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Comic Books, Film
Welcome to the two-hundred and sixty-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 sixty-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 TV Legends Revealed where you can find out what TV series came out on the same station the same year as Gilligan’s Island just to prove to Gilligan creator Sherwood Scwhartz that the President of the network was correct and that Gilligan’s Island would work better if they were NOT shipwrecked on an island!
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Comic Book Legends Revealed is now FIVE YEARS OLD. Crazy, huh?
COMIC LEGEND: DC Comics was originally going to kill off Jason Todd by him having AIDS.
Reader Mike wrote in to ask about something he read in a recent (and quite interesting) Judd Winick interview by Mary Borsellino over at Sequential Tart.
In the interview, Mary notes:
Deciding to put my disturbingly encyclopedic knowledge of all things Jason Todd to good use, I ask Winick if he’s ever heard about a storyline that was planned but never done, wherein Jason’s death would have been from AIDS.
“I think it was a stunning, unbelievable thing. In the time of fears and epidemic, to have had a superhero have it, I was stunned and proud to hear about that. But they were not able to do it. I always forget to ask Denny [O’Neil] about that, about what happened.
Now, obviously, the use of the term “was planned” can be pretty nebulous, so I suppose you can argue about the true or the false of the story, but the whole thing comes from a great interview Daniel Best (who has been so useful over the years that I gave him special thanks in my book!) did with Jim Starlin awhile back at Adelaide Comics and Books.
In it, Daniel asks about Robin and Starlin replies:
Well, I always thought that the whole idea of a kid side-kick was sheer insanity. So when I started writing Batman, I immediately started lobbying to kill off Robin. At one point DC had this AIDS book they wanted to do. They sent around memos to everybody saying “What character do you think we should, you know, have him get AIDS and do this dramatic thing” and they never ended up doing this project. I kept sending them things saying “Oh, do Robin! Do Robin!”
And Denny O’Neill said “We can’t kill Robin off”. Then Denny one night got this flash that “Hey, if we get this number where people call in and they can vote on it, they can decide whether Robin lives or dies.” So that’s how it started. I wrote up two endings and the readers came in and voted and I think it was 93 or something, it was this negliable amount, the difference for him to be put to death. And the death won out of course.
So, you tell me – does that sound like they ever really planned on giving Robin AIDS?
It more sounds like Starlin just wanted to kill off Robin any way he could, and it eventually got O’Neill to thinking, “Hey, maybe we COULD kill off Robin!” not “Let’s give Robin AIDS.”
So I’m going with a false here.
Thanks to Mike for the suggestion, Mary Borsellino and Judd Winick for the inspiring interview and Daniel Best and Jim Starlin for the lowdown on the story!
Next, a couple of more zombie-related legends inspired by last week’s column!
COMIC LEGEND: A Marvel comic character managed to not appear in a Comics Code-approved comic for FORTY years!
Reader David wrote to me after last week’s column to ask about Simon Garth, Marvel’s “Living Zombie,” and asking what the deal was with him – if zombies were banned by the Comics Code, what was his deal? I’ve had similar questions asked about Garth over the years asking whether the fact that he was a LIVING Zombie was a way for Marvel to get around the Comics Code.
In a way, Garth WAS a way to get around the Comics Code, but merely by not even submitting his comics TO the Comics Code!
In fact, Simon Garth was around for FORTY YEARS before he ever appeared in a Comics Code approved comic book!
Garth made his debut in Menace #5 in 1953 in a story titled, appropriately enough, “Zombie!”
Stan Lee and Bill Everett were the creative team behind Garth’s first appearance.
Twenty years later, Marvel decided to follow in the footsteps of Warren Publishing and put out black and white horror MAGAZINES so as to avoid having to submit them for Comic Code approval, and therefore allow them to do zombies and more graphic horror stories (well, more graphic than what was allowed at the time in standard comics).
Roy Thomas, being a smart fellow, tended to try to revive older characters if he could, so as to avoid creating new characters that he just knew that Marvel would own anyways, so he went to the pages of Menace and made Simon Garth the new lead character of Tales of the Zombie!
Steve Gerber wrote the first issue, with art by John Buscema. A slightly altered reprint of the Menace #5 story also ran in the issue (altered to make Garth’s appearance match his appearance in Gerber/Buscema’s tale).
After his run in Tales of the Zombie ended in 1975, he ended up making one more magazine appearance in Bizarre Adventures in 1981.
Then, besides an appearance in the Official Marvel Handbook in 1984, Garth was not to be seen until 1993, FOUR years after the Comics Code was altered to allow zombies to be depicted and FORTY YEARS after he first debuted.
Finally, he was appearing in a Comics Code-approved comic! The comic he first showed up in is a bit of an odd choice, though, 1993’s Daredevil Annual #9, in a tale by Glenn Herdling and Scott McDaniel!
The story was almost entirely double-page spreads, so click on each spread to enlarge…
Thanks to David for writing me about this!
COMIC LEGEND: The first Smurfs album was basically about zombie Smurfs!
Reader Jonathan A. wrote in to mention this one, and he’s right, it’s a godo one!
The Smurfs (or, as they were known in the Franco-Belgium comics where they debuted, Les Schtroumpfs) first appeared in comic writer/artist Peyo’s light-hearted sword and sorcery series, Johan et Pirlouit (Johan and Peewit) in 1958. They were quite popular and by 1959 they were starring in their own back-up stories.
Their first album came out in 1963, titled Les Schtroumpfs Noirs – the Black Smurfs.
And the Black Smurfs, their first solo comic title, was basically about zombie smurfs!!!
You see, a Smurf in the comic is stung by a rare fly who effectively turns him into a zombie (his skin turns black). He then bites other Smurfs, who ALSO turn into zombies!
The comic was never reprinted in the United States (I don’t know why – likely the “Black” thing, but perhaps the zombie aspect of it, also?), so I’ll have to share with you the French pages (Smurf comics aren’t exactly hard to follow, luckily)…
And after Papa Smurf comes up with an antidote, the remaining unaffected Smurfs face off against their “turned” brethren…
In the end, though, Papa Smurf is the only Smurf left standing (through a clever ruse when one of the Black Smurfs paints himself blue to avoid being doused with the antidote). As he is being turned, as well, luckily, an explosion releases the antidote to all the Smurfs…
The story was later adapted into the Hanna Barbera cartoon, but in the cartoon, they turned PURPLE, not black.
Pretty funny, huh?
Commenter Gerald wrote in to note:
In the latest Previews, NBM/Papercutz has announced that they were going to publish “Le Schtroumpf Noir” (as well as the first appearance of the Smurfs, “The Magic Flute”). But they are going to publish it under the title “The Purple Smurf”, and color the offending black Smurfs purple.
And thanks to Jonathan A. for the suggestion for this bit!
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. And my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/brian_cronin, so you can ask me legends there, as well!
As you likely know by now, in April of last year my book 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…
See you all next week!
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