Luke Cage History: From Hero for Hire to Hollywood
TV, Comic Books
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!
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It wasn’t intentional, but today’s installment ended up having a connective theme – all legends involve cross-media tie-ins!
COMIC LEGEND: Marvel and George Romero spent two years developing a comic/film project that never got off of the ground.
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
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.
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!
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.
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)!!
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!
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…
See you all next week!
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