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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #150

This is the one-hundred and fiftieth 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 forty-nine. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.

For this, the 150th edition of Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed, I’m going to do a bit of a tie-in with the Top 100 Comic Book Runs countdown (which you can follow here), as each of this week’s urban legends involves a comic run that is in the Top 100 (more specifically, all three are between #90 and #100)!!

Let’s begin!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Green Arrow was never called Green Arrow in any of Mike Grell’s Green Arrow stories.

STATUS: True in spirit, if not TECHNICALLY in practice.

As you may or may not already know, Mike Grell’s take on Green Arrow in the late 80s was to strip the character down from his otherworldly superhero lifestyle and make him more of a vigilante type than a superhero.

Therefore, calling himself a name like “Green Arrow” would get in the way of that a bit, even if that was the, you know, name of the comic.

But then again, John Constantine didn’t go around calling himself “Hellblazer,” right? So it wouldn’t be COMPLETELY shocking if he never called himself Green Arrow.

Anyhow, according to Grell’s Wikipedia page, “in none of Mike Grell’s Green Arrow stories is the character ever called “Green Arrow” anywhere but on the cover.”

I thought this was a fascinating bit of info, but was it actually true?

To test it out, I broke out my Green Arrow run, and checked, and in the very first issue of Longbow Hunters, it is proven wrong, as Oliver refers to himself (while recapping his past) as “Green Arrow.”

So the statement, as quoted, is technically false.

However, the true spirit of the statement is that Mike Grell specifically tried not to call Oliver Green Arrow, right?

And in NONE of the eighty issues of Green Arrow that Mike Grell wrote (nor the other two parts of Longbow Hunters) was the term “Green Arrow” used anywhere but on the cover.

That might sound hard to do, but Grell got around it by having everyone call him Oliver Queen, or Mr. Queen or Ollie or whatever.

In fact, if you re-read Grell’s Green Arrow, for most of the run, he goes far out of his way to avoid talking about anything fantastical at all.

When Hal Jordan shows up, he’s ringless and out of costume, and never talks about anything but normal stuff.

Later on, Grell takes this tact to the extreme, during the cute two-parter where Travis “Warlord” Morgan guest-stars for two issues.

Grell never has Morgan actually talk about Skartaris, simply has him make comments that we, the reader, know is about Skartaris, but if you were unfamiliar with Warlord, you’d be totally lost.

Right towards the end of his run, Grell has Arsenal guest-star, and it’s actually pretty funny, because it’s essentially the first time a real superhero has shown up in the series, and Grell makes Roy’s costume look pretty darn silly.

Anyhow, does EVERY Grell Green Arrow story not use the term “Green Arrow”? Well, no, but come on, it was just the one issue, and it was the FIRST issue, and it wasn’t even the Green Arrow regular series!! So while it is technically false, I think it is true in spirit.

82 issues without mentioning the term “Green Arrow” is still pretty darn impressive, no?

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Matt Wagner refused to reprint his early Grendel stories for years because he was ashamed of their quality.

STATUS: False

Just last week, I discussed the troubles that early independent comic book pioneers like Gil Kane had in getting their work out to the comic book buying masses. The market for comic books just was not designed, at the time, for works like Kane’s I Am…Savage to be made easily accessible to comic buyers.

By the 1980s, the advent of the Direct Market changed things dramatically. Now it was a lot easier to get work into the hands of comic readers, which opened up opportunities for independent comic book companies, but with such freedom also came looser standards, as the amount of professional-level comics probably did not meet the demand for comic books at the time. One of the results is that young artists, such as Matt Wagner, had a chance to produce comics where they might not have totally been ready to do so.

In Wagner’s case, his earliest work on Grendel, which appeared at first in Comico Primer, and then in a short-lived Comico black and white series, was not up to the same standards as Wagner’s later masterful work with the character.

In fact, once Comico ceased work on their black and white comics (including Grendel), Wagner rewrote the first three issues of the Black and White Grendel, and published them as a back-up in his Mage series. He later collected the back-ups into a one-shot called Grendel: Devil by the Deed.

(Dig that garish 80s trade dress)

By this time, Wagner had developed as a writer, and soon, he launched the ongoing Grendel comic for Comico, and the rest is, as they say, history.

However, for years, Wagner refused to reprint those early Grendel works – the original Comico Primer appearance and the three-issue black and white book. The rumor that was passed around was that Wagner was ashamed of the work and the poor quality, and did not want to see it reprinted.

In an interview with Matt Brady for Newsrama a couple of years ago, Wagner addressed these rumors head on –

There’s this common misconception that I don’t reprint those early Comico black and white Grendel stories because I’m ashamed of them. That couldn’t be further from the truth. That’s like saying I’m ashamed that I was once 13 or that I was once 22 or that I was once 31. I’m not. That story was later retold, re-done, and finished as Devil by the Deed. I just feel that it would be a little whoreish to reprint my early, incomplete work, just basically for the sake of a buck. I understand why people want to see it, and I’ve always said that I’d think about it as I got older, and maybe the 25th anniversary is a good enough reason to do it–I don’t know. Maybe it is a good time to honor it in that fashion, to show everything that led up to where the character is now.

As you might know already, in 2007, Wagner ultimately DID decide that the 25th Anniversary was good enough reason to finally reprint these stories.

Wagner did another interview with Brady where he explained the change of heart (read it here), but it’s basically just an elaboration of what he said in the above quote.

Thanks to Matts Brady and Wagner for the information!!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Nextwave had a name change because of trademark issues.

STATUS: True

When the amazing Warren Ellis/Stuart Immonen series Nextwave debuted in 2006, it was titled, appropriately enough, Nextwave.

That was the case for #2, as well.

However, without much fanfare, #3 had a different name.

The book was now called Nextwave, Agents of H.A.T.E.

I, and I’m sure many others, didn’t think much of it, and just figured it was one of those “The Mighty Thor” instead of Thor or “The Invincible Iron Man” instead of Iron Man things.

You know, just a subtitle.

As it turned out, however, there was a bit of a trademark snafu, presumably with the big corporation Nextwave Wireless (although I do not know for sure that it is Nextwave Wireless they’re talking about, although I do know Nextwave Wireless has a registered trademark on the name “Nextwave Wireless”).

Stuart Immonen mentioned on a website, when asked about the change, explained that Marvel did not secure a clear-cut trademark, so while they MIGHT be all right as they were, they felt it was just better off to change the title officially to Nextwave, Agents of H.A.T.E.

Funny, huh?

Thanks to Stuart Immonen for the dirt!!

Okay, that’s it for this week!

Thanks to the Grand Comic Book Database for this week’s covers!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is cronb01@aol.com.

See you next week!

39 Comments

tom fitzpatrick

April 11, 2008 at 5:21 am

Sigh. I had recently read the NextWave: agents of H.A.T.E. vol. 1 and 2, and for the life of me, cannot understand why this book was not on the top of the best-selling Marvel books. It was hilarious!!!

I just picked up GRENDEL ARCHIVES from the library last nite, nifty coincidence, no?

Interesting tidbit about Grell’s Green Arrow. Here’s another, outside of the Long-bow mini-series, I believe that Mike Grell did the interiors of only one issue of the 80 issue run (artwise, I mean). Izzat right?

Love that Green Arrow run. It had a real grown-up feel to it that separated it from other superhero books.

I also liked that Ollie was seemingly in his 40′s even though his DCU contemporaries like Hal and Bruce were portrayed as being in their early 30′s

Grell showed Ollie’s birthday every (or nearly every) year, and had him moan about his getting older, even stating his age! I don’t remember seeing that in any other super-hero (or super-hero-ish) comic.

I just read the Nextwave trades this past year. They were hilarious! Such a shame that it never found its audience.

Wait a minute, has Nextwave wireless ever wanted to launch there own comic book line?

If not, why the hell is there a problem? People will confuse the trademarks? Come on, give me a break.

Grell is an awesome writer, just to be able to pull that off!

Brian, was Ollie not called “Arrow” here and there during the Grell series. Been a long time since I read them, and I no longer own them. But I just have this sneaking feeling that such was the case. And if so, it TECHNICALLY would not count as him being called GREEN ARROW, though it wouldn’t be quite as clean a getaway as mentioning neither term whatsover (LONGBOW #1 excepted).

I remember “Arrow” being thrown around a lot, too. Ollie’s ID was still somewhat secret for most of the run, and he interacted a lot with cops and crooks who couldn’t just call him (or, worse, refer to him in the third person) as ‘hey, you’ all the time.

But somehow “Arrow” felt very different from “Green Arrow” or “GA”, to say nothing of the stuff like “Emerald Archer” that had always previously been thrown around.

DC in the late 80s broke a lot of new ground– but it was still remarkable to have such an adult, in-continuity take on the lives of two former Justice Leaguers. The house ads for Longbow Hunters put it in line with Dark Knight, Man of Steel, and the Wonder Woman relaunch; it was advertised as the next step in the evolution of the DCU, not hidden away in a dirty little Vertigo Visions corner the way it would have been a decade later.

The issue in which Shrapnel shows up in Seattle and Ollie narrates how much the wall he’d tried to maintain between his old life and his new one was crumbling down was one of the nicer bits of self-aware metacommentary I’d seen.

Grell did use the name in his Green Arrow Secret Origins story and in the mini-series Green Arrow: The Wonder Year, along with a humorous explanation about how Ollie Queen got stuck with it. Grell basically used Ollie to express his distatse for what Grell called “a silly name”.

And let me make it clear, and I’m sure that Jacob agress, using “Arrow” is no letdown (if it proves to be the case), and still counts as a departure worth noting. You’re right, Jacob, this adult take on JLA’ers was years ahead of its time.

Ralph, I assume that Marvel changed the name because of the same reasons they’ve changed Hell’s Angel to Dark Angel years ago. Hell’s Angels had no plans to publish a comic book (AFAIK), but they demanded a name change. It’s just a cover up for the sake of legalism.

Must read Grendel and Grell’s GA one of these days. Grell’s only story I ever read was his Green Arrow: The Wonder Year #1.

I have to admit that I hated the “new” Green Arrow when he made his debut in Justice League of America #75. I was a big GA fan from the back-up stories in Adventure & World’s Finest and I saw this new, abrasive GA as a complete Hawkeye knock-off. I warmed up to him during the GL/GA O’Neil series, and took his side as the liberal vs Hawkman conservative later on in JLA. I collected LBH and his ongoing, but didn’t really like it all that much.

Fans have always considered GA’s pre JLA # 75 stories as boring and a knock-off of Batman, but to a kid growing up in the late 50′s and early 60′s, the arrow signal, arrow cave, arrow car and all the trick arrows made for some fun reading. I almost died when O’Neil made Speedy a heroin addict, until years later, when I understood the historical significance and Roy became so much more of hero.

Those pre-JLA#75 GA strories may have been fun for you as a kid, but reading them in the Showcase volume was stultifyingly boring, despite some nice Lee Elias art. Always liked Trevor Von Eeden’s work with the character later though, so hopefully a second volume will pick up where the first left off — and eventually we can get to the Grell stuff.

I had recently read the NextWave: agents of H.A.T.E. vol. 1 and 2, and for the life of me, cannot understand why this book was not on the top of the best-selling Marvel books.

Good question. The answer? You pegged it:

It was hilarious!!!

No room for silly, self-contained fun when there are crossovers to buy…

Grell did use the name in his Green Arrow Secret Origins story and in the mini-series Green Arrow: The Wonder Year, along with a humorous explanation about how Ollie Queen got stuck with it. Grell basically used Ollie to express his distatse for what Grell called “a silly name”.

Oh yeah, very possible.

I just looked at Longbow Hunters and the ongoing series. The ongoing series was the real key for me – I mean, imagine writing EIGHTY issues of a character without using their superhero name! And that’s without ANYone in the book referring to him as Green Arrow.

During one storyline, Ollie is framed for treason, and Grell shows the media coverage, and the MEDIA doesn’t even mention the name Green Arrow!! It’s “Self-styled adventurer” or something like that.

Pretty funny stuff.

Oh, and Denny O’Neil wrote a few Annuals of Green Arrow, and while he MOSTLY stuck to Grell’s tactics, he also had people use “Green Arrow” in them.

Grell must have had fun with the Oliver Queen/Travis Morgan crossover. IIRC, Morgan comes to town and is constantly under attack. Not from his own personal enemies, but from people who mistake him for Oliver Queen. All a case of mistaken identity.

Just Grell’s response to the people that complained that “Ollie and Travis look too much alike”, “All Grell’s heroes look alike.”

–Ed

I missed out on this Green Arrow series and to this day wish they’d collect it in trades. As I’ve gotten older I’ve been going back and reading TPBs of Moore’s Swamp Thing, Gaiman’s Sandman and Morrison’s Animal Man and Doom Patrol, that I missed because I was too young to care when they came out. I’ve read so much about Grell’s GA series…and I’m not one to chase down back issues. Wish they’d start making trades of his complete run on the title.

Denny did a similar thing in the Question. I don’t think that any of the Denny issues call the character the Question either.

tom:

I had recently read the NextWave: agents of H.A.T.E. vol. 1 and 2, and for the life of me, cannot understand why this book was not on the top of the best-selling Marvel books. It was hilarious!!!

Mike:

I just read the Nextwave trades this past year. They were hilarious! Such a shame that it never found its audience.

Here we have the reason in a nutshell: two people who apparently didn’t read/buy the book in the first place when it was LOOKING for it’s audience, now reading it in trades. Maybe if you (and all the people I’m using you as a sample for) bought it WHEN IT CAME OUT it would have “found it’s audience” and “been on the top of the best-selling Marvel books.”

Exactly, Lothor. Back at the time I said the same stuff to fellow forum members when the news of Nextwave’s cancellation came about. It may seem harsh to some, but then you see their reaction when they read the book. All I could sat was: “Oh, so NOW you wonder why the book was cancelled?! Thank you!”

The Grell GREEN ARROW run is a masterpiece. I remember being blown away by those issues when they came out, it was more of a hard-boiled crime comic than than a superhero comic. It’s proof that “80′s Grim & Gritty” does not have to mean stupid, exploitative, or bad.

And as for the “Why didn’t you buy NEXTWAVE when it was coming out” arguement: 1) For various economic and geographic reasons, it’s getting *much* easier for me personally to get trades of stuff I’m interested in than to go through a lot of trouble to snag individual issues as they come out. Particulary if it’s a non- “Big Two” comic. And I’m discovering that I prefer reading comics in that format. The “Show up at your local shop every Wednesday to get your stack” model just doesn’t work for everyone. There are vast areas of the American Flyover that don’t have comic’s shops, or that have poor ones. 2) Trade sales count. They have kept alive struggling books like DC’s MANHUNTER (the one example I can think of off the top of my head, I’m sure there are others). It’s not like buying a trade of something that came out in the last five years or so is a useless gesture. It’s still profit for the company, and it tells them that there is interest in that character and/or creator.

On trades vs singles… since there are more than a few trade readers out there, including me, companies have to learn to build it into their model and not just treat trades as an afterthought to monthlies.

Companies should sell things in a format customers want.

Customers should not be told to buy products in a format the companies prefer.

“Only our colorist knows for sure.”

http://www.proudrobot.com/hembeck/grell.html

I can see waiting for the trade with a lot of books, but I didn’t understand it with Nextwave. I thought it read much better as a series of individual issues than it did in collected form.

Points about the difficulty of maintaining a shop subscription are well-taken, but what about online subscription services? Could those work for people who don’t have access to good shops but want to buy single issues?

Not that my financial situation is anyone’s business, but:

Why did I wait for the trades on Nextwave? Because I can not afford to buy comics regularly, and have not been able to since my son was born in December of ’04. I get comics with gift certificates from holidays, and on the occasion that we have a little extra money. If I buy singles (which are not a economically viable option at 3 bucks a pop), it’s because they’re from a run I’ve been reading for awhile. The only books I buy in singles anymore are Casanova, Captain America, & Blue Beetle, and I’m at least an issue behind on the latter two books.

I do not appreciate being blamed for something that was truly beyond my control (i.e. Nextwave’s cancellation). I love comics, but supporting and spending time with my family is *slightly* more important than supporting a comic book.

Kid Monster said:
“And as for the “Why didn’t you buy NEXTWAVE when it was coming out” arguement: 1) For various economic and geographic reasons, it’s getting *much* easier for me personally to get trades of stuff I’m interested in than to go through a lot of trouble to snag individual issues as they come out. Particulary if it’s a non- “Big Two” comic. And I’m discovering that I prefer reading comics in that format. The “Show up at your local shop every Wednesday to get your stack” model just doesn’t work for everyone. There are vast areas of the American Flyover that don’t have comic’s shops, or that have poor ones.”

I understand your point. I myself live in a country that up until couple of years ago had no comic shop and buying comic books was a hard mission. But now we have two shops. My LCS (I use this term loosely, since its about 50 KM from my hometown; same goes for the competition) gets shipment twice a month while the other one recently moved from once in two weeks to once a week. Still, it never affected me as I always been to the store once a month to pick up my stuff. Now I don’t have a pull-list due to personal problems and go the store whenever I can afford it.

Anyway, the arguement of “buy the monthly book or it’ll be cancelled” is directed at those who can afford it and has access to the store.

Hey, if more people read Nextwave in trades, it can only be a good thing. Ellis likes his short runs anyway; it does well in trade, and we might have a mini-series on our hands, whenever Immonen can catch a break from Ultimate Spider-Man.

Hey, if they didn’t want people to read trades then they wouldn’t print ‘em.

Personally, I don’t find any of the Urban Legends revealed here too impressive. Mike Grell didn’t like using the name Green Arrow? Matt Wagner didn’t feel like reprinting his early work? Marvel changed a title for copyright reasons? Eh. I guess I expected better for the 150th issue of CBULR…

#150 is not a special number, is it?

#50, sure.

#100, okay.

#150, though…is that something?

Comics publishers seems to use every #50 mark as a special event. Sometimes even #25.

I love how these rumors get started in the first place, and then grow like weeds.

Brian from Canada

April 13, 2008 at 8:11 am

Regarding the trades/singles issue: yes, online comic retailers — and eBay as well — are great for tracking down individual issues or a small run, but then there’s a shipping and handling charge as well… something book retailers don’t charge if your order is over a certain value. And Borders, Barnes & Nobles, Chapters-Indigo, Amazon.… these national chains are much more accessible for most buyers than local comic shops — PLUS they offer discounts on cover price that local shops rarely do.

I know in my case, where the cost of most comics is $5 or more after tax, the discounts on trades for characters I don’t have an absolute devotion to is a key attraction.

(Especially when my local comic shop doesn’t understand the term “customer friendly.”)

When I was a retailor back in the mid 90s, comic book special issues were typically #s 12, 24, 25, 30, 50, 60, 75, 100, 120, 125, etc.

Of course, this was the 90s, when any excuse for a special cover was good enough to qualify as “special”.

Theno

I hate this perception some people have that we have some kind of duty to buy issues rather than trades. Here in England that would pretty much double the cost of my comics to give me a product that I don’t like nearly as much. I’d be crazy to buy issues. Comic companies are more than wise to the fact that trades make up a sizeable part of the market so that argument hasn’t held water for a long time.

“Denny did a similar thing in the Question. I don’t think that any of the Denny issues call the character the Question either.”

Good point. Alan Moore did it with The Phantom Stranger in his Swamp Thing run too. It still grates with me every time anyone uses the phrase “phantom stranger” in a comic. For me that’s like calling Captain Marvel “The Power of Shazam”.

Grell did use the name in his Green Arrow Secret Origins story and in the mini-series Green Arrow: The Wonder Year, along with a humorous explanation about how Ollie Queen got stuck with it. Grell basically used Ollie to express his distaste for what Grell called “a silly name”.

Oh yeah, very possible.

Yep. In Comics Scene #1 from 1987, Grell talks about it in an article promoting the original Longbow Hunters series. I just dug out my copy of the issue to find the quote, and here it is:

“Reading the stories carefully, one finds that there is only one place, in the beginning, when he’s first describing how he became what he is, where he is even referred to as ‘Green Arrow.’ It’s extraneous — it’s a silly name, and I decided I could live without it.. I haven’t pointed that fact out to the editors yet, but I’m sure they’ll notice. Nobody calls him ‘Green Arrow’ because it’s not necessary if I do the stories right.”

I don’t think Nextwave would have found enough fans to keep it going. I read the first issue and while it was kind of funny it was funny in a way that tore down Marvel, in my opinion at least. It’s sort of like this. “This book is hilarious, it makes fun of all the ridiculous stuff in Marvel.”

“Oh, that ridiculous stuff that drives the plot of a lot of books you pay good money to read?”

Like it mocks the audience as wella s everything else.

ParanoidObsessive

November 22, 2008 at 12:34 am

>>> Wait a minute, has Nextwave wireless ever wanted to launch there own comic book line? If not, why the hell is there a problem? People will confuse the trademarks? Come on, give me a break.

Hell, if the World Wildlife Federation could sue the World Wrestling Federation over a conflict of initials with the implication that there would even REMOTELY be confusion between the two brands, nothing is safe.

Knox

April 11, 2008 at 5:34 am

Love that Green Arrow run. It had a real grown-up feel to it that separated it from other superhero books.

I also liked that Ollie was seemingly in his 40?s even though his DCU contemporaries like Hal and Bruce were portrayed as being in their early 30?s

—————————————————————————————————————————————————-

Actually, in his own series around 1990, Hal had white temples.

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