Comic Book Legends Revealed #254
Welcome to the two-hundred and fifty-fourth 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-three.
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 Movie Legends Revealed to learn about the original ending of Pretty in Pink and how wigs were involved in “fixing” the original ending!
In honor of his nomination to the Will Eisner Comic Industry Hall of Fame, all the legends this week are about the late, great Steve Gerber! And since Gerber often broke conventions, I will as well – I’m going to give you an EXTRA legend this week!
COMIC LEGEND: DC Comics Presents #97 was an unused proposal to revamp the Superman line of comics.
Reader Crooow wrote in over three years ago to ask:
Here’s an urban legend I once heard: the story from DC Comics Presents #97 was an unused proposal to revamp the Superman mythos.
The story was written by Steve Gerber(the one of Howard the Duck fame, I presume). The tale(billed as “an untold tale of the pre-Crisis DC Universe”) shows Mr. Mxyzptlk discovering the Phantom Zone and ultimately imprisoning the inmates in a jewel, but not before destroying the Bizarro world(they all celebrate, and Superman finds out when Bizarro’s head falls on Clark Kent’s WGBS-TV anchor desk). Also, the Phantom Zone criminals attack Earth(they pick up the Washington Monument and toss in into the Capitol dome, etc.). The darkest moment in a story full of them is when Mxy finds Argo City(now a giant chunk of Kryptonite) and throws it towards Metropolis. Supes manages to shatter it, but his powers fail and Kryptonite rocks and dead Kryptonians rain on Metropolis.
Of course, DC decided to use John Byrne’s reboot instead, and Alan Moore wrapped up the Silver Age stories with an “imaginary story” that was even more depressing than Gerber’s tale.
That WAS a dark story, but no, it was not meant to be part of Gerber’s pitch for a Superman revamp.
Instead, it was exactly what you referred to with regarding Alan Moore. Just like Alan Moore’s “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” was written as a “goodbye” to the pre-Byrne Superman and Action Comics titles, so, too, was this story by Gerber a “goodbye” to DC Comics Presents, only in this instance, it was literal, as this was the last issue of the title.
So no, this was just Gerber giving the book a send-off knowing that the then-current Superman mythos were going to no longer “Exist,” so he could basically do whatever he wanted (and what he wanted to, in this case, was do a dark sequel to his earlier acclaimed mini-series, The Phantom Zone).
HOWEVER, it IS true that Gerber was in the works to pitch a Superman revamp for DC Comics.
A lot of different people have asked me this one over the years, and I always put it off because Steve told me he would eventually give me some more information on the topic. Obviously, that never happened because he tragically died two years ago.
So I suppose now, with him up for Eisner Hall of Fame (and I sure hope he makes it), is as good a time to discuss it as any.
Yes, Gerber and Frank Miller pitched DC on revamps of the “Trinity.”
The three titles would be called by the “line name” of METROPOLIS, with each character being defined by one word/phrase…
AMAZON (written by Gerber)
DARK KNIGHT (written by Miller)
Something for Superman – I believe either MAN OF STEEL or THE MAN OF STEEL, but I’m not sure about that (written by both men)
However, DC made it clear that for their revamp of their three major franchises after Crisis, they were going to accept a number of proposals and then pick their favorite, and Gerber was not interested in such a situation. Meanwhile, he and Miller also planned on introducing a brand-new Supergirl that they were going to want to get a cut of, ownership-wise, and it seemed unlikely that DC was going to go for that, so they backed out.
Someone else asked me once if Gerber backing out is why there was a delay between the end of Wonder Woman’ first series and the George Perez reboot. No, that was not because of Gerber. He was out of the running long before that.
As to whether Gerber brought in aspects of his revamp into his finale of DC Comics Presents, I asked him about that back in 2007, and he told me “Not really, no.”
Miller revamped his Batman pitch (going from contemporary to the future) and that became Dark Knight.
And obviously, his success with Dark Knight then translated into Batman: Year One…
Bruce Patterson and George Perez’s pitch for Wonder Woman was accepted, and that became Wonder Woman…
I don’t know specifically how John Byrne got Man of Steel…
Reader Graeme Burk tells me that Byrne did, indeed, do a proposal that DC chose (over at least two other proposals – perhaps more – but at least Cary Bates and Marv Wolfman’s proposals – although obviously DC liked Wolfman’s enough to add him to Byrne’s reboot), so there ya go! Thanks, Graeme!
I liked Byrne’s Man of Steel, so I can’t complain, but it sure would have been interesting to see what Gerber and Miller could have come up with!
Thanks to Crooow (and the man other people who asked, in general terms, about the Gerber/Miller revamps) for the question and thanks to the legendary Steve Gerber for the information he gave me back in 2007.
On the next page, learn how a Steve Gerber comic led to DC’s current Submission Guidelines!