Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #124
This is the one-hundred and twenty-fourth in a series of examinations of comic book urban legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous one-hundred and twenty-three. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Peter Cannon…Thunderbolt was originally going to be Daredevil.
Pete Morisi was a comic book artist for a number of different comic book companies during the 1940s and 1950s. He was notable in that, in 1956, he became a New York City policeman! Not wanting anyone to know he was moonlighting as a comic book artist, Morisi was known only by his initials, PAM.
(As an aside, there’s a great story involving Morisi and George Tuska that I’ve been wanting to prove true or apocryphal for awhile now, if anyone has any info on it, please let me know).
Daredevil, as you folks well know, was a superhero comic that was put out by Lev Gleason’s comic group, and was created by Charlie Biro (and the second issue famously was put together in a single weekend!).
As noted in a previous installment of Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed, Daredevil lost the starring role in his own comic book, as the comic became more of a Little Rascals humor title starring Daredevil’s former sidekicks.
By the 1960s, the comic was finished completely, so when Morisi was looking for a project to bring to Charlton Comics (which were producing some new superhero comics to coincide with the recent Silver Age superhero comeback), he thought Daredevil would be a good choice.
According to an interview with Glen Johnson in Comic Book Artist #9, Morisi approached Lev Gleason about purchasing the rights to Daredevil, with the intent of revamping Daredevil for Charlton Comics.
Gleason actually AGREED, but creator Charlie Biro was the stumbling point, as he wanted Morisi to agree to fee-sharing if the character became successful. So instead, with a few changes to the costume, Daredevil instead became…
The series was an interesting look at Eastern philosophies, and probably one of, if not the first, comic book to actually treat them with respect, rather than as simple stereotypes.
The character was popular enough to continue in his own title, taking over the failed title, Son of Vulcan…
It continued for awhile until Charlton dropped its superhero line all together in 1967.
In the early 80s, DC purchased the Charlton characters, but Morisi maintained certain rights to his creation.
DC did a relaunch of the character in 1992, with writer/artist Mike Collins.
After that series ended, the rights to Peter Cannon…Thunderbolt reverted back to Morisi, who passed away in 2003. Currently, his estate owns the rights. DC does not appear to be too concerned about not being able to use the character, though, which is too bad, as he is a good character.
Alan Moore based the character Ozymandias in Watchmen on him.
Not a bad legacy, eh?
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: DC obscured Peter Cannon…Thunderbolt during Crisis on Infinite Earths because of uncertainty whether they owned his rights.
As noted above, Peter Cannon…Thunderbolt had different rights issues than the other characters that DC purchased from Charlton Comics. So a long-standing rumor has been that DC was not sure they fully owned him when it came time for Crisis, so they obscured his appearances in the book (and then didn’t use him again for years).
I have been checking this one out for literally years now, as I’ve been looking into this one since I first started doing this bit.
Reader Craig (I am sure others have asked, too, his is just the only one I have handy) asked me in July of last year, “Is DC’s lack of the rights for the Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt character at the time the reason you do not see his face in the original Crisis?”
And sure enough, when you check out Crisis, Peter Cannon…Thunderbolt really does not make much of an appearance.
They don’t even mention his NAME there!
The next page is our only notice of his name.
So while it would seem odd to me that DC would put him in the book at ALL if they were curious whether they really owned him, it was interesting enough that I checked around.
I checked with the first inker of the series, and DC Managing Editor at the time, Dick Giordano. He did not recall, but thought it sounded about right.
I checked with the editor on the comic, Len Wein. He did not recall, but thought it sounded about right.
I checked with the writer of the book, Marv Wolfman. He did not recall, but thought it sounded about right.
FINALLY, I checked with the artist of the book, George Perez, and he DID recall, and he gave me a pretty definitive answer…
If there was any ownership issues regarding Peter Cannon, I was totally unaware of it. Any vagueness in my depiction of the character was due to my not having sufficient reference and not really knowing what powers the character had. I thought he was a speedster.
That about resolves that, no?
Thanks to Craig for the question, and thanks to the whole Crisis on Infinite Earths initial creative team for dealing with me rooting their brains two decades after the fact!
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Rob Liefeld once used a double entendre to advertise a toy.
Reader Taylor sent this in to me the other week, “Did Rob Liefeld seriously put out an ad for Rob Liefeld’s Shaft – 7 inches?”
The world of double entendres in comic books is a fun one. Many people have enjoyed a giggle at books like Giant-Size Man-Thing…
or stories like the infamous Batman/Joker “boner war”…
So it should not come as such a surprise that this is, indeed, true.
The leader of Rob Liefeld’s Youngblood team was an archer named Shaft.
When Liefeld released a toy series based on the characters, Shaft got his own figure.
And in the April 1998 Previews magazine, there it was listed – “Rob Liefeld’s Shaft–7″ Tall–Fully Poseable”
Almost certainly, Liefeld (or whoever came up with the copy) did it as a joke, but perhaps it really was an amusing accident.
If anyone knows for sure, drop me a line!
Thanks to Taylor for the question, and thanks to Mike Sterling for the picture of the action figure.
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free to drop off any urban legends you’d like to see featured!