Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #138
This is the one-hundred and thirty-eighth 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-seven. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Dwayne McDuffie once pitched a series called Teenage Negro Ninja Thrashers.
STATUS: True, in a way.
Tom Brevoort’s Blah Blah Blog is an amazing resource of Marvel history. Be sure to check it out here. You’d be doing yourself a huge favor.
Anyhow, someone asked me about this story awhile ago, and as it turns out, it came courtesy of none other than Tom Brevoort’s awesome blog!
In an entry from last year, Tom explains that, in late 1989, Rocket Racer started showing up again in the pages of Web of Spider-Man…
and Night Thrasher had just debuted in the pages of Thor (along with the rest of the New Warriors)…
McDuffie (then an editor at Marvel), took slight issue with the fact that this was basically a quarter of the black superheroes appearing in Marvel Comics at the time, and they were a bit, well, similar.
This led to McDuffie’s hilarious parody pitch…Teenage Negro Ninja Thrashers.
So yes, technically, Dwayne McDuffie really did make a pitch for Teenage Negro Ninja Thrashers.
And yes – his point was well taken.
A few years later, McDuffie would launch Milestone Comics, which gave us a great many amazing black heroes, most notable (in my opinion, at least) being Static and Icon and Rocket.
Imagine that – making a point and also doing something about it?
Well done by McDuffie.
Thanks to Tom Brevoort again, for such an awesome comic history resource! And for posting the pitch.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Jerry Siegel publically threatened to kill himself to protest the shabby treatment he and Joe Shuster received from DC Comics.
Reader Christopher Farnsworth (click here for his website) sent me the following last week:
There’s a persistent legend that says one of the Superman creators — Siegel or Shuster, I forget which — threatened to commit suicide by leaping off the Time-Warner building, wearing a Superman costume, around the time of the first Superman movie. This threat was supposedly part of the reason — along with the negative publicity — that Warner Bros. decided to give Siegel and Shuster a $100,000 annuity, in lieu of all the billions of dollars their most famous creation had earned.
I think I even heard Will Eisner repeat this at a panel at Comic-Con, and it’s featured, in a way, in Rick Veitch’s Maximortal.
But is it true?
It would definitely make for a great story, but sadly (ETA: By sadly, merely noting the lack of an interesting story – not that I was hoping Siegel would attempt to kill himself), it is not, in fact, true.
No, the story of how Siegel and Shuster finally got somewhat paid off for creating Superman came not from threatening suicide – but by threatening a curse.
In October 1975, Jerry Siegel sent off a press release to hundreds of media outlets detailing his anger over the unfair treatment he felt that he and Joe Shuster got at the hands of DC. Eventually, the press release got national attention, and especially thanks to the efforts of Neal Adams and Jerry Robinson, DC Comics eventually agreed to not only pay the two men a yearly stipend, but to give them credit for the creation of Superman, not only in the comics, but in all media!
Here is a snippet from the famous press release (which ran about nine pages):
It has been announced in show business trade papers that a multi-million dollar production based on the SUPERMAN comic strip is about to be produced. It has been stated that millions of dollars were paid to the owners of SUPERMAN, National Periodical Publications, Inc., for the right to use the famous comic book super-hero in the new movie. The script is by Mario Puzo, who wrote “The Godfather” and “Earthquake”. The film is to have a star-filled cast.
I, Jerry Siegel, the co-originator of SUPERMAN, put a curse on the SUPERMAN movie! I hope it super-bombs. I hope loyal SUPERMAN fans stay away from it in droves. I hope the whole world, becoming aware of the stench that surrounds SUPERMAN, will avoid the movie like a plague.
Why am I putting this curse on a movie based on my creation SUPERMAN?
Because cartoonist Joe Shuster and I, who co-originated SUPERMAN together, will not get one cent from the SUPERMAN super-movie deal.
So there ya go!
A cool story, but not as dramatic as threatening to jump off the Empire State Building in a Superman costume!
EDITED TO ADD: Rick Veitch (who homaged this scene in his excellent Maximortal series) wrote in to make the very convincing argument that while Siegel didn’t do the whole threatening suicide thing the way Christopher suggests the legend was presented, there is a very good chance that, at one time or another, in the various back and forth letter conversations he had with DC Comics (in the press release, Siegel posts some of the responses to his letters, and it’s pretty evident that the back and forth got quite heated at times), Siegel DID make the “I’ll kill myself dressed as Superman” threat. It just was not a public thing, nor was it something that was connected with the Superman movie or the eventual settlement. Joe Simon cited it in his great book, The Comic Book Makers, and this is likely what Eisner was referring to, as well (the story that Siegel wrote a letter making said threat).
Thanks to Christopher for the suggestion, and thanks to Rick for the clarifying information!
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Emma Frost’s secondary mutation was a result of Grant Morrison not being allowed to use Colossus in New X-Men.
Reader Tony B asked:
Sure thing, Tony!
Well, simply put – that’s exactly what happened!
That’s easy, no?
Morrison, when he began on New X-Men, wanted to use Colossus, but was as it turned out, there were already concrete plans to kill him to cure the Legacy Virus.
and Colossus had JUST given his life to cure the Legacy Virus.
To replace Colossus, Morrison came up with the idea of giving Emma Frost the new power of turning into a powerful diamond form.
Thanks for the suggestion, Tony!
And thanks to the Grand Comic Book Database for all these covers!
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!