"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Comic Books, Film
Welcome to the two-hundred and sixth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous two hundred and five.
Comic Book Legends Revealed is now part of the larger Legends Revealed series, where I look into legends about the worlds of entertainment and sports, which you can check out here, at legendsrevealed.com.
COMIC LEGEND: A character on Deadwood is named after an old DC Comics editor.
Jim Beaver is a great actor, and has been in a number of different films and television series. He is currently a recurring character on the TV series Supernatural.
However good of an actor her is, Beaver is just as good a television and film historian.
One of Jim’s particular pieces of interest is the life and times of George Reeves, star of The Adventures of Superman.
I recently used some great research Beaver did to debunk a rumor concerning Reeves on Movie Legends Revealed (as seen here).
Between acting gigs, Beaver has been working on a biography for Reeves for quite some time.
His interest in Reeves even extended to his acting roles.
One of his most notable roles was that of Ellsworth on the television series Deadwood. Ellsworth is a prospector who came to town looking for gold but ended up helping run the gold claim of another character.
Beaver did the character long enough that they let him come up with a full name for the character, who initially was just known as Ellsworth.
So Beaver went to his George Reeves history, and picked out an Executive Producer on The Adventures of Superman, a man well known to DC Comics fans, Whitney Ellsworth!
The character is known as Whitney Conway Ellsworth.
Ellsworth, of course, was an early DC editor who had a number of significant editorial contributions (I elaborate on two major ones in my book), but became most known for taking charge of being the liaison between DC Comics and its licensed media properties. Ellsworth helped run the Superman radio show, the Superman (and Batman) film serials AND the Superman television show!
He also wrote for the Batman newspaper strip until he left DC and basically retired in 1970 (he passed away in 1980 at the age of 72).
Pretty cool homage from a pretty darn cool actor!
COMIC LEGEND: A proposed Human Torch TV series turned into something entirely different.
As I just recently discussed here, in sample pages from my book, Was Superman a Spy? and Other Comic Book Legends Revealed, in the late 1970s, Universal optioned a few different Marvel characters, hoping to create a follow-up to the Incredible Hulk.
The Human Torch was one of the characters optioned.
It was this option that kept the Human Torch from appearing on the Fantastic Four cartoon series of the time.
I also noted that the series never came about, most likely because of the fact that it was way too difficult to depict a person whose power is to turn completely to walking, talking flames.
However, Universal (and the production company that they had develop the property, Aaron Spelling Productions) did not just give up on the project entirely.
No, instead, they took their basic idea for the Human Torch series and did a TV pilot film for a NEW series, called The Power Within!
In The Power Within, a hotshot stunt plane pilot is struck by lightning and gains the ability to shoot electricity from his fingertips.
Various agencies are interested in our young hero, played by Art Hindle.
Amusingly enough, the character originally was going to be named Power Man, and that’s how the film was referred to throughout production and the publicity leading up to the debut, but when it actually came out, it was now The Power Within!, most likely because of Marvel’s hero of the same name.
So if you want to know where failed attempts at making Human Torch shows go to die, it is 1979 failed TV pilots called The Power Within!
Thanks to my pal Jim MacQuarrie for the info behind this one! If anyone has any better images from the show, let me know, I’d love to post them!
COMIC LEGEND: Wonder Woman got her powers back during the early 1970s because of a proposed Wonder Woman television series.
Last week, in discussing how the various film and television versions of Alfred (Batman’s butler) have affected the comic book version of Alfred, commenter Buttler remarked:
We have Lynda Carter to thank for ending the powerless I Ching era of Wonder Woman comics, too.
Buttler, of course, is referring to the period in Wonder Woman comics where she stopped wearing her traditional costume, lost her powers and began just calling herself Diana Prince (and she hung out with a mysterious asian guy named I Ching).
Buttler suggests that Wonder Woman returned to her normal powers and costume because of the Lynda Carter Wonder Woman television series.
However, the TV pilot film for the Lynda Carter Wonder Woman series did not show up until November of 1975.
The “de-powered” Wonder Woman storyline ended at the end of 1972.
Not to mention the fact that the Lynda Carter series was preceded by a TV pilot film for a Wonder Woman series starring Kathy Lee Crosby that aired in March of 1974.
And in THAT series, Crosby’s character was evocative OF the de-powered Wonder Woman (Wonder Woman wore a jumpsuit instead of her traditional costume, for instance, and did not seem to have powers).
So it does not seem likely (heck, it seems downright definitely not) that the return to the traditional Wonder Woman was done to tie in with the upcoming Wonder Woman television series (which, to distance itself from the Crosby one, had to call itself “The New Original Wonder Woman”).
Once the series DID start, though, DC quickly determined to tie into it, and had Wonder Woman travel from Earth I to Earth II to see the Earth II Wonder Woman.
This began stories set in World War II, where the TV series initially was set.
Thanks to Buttler for the suggestion, and thanks to Bob Hughes, who replied to Buttler’s comment by pointing out the information here!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
As you likely know by now, this Tuesday, April 28th, my book finally came out!
Here is the cover by artist Mickey Duzyj. I think he did a very nice job (click to enlarge)…
If you’d like to order it, you can use the following code if you’d like to send me a bit of a referral fee…
See you next week!
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