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This is the one-hundred and seventy-fifth 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-four. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: The design for Spider-Man’s black costume was based on an earlier design for Spider-Woman II’s costume.
Just so you folks know, I appreciate all the suggestions you send in. I read them all, and I remember them all. There are quite a few that I cannot answer right away because either the information is not available or the contact person is not available or stuff along those lines. But I keep them all, and I try to remember them all as well as I can, so that when new info shows up in one of the many fine comic book history magazines or when a creator becomes available, I can then use the suggested legend.
This is a long-winded way to say that just the other week I finally got an answer to a question loyal reader yo asked me in August of 2006:
So we know that Spider-Woman 2 (Julia Carpenter, the West Cost Avenger introduced in the first Secret War, currently going by “Arachne” in Civil War) wears a black costume with a big white spider on the chest – the same look that Spidey would also adopt, and which now belongs to Venom. The kayfabe reasoning was that he was “subconsciously influenced” by her costume when he got his new one, but what’s the real-world story? In short:
Is it true that Jim Shooter saw the character designs for the soon-to-be-introduced Spider-Woman and liked the motif so much that he co-oped it for Spider-Man? (since the black costume actually debuted in ASM before it showed up in SW, I seem to remember)
I actually asked Shooter about this awhile back, and he did not remember either way.
Luckily, when I was asking Mike Zeck some questions recently, I remembered to put this one to him, as well.
So, what was the deal?
Who came first?
Spider-Woman II’s costume?
or Spider-Man’s black costume?
Zeck replies that it was Spidey’s costume that came first.
Spidey’s black costume was one of the “planned” character changes, and I had to design that well before starting the penciling chores on Secret Wars so that the Spider-Man titles could reflect that change (Remember that characters were returning from the Secret Wars even as the actual maxi-series was beginning. The Spider-Woman thing wasn’t discussed at that time, and came along later as the series progressed).
I didn’t go through a tremendous amount of design ideas for the black Spidey costume. My first idea was close to what you saw in the series. The difference being that I was tempted to give him padded head gear that would give him a bug-like or Alienesque appearance. That idea was shot down, so I normalized the head again and kept the black costume and white spider design.
So there ya go!
Thanks to yo for the question and thanks a ton to Mike Zeck for the answer. Be sure to check out Mr. Zeck’s website, mikezeck.com
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: A Star Wars comic book writer came up with a character name as a joke but then saw the joke name make it into print.
Reader Ethan told me about this one the other day, and it’s a real hoot.
In 2000, Randy Stradley was writing a Star Wars mini-series about the Jedi Council called Jedi Council: Acts of War.
In the second issue, he introduced a new Jedi Knight named Soon Baytes.
He happened to be, as you might imagine, a Jedi Master.
When the topic came up on the neat-o theforce.net message boards, Stradley had this to say:
I certainly did it on purpose, but I only (and always) had characters in “Acts of War” refer to him as “Soon Baytes.” See, the thing was, Sue Rostoni would go through my scripts and if, for instance, I had a character refer to Yoda as just plain “Yoda,” she would change it to “Master Yoda.” So, I introduced a completely unimportant tertiary Jedi character named Soon Baytes, hoping that she would be going through the script, come across the character, and change him to “Master Baytes,” and I could say “gotcha!” and then change the character’s name to something more suitable.
Unfortunately, she never requested the change, and the character went into canon, a not-so-witty time bomb waiting to be triggered.
Sue Rostoni (the Comic Editor at Lucas Licensing) was asked about the character a few years back, and she said that someone else happened to be editing the comics at the time.
The character had a quick death in the series, at least, courtesy of General Grievous.
And while most Star Wars characters tend to get used often – that has not been the case for Master Baytes, and that’ll likely be the case in the future.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Jan and Dean released a Batman-themed album.
Reader Henry wrote in to me a little while ago asking, “I don’t know if you’re familiar with the 60s music act Jan & Dean, but I hear that they came out with an album of all-Batman music. Please tell it isn’t so!”
Sadly, Henry, I can’t do that.
Although it really is not as bad as it sounds.
(William) Jan Berry and Dean Torrence met as teenagers and began singing together when the pair were still in high school, in a band called the Barons.
Berry released a few singles with a fellow member of the band, Arnie Ginsburg, with some success.
But when Torrence returned from a stint in the army reserves, Berry and Torrence officially formed Jan & Dean.
The pair had a number of hits in the late 50s into the early 60s, but it was when they began collaborating with Brian Wilson that they saw their greatest successes, including the massive #1 hit, “Surf City” as well as the hits “”Drag City”, “The Little Old Lady from Pasadena” and “Dead Man’s Curve.”
The latter would be especially eerie, as two years after it was record, Berry would suffer a terrible car accident nearby the actual “Dead Man’s Curve” in Los Angeles.
In any event, in the same year of the accident, 1966, Jan and Dean released the album Jan & Dean Meet Batman.
However, while in some cases, you might think that an album like this was from a has-been act trying to desperately cash in on anything popular of the time, but instead, this was intended more of a comedy album, which was something that Berry and Torrence were pursuing at that point in time, but couldn’t get a label to produce.
So using something like Batman, which was huge at the time due to the TV series, allowed them to do a comedy album that would actually get made.
Here are the track listings (and songwriter credits) of the album…
Batman — (Berry-Altfeld-Wieder)
The Origin of Captain Jan & Dean the Boy Blunder — (Altfeld-Wieder)
Robin the Boy Wonder — (Berry-Altfeld-Gibson)
A Vi-Ta-Min A Day — (Altfeld-Wieder)
Mr. Freeze [I] — (Tipton)
The Doctor’s Dilemma — (Altfeld-Wieder)
A Stench In Time — (Altfeld-Wieder)
Batman Theme (from “Batman”) [I] — (Hefti)
A Hank of Hair and a Banana Peel — (Altfeld-Wieder)
The Fireman’s Flaming Flourish — (Altfeld-Wieder)
The Joker Is Wild — (Berry-Altfeld-Gibson-Wieder)
Tiger, Tiger, Burning — (Altfeld-Wieder)
Flight of the Batmobile [I] — (Tipton)
A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight — (Arr. & Adpt. Altfeld-Wieder)
Sadly, less than a month after the album’s release, Berry was in his car accident.
Despite his severe injuries (including significant brain damage), Jan Berry ultimately returned to performing music. He passed away in 2004, leaving behind a great musical legacy.
Thanks to Henry for the question and be sure to check out the official Jan & Dean website!
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!
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