Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #131
This is the one-hundred and thirty-first 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 thirty. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Marvel was going to publish Star Wars: Dark Empire
More than a few people remember that, in an old issue of Marvel Age, there was an advertisement for a new Marvel Star Wars series – Star Wars: Dark Empire! I thought it was an annual, but Andy Mangels was so kind as to help me out by both pointing out that it was in Marvel Age Special Preview #1 (1990), and to give me the following scan!
This was in the late 80s, but no such series existed until 1991, when Star Wars: Dark Empire showed up over at Dark Horse, and was a massive success, leading to Dark Horse holding the Star Wars license ever since (one of the most successful licenses in comics history, I might add).
In any event, a reader, Josh, wrote in to ask about the ad, as he remembered seeing it as well, and was curious as to what the deal was. So was I, so I went straight to the horse’s mouth, Tom Veitch, writer of Star Wars: Dark Empire, and Tom went way above and beyond the call of duty and told me an epic story of a long time ago, in a comic company far, far away…
After Cam Kennedy and I did The Light and Darkness War for Archie Goodwin, at Epic Comics (Marvel), we got the bright idea to send copies to George Lucas and ask him if we could do Star Wars. (Star Wars, at the time, was pretty much moribund. There was no plan for further films, and the license was really up for grabs.)
I got a phone call within a week from Lucy Wilson, who, as you may know, is reputed to have been the very first person Lucas hired when he started Lucasfilm. She told us GL liked our work and we could have the Star Wars license if we wanted it. At that point I made what may have been a fateful error and told her I wasn’t that much into the business side of things and would prefer to talk to Archie about having Epic Comics do it. She was a bit taken aback — Marvel had dropped the license a few years earlier. But she got back to me and said ok, and so I talked to Archie. I remember he was immediately excited at the prospect of bringing SW back to Marvel…but he also said he would probably have a tough time getting Marvel to pick up the license again. And indeed, there was some resistance. But Archie being “Mr. Star Wars” at the company, of course they ultimately agreed. And thus Dark Empire was born. The whole six issue first series were planned and ok’d by Lucas while we were working with Archie.
Now, the next thing that happened was that Archie left Marvel and went to DC. I don’t remember the exact circumstances, but they weren’t pleasant. So our Dark Empire project was given to (name withheld) and everything sort of changed right away. The project got kicked to secondary status, and both Cam and I began feeling quite unhappy. Cam actually stopped drawing the book for awhile.
OK, talking to Lucy Wilson about the unfortunate situation, I suggested she check out Dark Horse and the movie-related projects they had done (such as Aliens). I introduced her to Mike Richardson, and she was quite impressed with him (as everybody is who meets him…he’s a well-spoken giant of a man).
Next thing I know I am in London at a convention and Richardson takes me aside and says DH is deeply interested in getting the Star Wars license away from Marvel, and would Cam and I finish Dark Empire for DH if they can bring that off. I said sure, of course. Cam also agreed. And the whole thing went forward. Marvel unceremoniously dropped the license a second time, Dark Horse rolled out the red carpet for us, and we completed the first six books, exactly as planned, with Barbara Kesel (who could make the Kessel run in under ten parsecs) as our editor.
Thanks to Jeff for the question, Andy for the scan (and the info) and thanks extremely much to Tom Veitch for his expansive reply. Go buy one of his books!
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Batman initially wore purple gloves, but DC has colored them blue in their reprints of the material.
Most readers out there can name you Batman’s first appearance…
but did you know what he WORE during that first appearance?
Yup, that’s right – in Batman’s first appearance in Detective Comics #27, Batman actually wore PURPLE gloves!
Whether that was intentional or not, I do not know – but it’s pretty striking, no?
What is even more striking to me is how DC has decided to (ahem) “bluewash” this bit of history with their reprintings of early Batman issues.
Below are a series of pages from the original version of the aforementioned Detective Comics #27 and from the reprinted version of that same issue (currently available in Batman Chronicles Vol. 1 – Thanks to Greg Burgas for making sure for me that they WERE using the same colors for Chronicles)!!
Pretty weird, huh?
There’s a very good chance that DC made the determination that the original story did not REALLY mean to have his gloves purple, and that therefore, their re-colored version was closer to the actual artistic intent of the comic. Which may be true, but it is still pretty strange to see the historical record changed like that.
What’s even stranger is that, even after deciding to re-color Batman’s history (this also includes coloring some instances where Batman didn’t even seem to be WEARING gloves as though he was wearing blue gloves), DC recently did a series of “First Appearances” action figures.
Even weirder, no?
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Paul Levitz used note cards to keep the cast of the Legion of Superheroes straight.
A good deal of myths related to comic books (heck, myths related to anything, really) come down to basically a glorified version of the game “telephone.” A person will say one thing, it will be repeated to another – just slightly modified, and that version will be repeated – also slightly modified, until you have something that is just accepted as “truth,” but is not.
In fact, the inspiration for this feature is based on something exactly like this, where Walt Simonson had a story in Fantastic Four #350 where he revealed that Doctor Doom was traveling through time, so that a good deal of his past appearances were actually Doom-bots. Simonson left it to readers to make up their own decision as to which Dooms were “real” and which were not, but it soon was twisted into saying that SIMONSON kept such a list.
Similarly, Paul Levitz has talked more than once over the years about his Legion of Superheroes “scorecard.”
As the story has been retold, it has basically entered into fan lore that, because the book had so many characters, as noted in the famous (infamous, I guess, if you’re looking at it from Keith Giffen’s perspective) Keith Giffen Legion poster from the 1980s (pic courtesy of my pal, Paul Newell)…
that when Levitz says “scorecard,” he meant he kept cards keeping track of the various members of the group.
However, that is not the case.
Jamie Coville brought up this very topic with Levitz a few years back in one of his Coville’s Clubhouse features for The Collector Times, and Levitz cleared the record up:
Coville: It was fairly common knowledge in fan circles that you used cards to keep track of the characters in your second stint as LSH writer. How exactly did that work?
Levitz: Never used cards, actually. Probably comes from a remark about using a SCORECARD to keep track. Basically, a column down the left spelled out the plotlines I had in works. Sequential columns were labelled by upcoming issues, and indicated the developments I expected.
So there ya go!
That clears THAT one up (and I only just recently saw a fan reference Levitz’s character note cards on a forum, so this one has persisted to this day)!
Reader Patrick Wynne adds that in Denny O’Neil’s book DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics, he gives an example of the “Levitz Grid.” Thanks for the tip, Patrick!!
Thanks to Paul Newell for the pic, Paul Levitz for the information and Jamie Coville for GETTING the information!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
See you next week!