"Rowdy" Roddy Piper Reported Dead at 61
This is the one-hundred and thirty-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 thirty-three. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Louise Simonson killed off Cypher in New Mutants because she disliked the character.
Really, I could have had as the legend “Louise Simonson killed off Cypher in New Mutants because ______,” because I have seen quite a few reasons given.
Cypher, as you may or may not know, was Doug Ramsey, a member of the New Mutants.
His mutant power was the ability to translate any language – including computers. Nowadays, that would probably be seen as quite useful, but back in the 1980s, it was not seen as the coolest of powers.
Still, Doug was a valued member of the New Mutants basically because he was such a good, nice guy.
He was killed in New Mutants #60.
After this, many a reader came up with his/her own conspiracy theory as to why Cypher was killed off.
The real reason, as it turns out, was quite simple. I will let Louise Simonson explain herself (from a post she made in the 1990s on the X-Men usenet group):
As for killing poor Cypher…I did that for several reasons. (There was a rumor at the time that he was killed because the artist hated drawing him. Another that I hated him because I had to keep twisting stories to find some instance where there was language that had to be translated.)
The real reason was…I know you’ll find this hard to believe… there was a write-in campaign from LOTS of readers who hated him and thought he was boring and wanted us to get rid of him. Preferably…they wanted him dead. We got LOTS and LOTS of these letters.
So I decided to call these readers’ bluffs and do exactly what they were asking for. (On the other hand, I never kill a character without knowing exactly how I’m going to bring them back…if I so choose. It is comic books, after all! With Doug/Cypher, the way was obvious.) Sooo…
I decided to have him die a noble death of loving sacrifice, saving his dear friend Rahne. And (surprise, surprise) we started getting LOTS of letters asking, “How could you? Doug was my favorite character?!!!” (My favorite letter… and I think one of the most honest… said, “I used to hate Doug and thought he was boring and wanted him to die, but now that he’s dead, I’ve realized he was ALWAYS MY FAVORITE CHARACTER!”) Lots of folks missed Doug … after he was gone.
Comic fans DO seem to like killing off characters, don’t they?
Thanks to Louise Simonson for clearing the Cypher rumors up.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Originally, Superman’s powers came from the fact that Kryptonians were just super-powered, period.
As you might expect, back in the Golden Age, creators did not expect that anyone would be discussing their comics seventy years after the fact, so they did not concern themselves too much with consistency.
At the same time, they also did not seem to be that worried about the particulars of how Superman’s powers worked – the fact that he was an alien, to them, was good enough.
This was evident in the first storyline of the Superman comic strip, running from January 16, 1939 to January 28, 1939, where Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster gave the first in-depth exploration of Krypton, and it might come as quite a surprise to modern readers what the people of Krypton were like.
To wit, check out Jor-L…
Yep, in the original published version of Krypton (by Superman’s creators, no less!), ALL Kryptonians had superpowers!!!
Reader T makes the useful point that this was also made mention of in Action Comics #1, as seen here:
but it was not until a year later, in the comic strip, when we actually saw Krypton.
Still, the planet was still about to explode, and Superman still got rocketed to Earth, only check out the different explanation for his powers…
Soon, the more recognizable “different gravities”/”different suns” idea was developed.
The comic strip scans are courtesy of The Speeding Bullet
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: The Champions was originally supposed to be an Iceman/Angel buddy book.
Earlier this year, reader Wilbur Lunch asked me the following:
I read somewhere that CHAMPIONS was originally conceived by Tony Isabella as a “buddy” comic, featuring Angel and Iceman, but apparently the EIC at the time insisted that it was going to be a team book and therefore just added a few characters who were not appearing in AVENGERS or DEFENDERS. Not sure if it’s true, though…
The Champions of Los Angeles was a rather eclectic group, consisting of former X-Men, Angel and Iceman, as well as Hercules, Black Widow and Ghost Rider.
Such an odd team would certainly lend itself to an odd origin, and that is just the case, as Tony Isabella himself elaborated upon in Back Issue #19, where he explained that yes, the Champions was originally conceived by him as a buddy book for Iceman and Angel, but he was told instead that the book was to be a team book, and not only a team book, but specifically, a team consisting of (on top of Iceman and Angel) a woman, a strong person and a hero with his/her own title at the time.
Black Widow and Hercules filled the first two roles, and despite the suggestion of Luke Cage for the fifth team member, Isabella instead went with a title he was writing at the time – Ghost Rider.
And thus, the Champions were born!
And seventeen issues later, the book was dead.
Thanks to Wilbur for the question, and thanks to Back Issue magazine (which is an excellent magazine that all readers of this column would enjoy!) and Tony Isabella for 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!
And Merry Christmas!!
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