O Say Can You See: The Greatest Patriotic Super Heroes of All-Time
Welcome to the two-hundred and seventy-second 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 seventy-one.
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 Basketball Legends Revealed to learn if it is true that Los Angeles Clippers guard Eric Gordon played Michael Jordan’s son in Space Jam!
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COMIC LEGEND: Geoff Johns had been pursuing Lex Luthor as being the donor of half of Superboy’s DNA for years (starting before he ever worked in comics!) until he finally got it into the comics.
Karl Kesel and Tom Grummett created the 1990s Superboy, who was a partial clone of Superman, for the “Reign of the Supermen” storyline that led to the return of Superman.
In the 1995 Superboy Annual, they finally revealed who the HUMAN half of Superboy’s cloned DNA came from, and it turns out it was the villainous Director of Cadmus, Paul Westfield!!
Well, less than a year later, in 1996’s Superboy #26, a fan named Geoffrey Johns wrote in to suggest that rather than Westfield, it would be a cooler idea if Superboy’s human half of his DNA came from Lex Luthor.
Here is his letter and the reply from the Superboy editor…
Fast forward five years, and Johns was now working for DC, writing the original series, Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. for a year or so…
and co-writing JSA (heck, by this point, Johns was actually writing the book by himself for a spell)…
and writing the Flash…
So while Johns perhaps was not a “star” at DC yet, he was definitely a major up and coming talent. At around this same time, Superboy had a change in direction. Writer Joe Kelly was off of the book and DC was accepting pitches for a new creative team.
While now he is well accepted as a writer, back in 2001, Keith Champagne was pretty much known solely as an inker. In fact, he was the inker on Joe Kelly’s Superboy (with artist Pascual Ferry)! After discussing his chances with a DC editor, Champagne realized that he would likely need to pitch with an established writer as co-writer to have a chance at the book. Champange asked Johns, and he agreed. So the pair got together and pitched for Superboy.
Champagne has the original pitch available on his site here.
But suffice it to say, the plot of their initial arc was Superboy learning that Paul Westfield was NOT the human donor of his DNA, and their initial story would take Superboy on a journey to discover who IS the donor, with Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor being the two top contenders. Then, in #100, Luthor would be revealed as the real donor.
Their pitch was not picked up. DC decided to instead go with one by co-writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Dan Didio.
Fast forward about two years, and Geoff Johns was now part of a major reboot of DC’s third and fourth generation heroes, with Judd Winick restarting the Outsiders and Johns restarting Teen Titans.
And in the first issue of Teen Titans…
That’s some pretty darn impressive dedication on Johns’ part, huh?
Thanks to Keith Champagne for sharing his pitch with us all. Thanks to David Uzumeri of Funnybook Babylon for getting a nice scan of the letter (I’ve been looking for a good scan for some time now) and thanks to CBR poster bongoes for noting that Uzumeri had the scan up. And thanks to Geoff Johns for showing us the power of “stick-to-it-ness”!
COMIC LEGEND: Every character who ever starred in their own series was featured in Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Over the years, I’m sure you have heard someone say that Crisis on Infinite Earths featured every DC character, but really, I’m sure you didn’t take that seriously, as well you shouldn’t. It’s just way too outlandish a claim – there has just been waaaay too many DC characters over the years to take such a claim seriously. So when I see the claim made, I don’t really treat it like a “legend,” as I don’t think anyone could seriously believe it.
However, the claim that Crisis on Infinite Earths contained “all of the characters who ever got their own series” in a fight against the Anti-Monitor, as asserted in the TV Tropes feature on Crisis on Infinite Earths (here), THAT I can believe that someone actually believes, as that’s a much lesser claim.
And it is true that Crisis on Infinite Earths has pretty much every character who ever starred in their own series for DC (while understandably limiting the discussion to just the superheroes and action heroes). Marv Wolfman and George Perez put a LOT of disparate characters into the series.
But, naturally enough, they did not include EVERYone.
And amazingly enough, one such character who is absent from the entire 12 issues of Crisis on Infinite Earths is Hal Jordan!!!!
Yes, one of the most famous DC heroes of all-time and he is not present, even in cameo form, in any issues of Crisis on Infinite Earths!
You see, at the time, Hal had quit as Green Lantern…
and John Stewart had taken over…
And John was certainly front and center during the storyline (here he is in #2)…
And the Green Lantern Corps were also present (here they are in #5)…
And when the title DID tie in with Crisis, it was through the introduction of the new Guy Gardner Green Lantern costume…
which is addressed in Crisis on Infinite Earths #9…
but you see, when Green Lantern finally officially tied in with Crisis, it was at the very end of Crisis and the storyline ENDED with Hal becoming Green Lantern again…
By the time Hal had returned, Crisis had ended the previous month!
That said, it is still surprising that Hal did not even get, like, a one-panel cameo at some point in the series.
What other characters who starred in their own series (action and superhero, that is) did not get featured in Crisis?
Thanks to TV Tropes for the quote (do note that I only cite stuff like this to show that the claim IS reasonable, I don’t mean it as a slight in any way) and thanks to reader Fritz for suggesting I feature this one!
COMIC LEGEND: Through lyrical osmosis, David Bowie worked in a comic strip reference into one of his most famous songs!
Vincent Trout Hamlin (he went by his two initials, VT) began the caveman comic strip, Alley Oop, in 1932. The series followed a cave man named Alley Oop during the Stone Age. In 1939, the strip made a major change, as Hamlin used time travel to bring Oop to the present, opening up the series to all sorts of extra wacky adventures.
(click on the image to enlarge)
In 1960, musician Gary Paxton put together a group of session musicians and friends to record a song written by Dallas Frazier based on the comic strip (Hamlin was paid royalties for the song).
The “fake” group was called the Hollywood Argyles…
and the song, “Alley Oop,” became a #1 hit in 1960…
The song gained an intriguing fan by the end of the decade in a young David Bowie. At one point at the beginning of the 1970s, Bowie was asked what his five all-time favorite records were. His answer displayed the broad eclecticism that defined his musical style.
He picked two albums, Charlie Mingus’ jazz record, Oh Yeah, Frank Zappa’s album We’re Only in it for the Money and three singles, the Velvet Underground’s “Waiting for the Man,” the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Summer in the City” and, of course, the Hollywood Argyles’ “Alley Oop.”
And sure enough, in his legendary 1971 song, “Life on Mars?” (which became a hit when re-released as a single in 1973)
he DIRECTLY quotes the song “Alley Oop” with the line “look at that caveman go.”
So, well before the Venture Brothers, David Bowie and the world of comics had a connection!
A couple of commenters had some other interesting information in regards to Bowie and comics.
Commenter Greg points out that another song off of Hunky Dory, “All the Pretty Things,” has a reference to “Homo Superior” in it (commenter Squashua notes that Bowie even uses the Homo Superior quote in an episode of Venture Brothers)
Also, commenter Mr. D. wrote in with a very interesting little tidbit of info:
My mum’s first boyfriend was a certain David Jones (a fact I’ve dined out on for years), circa 1964-5 or so. I can confirm that he was a comics fan, particularly the new wave of American comics that were starting to filter through – certainly Fantastic Four. He showed my mum the Galactus saga, which got her hooked. She, in turn, got me interested in comics. So, in a roundabout way, you could say that David Bowie is responsible for getting me into comics…
Thanks for the info, Greg, Squashua and Mr. D!
Thanks to Zack Smith for suggesting this one (Zack has another suggestion that I’ll be featuring in the near future)! Thanks to Christopher Sandford’s David Bowie: Loving the Alien, for the info about Bowie’s interest in “Alley Oop.”
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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