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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #115

This is the one-hundred and fifteenth 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 one-hundred and fourteen. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.

This is a special theme week. Each urban legend this week is a follow-up on a previous urban legend installment!

Let’s begin!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Marvel had a line of female heroine comic books in the 1970s.

STATUS: True

As conveyed in a recent installment of Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed, a reader asked me about a line of female superheroes by Marvel, and I detailed to her how, in 1948, Marvel attempted to try out a line of female superheroes, starring Namora, Sun Girl and Venus.

However, I was reminded the other day that I could have also mentioned ANOTHER time that Marvel had a line of comic books designed for females, in 1972, where Roy Thomas took the idea of female comics to a very interesting place for that time period.

In Comic Book Artist #2, Roy Thomas and Stan Lee have a conversation, and the topic comes to an idea that Lee had in the early 70s…

Thomas: I’ve heard that there was a great dropoff in female readers in the early ’70s. We came up with three strips for which you made up the names and concepts: Shanna the She-Devil, Night Nurse, and The Claws of the Cat. Were we trying to woo the female readers back?

Lee: Yes, and also to appeal to the male readers who liked looking at pretty girls. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to draw the girls the way they’re drawn now, because I think if we had been, our sales would have soared much more than they did!

As Thomas relates, in late 1972, Marvel launched three new titles, all starring female heroines.

The Claws of the Cat

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Night Nurse

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and

Shanna the She-Devil.

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In a brilliant piece of creative thinking, Thomas assigned to each book a separate FEMALE writer!!

Linda Fite (later long-time wife of artist Herb Trimpe) wrote The Cat, Jean Thomas (Roy’s wife at the time) wrote Night Nurse and Carole Seuling (wife of Direct Market innovator, Phil Seuling) wrote Shanna the She-Devil.

In addition, Thomas had Marie Severin draw The Cat!

The books, sadly, did not do well commercially, and all were canceled after only a few issues each (sadly, this meant that an issue of The Cat, drawn by comic legend Ramona Fradon, never saw publication).

Tony Isabella revived the star of The Cat, as the mystical creature, Tigra!

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(Note the amusing use of the term “Were-Woman”).

Steve Englehart used the costume from The Cat for a new superhero, Hellcat.

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Steve Gerber (who gave Seuling some assistance on Shanna) brought Shanna to the pages of Daredevil.

Night Nurse basically faded away into limbo.

It is too bad – it is nice to see companies take a shot at a different market.

Thanks to Roy Thomas for the great interview with Stan Lee!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Disney once kept a company from publishing comic strips that, at the time, were most likely in the public domain.

STATUS: True

In last week’s installment of Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed, I discussed a series of Mickey Mouse comic strips by Floyd Gottfredson from the late 1930s. How a company was kept from publishing those stories is quite an interesting tale of the power of corporations.

In the late 80s, Malibu Graphics, through its Eternity Comics line (stupid typo! I wrote Eclipse when I meant Eternity! Sorry, folks!), published a number of comic strips and older comic books that had fallen into the public domain.

The Three Stooges, for instance.

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In 1989, they decided to go for the big brass ring, and go after comic strips starring Mickey Mouse that had, to most observers, fallen into the public domain. Floyd Gottfredson’s classic strips had been sporadically reprinted in the past, but in almost every instance, they had been heavily censored. Malibu was taking this opportunity to present the strips as they originally appeared, including (eventually) the infamous “Mickey tries to kill himself” strips.

As you all may know, there is a difference between copyright and trademark. The Mickey Mouse strips in question may very well not have been protected by copyright (and, again, let us please note that Disney has never conceded that these works ARE in the public domain, even though the evidence certainly suggests it), but they certainly WERE still trademarked (and will continue to be trademarked so long as the Walt Disney corporation exists).

Therefore, “Mickey Mouse” could not be used to advertise these comics, nor could they be designed so that they would confuse readers into thinking they were authorized Disney products.

Malibu’s response to this dilemma was inspired.

They titled the book The Uncensored Mouse, and had the covers all black. They only mentioned the fact that they were collecting classic Floyd Gottfredson comic strips. Finally, they were sealed in a bag so that a casual reader would be unable to pick up the book and confuse it for a Disney product.

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Satisfied that they had jumped through the required hoops, the series was released, reprinting strips from January to March in issues #1 and 2 (the first issue featured strips written by Walt Disney himself!).

However, Disney was displeased by the product, and sued Malibu.

The records are sealed, so we will never know for sure WHAT legal strategy Disney used, but most likely, they argued that some of the strips that were collected in the comic were reprinted later by Disney in collections that WERE protected by copyright, and that therefore, The Uncensored Mouse was in violation of THOSE copyrights.

Or heck, they very well could have just threatened to keep Malibu in court for years, piling up legal fees.

WHATever tact Disney took, it caused Malibu to back down, and the second issue of The Uncensored Mouse was the last issue of The Uncensored Mouse, leaving the book MANY months shy of actually reprinting the suicide strips.

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Malibu destroyed any remaining copies it had, but there are still a number of copies out there on the secondary market.

Thanks to noted Disney expert, Jim Korkis, for his valuable insights into these events.

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Al Milgrom was blacklisted from Marvel Comics after he snuck an insult of Bob Harras into a comic book.

STATUS: False

In one of the very first installments of Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed, I detailed how Al Milgrom snuck an insult of exiting Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras into the background of a panel in an issue of Universe Special: Spidey.

Commenter Cyberman, however, thought that it is worthwhile to point out some misconceptions regarding the event, and I know Daniel Best also felt that some things were misconstrued.

Cyberman wished to point out that there has been this belief that once he was fired, Milgrom was basically blacklisted from Marvel.

This is not the case, as Milgrom worked with Jim Starlin on Thanos afterwards.

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In fact, Milgrom even stayed on the book after Starlin left, inking Ron Lim.

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So no, Milgrom was not blacklisted from Marvel.

Another misconception arises from the basic accepted phrasing of the occurrence: “Al Milgrom was fired by Marvel because he snuck an insult of Bob Harras into a comic book.”

This is most likely false. You see, the mistake was actually caught BEFORE the book was printed. It was accidentally sent to the printer ANYways, leading to a costly pulping of the comic.

Therefore, THAT, more than the insult, is more likely the reason for Milgrom’s firing.

However, a (fairly believable, really) conspiracy theory has formed that the whole exercise was basically a convenient excuse to fire Milgrom “for just cause,” thereby keeping Marvel from having to pay him a severance package. This is basically impossible to prove (I can just imagine asking Marvel, “Oh yeah, I remember that! Yeah, we pretended to be mad so we could fire him!”), so it will just have to be filed under “unverified.”

Milgrom is currently working for Archie, inking their “new style” line of comics.

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Thanks to Cyberman, Rich Johnston (who did a great job covering the story when it first happened) and Daniel Best.

Okay, that’s it for this week!

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

48 Comments

In regards to that Night Nurse cover:

I have no idea how her honoring the Hippocratic oath (do nurses swear that? Regardless.) would make the man she loves walk out on her. I mean. Unless he hates black people. That would be a valid reason for him to leave her. She probably shouldn’t be dating that bigot in the first place, but if he is in fact a racist, I could see how helping a black man would upset him.

Didn’t Night Nurse return in the latest Dr. Strange mini series?

A new Night Nurse was introduced during Bendis’ run on Daredevil. She then appeared in Brian K. Vaughan’s Dr. Strange: The Oath mini. It’s not been made clear whether this is supposed to be the original Night Nurse or not. The original had no superheroic elements to it, the new one is a woman who helps injured superheroes.

It should also be noted that the Thanos series that Milgrom inked was not published until Quesada and Jemas took over from Bob Harras, so while it may not be true now, or true “officially”, it was most likely true during the tail end of Harras’ reign as EiC

So Night Nurse is kind of like the Marvel nurse-y version of DC’s Doctor Midnite?

I dig it.

Concerning the Al Milgrom story: It’s interesting that Marvel saw fit to pulp the offending books, but reprinted them (with the insult intact) in the trade paperback editions.

The new Night Nurse seems to only have the name (and to only use it as a “hero identity” at that – she’s actually an M.D., I’m fairly sure.) Not that the original heroine of “Night Nurse” ever actually went around saying stuff like “I am Night Nurse, fear my power!”, it being simply her job title.

If you have one of the Marvel DVD collections, it’s fascinating (and easy) to read the “Bullpen Bulletins” pages in sequence. You can spot a lot of trends, controversies, concerns, etc., in hindsight.

One thing I found interesting (from the period a couple years prior to this era, I think) is that the “hot” Marvel artists of the day (e.g., Steranko, Romita, Buscema) would occasionally do new work for a Marvel romance title, and this would be highlighted in BB with a bit of gentle prodding for “crossover appeal” to the male audience. (Like “Even if you don’t dig the goopy stuff, we think you’ll like looking at Steranko’s GIRLS!”)

I wonder if that sort of thing was a conscious attempt at shoring up the “female” titles’ sagging sales, the artists wanting an occasional break from drawing men in tights, or a little of both? (One thing I’ve noted with interest is that Stan Lee was the regular writer on “Millie the Model” during its “humor” period, which I figure *must* have been mostly because he just plain enjoyed writing them. You have to figure that’s work he could’ve farmed out pretty easily if he’d wanted to….)

I know that when Marvel first started his MAX line, they announced a new Night Nurse series, even written by Steve Gerber if I remember correctly. Sadly, like Deathlok, it never saw print.
It’s possible that Bendis based his Night Nurse in Daredevil (which I’m sure we agree is the same Night Nurse as in Brian Vaughan’s The Oath) on the MAX Night Nurse, but I doubt it, since the MAX Night Nurse was supposed to be based in Marvel’s horror corner (with appearances by Werewolf by Night or Blade).

Might be stuff for a future CBULR, I don’t know.

As I’m sure others will remind you — Eclipse was its own company with NO connnections whatsoever to Malibu in any of its identities. You seem to be confusing the Malibu Eternity imprint with the Eclipse name.

Eclipse as a publishing house was very upfront and above-board. they also fought for their principles and understood copyright law very well (they brought back the Hillman characters, reprinted Pogo and Krazy Kat material, and dealt with the whole Miracleman copyright fiasco). If they had published the Uncensored Mouse, they would have had everything in line and would have proceeded forward no matter what the legal challenges. Heck, I feel confident in saying that the Eclipse team would have seen the legal challenges as a fight worth fighting, if it had gone that far. (can you tell that I miss this company?)

Actually, Michael, I believe that the MAX Night Nurse was supposed to be by Gail Simone, not Gerber. I remember because out of all the original MAX announcements, that was the one to which I most looked forward at the time.

“It should also be noted that the Thanos series that Milgrom inked was not published until Quesada and Jemas took over from Bob Harras, so while it may not be true now, or true “officially”, it was most likely true during the tail end of Harras’ reign as EiC”

The offending piece was printed after Harras was fired at which point Quesada was already eic. He was fired from his contract role (what we call exclusive these days) but still got freelance work. I believe he worked on more than just Thanos since then but I’m not sure what.

From what I understand the current Night Nurse is not the same one from the 70’s. Bendis gave her a role in DD and later she had a big role in Dr. Strange: The Oath. I don’t know what the future plans are for her, but if the story was canon, she suppose to work from Strange’s house. Guess it’s a bit of a problem with the NA and SHRA situation.

Shanna is currently on her own mini-series.

Hellcat is having a focus in the revamped Marvel Comics Presents.

Tigra is… What the hell is she doing nowadays?
————

I didn’t know about Al milgrom being fired, but I remember at the time Marvel made a big deal out of this case.

Glad that someone caught the Eclipse/Malibu mistake. Malibu was related to a huge number of other companies, but Eclipse was not one of them.

I miss Eclipse too, but I’m don’t see them as quite as uber-competent with regards to the law and fighting the good fight. Certainly, anyone fighting Disney over Mickey Mouse was going to get steamrolled sooner or later. I’m just amazed that Malibu got two issues of Uncensored out.

An idea for a future legend: I remember hearing that Cat Yronwode sometimes had secret messages in her fit to print columns, and that she announced Dean Mullaney’s break-up with her in one — true?

Oh and thanks for the update on Milgrom. I still find it extremely annoying that Marvel pulped the book and fired Milgrom because of the hidden comment, when Bill Jemas actually wrote a story portraying Peter David as a drunk. That’s the part that convinces me that they were looking for an excuse to take away Milgrom’s benefits. It’s a shame, because Milgrom is not only a good artist (at least when not being asked to pencil or ink a book overnight), but a great editor (ah, Marvel Fanfare, you’re still missed).

Re: That Night Nurse cover . . . I live in the big city, and every time I’ve been to a big city hospital, it is really, really, really NOT glamorous!

Man, Night Nurse was hot though. They should definitely bring her back.

“Tigra is… What the hell is she doing nowadays?”

Tigra was the Pro-Reg spy on the Anti side in Civil War (see Black Panther circa #24). She popped up Mighty Avengers #3, about to get her bones jumped by Hank Pym. But alas, she was rejected. Now she’s on the cover to Ms. Marvel #19:

http://www.marvel.com/catalog/?id=7253

I freakin’ love Night Nurse. I especially love the cover to the first issue.

I didn’t know there was a Ramona Fradon “Cat” issue. I wonder if it exists somewhere – I’d love to read it.

Just to complement Marino’s comment, Tigra was kidnapped by the Puppet Master, and is show in one of his “female servants for sale” display in Ms. Marvel #18, down south in Chile. I guess the writers just don’t know what to with her…

I think you’re jumping to some pretty big conclusions about the Night Nurse cover, Adam. You’re assuming the fact that he’s Black has anything to do with why here boyfriend is threatening to leave if she helps him. While that’s certainly possible, there are plenty of other possible reasons (I’m guessing the cop rushing towards the scene in the background has something to do with it).

Am I the only one who, when they looked at that Thanos #1 cover, at first thought that, thanks to the positioning of Thanos’ fist and the gap between the “T” and the “H”, it looks like the T-man is flipping a major bird to the readers????

Jon

I happened to read my friend’s copies of the Uncensored Mouse just this week. I was astonished that a Mickey Mouse strip could be so narcissistic; one of the stories also contained a pretty blatant racial undertone. Definitely worth checking out if you can get your hands on a copy. The two volumes didn’t contain the “suicide” attempts, but I believe those have been published across the web recently.

I’m not sure when Floyd Gottfredson began to do the Mickey Mouse strips. But the first strips (January to March, 1930) were written by Walt Disney, pencilled by Ub Iwerks and inked by Win Smith.

The two “Uncensored Mouse” comic books reprinted them, very few FG strips, if any. At least the first issue didn’t have any Gottfredson strips. FG began somewhere in the middle of the “Death Valley” story, beginning the 31st of March, 1930.

In the Finnish reprint album from the early 70s, there had been cut off a sequence with Mickey swimming naked. The suicide strips were there, anyhow.

And there were Mickey’s adventures with a cannibal tribe, which would be considered racist in these days. That was in “The Uncensored Mouse”.

At least Milgrom is getting work, unlike Herb Trimpe.

Thanks, guys! Just a typo – I wrote Eclipse where I meant to write Eternity!

Thanks for catching it!

Couldn’t Marvel’s “Glamazons” be considered a female line of comics?

There was “The Savage She-Hulk”, “Spider-Woman,” “Dazzler,” and “Ms. Marvel,” who oftened appeared together either in the comics or to advertise Marvel subscriptions.

All have made comebacks in some form, Shulkie and Marvel in their own books, Webby in “New Avengers” and Dazzler in “New Excalibur.”

“The records are sealed, so we will never know for sure WHAT legal strategy Disney used, but most likely, they argued that some of the strips that were collected in the comic were reprinted later by Disney in collections that WERE protected by copyright, and that therefore, The Uncensored Mouse was in violation of THOSE copyrights.”

Just a note from this. If I know my copyright law (which I should as I only recently completed my degree and mind you Aust law is a little different to the US) then Disney wouldn’t have been able to claim a later publication as holding copyright unless it had new material.

I suspect they basically just bullied Malibu into stopping due to the cost/return wouldn’t have been sufficient.

I like how action packed that cover of Shana is. It’s basically got all the daily requirements a growing comic book geek needs to get through the days, including a monkey!

Well, this is embarrassing. It seems installment #3 of this very feature already covered the Bob Harras/Al Milgrom topic and… found it to be true!

And the reading comprehension award of the week goes to…

This is a special theme week. Each urban legend this week is a follow-up on a previous urban legend installment!

and

In one of the very first installments of Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed, I detailed how Al Milgrom snuck an insult of exiting Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras into the background of a panel

How embarrassing!

[quote]“Tigra is… What the hell is she doing nowadays?”

Tigra was the Pro-Reg spy on the Anti side in Civil War (see Black Panther circa #24). She popped up Mighty Avengers #3, about to get her bones jumped by Hank Pym. But alas, she was rejected. Now she’s on the cover to Ms. Marvel #19:[/quote]

I know about CW and heard about her appearance in MA (don’t read it). Don’t read Ms. Marvel either. So other than her spying in CW she didn’t do anything important lately. Even that role was unnecessary.

Tigra’s future doesn’t look bright:

NEW AVENGERS #35
Written by BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS
Pencils & Cover by LEINIL FRANCIS YU
The Hood makes his play for the big time by gathering the most ruthless rogues gallery of evil the Marvel Universe has ever seen. What does a guy who wants to be the “Kingpin of all super-villains” do to make his point? You have to see it to believe it.
Guest-Starring Tigra. Poor Tigra. Poor, poor Tigra.
32 PGS./Rated A ?$2.99

A couple notes on the Night Nurse series… her first name, Linda, is on the cover of the first issue, and I believe her last name was Carter.

Also, if you happened to see all four covers, you’d notice that she’s shown as a blonde, a brunette and a redhead.

J_Maggio, the brunette and redhead were Linda’s roommates. The series was set up to change leads between them from issue to issue. And believe it or not, NIGHT NURSE was really a fun, well-written series. It doesn’t deserve its current “joke” status at all. It was better than a large percentage of its Marvel peers of the era.
(And Linda Carter, Night Nurse was preceded in the early 60’s by a series called LINDA CARTER, STUDENT NURSE. Presumably, they are the same character, although I believe she changed hair color by the time her 70’s series came along.)

I vaguely remember a Black Panther miniseries from Marvel in the 80s, involving apartheid in South Africa.

The series halted abruptly. I’ve heard some wild things about what was in the unpublished issues. What happened?

It’d be interesting to read some information about the case of alleged civil suit Grant Morrison vs Wachowski brothers on account of their supposedly ripping off his Invisibles in the Matrix

Absolutely LOVE your Urban Legends column. It is a MUST READ for me when I see it. So I was quite pleased to be credited in your column with a link to my column about UNCENSORED MOUSE. A while ago, I helped Disney historian Wade Sampson with some information on the Mickey Mouse suicide strips and that column can be found at the following link: http://www.mouseplanet.com/articles.php?art=ww060906ws. Since that time, I have found a page from a British Mickey Mouse Comic Album from the same time period where there is a one page series of panels of Mickey trying to commit suicide after he sees Minnie flirting with another mouse. The final panel has him trying to hang himself from a tree branch over a body of water and deciding to shoot himself as well. The final gag is that the bullet splits the rope and Mickey falls in the water and he says: “Thank heavens I can swim. I might have drowned!” Keep up the great work!

I wonder if that sort of thing was a conscious attempt at shoring up the “female” titles’ sagging sales

Whether the sales were sagging by the seventies, one thing that Marvel have always played down, if not completely ignored, is that their biggest sellers through much of the sixties were Milli the Model and Patsy Walker.

Good point, Marionette. It IS odd how Patsy Walker’s past has been downplayed, as she was a major success for Marvel (as was Millie, but I just like Patsy better).

Thanks for stopping by, Jim!!

And thanks for the link – interesting stuff!

Christine Palmer, the redheaded night nurse, did show up as a supporting character in Nightcrawler’s ongoing series a couple years back. Given the supernatural themes of the series, I wonder if it was linked in any way to the cancelled MAX series.

Al Milgrom has been inking at Archie for many years now – doing the regular books, inking Stan Goldberg etc.

part of the Disney defense against Malibu, was that the comic strips used still-in-copyright stories from the animated films. (“Plane Crazy” for those of you wanting to check)

Thanks, Steven.

That’s exactly what they did. Thanks so much for the correction.

Atomic Mystery Monster

August 20, 2007 at 10:49 am

Several years ago, I once read that only two of the Mickey Mouse comic strips were actually in the public domain and the accidental use of the non-PD stuff is what got “The Uncensored Mouse” in hot water. I don’t know if it’s true, though.

Night Nurse has showed up in Brian Michael Bendis’ Daredevil run, and in the Brian K. Vaughan’s Doctor Strange: The Oath miniseries, where she began dating Dr. Strange. As of the most recent issue of New Avengers, she’s still dating him.

And I need to read the comments before adding my own. Sorry!

Could you lay off with the “female heroines” tag? A heroine is a female hero, and therefore by definition, duh, female. There’s no such thing as a MALE heroine. (Well, apart from Madam Fatal). So, “Female Heroes” or “Heroines”, but NOT “Female Heroines”, okay?

You keep referring to the Milgrom insults as a “mistake” (both in the original column and here). The failure to remove them after somebody noticed them may have been a mistake, but the insults almost certainly were not. You don’t just spill an ink bottle and “accidentally” have it spell out insults to your former boss.

I’d explain it, but seriously, the context of the piece explains how the term is being used.

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