisto…and the list of silliness just keeps coming. I mean it’s comics for every particularly nifty thing that sticks there are a thousand others that are just plain wrong it’s the nature of the beast. I mean who ever thought that an evil star fish would still be around for as long as it has been in DC?

Thank Grodd for Jim Shooter. Too bad he’s not running the show at the House of M now. He’d certainly be an improvement over Bluto from Animal House.

A pacifist Cap would work about as well as the Spectre as the Spirit of Peace, Love, and Recycling. Someone needs to put Marc DeMatteis writing the Dove half of Hawk and Dove. Sounds like it would be a dream job.

Interestingly enough, Bryan, all those “black eyes” you mention start showing up within a few years of Shooter’s departure as EIC.

Look, I’m not about to start a petition to reinstate the guy as EIC; I’m aware of his shortcomings as well as his strengths. He wasn’t a people person, he had difficulties dealing with the kind of temperamental personalities you find in comics, and he wound up alienating a lot of people in his time in comics. (A few years back, DC talked with him about doing a Legion mini-series, but had to nix the idea when several creators said they’d just as soon not have him in the building.) But he had a lot of good points, a lot of good ideas; Christopher Priest called him a “genius”, and I don’t think that’s wrong.

I think what I’m saying is, “Let’s chop him and Joe Quesada into little bits, then put them together into a Franken-Editor who has both their strengths!”

There was a pretty cool 2-issue story in the brief Captain America: Sentinel Of Liberty series a few years ago in which Falcon *did* take over for Cap. I think it was Mark Waid’s.

“Someone needs to put Marc DeMatteis writing the Dove half of Hawk and Dove. Sounds like it would be a dream job.”

God, you people just never drop the rhetoric, do you? Just because you can’t separate the artist from the art, doesn’t mean nobody else can.

We’re not all as egotistical as you, really. Some of us can write a story without it being a manifesto.

Personally, I woulda loved to see what J. M. Dematties would have done with Cap if he had been left alone. Certainly it sounds like the story has the potential not to work, but Dematties’ Cap was very, very good up ’till then, and I doubt very much that it would have been worse than the half-assed, lackluster Captain America stories after # 300.

“Just because you can’t separate the artist from the art, doesn’t mean nobody else can.”

DeMatteis wanted to turn the embodiment of the American soldier into a pacifist and the embodiment of God’s wrath into Casper the Friendly (Hippie) Ghost. Sounds to me like one of the two pacifist superheroes would be something he’d be perfectly suited for.

When themes recur in a writer’s work, it’s either because (a) he’s a hack who can only revisit the same idea every time or (b) it’s a reflection of the writer himself. DeMatteis isn’t a hack.

Now I understand why Captain America #300 was such a lousy, disappointing issue. And also why Black Crow had such an unusually important role in it!

I do quite clearly recall buying that last issue of Star Wars on the newstand – I hadn’t gotten the comic for a few years and was stunned (well, I guess not THAT stunned) to see it was the “FINAL ISSUE.” And I pretty much had no idea what the hell was going on in it. Liked the art, tho.

I read both Jonah Hex miniseries when they came out and never heard about the legal controversy.

I found that urban legend interesting and always enjoy Brian’s Urban Legends column.

Chud,

While I accept two of your points, I do have some trouble with this one:

“2) As mentioned above, he did his best to protect the profiles of the major characters in the Marvel Universe.”

Wasn’t Shooter the one who, according to Doug Moench, wanted to replace Cap with a Wall Street Stock Broker during the height of the Reagan era? Or is that another urban legend for Brian to debunk? :- )

If it’s true, I’d hardly call it protecting the profile of the MU’s major characters.

But yeah, Marvel’s had a lot worse, management-wise. Whatever you think of Misters Quesada and Shooter, they’re still a marked improvement over Bob Harras. :- )

==Tom

“When themes recur in a writer’s work, it’s either because (a) he’s a hack who can only revisit the same idea every time or (b) it’s a reflection of the writer himself. DeMatteis isn’t a hack.”

It’s true, as seen in many interviews, that DeMatteis has deep pacifist convictions. He said several times that he is very suspicious of and troubled by the way superheroes use violence to solve problems. He has been very honest about it, even to the point that he said he doesn’t consider himself a good person to be writing straightforward stories in the superhero genre.

“But yeah, Marvel’s had a lot worse, management-wise. Whatever you think of Misters Quesada and Shooter, they’re still a marked improvement over Bob Harras. :- )”

I’m not sure who is worse, Bob Harras or Tom deFalco. DeFalco was the one that started to quickly destroy the very solid house Shooter had built, and Harras completed the destruction.

Although to be fair, neither Quesada nor Shooter had to deal with the ownership that DeFalco and Harras did. Purges, reorganizations, sales “targets” that were absurd, demands made by the marketing department onto editorial…really, it was a period where editing for Marvel was like sticking your hand into a piranha tank.

I was thinking that Jim Shooter really is the Bill Clinton of the comic book industry. He may be a deeply flawed man, and many people disliked him when he was the boss, but the guys that came after him messed things up so horribly that, by retrospect, his time seems more and more like a golden age.

And while I sympathize with JM deMatteis position in general, it just occured to me exactly why his idea was so horribly wrong for Captain America in particular. Pacifism may be a noble philosophy, but Cap is the one comic book character that knows that sometimes violence is the only solution, since he was created to fight the Nazis. Hitler was the one bad guy to prove that diplomacy just doesn’t cut it in some situations.

Now, seeing Batman renouncing his role as vigilante to concentrate on changing Gotham through peaceful means as Bruce Wayne would make more sense (but would still be extremely boring).

Personally, I woulda loved to see what J. M. Dematties would have done with Cap if he had been left alone. Certainly it sounds like the story has the potential not to work, but Dematties’ Cap was very, very good up ’till then, and I doubt very much that it would have been worse than the half-assed, lackluster Captain America stories after # 300.

gruenwald issues were classic cap, hardly lackluster and half assed.

I’m with Da Fug (Man, that sounds weird). I’d never heard of the Autumn/Winters lawsuit. Judging from their pictures, they were born to appear in comics.

All this talk about Jim Shooter having strengths as an editor–in–chief has given me the impetus to ask about a couple of things that happened during his run as EIC of Marvel, but may well have come from upstairs, to be fair. The surprising thing is that I never saw one word about them at the time, even in Fantagraphics’ newszine AMAZING HEROES, which was regularly dumping on Marvel then. First, some necessary background:

We all are aware, I’m sure, of the infamous DC Implosion of 1978. The thing is, two years later (as of September 1980 cover dates), DC did it again, with three differences: 1: No promotional name for the expansion (big deal; they were probably smarting from “Implosion”) 2. Only the three big team titles—Justice League, Legion, New T. Titans—added the extra pages to the already existing feature as opposed to getting back–up series (whereas the first time DC COMICS PRESENTS, JONAH HEX, and quite surprisingly Mike Grell’s one–man show WARLORD—and there might have been others that I never picked up on—all expanded the lead to 25 pages) (an obvious and well–advised move), and most significantly, 3. The overall page count did NOT go up, so advertising revenue was lost this time (never could figure THAT out) (you could call the fact that it worked this time a fourth difference). The thing is, Marvel apparently got wind and quickly followed suit, upping their cover price the same month (September, remember?), but not increasing the story-page count until the November-dated issues, and then only to 22, rather than DC’s 25 pages. We were charged an extra 25% without getting anything for it for two months! But they weren’t through. Marvel soon announced the return of the Bullpen Bulletins page, if only for a temporary try–out, and promised no story pages would be dropped for it. For that trial run, they were true to their word: it was the letters pages that vanished then! After a few months, they brought the feature back permanently, and a page of story/art disappeared to make room for it! (GCD indexes for the three Marvel titles of this period that I checked don’t list letter columns or the Bulletins page, but the story page counts DO drop from 22 to 21 as of November 1981 issues) Was Jim Shooter culpable in one, the other, or both of these pieces of BS, and why were there no truly public complaints about it that *I* ever encountered (I did hear talk in the comic shop which was my regular supplier at that time) Anybody know?

^^ I’m amazed that anyone can remember comic shop page-count scuttlebutt from over 25 years ago. Have you thought about using your superpowered memory for the forces of good? ;)

I came into comics during the De Falco Marvel era, so all I really know about Jim Shooter firsthand is the early Valiant, which was fantastic at the time. I think one can easily trace the editors-imposing-stories-on-writers syndrome that has afflicted superhero books for ages now back to him, however, such as with the death of Dark Phoenix.

“gruenwald issues were classic cap, hardly lackluster and half assed.”

I think deMatteis’s run was stronger, but Gruenwald was pretty good too. The Serpent Society, Diamondback, Madcap, Crossbones, Flag-Smasher, USAgent (though I think he was cooler as the Guy Gardneresque Superpatriot). Good times, good times.

Still, the last couple of years Gruenwald had on the title were pretty damned awful, that is one of the reasons I think deMatteis was better.

Never heard the Winter tale before. Love Freeride, mostly due to Dazed and Confused.

“bringing Jean Grey back just a few of them”

no killing jean grey first as an editorial stick in the mud because she killed a planet and then a few years later oh lets bring jean back but only if you find a way that blah blah blah constistency to what i think. I also think it was ridicules that he had a policy of no openly gay characters at marvel. Actually i didn’t think secret wars was that bad though…please don’t hurt me.

The Marvel Star Wars series often gets dumped upon, but for six solid years (’77-’83) they turned out some really cool stories. All of this while basically having to “run in place” between movies. I remember reading an interview with writer Jo Duffy about the restrictions Lucasfilm had on the comic. After the first movie, it was (for a while) “no Darth Vader, no Ben Kenobi, no Empire (although this and the Vader moritorium were eventually relaxed)” after Empire, they had a story which featured some three-foot tall bear-like aliens called Lahsbees, and they were changed to cat-like aliens, to differentiate themselves from the forthcoming Ewoks. Strangely enough, after Jedi, the restrictions got even harsher. “Don’t do anything with the Empire, it’s dead. Han and Leia are back to pre-going steady. Don’t do anything with the Jedi Knights, and don’t talk much of the sibling relationship between Luke and Leia.” The artwork got better and better. Howard Chaykin did a terrific fill-in issue during this era, and they were building a very interesting storyline, involving the Nagai. But with all of the restrictions put upon it, it started to seem less and less like Star Wars. When it finally got cancelled, it was all rushed to a very anti-climactic end, which is too bad, because I thought it deserved better. All of the stories are now reprinted by Dark Horse in series called Star Wars: A Long Time Ago… Worth checking out.

1) He worked very hard to maintain continuity in the Marvel Universe.

2) As mentioned above, he did his best to protect the profiles of the major characters in the Marvel Universe.

3) He made sure that no matter what, his product came out on time.

If we can accept the following three points, then we must accept the fact that Jim Shooter, despite his drawbacks, was a superior EIC to many of his successors including Joe Quesada.

I don’t accept anything of the sort. I’ve tried various samples of Marvel comics from before Jemas+Quesada came on board and just about the only one’s I’ve enjoyed were those written by Frank Miller. Personally I have to judge an EIC by how much I want to read the stories that come out during their reign so Joe Quesada takes the prize with ease for me.

“How can Chewie be grabbing Lando’s arse if his hands are both clearly visible in front of Lando?”

Lando isn’t standing up. Chewie’s carrying him and yes, he is totally grabbing him.

Ah I can see it now. I wondered what that large black phallus was protruding from Lando’s waist – but now I can see it’s just his leg. A bit of a disappointment really ;)

Not really understanding the Secret Wars hate- for all the commercial aspects, it was a really fun, self contained story (unlike HOM or Civil War- both children of Secret Wars II- which yes, you can count as a horror upon man), that had action, pathos, some great art (when Zeck actually did the honors- look at that cover for #10 and tell me that’s not one of the top 5 pictures of Doctor Doom ever drawn) and some really interesting, lasting consequences for certain characters that wonder of wonders, actually carried over into their individual books pretty seamlessly rather than the 40 some odd parallel divergences between a miniseries of today and the regular books.

Oh,and Dr. Doom owned everybody including Galactus for 1 1/2 issues. Always worth reading.

The Cap vs. Red Skull story arc, along with Secret Wars, were the two comics at that time that actually got me into the hobby- then it steamrolled for me as I got more and more titles- but those are the two that brought me in, and that Cap story is still one of the finest Cap arcs ever.

As for EIC’s, I think Quesada goes for some far more interesting character development- really delving into a world like ours that happens to have superheroes which in turn impacts on the action rather than going for the action at the expense of character work, but Shooter ran a tighter ship where there was more of a cohesive universe and some truly fun stuff came out of it.

One last point, when I see folks arguing on the boards as to what Captain America is supposed to stand for in this day and age or just dribbling lunacies on how he’s some sort of pro-US propaganda- the story I point them to is Gruenwald’s “Streets of Poison” arc where we really see what Cap’s all about- its probably my favorite Cap run after the 280-300 Red Skull Faceoff, and a really good primer on why Steve Rogers makes the hero work.

Mark i totally agree with everything you said except comparing civil war to house of m. i mean civil war definitily would have been better in the ultimate universe but it is leaps and bounds ahead of house of m. still not sure if civil war is as good a secret wars. as for secret wars it was a great wham bam thank you ma’am sort of fighting mini series that didn’t disapoint on action even if it was contrived.

…Hey, be grateful kids, that DeMatteis didn’t attempt to weave in some of his retarded mysticism concepts and make Cap some sort of “Agent Against The Dark”, or have himself appear in the book as God/Yahweh/Roddenberry and send Cap on a new mission with a yiddish-talking demon as the new “Bucky”.

Okay, it just seems odd that Chewie is carrying Lando over the threshold, and Lando is smoking. What does this say about their relation ship? Don’t answer I’m still trying to get a certain Thundercats fan fic out of my head.

Ow.

You’re close, but the real story is even more colorful than that.

Jesus, this is what I get for googling. Ow, ow, ow.

ParanoidObsessive

November 20, 2008 at 12:15 am

>>> This urban legend does seem to illustrate to me one of Jim Shooter’s great strengths as an EIC. (Yes, he did have them.) He was always thinking of the brand identity of the periodicals his company published, and he was always thinking of the long game.

I’ve felt for a very long time that Shooter gets a hell of a lot of crap from both industry professionals and fans that he honestly doesn’t deserve. Nearly every story I’ve heard about how horrible he was has struck me as a case of the writer/artist he had a disagreement with being a childish prima donna while Shooter was the one taking the sane and rational stance. About the only thing I’d fault him for was the Kirby original artwork issue – and it’s hard to blame him for that since it wasn’t his decision to make.

It’s easy for a for a writer/artist to complain that he’s stifling creativity or imposing his own view of the characters on the staff, but when you’ve got writers/artists who either don’t give a damn about the long-term viability of the character or are just incapable of realizing just how badly their “clever” plot is going to damage the title, I’d RATHER have someone like Shooter there to act as the voice of reason.

If anything, I think that’s precisely the sort of thing Marvel NEEDS these days, because clearly, the inmates are basically running the asylum.

But, when you add up writers and artists who are honked off at him for impeding their precious vision, plus people mad at him for the original artwork problem, and then just people who had personal agendas, you’ve got fertile ground for people fudging details or telling outright lies to make him seem far, far worse than he actually was. When those sorts of stories get told second-hand to people who don’t have the necessary knowledge to realize what’s true and what isn’t, it creates a distorted picture of what was really going on. The winners write history, and a lot of the history written about Shooter came out of Marvel after they booted him. Hardly reliable. Especially when some of the people who bashed him the hardest have shown themselves to have feet of clay as well…

Was he a saint? I’m sure he wasn’t. But I’ve never seen anything to convince me he’s the demon a lot of people try to paint him as, either.

>>> If we can accept the following three points, then we must accept the fact that Jim Shooter, despite his drawbacks, was a superior EIC to many of his successors including Joe Quesada.

When you factor in the fact that some of the greatest stories Marvel ever published came out of his time as EiC, and that a lot of people would agree that Marvel began a downward slide after his departure that it STILL has yet to fully recover from, I’d say he’s clearly the last great EiC Marvel had.

I always saw it as very telling that Valiant experienced a massive surge of popularity and quality writing during his tenure there, but then started to take an immediate and massive dump right into the toilet as soon as they pressured him out. Most of the things he was in favor of or against (and that the other Valiant staff used as their excuse to force him out) all seem like very good ideas when you compare them with what eventually happened to the line.

>>> no killing jean grey first as an editorial stick in the mud because she killed a planet and then a few years later oh lets bring jean back but only if you find a way that blah blah blah constistency to what i think.

Realistically, I’ve always taken a stance similar to that of Chris Claremont after the fact – that the death of Jean fit the story far better than anything else would have, and helped make it far more impactful and filled with meaning. People wouldn’t even REMOTELY be talking about that storyline as such a pivotal event the way we are if it ended by basically having Jean go “oh, I was crazy, but it’s okay I’m better now”. Even if Shooter’s sole objection was based on his “strong moral stance” that Jean shouldn’t be shown to have killed MILLIONS OF INNOCENT ALIENS which she was out of her mind and get away scot free (and really, that’s NOT a crazy stance to take!), it’s still the main reason why that story became so iconic.

It was of the most meaningful deaths in comics, and it was only cheapened by having the cop-out that it wasn’t Jean at all. But it would have been cheapened from the very beginning if it HAD been Jean, but nothing really happened and the status quo continued.

>>> I also think it was ridicules that he had a policy of no openly gay characters at marvel.

To be fair, it was far more understandable in the 80’s, when homosexuality was still seen by most people as a sort of mental illness, and gay men in general were being blamed for the spread of AIDS. Unless you lived at the time and were aware of public attitudes, it’s hard to understand just how PERMISSIVE and UNDERSTANDING people are about it today compared to even a few decades ago – and that’s even keeping in mind that Prop 8 just passed. Regardless of how bad people may think intolerance is today, it was FAR worse then.

When Northstar came out, there was a huge amount of press, even for a title which was ultimately so far off the radar most people probably thought it had been cancelled years before. And that was in 1992.

Try to have that same storyline nine years earlier, in 1983 (when Byrne was first developing the characters), and not only would you have had a LOT more press, most of it would have been VERY negative. ESPECIALLY when you realize most people tend to assume that comics are for KIDS (or did, at least – that perspective has shifted somewhat as well). In fact, I could easily see people sending threats to Marvel, or potentially escalating things to an even worse level.

Personally, I could care less what anyone’s sexuality is, but if I was EiC of Marvel in the mid-80’s, I’m not sure I would have been keen on having gay characters either. It could easily have been bad for business, and it’s not the role of comics to be social pioneers or cultural innovators.

>>> Not really understanding the Secret Wars hate- for all the commercial aspects, it was a really fun, self contained story (unlike HOM or Civil War- both children of Secret Wars II- which yes, you can count as a horror upon man), that had action, pathos, some great art (when Zeck actually did the honors- look at that cover for #10 and tell me that’s not one of the top 5 pictures of Doctor Doom ever drawn) and some really interesting, lasting consequences for certain characters that wonder of wonders, actually carried over into their individual books pretty seamlessly rather than the 40 some odd parallel divergences between a miniseries of today and the regular books.

I still say that the original Secret Wars series was, as a self-contained series, far more interesting and coherent than a lot of what Marvel’s putting out today. If nothing else, most of the characters actually acted the way they should based on decades worth of previous continuity, and didn’t have their entire personality retconned solely so they could play a role in a story that the writer felt like telling (Civil War Iron Man, Brand New Day Spider-Man, etc).

“DeMatteis has deep pacifist convictions.”

More power to him but changing a character that’s origins are intertwined so closely with the fight against Nazi Germany strikes me as ludicrous in the extreme. For Captain America to renounce violence would be to say that his whole life was nothing but a lie. Anyone with more than a cursory knowledge of history knows that pacifism just doesn’t work; examples such as Ghandhi and MLK Jr to the contrary.

As much as I usually rush to defend the Shooter years, I disagree with his call in this particular case. It could’ve been a really interesting Captain America story.

I do understand the call, though, for the same reasons deMatteis states.

Almost a year ago, Fred wrote: “For Captain America to renounce violence would be to say that his whole life was nothing but a lie.”

That was the point. That would’ve been an awesome story. To have Cap believe that pacifism works, by a writer who believes pacifism works; to want to renounce his entire life.

it is a good story for me because it is my favorite comic

Check out Lando, that pimp ass mutha fucka with his crevat n shit. You can just imagine him slapping Leia around too

*SLAP! “Bitch, where is my mutha fuckin money?”

I have to say I think Shooter was right on this one. And I’m saying this as a guy who’s favorite run on Cap IS the DeMatteis run (and it’s lead in with Zeck, Stern/Byrne) probably ever, and at least since the Tales of Suspense stories (and who followed and liked the man on all the Justice League titles). It was a great arc and showdown with the Skull, defining that character as best as he’s ever been. But too often writers often want to imprint their views on the character, even when the character doesn’t reflect their views. It does allow them some personal insight and storytelling, but doesn’t really support a pre-defined ongoing character. And most writers lean towards a more liberal bent. Cap isn’t a hardcore capitalist conservative, but he’s not going to be super lefty either, coming from being a soldier who was born pre-WWII. It’s why Iron Man has had so many bad stories and mischaracterizations, where he becomes a literal bad guy, or a defacto one (Civil War) because most writers can’t see how a big business capitalist could ever be a “good guy”. (Which is what made him so compelling a character, in a James Bond sort of way). In fact, Civil War probably had Stark and Rogers on the wrong side of the controversy…but because Cap had to be on the side of “right” he had to take the side that the writers and readers agreed with.

This is not to say that there can’t be “liberal” super heroes too. There are a lot of them that fit that description. Spiderman, obviously for one. Superman would probably lean that way with his upbringing, beliefs, and working for a newspaper. But when writers try and make characters like Batman fit their beliefs (super rich guy who had his parents killed by criminals? Yeah, right), they end up with stories that fail.

I distinctly remember owning this comic, so I would think there was about a 90 per cent chance I bought in on the newsstand. I was a junior in high school when it came out and bought most of my comics either at the 7-11 in my neighborhood or at the Waldenbooks in the local mall. However, there was a comic book specialty shop that had just opened in my small town of 75,000 that very year, so if I bought the issue there, I suppose that would count as direct market. I mostly remember only purchasing there stuff that absolutely couldn’t be found on the newsstands like the Dark Knight mini-series or DC Challenge. So, while I don’t really remember after a quarter of a century, I think the odds are very high I bought it on the newsstand, having no idea then or in the intervening 25 years until just this moment that it was some sort of rarity.

ParanoidObsessive

August 20, 2011 at 12:05 pm

>>> “That was the point. That would’ve been an awesome story. To have Cap believe that pacifism works, by a writer who believes pacifism works; to want to renounce his entire life.”

To be fair, that sort of storyline works a HELL of a lot better in a What If?/Elseworlds style setting, if only because it doesn’t permanently crap on decades worth of continuity and leave a massive mess for future writers to clean up if it doesn’t work as well as you’d hoped. It’s also doing permanent damage to the image of a core intellectual property of a publicly-traded company, which is usually considered bad business all around. That’s the sort of thing an editor SHOULD step in and put a stop to.

In a similar vein, most of Grant Morrison’s run on X-Men would probably have worked much better either as a stand-alone series with separate continuity (a la the Ultimate line), or at least something decoupled from both past and future continuity. That way, Marvel wouldn’t have had to resort to reality-warping storylines that span over multiple years (which are still affecting continuity to some extent) just to clean up the mess.

Certain writers have a tendency of wanting to write what they consider to be brilliant stories with very little regard to past continuity or what future writers are going to have to deal with when they eventually take over years later. And some of those stories might actually be really interesting (while some are almost certainly incredibly stupid). But either way, stories that utterly shred the status quo tend to work MUCH better as stand-alone stories.

You know, I tend to agree that Captain America becoming a pacifist wouldn’t have worked. But does nobody here remember the earlier Englehart stories in the 1970s, where Cap gave up the costume to become Nomad for the first time? I don’t think it would have been out of line at all for Cap to spend a few issues wondering if violent superheroics were actually doing anything to help the world. I just don’t think it would be a permanent change. Something would happen to reassure him of the value of his actions.

And if any comic is going to be involved in political controversy, “Captain America” has always seemed like a great place to have it.

Oh yes, I loved the early Goodwin/Infantino issues of Star Wars, but didn’t stick with the title when the creative team changed.

The funny thing is, during the whole Who Will Wield the Shield? kerfuffle, I really wanted the Falcon to become the new Captain America. And afterward, when I thought about it a little, I thought it would have been much cooler if American Eagle became the new Cap. I must have been getting psychic messages from 1980s-era DeMatteis.

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