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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #122

This is the one-hundred and twenty-second in a series of examinations of comic book urban legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous one-hundred and twenty-one. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.

Let’s begin!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: The mid-80s Hex revamp of Jonah Hex was not the original plan for the character.

STATUS: False

In the mid-80s, Jonah Hex, which started in the late 70s, was drawing to a close.

2378_4_01.jpg

The last issue came out in 1985…

2378_4_92.jpg

However, rather than really END, the book instead got a revamp. Hex went from the Old West to the far-off future, in a sort of Mad Max story…

2979_4_01.jpg

The book lasted an additional 18 issues past its initial cancellation.

2979_4_18.jpg

The changeover from Jonah Hex to Hex, though, was fairly abrupt, causing some to wonder – was it always intended to be this way?

Was there another change to Hex in the works that was dropped in favor of the Mad Max Hex?

I asked Michael Fleisher about it, and he told me that no, the future Hex story was always what they had in mind, as the book was facing cancellation, and that was the only way they could save the title.

Thanks to Michael Fleisher for the information!!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: DC pulled an issue of Batman: Gotham Knights after it was solicited because it was too graphic.

STATUS: True

Reader Matthew Lazorwitz sent me the following urban legend…

There was an issue of Batman: Gotham Knights written by Devin Grayson that editorial found so disturbing that they dropped it after it was solicited and replaced it with a random fill-in. It’s in regards to Batman: Gothan Knights #12, a part of the unfortunate “This Issue: Batman Dies!” month. It was supposed to focus on Mr. Zsasz, the knife-wielding lunatic introduced by Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle in “The Last Arkham” story. The solicitations in Previews showed up with the description of the story and the cover. But when the issue came out… it was an issue about Oracle. I read somewhere on some message board (making me think it was an urban legend) that the issue was just so creepy, and Zsasz portrayed as so monstrous, and his “murder” of Batman so perverse, that they canned the story and replaced it with a fill-in.

Here is the published issue…

7770_4_012.jpg

I posed the question to Bob Schreck, who edited the issue in question, and here is what he had to say…

It was an issue that was started by Denny O’Neil, actually, and his then assistant, Frank Berrios, was diligently waving a red flag all the way through production trying to warn Denny and myself (as I was beginning to take over the Bat titles at the time) that it might not pass muster. As I was new, I didn’t feel I should interfere with a book that Denny had commissioned, as he and Devin had established a strong editorial relationship over the years. I loved the story. She did a great job of writing it as did the rest of the team bringing to the comics page.

It was decided after solicitation that the tale was a little too gory for an all ages book.

Not all that exciting as the “urban legend” version.

Here is a detail from the solicited cover in question…

509px-Zsas.jpg

Thanks to Bob Schreck for the answer, and thanks to Matthew for the question!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Al Columbia finished issue #4 of Big Numbers, but destroyed it.

STATUS: Apparently True

Reader Paul Lee suggested, awhile back, that I tackle the Al Columbia/Big Numbers story, and I figured, I might as well.

I have kept away from this one in the past mostly because so much of it is on the iffy side, fact-wise.

However, I think upon further reflection, we probably do know enough facts about it to piece together a general idea about what happened.

Paul relates “the legend”…

The story goes that there was a completed issue of Alan Moore’s Big Numbers #3. Though the art was credited to Seinkiewicz, it was really done by his protoge, Al Columbia. The issue was already at the printers when Al Columbia had a freak out and went to the printers and tore up all the film? originals? Hence, no #3 ever saw print. The story also goes that Bill has a photocopy of #3 and shows people sometimes, and that there may be a copy or two floating around out there.

Okay, first off, let us set the scene.

Alan Moore and Bill Sienkiewicz got together and created the comic, Big Numbers. It was a very ambitious idea, exploring the ideas of chaos theory and mathematical formulas. It was pretty heady stuff. Anyhow, the first two issues were completed and published by Alan Moore’s own publishing company, Mad Love.

It was taking a bit too long to complete, though, and it wasn’t working financially for Moore, so they moved the project over to Kevin Eastman’s Tundra.

Here, Sienkiewicz pretty much finishes issue #3 (maybe he’s 85-90% done, but whatever, let’s just call it completed), but wants off the project. So Tundra negotiates a deal where Sienkiewicz’s assistant, Al Columbia, is to finish the project.

Columbia works on issue #4, and is paid for the issue, but he takes the pages home at one point while in the middle of the issue, and never returns them. The pages are never seen again.

Did Columbia destroy them? I don’t think we’ll ever know for sure, but he definitely destroyed SOME of the pages.

In any event, in 2000, Columbia posted the following on the Comics Journal message board:

This will be the only definitive statement I ever make regarding ‘Big Numbers’.

I recall it being a lot of fun, actually. I got to fuck a lot of girls, spend money and be driven around London in a white Rolls-Royce Limousine (twice!). These are only a few of the luxurious benefits provided by Kevin Eastman, much to his credit and kindness. It is true that Kevin has a big heart–no sarcasm there.

I suppose at the very least I should apologize publicly to him for withholding and finally destroying the artwork he paid me to do. True, he never purchased it ‘to own’ and legally he had no claim to it, but still….ethically speaking, I should have handed it over to him to use at his discretion, according to our contract.

I cannot blame him or Paul Jenkins (they are indistinguishable in my mind at this point in terms of their stance on all this) for bad-mouthing me all these years. I have even been entertained by some their more imaginative accounts of what happened.

The simple truth is a truth much worse than rumor. At the risk of ruining the mystique surrounding the whole affair I will recount how I remember things to have occurred…as briefly and as clearly as possible. I was paid $9,200.00 to complete issue number four of Big Numbers. A lot of times Paul Jenkins was good enough to pay me as I went along, without even seeing the pages. I actually came to like Paul after a while. I felt bad for all the responsibility and pressure that was taking it’s toll on him. I remember he was often sweating and that his eyes were always popping out of their sockets like they would in a funny cartoon. He had a lot on his shoulders. He was a hard worker. Indeed, Paul’s tireless efforts on his own behalf should certainly be applauded.

However, my opinion that Paul may be a snake in the grass is beside the point and inconsequential to what happened. He actually treated me like a little brother. A very lovable English chap was he.

Okay, don’t tell anybody, but the truth be told, I didn’t even finish the issue–but was paid for it anyway. The reason I tore up the pages was so that I wouldn’t have to admit that I had only completed about half the issue when I quit despite having cashed all those checks. I loved Kevin’s money, I really did.

You see, I never had any intention of staying with the project but merely attatched myself to it in order to gain (through Eastman’s money) a certain prominence, at which time I would quit in the manner that we have all heard about. This way, with no visible proof of the artwork, it would always shine as a masterpiece in people’s minds and imagination. I would be reviled by some and made a sort of hero by others who can understand or sympathize with ‘artistic integrity’ and all that punk rock bullshit.

Yes, I am a boy with horns. There is not a single thing I say or do that is not designed with a specific outcome in mind. Any and all rumors about myself were generated and manufactured by me and me alone. Please allow me to introduce myself…

Okay, so obviously a great deal of that is spin by Columbia, but the basic gist of it is true. He got paid for the pages, but he never delivered the pages, and if he says he destroyed the pages, I guess I believe it…but whether he did or not, they’re AS good as destroyed.

So there you go – the Big Numbers ordeal in a nutshell.

Okay, that’s it for this week!

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

63 Comments

Damn shame about Big Numbers. I was buying those as they came out, being a marriage of my two favorite creators at the time (Bill, not Al, who’s work I did actually enjoy). And a damn shame about Al’s personality, at least in the post above.

Mm. The first lesson we take away from CBUL this week, boys and girls, is that drinking and posting are a bad, bad combination…especially when you’re clearly kind of a jerk to begin with.

Also, yes, after seeing the original cover I am fully supportive of the decision to pull that ‘Gotham Knights’ story from an all-ages book.

Onetrickmonkey: Don’t despair, there’s always hope that the two (Moore and Sienkiewicz) might get back together and finish the series.
Or Moore finds a new artist.

It might not happen, but as long as there’s life, never lose hope.

Boy, what with all the guts getting wrenched and seared, it’s a hazardous business being a Jonah Hex fan.

I think Moore & Sienkiewicz have both stated they won’t ever finish Big Numbers, (*sniff*) but I don’t have any proof.

As always, this column is great fun, and I’ve got a couple of questions/comments about this week’s entries.

The first is total nitpickery, to do with the phrasing of the first legend: “The mid-80s Hex revamp of Jonah Hex was not the original plan for the character.”
This is said to be false, when it’s clearly true: it is highly doubtful that the original plan for the Jonah Hex character was for him to eventually become the time-travelling savior of an apocalyptic future. Of course, I’m not exactly sure how you should phrase it instead- “the original plan for the title”, maybe?

The second legend was extremely interesting, and I’m just wondering, is there anyone here with any knowledge as to what, exactly, was so creepy and disturbing about the story? There’s nothing in the image presented here that we hadn’t seen in Zsasz stories before, as far as I can tell, so something especially creepy must have happened to warrant removing the story altogether. I’m intrigued…

Hasn’t Al Columbia made a bit of a comeback recently? I hear his recent output has been phenomenal, does anyone here recommend it?

I’d be interested to know if that GOTHAM KNIGHTS story ended up being published elsewhere.

How amazing is Alan Moore that some of his stories that didn’t even get published are so highly regarded: Big Numbers and Twilight of the Superheroes.

Matthew Lazorwitz

September 28, 2007 at 7:24 am

Awesome! Thanks for finding time for my Urban Legend. And as far as I know, GarBut, that story has never been published, and as I haven’t missed an issue of a Bat-title or affiliated mini-series in what is now pushing twenty years (lord, when did I get so old…), I’m pretty sure it hasn’t.

Alejandro – Big Numbers was published, but never finished. Other Moore stories which were started but never finished — ‘1963’, ‘Glory’ — are not nearly as well regarded, although some people say that his ‘Youngblood’ was shaping up to be something interesting (seems kinda generic to me).

Sean: Don’t forget Supreme:The Return, which was building up to an epic Supremacy/Daxia war when that stopped.

And Halo Jones. I still want to know who Sally Qassa is.

So the Big Numbers artwork for 4 was never finished, but that would still makes the completed scripts for issues 3 and 4 of interest to those of us who have waited all these years for some continuation. Any ideas if they’ve leaked onto the web anywhere?

The second legend was extremely interesting, and I’m just wondering, is there anyone here with any knowledge as to what, exactly, was so creepy and disturbing about the story?

Yeah, that seemed like the obvious question, but got overlooked. What was the axed story?

Wow, that Big Numbers urban legend is one of the best ones in awhile. I always wondered what the full story there was. Columbia just comes across as a d***. And he got to f- a lot of girls and ride around in rolls royce limousines? Who knew comic book artists lived such glamorous lives???

Too bad it was never finished, I would have enjoyed seeing the rest of it…

Glory started well…we just never got to see where it was going…same with Youngblood.

Nothing about Jonah Hex is more disturbing than his final fate. After dying of old age, his corpse was stuffed and mounted to be displayed in travelling “Wild West” show.

I remember this from an issue of Secret Origins, as well as from another source – not sure what that was.

Correction: after a quick search, this was the sequence of events:

“In 1904, a man named George Barrow found the aging Jonah Hex and shot him in the back with a shotgun, killing him. Jonah’s remains were stuffed and eventually sold to a Wild West frontier exhibit. The body was missing for years, but eventually fell into the possession of the Frontier City Amusement Park.”

http://en.dcdatabaseproject.com/Secret_Origins_21_(Volume_2,_1987)

Gotta dig this book out of my long boxes and give it another read. Man, I used to love Secret Origins.

This is me, Dale, room 315 at Great Northern Hotel, signing off.

Concerning the change from JONAH HEX to HEX, a blank statement from Michael Fleisher made more than twenty years after the fact doesn’t offset the evidence in the comics themnselves. The cover illio of #92 is higly misleading. As discussed on some other board on this site, it ended with a cliffhanger, Hex fading away and leaving a young woman, white but raised by “Indians,” at the mercies of some toughs. This was never resolved, nor was a subplot concerning Jonah’s Asian wife who had left him along with their child, yet house ads promising big changes coming to the series had been appearing for several months, plenty of warning for Fleisher to avoid that cliffhanger at the least. Sorry, Brian, but this just isn’t good enough.

While I was composing and proofreading the above, we heard from Agent Cooper, and he reminded me of something: Fleisher ended the future–set HEX with Jonah finding his own stuffed body, a nice capper to a series that nobody has ever suggested was anything but cancelled as a failure. Yet Mike managed that. This is further evidence that the abrupt abandoning of JH’s plotlines contradicts the comic being conventionally cancelled.

Glad to see the Al Columbia/Big Numbers story get covered here.

Al sure does come acroos as a d–k in his post, but I am still a huge fan of his work. I would have loved to see Big Numbers finished, as it is one of comics’ great unfinished masterpieces.

Al Columbia recently had an art show up in Portland. I couldn’t make it up, but a friend of mine went to the show and got Al to sign some stuff for me.

Try to find his stories in BLAB and ZERO ZERO. They are pretty amazing and unlike anything else you have even seen in comics. He has a very unique vision.

There is an Al Columbia ‘Big Numbers’ poster that sells on e-bay alot. It the only Columbia ‘Big Numbers’ art that ever got realeased.

Also, in an interview in Trip Wire(?), after talking about the whole Big Numbers fiasco, Bill said he was open to the idea od working on it again, but his whole approach to the prject would be alot different.

Alan Moore tried to get ‘Big Numbers’ on BBC television, but when that panned out, I think he gave up on the project.

The Batman story was never printed but the artists did have a xerox copy of the story available for people to read. I read the story about 5+ years ago so don’t remember all the pertinent details. Basically the story is told from Mr Zsasz on a killing spree while being chased by Batman. Along the way he manages to kill people, possibly even a child. I think at one point Batman either failed to stop a murder or not help a victim so he was able to stop Zsasz. Sorry I’m having trouble remembering all the pertinent details but I do remember that at the end it all turns out to be a hallucination of Zsasz. It was an excellent story and hard hitting so I can understand their not wanting it to be in an all ages book.

It’s kind of symbolic of the change that they went from a Brian Bolland cover to a Darwyn Cooke cover, isn’t it?

Didn’t some of the art from the destroyed issue of big numbers end up as part of a record cover for some band or something? I remember reading that sojmewhere.

“And he got to f- a lot of girls and ride around in rolls royce limousines? Who knew comic book artists lived such glamorous lives???”

Hahaha! I just assumed he was kidding, but if he was serious, that’s pretty funny. And if any comics creator can afford to put artists in limousines, it’d probably be Eastman (he’s gotta have a fair bit of that Turtles money, right?)

everyone knows they can actually say “dick,” right? It doesn’t get blocked by filters or anything…

For the record, Alan Moore’s take on “Glory” pretty much just morphed into “Promethea”, so in a sense we didn’t miss anything. I did like the work Moore was doing for Liefeld at that point–it had an organic sensibility to it. He didn’t sit down to create a “superhero universe”, it just happened, the same way the Marvel and DC universes did. And yeah, I liked Youngblood; in a sense it was “just another superhero book” but I liked the idea that it would be about a bunch of modern superhero kids getting involved with the golden/silver age goings-on of their own universe, thus continuing Moore’s goal of introducing the kids who were reading Image books to old-fashioned superheroing.

Didn’t some of the art from the destroyed issue of big numbers end up as part of a record cover for some band or something? I remember reading that sojmewhere.

Yeah, I think you are correct. That’s why I mentioned that definitely SOME of the pages were destroyed, as pieces from them have popped up here and there.

Oh, man…Big Numbers.

Wow…I always wondered what happened with that/ Now, I know some of it.

I guess it’ll never come to be…sadness.

Dave

Prankster, you’re wrong – Moore definitely *did* set out to create a superhero universe. If you read the “Awesome Universe Handbook” you can see that he was very definitely trying to create a coherent superhero universe (similar to the one he eventually created for ABC, actually).

I have a suggestion for an urban legend, but honestly, I don’t even know where you’d start, and sometimes I think I just dreamed this factoid:

The Batman featured in Dark Knight Returns is meant to reflect the Adam West incarnation of the character. Has anyone else ever heard this?

the original account of Jonah’s death was in DC Special Series #16, from the late 70s. (“Jonah Hex Spectacular”)

http://www.mikesamazingworld.com/database/comic-details.php?comicid=7953

I remember an issue of JLI from the early to mid 90s that showed his corpse in a museum. It was just a background detail in one panel. Don’t remember which issue that was, though…

I remember having read somewhere that Allan Moore intended to turn Big Numbers into a television series, but this was years ago.

About Dark Knight supposed to represent the Adam West Batman: I wonder if this got mixed up with an actual thing that happened. When Tim Burton was doing the first Batman movie, Adam West claimed that he was called to play Batman’s father, and he stated that he would only play Batman. When people heard this, the whole idea was considered laughable, so he went on to explain that he could have played the Dark Knight older Batman. There were others who thought this was a good idea, there was even a radio disc jockey who created the song ‘Adam West’ (utilizing the song Wild West) to make his statement that only Adam West should play Batman. So many deluded people…

Wow. There is nothing right about that.

Somehow, I suspect that the Zsasz story would not only be allowed today, it would be given a lot of hype. I just don’t get what many people call “all ages” in comics these days; would you should all the issues of 52, with its scenes of graphic mayhem and cannibalism, to your children or parents? Superhero comics are just no longer being sold on the strength of their heroics, but on cheap shock tactics.

Speaking of which, Jonah Hex’s end (as a stuffed corpse) is pathetic, it doesn’t fit either the western or science fiction genres the character was presented in. And even more pathetic is that it’s part of the DC “all ages” superhero universe (I believe the corpse was also exposed on Booster Gold’s Planet Krypton restaurant- though I haven’t seen it, only heard the rumor.)

“Also, yes, after seeing the original cover I am fully supportive of the decision to pull that ‘Gotham Knights’ story from an all-ages book.”

Yes, because we need to preserve the wholesome integrity of a comic where a child is beaten to death with a crowbar and blown up, a woman is shot to death and Bruce Wayne is framed for murder, and many heads are a-punched off many a body in a few years time.

How long have DC’s book’s been all-ages? I mean, seriously?

The final fate of Jonah Hex was a reference to a real outlaw who ended up as a sideshow exhibit: Elmer McCurdy

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elmer_McCurdy

The Jonah Hex corpse was in the Planet Krypton restuarant somewhere in Kingdom Come.

legend suggestion:

I heard that when John Cassaday was designing the Astonishing X-Men costumes, he got to do hem all himself, except Wolverine. Rumor goes that Wolverine’s new suit was designed by committee and handed down (similarly, there’s a rumor that Joss Whedon was told he had to use Wolvie on his team). Is that the case, and if so, who was on the team that designed Logan’s new duds?

I remember that Gotham Knights story! I was working at DC at the time assisting with the covers, and we suddenly had to get a fill-in cover for that story on extreme short-notice. Darwyn was happy to help us out. Never read the actual missing GK story, though, and I really wish I took a peek.

Yeah… Al Columbia took money for work he didn’t do, but Paul Jenkins is the snake in the grass.

Others have summed it up best: what a dick this guy is.

Look at what he’s saying more closely.

“You see, I never had any intention of staying with the project but merely attatched myself to it in order to gain (through Eastman’s money) a certain prominence, at which time I would quit in the manner that we have all heard about.”

Do you really believe that?

“Yes, I am a boy with horns. There is not a single thing I say or do that is not designed with a specific outcome in mind. Any and all rumors about myself were generated and manufactured by me and me alone. Please allow me to introduce myself…”

He’s obviously being sarcastic, reacting to all the vilification. Remember, these are comments he made at one point on a message board. He told the whole story later (possibly in response to anger over his ill-chosen flippant words repeated here) at the TCJ boards. I don’t remember it exactly, and TCJ doesn’t save from that far back, but Eddie Campbell drew on the conversation in his book Alec: How to Be an Artist if anyone cares to look it up.

Going on memory: after Bill Sienkiewicz backed out of the project, Eastman asked his assistant, Columbia, to step in and complete it in Sienkiewicz’s style. Columbia, a young man of 21 or 22, foolishly agreed. He soon realized this would mean about ten years of labor, imitating another artist rather than being himself. Remember, Sienkiewicz, a seasoned pro, couldn’t complete the thing. Not surprisingly, Columbia had a meltdown. Yes, he probably should’ve handed in what he’d done and quit, rather than destroying what he’d done and disappearing. What he says here seems plausible: that he just didn’t have that much done, and had taken money he couldn’t pay back.

Gotta say that (not as a personal friend, mind you) Al Columbia’s not really a dick, in fact he’s pretty nice. The story’s more or less true but nowhere near as free wheeling and exciting as it’s made out to be (I originally heard he went insane and turned the art into a hanging mobile before completely disappearing). Of course he’s not innocent, but I’d guess if it wasn’t an Alan Moore project, people wouldn’t care as much (plus he was like 19 at the time; who hasn’t done some stupid shit when they were 19?). I think it comes down to Al not being a “comic book person” and a relatively private guy.

Al Columbia is one of my favorite cartoonists and has been ever since his book DOGHEAD was published by Tundra, which was apparently part of his original deal to finish BIG NUMBERS. At least that’s what he told me when I met him briefly back in 1992. But Al’s not a realizable witness, and I’m fairly certain there’s little truth in his “definitive statement” above, as it conflicts with every other statement he’s ever written on the subject.

One version of the story is that Columbia, after being afforded an acknowledgement in the first issue of BIG NUMBERS for being Sienkiewicz’s studio assistant, was pissed at not receiving any credit or acknowledgement for issue two, which he claims to have done mostly by himself, as Sienkiewicz had by that time given up on the project..

Another version, as recounted in Eddy Campbell’s HOW TO BE AN ARTIST, is that Al threw the artwork for issue four (or was it three?) out the window of his car while on the way to printer.

One thing that is true, as I have a copy in front of me, is that ten pages of the “lost” third issue were printed in the first issue (and only) issue of Ashley Wood’s magazine SUBMEDIA, which was published in 1999.

In the intervening years Columbia has produced a lot of work that has never been published, which seems to be a result of his obsessive perfectionism more than anything. My best guess is that if anyone has the artwork for issue four, he does. In any case Fantagraphics has announced they’ll be publishing a large hardcover collection of Columbia’s work sometime in the next year.

Thanks for your insights on the matter, Lief and Fred!

30.Jeff Holland said …on 29 Sep 2007 at 3:13 pm

I have a suggestion for an urban legend, but honestly, I don’t even know where you’d start, and sometimes I think I just dreamed this factoid:

The Batman featured in Dark Knight Returns is meant to reflect the Adam West incarnation of the character. Has anyone else ever heard this?

AND

33.Lyle said …on 01 Oct 2007 at 6:00 am

About Dark Knight supposed to represent the Adam West Batman: I wonder if this got mixed up with an actual thing that happened. When Tim Burton was doing the first Batman movie, Adam West claimed that he was called to play Batman’s father, and he stated that he would only play Batman. When people heard this, the whole idea was considered laughable, so he went on to explain that he could have played the Dark Knight older Batman. There were others who thought this was a good idea, there was even a radio disc jockey who created the song ‘Adam West’ (utilizing the song Wild West) to make his statement that only Adam West should play Batman. So many deluded people…

—————————————–

(apologies for the extensive quoting above)

As I recall the Dark Knight tale, Miller had said that his original “Dark Knight” storyline was supposed to have represented the early Silver-Age Batman (the 1956-1966 era character, not the “New Look” Batman whose look came from the TV series–think of the yellow oval Bat-Emblem as the distinguishing characteristic). THAT Batman had “retired” after a decade-long (or so) career, around the age of 40. When he “returned”, he was now the middle-aged (late 50ish or 60ish) character we saw in the mini-series, and the storyline was actually set in the 1980s (rather than the “future”, as most people assumed). When the story was read from that framework, it made a bit more sense (especially with the use of Ronald Reagan in the story–the real-life Reagan was already in his 70s when the story appeared, so it seemed to really stretch things to presume that his comic-book counterpart would still be so vibrant in another 20 or so years*).
As to Adam West and the “I’ll only play Batman” tale, I do believe that was story that made the rounds but whether he actually made that claim or not is not verified by any actual source that I’m aware of. (Most of the sources turn out to be little more than secondhand hearsay. The only accounts I ever read were of the “friend of a friend” type. I never read or heard any source which actually did a face-to-face interview with West during this time.) West has said he was initially upset (even to the point of crying) when he heard the direction the story would go but he’s also denied that he was ever offered a cameo as Bruce Wayne’s father. What I do remember is the widespread naysaying (especially in the fan community–this before the internet’s massive commercial usage) over Michael Keaton’s casting as Bruce Wayne/Batman (Keaton had made a comment that he was preparing for work on a comedy, most likely The Dream Team which came out a couple of months before Batman, and this was the source of the fans’ casting concerns).

[…] #100 – The Scorpion was originally going to be the child of Viper and Silver Samurai Marvel Adventures: Fantastic Four #12 was an intentional knock-off of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Chris Elopoulos draws the Mini-Marvels series. Jay Faerber’s run on Titans featured some prominent supporting characters that were not in Jay’s intended plan for the series. 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. #101 – Jim Shooter got the idea for Spider-Man’s black costume from a piece of fan fiction. The dentist of the Superman movie’s producer’s wife auditioned for the role of Superman. The clone of the Guardian was originally going to be a member of the New Warriors. #102 – Marvel came out with a Broadway musical starring Captain America. One of the members of Youngblood was originally announced as a cast member of the New Mutants. Justice League Unlimited had to create the Justice Guild at the last minute for their Legends episode, because DC would not let them use the Justice Society. #103 – Orson Welles was planning on doing a Batman film in the 1940s. DC had a completed Xena/Wonder Woman crossover comic book but decided not to publish it.. Marvel and DC taking turns making crossover comics resulted in George Perez missing out on X-Men/Teen Titans #104 – DC Comics almost bought Diamond Comics Distrubutors. A character who was appropriate enough for a DC cartoon was found not appropriate for a DC toy. There was purple Kryptonite. #105 – Jack Kirby was okay with DC redrawing his Superman faces. DC redrew Superman’s face on a comic drawn by the same person who designed Superman on the popular Super Friends TV series. Marvel had Dave Cockrum redraw the X-Men in an X-Men guest appearance in a John Byrne-drawn issue of Iron Fist. #106 – Jesus Christ was a supporting character in Ghost Rider. The second volume of Ghost Rider was not supposed to be an ongoing series. Howard Mackie took an issue to trash anything that had happened in Ghost Rider since he left the book. #107 – The Fantastic Four were going to wear masks originally. Steve Englehart came up with an interesting plot to protest his exit from the Fantastic Four. Steve Englehart’s Silver Surfer book was designed as the Surfer exploring outer space. #108 – J.M. DeMatteis finished the story from a canceled Marvel comic series in a DC comic series. Steve Epting broke into comics by entering a non-existent contest! Chuck Dixon was the original writer on Heroes Reborn Captain America #109 – Marvel had an agreement with Frank Miller that they would not bring Elektra back unless Miller wanted to do so Harvey created Little Aubrey to avoid having to license Little Lulu. The sequel to Batman: The Cult became a Punisher mini-series. #110 – A comic character was made an actual citizen in Japan! The Astro Boy name came about because NBC was afraid DC would sue them over the name “The Mighty Atom.” In Japan, the re-runs of Astro Boy they use are sub-titled American versions. #111 – Marvel Comics once had a line of female superhero comic books. Thor appeared in a Marvel Comic BEFORE the Silver Age! A doppleganger of Superman created in a special Superman comic was originally intended to be the way for Superman to return from the dead after his death against Doomsday. #112 – Marv Wolfman got his job working on the Superman animated series not because of his comic work, but because of his Garbage Pail Kids work. Marvel published a toy tie-in comic book without an actually toy to tie-into! Casper the Friendly Ghost was not known as Casper until the first issue of his comic book, four years after he first debuted! #113 – Jack Kirby left DC because he thought they lied to him about the sales of his New Gods titles in order to pay him less money The Superman radio show had a drastically different origin for Superman JM DeMatteis changed a storyline in Justice League of America because he didn’t know how the story was supposed to go. #114 – Disney once had a series of Mickey Mouse comic strips depicting Mickey trying various ways of killing himself. DC had to change the name of their Helix line of comic books because of the Shadowrun role playing game. Bernie Wrightson once thought he had some sort of disease due to the paint brush he was using. #115 – Marvel had a line of female heroine comic books in the 1970s. Disney once kept a company from publishing comic strips that, at the time, were most likely in the public domain. Al Milgrom was blacklisted from Marvel Comics after he snuck an insult of Bob Harras into a comic book. #116 – Marvel got rid of the X-Ternals because of threats of litigation by the Highlander folks. Scott Lobdell introduced Onslaught without knowing who or what Onslaught was. Larry Hama’s origin for M and Penance was not what Scott Lobdell originally intended for the characters. #117 – Kitty Pryde was in the original treatment for Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars, but was removed before the comic was released. Marvel and DC only trademarked “superhero” because Mego trademarked it first. Marvel took a British comic book character and basically just put her into Alpha Flight wholesale. #118 – James Cameron got the idea for The Terminator from “Days of Future Past.” Top Cow Studios was going to be called Ballistic Studios Terra was created as a sort of parody of Kitty Pryde. #119 – Marv Wolfman could not be credited as a writer when he began at DC Comics because the Comics Code did not allow “wolfman” to appear in comic books. Crystar the Warrior was a toy based on a comic book, not a comic book based on a toy. Danzig’s logo came courtesy of an issue of Crystar the Warrior #120 – The Ravers in Superboy and the Ravers were intended as analogues for the Legion of Superheroes. Ghost Rider’s origin was changed so, at least in part, to not offend religious readers. Dazzler came into being because of Bo Derek #121 – Walt Disney forced Marvel to change Howard the Duck’s appearance. Walt Disney refused to allow a comic called “Donal Duck’s Atom Bomb” to be reprinted. Disney sued comic book artist Wally Wood for doing a pornographic poster featuring Disney characters. #122 – The mid-80s Hex revamp of Jonah Hex was not the original plan for the character. DC pulled an issue of Batman: Gotham Knights after it was solicited because it was too graphic. Al Columbia finished issue #4 of Big Numbers, but destroyed it. Ta da! […]

Joseph W.: “…the early Silver-Age Batman (the 1956-1966 era character, not the ‘New Look’ Batman whose look came from the TV series–think of the yellow oval Bat-Emblem as the defining characteristic)….”

The problem here is that the “New Look,” including the yellow oval, came in not with the TV series in 1966, but when Julius Schwartz became Bat–editor in early 1964. In fact, he and his staff had to do some revamping to match the show, bringing Alfred, who Julie had had killed off in his second issue of DETECTIVE, back from the dead! Besides, virtually everyone familiar with the pre–Schwartz Bats era hates most of those stories (not all, by any means) and that is why his revamp was done.

Oh, about Adam West. When the WB cartoon BATMAN BEYOND series, set some decades in the future with a senior citizen Bruce Wayne acting as mentor to a high–tech and teen–age Batman, was running, there was a news item announcing that a big–screen, live–action version was being developed (never happened, obviously). I said then that I hoped they would let Adam test for Wayne, if he wanted to try out.

I heard that when John Cassaday was designing the Astonishing X-Men costumes, he got to do hem all himself, except Wolverine. Rumor goes that Wolverine’s new suit was designed by committee and handed down (similarly, there’s a rumor that Joss Whedon was told he had to use Wolvie on his team). Is that the case, and if so, who was on the team that designed Logan’s new duds?

I’d heard this too, as it was one of the reasons I was furiously against the characters reverting back to “classic” costumes.

“COMIC URBAN LEGEND: The mid-80s Hex revamp of Jonah Hex was not the original plan for the character.

“STATUS: False”

Actually, there is no question that this should be “True.” Those dangling, and as far as I know unresolved to this day, plot threads I described earlier (post #s 18 & 19) WERE Fleisher’s “original plan for the character.” The ONLY question is whether or not the book was abruptly and flatly cancelled THEN almost immediately revived in the HEX format, or simply–but equally abruptly–revamped, including a new #1 issue, with no actual cancellation happening. Again, the promos months in advance for big changes coming and Fleisher not only NOT tying off anything whatsoever but ending the Western on a cliffhanger says there HAD to be non–HEX plans we never heard anything about, that specificless statement otherwise from Mike, made twenty years after the events, notwithstanding.

By the way, Brian, since you do have means of contacting Fleisher, why don’t you ask him if he left two scripts on the shelf when his and Aparo’s 70s Spectre series in ADVENTURE COMICS was cancelled and replaced with Aquaman, as indicated by his interview in THE COMICS JOURNAL #56, June (on the cover) or May (on the contents page, while the dateless indicia says “published monthly”!) 1980, or three, as DC published, newly pencilled by Jim, in WRATH OF THE SPECTRE #4, August 1988, the finale of a deluxe format miniseries whose three earlier issues reprinted the original ten stories from AC. THAT’s been bugging me since the first time I reread that interview after the mini came out. Since the TCJ interview came three issues AFTER the one with Harlan Ellison (in #53) that Fleisher sued over, he may very well have never looked at it. Maybe he should have, and modified his suit to include its misrepresentations of what he said, if THAT is the explanation for this discrepancy. There were other statements it attributed to Mike, about the 1940s Spectre series that were contradicted by THE GOLDEN AGE SPECTRE ARCHIVES VOLUME 1, 2003, which also call its authenticity into question. On the other hand, there are things about the third story in WRATH #4 that call ITS authenticity into question. It had a different letterer and inker than the other two (given that all 41 pages of “new” story & art were in the last issue, from scripts that had supposedly been in-house for 12 years, this IMHO should not have happened), and the title did not follow the structural format of all twelve others; even the titles of Peter Sanderson’s inside-covers text pieces for that series did THAT. So I really wonder what is and is not bogus here.

Maybe the truth behind that third script would make a CBUL entry, Brian? And there’s one more thing about that TCJ interview of Fleisher: In it, he (if IT isn’t a fake, of course) states, “So one is forced to either concoct extraordinary villains for him to combat, which reduces his real scariness, at least in my way of looking at it, or just to have uneven battles between The Spectre and human beings, which is what I did.” (p. 51, column 1, just above the enlarged, boldfaced, and lined off quote). But in BRAVE & BOLD #180, November 1981, cover–date wise no more than a year and a half later, was a Batman/Spec team–up which went exactly the other way (judging from both its plotline and its style, the script could easily have been the work of Bob Haney or even Gardner Fox), and the credited writer was…Michael Fleisher! Could he have been contractually bound to write a one–off story, which is what it was, from a plot premise handed to him and to which he was fundamentally opposed, which the comment in TCJ—if legitimate—indicates?

Al Colombia is a bit of a wanker as we English would say.

Been checking the archives and found this one quite interesting. Ted Watson is quite right as far as he goes, but he overlooked one possibility: Fleisher might have thought–understandably or not, as we don’t have an exact quote of the question as put to him–that he was being asked if the situation was like that of his famous Spectre series a decade earlier, where full scripts were left undrawn. His plans may never have been put down on paper at all, but he HAD to have had SOMETHING further in mind for the Western format when he wrote what we see in the last few issues of it. That still qualifies as planning as in “the original plan for the character” and it is not HEX. Sorry to Brian Cronin, but Watson’s bottom line here is right on the money that the stated status of this Comic Book Urban Legend is wrong, and refusing to admit to it says something about what kind of person Cronin is.

That was not Ted’s bottom line, Hal.

Ted’s bottom line was as follows:

Reader Paul Wargelin wrote:

I remember Michael Fleisher describing the origin of the Hex series in a column in the back of the first issue.

Jonah Hex was facing cancellation from low sales, but Fleisher wasn’t considering any reboot of the character until he saw the Hex logo, which I believe was designed by Ed Hannigan. Hannigan was just having fun sketching the name, but the look of it inspired Fleisher with the idea to drop Jonah into a post-apocalyptic future.

Fleisher pitched it to the powers that be at DC, and although everyone agreed it was a bit out there, they approved it because Jonah was ending anyway.

Ted replied:

Sorry, but I stand by my statement that there was a ton of unfinished business in the JH title, including the cliffhanger in the final issue. Let me put it another way: While one could see house ads promising a big change coming for the series, Fleisher was ADDING new plot machinations in the Western format, which were just—and very abruptly—abandoned with the transition to HEX. Doesn’t jibe with cancellation already a given. I have always suspected that some other revamp was planned but jettisoned in favor of the SF shift. And a statement in the text page of HEX #1 that the Western book had already gotten its pink slip anyway should have thrown THAT out the window

It was THIS statement that I went to Fleisher with, and which Fleisher denied fully (Fleisher basically just echoed what Paul had written).

Because I knew that Ted would absolutely freak out if I posted his statements and then showed Fleisher denying them, I adapted what Ted said and avoided using Ted’s name, because:

A. I wanted to spare the guy’s feelings, and

B. Like I said, I knew if I posted Ted’s comments followed by Fleisher totally denying them, Ted would freak out.

Ted then decided to try to come up with any possible semantic argument where the legend could be proven wrong, which of course did not sit well with me, as the only reason his lame semantic argument is even VAGUELY on point is because I altered the legend so as to not offend the guy, and that’s why I ignored his nonsense posts.

Which is fine, until 8 months later, I get to cap it all off by you popping in to not only support Ted’s nonsense, but to toss in some character aspersions, which are ESPECIALLY lovely as the nonsense occurred due to me trying to be a good guy about the situation.

Bless you, Hal, bless you.

Read all the above with an open mind and knowledge of the content of those last few issues of Fleisher’s JONAH HEX and you’ll see it is NOT nonsense. Doesn’t matter why or exactly how you put the question to Michael all these years later or what his response was (*I* was trying to be nice to HIM and give him an out); the evidence in the comic is conclusive that he DID make plans in that direction and not follow through with them. Even if they were only in his mind and never committed to paper, they were “plans” for the Western feature. PERIOD. All this “lame semantic arguments” and “nonsense posts” is the real nonsense here. Have you ever read the comics in question yourself? I have to doubt it, especially since the above strongly suggests you were against Watson’s statements BEFORE talking to Fleisher. And his denial is the ONLY evidence against them, at least that I can see here, or anywhere else that I’ve seen. BTW, do the posts you quoted above come from that other thread Watson mentioned? If so, just where is it (so I can read the whole thing for myself)? In that COMICS JOURNAL interview that Watson referenced (I have read it myself), Fleisher talked at one point about preferring to stay well ahead of deadline. Perhaps what happened here is that they told him they were killing the series and he should stop writing, but they would go ahead and have what he had already turned in drawn and published, even though it had all that “unfinished business” in it. Doesn’t change the fact that he knew in his mind the basics of what he had intended to do next, and again that is what “plans” are. The definition of “plan” is figuring out what you are going to do BEFORE YOU DO IT. So even if they haven’t yet been committed to paper they are still plans, and this is not a semantic technicality. No matter how much you do not want to admit it, Watson is right about this. At best, your opening Urban Legend statement should have been phrased differently to reflect your actual intent, which appears to have been that something was left on the proverbial shelf at DC.

Forty-eight hours, and nothing? O.K., try this:

CBUL #49, first item–“Legend: In the comic books, Superman was declared 4-F because he accidentally read the eye chart in another room with his X-Ray vision….Status: False.” Why do you call it false? Because it happened in the Superman NEWSPAPER STRIP of the day rather than the BOOKS, but by not only your own admission, but even by your own repro, the event WAS referenced in a comic BOOK story. THAT is a “lame semantic argument.” That aside….

Note that absolutely nobody here ever tried at all to tell Watson that he was wrong about this, including you. I am going to have to insist on a direct answer to each of three direct questions that are straight-forward requests for information:

1. Assuming that the posts you quoted to me are from the thread that Watson mentioned (“some other board on this site”), is it still up on the ‘net, and if so, just where can I find it?

2. Have you ever read the last half-dozen or so issues of Fleisher’s JONAH HEX?

3. What was your basis for being so absolutely certain Watson’s contention about this business was wrong BEFORE you got the statement from Fleisher?

I’m not monitoring these things, Hal.

I only caught the first one because it got caught in the spam filter. Same thing happened with today’s.

Anyhow, I was only concerned with the character insults. I see you’ve addressed that, which was very good of you, thank you.

Beyond that, everything Fleisher says today matches what he said at the time – the only thing of interest was to check out Ted’s theory and see if Fleisher was saying one thing back then but would now reveal a different thing given time and distance – as there is no reason for him not to tell the truth 20 years later – and he confirmed what he said 20 years ago. Seeing as how you’re not going to find any contrary proof from anyone (and in the 20 years between when he made the original statement and now, Fleisher has never contradicted the original statement), then it’s really all I need now.

WOW! I just took another look at the text beneath the cover scans, and there you DO say that the point here is about a revamp other than the HEX that happened (although your main opener simply does not say THAT, and should have). And further, that on the other board Watson did say he had had some thought in that direction himself. Sorry I missed all that. However, that doesn’t appear to have been his “bottom line” there at all, but merely a thought of his which he pointed out to support his contention that there was “a ton of unfinished business” in the Western series. So it seems that I (and probably Watson as well) misread you here (I certainly did, and apologies one more time), and before that, you misread him over there. As for what Fleisher said “at the time,” if you’re talking about the text piece claimed by Paul W., I think Watson was disputing his memory that it was made at all, that if his theory had been so clearly contradicted by Fleisher himself there he would have let go of it then. Could you tell me if that board is still up, and if so, direct me to it? Otherwise, you and I are on the same page HERE, now. I mean, even if an alternate revamp was not his central point there, it WAS yours here, and you are right that there wasn’t one.

BTW, what about that other question Watson raised? I can verify everything he said (If you want the direct quote as to two Spectre stories left on the shelf, I’d be more than happy to give it to you; it DID come out of the interviewer’s mouth rather than Mike’s, but there are other statements present which reduce that fact’s ability to relieve Fleisher of being held to the comment, which I can also quote, if you want them) and add one more piece: Paul Kupperberg’s “Dr. 13, Ghostbreaker” series in GHOSTS had a three-issue story arc (#s 97-99, Feb.-April ’81) that was a direct sequel to Fleisher & Aparo’s ADVENTURE Spectre run, including their character of reporter Earl Crawford. Even THOSE three stories followed the title format from the first 10, so it is a VERY strange thing that the WRATH OF THE SPECTRE #4’s third Spec story did not. If two scripts AND ONE PLOT OUTLINE were left by Fleisher and the latter scripted by somebody else, why wouldn’t DC say so? Sanderson quotes Fleisher as saying that he felt he could not go back and write THAT Spectre again in one of his text pieces, which would seem to eliminate the idea of Mike turning an old outline into a full script at that time (again, full quotes and citations are available if you want them, by email if you’d prefer not to tip your hand to a possible future topic; just ask!). Oh, yes, it should be obvious that I do not share Watson’s theory that the TCJ interview is a phony, despite Mike’s statements comparing his and the 60s versions of the Spectre to the early 40s original being VERY contradicted by the evidence in the last’s Archive collection. Don’t know just what to make of that, but publicly suggesting that THE COMICS JOURNAL might well have fabricated an interview with evidence no stronger than that–it IS enough to justify further investigation, IMHO–is going too far. Do you have any interest in this mystery? If “No,” that is certainly your prerogative, no problem.

I sooooooo want to work for Kevin Eastman.

If anybody’s still looking for that thread where Watson made the original request, it’s here:

http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2007/04/21/friday-in-the-mountains-of-madness/

Still around, and not hard to find with Google.

Somebody already mentioned that that “last” Jonah Hex story was in DC Special Series #16, the Jonah Hex Spectacular, from 1978. It also had a Bat Lash and Scalphunter story. I was rather surprised when the post-apocalyptic Hex came along, but it was such an intriguing idea that I still enjoyed it. There was discussion in the letters pages, I believe, that Jonah had to return to the past at some point, because of the earlier story in the Spectacular, and in fact, at the end of Hex, Jonah comes across his own stuffed and mounted body . But geez, at that point, we had Giffen at his most extreme, simplistic style, such a change from the earlier Mart Texeira art.

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