Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
This is the one-hundredth 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-nine. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.
This week’s installment is a special one-hundredth edition! This week is DOUBLE-SIZED (comic book style double-sized)!! It features ALL-STAR GUEST STARS! And it contains…the ORIGINAL COMIC BOOK URBAN LEGEND that was REVEALED!
Civil War #1 was “double-sized,” but it had 33 story pages as compared to the usual 21/22. So it really wasn’t DOUBLE the size at all, was it? 50% more, though, has become standard in the comic book industry for “double” the size.
So, in this double-sized edition of Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed, rather than 3 urban legends this week, you all will get FIVE!
The first four are courtesy of super-duper comic creator guest stars, who will each contribute their own urban legend!!
Fred Van Lente is so awesome that he has his own HOLIDAY! He also writes the awesome Action Philosophers, as well as a ton of different comics for Marvel, including an upcoming series starring M.O.D.O.K.!! Read more about him at his website here.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: The Scorpion was originally going to be the child of Viper and Silver Samurai
Editor Mark Paniccia had liked an indy “super-crime” comic I had written, The Silencers, and we had kicked around a project idea or two while he was still at Tokyopop.
Then, when he took a job at Marvel, he invited me, and a couple other writers, to pitch for the next arc in a comic called Amazing Fantasy. They had run a poll on Marvel.com that had the readers vote on a character to receive a complete “makeover”: same name, but otherwise a completely different character from the ground up. The Spidey villain Scorpion won the poll.
Mark wanted the new Scorpion to be a teenage girl superspy with a stinging touch, and because I wanted to tie her in to the larger Marvel Universe, I came up with the idea of an adopted girl who discovers that she’s illegitimate daughter of venerable villains and frequent partners-in-crime, Viper and the Silver Samurai. I figure V&SS got drunk one night in Madripoor or something, hooked up in their hotel room, and the new Scorpion was the result. The Scorpion’s stinging arm would be a combination of Viper’s venom powers and the Silver Samurai’s energy-field mutant ability.
I wrote up a one-page pitch, sent it in, and a few days later, received a very nice rejection email back from Mark, thanking me, saying they liked it, but they decided to go with another writer’s pitch. I was disappointed, as you might imagine, but I figured, what the heck, I made a good showing of myself, and the door was left open for me to pitch more stuff in the future.
Then, out of nowhere, a little less than a month later, Marvel calls me and says they had to let the other writer go (for reasons I quite consciously made the decision I would remain blissfully ignorant of) and they were going to go with my pitch instead.
The phone conversation went something like this:
MARVEL: “Except, here’s the thing, Silver Samurai is in Wolverine right now and you can’t use him. And we have plans for Viper in another book, so you can’t use her either. But other than that, the pitch is great.”
ME: (long pause) “So what you’re saying is, you’re accepting my pitch about a girl who finds out she’s the daughter of the Viper and the Silver Samurai…”
ME: “…except I can’t use the Viper.”
ME: “Or the Silver Samurai.”
MARVEL: “Right.” (beat) “And we need it by Thursday.” (We had this conversation on Tuesday.) “Go for it, Fred! We know you can do it!”
Click … hmmmmmmmm ….
Once I recovered from my three coronaries, I managed to turn in an outline for a new arc that retained the spirit of what I had originally intended but with characters of my own creation. The arc was well received and some of those characters have wormed their way into the larger Marvel Universe — Scorpion’s SHIELD handler Derek Khanata, for example, played a major role in Parker & Kirk’s Agents of Atlas — but whenever I look at the character I’m always reminded of what might-have-been.
Because so much time had been lost in the publishing schedule since they hired a second writer (me), the artist had to design the character so the cover could be drawn before I had actually turned in my second pitch. So the finished character was designed from the old pitch, you see?
And that’s why the new Scorpion has green hair:
Because she was supposed to be the Viper and the Silver Samurai’s daughter.
(Oh, and in June the new Scorpion returns in back-ups in Spider-Man Family #3 by me and Leonard Kirk in which she fights Mac Gargan/Venom for the rights to the Scorpion name … and Heroes for Hire #11, which sets up the role she plays in World War Hulk. Sorry, we comics creators never miss a chance to plug…)
Jeff Parker writes a lot of great comics for Marvel, from Agents of Atlas to X-Men: First Class to some of the funniest superhero comics out there with Marvel Adventures: Avengers. He does all this AND managed to publish a cool book about Alex Toth! Surely he must be more machine than man! Read about the continuing legend of Jeff at his website here.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Marvel Adventures: Fantastic Four #12 was an intentional knock-off of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
“Doom Where’s My Car?” was based precisely on Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, right down to specific lines from the movie in a few places.
My 2 year got infatuated with the movie and wanted to see it all the time, so I saw it all the time. And at some point in a sleepy haze I was watching and realized; Reed is a wacky inventor like Dick Van Dyke, Truly Scrumptious could be Sue, Dr. Doom is Baron Bomburst, and so on. You could have even done this in regular continuity with Val and Franklin replacing Crackitus Potts’ kids. And it let me do Latveria the way I wanted, where they’re all still stuck in the past wearing lederhosen.
For an extra Marvel Adventures factoid, the latest Avengers book, “Ego, The Loving Planet” is the only pitch I’ve ever gotten through solely on a phone call. That occurred to me while driving somewhere and I called Nate Cosby and spoke it all out to him, trying my best to imitate Billy Dee Williams as Ego. A Barry White voice as people suggest is appropriate too, but can even a living planet speak that deep?
Besides being one of the most prominent letterers in comics today, Chris Eliopoulos co-writes and draws the awesome series of comics featuring the adventures of Frankin Richards, son of Mr. Fantastic. Read more about Chris at his website, Desperate Times. And you can read his new daily webcomic, Misery Loves Sherman, here!
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Chris Elopoulos draws the Mini-Marvels series.
For a long time now, people confuse Chris Giarrusso for me and me for him. Many people see a cartoonist named Chris and some long unpronounceable last name and assume they’re the same person.
Well, we’re not.
For one thing, Chris is younger than me. He’s also taller than me (just about everyone is) and better looking than me. He can also beat Mike Oeming at arm wrestling while I’ve been known to lose to a six-year-old girl. Online and at conventions, we always get confused for the other. We are both cartoonists who have had back-up features in Savage Dragon, but while I do Franklin Richards, Chris does Mini Marvels and G-Man.
I’ve seen people post messages that “Franklin, just like my other work-the Mini-Marvels, was wonderful.” I’ve had people tell me at conventions that they LOVE my G-Man comic. I try to politely tell them we’re not the same guy. Chris warned me that I may have some fans who now hate me because when people hand him a Franklin to sign, he refuses to sign it which probably confuses and angers the fan.
So, there’s another difference when you meet us-I’m the nice one!
Jay Faerber currently writes two of the best ongoing superhero comics out there, Noble Causes and Dynamo 5, both monthly from Image Comics. You can read more about Jay at his website here.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Jay Faerber’s run on Titans featured some prominent supporting characters that were not in Jay’s intended plan for the series.
The DEO kids in my Titans run were forced on me, to a degree. Editor Andy Helfer wanted to shake the book up, and come up with a concrete reason why the Titans exist — a reason beyond “to fight crime,” since that’s the reason ALL super-teams exist. He wanted a mission statement, which is completely understandable. We were talking one night, and he mentioned this idea about a group of kids showing up on the Titans’ doorstep. They’re being pursued by someone/something, and the Titans wind up acting as their protectors, which becomes their new “mission.”
He said that idea was just a “for instance,” and I was glad, because I wasn’t crazy about it. I felt it aged the Titans, by making them the “grown-ups” of the book. Over the next week or so, Andy kept circling back to that idea, to the point where it became clear that’s what we were gonna do. He had initially suggested they be aliens, but I countered with the idea that they had escaped from the DEO’s Orphanage, which had been established in some stories by D. Curtis Johnson. I’ve always liked government conspiracy stuff more than alien-stuff, so this felt like a way to at least make the idea semi-interesting to myself. Andy had no problems with that, so we moved ahead.
I honestly can’t even remember all the kids’ names. I know the tough little kid with the magnetic powers was Scrap, and he was largely my creation. Grace, the athletic girl, was also my creation. The kid who could slow stuff down was mainly Andy’s idea — the powers, at least.
The autistic girl was another Andy contribution. And the strong, chubby kid was Andy’s suggestion, as well.
The personalities were pretty much all me. So it’s not like Andy was dictating the stories to me. He just provided the general set-up, and then we’d get together for lunch and talk through each issue before I wrote it, but once I started writing the script, I was pretty much left alone. Obviously, the DEO kids didn’t go over well at all, which is to be expected, I guess, when even the writer isn’t crazy about the idea. But again, the execution was largely mine. Who knows? If Andy had been working with another writer, the concept could’ve worked beautifully. I just know I wasn’t the guy to make it work.
A good friend of mine, Bill Walko, runs a fantastic Titans-related website, and he’s got a copy of my original proposal for the book. This is what landed me the gig. If you check it out, you’ll see just how different it is from what actually made it on the page!
Thanks to all my guests! You guys rule!
Now, here, for the first time in this format, is the original urban legend to be revealed!!!
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Walter Simonson compiled a list of all the appearances of Doctor Doom in comics and determined which ones were actually Doom and which ones were Doom-bots.
In Fantastic Four #350, we saw the return of a famous Fantastic Four character, Doctor Doom.
That is not that abnormal, except this time, we saw the return of the “real” Doctor Doom!!
In the issue, writer Walter Simonson introduced the idea that Doom had been off on a long journey through time and space, and in his absences, he left behind “Doom-Bots,” robots that looked and acted just like Doom.
The “Doom-Bot” idea was first introduced during John Byrne’s run on Fantastic Four, where Byrne wrote off an appearance by Doom that he thought was out of character of Doom as being a “Doom-Bot.”
What Simonson did here was to extend Byrne’s idea, and put into question ANY Doom appearances that seemed odd, as Simonson’s Doom had returned from time to time over the years.
The effect of this idea is clear – it allows the reader to assume, in their minds, that any given “out of character” appearance by Doom was a Doom-Bot.
Simonson printed a letter a couple of issues later from a reader who suggested that readers could put together a list of what they considered “official” appearances of Doom.
This, soon, though, like a game of “telephone,” evolved into the notion that Simonson, himself, had put together such a list.
This idea was talked about so often in fandom that here, at Comics Should Be Good, I referenced “the list.”
Simonson wrote to me about the list, explaining that he had never, in fact, written any such list. He added the amusing joke, “I may have to foster the notion of such a list and at the appropriate time somewhere down the line, produce the list, and then try to sell it on eBay.”
He also expressed his bemusement at having his own “urban legend.” The notion then hit me that there were plenty of such misinformation bandied about comic fandom, especially since the advent of the internet, so a series where I debunk or confirm these “urban legends” would be pretty neat.
And one hundred installments later – here we are.
It’s been fun, no?
Let’s see if I can wrangle up another one hundred!!
Okay, that’s it for this first one hundred!
Feel free to drop off any urban legends you’d like to see featured!
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