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Comic Book Legends Revealed #253

Welcome to the two-hundred and fifty-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 fifty-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 Board Game Legends Revealed for a special edition focused solely on legends related to the game of Monopoly, including the bizarre origins of the game!

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: The Phantom ended up becoming purple because Lee Falk was out of the country when it came time to decide what color to make the Phantom, so without his input they made him purple.

STATUS: False

The “false” aspect of this legend is pretty simple, but the true parts of the story are a good deal more interesting.

Let’s get the “false” stuff out of the way right off the bat.

On Lee Falk’s IMDB trivia page, it reads:

Originally intended The Phantom’s costume to be gray. However, when Lee was traveling around the world, syndicate King Features had to find a color to the costume without his permission, and thereby The Phantom received his trademark purple outfit.

Well, as we already discussed back the last time Lee Falk came up in Comic Book Legends Revealed (this installment), this was not true as Falk never left the United States until after World War II (Phantom became purple in 1939), and until the War, he never even traveled much within the United States ITSELF (he stuck mostly to the Midwest).

So yeah, that was not why the Phantom became purple, which he has remained colored ever since…

The actual reason, to be frank, is a bit of a mystery.

According to Falk on a few occasions, it was a printing error, but I’ve never seen that confirmed. The other rumor was that it was an intentional decision because Falk’s preference, gray, would not appear consistent in the strip (this was the same basic reason why the Hulk became green). Honestly, either one makes sense.

What’s more interesting to me, though, is just the odd history of the character’s coloring period.

When the Phantom debuted in 1936, he was clearly intended to be gray. Heck, Falk originally wanted to call him The Gray Ghost, but changed his mind.

However, the Phantom appeared in black and white, so while Falk could INTEND him to be gray, there was no definitive color scheme for the character that his Syndicate would send out to other people.

And as time went by and people began to put the Phantom into collections, well, let’s just say that they all pretty much did whatever they wanted.

In a 1937 Italian collection of the strips, he was colored all different colors…

When he was first collected in America in 1938, the costume was colored red/orange…

In Australia in 1938, he was lime green!

Interestingly enough, though, Falk did not shy about the color WITHIN the comic, it was just that, well, who is going to notice a small reference here and there over a few years?

But soon after the Phantom debuted, he is described in a 1936 strip…

And in 1938…

Finally, in 1939, King Features, Falk’s syndicate, began doing the Phantom strip as a Sunday strip, which meant that they finally HAD to color the Phantom.

And they went with purple (the part about them not consulting with Falk is true – we just don’t know if they didn’t consult with Falk and just decided to go with purple or if they didn’t consult with Falk and meant to make him gray and just screwed up).

However, hilariously, Falk just ignored this during his daily strips!

He just kept having the Phantom be gray!!

In 1940…

1945…

all the way up until 1953!!!

Finally, in 1956, Falk relented…

Eventually, he even came up with an explanation for the coloring of the costume in the strips (something about the dye from berries).

Pretty crazy, huh? For almost twenty years, he was gray in the daily strip and purple in the Sunday strip!

Thanks to the amazing Bryan Sheddon for collecting all these panels and for having one of the greatest Phantom site the internet will likely ever see, The Deep Woods. Be sure to check it out!

COMIC LEGEND: Sappho was among the initial group of beings who lent Mary Marvel her powers!

STATUS: True

Mary Marvel first appeared in Captain Marvel Adventures #18 in 1942, about a year after the first Captain Marvel spin-off (Captain Marvel, Jr.) debuted (she was Billy Batson’s long lost twin sister).

Created by Otto Binder and Marc Swayze (she was designed by Swayze), Mary Marvel was shocking to the senses of young Billy Batson (and I’m sure young boys everywhere), as she was a superhero but also a GIRL!

However, luckily, while Mary Marvel had powers like her brother, the wizard Shazam wouldn’t dream of sullying the good names of the folks who lent part of their powers to create Captain Marvel’s magic word, “Shazam” (S for the wisdom of Solomon, H for the strength of Hercules, A for the stamina of Atlas, Z for the power of Zeus A for the courage of Achilles and M for the speed of Mercury) by making them give their powers to a GIRL, too (Yuck! A GIRL!).

So instead, he looked to a different group of folks to give Mary HER magic word “Shazam.”

It’s an eclectic group, including: Selena for grace, Hippolyta for strength, Ariadne for skill, Zephyrus for fleetness (and flight), Aurora for beauty, and Minerva for wisdom.

As you might notice, that’s a weird mix because you got yourself…

A Greek goddess, an Amazon, an ex-girlfriend of Theseus, a Greek GOD (for some reason they chose to use the male version of Zephyr, Zephyrus, but when it came time to depict them all, Zephyrus was drawn as a woman like all the rest), another Greek goddess and finally, a Roman goddess.

In current continuity, Mary just shared the same folks as Billy.

In any event, oddly enough, it was not Selena who originally gave Mary the “S” in Shazam, but rather, Sappho!

Yes, Sappho, the ancient Greek poetess from the Isle of Lesbos whose name (and place of origin) gave rise to the adjectives “sapphic” and “lesbian,” which ultimately became references to female homosexuality.

This is not that odd for the time, as DC Comics at around the same time had Wonder Woman remarking “Suffering Sappho!” not infrequently…

But Fawcett editor Rod Reed was not a fan of the idea.

In Comics Interview #18, in an interview of Reed by John Pierce, Reed notes:

[H]ere’s a scoop. Selena represents the first letter in Mary’s SHAZAM, right. Well, man, the original was Sappho! I killed her. I was not then enlightened about the healthful effects of homosexuality and lesbianism. In a small way, I was the Anita Bryant of my time. But I said, “Ol’ Sappho must go,” and that’s how Selena got in.

Imagine if that had not been changed (actually, I bet it wouldn’t have been that much different back then, see Wonder Woman’s use of “Suffering Sappho!” without incident, but when DC picked the characters up in the 1970s I wonder if it would have been altered)!

Thanks to Comics Interview, John Pierce and Rod Reed for the information!

By the by, is Rod Reed still alive?

COMIC LEGEND: Jack Kirby drew the Thing’s hide to be like a “dinosaur hide.”

STATUS: True, at least definitely true at first.

Reader Eli wrote in a few weeks back to ask:

From Scott Shaw’s Facebook Page:

“People often refer to the Fantastic Four’s Ben Grimm AKA “The Thing” as “the orange guy made out of rocks”. (The FF’s Human Torch once described Ben as “a walking pile of peach pits” — then promptly got clobbered!) But according to Ben’s co-creator, the late, great Jack Kirby, he’s NEITHER! Joltin’ Jack once told my friend Pete Von Sholly that the Thing is “a super-strong gorilla covered with dinosaur hide”! Cool!”

Is this true?

It is true, Eli, but it is also somewhat misleading.

Apparently, a recent Jack Kirby Collector (#54) actually had a whole feature by Will Murray on this issue (thanks to reader Boomtuber for pointing it out), so I got some specific quotes for you all on it, as reader Corey wanted specific Kirby quotes, which is fair enough.

You see, first off, Kirby wanted the Thing to be like dinosaur hide. From Murray’s piece in the Jack Kirby Collector…

“If you’ll notice, the beginnings of Ben, he was kind of lumpy. I felt he had the power of a dinosaur, and I began to think along those lines. I wanted his flesh to look like dinosaur hide.”

And when you look at it, that seems pretty evident…

Even after he first made the Thing change appearance, Kirby was STILL thinking in terms of “dinosaur hard plates” rather than “rocks.”

From Murray’s piece…

“Dinosaurs had thick-plated hides, and of course that’s what the Thing had.”

You can see what Kirby meant when he inked the cover of Fantastic Four #8 by himself, rather than his then-inker, Dick Ayers…

Notice that the Thing does look “scaly” rather than “rocky.”

Dick Ayers could never figure out what Kirby wanted, but TRIED to at least move from the Thing being “muddy” to the Thing being “scaly,” but it was not until Goerge Roussos began inking the book that the Thing pretty much overnight became “rocky,” as Roussos tried to capture what he thought Kirby wanted.

Here’s Ayers’ last issue and then Roussos’ first issue…

Pretty big difference, huh?

At the time, though, Kirby kept penciling the Thing the same way – like a scaly/
plate-y” creature, it was just up to his inkers on how they interpreted the look.

Here’s a 1962 pencil drawing Kirby did for Jerry Bails’ legendary fanzine, Alter Ego…

See how it basically IS dinosaur-like? But it was up to his inkers on how to interpret Kirby’s take on The Thing, and Ayers and Roussos had a vastly different approach to it.

But when Joe Sinnott joined the book, things changed dramatically. First, he made the Thing look like the “rocky” Thing that we know (and love) today.

Here’s his first issue (#44), where you can see it beginning…

And then, after he had some more time on the book, here he is in #51 (do note that Stan Lee specifically told Sinnott to change anything he felt like changing about Kirby’s pencils – that was how respected Sinnott was as an artist at the time – no offense to the previous inkers of Kirby on FF, but Sinnott’s hiring was seen at the time as a sort of “Okay, this book is pretty darn popular, I suppose we can afford the best inker possible now” deal)…

This is the way the Thing appeared in comics basically ever since.

The big difference between Sinnott and everyone else, though, is that when Sinnott made a change to Kirby’s pencils, Kirby actually tended to pay attention (Sinnott also adjusted Reed’s appearance, making him look a bit more polished looking).

So under Sinnott, Kirby actually began to PENCIL the Thing differently based on how Sinnott was INKING him!

Check out these pages from FF #76…

and FF #89…

See?

So yeah, originally, Kirby viewed the Thing as having “dinosaur hide,” but that ended up just being the first few years of the Thing’s existence (basically pre-Sinnott). For the rest of his career, when Kirby drew the Thing, he drew it the way we know him today.

Thanks for the question, Eli! And thanks to Will Murray and the Jack Kirby Collector for the great quotes! Also, thanks to Jack Kirby Collector #9 for the uninked Kirby pages (and the Jerry Bails penciled drawing).

This all being said, I surely don’t mean to suggest that he didn’t still tell people he drew the Thing like he had dinosaur hide. Pete Von Sholly nicely stopped by in the comments to say what the King said to him, and I have no doubt that Kirby did not qualify his statement to him about how he drew the Thing. Thanks a lot for stopping by, Pete!

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!

85 Comments

When I was taking German in high school, wayyy back in the 70′s, I subscribed to the German “Superman-Batman” magazine. To my surprise, Batman’s costume was purple in German. As I learned more about the comics printing process, I found:
• Batman’s costume was almost always gray (a screen of 100% black) on his covers, going back at least to the 1960′s and probably since inception.
• On the interior pages, the costume was “process gray,” a mix of cyan, magenta and yellow, but with no black involved. Technically, the cover was printed on coated paper, which could hold a finer screen in color separations, so gray could be used. The insides were cheapest newsprint, which meant the dot on a gray screen could “clog” or overfill with ink, turning almost black. So better the lighter process colors. I thought when other publishers tried to reproduce the separations, they got more of a purple, and just went with it.

That doesn’t seem to be the same reasoning as changing the Phantom from gray to purple, but that’s my anecdote for this month.

Of course, if Wonder Woman or Mary Marvel were created today, the “Sappho” would undoubtedly refer to lesbianism. Though, I think using a variation of the name as a reference to lesbians is actually a recent development, and its argued whether or not it’s based on anything in the poet Sappho’s real life.

Random question that I’m never sure about. Have their been stories actually depicting or suggesting lesbian-ish goings on the Amazons’ island? I’m sure I’ve heard it joked about, and it would make sense for an island with only women.

Jeremy A. Patterson

March 26, 2010 at 10:45 am

Steve Englehart, in 1987′s Fantastic Four #310, shifted Ben to a more Anklyasaur-like appearance!

J.A.P.

What quality would Sappho lend in that setup? I can’t imagine poetry would be very useful in fighting crime.

I bet it would have been “grace.”

Amusingly enough, if you look at Mary’s people – their “powers” don’t actually add up to all the powers that Mary Marvel has (invulnerability, for instance).

Roquefort Raider

March 26, 2010 at 11:17 am

In France, the Phantom was garbed in red for a very long time. As I understand it, the printer originally couldn’t use or make the purple color and settled on red, which then stuck in the reader’s mind. (I don’t really see how it wouldn’t be possible to make purple by just using both red and blue, but I recall some old French comics that weren’t printed in four colors… Maybe that was the case here and the printer didn’t have blue ink).

I’ve always liked the Phantom as a character, but he has one of the dorkiest costumes ever.

That’s really interesting about the thing. Reading those early FF issues you really get a sense of him refining how he drew the characters.

Captain Marvel’s namesakes were a fairly mixed bag too… a Hebrew king, a Greek demigod (using his Roman name), a few Greek gods, and a Greek soldier.

About the Phantom, here in Brazil, he was colored red, through more than 50 years.

We only “knew” he has/had a purple costume when the movie premiered here, in 1996.

Ethan: Yes….that I know off the top of my head, Wonder Woman Annual..2..i think…from the Perez era. It’s about Diana bringing various world leaders and important folk to tour Paradise Island, and it’s mentioned pretty specifically, which sets off one of the religious leaders who’s there.

Being in the newspaper industry for years working with color reproduction, I always chalked up the purple to the reasoning that a process gray is very hard to achieve consistently (and it would differ from press to press) and a flat gray would look washed out next to other colors. Sort of the same reason that comics have long used the shorthand of using blue to equatie black, such as Superman and Bruce Wayne’s hair color. Likewise, many times when something is meant to be brown or tan, it is colored orange such as the GA Sandman’s hat and gloves. The problem is after a long time, the short-hand gets forgotten and the printed colors become the actual colors of the costume. Batman’s black & gray becomes blue & gray, Spider-man’s black & red is considered blue & red, down to the original X-Men’s uniforms and the Beast and Nightcrawler’s fur colors (isn’t it far more likely both characters were meant to be black, especially as the Beast was done with a grayscale color scheme in his first appearance?).

@Ethan-
Have their been stories actually depicting or suggesting lesbian-ish goings on the Amazons’ island? I’m sure I’ve heard it joked about, and it would make sense for an island with only women.

I’ve read Wonder Woman on and off over the years and I can say that yes, they have covered that to a certain degree in the comics. The first instances I saw were in George Perez’s run in the late 80′s. Nothing explicit, but he made it more than clear that some of the women were partnered. In issue #38, in which Man first steps foot on Paradise Island, we get the following exchange (plotted by Perez and scripted by Mindy Newell):

Reverend: “Don’t you miss the sharing God intended for the sexes…?”
Mnemosyne: “Some do. They have sworn themselves to Artemis, the virgin hunter, and Athena, the chaste warrior. Other choose the way of Narcissus. But MOST of us find satisfaction in each other– three thousand years can be a long time, Reverend.”
Reverend: “Oh….”

I know that Phil Jiminez referenced some lesbianism on the island during his stories, but that’s the last I’ve seen of it, but then I again I missed Rucka’s run on the book and just started re-reading it with Gail Simone a few months ago…

Similar to the Phantom, the Green Lama was originally intended to be the Gray Lama, but was changed to Green to be more eye catching as well as consistency.

Interestingly, the Lone Ranger series from Dynamite (issue #5) also explains the origin of his trademark blue shirt by having Tonto dye it with berries. I didn’t know the Phantom connection.

Here in Finland, the Phantom’s costume has always been BLUE. I guess this is the case in Sweden, Norway and Denmark as well.

http://www.egmontshop.fi/WebRoot/egmont/Shops/egmont/4820/46B5/5021/26FD/66B5/0A28/1015/D23D/MNA_1308_lr.jpeg

In the latest edition of The Jack Kirby Collector (#54), Will Murray adresses, through Jack Kirby’s own words, the issue of the Thing’s dinosaur hide in “The formative Fantastic Four”, pg. 34.

If I could have super powers, I would love to have Grace and Beauty. Those are such rare powers, don’t you think? (Well, a lot of super-heroes have them, but they’re never listed amoung their powers. Captain Marvel never had Grace and Beauty, which is why he was such a big, red cheese.)
One thing I always thought was cool about Mary Marvel is that she flew with her arms out to her side, like Peter Pan, instead of out in front like all the other supers. (At least that’s how she did it when I was a kid. I haven’t seen any recent portrayals.)
For some reason, I thought she got one of her powers from Atalanta. In fact, for all these years I couldn’t remember any of the names listed for her powers (which I only saw listed once), except for Atalanta, and now it turns out that my memory was all wrong.

And to Robert– the Greek soldier who supplied one of Captain Marvel’s powers was also a demi-god. Achilles was the son of the minor sea-goddess Thetis.

Grimm’s early skin doesn’t look like dinosaur hide to me, but it does look like Devil Dinosaur hide. I guess it’s a Kirby thing.
Sometime during the eighties, somebody wrote a letter to Fantastic Four proving that the Thing is actually made of orange dog-nose.

If you think about it…dinosaur hide makes a lot more sense than rock.

The Thing question was interesting because I thought everyone already knew the answer. However, the answer also brings up another question: Did Kirby deliberately design the Thing so his appearance gradually evolved over time from dinosaur-like hide to his current rocky form? Or did he just go with his artistic flow and the Thing therefore gradually changed over time as a result of changes Kirby made to streamline the character’s look?

MDK

I don’t know if you would consider this a legend…but the Fantastic Four movie hints very strongly at the notion that the 4 have the powers of the Classic Elements. Earth (Thing) Wind or Air (Invisibile Woman) Water or Fluid(Mr. Fantastic) and Fire (Human Torch)

Is that what Stan and Jack intended in the beginning?

In Comics Interview #18, in an interview of Reed by John Pierce, Reed notes:

[H]ere’s a scoop. Selena represents the first letter in Mary’s SHAZAM, right. Well, man, the original was Sappho! I killed her. I was not then enlightened about the healthful effects of homosexuality and lesbianism. In a small way, I was the Anita Bryant of my time. But I said, “Ol’ Sappho must go,” and that’s how Selena got in.

Not to start a flame war, but more a [hopefully respectful] socio-political discussion. i’m really curious, what are the “healthful effects of homosexuality & lesbianism.”? i am not aware that this is a factor in people’s sexual orientation. Does anyone know what he is talking about? And when would this quote have been uttered? Thanks!

Also, Brian, regarding the Thing’s skin going from ‘lumpy’ to ‘rocky’, i remember that another artist drew the Thing in [something like] Strange Tales w/ the Torch and started drawing the Thing more rocky than lumpy. If my memory is correct, Kirby wasn’t happy, as that meant that he would have to start drawing all the rocky definition, rather than the simpler lumpy version. Again, anyone hear this?

Thanks all!
DFTBA

Danjack, I’m pretty sure what he meant was the healthful effects of not living in denial about one’s sexuality.

I always assumed Phantom’s purple costume was grey in the way that Superman’s blue hair was black.

I wonder if the Phantom movie with Billy Zane (which I love) would have been better received if his costume was grey.

I seem to recall King Kirby drawing pictures of the Thing getting punched so hard that chunks of him flew off, so he must have fully embraced the rock skin.

I also seem to recall a Marvel Two-in-One story where Ben hid in a pile of orange bricks. I could be wrong.

Brian:
i found from Amazing Spidey in 1964 by Ditko who drew the Thing somewhat rocky:
http://bullyscomics.blogspot.com/2009/12/365-days-with-ben-grimm-day-348.html

It’s seems like a transition between the original & what would become standard. i’m sure that there are lots more, but i have to get back to work!

@ The Mutt: Thanks for the input. i’m not sure that i get your interpretation from the quote, but that is one way to look at it. Thanks again. Anyone else?
DFTBA

Gail Simone’s Wonder Woman does touch on the idea of female/female partnerships when Diana decides to court Tom “The Amazon Way”. The two or three panels where the scene occurs definitely suggest that the Amazons have their own rituals for female/female courting.

This was yet another fascinating Legends post Brian. I wish I felt confident I was retaining all this great information you keep giving me…

Nothing contained in any Fantastic Four movie should be construed as having any meaning whatsoever.

understood, aaron. It is just an interesting premise, totally unrelated to the movie except that it brought it to my attention. Is it possible that Stan and Jack had such a thing in mind in creating the 4?

–> He was just trying to be a nice guy, say something positive, he didn’t mean it was a cure for cancer or anything.

–> Those FF movies were terrible. Especially the first one, but especially the second one.

Brian, I don’t disagree with your conclusion but what’s your supporting evidence? Two classic covers of FF? I was expecting some quote from Kirby or maybe contacting Pete Von Sholly directly to get his take on what Kirby said to him.

I know I’m being juvenile, that the word had the different, older meaning back then, but I can’t help myself.

I chuckled when I read about the “sorta queer costume” of the Phantom in the 1938 panel.

The Crazed Spruce

March 26, 2010 at 2:41 pm

I was going to mention the same scene Andrew Collins described, but since he did, I don’t have to. :)

I seem to remember a scene from Perez’s run on Wonder Woman where one of the Amazons (I remember it as Hipolyta herself, but it was probably her main oracle) woke with a start from a prophetic dream, and another woman was lying next to her. I lost my collection in a house fire, though, so I can’t go back to confirm it.

Great stuff as usual, Brian. A few random comments:

1. Dinosaur hide: Frankly, I always thought that BEn’s “rocky” shape was comic book visual shorthand for dinosaur armor (E.g, the hides of the Ankylosaurus and the Stegasaurus). Hence, the change in Ben’s skin, to my way of thinking, was meant to convey the maturation of his hide from that of a “smooth” dinosaur to an armored one.

2. John Byrne: In Marvel Two-In-One #50, scripted and drawn by Byrne, he refers to Ben’s early skin as having a dinosaur hide look.

3.Amazon sexuality: Your citation of WW #38 is quite interesting, Andrew Collins. The way of Artemis and Athena is obviously the path of celibacy. The way of Narcissus is a subtle way of refering to masturbation.

4. Comic Book Shorthand: When I was a kid, I remember asking my Uncle why Superman had blue hair, and he told me that that was the traditional way that comic book colorists conveyed the color black. What a revelation! I remember looking through his collection and mentally altering the colors to their true look: Spider-Man from red and blue to red and black, Batman from gray and blue to gray and black, the Black Panther from dark blue to black, etc.

According to John Byrne, the Thing’s “rocky” skin is still dinosaur hide and is not actually made of rocks.

I liked the second Fantastic Four movie. It was fun. I thought it felt like what a Fantastic Four story is supposed to feel like. (Doom was a horrible embarassment, of course, but they were stuck with what the first film had already established.)

I have the book of Marvel origins, and in the Fantastic Four chapter Stan Lee touches on the subject of the elements as being inspiration for powers. I will need to find it, I’m afraid I might be mistaken. I haven’t read that book since I was a kid, but I remember it being quite informative to my prepubescent brain.

There’s a FF/X-Men crossover in which Wolverine gets Reed’s powers, Emma gets Ben’s, Gambit get’s Johnny’s and Nightcrawler get’s Sue’s. They’re especifically meant to be the 4 elements (Wolverine and Reed are fluid, because of the fluid nature of metal. Emma and Gambit are pretty obvious. Nightcrawler supposedly “vanishes” like Sue).

However, I have no idea if that ‘s what Stan and Jack first intended to imply.

re Danjack: Given when Mary Marvel was created, it was widely believed in the medical community as well as by psychologists that homosexuality was a mental illness. This belief was still in common currency up to at least the mid-60s (in fact, among my collection of old books is one that claims this, and it was published in 1970).

Such a belief is not accurate, but at the time anything that deviated from the “norm” of society was considered “deviant”. So what he said must be viewed from the perspective of his time.

I just wanted to add that in Mark Evanier’s Jack Kirby, King of Comics, the Thing is referred to by Evanier as having a “reptilian epidermis” . Most of the time, when the Thing takes a hard hit the sort of come off like scales. IMO, the dino-hide makes more sense since it could have the kind of look of the more armored conception back people had of the Stegosaurus and Triceratops in Kirby’s time. I think Ben’s hide would look like Ray Harryhausen’s stop motion dinosaurs in a lot of the 1950′s sci fi stuff, like the Ymir of “20 Million Miles to Earth”. Kirby himself was a fan of those kind of movies.

Andrew Collins

March 26, 2010 at 7:20 pm

@Kelly,
Thanks, I’d forgotten about that moment in Gail’s run. Nemesis’ face is priceless, almost as good as that of the minister in the Perez issue I quoted.

@Crazed Spruce
Yes, there is that scene too, a little later in the Perez run. I don’t remember the exact issue, but the oracle, Menalippe wakes up from a frightening prophetic dream, and her lover Penelope is shown lying next to her in bed, and she awakes and comforts Menalippe.

**Spoiler for the ending to Perez’s run on WW**Spoiler**

During the War Of The Gods crossover, Menalippe is killed. Penelope assumes her role of Oracle on Paradise Island, and there are several passages of dialogue where characters wonder aloud how Penelope will carry on without her lover Menalippe, as if the exact nature of their relationship was in any doubt at that point.

To me, lesbianism in WW at the time was handled a little like Paul Levitz handled Light Lass and Shrinking Violet in Legion Of Super-Heroes. It wasn’t explicitly stated, but it wasn’t exactly kept a secret either…

Brian, I don’t disagree with your conclusion but what’s your supporting evidence? Two classic covers of FF? I was expecting some quote from Kirby or maybe contacting Pete Von Sholly directly to get his take on what Kirby said to him.

Kirby talked about it so many different places I didn’t really see the point in quoting any one particular place.

As for Von Sholly, remember, I’m saying that yes, Kirby likely DID tell him that – he told lots of people that he originally envisioned the Thing as having dinosaur hide, so I have no doubt that he also told Von Sholly that.

@ ACFP Junior not really true. In the late 80s early 90s there was the cartoon, on SBT I think, that showed The Phantom wearing purple

That’s interesting about Spider-Man (and even Batman to a lesser extent) being black where they’re normally blue. I mean, I always thought that during the campier years Batman was supposed to be blue even though it makes more sense for him to be black.

Spider-man though, it’s just weird. Do you think that’s what Alex Ross was referencing with this?
http://sfstory.free.fr/images/Spiderman/spiderman1024.jpg

danjack said: i’m really curious, what are the “healthful effects of homosexuality & lesbianism.”?

I say: not getting pregnant.

Ryan, I think that Alex Ross was referencing the true colors of Spidey in those drawings.Another bit of comic book shorthand is the use of solid white for the lenses in Spider-Man’s eyes. According to Stan Lee, the lenses are supposed to be one-way mirrors (This is just about the only thing that the live action SPIDER-MAN 70s television show got right).. Alex Ross is the only artist that I can think of who actually depicts the lenses as one way mirrors.

Speaking of the Ymir, and other stop-motion critters, I seem to recall a Marv Wolfman-scripted issued of Fantastic Four from that mid-seventies period where Ben Grim had been reverted to human; it was specifically mentioned by Ben that the Thing-shaped exo-skeletal armor Reed had built for him to simulate his old powers, quote, “Makes me move like something out of a Harryhausen flick.”. unquote. Reed’s reply was along the lines of, “You always did, old friend.”

I always thought Marv was lobbying for who should do the FX work for an FF film, had it been done back in the day. Too bad it didn’t happen. . .

As for Kirby and the Thing’s skin, I would only mention that when he told me that it was in the eighties, long after he created the character’s look. So I would tend to think that was how he still felt about it. Sure the look evolved but
scales are hard edged so it’s not impossible that Jack didn’t change his tune about the basic concept. He certainly didn’t say “I orginally envisioned him as having dinosaur skin but later decided his skin was made of rocks” or anything to that effect. That’s all I got!

On the topic of the Thing’s skin complexion: It’s my understanding that it was always intended to be ‘dinosaur hide’ from the beginning. The evolution began when Joe Sinnott starting inking Kirby throughout the series. It was he who most likely began defining the final look, from lumps to the sharper, straighter edges that fans and eventually pros observed to look more like rocks. Writers began describing what they saw as rocks, and (pure speculation on my part from here on, folks) even Kirby accepted this somewhat streamlined approach to the visualization. He could have fought to maintain the alligator-look, but probably he just decided to go with the path of least resistance for productivity’s sake. It was just the most efficient way to do things back then.

As for the purpleness of the Phantom’s outfit, maybe I’m just all accustomed to it by now, but I always saw it classically as the color of royalty and nobility. While it’s not very ghost-like, I think it’s quite striking and reasonably appropriate for a guardian of the lands.

Thank you for stopping by and giving more info, Pete! That certainly fills out more of what Scott Shaw was saying.

And Brian, I don’t quite get the logic that since Kirby has been quoted several times it’s not worth referencing here. I haven’t read a ton of Kirby interviews, so it would be new to me, likely Eli (who asked the question), and probably others.

DanJack:

Also, Brian, regarding the Thing’s skin going from ‘lumpy’ to ‘rocky’, i remember that another artist drew the Thing in [something like] Strange Tales w/ the Torch and started drawing the Thing more rocky than lumpy. If my memory is correct, Kirby wasn’t happy, as that meant that he would have to start drawing all the rocky definition, rather than the simpler lumpy version. Again, anyone hear this?

Nope. And I doubt it is true. Kirby was such a prolific penciler that I doubt he would complain about drawing rock skin. Besides, he has been the main penciler for the character for such a long time, and used the rocky appearance for nearly all of it, that he’d probably have little trouble pushing for either a reversal or further changes in Ben’s appearance.

Rubens Borges: you’re probably thinking about “Defenders of the Earth”, the cartoon jointly-featuring Phantom, Flash Gordon and Mandrake. Although I am fairly certain that RGE (Rio Gráfica Editora) made a point of showcasing the color controversy a bit earlier than that. Weirdly, they called the purple color “blue” for some reason.

The Mutt: my guess is that yes, a more somber color such as gray would indeed help the Phantom costume in a live action feature.

Others:

The dino scales idea makes lots of sense. Come to think of it, Spider-Man / Ka-Zar / Black Panther villain Stegron has a fairly similar skin appearance.

The very first Byrne-scripted FF story made the similarity of the FF’s powers to the four elements (stretched as it seems to be to me, when it comes to Reed and Sue) a major plot point.

And Brian, I don’t quite get the logic that since Kirby has been quoted several times it’s not worth referencing here. I haven’t read a ton of Kirby interviews, so it would be new to me, likely Eli (who asked the question), and probably others.

Sure, fair enough, Corey, I’ll change it for ya!

Thanks, Brian. I appreciate you listening to me whine about it.

Thanks for the picture of the bust of Sappho. It showed me that I’d been mispronouncing Sappho’s name all these years (and, more than likely, so has everyone else). The Greek letters used on the bust are Sigma–Alpha–Pi–Phi–Omega, meaning the correct pronunciation should be “sap-foe” (rather than the usual “saf-foe).

I can’t find this anywhere in English, but:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVChKfS1VsY

This is why I always imagined the Thing as rocky.

^ meant to say it’s around 3:40. Oops.

No joke, I took a guess at where 3:40 was on the clip and I nailed it to the SECOND on my first try!

That’s neither here nor there, I just felt it needed to be said. ;)

Interesting that the Thing is made of rock(s) and his girlfriend is a scupltor …. Hmm, any psychologists amongst us?

The Byrne Marvel Two In One has Ben going back in time to meet himself shortly after the FF have been created and the early thing is drawn scaly,like the cover of FF 1. I think the story asserted that Ben’s body had mutated further with time.
The “way of Narcisssus” reference in Wonder Woman was to masturbation–I remember Perez said in an interview that he could get away with lesbians “but they’ll kill me if I say the Amazons masturbate.”
When E. Nelson Bridwell was writing Captain Marvel in the seventies, he said he was considering revamping Mary’s powers to something that fit better than conventionally “girly” qualities like beauty and grace. Never did, but he made some possible suggestions in the letter columns.

Thanks for adding the stuff from the Jack Kirby Collector. I knew I had seen the dinosaur scale hide written about somewhere else.

Awesome job expanding the Thing section, Brian!! Thank you! I had no idea Joe Sinnott had so much clout.

It’s always fascinating to me to see how iconic characters evolve.

‘understood, aaron. It is just an interesting premise, totally unrelated to the movie except that it brought it to my attention. Is it possible that Stan and Jack had such a thing in mind in creating the 4?’

John Byrne made that connection between the FF and the four elements in his first issue as writer and artist – he had the team going up against elemental foes that mirrored the FF’s powers.
That was long before the crap movies.

Looking at the splash of FF #51, is it any surprise that Kirby moved towards Sinnott’s approach?

The “rocky” Thing just has a more dramatic look.

I think you could argue that the debut of the “rocky” Thing was on the cover of FF #18.

http://www.coverbrowser.com/covers/fantastic-four#i18

The four elements seem to have inspired not only the FF’s powers, but their personalities. Though, curiously, when it comes to personality traits, Reed and Sue should be reversed. Reed is air, since air signs are closer to represent higher intellect and brains and all that is rational, while Sue would be water, that represents depth of emotion and compassion and feminility.

The Thing and the Torch obviously are well-matched with their elements both in powers and personalities.

do note that Stan Lee specifically told Sinnott to change anything he felt like changing about Kirby’s pencils

Given the…reverence for Kirby, nowadays, I’m having a hard time imagining a time when this would go over as ‘Sinnott’s that good?’ and not ‘can Stan be more of a jerk?’

In Sweden, The Phantom is blue.
Sweden also produces their own The Phantom comics.

Mark Hernandez

March 27, 2010 at 4:59 pm

Please reference FF #40, this is the first appearance of the modern, ‘rocky’ Thing. It is also, I believe the first time Reed ever turned Ben into the Thing, on purpose. It is a dramatic series of panels, where Kirby and his inker for that issue, the much maligned Vince Colletta, depict the physical horror of becoming the Thing. Ben goes thru a definite ‘scaly’ look, but finishes as his current rocky self. He then kicks the crap out of Doom, and runs away to join the Frightful Four for the first time. I think I was 6 when I got this issue, and even then I could tell it was an important event for Ben.

Crap, that sounds nerdy….

“Release, the Kraken!”
peace, out

HAHAHAHAHA! That one guy in a panel from the Phantom describes his “sorta queer costume”. I love changing times and meanings of words.

I’m a bit confused, Brian, as to why you think Kirby inked the cover of FF #8. That’s Ayers’ inking, as the detailing on Puppet Master’s hands makes clear. As far as I know, the only time Kirby inked himself at Marvel was the cover of Fantasy Masterpieces #4 and it was considered such a rarity that Stan played it up big in that month’s Bullpen Bulletins.

Regarding the “gray” Phantom costume…
The “gray” in Batman’s costume, as well as The Gray Gargoyle and Odin’s Destroyer (among others) was actually 25% Cyan-25% Magenta-25% Yellow because newsprint didn’t handle a black screen well at all.
It wasn’t as much of an issue in daily editions, which usually didn’t use color at all!

The Phantom’s gray on the Sunday pages was probably intended to be the same as Batman’s in the comics.
However, since yellow was usually the LAST color to be prepped (The order is CMYK: Cyan-Magenta-Yellow, with the black [K] plate being line art) and 25% was a relatively-weak screen, sometimes it was either deliberately (due to deadlines) or inadvertantly (if the press was adjusted to compensate for color) left out, resulting in the violet-purple costume.
Leaving off the 25% yellow often meant that Caucasian characters had an unsually ruddy look, since the 25% Y was also a part of their skin tone (25M, 25Y), but few people seemed to notice, accepting the 25M only as “skin”…

NOTE: on comic book covers, a 25% black screen was used for “gray”, since the slick stock wouldn’t muddy it up the way interior newsprint did, and the screens themseves were 120 dots per inch as opposed to the 65 to 85 dots per inch of the interiors!
As printing and interior paper stock improved from the late ’80s to today, except in special circumstances, the 25C,25M,25Y interior color combo was abandoned as “gray” in costumes.

I have read the FF’s four elements analogy elsewhere before, but I doubt that Stan and Jack made it that clear a statement from the start. To me it feels more like someone accurately read the metaphor in the quartet at some point, and it just stuck from there. After verification in Stan Lee’s “Origins of Marvel Comics”, there is no mention of it whatsoever.

A note about the Aussie colours for the Phantom, Brian, the original comics, published by the Australian Woman’s Mirror, had him in green on the cover. But then Frew Comics began publishing a Phantom Comic in 1948 and the colour of his costume was the now familiar purple and has been ever since.

Frew are still publishing the Phantom and the current issue is #1566, which came out last Friday.

LouReedRichards

March 27, 2010 at 8:52 pm

I read (not sure where) that Kirby inked The cover to FF #7 – it’s listed that way on the GCD as well.
I only bring this up because, yeah Kirby never really inked that much and I’m always curious about how the situations unfolded that led him to ink his own work.

Wow, American comics sure look ephemeral when you consider that other countries can have runs of 1566 issues and counting!

Jan Robert Andersen

March 27, 2010 at 11:36 pm

In Scandinavia (Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark) Phantom’s costume was blue og gray/blue and not purple. However the monthly Phantom magazine was in black and white often with paited covers.

Since the 1970′s and well into the 2000′s Phantom stories have been made for the Scandinavian market even with US illustrators and writers.

Apparently it was also due to some printing error but another version is about a publisher thinking purple looked silly and gray being too difficult to print.

I remember when I first saw the Phantom’s US purple costume and thinking it looked strange as I was used to blue og black and white.

http://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fantomen
http://no.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fantomet
http://da.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fantomet
http://fi.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mustanaamio

http://www.comics.org/series/name/fantomet/sort/alpha/

I’d guess that’s a fortnightly comic, which helps in stacking up the numbers. A couple of British weeklies have reached their 3500th issues.

Yep, fortnightly. BTW, apart from 2000ad, what other British weeklies are still going? I used to read Whizzer & Chips, Buster, Whoopee & Jackpot and a few others when I was a kid, but you don’t see ‘em in Australia any more.

There’s The Beano and The Dandy, which are the two with 3500 issues, and seem to still be more or less in the style of the traditional weeklies. There are quite a few kids’ TV tie-in comics on the stands. 2000AD has its monthly sister magazine, the Judge Dredd Megazine, as well.

And I know of some British comics that come out weekly (or did in the past) and include split up reprints from the US. I know Star Wars comics in the UK from the 80s, for example, would often split a single US issue up into three parts, for three separate UK issues. Not that having all those issues still isn’t impressive.

Andrew Perron

April 1, 2010 at 9:20 am

The original Marvel Transformers comic did so, too; two weeks reprints, two weeks new UK-only material. Nowadays, the latter is generally considered superior!

@ The Relic:

You wrote:
“re Danjack: Given when Mary Marvel was created, it was widely believed in the medical community as well as by psychologists that homosexuality was a mental illness. This belief was still in common currency up to at least the mid-60s (in fact, among my collection of old books is one that claims this, and it was published in 1970).

Such a belief is not accurate, but at the time anything that deviated from the “norm” of society was considered “deviant”. So what he said must be viewed from the perspective of his time.”

As a therapist myself, i do know about the history of removing homosexuality from the catagory of illness, and you make a great & valid point. However, when you say ‘Such a belief is not accurate…’ i have to disagree with your assumption. The DSM is the manual that therapists use to diagnosis clients & the newer editions do not have homosexuality as a diagnosis, therefore, it is not seen as somehting to treat or ‘cure’.

However, the DSM is simply a collection of standards created by people, which is not authoritative. The people who create this Diagnostic Manual may at one point decide to put homosexuality back in as a disease/condition/diagnosisto be considered abnormal & therefore to be treated. They also may put in HETEROsexuality as a disease/condition/diagnosisto be considered abnormal & therefore to be treated.

The point is not so much about sexuality, but about a group of people who decide upon something not NECESSARILY making it true or false. The DSM is a standard of what we agree are conditions to consider for treatment. This doesn’t make it true.

Hope that isn’t too long winded. Thanks,
DFTBA

[...] Little Orphan Annie had her bright red dress and orange hair. The Phantom ended up in purple ( click here for an explanation), while Dick Tracy had his yellow [...]

[...] Comic Book Legends Revealed #253 | Comics Should Be Good! @ Comic Book Resources [...]

E.L. Doctorow had a youth refer to the Phantom as purple clad in his novel Billy Bathgate, which takes place in 1935. Of course, since the Phantom debuted in 1936, he slipped up doubly.

“I wonder if the Phantom movie with Billy Zane (which I love) would have been better received if his costume was grey.”

Not by me.

I have to say, I never had trouble understanding the nature of, for instance, Superman’s hair. I understood from as early as I can remember that comic colouring was limited, and was more representational than realistic.
I mean, did everyone think comic book people walked around with bright blue/orange/green/etc. suits at work? Or that the walls are actually yellow/purple/whatever?

As far as the FF’s powers converging w/the four classical elements, the first time I ever saw it was Ellis’ Ultimate FF.

“I liked the second Fantastic Four movie. It was fun. I thought it felt like what a Fantastic Four story is supposed to feel like.”

What, meandering, superficial and anticlimactic..? I’ll have to disagree there. ;0)

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