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Comic Book Legends Revealed #254

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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!

Let’s begin!

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.

Story continues below

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!

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I’m sure his death was too recent for a tribute Legends Revealed this week, but you should do a Dick Giordano centered article sometime.

I remember from an Amazing Heroes interview around the time of Man of Steel that DC did indeed take in pitches for Superman, including from Byrne, Marv Wolfman and longtime Superman (and Flash) writer Cary Bates. Bates’ was apparently just minor tinkering of the existing status quo. Wolfman’s brought in the businessman version of Luthor and Byrne’s was more or less Man of Steel (though with some differences). They went with Byrne but Wolfman was along for the ride.

Steve Gerber absolutely deserves to be on the Hall of Fame. I still have a lot of his stuff to read, but what I’ve read was amazing (Omega,The Unknown and his Defenders run)

Brian, would you recommend this Spectre series? When I think of a Spectre ongoing, I think of John Ostrander’s as the definitive series.

Why is Mara Jade on the cover of that Superman comic??

First of all, thanks – now eBay is going to leave me penniless, once again thanks to CBLR. *Sigh*

Second, I love that “Howard” panel that had to be redone simply by having him standing on top of the bed, when anyone reading the book outside of MAYBE 3-year-olds could see he was going to end-up under the covers with Beverly, anyway. But I suppose plausible denyability wouldn’t exist without these things, right?

RIP, Steve Gerber. You gave us many, many good times.

Plus, that 2nd to last panel on the Howard page, it’s obvious that he’s under the covers, but they inked them to match the color of Bev’s nightgown as a fix. Easier than a re-draw, I assume.

Great stuff, Brian. Reading this just drives home what a talent Comics lost with the death of Steve Gerber. His 70s work alone was a revelation: MAN-THING, HOWARD THE DUCK (It pains me that Gerber’s fabulous work on HOWARD was tarnished by George Lucas’s wretched film), OMEGA THE UNKNOWN, his classic DEFENDERS RUN, etc.

How is a naked duck going to get some better than the duck in the bed with the woman? Umm, in the approved panel, he’s NAKED!

Shocking! Even for today’s youth who read comics.

i’m kidding. We know that no one under 30 reads comics anymore! ;-]


I haven’t read much Gerber, but any Gerber I have read has always been stellar.

There was a fairly long article on the Wonder Woman “Metropolis” pitch in Amazing Heroes #39. It was to begin in the late summer of ’84 as a comics-shops-only series alongside the traditional series.

“Interestingly enough, the Court did not even rule on whether DC Comics actually DID take Walker’s idea or not (his idea different substantially from Gerber’s), but rather, that a work like Walker’s – an unauthorized derivative work – CANNOT receive copyright protection, as it, itself, is technically a copyright infringer (since DC did not authorize Walker to use their copyrighted characters in his proposal).”


Potential repercussions for Marvelman — I know Gaiman has approved any reprinting of his material, and Moore has on the condition that the artists also agree, but are all the artists onboard too? This legal precedent suggests it doesn’t matter whether they do or not.

So the comics code demanded that we see him fully naked instead of the panel where his nudity was obscured? Priceless. I really enjoy this series of posts when things like this pop along, and any other time as well. Thanks for the informative posts, Brian.

Considering that Gene Colan was doing amazing work on Wonder Woman pre-Crisis, I just had an image of the Howard the Duck creative team reunited on WW, and it makes me weep for a world that was never to be.

Oh, and I’ve mentioned this before, but their Phantom Zone mini was stellar stuff.

Great stuff, Brian, thanks! Now I gotta go find that DC Comics Presents #97…

Chris McFeely

April 2, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Maaaan, Gerber on the Spectre would have been something else….

[…] Comic Book Legends Revealed #254 | Comics Should Be Good! @ Comic … […]

In one of the old AMAZING HEROES annual preview issues Gerber goes in depth about his plans for AMAZON and the Metropolis line. I don’t remember much detail except Gerber’s WW was going to be really, really butch.

Did Steve Gerber ever let on to what he thought The Elf With A Gun was about ?

Deep down, we are all the Elf with a Gun.

John Trumbull

April 2, 2010 at 2:57 pm

I love how Howard standing naked in front of Beverly while she’s in bed was judged to be “more acceptable” than him being in bed with her. And didn’t anybody at the Comics Code notice that Howard & Bev are ALSO in bed together in panel 6?

If there was ever a better example of how arbitrary the Comics Code can be, I’ve yet to see it.

Didn’t Walt Simonson also pitch for the Superman reboot?

Zor-El of Argo

April 2, 2010 at 3:01 pm

@ Butler: I totally agrre on Colan’s Wonder Woman work. I think he made have been the first artist to make her look strong, most just make her look like a swimsuit model. Of course, this is true of most super-heroines other than Powergirl.

Adam Weissman

April 2, 2010 at 3:11 pm

Howard and Bev eventually end up under the covers together in a scene far more explicit than the one censored here in the black and white Howard the Duck Magazine #1, courtesy of Bill Mantlo and Gene Colan.

“Potential repercussions for Marvelman — I know Gaiman has approved any reprinting of his material, and Moore has on the condition that the artists also agree, but are all the artists onboard too? This legal precedent suggests it doesn’t matter whether they do or not.”

It’s not the same thing, at all. In the case being discussed, the person who wrote the proposal was violating the copyright because DC never granted them permission to use the characters. In Marvelman, the artists who are holding things up granted temporary licenses for their use in Marvelman/Miracleman. Now, since the company that published Marvelman may not have actually had the right to publish the character, that’s one thing… but the artists that are holding it up *do* have the copyrights to their own characters. That’s the hold up.

Funny how the Comics Code has no objection to a BEASTIALITY relationship so long as they’re not together under the covers.

Chris Schillig

April 2, 2010 at 3:56 pm

I’m surprised you didn’t include Gerber’s two-issue run on NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, which Marvel cancelled over its disgust at Gerber’s “origin story” for Freddie Krueger.

The comics world is far less interesting without Gerber.

Already featured it, Chris! :)


Holy crap, that was over three years ago! I have been doing this column for way too long.

Cory!! Strode

April 2, 2010 at 4:05 pm

@ Phillip – Steve said on the Howard the Duck Yahoogroup (or maybe in a private off-group e-mail to me, I can’t remember any more) that he wasn’t sure where he was going with the “Elf with a Gun”. At the time, he woudl throw things into stories so that he could play with them later, and that was one of the sub-plots he threw in, thinking he could use it when he needed it. He did say he LOVED how Kraft ended it by having the Elf run over by a truck.

Man, I enjoyed Gerber’s work but every time I read about his behind-the-scene dealings, I like him less *as a person*. Seriously, where does he think he gets off, first telling DC to change the artist on a book, then failing to deliver his contracted work on time because he’d rather be somewhere else? No offense, but the man doesn’t seem to have worked well within an organization. Maybe she should’ve stuck to underground work.

Too bad, because I probably would’ve liked to see what his work on the Spectre would’ve been like. :(

Mike Loughlin

April 2, 2010 at 5:43 pm

Brian, thanks for spotlighting one of the best writers the industry’s ever had. In addition to Howard, Omega, Defenders, & Phantom Zone, I’d like to recommend Hard Time and Foolkiller (released in 1990 or so). Gerber’s character writing on those projects was as good as his ’70s work.

Gerber on Wonder Woman: oh, what could have been!

Sijo- Steve Gerber fought for Gene Colan when he thought he was getting a raw deal. He fought for creators’ rights, and helped many people in the industry. He had his flaws and made mistakes (and I agree the Spectre thing was unprofessional), but you need to read more about the guy before you condemn him as a person.

That Superman issue is awesome. I remember reading it just as I was getting into comics, and it does several things well:

1) It’s one of the few clear losses for Superman I’ve ever seen in the comics, and a final loss at that.
2) It makes Mxy a serious villain and threat instead of a goofy imp (though he has help).
3) It does a nice job of explaining the phantom zone and who else is there besides Zod (this may have been done before; I’m not sure, but it’s recapped here at any rate).

Definitely worth the pick up if you can find it, and the ending scene alone would probably make a great “Year of Cool comics” it if it hasn’t been done yet…

Does anyone know if THUNDARR THE BARBARIAN (which was also created by Gerber) was a reworked version of a similar character that he created for Marvel named Korrek? Korrak was a blond hair barbarian from another dimension who had a magical sword. He appeared in issues of MAN-THING and HOWARD THE DUCK. Here’s a link to a picture and character profile of the character http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korrek

I believe Graeme Burk above has confused Cary Bates & Marv Wolfman’s early eighties revamps of the Superman mythos (i.e. robot Braniac and armored Lex Luthor) with the Superman revamp. While Wolfman was brought aboard, he has talked a few times about bringing HIS version of Luthor from that period in to the new titles, which is where we got evil businessman Luthor from.

I could be wrong and they could very well have asked Bates & Wolfman to throw out proposals for post-Crisis Superman, but I know Marv Wolfman’s discussed the origins of post-Crisis Luthor multiple times.

Does anyone know where I could find a summary of the Gerber Wonder Woman proposal (or, alternatively, could someone summarize it here)? Thanks!

I believe Graeme Burk above has confused Cary Bates & Marv Wolfman’s early eighties revamps of the Superman mythos (i.e. robot Braniac and armored Lex Luthor) with the Superman revamp.

No I haven’t. It was a piece in Amazing Heroes about the making of Man of Steel from the summer of ’87, which interviews Wolfman and Byrne. In it, Wolfman talks about how he, Bates and Byrne were invited to make different pitches for reviving Superman.

from the summer of ’87

Fingers too fast. Summer of ’86.

Not the Summer of ’69?

That’s when I got my first real six-string.

Was it at the five and dime?

Indeed. But I played the damned thing way too often – eventually it started to make my fingers bleed!

Man. From what we know off Wikipedia about Duck’s Penises, Beverley’s sure gonna have a wild time that night!

Holy crap, that was over three years ago! I have been doing this column for way too long.

Bah. Barely long enough. You’ve only gotten one book out of the deal so far!

Thanks for the info on the proposed ‘trinity’ revamp. I’d love to see BACK ISSUE do a full-fledged story on it sometime.

I had actually heard years ago that it was Howard Chaykin who was aiming to do AMAZON; perhaps the plan was for Chaykin to draw it, Gerber to write it, and both of them to co-plot. Now THAT would have been a fascinating book to read!

My (second hand) understanding is that DC liked the revamp ideas (they obviously incorporated a number of them soon enough), but they balked at the proposal to actually remove Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman from the DCU, and have them exist as the only superheroes (at least at first) in their own reality. Their books would have been published under the “Metropolis” imprint, and sold at higher cover prices with better paper and printing in the direct market, clearly aimed at a more mature readership. Reportedly, DC’s licensing department was steadfastly against anything of the sort, for the obvious reason that it would inhibit the use of the company’s three best-known characters in outside licensing ventures.

Hats off to Gerber – a true original!

I never cared for Gerber’s Defenders, simply because I bought that book for Valkyrie and he obviously didn’t like her much. But yeah, his Phantom Zone and that last issue were awesome and Howard the Duck rereads better than I’d have expected.

All right, Cronin & Grum, stop with the sneaky Bryan Adams revival, or you’ll force Canda to apologize, as it has already done concerning the matter of Bryan Adams on several occasions. (Kudos to anyone who gets that reference…)

Anyway, fantastic Steve Gerber edition. Even though he’s best remembered for his work on oddballs and outsiders, mainly at Marvel, his contributions to the Superman mythos were outstanding. His Phantom Zone is probably the best DC mini-series put out at the time or later. I still remember how much it creeped me out when I first read it. And Last Son of Earth/Last Stand on Krypton is among my favorite Elseworlds stories.

Korrek made me think of Thundarr the first time I saw him, too, and I don’t think I even knew Gerber had come up with Thundarr.

The Foolkiller mini from the early 90s is a seriously underrated series. If I ever get a chance to write for Marvel, I’ve got a Foolkiller pitch all ready to go.

Hopefully will get a comic book legends column that deals with the whole Korrek/Thundarr connection.

Connection might be too strong a word–they’re both generic barbarian types (though Thundarr’s setting was certainly memorable).They could just as easily have been both modeled on John Jakes’ Brak the Barbarian (big, blonde, brawny).

Gerber’s Foolkiller=Awesomeness!

[quote]Bruce Patterson and George Perez’s pitch for Wonder Woman was accepted, and that became Wonder Woman…[/quote]

I think you mean Greg Potter and George Perez. Patterson was the inker, but Potter was the writer of record for the first few issues.

More from the AH #39: There was no artist attached to Gerber’s book. Colan was off WW by that point, just to be clear, and the regular artist was Don Heck.

I believe Wolfman has said his initial Luthor revamp was rejected (in favor of Bates), so he used Vandal Savage instead. Then when they asked him if he wanted to be part of Byrne’s reboot, he said only under the condition that they make Luthor the evil businessman-type, Byrne agreed, and Wolfman was on board (for the first year at least).

I actually think Bates’ Luthor story is pretty damn good.

@Daniel M: it would be hard to summarize the AH article well. Gerber describes his plans in rather vague terms and any summary would sound like banal “woman power” stuff. Less Barbie doll and more female WWF-ish.

Was the Gerber book Mood/Void Indigo based on his rejected proposal for a revamp of a DC hero ? Hawkman or Green Lantern?

I believe that was Hawkman, ogeorge.

I loved Gerber. He was the Grant Morrison of the 70s. BTW, although he is remembered for Howard and Omega, Man-Thing is probably the best thing he ever wrote (even though he is dismissive about his initial run on the title). Seriously, buy the Essentials — great stuff. Kind of like a Sandman/Swamp Thing/Concrete type thing, but in the 70s.

Connection might be too strong a word–they’re both generic barbarian types (though Thundarr’s setting was certainly memorable).They could just as easily have been both modeled on John Jakes’ Brak the Barbarian (big, blonde, brawny).


I never heard of BRAK THE BARBARIAN. Did he also have a magical sword like Thundarr and Korrek had?

Over 20 years ago I read in a comics mag that AMAZON was about Wonder Woman being raped. It’s no surprise DC rejected the idea at the time. I can’t recall if the article said the story was already written.

Brak didn’t have a magic sword, but he was brawny, blond and with a penchant for running into evil mages and killing them. He’s entertaining, but not quite distinctive enough to be really memorable–and of course, John Jakes moved on to much bigger things so there hasn’t been a new Brak story in at least 30 years.

Thinking of Nightmare on Elm Street, can someone help me with something….

Back in the early 90s I bought a few issues of a British Nightmare on Elm Street reprint comic. It was mostly drivel, but there was one story that stood out a mile. It was in black and white (though the original might not have been) and the art looked like it might have been by Rick Veitch, and it seemed to be covering the story of the Nun who wound up being Freddies mother. Unfortunately it was uncredited so I never found out what it was.

Looking at the Grand Comics Database for two Marvel issues they were black and white and inked by Alfred Alcala (which might have given it the Swamp Thing vibe that made me thing of Veitch). Is this the story I was reading? It was very good.

I dug out those two Marvel issues out this weekend. Yes, it’s a two-parter that deals with a nun who had been raped multiple times by a room full of the criminally insane. She became Freddy’s mother. I plan to read it in its entirety soon.

Thanks. I’ll have to seek out those comics. And DCCP #97

Not sure if anyone’ll see this, this late in the thread, but I saw in a Shooter-interview that he got a Superman-revamp proposal from Byrne back when Marvel thought of licensing the DC characters. When the deal fell through, Byrne took the pitch to DC.

So I guess we have “Marcel Walker” to thank for the fact that a person can now no longer get a job writing comics unless he has been a published novelist, show-runner, or movie director, first.

And following up on Christopher’s post, I wonder how much comics have been hurt by that. Yes, fanboys don’t always make the best writers…you have to be able to write, but I also feel that writers from completely different mediums often don’t have a feel for what works in comics, or how to construct a tale in them. They write a novel and have someone draw it, but guys who cut their teeth on comics (whether it be getting a shot, or indy publications) have learned their medium, as much as say, Frank Miller struggles with film. That’s not to say there aren’t guys who have been successful crossing over. It’s just that it’s no more a sure thing you’re going to find talent because someone has been published in a completely different media than the old “try-out” books.

“So I guess we have “Marcel Walker” to thank for the fact that a person can now no longer get a job writing comics unless he has been a published novelist, show-runner, or movie director, first.”

No Christopher, that has very little to do with me. The mainstream comic-book industry was headed in that direction for a very long time.

First, one needs to take into account that DC Comics is a business, specifically a business in the entertainment industry, and not having an open-door submission policy is the standard practice for most of the entertainment industry. Think of it this way: you can’t simply submit a script to any major movie studio, or a song to a mainstream record company, or a book to most major book publishers. Time-Warner is a major multimedia conglomerate, involved in every aspect of the entertainment industry, including DC Comics. It stands to reason they would want their policies the same across the board.

As Richard Bruning said in DC’s press statement at the time, very few creators got their starts via that channel for years prior to them ending their policy. Most people got and continue to get their jobs making mainstream comics the same way that everyone else gets their jobs in every field: networking and hustling. That’s nothing to lament — it’s just life.

Furthermore, the vast majority of writers at DC, MARVEL, IDW, etc. are people who paid their dues to get that rarefied opportunity. Some worked in comics, some did not, all were driven and worked for it. No one handed them anything at anyone else’s expense, and it’s those companies’ right to hire whoever they want for whatever criteria they want. Begrudging creators because the way they got their jobs shatters the illusion that anyone could potentially do what they do changes nothing.

Did my lawsuit result in the removal of DC’s submissions policy? Only their legal counsel could say for sure. Would it have happened at some point regardless? I’m pretty sure it would have. Regardless, this aspect of the industry is too vast to claim one person is responsible. Quite bluntly, I’m not that important to comic-books.

Here’s the thing though, Christopher: there’s a big difference in a writer not being able to get a job making comic-books for a major publisher (which honestly is like not being able to get a job being a movie star or hosting a network talk show, although some of the latter started out as writers, so who knows…), and not being able to work on comics. You don’t need permission to make your own books and their are countless ways and opportunities to do so. If someone wants a job writing comic-books, then they can and should write some comic-books of their own. Pay those dues. And keep networking and hustling.

The rest will take care of itself. It always does.

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