Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #174
This is the one-hundred and seventy-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 seventy-three. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Bob Kane was still a teenager when Batman was invented.
STATUS: Most Likely False
When Bob Kane died in 1998, he had an odd obituary in the New York Times.
The odd part was the math that I suppose the author did not do.
Here are two quotes:
Bob Kane, the cartoonist who created Batman the Caped Crusader and his sidekick, Robin the Boy Wonder, died on Tuesday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was 83 and lived in Los Angeles.
In 1938 he started drawing adventure strips, ”Rusty and His Pals” and ”Clip Carson,” for National Comics. That same year, a comic-book hero called Superman appeared. Vincent Sullivan, the editor of National Comics, who also owned Superman, asked Mr. Kane and Mr. Finger to come up with a Supercompetitor. They developed Batman on a single weekend. Mr. Kane was 18.
The first Batman strip came out in May 1939 in Detective Comics, one year after the debut of Superman. Batman’s first adventure was called ”The Case of the Chemical Syndicate.” And he was another kind of superhero entirely. Batman wasn’t as strong as Superman, but he was much more agile, a better dresser and had better contraptions and a cooler place to live.
See the problem?
If he died in 1998 at the age of 83, then he couldn’t very well be 18 in 1938, right?
In fact, according to the Social Security Death Index:
Birth: 25 Oct 1915
Death: 03 Nov 1998
So Kane would be 22 when Batman was created.
Here’s a bio of Kane from Batman #1 also saying he was 22…
Of course, much later, it was claimed that Kane managed to re-work his contract with DC by claiming that he lied about his age and was a minor when he created Batman, which is where the obituary got the 18 years old thing, I suppose.
It seems highly unlikely that Kane WAS lying, as all of his friends from when he grew up knew him as being born in 1915 or 1916, as he went to school with a lot of the same guys who would go on to become major Golden Age artists, so you’d figure that they would be able to tell if a guy was four years younger than them when they were in high school (they were 14 and he was 10 and they didn’t notice? Come on now). And since all of their stories match what Kane himself said to the Social Security Administration, I think it’s almost certainly correct.
Of course, there always is the off chance that he convincingly lied to everyone – I guess. An interesting thing would be to somehow find out when Kane received his social security number – they were first given out to the masses in 1936, so if he got one then, it would have predated any motive to fabricate his age.
In any event, the Social Security number matches what everyone who knew Kane growing up said, so I think it is fair to believe it, so Kane was not a teenager when he created Batman.
While that I think is basically settled, I don’t think we’ll ever know for sure is if Kane really did threaten DC that his contract to sell them Batman was null and void because he was a minor at the time of the contract, as the two parties to the agreement, Kane and Jack Liebowitz, remained mum on the issue until their respective deaths (as you would have to with such an arrangement) and there is no record of their discussions, leaving us with supposition (most likely quite accurate supposition, but supposition nevertheless).
Thanks to the Social Security Death Index and the Ephemerist for the Batman #1 scan.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: For a time, Mephisto was going to be behind the Clone Saga, as well!
As we all know by now, Marvel’s solution for getting rid of the marriage of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson-Parker was to have the Marvel demon, Mephisto, erase the marriage from existence.
Amusingly enough, over a decade earlier, Mephisto was for a long time the solution to ANOTHER Spider-Man “problem,” that of the Clone Saga!!
The amazing web resource, Life of Reilly, of Andrew Goletz and then-Spider-Man Assistant Editor, Glenn Greenberg, gives the entire story of how the Clone Saga unfolded.
Greenberg details how Mephisto was to have factored in in what was termed the “Time Loop” solution…
I vividly remember the day it was introduced. It was early July, in 1995. I was actually out of the office that day, sick and bedridden. I had called in later in the day to check with my boss, Tom Brevoort, and asked him if any progress had been made in solving the clone dilemma. Brevoort told me that he had suggested an idea that surprised and intrigued everyone on the editorial team (that would be Spider-Man Group Editor in Chief Bob Budiansky, Associate Editor Eric Fein, and Assistant Editor Mark Bernardo). I asked Brevoort what the idea was, and he summed it up in two words: “Time Loop.
In a nutshell, the idea was that neither Peter Parker nor Ben Reilly was the clone – both were the original. How, you ask, could this be possible? Glad you asked. Brace yourselves, because here we go.
The idea was that Peter Parker would somehow be sent back in time five years, where he would co-exist with the Peter Parker of that time, and somehow be led to believe that he was the clone. Peter would then spend the next five years living as Ben Reilly. When Peter/Ben reaches the point in 1996 (the year this story would have taken place) where he is sent back in time to become Ben, the “time loop” is closed, and there is only one Peter Parker left in the present – the one who’s lived the past five years as Ben Reilly. The Ben Reilly of 1996 then regains all the memories of Peter’s adventures from AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #149 on, thus validating over 20 years of Spider-Man stories and (hopefully) pleasing longtime fans.
This scenario met the most important requirements laid down by Bob Budiansky, which were that Peter Parker must be restored as Spider-Man, but Ben Reilly must be validated as a character, as well. Ben couldn’t be written off as just another clone that was lying around, or a robot, or something else that could be easily and casually dismissed.
After Brevoort told me the concept, I was silent on the phone for a good long moment. I was shocked. I was intrigued. I immediately saw the potential this idea had, and was very excited about helping to develop it further. I became its biggest cheerleader around the office, defending it from any and all criticism and skepticism.
One sticking point was who would be behind this?
The solution was determined that two characters who had been appearing in the books at the time, Dr. Judas Traveller and Scrier would be the guys behind it.
The rest of the scenario involved Traveller and Scrier, now clearly in direct conflict with each other, having concocted a contest – one in which winner would take all. “The contest, like so many of Traveller’s recent experiments, would revolve around Spider-Man… (it) would settle Traveller and Scrier’s dispute about the inherent nature of mankind. Spider-Man will represent all of humanity, and his actions during the contest will determine the outcome… and the winner.” If Spider-Man’s actions proved Traveller’s theory that mankind is inherently good, then Traveller would win the contest and be allowed to remove all evil from Earth. If Spider-Man failed, then Scrier would win and Traveller would have to end his studies and would owe Scrier a very special payment.
Peter and Ben refuse to participate, but they’re not given any choice in the matter. In a great show of power, as Ben Reilly and Mary Jane watch, Scrier blasts Peter Parker into oblivion! Peter is apparently disintegrated, gone forever! A horrified and anguished Ben, with vengeance in his heart, closes in to tear Scrier apart. But then Scrier asks what Ben would give to have Peter back. Would he offer his soul and risk eternal damnation, just to restore Peter to life? “Having come to love Peter as a friend and a ‘brother,’ and unable to bear the sorrow of Mary Jane, one of his closest and dearest friends, Ben says that he would be willing to give anything to bring Peter back… even his own soul.”
And here came the kicker: “Scrier laughs, and finally reveals himself to Ben (and the readers) in his true form: MEPHISTO! He says, ‘Okay, Peter’s alive. In fact, he never died! Because you’re Peter! You always have been Peter!”
Ultimately, the idea was nixed, but it lasted all the way until 1996 before a new idea replaced it, ultimately because it was considered a bit too cosmic of a story for Spider-Man. Granted, the idea they ended up going with, “Norman Osborn did all of it” wasn’t exactly a great idea, either, but at least it was an actual Spider-Man villain.
The story was also related in the 1997 comic, 101 Ways to End the Clone Saga!
So there ya go!
Thanks SOOO much to Andrew Goletz and Glenn Greenberg for the information! Be sure to check out Life of Reilly – it is one of the most fascinating examinations into comic history that has ever been written on the internet! Thanks to samruby.com for the Spider-Man villain scans!
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Rick Leonardi and Chris Claremont began work on a Phoenix mini-series that never saw the light of day.
Reader Jonathan Nathan suggested this one, and yes, apparently Chris Claremont and Rick Leonardi began work on a Phoenix mini-series spun out of Uncanny X-Men that was canceled after pages were already finished!
Here are some of those pages, courtesy of super fan Dennis Pu and Comicartfans.com!
Some pretty impressive work by Leonardi, no?
The mini was going to explore the relationship Rachel had with Franklin Richards in the future – said relationship was later explored by Chris Claremont in the Annual crossover Days of Future Present.
According to Joe Quesada (in his Joe Fridays column at Newsarama), Rick Leonardi recalled the reasons behind the series falling apart thusly:
The going logic at the time was that it got too complicated with past/present/future continuity and was subsequently shelved with I believe less than an issue having been penciled. That’s the whole story, folks, wish I had better news to report but it seems that this project was no where near completion before it was killed
I would imagine that the series was most likely put off and then when Excalibur was developed in 1987, Phoenix was decided to be part of that, and therefore her mini-series was not a priority.
In an amusing set of circumstances, Claremont and Leonardi had ANOTHER comic project featuring Phoenix canceled!
In 1991, Claremont and Leonardi were going to do an Excalibur Special Edition featuring Shadowcat and Phoenix. Then Claremont left Marvel and the special was canceled.
Eight years later, after Claremont had returned to Marvel, THIS story was at least published, now in mini-series form as X-Men: True Friends.
That’s nice to see.
Super duper thanks to both Dennis Pu and Comicartfans.com! And thanks to my X-Board pal, Beast, for getting the information from Quesada! And, of course, thanks to Jonathan Nathan for the suggestion!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
See you next week!