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