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!
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!
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.
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)…
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.
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!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Here is the cover by artist Mickey Duzyj. I think he did a very nice job (click to enlarge)…
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See you all next week!