DC Comics' "Rebirth" Character Designs for Batman, Wonder Woman and More
Welcome to the two-hundred and sixty-ninth 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-eight.
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 Music Legends Revealed to learn of the musical hoax perpetrated by one of the hosts on American Idol prior to their tenure on Idol, plus discover whether the Association’s “Windy” was written about a guy!
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COMIC LEGEND: A 1950’s children’s comic book changed its name over fears of getting caught in the middle of the anti-Communist fever in the United States at the time.
STATUS: I’m Going With False
At the height of the anti-Communist era in United States history, some pretty out there stuff was going on. In the past, I have written about how the Cincinnati Reds baseball team actually changed its name to the Cincinatti Redlegs for a number of years during the 1950s over fears of a fan backlash due to the team’s name seemingly evoking Communism.
So when St. John Publications came out with a Little Joe comic book in 1953…
and then changed the title of the book to Little Ike with the second issue…
The good folks at New England Comics’ Extinct #1 stated that it was likely because of fear of Communism, with the book changing from Joe (as in Joseph Stalin) to Ike (as in President Eisenhower).
And reader John McDonagh wrote in a few years past to tell me this one for a legend, using Extinct #1 as his reference.
However, in the SECOND issue of Extinct, they basically retract the point, as readers Joe Fitzgerald and Steven Rowe both wrote in to point out that…
A. Even in the headiest days of anti-Communism, the name “Joe” was not tainted. It wasn’t like it was “Adolf” or whatever. Joe was still a prevalent name in popular culture and, as commenter thok points out, Joe was the first name of the biggest name in anti-Communism, Senator Joe McCarthy!
but even more importantly,
B. There was ALREADY a comic out called Little Joe!
Little Joe was a long-running comic strip that, while it never starred in a comic book (it was featured in back-ups, but never as a lead in a comic), was still a nationally syndicated comic strip that ran from 1933 until the late 1960s/early 1970s and WAS featured on the first issue of Dell’s long-running Four Color series…
Little Joe was drawn by Ed Leffingwell (and when he died in 1936, his brother Robert took over and drew it until it ended decades later) and initially written by Leffingwell’s cousin, Harold Gray (of Little Orphan Annie fame, which is why Little Joe looks so similar to Annie), until Robert Leffingwell also took over the writing chores upon Gray’s departure from the strip in 1946.
I think the combination of those two things is enough for a false here.
Now, as to the Ike thing, that almost certainly WAS inspired by the President, but it doesn’t seem to be because of Communism or anything like that, just because the name was popular, and St. John liked three-letter names, like their more popular Little Eva…
Thanks to John for the suggestion and thanks to Joe and Steven for the information!
COMIC LEGEND: Marv Wolfman and Mike W. Barr created Terra and Geo-Force at the same time – independent of each other!
The Teen Titan (and secret enemy of the group) Terra was created by Marv Wolfman and George Perez and debuted in the pages of the New Teen Titans #26, in late 1982…
Geo-Force, of the Outsiders, was created by Mike W. Barr and Jim Aparo, and debuted in the last issue of Brave and the Bold (#200), in early 1983…
The two heroes were later revealed to be siblings.
Reader Frank wrote in a few years back to ask:
Is it true than way back when that both Marv Wolfman and Mike W. Barr basically came up with the same character (Geo-Force/Terra) at the same time yet independently of each other – then wove their story together as a brother/sister combo??
Yes, that’s pretty much the exact story, Frank.
Wolfman and Perez were looking for a new character to be a new Titan (while secretly being a villain the whole time – read this past Comic Book Legends Revealed to learn which popular Marvel character Wolfman and Perez created Terra almost as a parody of) while Barr and Aparo were creating characters to be members of Batman’s new superhero group, alongside established characters like Black Lightning and Metamorpho.
Both Wolfman and Barr came up with the idea of having their characters have the superpower of controlling the Earth itself – this is not too surprising, considering Wolfman had already created a character with that power, Terrax, back when he was writing Fantastic Four for Marvel in the late 1970s…
Wolfman has spoken about this in a few places, but I’m specifically taking this quote from a 2003 edition of his old Silver Bullet Comics’ column…
One last note: I came into DC with Terra the same day Mike Barr came into DC with Geo-Force. Both had earth-shifting powers. It would have been unfair for one of us to get rid of our character, so we decided to make them brother and sister.
In a really cool piece of timing, less than two months ago, George Perez posted the following sketch on the George Perez Fan Page on Facebook, along with some extra background:
Here’s an historic find. This was the design sketch I did for Terra and Geo-Force back when both characters were introduced. When OUTSIDERS writer Mike Barr and TITANS writer Marv Wolfman found that they each had created a character with Earth-moving powers, they decided to have them be related to each other and I was asked to design costumes for both (replacing Terra’s debut outfit). Jim Aparo modified Geo-Force’s costume, but this was the original. Sorry that the pencils are so light.
Thanks so much for sharing that sketch with your fans, George!
And, of course, thanks to Marv Wolfman for the information and Frank for the initial question!
COMIC LEGEND: A small in-joke from the first issue of G.I. Joe #1 was put into “continuity”…twenty-four years later!!!
Reader Ethan suggest I feature this one (a popular one among G.I. Joe fans) awhile back, and he’s right, it’s an interesting one.
In G.I. Joe, A Real American Hero #1, writer Larry Hama and artist Herb Trimpe introduce the world to the G.I. Joe squad – a specially trained action force designed to fight against a terrorist group known as Cobra.
Most of the characters had really straightforward codenames, like Breaker (the communications expert), Clutch (the vehicle expert), Stalker (the infantry expert), Short Fuse (the explosives expert), etc.
Well, Hama figured that Marvel Editor-in-Chief, Jim Shooter, had a last name that would fit in perfect alongside these characters, so in the first issue of G. I. Joe, when the dossiers for the various characters are displayed…
And that’s the last time the character “Shooter” appeared in the series.
Fast-forward twenty-four years, and Hama was recruited by Devils’ Due to do a mini-series called G.I. Joe Declassified, showing how each of the various members of the original G.I. Joe team were recruited.
While he was doing that, Hama worked in the first (and last) appearance of Shooter, showing her in action and showing why we never saw or heard of her again…
1. She was a sort of “back-up” operative – the other members of the team did not even know she was ON the team. A sniper, she was held in reserve and secretly assisted the team, even stationed on their base under their noses…
2. She died on their first mission.
Here’s the ending of the main story from G. I. Joe #1…
And here it is from Shooter’s perspective…
Pretty neat, huh? Go seek out G. I. Joe Declassified! I reviewed it here on the blog – it was really quite good. Hama did a wonderful job on the characters.
Thanks to Ethan for the suggestion!
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 email@example.com. 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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