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Comic Book Legends Revealed #252

Welcome to the two-hundred and fifty-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 fifty-one.

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 the story of how Michael J. Fox got “revenge” on Brandon Tartikoff!

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: Frank Frazetta turned down the opportunity to play professional baseball to draw comic books.

STATUS: I’m Going With True.

Amazingly enough, the world might have missed out on the artistic talents of Frank Frazetta! Instead, it is the world of baseball that missed out on the athletic skills of Frank Frazetta!

A few months back, reader Ed wrote in to ask:

I read somewhere, don’t remember where or when, that Frank Frazetta turned down a “bonus-baby” contract to play for the New York Giants baseball team. I think this was from an interview, so came from his own mouth. I can’t find any information about this online. Could it be true, and would there be any way to verify that the Giants actually offered him a contract, or did he just have scouts looking at him. This would have been right after WWII.

This story appears to basically be true, although I’m sure there’s a little puffery involved.

For instance, on the Frazetta Art Gallery site a few years back, it was said…

Frank did not start playing baseball until he was 15 years old, but within just a few short years of playing sandlot ball in Brooklyn, he was offered a contract to play center field for the New York Giants.

That’s stretching the truth of the matter a bit, as in the biography section, there is a more realistic take on the situation…

In this spot on the Frazetta Art Gallery web site, his baseball almost-career is discussed:

Through his teens, he continued drawing and painting, however he began to slack off due to his discovery of girls and baseball. In school he set several high school records, and eventually caught the attention of a scout for the New York Giants professional baseball team. Frank was offered a position on their farm squad with a good prospect of moving up to the major league within a season, but he turned them down. ” I was involved with a girl at the time,” Frazetta says a little sorrowfully. “And going down to Texas and sweating it out in the minors for a year didn’t seem very appealing. You have to remember that at that time athletes weren’t making the money they do today. They bussed you back and forth and it was just a big disgusting hassle. I remember that traveling to another state seemed like going to the end of the world, so I told them, maybe next year. Time went by and before I knew it I was too old. It was just my way of letting time make the decision for me. If I have any regrets it’s that I didn’t turn pro. If I was in my twenties and had it to do over – today, at today’s salaries – you better bet I’d do it. ”

And yeah, that’s basically the “rub” of the story – while yes, Frazetta most likely WAS offered a baseball contract (he was a very skilled baseball player in high school)…

what a “baseball contract” was in 1946 is very different than what you would think of a baseball contract today.

In 1946, the New York Giants had a whopping SEVENTEEN minor league baseball affiliates!

They were all over the country, in cities big and small!

Minneapolis
Danville
Trenton
Manchester
Hickory
Springfield
Anderson
Oshkosh
Jacksonville
Bristol
Jersey City
Erie
Peekskill
St. Cloud
San Francisco
Fort Smith
Richmond Colts

With that many affiliates, the amount of players who were offered “professional baseball contracts” was a lot higher than it it is now (not to mention the fact that pro ballplayers were chosen almost entirely from white people at the time) and with that many affiliates, your average player was not exactly making a lot of money.

And while Frazetta was a great physical specimen…

there was no guarantee that he would actually make the majors (he wasn’t a prospect along the level of, say, a Whitey Ford – just to name a major prospect signed around the same time).

And even if he were to buck the odds and MAKE the majors, even THEN he would not be guaranteed a hefty salary!

So when you add in very little upfront money and a lot of travel, all with the promise of MAYBE making the Majors, it was not exactly a great job offer if you had steady work at the time.

And comic books in the late 1940s/early 1950s had a lot more definitive work for a guy like Frazetta, so it’s not surprising at all to see him choose drawing comics over playing minor league baseball. So, coupled with the many accounts of his baseball acumen from the people who knew him as a youth, plus the fact that Frazetta has consistently told the story over the years (with just the specifics moving a bit as time goes by), I’m willing to say that yes, Frazetta did, indeed, turn down a professional baseball job to draw comics.

And from his perspective at the time, it surely seemed to pay off…

By the end of the decade and the beginning of the next, Frazetta was all over comics…

And when comics stopped paying, Frazetta moved on to comic strips, and then to book covers, which is where his real worldwide fame began, as his science fiction and fantasy paintings are famous the world over.

And it all could have gone very differently if he had said yes to baseball as a teen.

Thanks to Ed for the question!

EDITED TO ADD: Reader Gavin informs me that a documentary on Frazetta, Frazetta: Painting With Fire, went into depth on Frazetta’s baseball history. Very cool info, Gavin, thanks! So the “true” is even more solid than I thought!

COMIC LEGEND: A black and white EC Comics reprint uncovered a decades-old X-rated prank.

STATUS: True

Late last year I did a Comic Book Legends Revealed installment on how an issue of X-Men, when reprinted in black and white for Marvel’s Essentials format, had some slight nudity where nudity was never meant to be shown (inker Terry Austin added some female anatomy for the sake of definition – it was intended to be covered up when the book was colored).

Well, a similar situation occurred in 1979 when Russ Cochran did the EC Archives Edition of Tales From the Crypt, with black and white reprints of the original series.

Here’s a page from Tales From the Crypt #29….

Here’s a panel from the issue…

Nothing weird, right?

Well, here’s that same panel in black and white (you can click to enlarge it a bit more)…

talescryptbw

And here is a detail of that panel….

Of course, in this instance, it was an intentional joke by original artist Joe Orlando that was intended to be colored over so that it would never be visible.

The best part about this story is that a few years after the collection came out , someone noticed the prank and informed Bill Gaines, who then wrote to Orlando to “complain” about the prank (Gaines was a noted prankster himself, so it’s highly unlikely that he actually cared, almost certainly he was writing to acknowledge the decades-old prank).

And Orlando replied to him feigning outrage at the suggestion.

The great Bhob Stewart featured the prank on his great web site here. Stewart has a copy of Orlando’s full letter to Gaines (written on DC Comics stationery) at that above link. It’s a great read – well worth reading. Heck, Stewart’s whole site, Potzrebie, is a great read as a whole and well worth reading.

COMIC LEGEND: Dreadknight was originally going to be the mysterious Masters of Evil member in Amazing Spider-Man #283.

STATUS: I’m Going With False

In the other week’s Comic Book Legends Revealed, I discussed how Tom DeFalco was planning to introduce a brand-new Spider-Man villain during his run on Amazing Spider-Man in Amazing Spider-Man #283, but since he left the book soon after, he brought the character to his run on Thor.

Well, apparently there is some matter of debate over whether that was the ORIGINAL intent for that character in #283.

Readers Omar Karindu and trajan23 both wrote (respectively)…

The rumor I always heard was that the MoE-to-be was supposed to be Dreadknight.

Dreadknight was listed as a Master of Evil in the Marvel Handbook a few months before the Under Siege story began, and I think Roger Stern said somewhere that he wanted the evil Black Knight’s successor in there somewhere.

and

The Marvel Appendix also goes with the Dreadknight as the intended MoE-to-be as well.

As to the first point, here is the page from the Handbook…

Note the circled part.

And here is the quote from the great Unofficial Marvel Appendix site on the Masters of Evil

The mystery member of the Masters of Evil in Amazing Spider-Man I#283 was almost certainly supposed to be the Dreadknight, who was from Europe, was a good match-up for the Black Knight, and had been named as a member of the Masters of Evil in the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Deluxe Edition #4. However, Tom DeFalco decided to make it his newly-created villain the Mongoose instead. He was also intending to set up the Mongoose as a Spider-Man villain, but wound up establishing him in Thor after his abrupt departure from the Spider-Man titles.

Well, awhile back, someone asked Roger Stern about Amazing #283 on his web forum, and he replied:

No, Tom DeFalco wrote AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #283. The last issue of ASM that I scripted was #250.

However, Tom and I coordinated events between AVENGERS and ASM so that the Absorbing Man and Titania bounced back and forth between the comics and stayed consistent.

(Believe it or not, there was a time when this was common.)

I believe that Tom and Ron Frenz intended the mystery villain to be a new Spider-Man foe. But they ran into editorial problems and left the book shortly after that issue. I believe they later used the mystery villain during their run on THOR, but I don’t remember who he was.

So it sure seems that the Mongoose was always intended to be the mystery character, as Stern does not even hint at anyone other than a new Spider-Man villain being the character in #283, and since he’d be the one who would have had it be Dreadknight, he would be the one who would remember it, ya know?

I think it’s clear enough that I’m willing to go with a “false” here!

Thanks to Omar Karindu and trajan23 for the suggestion and thanks to Roger Stern for the info (and Dicky El for asking Roger the question)!

Be sure to check out the Unofficial Appendix to the Marvel Universe, while you’re at it! It’s a great site!

Okay, that’s it for this week!

Thanks to the Grand Comics 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!

37 Comments

The story about Frazetta and baseball is covered in the documentary about him. I highly suggest it…great doc flick.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0363621/

You should check it out if you’ve never seen it.

Thanks a lot, Gavin!

I’ve edited it in.

(Believe it or not, there was a time when this was common.)

more’s the pity it doesn’t anymore.

You don’t get told enough, Brian….great stuff!!

Tom Fitzpatrick

March 19, 2010 at 6:42 am

I love those x-rated prank panels. They’re always meant to be funny and is usually meant to test the watchful eyes of the reader.

You should do a column, Mr. B.C., listing all the different kind of pranks and insults, what books/issues they’re in and showcase the panels in question.

Just for the fun of it.

;-)

Matthew Johnson

March 19, 2010 at 6:46 am

I can’t wait to read the alternate history story where Frank Frazetta and Fidel Castro square off on opposing minor-league teams.

bounced back and forth between the comics and stayed consistent.

(Believe it or not, there was a time when this was common.)

I miss those times…

Someone must have told/given the Handbook writers the idea that Dreadknight was going to be in the new Masters of Evil. I wonder who, and why, ultimately, he never showed up alongside the other Masters.

But which teams would Chuck Conners and Kurt Russell play for?

I’m glad someone mentioned Frazetta: Painting with Fire…I was going to in relation to the baseball legend in case it hadn’t already been brought up. Frazetta himself talks about the baseball thing, but I don’t remember if he talks about any contracts. I think he (or maybe his family) just says he could have gone pro if he wanted to.

I watched it after taking a chance on Fire and Ice a few months ago. I never knew too much about Frazetta before since I was never that big a fan of Conan or fantasy art.

Anyway, that’s a great documentary. There’s no agenda, no sob story, just a look at the man’s life and work. They bring in a lot of comic artists like John Buscema and Neal Adams to offer commentary. Ralph Bakshi’s a funny guy in his interview segments too. There’s a hilarious scene at the end where he’s pretending to walk out of Frazetta’s home with one of his million dollar paintings tucked under his T-shirt.

You can rent this easy off of Netflix. Get the bonus material DVD along with the main film because it has equally quality material on it.

Conners would likely play for a team that had a lot of advertising from the NRA. Russell likely wouldn’t play at all because of the eye patch, but maybe the Pirates would give him a tryout.

Wow look at the exclamation points in that Tales From the Crypt comic!!!!!!!!!!!

I thought the EC thing would be that CLINT in all capitals looks a lot like CUNT.

Thanks, Brian!

I still don’t remember where the original interview that prompted this question appeared. I can’t even remember whether or not he actually said it was a “bonus-baby” deal, or if I just inferred that. (A bonus-baby deal meant that the player HAD to be on the major-league roster for the first two years of the contract. The rule was meant to discourage the rich clubs from locking up all of the high level amateur talent and then hiding them in the minors. Most of them spent two years sitting on a major league bench until they could be sent down.)

As for Fidel Castro, Chuck Connors and Kurt Russell, I believe Castro had a tryout with the Washington Senators, Connors actually played 67 games in the majors (1 with the Dodgers, 66 with the Cubs) and also played in the NBA, and Russell was a Dodger farmhand before a career-ending injury (but I have no idea if he was really good enough to make the majors anyway).

A quick search tells me that Kurt Russell was in the Angels minor-league system, not the Dodgers, and that he was in class AA when his injury occurred in ’73. As he’d been acting in movies for about 10 years by then, and this was before most baseball players got rich, he must have been very dedicated.

>Be sure to check out the Unofficial Index to the Marvel Universe, while you’re at it! It’s a great site!

Personally, I like the Unofficial Appendix to the Marvel Universe.

>Of course, in this instance, it was an intentional joke by original artist Joe Orlando that was intended to be colored over so that it would never be visible.

Wertham was right! There are pictures within pictures if you know where to look!

About writers calling each other up and making sure their details fit– Why DON’T they do that anymore?

The Castro/Washington Senators thing has been pretty much debunked by snopes.com.

Mary, the better writers do.

The “Star” writers don’t because, why bother..they’re STARS!

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

March 19, 2010 at 2:51 pm

At least part of the rumor may stem from the fact that the OHOTMU’s guiding light and editor/writer was Mark Gruenwald, who was also editing the Avengers books at the same time.

In addition, the Handbooks sometimes previewed new or upcoming material — the issue prior to the one with Dreadknight’s entry had Cyclops in a never-before-seen version of his costume intended for early issues of X-Factor, though the design was tweaked before the actual comics came out.

A few other members of Zemo’s Masters were similarly “previewed” in the OHOTMU Deluxe Edition. Two issues later, for example, Goliath (Erik Josten) was listed as one of the “new Masters of Evil” in the “Group Affiliations” section of his entry, and he did indeed turn up as a member of the Under Siege Masters roster.

Hidden x-rated images are always juvenile…but at least this one is funny.

Here’s a pic of the Cyclops costume mentioned by Omar

http://ape-law.com/GAF/2007/09/classic-gone-and-forgotten-official.html

Peter Woodhouse

March 19, 2010 at 5:09 pm

Dreadknight: Real name Bram Velsing… obviously whoever did create him was a Dracula fan…

P.

Frazetta: Hey, I didn’t know he did Disney-type comics too! I’d never recognize his artwork from the cover of Goofy Comics! :D

The Prank: …Eh, I don’t care much for this kind of stuff. Sneaking porn stuff into comics where it isn’t supposed to be just looks unprofessional to me. (And I assure you i have quite the sense of humor, including for adult stuff. But everything has its place.)

Dreadknight: “About writers calling each other up and making sure their details fit– Why DON’T they do that anymore?”
Big egos + lazy editors. :(

Alex the great

March 19, 2010 at 8:49 pm

Todd McFarlane wanted to be a major league baseball player and I think he played some minor baseball. He gave Spawn’s real name as Al Simmons, the guy he roomed with at EWU, who also played baseball there.

Personally, I like the Unofficial Appendix to the Marvel Universe.

Yeah, them, too. ;)

Bizen 247 wrote:
Ralph Bakshi’s a funny guy in his interview segments too. There’s a hilarious scene at the end where he’s pretending to walk out of Frazetta’s home with one of his million dollar paintings tucked under his T-shirt.

Hey, isn’t that just about what happened with Frazetta’s son recently?

Daniel O' Dreams

March 20, 2010 at 2:49 am

@ Mike Blake

Yeah that was the first thing I thought of too. It’s disturbingly similar, but much more complex. I’m acquainted with one of his sons and it was all over the papers where I live. It seems there’s some contention about whether Frazetta gave the paintings to his son. Of course it’s his OTHER son (the one I know) who has the legal rights to them.

Bakshi probably didn’t use a back hoe to get at them, either.

D, thanks for the info on Castro and the Senators.

BleedingCool.com just had an article about dirty dealing regarding Frank Frazetta..

http://www.bleedingcool.com/2010/03/19/blog-alleges-crimes-against-frank-frazetta/

You know you read too much comics when you see also an X-Man in the X-rated prank panel. Bottom, right.

There have been some awesome documentary’s on comic folk that I have seen on Sundance and IFC.he Frank Frazetta doc already mentioned was excellent/I recorded it on the vcr way back when,Of course there is Crumb obviously about the underground artist and then there was a very cool doc on Harlan Ellison that I watched about 9 months ago.Not sure what it was called but he was outrageous and unruley as ever. There are so many more that I wish could be gone.Say…on Steranko,Dave Stevens,Neal Adamsnd many more. try to hunt them out.

A baseball “bonus baby” contract was a contract that included a large enough bonus that the major league baseball team making the signing was required to keep the player on its 40-man roster for a couple of years and not send him to the minors. This policy usually made it very difficult to develop such players, and thus many of these bonus babies washed out. The two major exceptions were Sandy Koufax (who struggled for many years) and Harmon Killebrew (who ended up being sent down to the minors anyway for some time after his first two seasons). This rule was finally killed for good in 1965.

If Frazetta had been offered a “bonus baby” contract, he would have been offered a ton of money and would not have been sent to play in some small minor league town. So it sounds like that you are correct in saying that Frazetta was offered a contract to play minor league baseball, the answer to Ed’s question as to whether Frazetta turned down an offer of a “bonus baby” contract from the Giants is almost certainly no.

Yeah, Greg, to be honest, I meant to mention it when Ed made his comment that I totally overlooked the “Bonus Baby” aspect of Ed’s question. That part, as both you and Ed noted, is not true.

Always liked Dread Knight. He’s like a more evil version of Dr. Doom.

I really thought the X Rated Prank was that the guys name was CLINT
which at a quick glance can sure look like another word that starts with C

Yea she says “long and hard” and he says CLInT

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