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Comic Book Legends Revealed #214

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!

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: John Severin was tricked into drawing the Rawhide Kid MAX mini-series not knowing what the content was.

STATUS: False

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.

STATUS: True

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.

STATUS: True

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)…

and

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!

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, 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…

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

See you next week!

110 Comments

I’m not homosexual, but that dialogue from RAWHIDE KID makes me embarrassed on their behalf. If that’s the best Marvel can do with a gay character, then you’d think the conservatives would be begging them to publish more.

Lack of backgrounds aside, though, Severin was still awesome.

I’ll point out that the “Judgement Day” issue was also covered pretty fully in the wonderful “Ten Cent Plague”. Nice to see more of the actually story here…so many thanks for the great scans.

Why do you always have legends about architecture in these posts? Here I am, just trying to enjoy comics, and you’re dragging in the history of buildings. I don’t care if architects get together in private to design skyscrapers and brownstones, but I wish they would keep their designs to themselves.

Pardon the pun, but if the Kid – and the series – had been written straight it would have been just another western story. That the protagonists is a campy vamp isn’t a result of a clueless writer hacking out what he thinks a gay person is like, but rather it’s playing with the stereotype by having a cartoonishly fruity fellow be more of a man’s man at shootin’ and fightin’ and suchlike than the nominally normal cowboys. 2000 AD’s Devlin Waugh, Morrison’s Sebastian O are two other examples of queer characters who employ stereotypes to subvert the comic book action hero archetype.

Note that Severin said “effeminate” not “gay”. As I pointed out in another thread, it’s NOT the same thing. And it IS out of character for Rawhide Kid. Not that it really matters (being a MAX title and therefore, not necessarily in-continuity) though it is annoying that Marvel made a big deal out of it and then complained when people were offended. Thank God they have handled much better gay characters in other titles.

On the other hand, that racially-themed EC story was uplifting, and I *am* amazed they got away with it at the time. Praise from Ray Bradbury is no small thing! (Though i don’t get why they wanted to “get rid of perspiration- what, is sweat against the Code too??)

Can’t remember who was being interviewed (maybe Feldstein), but the Judgment Day issue is also talked about in the documentary ‘Comic Book Confidential’.

I think it’s #182, the Juggernaut issue, when he gets the telegram with his new name.

I still don’t understand the code objection story – you weren’t allowed to have a character of colour? Huh?

Fun articles this week, thank you for your column.

Cheers,

B

I still don’t understand the code objection story – you weren’t allowed to have a character of colour? Huh?

The way the story is told in The Ten-Cent Plague, it was because the Comics Code people were watching EC Comics like hawks and their default setting was not to let EC have anything in their stories that might be interesting in any way.

Judgement Day should be a part of cool comic book moments

Severin is freaking awesome. In general I’m not a fan of Marvel’s 90s/00s output, but I think it’s so cool that they got Severin to do this and Russ Heath to do the flashback parts in Iron Fist. At a time when the mainstream publishers are getting more and more homogenous in their artwork, it’s awesome that pros with a litle style can still get some work.

Does anybody know if Al Williamson is still drawing?

Thanks, Brian, that’s the issue exactly! I foolishly only checked #183, because I remembered a telegram in that issue, it never occurred to me that the telegram could have been delivered the PREVIOUS issue, which is just what happened!

Thanks!

Yeah, I’m with Sijo – does anyone know exactly what part of the Code the EC story was supposed to be violating? Was it that it critiqued segregation laws, which had yet to be struck down? And what did perspiration have to do with anything?

>Does anybody know if Al Williamson is still drawing?

Nope, he retired years ago. Prior to that he was the inker on “Spider-Girl”.

“The story, ‘Judgement 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.’”

When I read the above sentence, I thought it was interesting that EC had spelled “judgment” incorrectly. However, the comic page shows that the title was spelled correctly. :)

Here’s a more recent picture of 177 Bleecker Street. The building looks like it needs to be cleaned up a bit:

http://mw2.google.com/mw-panoramio/photos/medium/16405656.jpg

Ooops, that looks like it might be the building across the street that I linked to–176 Bleeker. :)

Annoyed Grunt

July 3, 2009 at 9:06 am

I wonder how Dixon felt about John Severin drawing a Punisher MAX story a few years after this. While it wasn’t Garth Ennis’ usual craziness it featured things more intense than premarital sex. Damn it, tricked again!

I really agree with Quesada’s third point concerning Dixon’s rant – it’s terribly insulting to Severin to claim he was tricked into the book, and imply he’d disagree with the concept – given that he finished it, and it ain’t exactly subtle about the Kid’s sexuality, even if they didn’t tell him about the ‘gay’ part at first, clearly, he’d have to be an idiot not to figure it out halfway through the first issue.

Erf…forgot my second point…and since he finished, not under protest, and neither softened nor removed the less subtle aspects, clearly he never had a problem with it – even ignoring his own joking about the idea in the quote in the article.

Thanks for answering my question, Brian!
And also for including the pic of the actual building. I was down in Soho a few months ago and was trying to figure out where the Sanctum was supposed to be but couldn’t remember the number.

And as nice as it is, I think I like Ditko’s version better ;)
That is one kick-ass window…

David Hajdu tells the Judgement Day story in great detail in his book The Ten-Cent Plague, as one of the last acts of EC Comics. Al and Bill basically said they would hold a press conference accusing the Code of being racist, and not wanting a black person to appear in comics. When Murphy backed down and tried to maintain his control by asking that the sweat be removed, that’s when they requested he be fruitful and multiply.

I adored Rawhide Kid, and I thought it hilarious that they got such an old master like Sev’rin to draw it. in his 80′s and his art is as good as it ever was. I can’t imagine how anyone could believe he didn’t know what he was drawing – the comedy drips off every page.

D:
I agree! Russ Heath’s art is one of the best things about Iron Fist (in my opinion). I’m really excited for the upcoming Captain America issue drawn by Gene Colan. There are very few artists working today that can live up to the greatness achieved by Marvel’s 60s/70s pencillers (J.H. Williams, Quitely, and David Aja are really the only ones I can think of).

Very funny, Greg.

Is it the number of repeated letters per word that makes a comic character gay? / Was the rest of that book any better than the pages seen here? Or is this pretty much it?

That EC story is brilliant, the artwork and designs are beautiful…has that been collected or reprinted anywhere? I’ve just started to get into their anthologies, gorgeous stuff.

As a black comic fan, some of these legends are really troubling but also hilarious in retrospect. I have a question maybe you could tackle…not really a legend though:

What happened to Frank Miller drawing Dr. Strange in the early 80s? There was a house ad for it, and it never materialized, Marshall Rogers ended up being the artist i believe. I was always curious as to what happened with that.

The Rawhide Kid stuff has nice artwork, but the dialogue and situations are really awful and cliche. Why does the character being homosexual have to be played for comedy? As a previous poster noted, Sebastian O is a better example of the same premise played with more apparent dignity.

Judgement Day should be a part of cool comic book moments

Agreed 100%.

Actually I can sort of see where Dixon was coming from (not calling the topic trash, but Severin working on it).

To me the quote implies that Dixon’s experience working with Severin and the objection Severin posed to an unmarried couple sharing a bed was not congruent with a personality that would be accepting a homosexual protagonist. To me that quote sounds like a person trying to rationalize behavior he had seen from a man that he does not think highly of. This is coupled with a topic that Dixon does not feel comfortable with and thus the backlash.

Hunh. Who knew “Far Beyond The Stars” was based on a true story?

To Chris Bloom, I’ll kindly thank you to keep your embarrassment to yourself. The dialogue was campy, that’s true, but there are many gay men who actually relish campy material (believe it or not, most diehard fans of “Showgirls” are gay men).
As hard as it may be to believe but gay men and lesbians are no more monolithic than any other group, and their tastes are as varied as any other group.
The true embarassment was the way that Marvel handled the publicity around the story and all dealings with the Kid afterward.

Regarding the “Judgment Day” story, could someone please answer this question–why does the astronaut ask about “blue robots”? Up to that point (which was at the bottom of page 2), there’s nothing that really suggests that there are other colors of robots.
I mean, sure. I land on a planet with which there’s been no real contact in millennia, and MY first real question is that these robots should have a variety of colors?
Also, that astronaut’s helmet has got to be the most Rube Goldbergish thing I’ve ever seen. It absolutely looks like he’s wearing one helmet–resembling the standard astronaut style–over another one that looks like Robotman’s head.

^^^lol, but the helmet looks cool…also at the beggining of the story it says they dropped off a few of the robots thousands of years ago, presumably some of the blue robots as well.

Like Sijo has pointed out, Severin said “afeminate” and NOT “gay”. So it is quite POSSIBLE that he did not know that Rawhide Kid was being RETCONED into being gay, and only thought he was being written and portayed as a straight afeminate man.

And if Alonso did trick Severin, I doubt Quesada would take Alonso to task, since Quesada apparently didn’t have a problem with Alonso’s statement in the solicitation for the Luke Cage series from the MAX line, where Alonso was quoting as saying somethink like (but not a direct quote) “the CAGE mini series has everything that the hip hop generation wants, like guns,drugs,cussing,and big booty’s”. What a way to stereotype a group of people (young black men who listen to rap music).

^^^”effeminate”…

and i thought the CAGE series was awful, it verged on being racist or at the very least being incredibly condescending (Corben’s caricaturist art style did not help) …plus it just failed from a narrative standpoint.

Can somebody please tell me whether or not ‘Judgment Day’ has been collected, or at the very least point me in the direction of site which lists EC collections? Thanks in advance.

why does the astronaut ask about “blue robots”? Up to that point (which was at the bottom of page 2), there’s nothing that really suggests that there are other colors of robots.

I missed it at first, too: in the first panel, there’s an entire room of blue robots waving hello to him…

Jeremy Henderson

July 3, 2009 at 2:34 pm

Wow…for awhile there Marvel really did think that Zimmerman was going to be a big deal, didn’t they? For anyone wondering, all the comics he wrote were that bad. I wasn’t ever offended by them making Rawhide gay, but given that it came out during a time post Ellen and Will & Grace, Marvel’s attempt to hype it as something genuinely edgy came across as a little pathetic.

I didn’t realize the hip hop generation were purely young black men. Way to stereo type or what?

Given John Severin’s age it’s quite possible that to him effeminate = gay in the way it is for a lot of the generation around my father’s age (’bout a decade and a half shy of John).

I am not sure if “Judgment Day” has been collected (I am assuming it has, if Weird Fantasy has been collected). I recall seeing it reprinted in one of the Gladstone pamphlets, and it definitely has been reprinted in an issue of the DC magazine (like Marvel’s FOOM, but I forget the name) in the 70s that focused on Joe Orlando (that is where I first read it). And I agree, it’s an incredible story that holds up well today.

As for Rawhide Kid’s “campiness” (if you can’t get that from the cover, then you are truly devoid of the camp gene ^_^), for some reason it reminded me of this bar that used to be near my old worksite, with a cowboy laying down, his hat covering his junk. I remember a co-worker who lived near that bar protesting to me loudly about it’s “disgusting” appearance. I hadn’t seen it yet, and when she described it to me, I laughed louder than I probably should have in a store. She just gave me a very cold glare over that ^_^.

Tom Fitzpatrick

July 3, 2009 at 2:47 pm

Shelly who?

For those who asked, all 22 issues of Weird Fantasy were reprinted in the mid-1990s by Gemstone Publishing, both as single issues and four-issue compilation “annuals”.

I think “Did Uri Geller appear in Daredevil #133″ would be timely, if you haven’t done it already, as by this time next month nobody will remember who he is.

About the Gay Rawhide Kid story being out of continuity, was there even a regular continuity to those old western stories? I havent read many of them so maybe I dont know what I’m talking about, but from what I remember, they had about as much continuity as Archie comics do, meaning the same characters but no connection between any of the stories.

I also dont recall Two-Gun Kid telling his cowboy friends about fighting supervillains with the Avengers.

I cannot recall where I heard this story, but I know it was from Roy who was discussing his old Bleecker Street apartment. It may have even been in the old FOOM fan magazine, or maybe in a Spider-Man lettter col (when there were letter cols). The comics pro whom Roy shared an apartment with was Bill Everett, creator of the Sub-Mariner. Bill was injured for some reason at this time and walking with a cane, as I recall, and the character of Gwen Stacy’s father in Spider-Man (as drawn by John Romita Sr.) was based on the appearance of Bill around that time. I know all those facts do not seem to jibe, but I am certain Thomas was living with Everett and also about the connection to Capt. Stacy.

I am a big “Strange” fan, but I cannot help with the Sanctum. It was called that when I first came to the book, I believe.

@D: That makes no sense. I can see not liking modern comic art, but if anything there is more variety than there was in the past. There are older artists I wish were working more (especially Sienkwicz), but they are usually the ones who were exceptional for the time anyway. That Severin art is so gorgeous that I almost want to pick up Rawhide Kid despite having no real interest in the story.

Dave Blanchard

July 3, 2009 at 6:02 pm

The unanswered question of the day is: Was EC’s “Eye for an Eye” story ever published?

LET’S ALL GET MAD ABOUT “RAWHIDE KID” ALL OVER AGAIN!!!!

I’m kidding – actually I’m quite impressed with how level-headed everyone’s been about this so far. One more reason I love the CSBG crowd.

And, yes, there is a way of reading this as regressive and offensive to the gay community. But there’s another way of reading it – as a ribald western comedy – where it almost works (and if handled by a more experienced or comedically subtle writer, might have actually succeeded).

Think about the alternatives (and no, “there is no Rawhide Kid miniseries” doesn’t get to be an alternative):
1) Rawhide Kid is gay, but it’s played “straight” (sorry) – as a western gunslinger who just happens to be gay and it doesn’t impact the story at all (in which case why bother?);
2) Rawhide Kid is even MORE flamboyantly gay than he is as featured here (I dunno, let’s say he’s got a little yippy-dog sidekick or something), and it’s played straight (sorry again) as an afterschool special about tolerance in the old west (which would make even less sense than the published version); or
3) Rawhide Kid is hetero and it’s a standard-issue western (in which case you’d just have to wait for John Ostrander to come along again).

Keep in mind the point of the miniseries was to do something DIFFERENT with the character to get some attention on a possible franchise (which, I think, was the original intent of MAX, before the Alonso-era got toned down a bit).

You can argue about the execution or offensiveness of this book or, yes, “Cage,” but you have to admire a company that looked at a disused character and thought, “What could we do that would get people talking about him again?” Or looked at a character based in 70′s blaxploitation movies and thought, “Why don’t we try to reflect that in a modern context?” And tried it, regardless of potential backlash?

For good or ill, I do miss that period of Marvel – back then they’d try ANYTHING to get people to look at their books.

I think “Judgement Day” was a good story with an outstanding message but not written very well. The narration was far too wordy. But I do like the point especially given the youthful audience they were targeting(maybe that youthful audience required the wordiness to get the point across?). I especially love the way EC stuck to their guns. Kudos to Gaines & Co.!

Dixon’s conclusion seems a valid one. If an 80+ year old man objects to drawing an unmarried couple in bed together, it’s likely he’d object to turning a character gay.

Unless, of course, he was hard up for money. Green tends to outweigh a lot of people’s alleged morals.

Brian From Canada

July 3, 2009 at 6:37 pm

Regarding The Rawhide Kid and its promotion, you have to step back and remember that in those days the mainstream media pretty much ignored comics altogether — unless it was a major change to an icon, like the Superman: Blue/Superman: Red story, etc.

Quesada was doing anything he could to get it noticed, and given the fact that he was a relatively new EIC, getting attention for the new Max line at Marvel as even a hint of competition against the then-popular-as-trades Vertigo was something to make him shine to the brass above.

The story itself DOES play to stereotypes but in a tongue-in-cheek way. You need to know that everyone is in on the joke, much the same way that the Batman TV series of the sixties does. I had friends on both sides of like/dislike, both gay and straight, and that was all based on the otherwise straight-forward western in the story.

CAGE was *much* worse but by that point it looked like Marvel wasn’t getting any other solicitations for Max, or was only looking for the controversial ones. To me, it really hadn’t been thought out much beyond a Bendis book with the F-word and a more graphic Punisher.

[Epic's return was worse — just the mini-series about Aunt May's wild days if I recall correctly.]

Great. Its another gay story, so we get to hear more homophobic rants rom bigoted individuals. I’m just skipping most of the posts for this thread. It’s depressing to see how many closed minded people there are in the world.

Also, John Severin was in his 80′s when doing this? WOW! thats pretty impressive.

Overall though, Rawhide Kid was a crap comic, and I’m sorry I wasted my money on it. The best thing about it was the innuendo(sp?) covers, they were pretty funny.

How many years fell between Severins refusal to draw Dixon’s story and the Rawhide Kid story? Peoples attitudes tend to change over years and especially over decades. Was Dixon’s story for a book that would be marketed to “All Ages?” Severin may well have refused to do “Rawhide Kid” if it hadn’t been for a “Mature Readers” imprint such as “Raw.” Doing something for a “Mature Readers” imprint that he wouldn’t do for an “All Ages” title would leave his morals and standards perfectly intact.

“Regarding The Rawhide Kid and its promotion, you have to step back and remember that in those days the mainstream media pretty much ignored comics altogether — unless it was a major change to an icon, like the Superman: Blue/Superman: Red story, etc.”

“In those days?” One, it was only seven years ago, and two, things haven’t really changed.

I don’t think it’s fair to call The Rawhide Kid “exploitive” when there are real life homosexuals like the blonde guy from “Queer Eye” or Perez Hilton out there.

Colin Rutherford

July 3, 2009 at 7:40 pm

John Severin is an amazing artist. He recently illustrated a “Bat Lash” mini-series for DC.

If you read Dixon’s quote carefully, he doesn’t actually say that Severin refused to draw his story *because* of the unmarried couple in bed.

Even if that was the reason, that leaves Dixon with two choices: either Severin doesn’t have same objections to homosexuality that he does towards sex outside of wedlock, or he has to believe very bad things about a number of people, as Quesada pointed out. Shame on him for mouthing off about the second, insulting-to-several-people-despite-flimsy-evidence option without voicing any consideration for the first.

First off Faust….no homophobic comments have been made. Second off, Bob, I was having the same thought. The last issue of “Savage Tales” he could possibly be talking about came out in 1986, with only a total of six issues in that series. That places it almost 20 before the Rawhide Kid mini in question. Social norms and the acceptance of certain things changed quite a bit between 1986 and 2003. And besides, as far as I know, the ‘Kid never gets into bed with another man. So…he was just drawing a really ‘fem guy as an action hero. No big.

Just as a side note, I love old-style artwork like that so much. So few folks draw in anything resembling the silver agey, somewhat bright style these days.

When Roy Thomas moved to New York, he moved in with Dave Kaler, who was a comic book fan that later wrote some stories for Charlton. Kaler’s best known for putting on the 1965 New York Comicon back in the days when comic book conventions were as scarce as hen’s teeth. He was also a board member of the Academy of Comic Book Fans and Collectors, and was generally a mover and shaker in the early days of comic book fandom. When Denny O’Neil and Gary Friedrich followed Roy out from Missouri, they also stayed there. O’Neil moved on, but Friedrich stayed, and apparently, at some point, Kaler moved out. But originally, it was Kaler’s apartment, and it was a two-room, ground floor studio located on Avenue A near Second St. It was also nicknamed, “Kaler’s Kave.”

Here’s where things get interesting: there was a point where Bill Everett needed a place to stay from Monday through Thursday (he went back to New England over the weekends to be with his family), and he moved in with Roy and Gary. Everett became the artist on Dr. Strange, and in Alter Ego (current edition) # 3, Roy wrote, “One detail that came out of Bill’s sojourn at our pad was a precise if illogical address for Dr. Strange’s eerie mansion. Bill gave it our own: 177A Bleecker Street.”

Brian, can you please find out why Frank Miller ended up not drawing Doctor Strange with Roger Stern? I’ve wondered for years…I heard it was because, he uh….had a falling out with an editor and he ended up going to DC to do Ronin. Or something.

Armitage, thank you for responding about the EC reprints.

“And besides, as far as I know, the ‘Kid never gets into bed with another man. So…he was just drawing a really ‘fem guy as an action hero. No big.”

Dixon’s attitude seems to be that acknowledging that gay people even exist is on the same level as showing a big ol’ orgy.

I’ve actually covered the Miller/Stern Doctor Strange bit before.

I dunno where – try one of the early Comic Book Questions Answered columns.

SIJO and AARON both wanted to know what was against the code in that final panel. Nothing, as was pointed out in the explanation. But the code refused to allow it. My speculation is as follows.

It was a different time. It was unseemly for a fair maiden to possibly see a sweaty black man. A ‘sweaty black man’ was considered a sexual being, and they couldn’t have their poor, innocent daughters and wives see such a thing.

Like I said, a different time. The 50s were ruled by extremely uptight conservative people.
_____________________________________________________

The code was established as a way to get away from the possible control of comics by the US legislative body. Publishers thought it would be better to self censor. But it was written to prohibit the use of several types of characters that just coincidentally were a staple of EC Comics. Certain monsters could not be used, brutal scenes had to be toned down.

Many US Servicemen became addicted to comic books during World War II. After the was, they came home and continued to read comics. As they matured, the EC books appealed to them more and more. The publishers from many other companies saw the huge sales of EC Comics and used the creation of the code to destroy EC and a few other publishers. Gaines started publishing Mad Magazine, and laughed all the way to the bank for the next several decades.

So the real reason for the code was self censorship, but it was written to put Gaines out of business.

And the resulting code nearly destroyed the industry, and was responsible for the continued mediocrity of comics well into the 60s.

“I’ve actually covered the Miller/Stern Doctor Strange bit before.

I dunno where…”

Brian, you don’t have a database?

I wonder if Severin’s objection the the Dixon story was more about the actual VISUALS involved- if the script had required him to draw a nude or sexually explicit scene, THAT may have been what he was uncomfortable about. But Severin HAS spent most of his career drawing for CRACKED magazine, so he probably just thought of Rawhide Kid as “just another spoof”.

>>Does anybody know if Al Williamson is still drawing?

He drew an absolutely gorgeous (even for him!) story in the recent 70th-anniverary SUB-MARINER COMICS one-shot.

“Note that Severin said “effeminate” not “gay”. As I pointed out in another thread, it’s NOT the same thing.”

Not in the sense that all effeminate guys are supposed to be gay, yeah. But among people of Severin’s generation, calling a guy “effeminate” was often used an euphemism to mean that he is gay, just like many other words such as “pansy”, “queer”, “nancy boy”, even “flower”. So it’s perfectly possible the he used the word in this, older sense.

@Bob:
Judgment Day is very much of it’s time as far as storytelling goes. EC comics tend to be closer to illustrated narratives than the graphic storytelling we’re used to today, but it’s a damn fine story.

I can’t quite tell from that picture of 177A Bleeker St, but is there a Starbucks there, or is it still coming soon?

I, for one, liked Greg Burgas’s joke.

“Judgment Day” is also reprinted in Amazing World of DC Comics #6 (in black & white).

Judgment Day is one of the earliest comics I remember reading when I was a kid. It’s still great today even though the politics that birthed it are a half century in the past.

You know something is an excellent piece of work when it stands the test of time like that.

@ Tuomas: You’re correct, but my point was that “effeminate” and “gay” are not the same thing, even if they were synonymous in Severin’s time. It was Marvel who was wrong at dealing with it that way, joke or not.

@ I AM FeAR: I’m no expert in Western comics either, but my understand is that yes, there were continuing plotines in Rawhide Kid and other titles. Maybe not as obsessive as in other Marvel titles, but it’s never been as bad as in Archie. Further, Marvel’s attitude has always been “if we publish it, it’s part of the continuity UNLESS we state that it isn’t”- even stuff that you’d never expect, like Howard the Duck…

“>>Does anybody know if Al Williamson is still drawing?

He drew an absolutely gorgeous (even for him!) story in the recent 70th-anniverary SUB-MARINER COMICS one-shot.”

He actually drew this years ago, though, and Marvel just pulled it out of inventory. Mark Schultz (the writer of the piece) talked about it in a recent CBR interview.

[...] Comicbook Resources columnist Brian Cronin tackles the comic legend that John Severin was tricked into drawing the Rawhide Kid “Slap Leather” mini series that put Andrea Lafferty in a tizzy on CNN and drew some controversial commentary from comics writer Chuck Dixon. Read this week’s Comic Book Legends Revealed. [...]

I know it has been running a long time, but every week I mean to come on and tell you this is one of the best weekly columns on the web about comics. Informative without ever being tacky or negative. I have put the collection on my Amazon wish list and will fulfill my own wish soon if no one else does.

So, if Doc Strange lives at 177A Bleeker St, does that mean there’s a 177B Bleeker st? Is there another apartment in the building? Truly the mysteries of the universe are vast!

Thanks, Brian!

The idea was a good one,but the execution(i.e. script) was poor.I was so looking forward to seeing some vintage John Severin art that I was able to ignore most of the pathetic dialouge.But it did cause quite a stir in the media.I wish the only time comics got attention was something other than a gay outing or character death.And…I am goming back to the Masterwporks and enjoy all of those great Dr.Strange stories this weekend.Ditko was one of a kind.Happy Fourth!!

Shelly isn’t here, but if she were, I think she’d say:

Do you ever have a column that is not about “racist white people” or gays?! It seems like every column (or every other column, is about these two subjects. C’mon, do stories about comics that every one can enjoy, not stories where you breath hard and say, “here we go again” and skip to the next story.

The Crazed Spruce

July 4, 2009 at 3:54 pm

Y’know, I appreciate a flashy, stylized artist as much as the next guy, but I’ve always prefered the more realistic style, and John Severin’s definitely one of the best. Hell, if anything, his artwork has IMRPOVED over the years. (And there’s no way he didn’t know EXACTLY what he was drawing in this book.)

Hey, the rumor that parts of the Comic Code were written to put EC Comics out of business would make a GREAT topic for next week’s column.

Add my vote for “Judgement Day” to make the list of Cool Comic Book Moments, too.

John Severin art is always a plus. This “Rawhide Kid is Gay” issue though…is for lack of a better word….dumb. This is some kind of alternate universe Rawhide Kid..who acts nothing like the Kirby/Ayers one.

Marvel seems to thrive on dumb ideas these days. I imagine when they do their writer retreats that somebody comes up with an idea and Quesada says….”no, not dumb enough yet…give me something really stupid”….

Nope, Shelly doesn’t like your articles again this week. Shelly vows never to read this arm-pit garbage again! It’s this type of “ram down your throat” articles and comic books, that continues to drive readers away (besides over-pricing).

Slap Leather was mildly entertaining and mildly offensive. More than likely, it only sold what it sold because of the gay aspect, so I can’t fault Marvel making the choices it did. Well, except for its blind worship of Zimmerman, yeah. Anyone else remember that bet with Peter David in which Quesada said Zimmerman’s Ultimate Adventures would outsell David’s Captain Marvel? I think Buckley’s Marville was part of that, too. This was when printing an Ultimate book was printing money, and Zimmerman still couldn’t deilver. I think Quesada just loved him because ZImmerman came from Stern.

For the record, I think people are forgetting some of the most egregious things Quesada said regarding the reinvention of Rawhide Kid. Instead of copping to it being an alternate take (and this was when there were a half dozen alternate versions of characters floating around – Fury, Mangaverse, and US War Machine, for example – Quesada said that Rawhide Kid was always gay, because in his stories he never had a steady girlfriend and sometimes acted uncomfortable around women. So, obviously, he was in the closet. When it was pointed out that Quesada just described Peter Parker under Stan Lee, for once in his life he had nothing to say. Never mind the fact that being uncomfortable around girls applied to a healthy portion of the comics-reading audience. Furthermore, it was also pointed out that Rawhide Kid had only in the past few months headlined the excellent Blaze of Glory and Apache Skies mini-series (despite the fact that Quesada said that nobody else had any intersesting stories to tell with the character, so the gay angle was the way to go), and in those books he was most certainly heterosexual. Those were the objections that were floating about that I recall, dealing with Quesada’s ridiculous and ignorant comments (which, really, was par for the course for Quesada during the Buckley era). Brian, this is all my six-years-removed recollection here, so maybe you have a topic for a future Legend.

Anyway. Anyone wanna claim what I just wrote there was homophobic, knock yourself out. I didn’t read the series, but bought and read the trade, laughed at some parts, rolled my eyes at others, and I still have it on my shelf I vaguely recall that the Kid’s write up in the Handbook says the episode was a put-on by the Kid to throw people off, but I seem to remember there being a behind-the-scenes story there (another Legend, Brian? – Heck, did I read that on your site, actually?!?)

As for Chuck Dixon, well, I think he was being a little hyperbolic, and a little personally insulted considering his understanding of why Severin didn’t do his book.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

July 4, 2009 at 9:15 pm

Why do people who dislike coverage of homosexuality in media persist in using the “shoved down the throat” metaphor? Are they that irony-deficient, or are they all just slightly less self-aware versions of Tobias Funke?

EC Comics Judgement Day reminds me of the short story (IIRC) “Reunion” in Arthur C Clarke’s “The Wind From the Sun”.

You asked when Dr. Strange’s home was first referred to as the “Sanctum Sanctorum.” The phrase appears to be used for the first time in Strange Tales 128, on page 3 of the Dr. Strange backup feature. (The Human Torch has the lead story.) Strange is battling a bad guy called the Demon, and in panel three, he says “What is this??! The Eye shows nothing!! There is a sinister power at work here — strong enough to block my own spells! I feel the force thruout this chamber — I am seemingly helpless — within my own Sanctum Sanctorum!!”

Incidentally, this is the first story in which he is wearing the familiar Cloak of Levitation and Eye of Agamotto amulet, which the Ancient One gave him the previous issue. The Eye he is referring to in the quote above is actually the Orb of Agamotto, as it was called in later issues.

The building was referred to as the “sanctum” for the first time in Strange Tales 116.

Wow, that’s cool to hear about Colan doing Cap. Not to knock today’s artists, but the older ones just have more flair and style.

I knew the Rawhide Kid was going to be camp but the dialogue seems anachronistic. The Kid talks just like Jack from Will and Grace.
The artwork is great though.

And thanks for the Legends Revealed! My favorite section of this site.

Is there any gay comic that wouldn’t also be a “ram down your throat” kind of comic, Shelly? If so, what would it be like? Or are you just prejudiced against gays but unwilling to admit it?

Why do you always have legends about architecture in these posts? Here I am, just trying to enjoy comics, and you’re dragging in the history of buildings. I don’t care if architects get together in private to design skyscrapers and brownstones, but I wish they would keep their designs to themselves.

You’re funny!

I agree with Callen about Weird Fantasy #18′s Judgement Day being a part of your Cool Comic Book Moments column.

I love that EC comic. Printing that story in 1953 was pretty bold at that time. I imagine there were few comics speaking out on the topic of civil rights. Even fewer featured an African American as a main character… who wasn’t comic relief. I’ll have to check out reprints of EC.

According to Wikipedia regarding Eye for an Eye:
The EC Horror Library, published by Nostalgia Press in 1971, featured color reprints of approximately 20 EC stories, various artist biographies and an essay by Larry Stark. Despite its title, the book also included Bernard Krigstein’s famous “Master Race” story from Impact and other selections from non-horror EC titles. This book also featured the first publication of “An Eye For An Eye,” originally slated for the final issue of Incredible Science Fiction but rejected by the Comics Code.[22]
[22] ^ Von Bernewitz and Geissman, Ibid., p. 209

I think the full phrase ‘Sanctum Sanctorum’ first appears in Strange Tales #125. Doc exclaims, “Mordo!! Here in my own Sanctum Sanctorum!!”

http://www.neilalien.com/doc/archive/2009/07/index.html#a090703

Decent pic from a few years ago of 177 Bleecker Street:

http://www.neilalien.com/doc/archive/2003/03/index.html#a18

An honor to be schooled by Neilalien! I was indeed three issues off.

I thought the anachronistic dialogue in the Rawhide Kid was really annoying. I hope it was done solely for humour, and nobody actually thinks people talked like that in the 19th Century.

“1) Rawhide Kid is gay, but it’s played “straight” (sorry) – as a western gunslinger who just happens to be gay and it doesn’t impact the story at all (in which case why bother?);”
“Keep in mind the point of the miniseries was to do something DIFFERENT with the character to get some attention on a possible franchise (which, I think, was the original intent of MAX, before the Alonso-era got toned down a bit).”

The idea of doing a gay character where that’s just who they are and it has no significant impact on the story would be far more progressive than doing a comic book where the whole thing is a joke, “Hey, isn’t it so unusual and funny that this guy can be SO gay and yet SO tough too? I mean, it’s really strange, right? STRANGE?” As far as I could tell, that was all Zimmerman had to say, though I’m assuming that the setting precluded his usual Warren Zevon references (so maybe he had those to say too).

I’d like to take (slight) exception to the comment by Alan Coil that the Code resulted only in bad stories. For some writers, this was undeniably true, as they just knuckled under and did what the Code said. But the Code was also responsible for forcing some other writers to find new and different ways of telling stories, ways that were less visceral and less exploitative and that pandered less to readers’ lowest expectations. Let’s not forget that the Code probably triggered the existence of the Marvel Universe. Speaking as someone who grew up in the 1960s, I don’t think I can over emphasise the imortance of that particular event in my life. The Code was a form of censorship, to which I object tooth and claw, but I defy anyone to prove that it did not lead to the explosion of creativity that Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, et al, experienced once they HAD to tell stories that could only suggest and not show the horrors of life, that required a more introspective and thoughtful approach to a medium that had frequently (though not always) been one that pandered to the lowest common denominator.

For more on my thoughts on this and related topics, I refer the interested reader to my fanzine, “reviews from the floor of 64″, which covers many of Marvel’s early stories via their UK reprints in the Power Comics (free plug; site manager, feel free to remove if it violates your rules and regs!).

Please forgive the lateness of this post, as it is going back to July 3 & after looking thru the comments, I don’t see anyone else responding to it. Brian From Canada mentions the “Superman Blue/Superman Blue” story & Michael P. responds by saying that the term “In those days” is an incorrect phrase since that particular story only took place “7 yrs. ago”. It should be pointed out in Brian’s defense that the more recent Superman Red/Blue story was an homage to a previous story published in, I believe, the ’50′s. I am fairly sure that this is the story that Brian is talking about. While the original story did deal with Supes being split into two separate beings (thru means that I cannot recall specifically, red kryptonite, maybe?), one having no red in his costume & the other having no blue, aside from some reduction in powers, a slight difference in personality & one dating Lois & one dating Lana, the over-all outcome of each story & it’s lasting ramifications (or lack thereof) were quite different (no Millennium Giants back in the day!). This should come as no surprise considering that readers of the original story were much less savvy & much more naive “in those days” than the average comic book fans of today, necessitating a much more “realistic & believable” reason for such a thing to happen in the first place, as well as a more “scientifically plausible” resolution. After all, “in those days”, exposure to red (& other colors of) kryptonite was used on an almost monthly cycle & the readers at that time had no problem what-so-ever in accepting this as a valid reason & basis for a story. My, how the times have changed! I’m not trying to point a finger at anyone or make them angry, I just thought this should be pointed out. Thanks for “listening”!

@Ronn K.

It should be noted that the original “Superman Red/Superman Blue” was an “Imaginary Story,” which is why there were no long term ramifications. Also, the split happened as a result of his attempting to increase his already super-intelligence with an invention powered by a mix of different color kryptonites.

Thanks for the specifics, Bob! It’s been way to many years since I actually read the story & even then it was in one of the 80 page giant-size books of yesteryear (since I wasn’t even a twinkle in my father’s eye at the time it was originally published!) along with several other stories. Boy, do I miss those! But regardless of where & when the story took place, I was simply offering info that verifies what the more recent story was inspired by & that the basic idea for the story was, indeed, originally written & published back “in those days”, as opposed to merely “7 years ago”. But, again, your specific info is much appreciated, thanks!

Purple: “Can’t remember who was being interviewed (maybe Feldstein), but the Judgment Day issue is also talked about in the documentary ‘Comic Book Confidential’.”

Feldstein is in “Comic Book Confidential” (talking about Mad), but it was Gaines who told the story of “Judgment Day” in the movie. He called it “one of the finest stories we ever did”. “Comic Book Confidential” is an excellent movie. Seeing it for the first time about ’88 got me back into comics after about five years away. For me it totally captured everything I thought was great about the medium, and I still watch my VHS copy every year or so. I would love to see an updated version, covering the last twenty-some years. The industry has turned upside-down twice since then, but I’d still recommend the movie to anyone interested in the history of the medium. It covers underground and alternative comics too, and helped broaden my horizons somewhat.

Kevin asked if “Judgment Day” had been published in a collection, and in addition to the above mentioned comic-format reprints, the entire line of EC’s New Trend books, along with all of the New Direction books and a few of the pre-trend books, were reprinted in oversized, slipcased hardcovers in the ’80s, first by Russ Cochran and then by Gemstone. Only the covers are reproduced in color, but the B&W reproduction of the interior pages is beautiful. (I have all but four sets: Weird Science-Fantasy/Incredible Science Fiction, Crime SuspenStories, Frontline Combat and Mad. If anyone has them I’ll trade you my soul for them.) In the Bill Gaines interview sections in “Comc Book Confidential”, some of these sets can be seen sitting on a shelf behind him in his office. I have also recently seen new hardcover collections, in color, of EC’s horror titles. The science-fiction titles may get the same treatment, or may have already, as well they should (the house ads always read “we’re proudest of our science-fiction titles”.)

Hey, Brian, I’ve noticed 99% of your comic book legends are about superhero comics. Aren’t there any legends about underground of alt-comics that don’t involve art speigleman?

[...] Eventually it became Weird Fantasy, then Weird Science-Fantasy, then finished its run as Incredible Science-Fiction. It ended with the story, “Judgment Day,” an allegory against racism which the Comics Code Authority tried to censor. [...]

Apparently Dixon has never read /Cracked/; Severin’s work in /Rawhide/ is no racier than anything he did for /Cracked/. (cst also mentioned this, above.)

Buzz Dixon is my preferred Dixon.

I loved Severin’s issue of /BPRD/.

I like the idea of the gay Rawhide Kid, but I agree, the way it was handled was pretty clunky. I did buy the recent mini-series though, and the Chaykin art more than made up for the clumsiness of the gay references.

EC comics did loads of those kind of stories. They called them their “Preachies” and they mostly appeared in Tales Designed To Carry An Impact; one of their ‘new direction’ titles.
Great stories, and really beneficial to young kids reading too.

I just want to note what a big impact John Severin had on my childhood through his “Cracked” work. The difference between the quality of his work and (nearly) every other artist in that magazine was night and day. And I liked a lot of the other artists! That’s how good he was!

Just had to stop reading this soon after we were treated to Joe Quesada bloviating in that faux Stan Lee hearty way. Ecch! Joe Quesada is a testament to America’s resilience in designing over-loadible Bullshit recepticals.

[...] the most infuriating instance of censorship in this list is the case of “Judgement Day”, in the 1950s sci-fi anthology comic Weird Fantasy. In the story, an astronaut lands on an alien [...]

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