Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #123
This is the one-hundred and twenty-third 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-two. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.
It’s easy as 1-2-3!
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Marvel launched Secret Wars in an attempt to beat DC to the punch with a company-wide crossover.
It was my pal Jim MacQuarrie’s birthday the other day, so I thought it would be nice to do an urban legend this week that Jim personally asked me to confirm and/or debunk awhile back.
Jim made the following contention:
Marvel and DC staffers talked to each other. Gossip circulated. Marvel and DC executives played golf together. Crisis on Infinite Earths was in the planning stages for a long time before Secret Wars was begun. Marvel rushed theirs to market to try to steal DC’s thunder.
I put the question to Jim Shooter (Editor-In-Chief of Marvel at the time, and writer of Secret Wars) himself, recently, and here is what he had to say:
This is the sequence of events: Kenner licensed DC’s heroes for toys. Though Mattel had He-Man, just in case comics-hero-based toys got hot, to compete with Kenner, they came to Marvel seeking a license. The Mattel people were ambivalent about licensing our characters, however, because they were less well-known than Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman et al. Licensing, for those who don’t know, is seldom motivated by the quality of the properties–it’s all about EXPOSURE. Q-scores. Mattel asked us to come up with something special to generate more interest in our characters. The fact that we were outselling DC more than two-to-one wasn’t enough.
I proposed to Mattel that we publish a giant mega-crossover story, a “maxi-series,” involving all the major Marvel heroes and villains. No one had ever done anything like that before. It wasn’t really my idea. Every day in the fan mail, we’d get a dozen or so letters suggesting exactly that. Mattel liked it. At their behest, we called the series “Secret Wars,” because their focus groups found that kids responded well to those words.
We began work on Secret Wars well more than a year before DC began Crisis, and in fact DC was NOT planning a “big, company-wide crossover” till after they found out about [Secret Wars]. Back in those days, comics folks from all companies hung out together, played volleyball together, played poker, etc. You couldn’t keep secrets if you tried–and we didn’t really care if DC knew what we were doing. We didn’t think it would make any difference. Crisis was a response to the huge success of Secret Wars. (BTW, because of the way the Direct Market works, we and everyone else knew the numbers were gigantic well before the first issue of [Secret Wars] came out.) The last issue of Secret Wars came out the same month–maybe even the same week–as the first issue of Crisis. It wasn’t because they were holding back, or it took them longer.
It’s interesting that Shooter basically echoes some of Jim’s statement (the whole “everyone talked” thing).
In any event, while Shooter stating the above is certainly not 100% proof, I think it sounds convincing enough that I’m willing to go with a
true false here.
Thanks greatly to Jim Shooter for the information, and a Happy Birthday to Jim MacQuarrie!
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: The original Justice Society of America team-up was made up of collected solo stories.
As mentioned in a previous installment of Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed, the formation of the Justice Society of America was very interesting, because the characters involved were not even all from the same comic book company!!
However, amazingly enough, that’s not the ONLY bizarre situation revolving around the third issue of All-Star Comics, featuring the first appearance of the Justice Society of America.
To set the scene, let us describe the first two issues of All Star Comics…
The book was basically just a big superhero anthology, without a true “lead” feature (like Action or Detective Comics), so the book decided to try a new hook for the anthology in the summer of 1940 – making the characters in the book all form a team together!
Good idea, no?
However, how they went about it was quite interesting. Reader Ted Watson shared the following exchange from 1987’s Amazing Stories #115, between Rich Morrissey and Gardner Fox…
Morrissey: The first JSA story [in ALL-STAR #3] seemed to consist largely of a group of unrelated episodes. Were they really written that way–as separate stories?
Fox: Yes, they were. But I tied them together, and then kept that format in future issues.
Morrissey: Were the stories also written by the characters’ individual writers?
Fox:: No, I wrote them all. In fact, I think I wrote all the stories in the first two ALL-STAR issues as well, though I’m not sure. Maybe they were left over from the other books. As I’ve said, some of the things you’re asking about were so long ago I don’t remember them very well.
Morrissey: Did you check with the regular writers of the characters when writing the individual chapters?
Fox: No, I knew enough about the characters to handle them.
So the first team-up of the Justice Society was not really intended to be one at all!!
But wait…there’s further mystery, which Ted wishes us to get to the bottom of, and I have been trying, and the question has stumped even my pal Kurt Mitchell, who has forgotten more about the Justice Society than I’ll ever know, but I cannot come up with a definitive answer, so I figured I would open it up to you readers out there!
Okay, so Fox claims he wrote all the short stories, and that’s how it has always been credited when people list the credits for All-Star Comics #3. However, if the book was originally meant to be a collection of short stories before the framing sequence was determined, how likely is it that Fox actually wrote all the stories?
He did not write all the stories in the first two issues, so why would he start suddenly with #3?
Fox obviously was at the end of his life when the questions were asked, and we cannot expect an older gentleman to remember such minutiae, but the question Ted Watson poses is a good one – DID Gardner Fox really write all the stories in All Star Comics #3?
If you ever find out, let us know!
Thanks to Ted Watson, Amazing Heroes and Kurt Mitchell!
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: The Silver Surfer was going to be retitled as the Savage Silver Surfer in the 1970s.
Right from his first appearance, the Silver Surfer was a hit with comic readers. Stan Lee wished to give him his own title right away, but sadly, Marvel was not able to expand their line at the time, so he settled for having the Surfer make numerous guest appearances.
Eventually, Marvel was allowed to expand their line of comics, and the Surfer was among the new titles started, although, surprisingly, with Stan Lee writing and John Buscema on art, not Jack Kirby, who created the Silver Surfer.
For whatever reason (probably the high price point), the Surfer did not catch on with the buying public.
Lee had great affinity for the character of the Surfer, though, so tried whatever he could to keep the book going. Eventually, he even brought Kirby on to the book for an issue, a fact that I highly doubt sat well with Kirby (who was reasonably displeased with Lee doing a Surfer book without him).
The issue by Kirby did not even feature a Kirby COVER, but rather, a Herb Trimpe cover. That was because Trimpe was set to be the book’s new artist with the next issue, #19, where the book was to be renamed The Savage Silver Surfer.
However, before the issue could see print, the book was canceled due to low sales.
If anyone knows more information about what kind of stories the Savage Silver Surfer were to entail, please let me know!
Amusingly enough, just last year, during the Planet Hulk storyline, the Silver Surfer was involved with Hulk in a gladiator arena – the Surfer’s name?
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free to drop off any urban legends you’d like to see featured!