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Comic Book Legends Revealed #280

Welcome to the two-hundred and eightieth 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-nine.

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 latest installment of Movie Legends Revealed to learn whether ‘N Sync were almost Jedis in a Star Wars film! And was Chuck Norris almost the guy who said “sweep the leg” in Karate Kid?

Follow Comics Should Be Good on Twitter and on Facebook (also, feel free to share Comic Book Legends Revealed on our Facebook page!). As I’ve promised, at 2,000 Twitter followers I’ll do a BONUS edition of Comic Book Legends Revealed during the week we hit 2,000. So go follow us (here‘s the link to our Twitter page again)! Not only will you get updates when new blog posts show up on both Twitter and Facebook, but you’ll get original content from me, as well!

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: Steve Englehart, Len Wein and Gerry Conway had an unauthorized inter-company crossover well before the first official Marvel/DC crossover.

STATUS: True

It’s interesting, I’ve been doing this column for, what, well over five years and I have never done a bit on the Rutland Halloween crossover. Isn’t that funny? I think I meant to do one literally five years ago, but just never got around to it. A reader recently wrote to me about it, so I figure, hey, now is as good a time as any! So here goes!

By the time that the Rutland crossover had occurred, DC and Marvel had already done a sort of crossover in the pages of Avengers and Justice League, with the creation of the Squadron Sinister in Avengers #70 and “evil reflections of the Justice League” in Justice League of America #75. But that was not exactly much of a crossover. They later did it even more clearly in the pages of Avengers #85 and Justice League of America #87 (the full story is detailed in an old installment of Comic Book Legends Revealed here).

A couple of years later, though, Marvel and DC (or more specifically, a few of their writers) decided to go even further than just having analogues fight each other the same month and have a true, bonafide crossover, only achieving it through the use of fictional versions of the writers themselves!

The backdrop for the crossover was the Rutland Halloween Parade, a costume parade in Rutland, Vermont, first organized by comic book fan Tom Fagan in 1960. The parade grew every year and by the early 1970s was a firmly established tradition in Rutland (it continues to this day, apparently the longest-running Halloween parade in the country!).

So over the Christmas break in 1972, writers Gerry Conway, Steve Englehart and Len Wein collaborated on a three-part crossover between three titles written by the trio.

Englehart recounted the event in a recent column he did for Tor, as part of his ongoing From Comics to Cosmic column there (reader Rob H. read the column and wrote to me about it, which reminded me that I really ought to feature this piece):

After my first time in Rutland, I got together with two other attendees/writers, and we co-plotted the first inter-company crossover-story event. I had my first-born series, The Beast; they had Marvel’s Thor and DC’s Justice League of America. Our combined story involved us three and the JLA writer’s wife at the Halloween event, where our heroes and villains were also in attendance. Since this was not officially sanctioned by the two companies involved, we made sure the stories dovetailed neatly but could never refer to the other company’s books. We’d pass offstage in one book and move onstage in another, and so would the superheroics, so that each comic stood on its own and also told the larger story. In those days we Marvel writers had absolute creative freedom…

The story began in Amazing Adventures #16 (written by Englehart), when Steve Englehart, Gerry Conway, Len Wein and Len’s then wife Glynis, went on a trip to Rutland…

It continued into Justice League of America #103 (written by Wein)…

and it finished in The Mighty Thor #207 (written by Conway)…

Pretty neat stuff, huh? I especially love how Tom Fagan wears a Nighthawk costume in the Marvel issues and a Batman one in the DC issues. Also, do note that the guy stealing the car is Felix Faust from the JLA part of the story.

Thanks to Rob and all the other readers who have asked me to feature this one over the years, and thanks to Steve Englehart for the nifty new column!

RIP, Tom Fagan, who passed away in 2008.

COMIC LEGEND: Postal restrictions led to some strange characters appearing in a couple of Carl Barks’ Gyro Gearloose tales.

STATUS: True

A number of years back (soon after the blog moved to Comic Book Resources) I did an installment of Comic Book Legends Revealed on the odd case of Gyro Gearloose and the Carl Barks’ Duck Universe.

You see, Western Publishing decided to apply for a second class mailing permit for the comic book Uncle Scrooge. To gain second class privileges a periodical must contain at least two stories, each one featuring different characters.

So since it couldn’t star Uncle Scrooge, Barks had to figure out a character who could hold his own in a back-up. So Barks decided to have the second story be a spin-off of the inventor Gyro Gearloose.

Fair enough, problem solved, right?

Not so fast.

You see, when Barks wrote the first two Gyro Gearloose solo stories (which appeared in Uncle Scrooge #13 and #14) he made sure to keep Uncle Scrooge out of the stories. However, what he DIDN’T know he needed to do was to keep ALL CHARACTERS who appeared in the first story out of the second one. So if someone appeared in the first story, he could not appear in the second.

Barks, however, had already drawn Huey, Dewey and Louie into the first one and Donald Duck into the second one.

So Western told him he needed to change it, so the result is a couple of odd character usages.

In the first story, Barks replaced Donald Duck’s nephews with Mickey Mouse‘s nephews, Morty and Ferdie!!

Look how out of place they seem…

In the back-up story in Uncle Scrooge #14, Donald Duck becomes Speedy…

Once Barks knew the rules, he kept up with it from that point on, but still, the early problems led to some odd comics!

COMIC LEGEND: The Squadron Sinister were modeled after the Crime Syndicate

STATUS: I’m Going With False

As I mentioned before (and in this previous installment of Comic Book Legends Revealed), Roy Thomas first had the Justice League crossover, in a fashion, with the Avengers, through the use of the Squadron Sinister, who were stand-ins for four members of the Justice League, Hyperion was Superman, Whizzer was the Flash, Nighthawk was Batman and Doctor Spectrum was Green Lantern.

However, many fans over the years suggested that what Thomas was doing was specifically a DOUBLE-homage/analogue. The Squadron Sinister were evil versions of the Justice League, true, but the theory was that Thomas also based them on the Crime Syndicate of America, who were, themselves, evil versions of the Justice League.

The theory was based on the fact that the four Justice League members Thomas chose to use as basis for the Squadron Sinister also had Crime Syndicate counterparts.

Thomas was asked the question flat-out in the Justice League Companion by the great Jon B. Cooke….

Cooke: While the first Squadron Sinister story was your Marvelized version of the Justice League, did you also have the Crime Syndicate in mind when creating those characters?

Thomas: No, it was entirely the Justice League.

Cooke: Even though they, like the Crime Syndicate, were evil versions of the JLA?

Thomas: The only similarity is the fact that the Crime Syndicate is the same five characters that I probably should have used for the Squadron Sinister. As I said, I didn’t have the Wonder Woman character, probably because I wanted four characters to fight four Avengers. I didn’t have the Crime Syndicate in mind, but of course, they both came from the same thing. What Gardner and Julie had done earlier with the Crime Syndicate was to take the five best-known DC characters, more or less, and to make equivalents of them as the villains, and I did the same thing. I won’t say that the Crime Syndicate couldn’t have been in the back of my mind, but I think that it was really quite independent of there ever having been a Crime Syndicate.

That’s pretty much dead on point, right?

And if there’s anyone who I would trust on an issue like this, it would be Roy Thomas, so I’m willing to go with a false here.

Thanks to Cooke and Thomas for the interview and the info!!

Okay, that’s it for this week!

Thanks to the Grand Comics Database for this week’s covers! And thanks to Brandon Hanvey for the Comic Book Legends Revealed logo!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is cronb01@aol.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…

Was Superman a Spy?: And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed

See you all next week!

55 Comments

Glad to see Englehart used these appearances to catapult himself into move stardom as Riff Raff.

Beast used to wear a rubber Hank McCoy mask to disguise is secondary mutation? How messed up is that?

(The prevalence of rubber mask usage- as well as the presumptive ability for anyone to passably duplicate anyone else’s voice in comics- suggest comic book people are all pretty dumb.)

As always, a fun column, Brian!

The “guy in the Loki costume” is Loki. That scene leads into the Avengers-Defenders crossover, where Loki is blind.

Brian: “Also, do note that the “guy in the Loki costume” is Felix Faust from the JLA part of the story.”

Hey Brian,since Felix Faust is in the car, aren’t they actually referring to the real Loki in that panel?

Funny, I thought you had already mentioned those Morty and Ferdie and Speedy appearances last time Gyro was covered, but apparently not…

Isn’t the “guy in the Loki costume” actually Loki? Faust is the guy driving the car away.

I love that “crossover”, and the fact that you really didn’t need to read any of the other books to appreciate either each individual story, or the fact that there were cameos.

Sorry, Brian for taking so long to write my post that two other people beat me to it!

And I should add, thanks for another fun column!

that crossover, that is seriously 1 of the greatest things ever.
To heck w/ being “marvel guy” or a “dc guy” already, it’s about writers, and fun, and AWESOME.

I’m going to have to track those issues down, just for the love of it.

My overall history only goes back to the early 80s, so I am very happy you did this piece.
And hearing about the Hero Parade, and the fact that these guys went so far as to attend, and wrote the originator of it into the story.

Man, 100% awesome.

Nice column! I remember reading those Rutland stories and thinking how cool it was that the creators were linking the two universes. It’s probably the best Marvel/DC crossover ever done. Certainly it is the most fun.

Ahhh…I thought that they were saying that there were TWO guys in “Loki” costumes, with one of them in the car being Faust (and they are just saying that Faust’s costume looked like Loki). But I see I am mistaken. No problema, I’ll change it!

So, does this also tell us that Glynis Wein was hot back in the day? :)

[…] Posted on October 1, 2010 by Jason M. Here’s another of those excellent CBR “Comic Book Legends Revealed” columns.  On offer today, inter-company crossovers, postal restrictions, and crime syndicates.  Trust me, […]

I’ve only seen the JLA side of that crossover before. I’ll have to look for the Marvel issues and read it altogether again!

Even though Buscema is credited with drawing the Thor issue the faces of the real people look like the work of Marie Severin.

Neat to see THOR #207’s “Good Works” credit for Marie Severin. Those staffers’ faces are definitely her work.

Good ol’ Marie Severin providing the accurate caritcatures [sp] of the Marvel crew in the Thor story! And dantecat, I think the “riff Raff” look alike is Roy Thomas.

Commando America

October 1, 2010 at 10:58 am

Great story!

Loved the concept of the “unofficial” crossover… most memorable one to me is the Quasar “Buried Alien” send off to a certain speedster that got resurrected…

Pretty much the Squadron Sinister one was a wash to me because The Grandmaster when he created them was viewing the Squadron Supreme at the time… If anything Sinister reminded me of Star Trek’s “Mirror Universe” or the concept of Bizarro (without the speech of course) more than the Crime Syndicate…

@Ethan Shuster: I almost posted something to that effect. I particularly like the Dillin/Giordano version, but the Marie Severin version is really cute, and probably a pretty good likeness, since Marie is known for her skill at that.

Glynis Wein (aka Glynis Oliver) was a decent colorist, that’s for sure. But I haven’t noticed her name in the credits for some time. Is she still in the field?

With comics obsession with continuity I’m surprised that Rutland hasn’t been brought back as some sort of nexus of worlds device. I certainly would have been a fun inclusion in one of the official inter-company crossovers.

If Beast was wearing rubber masks and gloves to appear as his pre-furry self, why are his hands and feet normal size?

To the previous poster, I’m not sure it qualifies as a secondary mutation. Hank performed that old mad scientist cliche and tested something he concocted on himself.

I love the Commando America bit.

Did any of those second-class postage rules ever make any logical sense, or were they just imposing rules to annoy publishers?

I may be in the minority, but I always found those Rutland stories to be the height of self-indulgence. All the worst navel-gazing qualities of the Bronze Age are on display, proving why creators sometimes do, in fact, need editors and not complete creative freedom.

Going by the art, Glynis was a true 70’s hottie. I love those Rutland stories.

As for the Barks/Gyro piece, who was Speedy? He’s not ringing any bells.

I understand I can thrill to the monster of Frankenstein, today.

I’m geeking out big-time on the cross-over. I have the Amazing Adventures ish but wasn’t aware of the other two. And how great is it to see some fresh Dick Dillin (new to me, at least)! … Awesome as always, Brian.

A few comments:

I gotta show some love for the DC Rutland story they mention as happening “last year.” Night of the Reaper in Batman 237. Great art and cover by Neal Adams:
http://whencomicbooksruled.blogspot.com/2009/10/spookey-month-night-of-reaper-from.html

Something in the Marvel half of the saga that always gives me a chuckle: “Whoever heard of “Power Girl’?” True, a version of Kara by that name was still years ahead in the future…

The Gyro Gearloose story reminds me how comics would teach me as a kid words and concepts I didn’t know. He calls his neighbors (the Farkus family, perhaps?) “bumptious.” You don’t see that word much anymore.

@Lt. Clutch: the second Gyro comic shown here is the only appearance of Speedy, at least for Barks comics. Haven’t seen him in other creators’ pieces either though I wouldn’t be surprised if someone had thrown him a cameo role. Otherwise he is a one-time character who drives a car just like Donald’s and has very similar body shape and posture…

The car is Donald’s — same license plate and everything.

Thanks for clearing up the case of the meaningless (to me) footnote by Roy Thomas in Avengers 119. Which I just happened to be reading this week in Essential Avengers vol 5.

Caption : ….THE MIGHTY AVENGERS HAVE COME TO RUTLAND ON ALL HALLOWS EVE*

Footnote : * LET’S SEE NOW…AVENGERS #83, MARVEL FEATURE #2, THOR #207, AMAZING ADVENTURES #16, JUS– AHEM! –RED-FACED ROY.

Huh. I never knew about the Steve Englehart Beast story – I thought this story was a duology.

The Rutland stories in Amazing Adventures, Thor, and Justice League actually interweave in a very complex way. Last year, I mapped it all out here:

http://thewastebasket.blogspot.com/2009/11/it-happened-in-rutland.html

Sir Manley Johnson

October 1, 2010 at 6:43 pm

I like how the colouring of the clothes of the writers and company are consistent. Through all three books. It seems that Glynis coloured all three.

Wow: that is some terrible art by Vinnie Colletta! It’s hard to believe Buscema had anything to do with it other than some very basic breakdowns.

Totally agree Bill.That was thee worst John Buscema art I ever saw.Colletta even screwed his art up.

I can’t remember… but has the Namor / Aquaman crossover been covered here before?

I’ve read the Beast part of the crossover in one of the original XMen Essential Volumes (3, probably). It was pretty interesting. It works because he’s running away to Canada (for some reason, can’t remember exactly), and I THINK (probably wrong) it ties into the Hulk, and then into Wolverine’s first appearance?? I think I’m way off now.

Mars Bonfire posted about a later reference to Rutland, did Rutland appear annually for a few years there?

Re: the Gyro stories — I think the Gyro stories I’ve read involve Grandma Duck a fair amount (I have some old Digests from Western/Gold Key) and it does seem that they have their own separate-ness from the rest of the Duck stuff.

I think the postal rules existed so that the post office HAD to check the magazines, thereby getting to read a bunch of magazines and comics for free. :) I bet some guy checked out, say, Playboy REALLY closely.

Considering that, as you say, he’d already put Huey Dewey and Louie in the pages, Barks fit Mickey’s 2 nephews in rather nicely. Completely out of place, but they fit in the pages nicely.

Is Speedy one of the same species as the Beagle Boys (um, dogs, obviously)?

AND I forgot about this bit, I meant to ask, is Rutland’s Halloween Parade therefore a precursor to the one in NYC (that Lou Reed immortalized on his New York album)?

And speaking of music but completely off topic, I JUST heard on the radio yesterday that Bob Dylan is coming to my town (in November, I think, the Binghamton University Events Center (my alma mater, and art spiegelman’s, and Danny Fingeroth, and Chris Giarusso — so there’s a comics connection!)). It’s like, 6 weeks away and I’m JUST hearing about it.

I assume Brian will be there. As we know from Comics Critics 100, he has a beard and glasses. And is a 2 dimensional cartoon character, so he SHOULD be easy to spot. :)

Scott: “I may be in the minority, but I always found those Rutland stories to be the height of self-indulgence. All the worst navel-gazing qualities of the Bronze Age are on display, proving why creators sometimes do, in fact, need editors and not complete creative freedom.”

You’re not alone. self-indulgent , underhand, self-congratulary, even a bit anarchic. Interesting to read, though it was at the time.

Another voice from the minority here. All concerned were jerking off, frankly.

And speaking of music but completely off topic, I JUST heard on the radio yesterday that Bob Dylan is coming to my town (in November, I think, the Binghamton University Events Center (my alma mater, and art spiegelman’s, and Danny Fingeroth, and Chris Giarusso — so there’s a comics connection!)). It’s like, 6 weeks away and I’m JUST hearing about it.

I assume Brian will be there. As we know from Comics Critics 100, he has a beard and glasses. And is a 2 dimensional cartoon character, so he SHOULD be easy to spot.

Luckily, Dylan is ALSO coming to New York City for three nights on that same tour, so I’m pretty much set. ;)

>(The prevalence of rubber mask usage- as well as the presumptive ability for anyone to passably duplicate anyone else’s voice in comics- suggest comic book people are all pretty dumb.)

Well… this a reality were a Pulitzer-award winning reporter never figured out the guy working right besides her is actually world´s most famous superhero… mainly because he was wearing glasses. Not to mention brlliant doctor and bussiness man Thomas Wayne, who apparently thinks its a fine idea to take his wife and infant son to a midnight stroll in a place called CRIME ALLEY.

Comic book people are all very, very dumb.

No, “Crime Alley” was the name it acquired after the shooting, IIRC.

This was, of course, back in the days of Mission Impossible on TV so latex face masks=perfect disguises didn’t seem that outrageous–certainly no more so than Clark’s eyeglasses, as Felipe points out.

Personally, I enjoyed the crossovers. Indulgent, but fun. And it’s great to see Dillin’s JLA art again.

You know, if Crime Alley WASN’T known by that name before the Wayne shooting, that ONE shooting is what led it to be called that? That’s kind of… hm. I guess with the Waynes being important people to the city, their murder would be shocking and horrifying, but it seems to be established that the Crime Alley neighborhood is in a “bad part of town”, so it takes the murder of rich people before it gets called Crime Alley. Hm. And if it was a bad part of town, why DID the Waynes go there?

I smell a legend (or 2 or 3). When did Crime Alley first get called that? Was it named that after the Wayne shooting? And why did the Waynes go to that neighborhood? (I guess that last isn’t really a legend, per se).

And about Dylan, I think my local show JUST got announced, so I suppose that’s why I didn’t hear about it. The tickets aren’t even on sale yet. Maybe I’ll see how much tix are…

The first time the name was used in a story was in the late seventies/early eighties, the story that introduced Leslie Thompkins (“There is no hope in crime alley” or some such title).

Yeah, self-indulgent they may be, but I sure do get a pleasant nostalgia rush every time I see that great Len Wein/Dick Dillin JLA story. I bought that one straight off the spinner rack at age 13 (I was interested in that Phantom Stranger guy), and bought JLA every month for over a year after that (well, at least until Wein was long gone). The other two stories were in comics I didn’t buy back then, and I have yet to read them to this day.

Love (and by that I mean in an eye-rolling fashion) how they use that lazy scripter trick #24,563, which is constantly referring to each other by their names (this applies to superhero stories) in order to inform the reader who’s who. “Say, Steve, what’s that in the road?” “I don’t know, Len- what do you think, Gerry?” “I don’t know! Best ask Glynis!” “Why are you all repeating your names?”

Dick Dillin’s work is utterly timeless.

And having never seen the Marvel portions of this ‘crossover’ I’ve gotta say the entire event is cute in theory but clunky in reality. That Thor piece is woeful! But great to finally see the entire thing.

Scott:
“always found those Rutland stories to be the height of self-indulgence. All the worst navel-gazing qualities of the Bronze Age are on display, proving why creators sometimes do, in fact, need editors and not complete creative freedom.”

Eh. Your superhero name should be “Captain Overreacty-pants.”

Steven McMullan

October 4, 2010 at 1:11 am

Ha! I actually own the Amazing Adventures and Thor issues. I might have to try and track down the JLA issue.

[…] Did  you know Steve Englehart, Len Wein and Gerry Conway had an unauthorized inter-company crossover well before the first official Marvel/DC crossover?  [CBR] […]

Thanks, Mike Blake, for reffing Bats #237 – I thought the Rutland Halloween Parade sounded familiar! (Dylan talk on a Cronin column? Really? Should be be paying his biannual visit to Glasgow soon – 2011 by my reckoning. Enjoy the gigs you lucky ‘Mericans!)

You missed the other early-Seventies Marvel/DC crossover, although I think you’ve mentioned it previously on site.

Following the events in Giant Size Avenger No. 4, where the Vietnamese-born Mantis departed the Avengers with the reanimated corpse of the Swordsman, inhabited by the spirt of the Cotati (a walking, telepathic tree), a green woman named “Willow” shows up in Justice League Vol. 1, No. 142, stating that “[t]his one has come from a place she must not name, to reach a place no man must know.” The character was an obvious reference to Mantis.

There was also a semi-crossover between “The Invaders” and “Freedom Fighters,” in that each team fought hitherto unknown teams called The Crusaders, each being an analogue of the other company’s WWII era teams. Two of the Marvel “Crusaders,” Patriot(?), the Uncle Sam analogue, and Dyna-Mite (Doll Man), stayed on, with Dyna-Mite becoming an Invader, and Patriot being one of the replacement Captain America’s in Roy Thomas’ “What If the Invaders Stayed Together After World War II” story.

I think requiring stories with separate characters was the Post Offices’ way of differentiating between “Books” (no 2nd class permit) and “Periodical” (2nd class permit). Don’t know how far back that rule went, but it played a part in so many of Dickens’, Poe’s and Mark Twain’s novels first appearing as magazine serials, and played into the format of the pulp fiction magazines. Even when Superman, Batman, etc. started to spin off into their own magazines, there was still at least one of two pages of a non-related feature, leading to those Henry Boltinoff (sp?) humor pages like Super Turtle. Somewhere in the 60’s that rule must have been amended, allowing the gag strip to shrink to just half a page. Anyone remember “Cap’s Hobby Shop,” which somehow fed into the ads for Aurora model cars and monsters?

There was also a rule that all periodicals had to contain at least one page of text, so in comics, that led to those text stories of the comics’ feature character that no one read. Stan Lee’s first comics work was text fillers in “Captain America Comics,” Mickey Spillane wrote a few later. From those came the Letters pages, and finally, Bullpen Bulletins with Stan’s Soapbox. Ahh, the circle of life!

“Wow: that is some terrible art by Vinnie Colletta! It’s hard to believe Buscema had anything to do with it other than some very basic breakdowns.”

John Buscema was indeed very loose with the pencils and provided basic breakdowns when someone else inked his work. In fact, John preferred doing his own inks over his own pencils, and the only artists he trusted to ink his work properly other than himself was his brother Sal.

In Twomorrow’s Sal Buscema book, Sal talks about how his brother loathed having heavy-handed inkers like Ernie Chan and Sonny Trinidad inking his work, because he felt it looked too much like their work and not enough like his, despite giving them tight pencils. As a result, whenever he couldn’t do both the inking and penciling, John would just provide breakdowns.

Mighty Muck:– Wow, I did know some of that (mostly the stuff directly related to comics production), but all that extra context going all the way back to Pie and Twain is interesting as hell!
I know letters columns were originally intended only to fulfil a printing requirement for the post office, but they ended up a vital and essential part of comics history/fandom! I wish they’d spring for at least one extra page to bring them back. I know there is the internet now, but it’s just not the same.
While I’m at it, I even wish they’d reprint the letters when they collect classic series (again, I recognize the extra cost that would be incurred. This is why the CD-ROM editions were so perfect, at least in that respect).

As for the “crossover”, geez. It’s as subtle as ’70s superhero comics get, just ignore it if it’s such a huge problem.
I agree that maybe it ends up a bit clunky, but not that it’s emblematic of everything wrong w/comics or some such nonsense.

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