INTERVIEW: Gail Simone Guides 'Blockbuster Update' of Red Sonja, Vampirella and Dejah Thoris
Welcome to the two-hundred and seventy-fifth 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-four.
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 Football Legends Revealed to learn what extreme methods NBC took to delay an NFL Championship game after they lost their TV signal!
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COMIC LEGEND: Steve Englehart, Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin’s Deadshot revamp occurred because of a scheduling problem.
Steve Englehart’s run on Detective Comics is one of the most memorable runs on the title, and it lasted only eight issues. The first two issues were drawn by Walt Simonson and Al Milgrom and the final six were drawn by Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin.
The run was always INTENDED to be a short run, as Englehart actually wrote all of the scripts before the first two-parter was even finished. Instead of the Marvel method of script writing, where Englehart would have to interact with the artist on the final product, he just wrote out full scripts which were then given to Rogers and Austin to draw. Englehart and his wife were taking some time off traveling in Europe, so they were not even in the COUNTRY when the famous Englehart/Rogers/Austin issues of Detective Comics began to come out.
A notable aspect of Englehart’s run is how he worked in a spotlight for most of Batman’s most notable villains, as well as a spotlight for Robin. On top of the return of an old villain Englehart got a kick out of, Hugo Strange, Englehart provided spotlights for both the Penguin and the Joker – but also in the middle of it, he also brought back Deadshot, a character who had not appeared in nearly three decades after debuting in 1950’s Batman #59.
Here is Deadshot in his original appearance…
And in Detective Comics #474 (cover-dated December 1977), here is Deadshot…
Marshall Rogers’ new design for Deadshot made the character relevant for the first time since his first appearance and he was used a couple more times in the early 1980s before John Ostrander, while flipping through issues of Who’s Who to find characters to use in his new book, Suicide Squad, was intrigued by the Rogers design and put Deadshot on to the team. The rest is, of course, history for the character, as he became probably the most famous character in the Suicide Squad….
even getting his own mini-series…
and to this day he is a popular character, appearing regularly as a member of Gail Simone’s Secret Six…
But get this…Deadshot’s inclusion in Englehart’s run? It came AFTER Englehart had already finished his SEVEN scripts for the series. Yes, the issue with Deadshot was NOT part of the original scripts Englehart did for the run. Bat-Editor Julie Schwartz requested an eighth script by Englehart and he complied, putting the Deadshot issue between two stories, and fleshing out the sub-plots a bit more.
So originally, the Penguin issue…
was going to lead directly into the famous Joker issue…
Why was this change made?
Well, you see, at the very same time Englehart was making comics history in Detective Comics, over in the pages of Batman, writer David Vern and artists John Calnan and Tex Blaisdell were doing ANOTHER memorable storyline, the famous “Where Were You on the Night Batman Was Killed?” storyline where each issue features a different villain explaining how THEY were the one who should be credited with finally killing Batman…
(of course, Batman turns out not to actually be dead)
And the issue featuring the Joker was scheduled to be released with a cover-date of December 1977.
So Schwartz, not wanting to have BOTH Batman books feature the Joker in the same month, asked Englehart to write an extra script so that they could bump Joker’s appearance to another month, and the famous tale of Joker’s Laughing Fish showed up with a cover-date of February 1978.
So think about THAT for a What If..?!! If Vern doesn’t do his story, Englehart doesn’t do his story and Rogers doesn’t re-design Deadshot’s look and Ostrander never uses Deadshot in Suicide Squad and, well, we would have been out a lot of cool comics!!
Thanks to the late Marshall Roger and Steve Englehart for providing the information about the story to the great Jon B. Cooke (who I also thank for GETTING the info) in an early issue of Comic Book Artist. Thanks to Michael Browning and John Ostrander for detailing in an old issue of Back Issue magazine why Ostrander picked Deadshot to use in the Suicide Squad.
COMIC LEGEND: Tony Stark was originally going to be the creator of the Sentinels.
STATUS: I’m Going with a False
Reader R. Lewis (who has contributed more than one good legend suggestion over the years) sent me this one in the other day.
Have you ever read/heard about how Tony Stark was supposed to be a villain and the creator of the Sentinels, but was changed to Bolivar Trask? Both the Iron Man suits and Sentinels resemble each other greatly and both are very driven characters. Trask is an anagram of Stark, as well.
This one came up on the Iron Man message boards at comic boards recently, where a poster states, in a discussion about how the Sentinels are similar in design to Iron Man’s armor:
I’m surprised no one has mentioned the fact that originally they were Stark designs. Before they went to press the first time, the editors decided that Stark wasn’t a bad guy and would not design anti Mutant robots.
It was my understanding they anagram-med his name to Trask instead of Stark. That’s why they still look an awful lot like Stark designs.
Now, I’m going to break from normal protocol a bit this week, in that I do not have any direct proof from, say, Stan Lee, writer of X-Men #14, the first appearance of Bolivar Trask and the Sentinels, to disprove this one. I’m still willing to feature it because I think we can pretty much disprove it just based on the issue alone.
Here are the first two pages featuring Bolivar Trask from X-Men #14, written by Stan Lee, with layouts by Jack Kirby and finished by Werner Roth (who was slowly transitioning into the book’s new ongoing artists) with inks by Vince Colletta.
(as a quick aside, where is that famous whipping photo from again? I always forget. It’s some pulp, right?)
I do not need to check with Stan Lee to realize that there’s no way that that character could ever have been Tony Stark.
This is not even counting the fact that Trask DIES at the end of the three-part story!
I discount that aspect of the tale because, let’s say that Stan Lee DID decide to change the story in #14, the way he worked back then, any changes he made in #14 he could then tell the artists to incorporate into #15 and #16, so if he DID decide to make changes, the ending of the story wouldn’t necessarily have an impact on it all (this is largely what drove Jack Kirby absolutely bonkers eventually on Fantastic Four, as Kirby would occasionally do a plot where Lee changed a major aspect of the plot in the first part of the storyline forcing Kirby to bend over backwards changing the plots of the next issues to fit the first issue).
But really, “the editors decided that Stark wasn’t a bad guy and would not design anti Mutant robots”? The only real editor Marvel HAD was the guy WRITING the story!
It is not like Bolivar Trask was some good-intentioned guy whose designs were co-opted by bad guys. If that were the case, then maybe Stark would be a possibility, but as it stands, there’s no way that that guy was originally intended as Tony Stark. It just makes zero sense. So much so that I’m willing to go with a false here (the fact that Stan Lee has never said anything about this issue also helps my willingness to go with a “False” here, as you’d think Lee would have mentioned somewhere over the years that he toyed with the idea of making Tony Stark a villain and not even in the pages of his own book but as a guest star in X-Men).
Thanks to R. Lewis for the suggestion and thanks to our pal Omar Karindu, who I see was over on the Iron Man thread in question also debunking the Trask/Stark story.
It’s worth noting that Chris Claremont recently HAS done a story in his alternate reality X-Men Forever series using the Trask/Stark anagram as a basis for a story.
COMIC LEGEND: Joe Shuster’s Canadian roots were evidenced in the city where Superman lived and the newspaper where he worked as Clark Kent.
A CBR poster named gryphon asked if I could do a legend involving Canada in honor of FanExpo Canada, which took place earlier this week. Well, that reminded me of an e-mail I got a couple of years back from a reader named Clayton F….
Hello. As a Canadian comic book fan I have many a time in my youth seen a commercial that is from a series of commercials that deal with our heritage as Canadians. It is a 30 second episode that talks about the origin of Superman, and more importantly, the country in which Joe Shuster is from. In this commercial it depicts him as a native of the Great White North, and this has always been a point of pride for me as a Canadian comic geek. But, whenever I see an article or story published on the web or in for instance, Wizard magazine, they say that he was created by “Cleveland” natives, Shuster and Siegel. I want to know if this “urban legend” is a fraud, or are we Canadians just hated that much that we’re not mentioned. Please find out for me. Thanks
So sure, gryphon and Clayton, we shall give the Canadian heritage of Superman its due this week.
Yes, Joe Shuster was, indeed, born in Canada. He moved to Cleveland, Ohio when he was either 9 or 10. Before that, though, he lived and grew up in Toronto, Ontario.
Like many young boys during the 1920s (Shuster was born in 1914), Shuster worked as a newspaper seller on a street corner. A “Newsboy,” if you would. The paper Shuster sold was the Toronto Daily Star (now called just the Toronto Star, still Canada’s largest newspaper in terms of print circulation)…
Shuster gave the last interview of his life in April of 1992 (Shusters passed away in July of that year) to Henry Mietkiewicz of the Toronto Star. The interview was given in connection with the 100th Anniversary of the Toronto Star.
And Shuster spoke about a couple of notable pieces of Canadian influences upon the early Superman stories.
For instance, from Action Comics #1, note where Clark Kent works…
In the interview, Shuster notes, “I still remember drawing one of the earliest panels that showed the newspaper building. We needed a name, and I spontaneously remembered the Toronto Star. So that’s the way I lettered it. I decided to do it that way on the spur of the moment, because The Star was such a great influence on my life.”
Perhaps a greater Canadian influence (especially since the Daily Star became the Daily Planet a few years later) is the city of Metropolis itself.
On the design of the city, Shuster remarked
“Cleveland was not nearly as metropolitan as Toronto was, and it was not as big or as beautiful. Whatever buildings I saw in Toronto remained in my mind and came out in the form of Metropolis. As I realized later on, Toronto is a much more beautiful city than Cleveland ever was.” Pausing for a moment, Shuster chuckles and adds, “I guess I don’t have to worry about saying that now.”
Here is Toronto’s skyline in the 1930s…
And here is Cleveland’s skyline in the 1930s…
In fairness to Cleveland, it was not exactly like Shuster drew a whole lot of buildings in the early days of Superman. Action Comics #1 is almost completely devoid of skyscrapers until the end of the issue – which takes place in Washington DC!!
From Action Comics #8, here’s an example of Shuster’s take on Metropolis…
As you can see, while I certainly do not disagree with Shuster when he says he had Toronto in mind when drawing Metropolis, it was not like it had a major effect upon how the city was drawn. Still, it’s pretty darn neat to be known as the city that inspired Metropolis!
Certainly the modern Toronto skyline is a worthy comparison to the city of Metropolis…
Anyhow, there you go, gryphon and Clayton, something about Canada! I will even throw a shout out out of nowhere to Graeme Burk, just because he knows a lot about Canadian comic book history and I’m sure had I thought to ask him for a topic this week, he would have had plenty of good ideas.
Thanks to Henry Mietkiewicz and the late, great Joe Shuster for the informative interview!
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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