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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Legends Revealed #310

Welcome to the three hundredth and tenth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. This week, we discuss how DC forced the Superman creators to make Lois Lane a “tasty dish,” how Daredevil #1 being late led to the Avengers being born and learning whether Howard the Duck made a dent in the 1976 United States Preisdential Election!

Click here for an archive of the previous three hundred and nine.

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: DC forced Siegel and Shuster to “prettify” Lois Lane in the early 1940s.


I have spoken in the past about how much more involved editorial got with the Superman books as time went by (and the character became more and more popular).

An interesting (and somewhat embarrassing) example of this is the following letter that Whitney Ellsworth wrote to Jerry Siegel in February of 1941 in reference to Lois Lane.

Murray and I have gone over the magazine stuff, and we find that a great deal hasn’t been done to make Lois look better. The roly-poly hair-do is still the same way we complained about, and why is it necessary to shade Lois’ breasts and the underside of her hair with vertical pen-lines we can’t understand. She looks pregnant. Murray [presumably Murray Boltinoff, longtime DC staffer - BC] suggests that you arrange for her to have an abortion or the baby and get it over with so that her figure can return to something a little more like the tasty dish she is supposed to be. She is much too stocky and much, MUCH too unpleasantly sexy. Please call it to the attention of Joe and his lads that the better artists in this field draw their heroines more or less by a certain formula that makes them look desirable and cute. This they do by having the hair prettily done instead of making it look like a rat’s nest. On top of this they make the face pretty – and they try to draw it in the same way every time. Then, by drawing the shoulders wider than the hips they give the girl a lisesome quality that is absent when the accent is on hips. Also, the waistline is drawn higher thant it would be in real life, and the legs are longer and slimmer. There is usually no attempt to prove pictorially that the female tummy has a certain roundness if not confinded within a girdle, nor that bosoms cast teriffic shadows by virtue of their outstanding quality. While the dames in SMILIN’ JACK may be very tasty and exciting, I certainly do not approve of them for exploitation in publications like ours. You know as well as I do what sort of censure we are always up against, and how careful we must be.

Since writing the first page of this, Mr. Jack Liebowitz has seen the artwork in question, and is extremely dissatisfied with Lois. He says that in addition to making Lois look like a witch, you have apparently dressed her out of a Montgomery Ward catalogue. He suggests Vogue, Vanity Fair and Harper’s Bazaar as likelier spots for dress-research.

Here are some samples of Lois Lane from the time period (from Superman #6)…

Ellsworth actually attached in his letter a depiction of what he thought Lois should look like (he notes that he is a better critic than he is an artist in the letter)…

And soon enough, here is what Lois began looking like (from Superman #19)…

Fascinating, eh?

Thanks to the Uncivil Society for hosting these intriguing historical documents (which came out during the case between DC and the Siegels).

Check out the latest Baseball Legends Revealed to learn the strange tale of how Cy Young and Amos Rusie changed the life of Zane Grey, whether Deion Sanders played professional football and baseball on the same day and discover the time Rick Honeycutt oddly hurt his forehead in a game (thereby revealing that he was cheating).

COMIC LEGEND: The Avengers came about because of a delay in getting Daredevil #1 ready for publication.

STATUS: Apparently True

Reader Greg Orzech wrote in with a very interesting piece Tom Brevoort wrote about on Brevoort’s Formspring account.

According to Brevoort (and honestly, that’s good enough for me), when X-Men #1 and Avengers #1 debuted together in 1963…

it was not initially going to be THOSE two books debuting together, but rather, Daredevil #1 and X-Men #1. You see, Marvel publisher Martin Goodman had tasked Lee with introducing “another Spider-Man” and “another Fantastic Four.”

X-Men was to be the “new Fantastic Four,” and as Tom notes, the cover of X-Men #1 even notes “in the sensational Fantastic Four style!” while Daredevil, naturally, was to be the “new Spider-Man” (and you might recall how much early Daredevil issues evoked Spider-Man stories). In fact, again, on the cover of Daredevil #1, it makes a point of bringing up Spider-Man…

That was all well and good, but Daredevil co-creator Bill Everett was way behind on his deadlines. So much so that it was not going to be ready for that September 1963 cover date. With this being clear, Lee quickly threw together the plot for Avengers #1 and had Jack Kirby pencil it and Dick Ayers ink it. The logic being that a book like the Avengers (where all the characters, including the villain, already exist) was pretty quick to put together.

When you think of the time constraints, it certainly does make this seem more understandable…

Six months later, Daredevil #1 finally came out, but Everett needed help to finish the artwork and by #2, Everett was off of the book.

Fascinating stuff. Thanks to Greg for the head’s up and thanks to Tom for providing such interesting information!

Check out the latest Football Legends Revealed, which, in honor of the two teams that faced each other in Super Bowl XLV, involves us examining one legend from the Pittsburgh Steelers and two legends from the champion Green Bay Packers, including whether Mike Holmgren actually impersonated God to get Reggie White to sign with the Packers!

COMIC LEGEND: Howard the Duck got enough write-in votes in the 1976 Presidential Election to appear on the national charts.

STATUS: I’m Going With False

Reader Matthew wrote in recently to ask:

I read a long time ago about Howard the Duck receiving a significant amount of write-in votes in the 1976 Presidential election. Significant to the point of national percentage points. True?

Matthew, of course, is referring to the time that Steve Gerber had his famed character, Howard the Duck, run for President in Howard the Duck #7 (cover-dated December 1976, so let’s say it came out in…I dunno…August 1976? September, maybe?).

It was a very cool storyline. But is the legend true?

This sort of legend is quite common. In fact, in the past, I’ve featured variations on it involving Dick Gregory (which you can find here) and Gracie Allen (which you can find here). In those cases, like here, the case is overstated.

I do not doubt at all that Howard the Duck did, in fact, receive write-in votes (as Superman and Mickey Mouse, to name two, get write-in votes pretty much every Presidential election) but I’ve looked pretty closely at the election results for the 1976 United States Presidential Election (thanks to Dave Leip’s excellent Presidential Results Atlas), and I just don’t see any way that Howard the Duck got more than 1,000 write-in votes total (if that much). There were 33,795 total write-in votes cast that year (0.04% of the Popular Vote), and the vast majority of those votes are accounted for (mostly by candidates that ran for parties that were not on the ballot in every state – most notably Margaret Wright for the People’s Party and Thomas Anderson for the American Party).

In any event, even if I’m somehow off and Howard got more than 1,000 write-in votes, I think we can agree that it was not “[s]ignificant to the point of national percentage points,” right?

Here’s a Howard campaign button…

Thanks to Matthew for the suggestion and thanks to Dave Leip for the awesome website!

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!

Follow Comics Should Be Good on Twitter and on Facebook (also, feel free to share Comic Book Legends Revealed on our Facebook page!). If we hit 3,000 likes on Facebook or 3,000 followers on Twitter, you’ll have the option to get a bonus edition of Comic Book Legends the week after we hit 3,000 likes or 3,000 followers! So go like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to get that extra Comic Book Legends Revealed! 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!

Also, be sure to check out my website, Legends Revealed, where I look into legends about the worlds of entertainment and sports, which you can find here, at legendsrevealed.com.

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, 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!


The Lois Lane sketch by Ellsworth is awesome.

Why have I never noticed the similarities between the cover layouts on X-Men and Avengers’ first issues. I must have seen this pointed out at some stage and forgotten it, I assume. Huh.

Anyway, great column this week.

Get down, America.

“Stocky”? Reminds me of the “plus-size” models on American’s Next Top Model.

Tom Fitzpatrick

April 22, 2011 at 9:23 am

I’d vote for the Duck.

He’d be helluva better than any politicians (american or canadian) these days!

“Why have I never noticed the similarities between the cover layouts on X-Men and Avengers’ first issues. ”

The same thought crossed my mind! :-O

My High School had a mock election in 1976. My best friend, and I did enough ‘campaigning” for Howard he actually received 30 votes out of the 1200 votes that were cast.

Maybe if we were there in the 1980 election Howard could have come in 2nd. ;-)


Good lord, that Ellsworth letter is appalling.

That Ellsworth letter isn’t “somewhat” embarrassing, it’s a lot embarrassing. Also, and I think this every time I see the cover for Daredevil #1, that may be the worst drawing of Spider-Man in any Marvel comic, certainly the worst to appear on a cover.

“Too unpleasantly sexy” is now my phrase of the weekend.

With all due respect to the late Mr. Ellsworth, he would be turning in his grave if he could see what stocky, chunky and yes, fat, women and men stuff themselves into these days and consider themselves “sexy”. I see the point of his notes, but things like this helped create the even more ridiculous stick-figure-with-oversized-boobs trend in comics.

Also, that picture of clown-Hulk juggling is still one of my all-time favorite comic book panels.

I have no clue what Ellsworth is talking about. Yes, Shuster’s style is a little stiff and rough, but it has a very appealing quality all it’s own, and was the style that made Supes the star that he is. I can understand the editors to ask Shuster to polish his style in general but I don’t see anything specifically wrong with Lois. In fact I rather like her and find it worth emulating. The “new” Lois looks closer to the “good girl” style of the late 40′s exemplified by Baker which is cool, but the 2 styles are just different, none being better than the other.


Anybody notice the presidential candidate is a complete numb-skull from Alaska…? Wonder who the candidate would be in a modern Howard-book… ;) Small world, eh??

I’d definitely vote for the duck instead tho’.

I rather prefer lois with wider hips and narrow shoulders, and there is NOTHING “unpleasantly” sexy about a little buddah belly! Quite the opposite, actually.

I read these correspondences between Detective comics and Siegel and Shuster online several years ago. The original documents scanned into the public record. I forgot how I got to them, though. I do remember it was the product of an extended bout of surfing the web for something else (all the best things I come across on the internet I find that way!). Is there a direct link to the originals?

I’ve certainly seen worse Spideys on covers (just a quick browse brings up stuff like http://www.coverbrowser.com/image/spectacular-spider-man-1976/244-1.jpg and http://www.coverbrowser.com/image/amazing-spider-man/397-1.jpg), but that drawing does look a bit rough.

But man, every time I see Bobby’s original fluffy-snowman look, it brings a smile to my face.

Ellsworth left out “She’s too intelligent and seems to possess the ability for independent thought. She needs to giggle more, ponder today’s dress sale constantly and clumsily fall into Clark’s lap, face first every issue. We don’t want to inspire females to be anything more than dumb and pretty.”

I love how they list ALL the Avengers up at the top of that cover and leave NO ONE out! And hey, they’re all pictured in the cover box, too! Yep, definitely not forgetting anybody. Oh, Jan, would you mind getting the boys some coffee?

“She looks pregnant. Murray suggests that you arrange for her to have an abortion or the baby and get it over with so that her figure can return to something a little more like the tasty dish she is supposed to be.”

That’s an amazing amount of fail in two sentences.

Shoot, with all these classic Marve #1s, you’d think someone went rummaging through Son of Origins! Avengers #1 has to be the best team origin book ever. Stan’s “Oriign’s” essay points out that he made it a point of having their grouping be accidental, b/c having the super-heroes just say “hey let’s start a group!” is boring. Sadly, that seems to be how most team books are started these days (except of course when Cyclops needs somebody executed).

Also – I would have loved to have seen more DD done by Bill Everett. I always thought his shadow-work was really interesting and gritty (before gritty was cool).

One of my favorite moments from the ’90s X-Men animated series is where Beast is shown wearing what is obviously a rough approximation of the Howard the Duck campaign logo:


It also seems Ellsworth is a little conflicted. He says early in the letter that Lois should get the pregnancy over with in order to return to being a “tasty dish”, but later in the letter he refers to the dames of “SMILIN JACK” as being tasty with their “rounded” tummies and “outstanding” bosoms.

As today, this seems to exemplify TWO standards of beauty. I believe Kate Hudson touches on it in an interview addressing the recent change in the size of her breasts: “Big breasts are fun for certain things and really not fun for other things”… i.e. breasts, hips and bellies are GREAT when you’re naked… but if you want to wear those really nice dresses featured in Vogue, Vanity Fair and Harper’s Bazaar, they can get in the way. ;p

At the risk of sounding homophobic as hell, I always thought that the squizophrenia in female standards of beauty is because the fashion industry has a lot of gay men working on it. And gay men favor skinny, ethereal women with an androginous quality. While straight men desire SEX, SEX and more SEX with women with lots of curves, good hips, big tits and asses.

So we have Carrie Bradshaw and every character ever portrayed by Julia Roberts, that women and gay men think is adorable and divine, but straight men just don’t see the appeal.

The gay theory also explains why male models aren’t skinny, like the ladies.

I almost mentioned that too Rene, but didn’t want to risk opening up some can of homophobia worms.

I will say this though, the women who do have power in the fashion industry aren’t helping, so the gay men in it can’t be blamed entirely. See my example with Tyra Banks.

@Rene – no risk at all. You sound full on homophobic.

Nowadays Finland doesn’t tally rejected votes in elections but in the past Donald Duck has done very well in those, to the extent that those are often called “Donald Duck votes” in media (the other long-running favorite is an image of a church boat…)

Meanwhile, in Sweden Kalle Anka Partiet is slightly better established:

Tyra Banks? Smize when you say that.

I think that it is the female influence in the fashion industry that has the greater impact on the often conflicting standards between fashion and sex appeal. I have spoken to my wife about this a few times, and she agrees that most of the cosmetic things that women do, they do for each other, and not for men.

It’s official:

Erica Durance is the hottest Lois Lane in the history of Superman, living or drawn.

It just had to be said.

Rene, fashion industry favors skinny women because it’s easier to design good-looking clothes for women who look like clothes hangers already, and that’s what all the designers are doing. More curvaceous models just aren’t any good because those clothes don’t look as good on them.
This of course leads to beauty standards of people who follow those fashion shows, ie. women, to develop to certain direction (and another popular definer of beauty, ballet, doesn’t help). Gay men generally don’t give a damn how woman’s body should look like, though they might care how that costume one is wearing is fitting the model (though it is true that straight men tend to favor curvaceous women, and maybe the same is true for men in general, when it’s not the matter of being a fashion model).

There’s also a reason why both female and male models have optimum height, where large deviations to either direction gets rejected, why certain shape of shoulder is good and other is not…it’s a matter of uniformity, the model has to be able to go and put on whatever designer has designed and it should look good on her or him. There’s little possibility to start altering to accommodate models who deviate from the norm.

You said it Maverick. I actually think she’s acted the character the best too.

@ maverick

That is true.

The question is, would she still be the hottest Lois Lane ever (living or drawn) if she was wearing a bag, without make-up, her hair was a mess, and had a bit of a pooch instead of that tone belly she sports? I contend… YES!! I mean, that woman is, like… pa-POW!! ::drool, drool:: Talk about a tasty dish!!

My favorite Lois Lane is Rosalind Russell.

Well, maybe second after Kate Beaton’s Lois Lane. http://www.harkavagrant.com/index.php?id=305

I’m voting for Devil Dinosaur next election. Personally speaking

Okay, Sue. I did have several posts in other threads about gay subjects, and I am a defender of gay marriage and full rights for GLBT people. I am uncomfortable bringing up the subject, but I gotta say what I have seen and heard.

AS, I’m not sure I’d say gay men don’t give a damn about a woman’s body. I do think gay men are capable of aesthetic admiration for women, just like anyone could admire a good painting, even if you don’t want to hump the painting.

I was watching the first episode of GAME OF THRONES with a friend of mine, who is gay. There are a couple of sex scenes (it’s a HBO show) and one of them has Daenerys, a character that gets nude and when she is entering her bath, she is shown from behind. And forgive my crudity, she has a nice ass, full and round.

My gay friend said she looked fat, and it’s awful for a girl so young to have such wide hips. I kid you not.

Now, maybe my theory that gay men are a big influence on feminine beauty standards is bullshit. Maybe it’s the other way around: since gay men are more interested and knowledgeable in fashion than straight males, maybe they’re as influenced as women as to what constitutes a beautiful woman. A cultural construct, while straight males are more driven by biology.

The Howard the Duck legend is almost certainly a reworking of similar stories surrounding Pogo’s candidacy in 1952. The possum too supposedly received a statistically significant amount of votes, especially on college campuses. I’ve never seen any evidence of this being true and I suspect that both stories amount to wishful thinking.

Zor-El of Argo

April 22, 2011 at 3:08 pm

I like the early Lois. She looked like a real woman. The kind of woman a real superman, i.e. a truly secure man, would want.

I agree with the theory that it’s the gay designers that are pushing these boyishly skinny female architypes on us. Look at magazines that straight men read such as Maxim and Playboy. Thier models are curvy, often very curvy. Even the centerfolds who have had breast augmentations still have natural-looking curves.

Zor-El of Argo

April 22, 2011 at 3:09 pm

I voted Etrigan in 1992. Just saying.

Possibly it’s that way around, though I have noted several people seem to have lost any kind of sense what kind of women can appear on TV shows and fashion spreads…Dove has sort of got in the groove of showing different body types, but at least in the beginning they got plenty of really vitriolic hate comments as if they had shown some 400-pound mountains and not women with rather reasonable body types…it’s a kind of thing that feeds itself but large part of the female beauty ideal shown in the media is indeed defined and upheld by women themselves, anorexia and all…

About female preferences of gay men, there is certain appeal of androgyny but also exaggerated drag queen types get their love. If I have a preference It’s probably the 50s movie star type, classic timeglass form with breasts, waist and hips. Neither Marilyn Monroe nor Jane Russell would have a chance of being supermodels today because their bodies are not uniform.

The way I heard it, the skiier from that Charles Addams cartoon got a significant portion of the vote. Might be worth looking into for a future column.

While his tone bullying tone and sexist comments are irredeemable, does it strike anyone else that Whitney Elsworth has a valid point buried in that letter?

By the standards of the time, Joe Shuster’s Lois Lane was pretty sexualized. Her breasts and pubic area were pretty regularly shaded. Her body language was sometimes suggestive. In a few short years, Shuster was using the exact same character design in some pretty lurid material. If DC had decided that their audience was children, then toning down Shuster’s Lois was not an unreasonable request.

In that context, the Famous Studios design of Lois from a few months later (http://tinyurl.com/45xo5nd) is sort of interesting. It is sort of a half-step between the Shuster’s sexier Lois and the utterly wholesome (but cute) Lois of Kurt Schaffenberger (http://tinyurl.com/4x3agub).

Since Howard is not running anymore, I’ve decided to vote for Cthulhu in the next election.
I’m tired of voting for the lesser evil.

Willie Everstop

April 22, 2011 at 4:05 pm

Where is Howard’s birth certificate? The duck-wing media shows its bias yet again.

I agree with Thomas Morrison about the “look” of Lois simply being Shuster’s general style, and not at all unpleasant – she looked professional.

@ Predabot – that’s the Alaska delegation in that panel, not a sign for an Alaskan candidate.

HTD #7 indeed hit the stands in September 1976. Cover dates for monthly issues were 3 months in advance of the calendar at that time, and became 4 months ahead in the early years of the direct market (since the early direct market issues would be released a few weeks before the newstands). In the late ’80s there was a concerted effort to shorten that to 2 months (by either leaving the date off the cover or having “early Jan”/”late Jan” used for 4 issues while they shored that up (if I remember correctly I think it was actually the “March” and “April” issues).

I’m not saying that Tom Brevoort’s story is wrong, but skeptically speaking, that seems to be thin evidence. I can definitely see taking seven months to reschedule Daredevil considering Marvel’s distribution contract at the time. You’d think they wouldn’t have been so far behind on a bimonthly book that was more than half a year delayed already that they needed Vinnie Colletta to ruin, er, ink Bob Powell in the second issue. :)

Any truth to the legend that Howard was so hot that shipments of the first issue were hijacked? I remember hearing that in 6th or 7th grade (1976-7) – and I didn’t even have access to more than the occasional fanzine at the time. (Maybe this was mentioned in a Marvel Bullpen Bulletin? If so, there’s a stroke against the veracity of the legend…)

@Keith Bowden:

Joe Orlando, not Bob Powell, drew Daredevil #2-4. Powell didn’t come on board til the end of Wood’s run.

I really like the Spider-Man on Daredevil #1, he looks like a goon. If I were a scrawny, picked-upon nerd, I wouldn’t be a wisecracking free-flyer if I gained powers, I’d be a hunch shouldered goon stalking the alleys.

@Bobb – funniest thing I’ve read all week.

Wow! Ellsworth was a dick!

@Cei-U – Ooops, thanks. I knew I should have verified that!

@ Buttler: LOL! A this rate the darn ghost skier is going to become the column’s mascot. :D

I agree with Dean that we might be taking Ellsworth out of context. Though I’m pretty sure he would not have dared to say things like that to a woman’s face. ;)

Lois’ biggest problem wasn’t her looks, it was her attitude. Way too feminist for the times. I’ve even heard that all the mockery she got in her own series was a way of showing her “getting knocked down a few pegs.” (There’s a Legend for Cronin!)

(And speaking of Legends, sorry but I *still* find the ads for your other columns inserted in this one annoying. Can’t you just list them at the bottom?)

Is it me, or were the older Howard stories more fun and less whiny (and obsessed with sex?) Just watching that page makes me smile.

>> I don’t see anything specifically wrong with Lois. In fact I rather like her and find it worth emulating. The “new” Lois looks closer to the “good girl” style of the late 40?s exemplified by Baker which is cool, but the 2 styles are just different, none being better than the other. <<


SnakeMan99 sez,,,
Also – I would have loved to have seen more DD done by Bill Everett. I always thought his shadow-work was really interesting and gritty (before gritty was cool).

Bill had a beautiful, detailed inking style.
His run inking Kirby’s Hulk in Tales to Astonish was great, and when he took over for Colletta on Kirby’s Thor, I thought “Now THIS is how Asgardians are SUPPOSED to look!”
And, next to Wally Wood, he was THE best inker Gil Kane ever had!

The Lois Lane story is great…I’m not being terribly arrogant when I say I know ALMOST all of the stories surrounding the characters found within the pages of Superman comic books, but THIS was news to me. Interesting as always! Keep ‘Em Burnin’!

Everett’s work in the ’70s was spectacular, his best work – over 35 years his work constantly improved. Inks on The Cat and pencils/inks on Sub-Mariner… I was 9 when he died and was really sad about it even then.

[...] of my favorite weekly columns to read on other sites is Comic Book Legends over at Comic Book Resources.  This week’s column has a bit about the 1976 Presidential race [...]

Power-2 most-the-Peoples

April 23, 2011 at 11:08 am

Ellsworth’s letter could have been writing in a more intellect way, but this just reflects his mentality.
And by that the way he addresses the issue.
He could have just said that he thought her figure was too provocative.
And thought Lois; figure should be more “good girl”,and less sultry and sexy.
But his choice of wording is embarrassing and reflects the times in which he lived.
The abortion remark was particularly insensitive and embarrassing, he could have a better choice of words.

@ P-2-MP:

(Whitney Ellsworth) could have just said that he thought her figure was too provocative. And thought Lois; figure should be more “good girl”,and less sultry and sexy.
But his choice of wording is embarrassing and reflects the times in which he lived.
The abortion remark was particularly insensitive and embarrassing, he could have a better choice of words.

Ellsworth phrased his letter in an utterly reprehensible manner.

However, I really do not think that it says anything in particular about the times in which he lived. The 21st Century is, if anything, coarser. You could easily imagine some Talk Radio guy (or blogger) saying the same thing today.

Moreover, the Ellsworth vs. Siegel positions are two sides of debate about comics that continues to this day. At its core, how different is what Ellsworth is saying about the Superman franchise than Roger Landridge said last week?

I think it’s insane that DC have spent 70 years making Superman as big as Mickey Mouse, and branding him to be understood by parents as being pretty much as kid-friendly as Mickey Mouse, only to piss that brand away in a decade. Nothing wrong with doing mature content in comics – in fact, it should be encouraged as often as possible – but doing it with characters who are on your kids’ lunchboxes is kind of moronic. Take a lesson from Watchmen and come up with new characters for that stuff. And then go back to Superman and Batman and put the same kind of love and effort and craft and intelligence you’ve been putting into all those rape scenes and body mutilations into something kids can read, and adults can also be proud to read because of all the love and effort and craft and intelligence you’ve put into it, and make those the “real” versions.

Siegel & Shuster may not have wanted an R-Rated Superman, but Ellsworth was right that their version of the franchise was notably less than lunchbox friendly. Jerry Siegel was more innovative and more sympathetic than Geoff Johns and Eddie Berganza are, but they are on the same side of the debate. Conversely, Landridge is more well-spoken than Ellsworth, but they share the same principals.

Power-2 most-the-Peoples

April 23, 2011 at 12:18 pm

@ Dean
Oh I whole heartily agree with the idea of keeping the material kid-friendly, it’s just that whole exchange to me is tainted by the fact that Siegel and Shusters fates were sealed.
Cause we know they had signed away the rights to one of the greatest characters in history, and would never have the success they deserved.
Also I thought I’d read this article a few years ago, and found it here:http://www.newsarama.com/comics/080808-EarlySupermangay.html
Ironically August 8. 2008.
This article goes into further detail about the whole exchange.
I implore everyone should read it, it’s just that good!

@ P-2-MP:

My point is that “kid-friendly” is not a simple black-or-white issue.

When I hear someone like Landridge, or Darwyn Cooke, argue against the current state of superhero comics, I tend to sympathize with them. However, seeing Ellsworth make essentially the same case in a more repellent form makes me second guess that impulse.

Ellsworth made Siegel & Shuster’s Lois Lane more “kid friendly” by slowly removing her sexual identity. Likely in the same spirit, they subsequently stripped her of her professional ambitions. The character that remained had her charms, but conveyed a totally different value system. That begs the question: “what does ‘kid-friendly’ really mean?”

Isn’t it really about eliminating content that doesn’t conform to a given value system? If so, then whose value system are we talking about?

On the other end of the spectrum, both WATCHMEN and IDENTITY CRISIS were murder mysteries set in superhero settings that had a major secret related to a long ago sexual assault. Both are pretty R-Rated. Yet, I adore one and loathe the other. Why?

Well, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons were using their story to argue that human behavior is complex, mysterious and often wonderful in spite of our baser instincts. On the other hand, Brad Meltzer and Rags Morales seemed to be saying that even the best and happiest people are secretly horrible when no one is looking. (Oh .. and that DC can totally be as badass as Marvel, even without The Punisher and Wolverine, so suck it, fanboys! High five!)

In other words, they have vastly different value systems. To me, that indicates that the content issue is a bit of red herring.

Michael Powers

April 23, 2011 at 1:14 pm

Very interesting about the origin of “The Avengers” and the fact that Bill Everett took so long on “Daredevil” due to the day job and alcoholism, a deadly combination if ever there was one. What nobody, and I mean nobody, ever seems to mention is how shockingly fantastic Everett’s art is in that issue. Every moment of that six months was worth the wait; the criminals’ faces have a detail and look that never appeared in any other comic artist’s work during that period. The great Jack Kirby would begin with a series’ characters looking distinctly different from one another (look at the first issue of “Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos” or the first “Fantastic Four” but be sitting down when you do) but over time they’d all gradually morph into the same guy, with an Adonis physique and more or less exactly the same handsome face: an almost dreary sameness. Everett’s art on “Daredevil” is so different in its details that it’s stunning and somehow Everett has been almost entirely overlooked except for having created the “Sub-Mariner.”

Power-2 most-the-Peoples

April 23, 2011 at 1:16 pm

Well after all Watchmen is a wonderfully complex and fully realized work, but I’ve always felt that that Identity Crisis is another victim of the dark and nihilistic trend; that Watchmen, Dark Knight Returns and Marvel-man caused.
I.D. is just an excuse to drag these characters who were once consider beacons of hope and virtue, through the mud in a abysmal attempt to reflect modern times.
Raping and murdering a pregnant women for mere shock value and then having the “heroes” cover up the incident wasn’t a good story idea to me.

Ellsworth’s job was to help shape the direction of the Superman franchise. His view of Lois Lane was different from what was being presented, so he had to address the issue, which he did. Remember, though, he is a product of his era, and using current social standards to condemn his statements is ridiculous. Of course it sounds bad now; in 70 years, what you’re saying might sound equally offensive. Just something to keep in mind.

As for Howard the Duck, if he would have run in the last presidential election, I have no doubt he would have garnered a significant number of votes, considering the jokers the Republicans and democrats ran out there. And if someone were to make a joke campaign commercial, I have no doubt that he would finish ahead of the guy currently in the White House in 2012.
Donald Duck picked up 120 votes in last year’s Swedish elections for instance, and about 3/4 of the votes cast for the current US president came from cartoon characters. That last part might be off by a vote or two, but cartoon characters are a popular protest write in candidate.

I have read stories about Everett being late on DD, and how Ditko chipped in at the last minute to help get the book out.

I’m surprised at this Avengers swapped for DD revelation, as it implies that Goodman and Lee let Everett let it slide for 6 months. That doesn’t seem credible to me. I wonder if they simply sat on the completed book all that time until there was another opening in the schedule. During that period, Marvel had a restrictive distribution deal that only allowed them to put out a certain number of books a month.

I can’t help wondering how different Lois would have been if Siegel had gotten to do the story where Superman reveals his identity to her and accepts her as an ally.

I think Dean’s point is that “kid-friendly” sometimes is a codeword for “conservative agenda.” And that is a reason that one should be suspicious of kid-friendly crusaders.

Removing or toning down sexual or violent content, okay that is fine. But there isn’t anything necessarily sexually explicit or violent about divorce and homosexuality. Yet, kid-friendly crusaders will often want to banish such subjects from kid’s entertainment.


In the world of today, it would be rare indeed for a kid to have no contact with at least one other kid born of divorced parents. That is a reality of life kids are already exposed to. And the rate gay people are coming out of the closet and demanding equality, the same will be true for gays before long.

“Kid-friendly” many times is a dishonest strategy, a façade for people who really want to promote a conservative view of family and society, but do not want to admit to their real objectives in so many words.

I remember Joe Quesada’s explanation for why Peter and MJ couldn’t just get a divorce was that he couldn’t stand to think of kids having to ask mom and dad what a divorce was. Which has nothing to do with family values, but did seem like a convenient excuse.

Zor-El of Argo

April 23, 2011 at 3:35 pm

We can’t “protect” children from learning about divorce as it is an unfortunate fact of our society. However, in most cases divorce is a bad thing that shouldn’t be glamourized, at least not in childrens entertainment. If Harry Osbourne were to go insane again and turn on his wife as well the rest of the world, a storyline addressing the Osbourne’s divorce would be okay. Peter and MJ getting divorced would be going to far. Spider-man is a hero and heroes are supposed to stick it out even when it is hard. To create a situation where such a divorce would be “okay” would require a major change in either Peter or MJ’s character. The kind that would piss off readers to no end. Quesada was right, the only way to end Peter and MJ’s marriage was to either erase it or kill Mary Jane.

Personally, I think the latter would have been better, if not cliche.


Why should a “hero” remain in a loveless marriage?

I am old enough to remember a society where divorce was a lot more frowned upon than today, and it wasn’t a happier society. You often had unhappy houses where husband and wife fought all the time but had to stick it out on account of social pressure, and the kids would grow up more traumatized than any divorcee’s kids.

It’s not “glamourizing” divorce to show that even good people have divorces. It’s just reflecting what happens in our society.

The unfortunate fact in our society isn’t divorce, it’s the unrealistic idea that everyone (or even a majority) will have the maturity to know when to marry and whom to marry.

That is exactly what I was refering to when I said pushing a conservative agenda is the idea behind many “protect our kids” campaigns.

“About female preferences of gay men, there is certain appeal of androgyny but also exaggerated drag queen types get their love”

That fits my theory too. Most gay men consider full-bodied women to be a little gauche, a little vulgar. Drag queens get this gauche quality and drive it up to eleven. Drag queens are parody.

Zor-El of Argo

April 23, 2011 at 5:19 pm

Many divorces are necessary. Most happen because we live in an increasingly selfish society where everything has to be our way right now or else we want out.

I’m not advocating forcing people, even parents, to stay in marriages. I simply believe that many marriages end that shouldn’t for no other reason than that it is too easy to get divorced. There is no longer any incentive to try and work things out, to try to meet each other eye to eye. If something requires effort without immediate payout the first instinct is to just bail out. What does that teach the children?

We expect more from our fictional superheroes. It’s okay when lesser characters like The Atom take the easy way out and get divorced, but the iconic ones like Spider-man should set a better example.

Still trying to get past Rene’s huge stereotypical assumptions… I mean, the Lois letter at least was written in another time…

Zor-El of Argo

April 23, 2011 at 5:41 pm

I’d like to see that Lois brought into the modern age. Not just the realistic figure, but the personality, as well. That Lois would not put herself in danger to force Superman to pay attention to her. That is a Lois whom a real superman would go out of his way to pay attention to and even show off for.

I truly believe that a real life Superman would go for the sort of woman that lesser men would want to put in “her place.” Clearly, Siegal and Shuster agreed. Unfortunately, it was the lesser men who were signing thier paychecks.

You know zip about me, Dominic. The last birthday party I attended, I was one of only three straight men. I live in one of the gayest neighbourhoods here in São Paulo. I went to Gay Pride parade many years. GLBT people are flesh and blood people to me. They’re not any less or more than straight people, so they’re not above criticism.

That is my anecdotal observation, that may be wrong, incomplete, flawed, whatever, based on the gay men I associate with. Perhaps “most” is an exaggeration? Possibly. Let’s rephrase the whole thing: I have never heard one straight male say a bad thing about curvy women. Not one. But I have heard women and gay males do. More than once. I didn’t make a poll out of it, I confess.

Zor-El, I agree with you that people divorce too easily. But that is maybe because people marry too easily in the first place, without really considering what they’re getting into.

People divorce too easily, because people still marry too easily.

Rene: Sounds like the generalizations are much more a site-specific cultural thing than anything really to do with sexual orientation, certainly nothing inherent. None of what you’re saying rings true to me based on the folks I know in San Francisco, for instance, but I imagine I’d find it very different in somewhere like, say, Los Angeles, where people have a very different (to my mind, unhealthy) sense of body consciousness.

I’m surprised at this Avengers swapped for DD revelation, as it implies that Goodman and Lee let Everett let it slide for 6 months.

I should note that Brevoort addresses this by noting that Goldman was a fan of Everett (remember, Everett was one of the very first, if not THE first, comic book artists Goldman ever worked with), so he was willing to cut him some slack.

I should note that Brevoort addresses this by noting that Goldman was a fan of Everett (remember, Everett was one of the very first, if not THE first, comic book artists Goldman ever worked with), so he was willing to cut him some slack.

That makes sense, but I’m glad they don’t do that sort of thing anymore.

Funny, I seem to have misplaced my copy of the final issue of The Twelve…

Zor-El of Argo

April 23, 2011 at 7:45 pm

Rene, you make a good point. However, we are talking about fictional characters here. Whether or not a superhero has a good marriage is entirely up to the writer, not all of the random variables that real life throws at us.

I’m not saying that the topic of divorce should be banned from comics, not even the top ones like Spider-man or Superman. I’m saying that that it shouldn’t be the heroes who are getting divorced. Write good marriages for them, and let thier supporting cast make poor choices. Let the superheroes be what the children aspire to, and the supporting characters be the slap of reality… at least where the more sensitive topics are concerned.

I think “Brand New Day” was a cop-out, but better than having Peter and MJ divorce.


kids should be taught that making deals with the devil is preferable to divorce?

Zor-El of Argo

April 23, 2011 at 8:13 pm

Good point. Couldn’t she have just been whacked by Venom or something?

I’m surprised they didn’t rename the comic Your Friendly Satanist Spider-Man.

Wow, what an explosion of comments!

Throwing in my two cents, I think divorce in comics – for any audience – should be treated in the same way as any other aspect of a story: well-crafted, relevant and a natural evolution of the characters and situations as they’ve developed. It shouldn’t be a gimick or a bit of lazy writing to force a change in the status quo.

Ellsworth was a piece of work, and the old guard at National treated S&S horribly (which continued with DC under Time-Warner); I’m really curious about what changes or negotiations are about to occur as the Superman elements get split (due to the heirs’ successful lawsuit). Frankly DC seems to be floundering with the character right now (did anyone see the mysoginistic abomination of Superman 704? Ellsworth would have approved the story, but I can’t imagine how that amateurish art passed anyone’s okay). Whatever happens, I hope Clark and Lois stay married.

Schnitzy Pretzelpants

April 23, 2011 at 9:14 pm

<>I’m not saying that the topic of divorce should be banned from comics, not even the top ones like Spider-man or Superman. I’m saying that that it shouldn’t be the heroes who are getting divorced. Write good marriages for them, and let thier supporting cast make poor choices. Let the superheroes be what the children aspire to, and the supporting characters be the slap of reality… at least where the more sensitive topics are concerned.

I think that you are letting your dislike/loathing of a particular story-arc influence or perhaps simply cloud your opinion on this issue.

You’re somehow equating a persons nobility and heroic virtue with something like having a perfect marriage – or even perfection itself.

I don’t want to read about perfect people. I want to read about people that are human beings. I would prefer to see a happily married MJ and Peter, and still think that we’ll have these two reunited soon somehow.

The problem I have with divorce in comics is the same issue I have with marriage, and with violence. I want to see something approximating reality, in terms of how the characters deal with it. So, I don’t want to see rosey, and all-sunshine and blossoms, marriage all the time. But had the decided to have Peter and MJ get a divorce, I would have been alright with that – PROVIDED, and only provided, the chose a nuanced and believable and heart-felt divorce. You ask me, as far as divorce being a creative option for a comic book couple goes, MJ and Peter would have been a great choice to show that very rare, though no-less heartfelt kind of divorce, where both parties are so very deeply in love with each other, but still realize that there is a certain something that just won’t ultimately work.

You ask me, if Marvel really wanted an opportunity for these two to split up, they missed a golden opportunity to actually write a hell of deep, and moving story, that could have had Marvel getting accolades and publicity for writing a realistic relationship tear-jerker about their breakup – and for once not being ‘news worthy’ because they are (yawn) killing another character.

I also think it really kind of hypocritical in this modern age, for anyone to have more of an issue with divorce than a common-law break-up. For those of us that may not marry, but still intend on staying together for as long as possible, I am willing to bet that break-ups hurt just as much, and affect friends, family, and children just as much as a married couple.

I also think that the real issue, is both the ease that one can be married, and the rather dated emphasis that society still places on marriage more, than divorce being the problem. Hell, it costs government agencies money and time to process marriages – I say, why not just up the cost? That would at least go some way for making people pause and think at least a bit more before tying the knot.

Got to love Iron Man in a skirt. Glad that suit didn’t stick around.

Comics Bulletin did a piece about comics that almost happened and they mentioned a Steve Englehart Elseworlds called BATMAN PRINCE OF DENMARK, but there’s so little info about it. Not much more on Englehart’s website either. Do you know anything about it??

It’s fascinating to me that this thing almost happened.

Here’s the CB article http://www.comicsbulletin.com/topten/130322551247594.htm

I have no desire to see any super heroes spend time in their comics dividing the furniture with the help of a mediator. That’s a level of boring that even marvel shouldn’t touch; Spiderman should be fighting bad guys, not whispering to his lawyer and filing paperwork with the court to maintain possession of his web shooters.

‘Most gay men consider full-bodied women to be a little gauche, a little vulgar’

Rene, please avoid ridiculous generalisations. Or preface with ‘In my experience’.

I feel like we’re not giving children and gay men enough credit for having a brain in their head, here. I think that a half-decent comic book writer could script a divorce that kids could accept and move on from. All the proceedings and lawyer stuff could happen “off-panel”. And doesn’t Ellsworth’s comments about Superman’s big bum making him too Lah-dee-dah argue against the whole gay men being into slim hips and narrow waists thing?

“I should note that Brevoort addresses this by noting that Goldman was a fan of Everett (remember, Everett was one of the very first, if not THE first, comic book artists Goldman ever worked with), so he was willing to cut him some slack.”

Goodman (not Goldman) might have been a fan of Everett, but he was also a pragmatic businessman. Fan or not, I can’t possibly imagine him simply allowing a book to slide for 6 months if it was going to cost him money.

Moreover, it’s worth noting that Everett did not get another assignment from Marvel for another two years (his next credit after DD #1 was completing the Hulk story over Kirby layouts in Tales to Astonish #78, April 1966) . I suspect that, in the meantime, they were wary of getting getting burned by him again.

“Rene, please avoid ridiculous generalisations. Or preface with ‘In my experience’.”

This. Good lord, THIS.

Please stop trying to lump all gays into the same category when it comes to tastes and preferences in aestetics. Your pal Jim or your co-worker Johnny are not representative of every gay. Just like you’re not an example of every straight person.

I wonder how Howard would have handled Camp David and the Iranian Revolution.

He’d lead the US into WAUGHHH!

buttler wrote:
April 22, 2011 at 10:50 am
I’ve certainly seen worse Spideys on covers (just a quick browse brings up stuff like http://www.coverbrowser.com/image/spectacular-spider-man-1976/244-1.jpg and http://www.coverbrowser.com/image/amazing-spider-man/397-1.jpg), but that drawing does look a bit rough.

Oops—sorry for the duplicate posting. (Moderator, feel free to delete the previous one.)
Anyway, nevermind Spidey in that second cover—I can’t get over Stunner standing with her body making two right angles! Say what??

Anyway, nevermind Spidey in that second cover—I can’t get over Stunner standing with her body making two right angles! Say what??

Oh yeah, when I was browsing I saw many more terrible Spider-Man covers, but it usually wasn’t Spidey himself that made them so ridiculous.

Matthew Grayson

April 26, 2011 at 12:05 am

Rene, just because your one friend whose gay said she looked fat doesn’t mean every man who is gay would say the same thing. To you and those arguing about the fashion industry, there are many female designers are at fault for promoting underweight models. Male designers who are gay love working with sexy, healthy females. I’m gay and I don’t dig androgynous anorexic models.

As for Lois, the original depiction was better. Both versions are different styles, but I think the first is better in that she looked more like a real woman. She’s sexy and certainly doesn’t appear pregnant. I agree with what was posted before that the (atrocious) letter failed to address Lois being too determined, intelligent, and independent for their tastes also!


Generally, I agree with the clothes hanger argument for the shapes of fashion models.

However, to your point regarding straight men and curvy women, I know a number of straight men who prefer January Jones to Christina Hendricks (I not being one of them). What I find surprising in my small anecdotal world is how many women I know who just think Christina Hendricks is fat.

I like the first version of Lois, better. Not because of any sexual qualities, but the idea of her being a reporter first, and her “apparently dressed her out of a Montgomery Ward catalogue” instead of dolling her up as this little, cute dish promotes that. I hate the idea of characters dressed in clothing they could never afford.
Off the top of my head, Gran Tarino has characters that all dress appropriately. Something like Sex and the City, on the other hand, is just a fashion show, though, at least it doesn’t pretend to be deep or complex, like some other “chick flicks” I could mention.

Keith Bowden

May 3, 2011 at 1:47 pm

I agree, the ealy Lois looked professional, and I think that was really Ellsworth’s problem; she really wasn’t sexualized, in spite of the deep shadow.

quiero leer el aticulo de mayo y no lo puedo en contrar

An interesting thing I notice in the comments is that some of the people commenting on Ellsworth say that he seemingly wanted to sexualize her, some of them say that he wanted to do the opposite, and some say he wanted something entirely different. Looking back at the letter, I can’t disagree with any of you.

Besides being sexist, crude, and just plain an asshole, Ellsworth also never really seems to find a clear and cohesive reason for the change he wants. The letter just kind of meanders around until you’re not sure if he wants Lois to be a “tasty dish” or avoid “exploitation” ( both things he says in the letter, seemingly contrarily). Maybe by “unpleasantly sexy”, he meant “sexy in a different way than I, personally, find sexy”.

Wow… Love that I people still comment on this thread. I’m just waiting to get a notice in my email about a new comment on a thread from, like ’08 or ’02… do those message boards even exist anymore? I wonder….

On the Spider-Man/Peter Parker divorce topic, I could see M.J. divorcing Peter because she couldn’t take any more of his putting his life on the line (especially if it hit very close to home.)

I was a kid when my parents got divorced and used to think that this was normal.

When you’re a kid, you usually gauge the rest of society by your parents. :)

Steve, that would certainly fit, since MJ’s trouble dealing with the Spider-side of things was what made her refuse Peter’s first proposal.
I remember an article by a stay-at-home dad who said he didn’t realize how much his kids had accepted him as the norm until they went to kindergarten and started talking in baffled tones about the “daddy women” in their schoolmates’ lives who did the stuff men were supposed to do, like child care and cooking.

[...] the Carter and Ford campaigns. Alas, Howard’s run came up short (though opinions differ on whether he received a few write-in votes), and America, as history has recorded, did indeed fail to Get [...]

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Also, I’m going to disagree with the majority here and say that Whitney Ellsworth letter was hilarious. What makes it more interesting is that Lois Lane’s physical appearance was based on Joanne Carter, who would become Jerry Siegel’s wife. So Ellsworth basically insulted Siegel’s wife.

He had a point though,about keeping Lois on model.

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