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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Legends Revealed #292

Welcome to the two-hundred and ninety-second 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 ninety-one.

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 TV Legends Revealed for an adorable story of a TV sitcom that capture a genuine marriage proposal in an episode! It’s a heartwarming tale perfect for the holidays!

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!

It wasn’t intentional, but today’s installment ended up having a connective theme – all legends involve cross-media tie-ins!

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: Marvel and George Romero spent two years developing a comic/film project that never got off of the ground.

STATUS: True

George Romero became a famous cult film figure after the success of his horror film, Night of the Living Dead, in 1968.

Romero was always interested in comics, and in fact, in 1982, he and Stephen King teamed up for a movie, Creepshow, that is based off of the classic EC Comics horror comics of the 1950s.

Soon after, in 1983, the New York Times announced:

A just-conceived and still-unnamed comic-book character will be muscling his way into the movie-television field in 1984. Marvel Comics, creator of Spiderman and the Fantastic Four, and George Romero, the cult horror film director of ”Night of the Living Dead” and ”Creepshow,” have joined to create a new superhero who will debut almost simultaneously in a comic book and a PG-rated movie.

Well, 27 years later, this character has never appeared in a comic or a film.

A few years back, however, the great Bob Layton revealed the character

on his website!

You see, Layton and Jackson Guice were given the assignment by Marvel to do storyboards on the character, a cyborg known as Copperhead (the name came from the color of his metal skull), based off of a concept developed by Romero with Marvel Editor-in-Chief, Jim Shooter. The theory was that Layton and Guice would create the storyboard pages in comic book form. That way, when the film was released, the tie-in comic would duplicate the story almost exactly.

However, the project, as it turned out, was contingent upon Romero’s third zombie film, Day of the Dead, becoming a success. You see, Day of the Dead was originally conceived by Romero as an epic film (he jokingly referred to it as his “zombie Gone with the Wind”) but budget cuts reduced the scope dramatically and upon its release in 1985 it was pretty much dead on arrival. It received mixed-to-poor reviews and did very little at the box office (interestingly, when it was released on VHS, it was a major international hit – isn’t that odd?).

Because of that, such an experimental project (which clearly was going to cost a lot of money) had little to no chance of finding financial backers, so Marvel and Romero dropped the project, and the more than forty pages of storyboards that Layton and Guice produced were basically thrown into the Marvel vaults for good.

Luckily for us, Layton decided to share some of the pages with us readers, so head over to his website to check out the extensive storyboards that Layton has so kindly shared with the world!

Thanks so much to Bob Layton for sharing these lost pages with the world!

________________________________________________________________________________

This next legend is a two-fer-one! Both legends concern similar legends about one comic strip, so I figure I’ll talk about the comic strip and then tell you each legend.

Secret Agent X-9 had one of the most impressive creative teams in comic strip history – it was written by Dashiell Hammett and was drawn by Alex Raymond.

Holy crap, right?

That’d be like Alan Moore and Jack Kirby creating a comic book together.

However, this obviously wasn’t something Hammett was super interested in doing – it was mostly just because the syndicate wanted a strip to compete with the then-massively popular Dick Tracy comic strip. Hammett and Raymond both left the strip within a year after the strip’s 1934 debut.

The comic was about a government crimefighter named Secret Agent X-9 (no real name).

After being passed around a bit during the rest of the 1930s (during which a film serial was made based on the strip), Mel Graff took over the art in 1939 and quickly became the driving force behind the strip. He did the strip into the 1960s (the strip lasted until 1996 with Graff’s successors).

Graff’s work was popular enough that the strip was adapted again into a serial in 1945 based on his work.

Among the changes Graff made to the strip was the idea of giving the main character a “real” name, Phil Corrigan (based on a character from one of Graff’s earlier comic strips) and also adding a love triangle element to the comic.

Corrigan had two significant love interests, Wilda and Linda, this leads to one of today’s legends…

COMIC LEGEND: The writer of Secret Agent X-9 wrote a hit song based on a character in the strip and then promoted the song in the comic strip!

STATUS: True

In 1947, Graff actually wrote a song based on Wilda.

The song was a hit, perhaps in part to Graff actually plugging the song IN the strip!!!

Thanks to Joakim Gunnarsson’s brilliant blog, Sekvenskonst (Sequential Art), check out these strips from 1948…

That’s some impressive plugging by Graff!!

In any event, perhaps because of the fact that “Wilda” was based on the Secret Agent X-9 character, there has arisen a legend that…

COMIC LEGEND: The song “Linda” was written about a different character in the Secret Agent X-9 strip.

STATUS: False

This one was practically a Christmas present to me!

You see, very often in discussions about Secret Agent X-9, you will read, like it appears on the Wikipedia page for Secret Agent X-9, “Both these characters inspired popular songs: “Linda” written by Jack Lawrence and “Wilda” written by Graff himself.”

However, I actually did a Music Legends Revealed awhile back specifically ON the origins of the song “Linda” by Jack Lawrence!

You can check it out here.

Suffice it to say that Lawrence did not write the song based on the comic strip character. He wrote it based on the daughter of a friend of his – and since Lawrence’s story does not exactly end happily for him (the song didn’t sell for awhile, so his friend actually financed a recording of the song, but only after acquiring the copyright of the song from Lawrence on the cheap without telling Lawrence that he was behind the purchase and the recording), it sure does not sound like something that Lawrence would be confused about.

(Here’s a picture of Lawrence from the 1950s…

)

Be sure to read the above Music Legends Revealed to see just what Linda Lawrence actually DID write the song about! It’s pretty trippy.

Thanks to the late, great Jack Lawrence for the information!

Okay, that’s it for this week! I wish you all a Very Merry Christmas (I’ll wish you a Happy New Year next 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 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!

27 Comments

X-9 is still used today as a slang, by drug dealers in Rio de Janeiro to refer to an informer or an infiltrated cop.

Wow, awesome info, Anderson, thanks!

Probably better that Copperhead didn’t surface, as I doubt that SFX would do that armor justice without looking cheesy.

What about the Romero book that was coming out from DC in the last 10 years, Toe Tags? Did that ever come out?

I don’t know much about X9, but the song legend seems reminiscent of the “Ev’ry Little Bug” song in the Spirit. Except that Eisner didn’t write more than the title being a recurring bit of song that appears in different stories, and someone else wrote a song based off the title.

Hm, would Hammett and Raymond teaming up be maybe more like Stephen King with — hm, there really aren’t any photorealistic comic strip artists still working — Gary Gianni, the Prince Valiant artist? That is, a “genre” writer working with a top flight comic strip artist.

Great work as usual, Brian, and I hope something cool is planned for 8 weeks from now!

“(interestingly, when it was released on VHS, it was a major international hit – isn’t that odd?). ”

Uh no, Day of the Dead is an excellent film. It’s box office had more to do with it being unrated in a climate where unrated films could no longer get advertising or even bookings for that matter. Video was always more welcoming to unrated films.

Didn’t L’il Abner also do a song-in-a-strip thing? Or was it more other way around, that the song was used in a publicity campaign for the strip…

Copperhead looks like Deathlok with more hair.

Too snarky for Xmas? Sorry.

Neat!

Is there a recording of “Wilda” available? Did Mel Graff perform it too?

The post about “Wilda” reminds me of the time Alan Moore wrote a song as an episode of ‘V for vendetta’ that was simultaneously released as a 12″ single with music by David J (of goth group Bauhaus). The collaborated on several things in those days including the amazing 7″ “Sinister Ducks” with sleeve art by Kevin Oneill & Savage Pencil.

Something is bothering me with that Copperhead story . I would like to hear it straight from Romero and Shooter
If I’m Marvel in the early 80’s and I want to do a cyborg- comic movie tie-in, why pick someone from the horror genre? What about him screams action comic supehero tie-in director?
Conversely, I can’t believe Romero would have developed or wanted to cinematize an on the surface formulaic superhero given his horror only body of work. The whole thing sound like some ill-conceived Shooter idea.

Toe Tags was released as a mini with Berni Wrightson on covers and I think Tommy Castillo doing interior art. it was okay.

Leslie Charteris, who created the Saint, also wrote the Secret Agent X-9 comic strip.

Leslie Charteris, who created the Saint, also wrote the Secret Agent X-9 comic strip.

Also, Max Allan Collins pointed out that Raymond Chandler used to mock Spillane as “the comic book writer”. Well, Chandler seems to have forgotten about X-9.

In fact, as far as I understand, the reason the funding dropped out was that George Romero wasn’t interested in making ‘Day of the Dead’ rated R.

Sean, that’s the true story. Big George always wanted it to be unrated and was shooting for that. The money men pulled out, fearful that the film would do poorly in the then current movie environment.

Is the first year of X9 currently available somewhere? Even if it’s awful, the very idea of Dashiell Hammett writing a comic strip… “holy crap” is indeed right.

Huh, I wonder if there’s any connection between Copperhead and the later (and similar in appearance) Coldblood.

“Romero was always interested in comics, and in fact, in 1982, he and Stephen King teamed up for a movie, Creepshow, that is based off of the classic EC Comics horror comics of the 1950s.”

That would be “inspired by” classic EC Comics. Creepshow was an original King screenplay, not an adaptation of EC material. “Based off of” implies he was directly adapting the stories.

“Copperhead (the name came from the color of his metal skull), based off of a concept developed by…”

That would be “based ON” a concept, or just “Copperhead, a concept developed by…”

Sorry, but the former fiction editor in me grits his teeth when he sees clunky phrases like “based off of.”

It’s totally possible that Copperhead could have been a compelling character with an awesome story, but that design is just awful. So generic and bland!

“What about him screams action comic supehero tie-in director?”

Remember Knightriders?

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0082622/

“Is the first year of X9 currently available somewhere? Even if it’s awful, the very idea of Dashiell Hammett writing a comic strip… “holy crap” is indeed right.”

Kitchen Sink put out an edition in 1990, ISBN 978-0878160778. The strips aren’t very good; I definitely wouldn’t get your hopes up. Bill Blackbeard writes a nice introduction, however.

(Don’t confuse this with the recently released IDW “Volume 1″ that collects Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson’s run.)

@Travis – Actually, Will Eisner did write “Ev’ry Little Bug”, with music by Bill Harr, in 1946/1947, though it was never recorded until 1987 when Kitchen Sink released an LP with 5 versions (!) on a picture disc. Snippets of the song were inserted into a handful of Spirit sections in ’46 & ’47.

(see http://www.angelfire.com/art/wildwood/bug.html)

@Dan – Mmm, Goodwin/Williamson anything is good!

And yeah, Copperhead looks like a really badly designed reboot of Deathlok (I hope neither Guice nor Layton designed the character… brrrr!)

(Drat… that closing parenthesis is not supposed to be part of the hyperlink. Sorry about that.)

[…] I don’t think I knew that George Romero and Marvel were working on a project together. Thanks Comic Books Legends Revealed! […]

I’m a big George Romero zombie movie fan, and I had NEVER heard of the Romero/Marvel business! Learn something new everyday. Cool!

Nick mentioned Coldblood. Is that any relation to the Coldblood 7 series that is mentioned in Malcolm Jones III’s bios in the Sandman trades? (He’s mentioned as working on pencilling and inking a series called Coldblood 7 for Marvel. It seems like something interesting you could cover here, somehow.)

And thanks to Keith for the info about “Ev’ry Little Bug”. Although I SWEAR I read that it WAS recorded back in the ’40s sometime. Maybe that’s something to look into, Brian?

(Drat… that closing parenthesis is not supposed to be part of the hyperlink. Sorry about that.)

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