Darwyn Cooke, Celebrated Comics Artist and Writer, Passes Away
Welcome to the two-hundred and nineteenth 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 eighteen.
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 this week’s Fashion Legends Revealed, some really interesting stuff, like which current high end men’s apparel company got its start when its Nazi founder began making uniforms for the SS?
COMIC LEGEND: Jim Steranko’s run on Nick Fury was repeatedly (and fairly oddly) censored by Marvel.
Jim Steranko was a major artist for Marvel Comics during the late 1960s, but at the same time, he and Marvel were often at odds a bit over how to handle his artwork, generally because Marvel was worried about the Comics Code.
Steranko was doing the Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD co-feature in Strange Tales during the late 1960s when, in one particular panel featuring Countess Valentina (Val) Allegro De Fontaine (the sexy SHIELD agent who became Nick Fury’s paramour), Marvel actually blacked out her buttocks!
Say Steranko, “There was a page-tall figure of Val seen from the back, and I put a lot of shine on the outfit, particularly on her buttocks. I defined the form on satin material — and they eliminated the shine. Blacked it all in because it was too hot!”
Here’s the panel from Strange Tales #168…
And here is Steranko’s original drawing…
Another problem Steranko had was that they kept eliminating his “cleavage lines.”
Take this picture of the Countess, for example…
Now, as you might imagine, typically, in that outfit, the Countess would be having a line to denote her cleavage. Instead, it was removed.
Amusingly enough, in the issue where her buttocks was blacked out, there was another panel where Steranko’s cleavage line remained on an ancillery character…
The cleavage lines were removed specifically by request of the Comics Code (Marvel did the other edits usually as a mix of what their view of what the Comics Code would find objectionable mixed with suggestions from the Comics Code, but the cleavage lines were specifically taken out by request of the Comic Code).
The above panel of the Countess was also part of Marvel’s other particularly hilarious editing job.
Here is the page as it appeared in Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD #2…
In the middle of the bottom panels, there is a picture of a phone.
Steranko originally drew a phone off the hook…
but Marvel had another artist literally draw the phone ON the hook, because a phone off the hook was too suggestive.
As Steranko recalled, “One panel also showed a telephone that was off the hook. They considered it suggestive, and put it back on. Now, every time I pass a phone that’s off the hook, I get horny!”
In the last panel on the page, here is what Steranko originally drew – the Countess and Fury embracing while clothed..
And here’s the panels aligned with the original panels…
Instead, though, Marvel had someone on the production staff take Fury’s gun from earlier in the page and copy it and put it into the last panel.
Isn’t that fascinating? Especially because, as Steranko notes, “They reproduced Fury’s holster slung over a chair, which was much more suggestive: a big gun fitting very tightly in a holster, which was a sexual metaphor much more potent than my figures.”
In any event, in what was a surprise to basically nobody, Steranko soon left Marvel. And at least part of the reason behind his departure was because of the way they kept tampering with his artwork because of the Comics Code.
A gazillion thanks to The Betty Pages, who did a feature on Steranko back in 1989 and they are the source of the Steranko quotes and the original “un-blacked out” buttocks drawing of the Countess. Thanks to Bill Angus and the World of Kane blog.
COMIC LEGEND: John Byrne had a promo in DC’s History of the DC Universe Portfolio for what would be known as Next Men.
STATUS: False Enough for a False
Reader Chris asked:
is it true that the limited edition “History of the DC Universe” portfolio included a print that ended up being a promo for “Next Men,” which was published by Dark horse?
The portfolio he is referring to was something DC made in 1986 with some Folios of various DC characters drawn by the cream of DC’s crop, artist-wise. Keith Giffen, George Perez, Dick Giordano, Joe Kubert (cover by Bill Sieniewicz) and, of course, this following Folio by John Byrne (click to enlarge)…
The idea was to both show you the stalwarts of the DC Universe (Giordano drawing Batman, Kubert Sgt. Rock) but ALSO to give you a glimpse of upcoming projects, such as George Perez’s Wonder Woman and Byrne’s Freaks.
Now, for whatever reason, Freaks never got made at DC Comics.
The natural presumption is that Freaks was just re-named Next Men and became John Byrne’s Next Men. There certainly are more than one character in the Freaks’ folio who looks a lot like a Next Men character.
However, once Freaks did not work at DC (for whatever reason), Byrne re-tooled the idea considerably, and while yes, some of what was meant to be in Freaks was re-tooled to fit into 2112 and Next Men, it wasn’t nearly anything as simple as just changing a few names or anything like that.
In fact, a goodly portion of Freaks ended up in a later series that Byrne did for Dark Horse, the very underrated Danger Unlimited.
Concepts from Freaks made it into all of those books, so while yes, in general terms, most of Freaks DID get into print, it was nothing like the original, particularly since it was split over more than one book!
Thanks to Chris for the question and thanks to John Byrne for answering this question a couple of times over the years!
COMIC LEGEND: The word “milquetoast” comes from a comic character.
If you look up the word “milquetoast” in the Random House Dictionary, you will receive the following definition:
–noun (sometimes initial capital letter)
a very timid, unassertive, spineless person, esp. one who is easily dominated or intimidated
The term actually comes from a comic strip character of the 1920s-50s (hence the “sometimes initial capital letter, as it is the name of a character).
Harold Tucker Webster was one of the most proficient newspaper cartoonist of the first half of the 20th Century.
Rather than produce just ONE comic strip, what Webster did was to produce a group of continuing series, each one would get a certain portion of the week. One strip that would appear once a week would be How to Torture Your Husband (or Wife).
Twice a week Webster would show both the upside of being a kid…
and the downside…
But his most popular strip by far was A Timid Soul, starring the most timid of souls, Caspar Milquetoast (based on the inoffensive meal milk toast).
Webster described Milquetoast brilliantly – “the man who speaks softly and gets hit with a big stick.” Isn’t that a delightful play on words?
Here is a sample Milquetoast cartoon…
And here is an awesome Milquetoast Christmas Card…
Good stuff, no?
Webster drew all of the strips until he passed away in 1952. Webster’s assistant, Herb Roth, took over his duties until HE died the next year. Rather than doom anyone else to death, the syndicates let the strips die with Roth.
But the term “milquetoast” lives on, long after anyone remembers the comic strip itself!
Thanks to John Adcock (and his neat site, Yesterday’s Papers) for the two kid strips!
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 email@example.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…
See you next week!
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