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This is the one-hundred and fifty-second 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 fifty-one. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Marvel asked a court to rule that the X-Men were not human.
One of the biggest messages of the X-Men comic, particularly since Chris Claremont began writing it in the 1970s (okay, REALLY particularly since the 1980s, when Claremont began really stressing it) was that mutants should not be persecuted, they are just as human as anyone else, they just look different (and have powers). That’s the whole message of God Loves, Man Kills (as an aside, I’d love to post the famous Brent Anderson drawing of Nightcrawler from that issue – anyone have a scan? Joseph West helped me out with the following scan – click to enlarge. Thanks, Joseph!!)!!
So it comes as quite a shock that a few years back, Marvel Comics was in court trying to argue that the X-Men are specifically NOT human!!
In came about in the 2003 case, Toy Biz v. United States, and it ties in to an early case from the 1980s, where Hasbro tried to claim the same distinction about GI Joe.
Really, it’s all a bit of a joke, as the real issue here is simply tariffs. The tariffs on dolls are higher than they are on toys, most likely because the last time tariffs on these things were overhauled, it was probably in a year that began with a 1, a 9 and probably a 2. In any event, toys have lower tariffs than dolls, so during the 1980s, Hasbro tried to argue that GI Joe figures were “action figures” and NOT dolls, and should be classified under toys, not dolls. The U.S. Court of International Trade disagreed.
However, in 2003, when Toy Biz (Marvel) brought their claim, the U.S. Court of International Trade agreed with their claim that the X-Men were significantly different enough from humans (which is the basic foundation of what a “doll” is – note that most GI Joe figures appear like humans) that they can
be classified as “non-human,” and therefore, qualify as toys, not dolls.
As a result, Toy Biz recouped the tariffs it had paid in the past when X-Men toys were classified as dolls.
So yes, it is all about saving money, but at the same time, it’s pretty bizarre to see Marvel argue that the X-Men are non-human, right? Here is a quote from Marvel at the time – “our heroes are living, breathing human beings- but humans who have extraordinary abilities … A decision that the X-Men figures indeed do have ‘nonhuman’ characteristics further proves our characters have special, out-of-this world powers.”
Love that spin (do note that ALL of Marvel’s superhero toys were ruled non-human)!!
Thanks to my pal, Loren, for filling me in on this one!
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Patricia Highsmith was a comic book writer.
Patricia Highsmith, the celebrated author of the classic novel Strangers on a Train, as well as the five-book Mr. Ripley series of novels (began with The Talented Mr. Ripley) was a comic book writer during the 1940s!!
Ms. Highsmith worked primarily for Better and Fawcett Comics, after she graduated from Barnard in 1942 up until 1948.
Her work appeared most likely in Black Terror for Better…
and Golden Arrow (among others) for Fawcett…
Amusingly enough, when she began working as a novelist, she had one of Tom Ripley’s (her amoral con artist character) first victims be none other than a comic book artist!! “Tom had a hunch about Reddington. He was a comic-book artist. He probably didn’t know whether he was coming or going.”
I wish someone out there could find out which issues she worked on of each comic! Has someone already found out and I did not know? If so, let me know!
Thanks to the prolific John McDonagh for tipping me off about this one (and thanks to Highsmith’s Wikipedia page for the quote from Ripley).
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Marvel was FORCED not to do a Wizard of Oz follow-up, Ozma of Oz.
I’ve already written about the Marvel/DC collaboration on the Wizard of Oz comic book.
And I think a lot of folks are familiar with the follow-up that Roy Thomas and Alfredo Alcala did for Marvel…
But a lot of those same folks recall the ending of that issue, which talked about the follow-up, Ozma of Oz, which never occured.
Most people presume that it was some sort of legal snafu that kept Marvel from publishing it, and they’re BASICALLY correct, except that in this case, it was Marvel’s own decision to not put it out.
You see, while Marvel had the license to use the MGM characters, they would have needed a separate license from the Baum Trust to use Ozma from Oz, which Marvel originally felt was in the public domain when they began working on it, and when they learned they would have to pay extra for it, it just didn’t make financial sense to keep doing it..
Thanks to a fairly recent issue of Alter Ego and Eric Shanower for the information!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Thanks to the Grand Comic Book Database for this week’s covers!
While you’re here, check out the Top 100 Comic Book Runs countdown (you can follow it here)!
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!
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