web stats

CSBG Archive

Comic Book Legends Revealed #226

Welcome to the two-hundred and twenty-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 twenty-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. I’d especially recommend you check out this TV Legends Revealed, if you’re interested in two possible links between sitcoms and pornography!

This is a theme week! You might find this week’s theme hard hard to believe (heck, I find it hard to believe), but today’s theme is…all comic book legends having to do with…Deadman!?!? Hard to believe, but read on, true believers!!

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: Green Lantern/Green Arrow #85 was the first Comics Code approved story involving drugs.

STATUS: False

First off, here’s an interesting tidbit you might not know about the original Comics Code. There was no official banning of the depiction of drugs or narcotics in the actual text of the Comics Code. Any objection would have been made based on the general clause:

All elements or techniques not specifically mentioned herein, but which are contrary to the spirit and intent of the code, and are considered violations of good taste or decency, shall be prohibited.

It was this clause that was used to tell Marvel Comics that they could not do a storyline in Amazing Spider-Man in early 1971 about drugs, even though the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare not only sanctioned the concept, but REQUESTED it.

Marvel, as you know, decided to go without the Comics Code approval for these issues…

this quickly led to the Comics Code being changed so as to allow stories involving narcotics, so long as narcotics are shown to be bad.

And DC, who had been basically sitting on an issue of Green Lantern/Green Arrow on the topic of drugs, quickly moved on the new freedom and did a much more powerful issue involving drugs.

This issue has long been cited as the first Comics Code approved comic book to involve drugs.

But that’s not true.

I honestly don’t know WHAT comic book was the first one to be approved by the Comics Code while having drugs in it. Like I said, it wasn’t officially against the rules of the Comics Code, so depending on who was making the decision that day, I’d imagine there might be a few comic books out there that sort of sneaked drug references in there.

But one comic that I know preceded the 1971 amendment was Strange Adventures #205, the first appearance of Deadman!

Deadman is about a circus acrobat named Boston Brand, known as Deadman because his stunts are so dangerous, every time someone comes to one of his performances, it might be the day he dies. Well, in Strange Adventures #205 (written by Deadman creator Arnold Drake and drawn by Carmine Infantino), Brand actually DOES die, shot by an unknown assailant during his act.

But then he discovers that he “lives” on as a ghost, as the goddess Rama Kushna has given him the ability to possess any living being in his quest to gain justice for his murder.

Well, in the issue, he does just that, possessing another member of the circus and while in possession of this other man, he discovers…

So there you go, a clear reference to narcotics, over THREE YEARS before Marvel Comics would have to go without the Comics Code to do an issue about drugs.

Now granted, it’s one thing to have a bad guy be selling drugs and a whole other thing to actually do a FEATURE on drug use like the Spider-Man story or especially the Green Lantern/Green Arrow story, but still, the fact remains that while some think that Green Lantern/Green Arrow was the first Comics Code approved use of narcotics, it was not.

Thanks to Paul Blanshard for suggesting this one!

COMIC LEGEND: An artist’s error lead to a storyline in Jack Kirby’s Forever People.

STATUS: True

Neal Adams became the artist on the Deadman feature in the next issue of Strange Adventures, and Drake left after that story. After a number of issues with Jack Miller scripting the book, Adams took over the writing duties on top of the art with issue #212 (although Robert Kanigher wrote issue #214), writing the book until Deadman left the title after issue #216.

Well, in issue #215, Deadman finally finds the man who killed him!

The problem was…well, let’s first take a look at Deadman #205…

So, the guy who killed Deadman had a hook on his right hand.

But if you take a look at the cover of Strange Adventures #215…

Notice anything odd?

The hook is on the LEFT hand!

All throughout #215 and #216, the hook keeps showing up on different hands…

Right hand…

Left hand…

Uhmmm…no hook at all, it seems?

Left hand…

Next issue, right hand…

Granted, Neal Adams did not draw #205, but still, pretty confusing, no? But hey, mistakes happen, right?

That WOULD be the case if it were not for Jack Kirby getting an odd assignment.

In 1972, a few years after Deadman’s story had basically finished (he had found his killer and gotten justice for his murder), Jack Kirby was told to have Deadman guest star in Forever People.

Kriby was a trooper, so he did what he was told. So to come up with ideas on what to do with Deadman, he and his assistants (okay, maybe just his assistants) read the original series, and it was there that Kirby’s assistant, Mark Evanier, recognized the same mistake we noted. Evanier told it to Kirby, and that mistake became the foundation for a new story that would appear in Forever People #9 and #10.

When the Forever People go to a medium…

Later, Deadman possesses basically an android version of himself (this was another innovation of Kirby, give Deadman a corporeal form, but have it be an inanimate object, so he’s still technically a “deadman”) and finds out that a group called the Scavengers were behind his death…

And that’s how Kirby left Deadman.

Isn’t that funny? A mistake by Adams led to a story by Kirby!

COMIC LEGEND: Deadman appears as a DJ in a couple of videos for the music group Cassius.

STATUS: Basically True

Cassius is a house music group from France consisting of Philippe Cerboneschi and Hubert Blanc-Francard, who go by the names Philippe Zdar and Boom Bass, respectively.

They had a hit single on the UK charts in 1999 titled, appropriately enough, “Cassius 1999.”

In the video, oddly enough, DEADMAN shows up!

Or, well, a guy dressed as Deadman except for a C on his chest for Cassius.

He shows up at various points throughout the video…

but mostly, the video depicts motorcycle racing.

Cassius’ NEXT single, though, “Feeling For You,” is basically ALL Deadman/Cassius DJ hero!

He turns into the hero when he spills a soft drink on to the stereo where Cassius’ music is being played – the resulting feedback turns him into this hero…

He then races to the club…

The club goers are suffering the music of a…GASP…LAME DJ!!!

Cassius/Deadman punches the DJ out and then rocks the house…

Sadly, Cassius/Deadman draws too much attention with his awesomeness, and a bunch of record producers kidnap him…

and try to force him to sign with a Major Record Label…

One guy even goes so far as to put a pen in his mouth so he can sign the contract…

Only Cassius/Deadman responds by spitting the pen through one of the executives brain and uses the distraction to break free and escape!

Pretty hilariously bizarre, no?

Reader Luciano wrote in to tell me about this last year.

Thanks to Luciano for the suggestion! Check out Luciano’s website 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, 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!

50 Comments

Dang. That pen through the head trick rules!

Fantastic stuff as always, Brian – but that video takes the cake!

I always wondered about the legality of those Cassius videos…

Anyone have any idea why DC randomly told Kirby to bring back Deadman in the first place?

With Deadman’s story presumably wrapped up at the time, it seems a bit like, “Hey Jack, can you do a story with, oh, let’s say…Deadman?”

I always thought the Green Lantern Green Arrow book was famous for being the first code-approved comic to show drug USE, not to mention the existence of drugs. Even taking the Deadman story into account is that still the case?

in the early 70’s, DC was re-trying a lot characters, usually in reprint books. Any character who had ever had any sort of sales momentum was given another shot. Sales were falling so badly that they were trying anything and everything. This is how I first met the Doom Patrol – I bought two issues of the reprint run.

Ironically enough, this is also what happened to Kirby. Once Infantino was removed and Jeannette Kahn was hired as DC Publisher, see looked at the sales figures from past years and had the New Gods and Mister Miracle resurrected as titles. The Forever People must have been the worst selling 4th world title, as nothing was ever done at the time to resurrect those characters.

A slight modification to the above…to where it says, “So to come up with ideas on what to do with Deadman, he read his original series, and it was there that Kirby recognized the same mistake we noted. Kirby, however, decided to use that mistake as the foundation for a new story that would appear in Forever People #9 and #10.”

Actually, I’m the one who recognized the mistake and called it to Jack’s attention. It was one of my teensy contributions to the storylines in those books.

Now my first thought on the left hand/right hand thing would have been flipped negatives. Nice work to make it a different killer.

Cheers,

B

Thanks so much for giving Deadman his day!

Reading Mark’s afterword before reading that Forever People/Deadman team up in the Fourth World Omnibus really helped make sense of it. Reading Neal Adams’ Deadman in close proximity added more fun to my experience!

And what Nemo said. I’ve become a fan of Boston recently.

I know I’m going to take some heat for this but, man, that is one UGLY Deadman by Kirby. In that panel where he first appears behind the medium, I couldn’t decide which character was the ugliest–Deadman or the medium.
In all honesty, Kirby is not one of my favorite artists but I *can* manage to appreciate most of the stuff he did up through the 60s (and, yes, I’ve seen a fair amount of his 40s and 50s stuff), but once he left Marvel, his work went down the tubes.

To Mark Evanier: You may want to update the Wikipedia entry on Deadman. It basically says what Brian reported:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deadman

In reading the Neal Adams issues to understand the character, Kirby noticed something that had apparently slipped by everyone else.

Wow, I’ve never seen that issue of the Forever People…but I have to disagree with Joseph and say that Kirby’s Deadman rules (He is pretty ugly, though). Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez do a pretty sweet run on Deadman too? And was the Mike Baron/Kelley Jones miniseries from the 80s any good?

Am I the only one who thinks giving Deadman a robot body is really @#$%ing stupid?

It wasn’t really necessary for Kirby to do any of that. The ending of Deadman has him returning to the world to provide the balance he saw was lacking, so it wasn’t as if he’d ridden off into the sunset and needed a reason to come back.
Since someone mentioned the reprint issues of the day (which I have quite a few of): Reading through my Showcase Presents the Metal Men I discovered the end of the first Chemo story (when they were still in Showcase tryout mode) had them commenting this was almost their last adventure; Doc tells them it will be, unless readers give them their own book.
In the seventies reprint, this was replaced with a speech about how they must never rest until man finally overcomes his inhumanity to man.

“You know — Snow — Poppy Juice — Opium, baby!”

Really enjoyed the spotlight on Deadman. I hope you are doing more comic legend spotlights on less mainstream characters in the future.

“Vykin the Black”? Oy.

Reading about Deadman and the Comics Code Authority reminds me of earlier columns about Code restrictions on the depictions of the undead. I take it Deadman is either not considered “undead” enough for the Code censors or the restrictions had been changed by that point. Maybe there is some bizarre, obscure section of the Comics Code that allows the depictions of the undead as long as they say drugs are bad?

A slight modification to the above…to where it says, “So to come up with ideas on what to do with Deadman, he read his original series, and it was there that Kirby recognized the same mistake we noted. Kirby, however, decided to use that mistake as the foundation for a new story that would appear in Forever People #9 and #10.”

Actually, I’m the one who recognized the mistake and called it to Jack’s attention. It was one of my teensy contributions to the storylines in those books.

Thanks, Mark!

I’ll edit that in!

I think a lot of people would think that giving Deadman a robot body is a pretty lame concept.
And Kirby’s Deadman in general seems lame. I think we can overlook that flawed revision of Deadman
compared to the awesomeness that is the 4th World.

To Rob Schmidt: why don’t you update wikipedia yourself, I’d prefer to think actual writers have more important work to do than fact-checking the internet all day.

Not to mention that adding/editing something that is about yourself in Wikipedia is a big no-no as far as I know…

“Am I the only one who thinks giving Deadman a robot body is really @#$%ing stupid?”

You’re a sad person for having a negative opinion about a wonderful comic book that uses classic archetypes. Giving Deadman a robot body is like giving birth to the Golem or Frankenstein’s monster.

Haven’t you heard that comics are all about “theme”–Deadman and the Hook = Cain and Abel or Captain Ahab and the whale–and not plot points? How dare you criticize something that Harold Bloom probably would include in the canon of Western literature?

Thus endeth today’s satirical comment.

To Aaron Poehler: I thought about it, but I don’t know exactly what happened, so I might not word it correctly. Besides, I can’t be sure that “Mark Evanier” is Mark Evanier. For these reasons, it would be better if Mark did it himself.

I don’t know of any prohibition against correcting Wikipedia with facts about yourself. You’re probably thinking of the controversies that arise over controversial subjects and changes. But this isn’t a controversial change, as far as I know.

“I’d prefer to think actual writers have more important work to do than fact-checking the internet all day.”

I believe much of Mark Evanier’s time is dedicated to researching and writing about all things Kirby. Why wouldn’t this be part of his work?

It took me about 15 seconds to look up something I was curious about. How long did it take Brian Cronin to write this posting? And how long did it take Mark, you, and everyone to read it and all the comments? Unless it was less than 15 seconds, your comment seems pretty worthless to me.

FYI, I’ve written 300-plus published articles and tens of thousands of Web pages and blog postings. When I need advice about how to manage my time, you’ll be the first one I ask.

“Vykin the Black”? Oy.

That was characteristic of Kirby, and of the times, too, I suppose. Kirby created or co-created three significant black costumed characters that I can think of offhand: The Black Panther, the Black Racer, and Vykin the Black. Notice a pattern?

Perhaps he was afraid that the colorists wouldn’t get it right otherwise. ;)

@Roman: JLGL did two runs on Deadman, one when Adventure was a dollar comic with Len Wein, and a later mini-series written by Andy Helfer. (Both should be reprinted!)

And in the middle of the Adventure run, the Deadman Showcase story by Conway, Levitz, and Aparo appeared, where Deadman talks about the Forever People trying to set him up with a robot and how that didn’t really work out.

Here’s a Kirby creation: “Non-Fat”, one of the “Dingbats of Danger Street”. Kirby didn’t name him “Non-Fat the Black”. And guess what? The colorist mis-colored him white!

http://gone-and-forgotten.blogspot.com/search?q=dingbats

Skinny power!

Wait…the Kirby story postulates that the Hook killed by the Sensei wasn’t Deadman’s actual murderer. That there was some kinda conspiracy involving the “Board of Directors” or somesuch. Was the Kirby story intended to overturn the conclusion in the Adams story? Give the character…ahem…new life? Was this discrepancy ever resolved by DC or has it been forgotten? This is the first time I’ve ever seen anything mentioned as anyone other than the Hook being Boston’s murderer.

And…isnt it about time DC reprints Apara/Garcia-Lopez’ Deadman stories from Adventure and his miniseries from the 80’s? That was some seriously beautiful stuff. The story involving Abraham Gold and his drug dealing son – that was actually continued into DC Comics presents with Superman was the best!

Nice Legends this week, Brian. I’ve never cared much about Deadman, but these facts were very interesting. I saw many of the early Deadman stories when they first came out, but never saw his actual origin, so thanks for that. The Neal Adams art was a big draw.

The problem Deadman has as a character is that he cannot interact with people except by possessing somebody, and thus can have no life of his own or a recurrent cast. Unless he finds a body to “wear” regularly- I heard he actually used the comatose body of Bruce Wayne’s long-lost older brother (???) as a host for a while. Any truth to that?

And btw, at the time Kirby was writing the Forever People, one of his characters was Dr. Bedlam, who was also a spirit who manifested through his androids. So using a robot to allow Deadman to interact directly for that story must have made sense to him.

Some may find it a sign of unoriginality, but regarding Deadman returning to comics later, I’ve always kind of admired how both DC and Marvel (maybe any others, too) rarely forget or throw out a character. They’re always willing to revisit them and give them another shot. Hell, half of DC’s Silver Age is based on the trend!

Reading about Deadman and the Comics Code Authority reminds me of earlier columns about Code restrictions on the depictions of the undead. I take it Deadman is either not considered “undead” enough for the Code censors or the restrictions had been changed by that point. Maybe there is some bizarre, obscure section of the Comics Code that allows the depictions of the undead as long as they say drugs are bad?

I’d imagine Deadman would be a G-G-G-G-GHOST!, ergo he wouldn’t count as being “undead.”

Haven’t you heard that comics are all about “theme”–Deadman and the Hook = Cain and Abel or Captain Ahab and the whale–and not plot points? How dare you criticize something that Harold Bloom probably would include in the canon of Western literature?

What’s your point, that Deadman isn’t about vengence? Or is the fact that Deadman worked in a circus or that his first enemies were drug dealers actually what Deadman about? I’m suprised that you haven’t complained that the Hook having his hook change hands means that the plot isn’t “fully realised”.

I find it interesting that they seemed to try to keep the paranormal in the Deadman stories restricted to largely just Deadman’s powers, hence his vying with narcotics dealers as opposed to, for example, sorcerers.

I always hated that cover to “Forever People” #9. The proportion and logistics of how that frankenstein’s arms and heads fit into the compartment he’s being lowered from, are just way off.

Heres a link to the ‘Feeling For You’ video

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLA1M7BKdGM&feature=related

The pen execution rocks…

I actually really like the idea of Deadman inhabiting an android body. I think that’s something DC should bring back.

Is the pen killing a Deadman thing? ‘Cause I’m pretty sure that Bullseye have done that before.

On the subject of covers — what is going on on the cover of Strange Avengers 205? Brant is leaping at the audience while the mysterious assassin shoots him in the nuts? A female dwarf stands on the back of an elephant that is already in the stands? A strongman gazing idly at the roof of the tent?

And while we’re at it, in the Kirby pages: is Deadman trying to cop a feel on the medium (2nd panel on page 15)? And no one should question Rob Liefeld’s penchant for uselessly big guns after seeing what the Manager aims at Deadman, especially given its barrel size:bullet size ratio.

Sijo, yes, in a couple of stories appearing in World’s Finest, Deadman winds up with the body of Bruce Wayne’s previously unknown brother, Thomas Jr.. World’s Finest 223 and 227.

The Deadman Vertigo reshuffle of a few years ago sucked big fat ones.Other than that Deadman rocks and mighty fine article!!

So what was the storyline about that he had two hooks?

Jawa, that’s basically the setup they use for Red Tornado. It was a major aspect to Brad Meltzer’s recent run on JLA.

I really hate to be such a nitpicker, but it is a pet peeve:

“Kirby was a trooper” should be “Kirby was a trouper.”

The article is interesting as always. Must reading on Fridays.

ThatGL/GA cover never fails to amuse, it’s Hal’s audition for Superdickery: ‘Haha Ollie, you’re not so big, Speedy’s a JUNKIE!’

[…] was much more explicit than the previous story). According to Brian Cronin’s always excellent Comic Book Legends Revealed series, Strange Adventures #205 was likely the first comic to mention […]

Kirby’s DIRECTOR (p.17)sure looks a lot like Comedian Don Rickles. “Whadda Ya want Deadman, A Cookie?” “We ALL have hooks for hands, ya Hookey-Puck!”

I was never a fan of Kirby’s as his style was too odd for me, but as I’ve grown older, I appreciate it more and it reminds me of Picasso (who I also didn’t care for for years but now love). Carmine Infantino reminds me of Dali, but I still do not care for his comic art. Anyone’s else art reminds them of a fine artist?

[…] reflected in the Comics Code. While it did not specifically prohibit the depiction of drug use, a general clause within the Code was interpreted by publishers and editors to mean that the depiction of drug use was disallowed in […]

Leave a Comment

 

Categories

Review Copies

Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.

Browse the Archives