Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #168
This is the one-hundred and sixty-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 sixty-seven. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Writer/Artist John Byrne has been involved in an inordinate amount of eerie coincidences.
I almost considered putting a “False” for this one, if only because, upon looking into this bit, I found stuff like:
Byrne is sometimes believed to possess the power to predict events in our world, when he does his comics, and of course these events are predominantly tragedies.
And THAT, of course, is totally bogus, as well, come on. Heck, I would go further to say that I doubt the veracity of “is sometimes believed,” as I don’t think there’s anyone who ACTUALLY believes that.
But anyhow, yes, John Byrne has been involved in an inordinate amount of eerie comic book coincidences.
Fairly early on in his career at Marvel, Byrne drew an issue of Marvel Team-Up with writer Chris Claremont that involved a blackout in New York City.
Soon after the issue was released in 1977 (and months after Byrne had drawn it), New York City had one of its largest blackouts ever.
The next year, when Byrne was on Uncanny X-Men with Claremont, the pair had Japan be struck by an earthquake (courtesy of Mose Magnum).
In 1978, Japan was struck with a number of earthquakes.
(Speaking of Claremont, towards the very end of his run with Byrne on Uncanny X-Men, the pair depicted the dystopian world of 2013 in “Days of Future Past.” One of the characters from that story made it to the present, and in a later issue of Uncanny X-Men (#189), the character included a (in retrospect) chilling “flashback” to the destruction of the World Trade Center.
When Byrne began work on the first issue of his Superman reboot, his introduction of Superman to the world was going to be when Superman is forced to save the NASA space shuttle (he doesn’t specifically say Challenger, just “the NASA space shuttle”).
While working on the issue, though, the Challenger space shuttle tragically was destroyed. Luckily, Byrne was working far enough ahead that he was able to redraw the pages so that now it was Superman saving a fictional space-plane (with Lois Lane aboard, natch).
Finally, and perhaps most notably, in late August 1997, Wonder Woman #126 came out, reflecting the short-lived death of Wonder Woman, Princess Diana of Themyscira.
That Saturday, the REAL Princess Diana was killed in a car accident.
Some weird stuff, no?
Byrne, himself, wrote in to Scientific American magazine after Michael Shermer had written a skeptical look at a different writer’s claims to have predicted the tragedy of September 11, 2001, and stated most of these facts, concluding:
My ability as a prognosticator…would seem assured-provided, of course, we reference only the above, and skip over the hundreds of other comic books I have produced which featured all manner of catastrophes, large and small, which did not come to pass.
Well said, Mr. Byrne.
Thanks to reader StereotypeA for reminding me of the “Byrne Curse,” thanks to Kate Willaert (you can see her site here) for the Uncanny X-Men #189 panel, and thanks, of course, to John Byrne for the information.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Billy Dee Williams was paid to NOT be Two-Face in Batman Forever.
My pal Sean Whitmore asked me to take a look at exactly what was the deal with Billy Dee Williams and the Batman films, so here it is!
A common occurrence in the world of big budget movie series is the notion of the film companies having options for the actors in the films for later sequels, so that if the company wants, say, Brandon Routh to play Superman again, he’ll have already agreed to do the sequel (occasionally, these deals even include what the actor will be paid for the sequel).
A slightly different contract scenario was the case for Billy Dee Williams and his ill-fated quest to play Two-Face in the Batman films.
When Williams signed on to play Harvey Dent in the first Batman film, as part of his contract, he was signed on to play Two-Face if/when the Batman films decided to use the villain.
However, when Tim Burton decided to pass on Batman Forever, the second sequel to the film, incoming director Joel Schumacher did not want Williams for the role, so the producers instead paid Williams his fee for the film for NOT appearing in the movie as Two-Face.
That led to Tommy Lee Jones becoming Two-Face.
This is similar to a situation that happened in the late 1980s with Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables. He had signed a contract with Bob Hoskins to have the actor play Al Capone, but when the studios forced De Palma to cast the more marketable Robert De Niro in the role (reader Tom Russell believes that De Palma always wanted De Niro, but didn’t think he could get him due to scheduling conflicts, so went after Hoskins and then De Niro’s schedule opened up), Hoskins walked away with a sizable paycheck for NOT doing the movie. Reportedly, when told about the decision to not use him, Hoskins took it in stride and asked De Palma if he had any other films Hoskins could not appear in.
So anyhow, that’s what happened with Billy Dee Williams and Two-Face, Sean! Thanks for the suggestion!
EDITED TO ADD: Reader SKFK brings up an interesting point. Williams was originally going to be in Batman Returns, as well, to set up his role as Two-Face, and those scenes were cut from the film (prior to filming, I believe). So Williams may also have been paid to not appear in Batman Returns, as well. Thanks, SKFK!
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Grant Morrison intended for the Beast to be gay during his New X-Men run.
Grant Morrison’s handling of Beast in New X-Men was cause for a bit of controversy/confusion regarding a line in New X-Men #125.
In New X-Men #125, Beast is leading a tour of the X-Men mansion to a group of reporters, including his ex-girlfriend, Trish Tilby, who broke up with Hank after his latest transformation (into more of, well, a Beast).
The tour is interrupted as the mansion comes under attack by Cassandra Nova’s forces.
Beast takes the reporters to safety, and Tilby realizes what a fool she was, and tries to get back together with Hank, to which he replies:
“We had some fun together didn’t we? When you think back, I have some GREAT photographs. I played Chopin by moonlight, you danced NAKED and fell in the shrubbery. But the truth is that I’m not interested in a relationship with a human being right now. In fact, I think I might be gay.”
And then rushes off to battle.
Morrison brings it up a little later, when Emma Frost calls out Hank on the joke.
And then Morrison gets even more explicit in New X-Men #134 (thanks to Pink Kryptonite for the transcription)
Beast: What? The gay stuff? Come on, Scott! I’m challenging all kinds of stereotypes here!
Cyclops: But you’re not gay. I know you’re not gay, Hank.
Beast: So? I might as well be! I’ve been taunted all my life for my individualistic looks and style of dress… I’ve been hounded and called names in the street and I’ve risen above it.
Cyclops: Oh, for crying out loud, Hank. I love you, but you’re officially on the road to apocalyptic mind loss. No one but you is going to find this funny.
Beast: Come on, I’m as gay as the next mutant! I make a great role model for alienated young men and women. Why not?
Of course, though, now that Morrison actually took the time to explain the joke further, the reaction went from, “OMG! Morrison made Beast gay!” to “OMG! Morrison made Beast gay and then Marvel made him un-gay him!”
Rich Johnston cleared this up in an interview with Morrison back in 2003:
RICHARD: There has been speculation about certain Marvel concerns making their way into your work of late. A recent scene where Henry McCoy reiterated that he wasn’t gay to Cyclops seemed over-elaborated, especially when he had done so, slightly less obliquely to Emma Frost an issue or two before. Editorial concerns pushing aside storytelling concerns, or too many fans with too much time on their hands? Both?
GRANT: It’s always fans with too much time. The Beast thing was my mocking, ironic take on the whole ‘Let’s have a Gay on the team’ current I was seeing elsewhere. I thought it would be more fun and more sophisticated to explore the very concept of ‘gayness’ and people’s strange need to define themselves using such off-the-peg labels. It was also to point out that, like the Beast, it’s possible to be flamboyant, stylish, witty and ‘gay’, without being homosexual…so I wanted to have a character stand up for the people who are neither gay nor straight nor anything other than just plain ODD – the people who don’t have shops to shop in and helplines to phone, but who feel as alienated and persecuted as any ‘Gay’. The scenes with Beast were presented exactly as I’d intended and the whole thing will play out and make its little point as intended.
The only things I’ve had imposed on me at Marvel are those stupid ‘PREVIOUSLY’ pages which nobody reads anyway. Everything anyone needs to know is there in the story so I really don’t understand the fascination for these ugly text pages – they look like ’60s DC’s.
There ya go!
Thanks to Rich and Grant for the information! And thanks to Boogie and Dennis for the scans of the panels in question!!
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 email@example.com.
See you next week!