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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Legends Revealed #206

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.

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: A character on Deadwood is named after an old DC Comics editor.

STATUS: True

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.

STATUS: True

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.

STATUS: False

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!

Thanks to the Grand Comic Book Database for this week’s covers! And thanks to Brandon Hanvey for the Comic Book Legends Revealed logo!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is cronb01@aol.com.

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…

Was Superman a Spy?: And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed

See you next week!

60 Comments

The Wonder Woman TV series had more than one effect on the series. The Eath-Two or Golden Age WW’s continuity was heavily rewritten to reflect that of the show, including making Diana Prince a Navy yeoman instead of an Army lieutenant, made her commanding officer Gen. Blankenship instead of Gen. Darnell and putting sorority girl Etta Candy into uniform. When the TV series changed networks and jettisoned the too-expensive World War II setting a year later, the comic followed suit and reverted to stories of the contemporary (Earth-One) Wonder Woman.

Aargh! “series” in the first sentence of the previous post should say “comic book.”

I thought Denny O’Neil decided that Wonder Woman should get her powers back because Gloria Steinem wrote complained about her being depowered.

I love the font on the IChing era Wonder Woman.

Yeah….why exactly did Wonder Woman get “re-powered”?

Brian Cronin

May 8, 2009 at 8:14 am

Most likely that WAS the impetus, Laura.

I’m looking to find something definitive on that point, though, before I make the claim. I think it’d make a good future legend, really, because I’ve seen that mentioned before, and yeah, chronologically, it DOES make sense, but I’ve yet to see anyone specifically say that that was the case.

Anyone else out there know of an interview where someone at DC specifically cited the Ms. piece?

I love the idea of chaining someone in a locked room so you can fire a huge missile at them.

Brian, I think it was in the documentary “Comic Book Heroes Unmasked” where I heard Denny O’Neil specifically mention Gloria Steinem, but I am not certain.

Ethan Shuster

May 8, 2009 at 9:32 am

Haha. The only thing funnier than the cover blurb “Special! Women’s Lib Issue,” is the bound, mini-skirted, provocatively posed woman on that very same cover. :)

So that’s a “Special! Women’s Lib Issue,” huh? With a cover featuring a woman tied up and gagged, her breasts jutting skyward. I wonder what a “Special! Male Chauvinist Pig Issue” would be like?

(Oops. Great minds, etc.)

“However good of an actor her is” TYPO ALERT! TYPO ALERT! :D

The Beaver article was cool, but the other two should be listed under “dumbest ways to merchandise a character”. The FF without the Human Torch? I remember going WTF myself as a kid at that. And Wonder Woman without her powers was just Emma Peel (from The Avengers TV show). Cool maybe, but not unique.

“[…] here to read […]”

…Ok, who is the guy who keeps posting that? Is it a bot? Cronin, another mystery to unravel! :D

So did H.E.R.B.I.E. gain powers from the cosmic rays too?
Because if not, then he isnt ‘Fantastic’, he’s just a robot.

At one stage, Universal were going to make shows featuring the Human Torch, Sub-Mariner and Ms Marvel. I distinctly remember an article on The Incredible Hulk TV show that showed actors/models dressed up as the characters, but where it appeared I can’t remember.

If you think the cover was bad, try reading the book. The diabolical Mr. Grandee is the owner of an upscale department store that is actually (gasp!) buying clothing from-state sweatshops so that he doesn’t have to comply with federal wage and hour regulations.
Not a concept that really adapts well to a comic-book story (plus the story has Diana asserting she doesn’t even like other women).
I always assumed DC had just gotten tired with Diana’s non-super adventures (how much super-action can a woman running a fashion boutique encounter, even with a blind Chinese mentor to help): This was about the time comics were going back to hero vs. villian after the heavy-handed “relevant” phase so restoring her traditional abilities seemed to fit. But if there’s more to the story, I’d love to know.

Brian, I picked up your book last week and loved it. Great job. Can we hope for a sequel?

Here’s some additional trivia regarding Whitney Ellsworth – in early drafts of the Smallville pilot script, the football player who was romantically involved with Lana was also called “Whitney Ellsworth.” Somehow along the line, I believe it was DC who objected, and Whitney’s last name was changed, first to Redmond and then ultimately to Fordman when the show aired. The “Whitney” first name, however, remained.

Haha. The only thing funnier than the cover blurb “Special! Women’s Lib Issue,” is the bound, mini-skirted, provocatively posed woman on that very same cover.

Well she IS in the process of liberating a woman, so it’s actually a pretty apt blurb.

Not a concept that really adapts well to a comic-book story (plus the story has Diana asserting she doesn’t even like other women).

Makes me think of an HL Mencken quote: “A misogynist is a man who dislikes women as much as they dislike each other.”

…Two Points:

1) “Various agencies are interested in our young hero, played by Art Hindle.” Hindle, for some reason was cast in a bunch of failed super-hero pilots in the 70’s. I can think of two right off the bat – One was an obvious Iron Man knockoff, the other had something to do with him cloning five of himself, and the whole thing being a knock-off of The Fugitive. Even 30 years ago, I thought he had to be sleeping with someone to get all those roles, because as an actor the only role he ever had that was worth noting was one of the cops in Porky’s.

2) The reason for dumping the “Steed & Peel Ripoff” of Wonder Woman was due to the fact that it quite frankly sucked, and there was an editorial change that I’m sure Kurt Busiek will no doubt pop in to (re)tell the story about the office politics involved, and how sales went further in the toilet afterwards. Either way, it still stank on ice.

…One extra point:

3) “Crosby’s character was evocative OF the de-powered Wonder Woman “

…More like a Wonder Woman who went through a radical mastectomy and her chemotherapy had wasted her away to where she made Twiggy look fat. Or, at least that’s what several critics of that failed pilot had to say about the casting of Crosby as Diana. it was like casting Pee Wee Herman in the role of Mr. T.

Carmine Infantino said Steinem didn’t have anything to do with it (although he doesn’t actually say why they made the change back): /http://www.twomorrows.com/comicbookartist/articles/01infantino.html

That would be “Exo-Man” I remember seeing it as a kid and being bummed that it never went to series. Bet if I saw it today, I’d find it unwatchable. Never saw the clone series/pilot/whatever but seem to remember seeing promos for it. Geez my brain is just chock full of useless, obscure trivia.

Oops, actually that wasn’t Art Hindle in Exo-Man, it was David Ackroyd. Hindle was in “The Clone Master”, however. The preceding useless information is courtesy of IMDB.

Hey, my erroneous assertion is now a legend! My life is now complete.

David Branson

May 8, 2009 at 11:55 am

And don’t forget Dr. Whitney, also named for Ellsworth, who was the doctor in Smallville during the John Byrne Superman run, but who was revealed to have been — danh-danh-DANNNH!! — a Manhunter robot in disguise during the Millennium miniseries.

One fun thing about Power Within is that the hero is obviously a mutant (he got his power from Mom driving across a nuclear test site to visit his dad, the General) but they never use the word. Afraid it would scare the mass audience off?
So Brian, is the book a compilation of columns or new stuff?

Steinem also wrote an intro for the Wonder Woman collection that came out in 1972. That might be a good place to start looking.

What I’ve always wanted to know is why the mod Wonder Woman series ended on a cliuffhanger that was never to be resolved. With a bimonthly publishing schedule there was more than enough time to come up with a more coherent switch back than what saw print.

Maybe you’ve already touched on it once, but I’d love to get the story I’ve always heard (and often pass along) as to WHY they did the Emma Peel Wonder Woman in the first place.

For many years, DC did not OWN Wonder Woman, but licensed it from the Marston estate. Apparently, one of the codicils in DC’s contract was they had to have a monthly Wonder Woman title in print non-stop in order to maintain control of the character. this was to make sure they didn’t just buy the rights, sell dolls and costumes, but never actually use her. Considering what a licensing powerhouse Diana was and is, it was well worth the cost, even if the book was floundering.

At the same time, Dick Giordano was developing an Emma Peel/Modesty Blaise-like female character. Rather than start up a new title, they chose to basically turn Diana INTO that character. It allowed them to keep the Wonder Woman title in print, while allowing them to do this new action-type character.

It’s also the reason they did that short mini-series in between the end of the original run of the book and the start of the Perez run – to keep the monthly series rule going.

Concerning the Marvel/Universal/CBS deal: It is generally agreed that the Sub-Mariner was dropped because somebody else (including NBC) got “The Man From Atlantis” (with a pre-“Dallas” Patrick Duffy) on the air first. Some sources say the other abandoned property in the Marvel/Universal/CBS deal was Spider-Woman, rather than Ms. Marvel. I’d sure like to get a definitive answer on THAT one.

I love Supernatural and Jim Beaver’s character Bobby is one of my favorites. I had no idea he was a fan of the original Superman tv series or that he had been on Deadwood. He’s also currently playing a sheriff on the show Harper’s Island. He’s a busy Beaver.

Philip Ayres

May 8, 2009 at 1:38 pm

Got the book Greg (courtesy of Amazon UK) and loved it. C grats.

I think the format for the legends reads a little better here though, with the legend (and if it’s true or flase) clearly stated before the text.

Fantastic Four–I had heard that the thought police wouldn’t let Human Torch be in the cartoon because little kids would set themselves aflame.

Guys, I don’t think feminist attitudes in the 1970s were the same as today’s. Girls wearing mini-skirts were supposed to be showing their liberation from the conservative background of their stay-at-home mothers.

There is no excuse for the bound and gagged bit though. ;)

Alan Coil, you heard wrong. It was explained in already in one of the previous instalments.

there was also a wonder woman pilot in 67. atrocious.

http://archives.museum.tv/archives

you need to get a free account, then search for wonder woman under tv. itll have a 5 min clip. amazing bad.

also wonderful to check out is a psa for women getting the same pay as men with batgirl, robin and batman. good times.

French Chris

May 8, 2009 at 8:50 pm

Ellie Wood Walker is the only Wonder Woman.

Ethan Shuster

May 8, 2009 at 9:40 pm

Ms. Carter sure was hot, though, wasn’t she? Not an original thought, but true nonetheless. She’s even a not bad lookin’ older lady now!

Just to bring Carmine Infantino and Dick Giordano back into discussion (see previous threads): I read recently (can’t remember which site, dammit) that in Wonder Woman 203, Giordano based ‘the diabolical Mr. Grandee’s appearance on Infantino – who even called him on it later!
Im 99% sure of this. Love someone to confirm!

I love how the “Women’s Lib” issue of Wonder Woman still features a woman in bondage with arched back and headlights on high beam! I love comics!

Well, the first issue of Ms. Magazine from 1972 has Wonder Woman, in her classic costume, as the cover feature, so that certainly adds to the case. I think Steinhem might have mentioned it in her introduction to the Wonder Woman from the 40s to the 70s collection too.

Woody: “Just to bring Carmine Infantino and Dick Giordano back into discussion (see previous threads): I read recently (can’t remember which site, dammit) that in Wonder Woman 203, Giordano based ‘the diabolical Mr. Grandee’s appearance on Infantino – who even called him on it later!
Im 99% sure of this. Love someone to confirm!”

It’s in the Grand Comicbook Database’s index of that issue, however much that might be worth to you. Well, not that Infantino “called him on it”. This is “per the artist” (as both are artists, that’s not entirely clear, but Giordano IS the more likely intent), via one Bryan Stroud.

…For those not wanting to jack with registering – who does? – here’s a link to a slightly better copy of the 1967 Wonder Woman pilot:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tKZJVhn7M4

I love how the “Women’s Lib” issue of Wonder Woman still features a woman in bondage with arched back and headlights on high beam! I love comics!

If there is one character that really needs the “embrace and extend” approach, it is Wonder Woman. She was a feminist of the Camile Paglia/Susie Bright school before either one was even born. Taking that away from her is like removing the murder of the Wayne’s from Batman. It takes away her point of view.

A character without their own point of view is boring. You can balance it, by making Hippolyta an Andrea Dworkin feminist and having them argue. Better yet, the writer could find antagonists who naturally evoke different positions on these issues. Alan Moore does something similar on a routine basis in “League of Extra-Ordinary Gentlemen”. It is a way to drive the superhero action organically and done properly might actually make WW interesting. Surely there is some obscure comic book (or pulp) villain that could easily retro-fitted to evoke the various types of people that would naturally oppose an extremely famous bi-poly switch advocating world peace and tolerance.

The truth is that for a certain subset of women, being rescued by WW would probably cause them to arch their back and turn on the headlights. Based on how good she looks in the mini-skirt, my guess is that WW might want to spend some quality time with her after she deals with those wolves. It doesn’t have to be salacious. “Strangers in Paradise” managed to deal maturely with female bi-sexuality without becoming porn.

Instead, we are treated to WW twisting of off Max Lord’s head, like that is less offensive somehow.

Put another way …

Imagine living in a world with a woman that was a combination of the Princess Diana of Wales, Jenn Grijalva from the Real World and Naomi Klein if she looked like Lynda Carter circa 1975. She would melt the internet.

How is that not an interesting premise for a comic?

Man, I think those Wonder Woman covers are cool. I would buy those today.

I seem to recall, that a live action human torch show was planned, and inasmuch as marvel had licensed out the rights to the film company, it wrecked it for the torch being used in the cartoon,In the end, the network got cold feet due to fears over kids emulating the torch, and setting themselves ablaze. So, no live action torch movie, and a cartoon kirby worked on, that without the torch, was a compromised production that honked off the long time fans greatly.

It was Gloria Steinem and a strong PR push from her just debuting magazine MS. that pushed Wonder Woman back to her powered identity. Dang shame, too, as the I Ching stories are probably the best of the pre-Crisis WW tales!

Dave: “I seem to recall, that a live action human torch show was planned, and inasmuch as marvel had licensed out the rights to the film company, it wrecked it for the torch being used in the cartoon,In the end, the network got cold feet due to fears over kids emulating the torch, and setting themselves ablaze. So, no live action torch movie, and a cartoon kirby worked on, that without the torch, was a compromised production that honked off the long time fans greatly.”

The live-action Universal/CBS Human Torch project was dropped because the budget (same level as the Incredible Hulk, Captain America, Dr. Strange and Spider-Man shows that DID get on the air at that time, to give you an idea by comparison) was inadequate for the requisite effects, a flying man-shaped mass of flame just to start with. The “scared-that-kids-would-emulate-him-by-immolating-themselves” story came out well after these events, the genesis completely unknown, but it was consistently given as the reason for the Torch’s absence from the cartoons, never for the failure of the live-action project. If I had to guess, I’d say that Depatie-Freleng, makers of the Torch-less FF series, didn’t want to admit they made a TV show with rights to less than the entire property when the part they didn’t have wasn’t being seen/utilized elsewhere (in other words, they felt that so few people knew about the aborted Torch pilot, explaining all that was too complicated, and this was simpler). However, I don’t feel all THAT good about this theory, so if somebody’s got a better one (that doesn’t contradict known facts)…..

I just brought Was Superman a Spy last week! Lovin’ it so far.

They should put up the picture of Brigitte Nielsen as She-Hulk, which never came to be.

I just brought Was Superman a Spy last week! Lovin’ it so far.

Awesome! Thanks for the support!

…Ok, who is the guy who keeps posting that? Is it a bot? Cronin, another mystery to unravel! :D

It’s a link from Entertainment Legends Revealed.

Brian, I think it was in the documentary “Comic Book Heroes Unmasked” where I heard Denny O’Neil specifically mention Gloria Steinem, but I am not certain.

I’ll make sure to look for that documentary! Thanks, Laura.

Brian, I picked up your book last week and loved it. Great job. Can we hope for a sequel?

Thanks, Craig!

If they ever wanted to do a sequel, I’d certainly be up for it! :)

I don’t know if this is true, but I seem to recall reading once that DC returned to the traditional Wonder Woman, because Hanna-Barbera (I think) wanted her for the SuperFriends.

[…] glad that this 1972 Wonder Woman cover (conical hat tip to Comics Should Be Good) is labeled “SPECIAL! WOMEN’S LIB ISSUE” right up at the top, because otherwise […]

The Crazed Spruce

June 17, 2009 at 6:04 pm

I can’t comfirm it at the moment ’cause a friend of mine borrowed my copy,but I’m pretty sure that one of the documentaries on the “Wonder Woman” DVD comfirmed that Steinem pushed for Wonder Woman to get her powers back.

It’s in the Grand Comicbook Database’s index of that issue, however much that might be worth to you. Well, not that Infantino “called him on it”. This is “per the artist” (as both are artists, that’s not entirely clear, but Giordano IS the more likely intent), via one Bryan Stroud.

Someone mention my name?

Yep. I asked Dick about it and he told me he had indeed drawn Grandee based on file photos of Carmine.

http://www.wtv-zone.com/silverager/interviews/giordano.shtml

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