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Comic Book Legends Revealed #290

Welcome to the two-hundred and ninetieth 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-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 installment of Music Legends Revealed, as with Christmas coming up, you might be interested in reading about how an unreleased Sondheim song from the musical “Company” got recorded (hint: it was as a Christmas present).

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. We are getting quite close, 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: Devo took the lyrics for one of their songs from the pages of a Silver Age DC Comic.

STATUS: True

Awhile back, in an installment of Comic Book Legends Revealed, I wrote about the comic book influences upon the origin of the band Devo.

Well, reader Mike Gallaher told me an even more unbelievable story about Devo and the influence of comics on their music.

In 1974, the band wrote the song “Space Girl Blues,” which opened with the following lyrics…

Space girls are as cold as ice

They’ll kiss you once and kiss you twice

You’ll shiver and shake and then turn blue

Next you got the space girl blues

They only recorded the song as a demo, but years later, it appeared on Hardcore Devo: 74-77, a collection of Devo demos from that time period.

Well, in Mystery in Space #50, there was an interesting little story…

Written by Otto Binder and drawn by Frank Giacoia…

(after our hero saves his disc jockey friend AND steals the treasure from the bad guys)…

The comic was later reprinted in From Beyond the Unknown #9, which came out in late 1970, precisely the time that the guys from Devo were being influenced by comics.

That’s pretty darn cool, huh?

Thanks so much to Mike Gallaher, who cracked this nut all by himself years ago! And apologies to Mike for momentarily confusing him with Mike Loughlin.

COMIC LEGEND: Editor Mark Waid insisted that Keith Giffen kill off Blok in Giffen’s “Five Years Later” Legion of Super-Heroes run because Waid hated the character.

STATUS: I’m Going With False

My pal Ryan S. wrote to me the other day to ask:

I recently stumbled upon a piece of Legion information I found interesting. The statement is this:

Blok’s death should not be attributed to Giffen or the Bierbaums. Mark Waid was the editor of those early 5YG issues and he just never liked Blok (or really any post Silver-aged Legionnaire). This is why we don’t see Blok, Dawny, Tyroc, Quislet, White Witch in either Waid’s two reboots (except in a comic book).

As provided here.

Is that true of Waid? I’m a fan of both Blok and the Legion, so I’m genuinely curious who decided he should die.

Blok is murdered by the psychopathic Roxxas in Legion of Super-Heroes #3, by plotter/penciler Keith Giffen, scripters (and assistant plotters) Tom and Mary Bierbaum and inker Al Gordon, as Roxxas comes across Blok while he is effectively hibernating…

Brutal and poignant at the same time.

Blok’s senseless murder helps spur the disparate members of the Legion to try to come back together, or to at least do SOMEthing.

In any event, I asked Waid about it and he told me that that version of events was not accurate:

Blok died was because Keith decided he wanted to kill a Legionnaire early in his run and quite literally put all their names in a hat and drew Blok at random (that’s what he told me at the time, anyway–he may have exaggerated, but he is a writer, after all). And since I wasn’t a huge Blok fan anyway, I didn’t try to argue him out of it–so I guess in that sense I’m partly culpable.

It is true my affinities lie more with the Adventure-era Legionnaires, but who was and wasn’t in the Legion during the post-ZH reboot wasn’t my call to make. With the Kitson reboot, I did pick the cast, but I woulda gotten to the post-Adventure members eventually.

Waid’s quite reliable, so I believe his position. Not to mention that it just sounds wrong an editor like Waid forcing someone like Giffen to kill a character. On top of THAT, Blok later DID appear in one of Waid’s Legion reboots…

Anyhow, thanks to Ryan for the question and thanks to Mark Waid for the response!

COMIC LEGEND: Frank Frazetta quit comic books because of a Buster Crabbe film.

STATUS: True

A couple of weeks ago in a previous installment of Comic Book Legends Revealed, I detailed how Frank Frazetta’s career took a dramatic turn based on an ad parody he drew for Mad Magazine in 1964. Well, reader Marc S. wrote in to suggest that I feature another point in Frazetta’s career where a slight change in history would have dramatically altered Frazetta’s career. So, well, here it is!

After Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster lost their lawsuit against National Comics over the rights to Superman, the creators found themselves out of work. They eventually signed up with Magazine Enterprises, a relatively recent comic book company (their former editor Vin Sullivan was the publisher). They took a bunch of their studio with them and opened up shop with a brand new character, Funnyman.

Following their problems with Superman, you better believe that Siegel and Shuster owned the rights to Funnyman. Of course, that ended up not really meaning much, as Funnyman was decidedly not a hit.

However, it is important to note that in this instance, these creators owned their character.

This was significant because a few years later, artist Frank Frazetta created a new character called Thun’da for Magazine Enterprises (Gardner Fox would script the first Thun’da stories based on Frazetta’s plot).

Here’s a sampling from a reprint of the first issue…

Man, Frazetta was good.

In any event, Frazetta had been working in comic books for a number of years at this point and as far as anyone knew, he would continue working in comic books for the rest of his career.

However, his attitude toward comic books changed dramatically after doing Thun’da. First off, you see the interesting “Tarzan, only in a world of dinosaurs” concept of Thun’da? That was only for the first story in the first issue (there were multiple stories in the first issue – all drawn by Frazetta and scripted by Fox). The editor of the comic, Ray Krank, decided that Frazetta had to strip the comic of all the pre-historic elements, so by the end of the comic, it basically was just a complete Tarzan riff.

That, naturally, irritated Frazetta, but what REALLY got to him was the fact that Magazine Enterprises then sold the rights to Thun’a to Columbia Pictures for a serial starring Buster Crabbe (of Flash Gordon and Tarzan serial fame)…

Frazetta left the book after that issue. Bob Powell replaced him.

The serial was not a hit (by 1952 serials were beginning to peter out anyways) and nor was the Frazetta-less issues, and the book ended with #6 (Magazine Enterprises as a whole did not make it to 1960).

So although Frazetta continued to work in comic books for the next few years, he began intently looking for work outside of comic books, and he eventually found it, spending most of the decade (and into the 1960s) in the world of comic strips, primarily as Al Capp’s assistant on Lil’ Abner.

But imagine if Magazine Enterprises had cut Frazetta in for a percentage of the serial rights? How might that have dramatically changed Frazetta’s career in comic books? It’s an interesting though, and thanks to Marc S. for suggesting it to me!

By the by, amusingly enough, guess what was nearly the EXACT next comic book assignment by Frazetta after he left Thun’da?

Hilarious.

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!

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…

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

See you all next week!

46 Comments

You know how “It’s a Wonderful Life” is basically a “What If” story, where everything ends happier and life-affirming?

These legends/What Ifs about Frazetta feel just like that, only just exactly the opposite…

Damn it would’ve been great if he’d done more comics work.

These legends/What Ifs about Frazetta feel just like that, only just exactly the opposite…

For US maybe, but I think it worked out pretty well for Frazetta. He became an artistic legend and made tons of money.

Brian,

As much as I wish I had suggested the Devo legend, which is quite cool, it wasn’t me, and I don’t want to take credit away from another reader.

Also, damn, Frazetta was good. I can only wonder what his comics would have looked like if he’d stayed in the business. Still, I have one question: how is that girl in the Buster Crabbe cover staying on that horse?

D’oh! I got you mixed up with Mike GALLAHER.

Thanks for the head’s up. That’s embarrassing. Sorry, other Mike!

Holy shit, that Frazetta interior art is AMAZING. It sort of looks like Bernie Wrightson in his prime, mixed with a dash of early Sam Keith and Contract With God-era Eisner. Except this is decades before any of those things.

Brian- Are there any good collections of Frazetta out there that specifically spotlight his interior art more than his covers?

That DEVO album cover is incredibly disturbing.

Still, I have one question: how is that girl in the Buster Crabbe cover staying on that horse?

I guess Buster Crabbe was into girls with really strong thighs?

Was there a Hardcore Devo Vol. 2? Or did it start and end at 1?

I believe so, yes.

Hmm, When I see early Frank Frazetta I see Hal Foster. :)

You know, I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen Funnyman before, despite reading a lot about him.

Was Funnyman some type of robot or something? How did he fit that telescoping boxing glove in his chest cavity where his lungs and heart should be?

To be fair, while Blok is in that issue of Legion, it’s in a story written by Stuart Moore. (Waid wrote a back-up story in that issue that, as far as I remember, did not have Blok in it).

The spark of interest from those Thunda pages was quickly extinguished by the second cover. Good going, ME.

I’m a big Devo fan, and there’s a lot of good stuff on those Hardcore Devo compilations. There were two volumes.

Funnyman wasn’t a robot. He was just a comedian who pretended to be a superhero once and then it kind of “stuck”. He used a variety of gadgets including a “Funnycar” that were all fairly lame schtick. To make that cover make sense, just assume that the telescoping boxing glove was supercompressed into a small compartment in a padded chest or something like that.

“Was there a Hardcore Devo Vol. 2? Or did it start and end at 1?”
http://lmgtfy.com/?q=hardcore+devo

You cut me to the quick, Aaron Poehler, you cut me to the quick.

I didn’t know Buster Crabbe was a cowboy. But I guess everyone had to be a cowboy in the ’50s.

If Thun’da had remained the way Frazetta intended, would Marvel have still created Ka-Zar?

If Thun’da had remained the way Frazetta intended, would Marvel have still created Ka-Zar?

Marvel’s first Ka-Zar comic was in 1939, so I’m going to say yes. But I don’t think Ka-Zar started hanging out with dinosaurs until he was reintroduced in 1965.

Laurence J Sinclair

December 10, 2010 at 4:54 pm

The White Witch did appear in Waid’s threeboot Legion, working for Mekt Ranz.

UGH! Cronin, I know you just love showing off you collection of covers, but that Devo cover was just- freakish. PLEASE don’t post something like that again.

On the other hand, The Funnyman cover was wonderful, and I’d never heard of the character either, so thanks for that. I’d like to hear more about him.

You know, I never liked Blok much. I guess he was created to give more variety to the exceedingly human-filled Legion, but he didn’t have powers any other legionnaire didn’t already have (not even being made of stone, if you count Stone Boy) plus he was rather bland. So if they *had* to kill a member of the legion I was glad it was him.

The Frazetta article was the most interesting, with its behind-the-doors facts, not to mention his art.

“Brutal and poignant at the same time.”

Brutal it was. Poignant it wasn’t. It was, however, the last Legion comic I ever bought.

I must be the only Legion fan to have liked Giffen’s “5 Years Later” storyline.

The stories were densely plotted. You had to work at reading them and accept the idea of a large, sprawling story unfolding. The characters were all flawed but had progressed and still carried nobility within them. And the idea of the Legion, this shining example of what once was and could be again was always there to inspire the characters.

And everyone raves about Gibbon’s use of the nine panel grid in “Watchmen” and justifiably so. But Giffen also used it to great effect in 5YL.

I must be the only Legion fan to have liked Giffen’s “5 Years Later” storyline.

Oh, good lord, no. It’s as well regarded by a devoted subset of fans as it is resolutely ignored by DC Editorial, who seem determined to never speak of it again. Me, I loved everything about it, and I think it’s a crime that it’s never been collected.

Brian- Are there any good collections of Frazetta out there that specifically spotlight his interior art more than his covers?

Third Man, if you are interested, Dark Horse has only recently reprinted ME’s Thund’a run. This may be from where Brian took his scans . And I’ll disagree a little with those who are knocking the work on the second issue of Thun’da. True, it suffers in comparison with Frazetta’s lush and classic brilliance, but the post-Frazetta art was all the work of the great Bob Powell. Powell is no slouch, and his compositions are really quite lovely, revealing much talent and understanding of the material, handicapped though he was was by editorial fiat.

Wow, that DEVO legend is awesome. I love that song, and Hardcore v.1 is a great collection if anyone likes DEVO and hasn’t picked it up. To think that they could lift the lyrics directly from a comic and it works as a song. Thanks to Mike Gallaher!

If a space disk-jockey knows where there’s buried treasure, and apparently space DJs don’t get paid well, why didn’t HE get the treasure before that?

Wow, that Frazetta art is sweet. Surprising that he ended up working with Al Capp and not someone like Hal Foster or something. One of the adventure strips, since he obviously could have done that type stuff. I think a local library has a DVD about Frazetta, now I wanna get it out.

Was Blok related at all to the brick looking creature (Broot, I think) in Omega Men? I gotta say, I loves me some Giffen art work. Maybe he should have been in my top 10…

Did you have a legend before involving Giffen pulling Legion names out of a hat?

Thanks for featuring the Blok item! Good information to know.

Though, I have to say, him dying by random chance isn’t exactly much better.

Michael: Not only did Waid not write that Blok story, it (and the other… what was it? Three?) was a campfire tale, clearly set outside the existing continuity of the time. (Which is not to say I didn’t like the story. A team of Blok, White Witch, Quislet, and Sensor Girl taking on a Crisis problem? Good stuff.)

Travis: Broot, and later member Oho-Besh, were from Changralyn, whereas Blok was from Dryad. As far as I know, there’s no relation between the races.

I’ve always liked Blok, and Timber Wolf.

And the 5 Years Later storyline by Giffen and Co.

“5 Years Later..” is still one of my all-time favorite stories, not just of the Legion but of any book. I guess there are a few of us out here.

Yep, chalk me up as another fan of the “5 Years Later…” series in the Legion. Of course, they basically wrapped up their prior storylines before doing that. [Rant] (Unlike Battlestar Galactica, which jumped and ignored all the existing plots and scenarios. I stopped watching after that. I read the fan boards the night the season finale aired and couldn’t believe that all the conversations were about Starbuck’s longer hair after the jump forward. Not one word about the story. Sigh.) [/rant]

I followed the Legion through that, the clone Legion and the initial reboot. I dropped it when it was rerebooted and haven’t cared since. (Except for Smallville appearances.) :)

Another 5YL fan here. I think the moment it hooked me was when they revealed Ultra Boy always keeps his invulnerability on when he’s not doing everything else–perfectly logical, but nobody had ever stated it before.

Another 5 Year Later fan here, Roxxas was a great villain and man I miss the whole Rennissance is the Future clothing Giffin used.

Great run.

Telling Stories: The Classic Comic Art of Frank Frazetta is the most comprehensive collection of Frazetta’s comic book work, but the coloring is only fair. Vanguard will be reprinting Frazetta’s Johnny

will be reprinting Frazetta’s Johnny Comet strip. (Continued).

In the 80′s Fantagraphics reprinted Thunda #1 in Thunda Tales and a collection of Frazetta’s romance stories, in “Untamed Love” that were just as amazing. Even if you don’t like romance you’ll LOVE Frazetta’s art on these!

I loved the 5 years later Legion in the beginning. I stopped sometime shortly before the ZH reboot as it had too many setups and not enough pay offs and I did not care about the clones (or the originals as they may have been). After Zero Hour I did not look back.

Count me as another Legion 5YL fan. I was never a huge LSH fan, picking up the occasional issue here and there, because I found the huge cast and continuity overwhelming. But Giffen’s covers for the 5YL run intrigued me enough to pick it up starting with issue #4, and I got hooked instantly. Part of the fun for me was just trying to work out who each of these characters were since they looked so radically dressed down from their Adventure-era and Great Darkness Saga years. And it was a title that truly lived up to the cliched “All-New, All-Different” standard tagline.

Seeing all those cavemen in Thunda made me want to re-watch “Fire And Ice”, the animated barbarian movie he made with Ralph Bakshi.

Our local Oakland punk/ rockabilly/ sci-fi band The Phenomenauts has a song called Space Girl, and in one promo video there is a space girl for a moment, and her face is blue inside her helmet. Probably just a coincidence though.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XAdisXHbv9I
http://www.youtube.com/thephenomenauts

The rumor that Mark Waid instructed Keith Giffen to kill Blok is categorically false. There is no confusion on the issue; I covered the death of Blok extensively years ago in The Legion Companion, and the fact that Blok died is only half of the story. The sequence of events goes like this:

1) Keith planned to have Roxxas kill Shvaughn Erin, who was formerly Element Lad’s girlfriend. That would have upped the ante between the two characters, as it was Roxxas who killed everyone on Element Lad’s home planet, thus making him the last of his race.

2) Legion inker Al Gordon objected to this, on the grounds that she was too good of a character to just throw away.

3) Keith, being open to feedback and susceptible to other people’s ideas, said, “Okay, so now what do we do with Shvaughn?” to which Al glibly replied, “She’s a man!” (Not exact quotes.)

4) Keith still needed Roxxas to kill someone, so he drew Blok’s name out of a hat. (Yes, it actually happened that way.)

5) In a later story, it was revealed that Shvaughn was a man that was taking the transgender drug, Pro-Fem.

Keith also incorporated ideas from Legion fandom into his Five Years Later run, including Lightning Lad really being Proty and Eltro Gand inside the head of Mon-El. Basically, if he heard it and liked it, he used it, and what Keith Giffen likes is anything that turns everything upside down. Removing Superboy from the Legion was an editorial edict, however.

Love reading these every week, count me as another huge Giffen/Legion fan who loved the 5YL run…

for devo fans out there i consider this to be hardcore devo vol 3 –

http://www.rhino.com/shop/product/devo-recombo-dna

I colored these Thunda pages for Fantagraphics. They were better in Black and White.

One guess whether Otto Binder received any songwriting credit for Devo’s “Space Girl Blues”…

“Though, I have to say, him dying by random chance isn’t exactly much better.”

Heck, that’s how us regular humans have always died. LoSH characters too good for chance death?

“One guess whether Otto Binder received any songwriting credit for Devo’s “Space Girl Blues”…”

I get the sentiment, but I don’t think a demo released long after his death on an album collection of obscurities would have made much difference to him.

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