Comic Book Legends Revealed #222
Welcome to the two-hundred and twenty-second 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 twenty-one.
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 Photography Legends Revealed for a story that can best be described as “Ivy League Nude Photo Scandal.”
I just couldn’t help myself with this week’s theme once I saw the number of this installment!
COMIC LEGEND: There were FIVE different Two-Faces in Batman comics of the 1940s and 1950s!
In 1942′s Detective Comics #66, we meet Harvey Kent, the villain known as Two-Face!
His first story continues in Detective Comics #68 (anyone know why the issue gap? My best guess is that while working on #66, they realized they liked the character enough to want to give him another issue, but had already begun the next issue, but I don’t know if that’s accurate)…
Interestingly enough, the next year, in Detective Comics #80, the Bat-trio of Bill Finger, Jerry Robinson and Bob Kane decided to give Harvey Kent a happy ending!
What’s even stranger for the comics of the day, they decided that they did not want to go back on their happy ending!
So when it was determined to have Two-Face appear in the Batman comic strip in 1946, a NEW character was introduced – an actor named Harvey Apollo…
The character was too cool to go to waste, though, so in 1948, in Batman #50, we saw a brand-new Two-Face, who was really just Harvey Dent’s butler in disguise…
The official “next” Two-Face showed up in 1951′s Batman #68, in a story written by Bill Finger. Echoing the Batman comic strip idea, the new Two-Face was an actor, Paul Sloane, who was meant to just PLAY Two-Face!
Bizarrely enough, less than a year later, over in Detective Comics #187, writer Don Cameron was bringing the Two-Face character back, only he was sticking with the previous “guy pretending to be Harvey Dent even though Dent is still a good guy” story idea (naturally, no reference is made to Sloane).
This guy, George Blake, was ALSO an actor!
Then, two years later, in Batman #81, writer David Vern decided to bring Harvey Dent back as Two-Face…
From 1954 to 1971, the character basically fell by the wayside (with a few random appearances here and there) before Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams proudly brought Two-Face back into the Rogues Gallery in Batman #234…
So that’s the bizarre publication history of one of Batman’s greatest villains! Weird, eh?
Thanks SO much to William F. Jourdain’s amazing Golden Age Batman site for the assistance in finding all the Two-Faces (and for the scans of the 1946 comic strip)!
COMIC LEGEND: A synopsis for Fantastic Four #1 written by Stan Lee shows that Lee was the one who created the Fantastic Four’s names, powers and basic personalities.
STATUS: I’m Going With False
Determining who came up with what in the early days of Marvel Comics is always difficult, partially because Jack Kirby has been dead for 15 years, partially because Stan Lee tends not to have the best memory about details, but mostly because these comics were not intended to be something people would be studying decades later, so there wasn’t exactly careful documentation of what was going on.
That’s why it was such a big deal when, about two decades ago, the original synopsis Stan Lee wrote for Fantastic Four #1 surfaced.
Here is a re-typed version of the synopsis (with the original XXXs left in, as well as the various typos like saying “change change that gimmick”), as posted in 1991′s Fantastic Four #358, the 30th Anniversary issue of the Fantastic Four (click to enlarge so you can read them better)…
Now, as you can see by what Lee writes in the top of the first page, this was offered up as, “See! Stan Lee came up with the names, the powers and the basic personalities of all the members of the Fantastic Four! Sure, Jack Kirby had to design their appearances (which IS important), but Stan did most of the personality work already!”
Lee has said that he feels that Kirby was the co-creator of the book, BECAUSE of the stuff that Lee felt that Kirby added to the book after the synopsis, as Lee has described this as the debut of the famous “Marvel Method” (where a writer and artist create a book in concert by the artist doing most of the page by page plotting based on a general description by the writer who later comes in and scripts what the artist creates).
But while I think that it IS clear that this was a case of the “Marvel Method,” what I find bizarre is the notion that this synopsis tells us that Lee came up with the characters.
We know for a fact (both Lee and Kirby have confirmed this) that Lee, early on, would write Kirby synopses for issues which Kirby would then use to create a plot. We also know that as time went by, these synopses would slowly get less detailed until it was basically Kirby doing what he wanted and Lee would script what Kirby gave him (this would only be the case on books where Lee totally trusted his artist, like he did with Kirby and Steve Ditko).
However, we also know that Kirby and Lee would talk on the telephone about the plot of the issue BEFORE the synopsis was written!
We do not know that was the case in this instance, and Lee certainly seems to suggest that it was not, but really, when you look at the distinct similarities between the Fantastic Four and Jack Kirby’s earlier series for DC Comics, the Challengers of the Unknown, a very reasonable scenario is that the two talked about the book BEFORE the synopsis and what Lee came up with in this synopsis was the Challengers of the Unknown filtered through Lee’s particular take on things.
That take, by the way, is also a very diplomatic one, as it acknowledges BOTH men as the “creator” of the Fantastic Four, as it was something that they worked on together.
That might not be the truth, though – maybe this synopsis WAS written solely by Lee without input by Kirby.
But there’s nothing in this synopsis that says that the other scenario could not be the truth (heck, there’s some stuff in it that makes it clear that Lee DID work out ideas with other people, as he acknowledges he cleared the Torch’s power use with the “Comics Association”). It is not “proof” that Stan Lee came up with the characters’ names, powers, basic personalities, and it is often proffered as though it is.
By the by, since I don’t think this document “proves” anything one way or the other, I didn’t think it necessary to get into the other possible take on the situation, which Steve Sherman posted in the comments section (Sherman, if you’re unfamiliar, was an assistant and friend to Jack Kirby), but since Steve was good enough to stop by with his personal experience of asking Kirby about this topic, I figure it’s worth pointing out an alternate theory regarding this synopsis.
I asked Jack about that synopsis. He told me that it was written way after FF #1 was published. I believe him.
Certainly a possible explanation, as well.
Thanks to Steve Sherman for stopping by with this comment!
COMIC LEGEND: On the Fox Kids Spider-Man show of the 1990s, the Sinister Six was re-named the Insidious Six because of executive interference.
As noted in a recent installment of Comic Book Legends Revealed, Fox had some rather…interesting views, censorship-wise, on what was acceptable on a superhero animated series.
The Spider-Man Animated Series of the early 1990s had some similar problems, including a situation with the Sinister Six.
Or should I say…the Insidious Six!
Yep, when producer/writer John Semper went to write a multi-part story based on the introduction of the Sinister Six in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1…
right down to the power loss, he thought it was a good idea.
Even though already it would be a bit different because he would have to use a different team (based on the characters available in the cartoon), so he had to sub in Rhino, Shocker, Scorpion and the Chameleon in for Vulture, Electro, Sandman and Kraven.
But then the name was changed from Sinister Six to Insidious Six!
According to interviews by Semper in the mid-90s, there was worry that the name “sinister” was too harsh/too scary/too something.
So they became the Insidious Six…
Here they all are…
Here they are versus Spidey (notice Chameleon pretending to be Spider-Man)…
Naturally, the fact that the X-Men currently had a major villain on THEIR animated series named, of course…
Mister Sinister, was irritating, but standards HAD changed from 1992, when Batman: The Animated Series and X-Men: The Animated Series debuted with more leeway from censors. By 1994, when Spidey’s series debuted, the outrage over the violence on shows like Power Rangers made the networks skittish.
I asked Semper about the situation, and he honestly did not remember one way or the other. He said that that was exactly the type of thing that the network DID do, he just doesn’t remember if that was what happened here.
He also, though, offered up an alternative theory that is believable enough that I will share with you all.
Another way that the network interfered with the Spider-Man cartoon was denying Semper the use of certain characters. For instance, Electro and Sandman were off limites because James Cameron planned on using them as the villains in the ephemeral mid-nineties live action Spider-Man movie. Similarly, Kraven and Vulture also had not appeared on the show yet. So Semper says that it is possible he changed the name because it was not the actual Sinister Six, and as a long time comic book fan he understood how changing the story can sometimes be annoying.
I personally believe 1996 John Semper, but I cannot deny that 2009 John Semper suggests a believable scenario… So, let’s just say that network interference, one way or the other, kept the Sinister Six from appearing on the Spider-Man cartoon show.
Then let’s call it a day.
Thanks so much to 1996 John Semper and 2009 John Semper for being very forthcoming, whatever the decade.
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!