DC Comics' "Rebirth" Character Designs for Batman, Wonder Woman and More
Welcome to the two-hundred and eighty-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 eighty-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 Olympic Legends Revealed to learn the strange story behind the first Olympics to be broadcasted nationally through television! Plus, the bizarre (and very nearly deadly) tale of the 1904 Olympic Marathon!
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COMIC LEGEND: Todd McFarlane worked Felix the Cat into issues of his comics as a treat for a friend of his.
Todd McFarlane is one of the most popular comic book artists around, and that’s even with him not penciling a regular book for many years.
One interesting thing he used to do when he was penciling books regularly was that he would sneak a drawing of the popular classic cartoon character, Felix the Cat, into his comics.
The reason behind this is because McFarlane knew a fellow at the local comic shop McFarlane frequented that seemed to be suffering some form of Post-Traumatic Syndrome. Almost certainly as some sort of coping mechanism, the man had a Felix the Cat doll with him at all times. He and McFarlane were friends (well, in the “guy you talk to when you pick up your books from the local comic shop” style of friendship) and he would often tell McFarlane how he did not pick up any books McFarlane drew, because he was not a fan of superhero comics.
So McFarlane asked him, “If I put Felix the Cat in my comics, would you buy them then?”
He said yes, so McFarlane began to put Felix the Cat into his comics.
I could do tons of these, but let’s just do McFarlane’s first story arc on Spider-Man, where he was the writer/penciler/inker (all the full pages can be clicked on to enlarge, since some of the drawings are pretty tiny).
Here’s Felix’s appearance in issue #1 (he’s on the back of a guy’s jacket)…
Here he is in #2…
Here he is in #3…
#4 is tricky. I don’t believe I’ve found him yet. There’s a bit here where we see “Cat beer,” so that would presumably be it, right?
But can you see Felix there?
Later in the issue, there are a few panels with animal carvings, could either of these be intended to be Felix?
And, finally, here he is in #5…
Very cool little bit by McFarlane!
McFarlane has spoken about this in a few places over the years, but I’m directly quoting McFarlane’s appearance on Tom Seymour’s video podcast, Bif Bam Pow Wow. You can check out the Bif Bam Pow Wow website here.
Thanks to Tom Seymour and Todd McFarlane for the information! Now someone flip through their copy of Spider-Man #4 and let me know where Felix is!!
COMIC LEGEND: The Wonder Woman TV series adapted their costume change from the comics.
In last week’s installment, I discussed the debate over whether it was editor Julie Schwartz or writer Len Wein who invented the idea of Wonder Woman twirling her lasso around herself to change her costume.
Len Wein is quoted in Alter Ego #2 as saying:
I was actually thrilled when the Wonder Woman TV series several years later used a version of my bit (although adjusting it so that she did the spinning, instead of the lasso) to affect the change.
Now, do note that Wein does not specifically say that they took the idea from his comic, but that’s certainly how I always understood it, that the comic came up with the change and then the show did the change, just with a twist.
Interestingly enough, my pal Kurt Mitchell pointed me to a 1959 Wonder Woman comic where Wonder Woman changes her costume just by spinning! Going even further, reader Tim Hanley did a bit on his blog with all of Wonder Woman’s costume changes over the years! You can look at it here. Along with his piece, Tim also suggested that he thought the costume change being similar on the TV series was just a coincidence.
And that is exactly what it was, says Andy Mangels, who has forgotten more about the Wonder Woman television series that I’ll ever know. Mangels has done extensive interviews with pretty much everyone who would know the deal behind the costume change, and the consensus on the issue is that Lynda Carter actually came up with the idea for doing a spin (and Carter said as much to Mangels in an interview in Back Issue #5, where she notes that she suggested a spin based on her background in dance).
In addition, Mangels notes that the show’s producers were almost entirely interested in the early Wonder Woman issues from the 1940s, not the current stuff, so it is unlikely that they would have known about the fairly recent change by Wein.
Now, again, Andy Mangels (who also created and produces the nifty annual Wonder Woman Day event) knows a lot more than I do on this subject, so if he says it is false, I have no reason to doubt him.
Thanks to Andy for the information (check his website out here), thanks to Back Issue magazine and Lynda Carter for their information and, finally, thanks to Alter Ego magazine and Len Wein for the quote! Thanks to Tim and Kurt for their contributions, as well!
COMIC LEGEND: John Buscema drew the entire Wizard of Oz story for Marvel and DC’s MGM’s The Marvelous Wizard of Oz just by memory of seeing the film decades earlier and got the story almost exactly correct.
One of the first few legends in this column (first few months, at least) was the story of how the first comic that Marvel and DC ever worked on together was a joint publication of the Wizard of Oz.
You see, Marvel had been working on an adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s book, the Wizard of Oz (sort of like how Eric Shanower and Skottie Young just wonderfully did for Marvel), written by Roy Thomas and penciled by John Buscema.
Here, courtesy of Alter Ego #15 (a tribute to the late, great John Buscema soon after his passing), is a page of Buscema’s pencils from that adaptation…
However, Marvel learned that DC had gotten the rights to the MGM’s movie adaptation of the Wizard of Oz, so they quickly struck up a bargain where Marvel and DC would joint publish a comic adaptation of the film, with Marvel actually being responsible for the writing/drawing end of the deal.
Thomas and Buscema remained on the project (working in the Marvel style where Buscema would draw the pages based on the plot and Thomas would then script them).
However, a significant problem was back in the mid-70s, reference material for films were pretty darn sparse. You couldn’t rent the video or the DVD to see what’s what.
Instead, Thomas had to work off of a bootleg audio tape of the film’s entire soundtrack and viewing the film once at the apartment of Marvel production manager, the late John Verpoorten, who had a 16mm copy of the film.
Buscema, however, decided to just draw the story from memory! Not only from memory, but he claimed he had not seen the film since it came out in 1939!!! Thomas remembers only that Buscema said it had been many years since he saw the film, not “since it came out,” which is how Buscema later would tell the story. But either way, trying to draw a 75-page adaptation of a movie just based on your memory of it from years earlier is pretty darn impressive (they did supply Buscema with stills of the actors, because he had to base the characters on the actual actors). Thomas recalls that had it not been for their short deadline (since they had to scrap their original project to do the combined project with DC, they had a shorter period of time to get the book out), he might have challenged Buscema more on the subject, but since time WAS short, he trusted Buscema’s belief that he could draw the comic from memory.
And amazingly enough, when he delivered the pages, he had only messed up the order of a couple of sequences! Marvel just cut and pasted the sequences into the correct order and Thomas scripted over that.
Here’s some samples from the comic…
Remarkable work from a comic book legend (although, Buscema himself was a bit disappointed in the final product, as he felt that the inkers on the book, Tony DeZuniga and a number of assistants, were forced to rush too much).
Thanks so much to Alter Ego magazine, Mark Evanier (who did a panel at the 2001 San Diego Comic Con where Buscema related the above story), Roy Thomas (who later confirms the story from his perspective in the same issue) and, of course, the legendary John Buscema. And just because I think of him every time I do a piece about the Wizard of Oz, let’s give a shout out to Eric Gjovaag, too, who has one of (if not THE) coolest Wizard of Oz websites out there!
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!
Here’s my book of Comic Book Legends (130 legends – half of them are re-worked classic legends I’ve featured on the blog and half of them are BRAND NEW legends never published on the blog!).
The cover is by artist Mickey Duzyj. He did a great job on it…(click to enlarge)…
If you’d like to order it (Christmas is coming soon – good time to buy my book as a present!), 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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