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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Legends Revealed #243

Welcome to the two-hundred and forty-third 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 forty-two.

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 TV Legends Revealed to find out whether Oprah Winfrey got her unique first name due to a typo!

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: A Marvel executive insisted that a Marvel Western comic cover (and the REPRINT story within) be re-drawn with the bad guys given animals masks for no reason related to the comic’s story.

STATUS: True

For perhaps as long as I have been doing this column (which has got to be, what, ten – twelve years?), I have been trying to find the issue featured today, so I’m quite pleased to finally be presenting it to you all.

For years, Roy Thomas has occasionally told the story of the time when Chip Goodman (son of Marvel publisher Martin Goodman, who was preparing to retire of publisher of Marvel), attempted to step in into his father’s business, made a rather interesting decision with a Marvel Western comic.

Here’s one version of the story from Thomas, courtesy of a great feature with Thomas that Jon Cooke did in Comic Book Artist #2…

The most idiosyncratic situation we ran into in the early ’70s was… when [Chip] was briefly in charge of the company. It was a Western cover and Chip sent back word that he wanted all the bad guys in the story inside and on the cover to be wearing animal masks. We asked why and he said, ‘I don’t know. Maybe it’ll sell better.'”

I did not know WHICH “Western cover” it was until recently.

It was Summer of 1971’s Kid Colt Outlaw #149, which was actually a reprint of 1956’s Kid Colt Outlaw #59…

And yeah, here is both the cover by Herb Trimpe and John Severin…

along with the four-page story by Jack Keller (I don’t know who wrote it)…

As you can see, the animal masks not only make no sense for the story in the issue (which was a reprint, after all), but they are only used for the first page and the cover!

Pretty darn funny! I wonder if it DID increase sales?

Thanks to Roy Thomas and Jon Cooke for the information!

COMIC LEGEND: Walt Simonson based the look of Beta Ray Bill on Jack Kirby’s design for the High Evolutionary’s Super-Beast

STATUS: I’m Going With False

Reader Mac wrote in about a year ago to ask:

I’ve heard that Simonson, moved by the talent of Kirby in the early issues of Thor, based Beta Ray Bill on the High Evolutionary’s Super-Beast. True or false?

Here is the Super-Beast…

Here is Beta Ray Bill…



They don’t look THAT similar to me, but I can certainly see at least a case to be made for them looking similar.

In any event, in the great book, Modern Masters: Walter Simonson, Simonson discusses the creation of Beta Ray Bill…

I chose an alien because that seems further away from humanity. He’s got a little humanity in him, but that seems more exotic. I made him look like a monster because in short form comics, symbols are very important. You use symbols to get at meaning. One of the ways that manifests itself in simple form is that, mostly, bad guys are ugly and good guys are handsome. Except, of course, if they’re bad girls, in which case they’re beautiful but don’t wear a lot of clothes. [Laughter] I drew Bill as a monster, because readers would think he was evil. In fact, that was pretty much what happened. When Beta Ray Bill appeared and picked up the hammer, I got a lot of crabby letters. Fans knew the inscription. They knew that only the worthy could pick up the hammer. I didn’t get any letters from people saying, “You’re toying with us. This guy must be worthy.” Nobody. There may be 85,000 guys out there now who say, “I knew that,” but really, nobody got it.

and then later…

I’ve said elsewhere that I used a horse’s skull for the basis of Bill’s facial design. That’s because I wanted to combine the aspects of death that a skull represents with the beauty of a living horse.

That certainly doesn’t sound like he was basing it on an old Jack Kirby creation, does it?

And Simonson is such a straight shooter in his interviews (and, really, there isn’t anything damaging in saying “I based him visually on an old obscure Jack Kirby character,” so he has no reason to lie anyways), so I’m going to go with a “false” here.

Thanks to Mac for the question! And thanks to Roger Ash and Eric Nolen-Weathington for their great book, Modern Masters: Walter Simonson, for getting the information from Simonson, and thanks, of course, to Walt for talking to them about it!

COMIC LEGEND: J.T. Krul used to work on Seinfeld!

STATUS: True

Reader Bryan recently wrote in to say:

So I’m watching Seinfeld and I look up for a few seconds while the credits are rolling and I notice an assistant production coordinator credit for one Jeffery “JT” Krul. Is that the same guy who wrote the Titans books?

First off, it’s pretty funny that this comes up, as I was just featuring the TV Legends Revealed bit where a reader spotted the name of a Seinfeld character in the credits of Smallville, so he was curious what the deal is, and now a name in the Seinfeld credits leads to a similar question, only about a comic book creator!

In any event, yep, that’s the same J.T. Krul who has been writing Titans, including Blackest Night Titans (and upcoming stuff with Roy Harper)…

You see, Krul managed to get a break as a production assistant during the seventh season of Seinfeld…

In the eighth season, he was an assistant production coordinator (that’s the episode Bryan is referring to

Leading to him climbing the ranks to becoming the production coordinator in the ninth and final season of the show…

Krul then accompanied Sienfeld writer David Mandel to the Clerks animated series (which Mandel helped create), where Krul worked as an assistant.

Krul then worked with Mandel on the film Eurotrip…

Soon afterward, Krul began working in the world of comic books. First, with an issue of X-Men Unlimited in 2004…

And then getting his biggest break at the time, working on a number of titles for Michael Turner’s Aspen Comics…

More recently, Krul has found a spot working at DC, specifically on the Titans characters.

So yes, Bryan, that IS the same guy.

Thanks for the question!

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, last 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 all next week!

30 Comments

The Krul thing isn’t much of a “legend”, more of a trivia question.

I reckon a gorilla cowboy with a purple hat and shirt might make me buy a comic book.

I suspect that the reasoning behind the animal faces had to do with making it look more like Marvel’s latest mega-hit, which started with “C” and ended with “Onan.”

Everything’s better with Apes!

Aspen MLT even advertised with Krul as being a “Hollywood writer”.

Note that the animal masks appear on page 2, lying on the ground near the fire.

I loved KID COLT, OUTLAW. DC was my superhero universe of choice in grade school, but I read Marvel Westerns.

Western comic with animal masks? Hah! You haven’t seen the weirdest of it.

Just deceased french comics artist Tibet had a long running humor western series named Chick Bill. During most of its run it had fairly realistic (although cartoony) characters, but it started as a funny animal comic!

You see, on the first story the protagonist had a Disney-like “dogface” and the other characters had similar animal faces on human bodies, much like you see on a Carl Barks comics. However Tintin creator Hergé (who was also art director at the series’ publisher) HATED that and convinced Tibet to change it.

So on the next adventure it was shown that the characters were using animal masks! They spent the whole story running around with them and by the next one had no “masks” and regular human faces, that they kept for the roughly half a century the series lasted.

THAT is weird!

Best,
Hunter (Pedro Bouça)

Yeah the Western with animal faces reminds me of the back issue of a 1970’s Kamandi issue I have where animals are seemingly from the Old West and shooting at Kamandi. I have to wonder if perhaps someone at DC was inspired by that cover.

To further the Seinfeld/comic book connection, the Maestro’s full name was Bob Cobb, an alias that Mon-El once used. Has this been addressed here already?

Eurotrip is awesome. That is all.

Whataya mean Beta Ray Rill and Super-Beast don’t look alike? They’re both orange!

Drusilla lives!

January 15, 2010 at 1:42 pm

Perhaps Chip read the story “The Animal Faced Robbers” from All Top Comics #16. :)

JT also appeared as himself in the season finale of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” this year. During the shooting scenes, you see him several times. Some of the Seinfield production people were invited to be in the “fake” show.

He’s been the Man-Beast, not the Super Beast, for most of his career.

Walter Simonson

January 15, 2010 at 5:27 pm

Hey, Brian. One of my FB friends posted this link on my page for me to take a look at.

The reader who asked the question about BRB and Man Beast (as I believe he came to be called) may have written you a year ago, but as far as i can remember, this is the first time I’ve ever heard anyone suggest a connection between the two characters. LOL. FWIW – No connection whatsoever.

Truth in advertising compels me to say that I did read the Thor issue in question at the time it came out. I was deep into reading all the Marvels at that time (which was what–11 or 12 titles? ), and I am second to none in my admiration for the Lee/Kirby Thor run, especially around that time. But the notion of any inspiration of this sort has never crossed my mind. No one’s ever asked me about it in all the years since BRB was created.

Apart from his obvious debt to Thor for a variant costume (which was part of the visual cue within the story about what was actual happened when Bill struck the cane and gained the power of Thor), BRB was designed from the ground up as a character worthy of hefting Thor’s hammer. In a sense, I was looking for both a clean break from the past and a storyline with deep connections to Thor’s history. So what I needed was a character without antecedents in the series, but with his own history, a history that would parallel Thor’s to some extent.

And so BRB was born.

Walt Simonson is here! You rule! BRB is one of my favorite characters.

Ahem, sorry, the fanboy in me got out for a second. Anyway, I agree with the commenter that said the animal mask outlaws remind them of something from Kamandi. That interior panel with their masks on easily looks like it could be straight from a Kamandi issue. I’n not sure if the publishing dates line up for that to be a potential influence or not, however. I think Kamandi came out a little later than this.

“So on the next adventure it was shown that the characters were using animal masks! They spent the whole story running around with them and by the next one had no “masks” and regular human faces”

I always thought that the first human appearance of Chick Bill (& friends) was in “Kid Ordinn le Rebelle”, but no masks are seen there. So which one is the first “humans” issue ?

Jeez, JT Krul’s resume just keeps getting worse and worse, doesn’t it?

Eurotrip is awesome. That is all.

Just don’t tell Scotty. Scotty doesn’t know…

Great Trachtenberg shot!

Re: Beta Ray Bill, I knew the part about his face being based on a horse skull (from comments made by Simonson himself) though right now I can’t see how it reflects “the beauty of a living horse.” In fact he has always been quite hideous in my opinion (not a slight against the character, whom I actually like, but come on on, a horse skull?) Btw it should be noted that it’s NOT Bill’s natural form- he was bioengineered into a superform to defend his people, and Thor’s hammer’s magic later allowed him to regain his (much less ugly) natural form.

Re: Tibet and Chick Bill: according to the french Wikipedia, the first two adventures of Chick Bill, the ones with the anthropomorphic animal versions of the characters, were “Chick Bill contre l’Invisible” (Chick Bill vs the Invisible Man) and “Les Carottes sont Cuites” (Carrots are Cooked, a french expression meaning that things are really hopeless). In the next one, “La Route d’Acier” (The Steel Road), the animals started to blend with more human versions of the characters. Full human versions started with the fourth adventure in the series, “Kid Ordinn le Rebelle. Dogs were not the only animals featured in the series when it was anthropomorphic: Chick Bill was supposed to be a young rooster (although you wouldn’t know it by looking at him. Kid Ordinn, the somewhat dumb and porky deputy sheriff, was a pig. And the series is still going on (last adventure published in 2008, 54 years after its creation.

Here’s a legend you can explore: the creators of House, MD, were inspired by a comic book character for two of their characters. After all, one of the docs is called Cameron, while another is called Chase. Coincidence? I think not.

Well, sorry, but someone’s gotta say it:

Beta Ray Bill = Sarah Jessica Parker!

Merci, Gerard Morvan.

You just made me realise i’ve never read “La Route d’Acier”. I lost track of recent publications but the old ones, boy have i read them. I have most of them. I bought a lot of the INTÉGRALE bédés. But it seems this one eluded me.

When it comes to french comics, i’m very classic. My favorites are, of course, Goscinny, Charlier, Tardi, Peyo, Craenhals, Van Hamme, Franquin, Gotlib, Hermann, Fred, Hergé, Tome, Loisel… And then you get Tibet. He certainly didn’t reinvent the wheel (I also read all his Ric Hochet comics) but he was very effective and passionate. A great loss indeed.

Ace Frehley's gardener

January 16, 2010 at 8:26 am

This very similar description comes from Walt Simonson’s preface to the 1989 Beta Ray Bill TPB…

“Visually, Bill was designed to play against type. American comics are primarily a short story form. As a result, symbols are used relentlessly as an aid to shorthand communications in the medium. Which means that in the main, good guys looked like good guys, and bad guys looked like bad guys. An Adonis-like god who came to Earth and picked up Thor’s hammer would surprise no one. A monster who did the same thing would be startling. I needed a monster. At the same time, the underlying nobility of the character could still be suggested. Bill’s face was designed with a horse skull in mind. Few animals are so noble or beautiful as the horse.” – October 8, 1989

Hi Çteve!

I’m not sure about the exact Chick Bill animal mask story (“La Route d’Acier” maybe?), but it’s on the number 0 Intégrale. “Kid Ordinn le Rebelle” is the first “full human” story AFAIK. I’m not a big Chick Bill reader at all.

The last Chick Bill book by Tibet will be published this month. It was one of the three (!) books he left finished when he died. I don’t think the series will be continued after his death, since sales are quite poor, he kept doing the books because he enjoyed them.

Best,
Hunter (Pedro Bouça)

Peter Woodhouse

January 16, 2010 at 4:48 pm

SUPERECWFAN1: Kamandi came out in late 1972.

Funnily enough, in a thread devoted mainly to ‘things based on other things’, Kamandi was accused of being a rip-off of Planet Of The Apes (all down to the Statue of Liberty cover for ish 1) – but Kirby had thought of the idea 10-15 years beforehand. There’s more on the Kirby archive website (or is it Simon & Kirby – sorry I can’t remember the correct name or web address)/

P.

Useless information, but the first time I heard of Jerry Seinfeld was in the letter column of a Dazzler comic book (I don’t recall which issue.) The editor made a statement that Seinfeld was someone to look out for, he was “going places.”
I always use that story when I teach comedy classes or meet with other stand-up comics. You have to start somewhere.

So JT Krull got his start in TV years BEFORE he wrote comics? And was more likely to get a book from DC because he did SEINFELD?

Give me the good old days, when if you wanted to write comic books, you didn’t need to have a WGA card first…

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