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Comic Books, Film
Welcome to the two-hundred and thirty-ninth 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 thirty-eight.
Comic Book Legends Revealed is 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 installment of Music Legends Revealed where we learn the secret origin of “December, 1963 (Oh What a Night)!”
Since it is Christmas-time, the time of gift giving, it calls to mind the concept of “re-gifting” (reusing a gift you’ve been given as a gift to someone else) – and that, in effect, is the theme for this week’s legends! After the last two installments about Walt Simonson re-packaging two unpublished comics (John Carter of Mars and Tarzan, respectively) into totally different comics, this week has three legends ALL about re-purposing comics!
COMIC LEGEND: Marv Wolfman and Steve Ditko re-did a fill-in issue for Godzilla as a brand-new Dragon-related character.
In 1977, Marvel Comics licensed the use of Godzilla for an ongoing comic series.
Like their other licensed purchases of the late 1970s, though, the book did not sell too well, and by 1979, it was canceled…
However, before the book was canceled, Marvel produced a fill-in issue of the title, which was common for the time, as books would have completed issues “in the can,” ready to slot in if a book was late (often these books would be drawn by older artists, who tended to be faster – guys like Carmine Infantino, Steve Ditko, George Tuska, etc.).
Well, as we have seen the last two installments of Comic Book Legends Revealed, Marvel definitely did not waste anything back then, so the Godzilla fill-in by Marv Wolfman and Steve Ditko, ended up appearing in the pages of the re-launched Marvel Spotlight in 1980 as Dragon Lord, about a fellow who can control dragons.
Honestly, the comic translates pretty well.
Here’s the ending…
I particularly love the bit where they basically cut Godzilla out of the page and have that be “disappearing from our time.” That was pretty darn clever, all things considered.
Amusingly enough, while this is a bit less certain, it sure does seem like the dragon stand-in for the Godzilla character is a lot like Droom, a Godzilla-like monster from Tales to Astonish #9 (Ditko worked on that issue, but not that story – Don Heck drew the Droom story, and Jack Kirby did the cover)…
Dan Slott and Christos Gage would bring Dragon Lord out of his almost thirty year long stay in limbo when they had him join The 50-State Initiative in 2007 (Avengers: Initiative #8).
Sadly, his tenure was cut short, as he died the next issue…
In issue #12, Slott and Gage do a nice callback to the Marvel Spotlight story, showing his family from that issue…
Not a bad life (and death) for a re-purposed character!
COMIC LEGEND: P. Craig Russell’s Robin 3000 series was originally created as a Tom Swift revamp.
Our own Pol Rua reminded me of this a couple of weeks ago, so here it is…
In 1992, DC Comics released a two-part, prestige format series called Robin 3000, by P. Craig Russell and Byron Preiss.
It was, naturally enough, about Robin in the year 3000.
Tom Wayne, nephew of Bruce Wayne the 20th, helps save Earth from a race of despotic aliens.
The series was quite good (Russell is amazing, after all), but it did not really feel much like a Batman/Robin tale.
Here, for example, are a few sample pages…
Good stuff, but not a very Bat-like book.
And that was because it was originally intended to be a Tom Swift series!
Tom Swift was created in 1910, as a series of science fiction young adult novels starring the titular character, who would invent devices and use science to help save the day.
The original series of novels ran from 1910 to 1941.
Another series of novels, ostensibly Tom Swift JR. now, ran from 1954 to 1971, and was arguably just as influential as the original run.
The character was purchased by Simon and Schuster in the 1980s, who have owned the character ever since.
It was during the 1980s, that the project that became Robin 3000 originally came into being, as Tom Swift 3000!
P. Craig Russell explains the situation thusly:
It was around ’85 or ’86 that publisher/packager Byron Preiss approached me with the idea of a book for young teenagers based on the old Tom Swift series of books updated (all the way to the year 3000) and presented as a series of graphic novellas. He was producing it for Simon and Schuster, the publishing house that also had the rights to the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy books which they were planning to relaunch. Tom Swift would tie in with an eye to the comics market. Oboy, Simon and Schuster! I was impressed. Now, most of my friends in Kent were in or associated with the English department at Kent State University. My being published by companies like First, Pacific, or Eclipse meant nothing to them. Marvel had a certain cachet. But Simon and Schuster? Eyebrows were raised. I admit it was a part of the seduction like being asked to the dance by one of the ‘cool’ kids… you hardly know the person but everyone else is so impressed. Anyway, after just having finished adaptations of works by the likes of Maeterlinck, Kipling, and Wilde I thought it would be fun to draw a space opera with all the sorts of hardware and futuristic backgrounds I had not drawn since Killraven. A lark. “You know…for kids.”
I should have taken it as an omen when, shortly before I was ready to begin, my model broke his arm. I found someone else and got all my research photos. There was a short series of delays, I forget why, and by the time I was back to it my original model had his cast off and I started over, feeling embarrassed having to tell the other person I wouldn’t be using him after all. I had never worked on a project in which the script was being re-written in the course of drawing it. I also had never had to deal, albeit second hand, with such a hands-on art director as I had at S & S. I would send in pages to Byron who would take them to S & S, and then relay to me the needed changes. The most notorious came at the coloring stage.
(I’ve snipped the digression)
Back to the discussion…
So… it was finally finished, 58 pages and a cover designed by Steranko (an 8 by 11 xerox layout that looked like he tossed it off in a matter of minutes and was absolutely spot-on in its dynamics and composition. I followed it exactly). Nothing happened. It was slated for S & S’s Spring schedule. It was slated for S & S’s Fall schedule. It was slated for Spring. Then Fall. Finally it was slated for bupkis! S & S was not going to be publishing graphic novels.
Lesson #2: Just When You Think You’ve Covered Everything IN The Contract. Theres always a provision about the return of original artwork, usually within 60 to 90 days of publication. This is what I had in my contract with Byron. But what happens if they don’t publish? There it sits, in the publisher’s (or producer’s) drawer. We (Star*Reach and I) asked for it back… no dice.
Finally, some five years later, Byron took it over to DC Comics and pitched it as an Elseworlds book. Tom would be re-incarnated as Robin in the year 3000 and new material would be added to incorporate Batman and bracket the story. And why is this guy running around who is now called Robin but is not dressed like him? Um… ’cause he’s undercover… yeah, that’s it, he’s undercover, thats the ticket. So I called back my ‘Tom’ model, now married, a daddy, and a good 25 pounds heavier and drew the new 18 pages and produced a new cover for the second volume—my Wally Wood/EC Comics/Sci-Fi homage.
And thats how a sweet little sci-fi nostalgia romp became Robin 3000.
Pretty cool, huh?
Thanks to François Peneaud’s awesome P. Craig Russell fan site for the quote, P. Craig Russell for being so helpful with the information, and my pal Pol for reminding me of this one! I had meant to feature this, like, literally four years ago and I never got around to it!
COMIC LEGEND: The illustrated novella Cycle of the Werewolf was originally going to be an original graphic novel by Stephen King and Bernie Wrightson.
Speaking of older legend ideas, the following was suggested by a reader (I’m afraid I’ve lost the name of the reader – Blogger is not very good at searching comments) over four years ago…
I’ve heard that King and Wrightson’s Cycle of the Werewolf was originally intended to be a graphic novel, but got scaled back to an illustrated prose novel before publication.
Cycle of the Werewolf was a 1984 short novel by Stephen King, with illustrations by Bernie Wrightson.
Here’s one of the illustrations by Wrightson (man, Ditko, Russell and now Wrightson – the theme should be “amazing comic book artists!”)…
Cycle of the Werewolf DID have an odd genesis, but it was not a re-worked graphic novel.
Wrightson, as you might know, is a great horror artist, and he certainly can draw a mean werewolf. Here are a few covers by Wrightson with werewolves on them…
So in the early 1980s, Wrightson was hired to draw a series of werewolf pin-ups for use in a calendar.
King was attached to the project to write short vignettes for each month, with each one being a sort of “chapter” in one story.
However, after King began working on the project, he began to write too much and it soon became clear that it was not going to work as a calendar. Naturally, no one is going to turn down a new Stephen King book, especially one with great illustrations by Bernie Wrightson, so the calendar idea was dropped and it became a novella, Cycle of the Werewolf.
Thanks for the suggestion, reader from four years ago whose name I have forgotten!
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!
Merry Christmas, everybody!
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