Hickman & Brevoort Sort Through the Rubble of "Secret Wars" #6, Explain Series' Expansion
Welcome to the two-hundred and fourteenth 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 thirteen.
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. I’d especially recommend last week’s Movie Legends, for a piece about Waldo (of Where’s Waldo fame) popping up in Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto!
I presume Shelly did not like last week, and I don’t think she will be too pleased about this week, either!
COMIC LEGEND: John Severin was tricked into drawing the Rawhide Kid MAX mini-series not knowing what the content was.
As you might recall, last week we discussed the Rawhide Kid mini-series that Marvel put out under its MAX imprint (their “mature readers only” line of comics). That’s the series that took a different look at the classic Marvel western hero and made him out to be a fairly flamboyant gay man (while maintaining his fighting skills).
The series was written by Ron Zimmerman and was drawn by John Severin, who was in his 80s when the mini-series came out. Severin had drawn Rawhide Kid stories when the character was NEW (before Marvel Comics was even known as Marvel Comics! It was still Atlas Comics when Severin started working there on the Western heroes). So it was a real coup to have one of the character’s early artists draw this new, fairly controversial mini-series.
In any event, writer Chuck Dixon made some comments at the time about the comic book. He said:
But am I to understand that John Powers Severin is drawing this wretched piece of exploitational trash? John objected to (but finally drew) a western story I wrote in which an unmarried couple were shown together in bed. (this was for the more adult-oriented ‘Savage Tales’ magazine.) Could he have willingly participated in this? I doubt it very strongly. I’ll bet he was handed a plot with no idea that the subject of the Rawhide Kid’s ‘secret’ would be revealed in the dialogue.
Reader Gorpulon wanted to know if this was true (Gorpulon knew that Marvel denied it, but he was wondering Severin ever did).
First off, yeah, Marvel did, in fact, deny it, pretty emphatically, really.
Here’s Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada on the topic:
Every once in a while something so ridiculous comes out of a mouth of one of my fellow comicbook constituents that I just have to chime in and clear up some things. Now I realize that by me bringing this up more people will now have heard this comment than the few that actually did, but heck that’s okay.
[Quesada then repeats the above quote – BC]
Now let’s read this carefully because it’s troubling on many levels. First, let me say that I like Chuck, heck I hired him to work at Marvel Knights. I guess that’s why I’m so troubled by what he’s implying here. Must be that mix of sun and sigils.
1- That Senior Editor Axel Alonso is so unscrupulous, so underhanded that he would actually try to fool the great John Severin into doing this book. That he would lie to his talent about something so important to core of the story.
2- That as Editor in Chief, I would condone such behavior of any of my editors. That I would let my editor lie to a talent about what he or she was working on and not fire that editor on the spot.
3- That John Severin isn’t smart enough to know what he’s drawing or that he’s incredibly gullible.
Which is it? Quite frankly all of the insinuations here are pretty crappy and owing of an apology. Not to me, because at this point after hearing a rant like the one above, I could give a horse’s butt what Chuck thinks of me, but to Axel and John.
Just for the record, John was approached and told the idea for Rawhide before there was even a writer fully attached to the project. He has known from the very beginning and loved the idea from day one. According to Axel, he’s also loving all of the media attention the book is getting as well.
He also worked from full script.
Let’s take a look at some pages from Rawhide Kid #2…
Those pages sure look like Severin is in on the joke, no?
Luckily for us, in Comic Book Marketplace #98, Severin DID talk about the series…
Severin: It’s kind of weird. (laughs) I guess, yeah, I think the information is already out there. The Rawhide Kid is rather effeminate in this story. It may be quite a blow to some of the old fans of Rawhide Kid. But it’s a lot of fun and he’s still a tough hombre.
That interview was given before (or right around) the release of the first issue of the series, so it sure does not seem like Severin was unaware or what was going on, right?
I think Dixon’s point was mostly rhetorical, anyways – sort of a “He couldn’t know what was going on, because how could he have known and still done it?” type of thing.
Thanks to Gorpulon for the question, and thanks to Comic Book Marketplace (and John Severin) for the spot-on quote, and thanks to Rich Johnston for the other quotes!
COMIC LEGEND: EC Comics was told to change a black character to a white character or else violate the Comics Code.
By the end of the 1955, Bill Gaines’ comic book company, EC Comics, was in pretty rough shape as a result of the 1954 creation of the Comics Code Authority.
Gaines firmly believed that the Code was designed, at least in part, to put his company out of business, as the Code had rules against titles with the words “horror” and “terror” in them, and rules about how large the word “crime” could be in a comic book title.
So within a year, sales of EC Comics had slumped dramatically.
The last traditional comic book produced by EC Comics was 1955’s Incredible Science Fiction (a series that had just begun a few months earlier, taking over from Weird-Science Fantasy) #33.
The last story in the issue, “Eye for an Eye,” had to pulled at the last minute due to objections by the Comics Code Authority.
So Gaines and editor Al Feldstein substituted a story that Feldstein had written (drawn by Joe Orlando) that had appeared in Weird Fantasy #18 in 1953.
The story, “Judgment Day,” was about an astronaut sent by the Earth to examine a planet to see if it was up to snuff and worthy of joining Earth’s “Galactic Republic.”
Well, the planet of robots was found wanting, due to its treatment of different colored robots.
Then, of course, the big “twist”…
When the issue first came out in 1953, it was heavily lauded, including the following missive from a certain Mr. Bradbury…
However, when Gaines and Feldstein went to put it in place of the pulled story, they were told no, the story violated the Comics Code.
Judge Charles Murphy (administrator of the Code) said that they would have to change the astronaut from black to white if they wanted it to be included. This was not part of the Code at the time. Feldstein and Gaines felt that Murphy was just deliberately messing with them (again, Gaines felt that the Code was designed specifically to put him out of business).
After being told that, clearly, the color of the astronaut’s skin was practically the whole point of the story, Murphy backed down a bit, but said that they would at least have to get rid of the perspiration on his skin. It could possibly be that Murphy felt that it was exploitative. I do not know, and neither did Feldstein nor Gaines, who only had their suspicions that they were being screwed with.
Feldstein and Gaines both refused to comply (I believe the terms they used included at least one use of the word “fuck”), and Gaines threatened a lawsuit and/or a press conference to shine a light on why exactly the story was objected to.
The story ran as is.
However, it was, as I mentioned, the last traditional comic book published by EC Comics.
It’s a damn fine comic book story, at that, so if you’re going to close out your comic book company with a story, that’s as good as any (EC, of course, kept going, just not as a traditional comic book company).
Thanks to Digby Diehl’s excellent book on EC Comics, Tales from the Crypt: The Official Archives for the information! Also thanks to cyberghostface for helping save me scanning time!
COMIC LEGEND: The address of Dr. Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum is of a building Roy Thomas lived in during the 1960s.
Reader Stergios asked about a story he heard that:
[T]he mansion where Dr. Strange lives, his Sanctum Sanctorum is located at 177A Bleecker Street, Greenwich Village, New York City, New York, which in this universe was the actual address of the apartment building in which the series writer at that time actually lived.
And I have heard in other places that this address doesn’t really exist and is completely made up.
Where does this address come from? Was it Stan Lee’s at the time? Or was it some other writer?
First off, the history of Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum is pretty interesting.
It appears in the very first appearance of Doctor Strange in Strange Tales #110, including the funky window designs…
And the building as a whole appeared in Strange Tales #117…
But, similarly to Namor’s home of Atlantis (as I mentioned in this previous installment of Comic Book Legends Revealed), it was never actually called anything for years.
It was just “Doctor Strange’s Greenwich Village retreat/home”…
It was not until Strange Tales #132 that it was even referred to as a sanctum at ALL, let alone a Sanctum Sanctorum….
It was not until Roy Thomas was in charge of Doctor Strange that the place got its name and address, 177A Bleecker Street, in Doctor Strange #182 (it continued the numbering from Strange Tales)…
And yes, Stergios…
A. 177 Bleecker Street DOES exist (here it is)…
B. Roy Thomas lived there for a time (I believe he was rooming with Gary Friedrich, but it may have been someone else).
What I would like to know from you readers out there is what issue did the Sanctum Sanctorum officially get its name? Help me out, folks! I’d also like to know exactly which comic book pro Thomas shared the apartment with, as well! Thanks!
Thanks already to reader Brian, who found the issue the street address was first used!
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, at the end of April, 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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