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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Legends Revealed #312

Welcome to the three hundredth and twelfth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. This week, discover the Marvel comic that was re-scripted at the last minute in response to terrorist threats! Learn whether James Rhodes replaced Tony Stark in the 1990s because the writer of Iron Man didn’t feel that a capitalist like Stark could be a hero! Plus, discover a comic book marketing event gone wrong! All of those stories are part of this special edition of Comic Book Legends Revealed where all the legends are connected to comic book writer Len Kaminski!

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

Let’s begin!

Len Kaminski has written a ton of comic books over the years, but he is perhaps best known for his run on Iron Man during the 1990s where he introduced the “War Machine” armor (with artist Kevin Hopgood). Kaminski would then write the War Machine spin-off, as well. Other series Kaminski wrote over the years include Scare Tactics, Doctor Strange, Morbius, Ghost Rider 2099, Slapstick, Bloodshot and Hellstorm! He also worked as an editor for Marvel. Len has been kind enough to share a bunch of neat information about his comic book career with us. Thanks, Len!

COMIC LEGEND: Marvel changed a Spider-Man story because of terrorist threats, including a bomb threat that emptied the building where Marvel had its offices.


The third ongoing Spider-Man series, Web of Spider-Man, had an odd beginning, where it went through five different writers in the first dozen issues. Part of the “problem” was that the book did not exactly have a focus (presumably because it didn’t have a regular creative team).

Eventually, David Michelinie, Marc Silvestri and Kyle Baker appeared to become the “regular” creative team for the series, and the new focus would be Peter Parker and Daily Bugle/Now Magazine (the news magazine that J. Jonah Jameson owned) reporter Joy Mercado would investigate stories “ripped from the headlines.”

Heck, the cover of Web of Spider-Man #16 even advertises the new direction of the series…

This new direction, though, would be short-lived.

Reader Liam wrote in to ask about what the deal was with Web of Spider-Man #19-22…

The story finds Peter encountering terrorists in London and Northern Ireland. It starts out as an attempt to engage with the history and politics of the troubles, but following a fill-in issue for #21 resolves quickly with the introduction of new terrorist group working for Roxxon. I was wondering is there any truth to the rumor that Marvel received a bomb threat following the first issue of the story prompting the fill-in issue and a massive storyline change?

Issue #19 just sets up the story, while issue #20 is the real deal. Here are some sample pages…

Things get real personal for Peter when he sees one of the victims…

this also allows Michelinie to give his take on the origin of the problems in Ireland…

And at the end of the issue, Peter and Joy decide to go to Dublin to investigate further…

As you can see, the story is getting quite involved in the troubles in Ireland, and has some stuff in there that certain parties being portrayed in the comic might find offensive.

So it is not so surprising that issue #20 begins with a framing sequence…

that leads to…

a Larry Lieber written/drawn fill-in issue!

This gave Marvel time to make a big change. When the next issue picks up, the story begins basically the same as the seriousness of #20…

but soon the tale turns out to be all part of a super-villainy scheme of that evil corporation Roxxon…

The politics of the story are basically forcibly removed from the tale.

And guess who did the removing? Why, Len Kaminski, that’s who! He re-scripted #22 (and then did scripts on the remaining two issues that Michelinie has plotted, before the book went right back to a rotating group of writers – it didn’t get a regular creative team until issue #50! Over twenty-five issues later!!), so I asked him about Liam’s question. Len replied:

It was originally a two-parter plotted by David Michelinie; the Irritated {alllegely} Residents {I only heard stuff second-hand, I wasn’t answering phones that week} Aggrieved made their objections Quite Sincerely Known to Marvel via Mr Graham Bell’s remarkable invention.

Story continues below

I can directly confiim that not only Marvel, but ALL OTHER OFFICES at the 387 Park Avenue South location had themselves a very hastily-organized surprise fire drill, emptying the building entirely (with the unexpected result of proving once and for all that the human contents of 387 PAS, when removed from the ten story structure and redistributed on a single plane (in this case, Manhattan sidewalk), the would, in fact, completely encircle the block demarcated by 387 PAS, E28th St, E27th St. and 3rd Avenue) in ranks approximately 8-15 humunits (a measurement coined by Gruenwald of course) deep.

Again, I did not take that call myself, but multiple sources told me outright this move was inspired by several calls that morning claiming there was an explosive device somewhere close by, and that there was a causal relationship between the previously mentioned SPIDEY story and Things That Go Boom.

Then-editor Jim Owsley hired me to re-write the second half to remove the elements that had been objected to. Overnight Using the existing word balloons, which had been whited out. Sort of the cage-match x-treme version of the old-skool DC practice of cooking up an insane cover, then making the writer create a story to justify it somehow, crossed with MadLibs reimagined as a bloodsport.

I can’t… ever… talk about the all-nighter I pulled Getting It Done. Go read both halves in light of this new information… and IMAGINE — it could have been — YOU!!

Christopher Priest shared his version of the bomb scare at his website here:

[W]e sent out an issue of Michelinie’s WEB that dealt with the IRA and the politics of Ireland that got us both national attention and a bomb threat. I returned from lunch to find everyone in the building standing on the street while the bomb squad combed the building for explosives (there were none, it was a hoax).

Crazy stuff!

Thanks a lot for the information, Len! And thanks to Liam for the suggestion!

Check out the latest Movie Legends Revealed to learn the story about how a Back to the Future lawsuit dramatically changed actors’ rights forever, how a hit film accidentally gave away U.S. naval secrets and how Katharine Hepburn’s temperance almost got her killed during the filming of The African Queen!

COMIC LEGEND: Kaminski replaced Tony Stark with James Rhodes in part because he couldn’t see a “capitalist” as a hero.


Reader Rene commented awhile back about Len Kaminski’s Iron Man run. This was the run that had a storyline where Tony Stark is presumed dead (he was not):

and James Rhodes took over the book, becoming the CEO of Stark Enterprises and wearing the newly introduced “War Machine” armor…

Rene wrote:

I also was a bit turned off when I’ve read somewhere that Kaminski had to make Rhodes the star of the book, because he couldn’t quite see a “capitalist” like Tony as a hero. Now, I am as liberal as they come, but that is a bit too much.

That rumor had, indeed, circulated for a while back when the books were coming out. Len responds:

Actually, I never said thing one about Tony not being able to be a hero because he was a capitalist. Heck, I’M a capitalist. I suspect that rumor got its start as a misquote of some comments I made in an interview (possibly MARVEL AGE?), in which I made comparisons between Stark and actual billionaire-industrialist-technocrats (such as Bill Gates). My point was twofold: first was that we DON’T often see “real-life” guys in Stark’s position acting in ways we normally associate with the heroic ideal – and that meant there was something special about Stark besides the huge IQ, bank account and gagetry. Something deep and noble, learned from battling his health problems and personal demons. Something that demands he fight the fight personally, rather than do the “sensible” thing and hire a platoon of Iron Men. The other point I was on about – which I tried to address in CRASH AND BURN – is that Stark believes in a business model rooted in altruism over short-term gain, that making a profit is NOT incompatible with doing right – in fact, it may be essential to long-term growth. Which had nothing at all to do with Rhodes tenure as CEO…

Story continues below

Thanks, Len!

Thanks to Rene for the comment and thanks to Len for the response.

Check out the latest Theater Legends Revealed to find out if the theater is responsible for Daniel Boone’s coonskin cap, learn how A Long Day’s Journey Into Night came out over two decades before it should have and discover which playwright got his start based on an English lesson!

COMIC LEGEND: Kaminski produced hundreds of “bootleg” tape cassettes for the Scare Tactics fan club that DC wouldn’t let him use.


Scare Tactics was a fun comic book by Kaminski and penciler Anthony Williams and inker Andy Lanning. It was about a rock band made up of, well, monsters, basically.

The band would rock out and then get into various misadventures.

While the book only lasted 12 issues, DC liked it enough that they tried to promote the book in the middle of the series’ run by having the team split up for a few months and put the book on hiatus, and in those months, they put out a series of one-shots teaming the various group members up with notable DC characters, in a few month’s worth of “Plus” one-shots (DC’s plus one-shots of various heroes teaming up were a lot of fun – they should give them another chance!).

The book then picked up from where the Plus one-shots left off…

Sadly, this marketing push didn’t work and the book ended with #12.

Interestingly enough, Kaminski had a very clever idea to help promote the book early on – an idea that ultimately did not come to pass. Here’s Len on the plan…

I >had< planned on there being a real-life ST fan club package, which would’ve included a small poster, a backstage pass and a cassette “bootleg” of one of their songs. I wrote the song, and went out of pocket a grand or two on a great east village band (which I can’t name due to weird contract stuff with their manager), studio time (sound engineering and the actual “tune” donated gratis by my friend [and ST fan] Ed) – only to have DC tell me to cut it out, I didn’t own the rights to ST (and besides, it was hinted, they didn’t need me running around making their marketing department look bad). So I had a crate of hundreds of those cassettes on my hands for years before I finally ditched them, keeping just a few for myself.

That’s too bad – that would have been quite cool!

Thanks, again, to Len for the information!

Heck, thanks to Len PERIOD, for everything!

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!


Wait, JJJ formed NOW Magazine in the 80s? Wasn’t he already head of it upon his first appearance? Did it fold and reform somewhere in those 20 years in the middle?

I’d love to hear that Scare Tactics song. Does anyone know if it’s available online somewhere?

Web of Spider-Man was a HORRIBLE book, and I was such a Spider-Man fan that I bought EVERY SINGLE ISSUE. That’s how desperate I was to never miss a Spider-Man fix. Even at that young age I could tell the stories were terrible. I remember Michelinie’s issues being pretty bad and heavy-handed and overly simplistic.

But that Silvestri/Baker art was wonderful. Kyle Baker inking in his old Stray Toasters style is one of my fondest memories of 80s Marvel. I loved everything Baker inked, he made all artists look like a more accessible version of Bill Sink’s New Mutant style. He was great inking Mark Beachum and Sal Buscema and Jackson Guice as well in other books. Thanks for the stroll down memory lane Brian.

Brian Cronin

May 6, 2011 at 9:48 am

Wait, JJJ formed NOW Magazine in the 80s? Wasn’t he already head of it upon his first appearance? Did it fold and reform somewhere in those 20 years in the middle?

I think it was more a case of ignoring it for decades, but you’re right, I’ll take out “formed.” Thanks!

I thought NOW was ended at some point and resurrected in the story rather than having been running all along but just neglected. Am I remembering wrong?

Scare Tactics and Superboy and the Ravers came out around the same time-ish. Coincidence?

So, the REAL test of that last legend is to – UPLOAD that Scare Tactics bootleg for all us curious listeners/readers. C’mon Len and Brian! If Len paid money out of pocket to find/produce the donated songs, we want to hear them!

I love Joy’s take on Irish history, it’s total nonsense, but the conviction she says it with is inspiring.

Pete Woodhouse

May 6, 2011 at 10:17 am

Is ‘bloody’ not an American swear word (here in England it’s a mild expletive, less than bastard, etc)? I ask because frequently when non-American native English-speaking nations like the UK or Australians are portrayed in US comics, it’s used, like the above example for the Irish.

I always remember being taken aback seeing it used in my older brother’s collection of 1970s Flashes, spoken by Aussie Capt. Boomerang, surprise, surprise! This is in the days NO-ONE swore in comics code publications, so the shock was greater.

Ditto when Batman fought the Gentleman Ghost, his generic English hoods said something like (cue Dick Van Dyke accent!): “Cor, lummie, let’s get the bloody Batman, guv’nor!”

Is ‘bloody’ not an American swear word (here in England it’s a mild expletive, less than bastard, etc)? I ask because frequently when non-American native English-speaking nations like the UK or Australians are portrayed in US comics, it’s used, like the above example for the Irish.

Basically, yeah, it is not a swear word in America.

Scott Steubing

May 6, 2011 at 10:32 am

To this day I cannot understand DC’s thinking in regards to SCARE TACTICS. If you want to promote a book, why put it on hiatus? If you’re trying to drum up interest in a low-selling title, it helps if you actually keep the title on the shelves. I knew as soon as DC announced the four “Plus” specials that SCARE TACTICS was doomed.

Travis Pelkie

May 6, 2011 at 10:36 am

Yeah, Pete, bloody isn’t used here as an expletive. Or not really.

T, I assume in your bit about Kyle Baker inking, you mean something like his Shadow style. Stray Toasters was all Sienkiewicz. But since both did work on the Shadow, maybe that’s what you mean.

And I came across, years later, the Transformers issues I got as a young kid and said, wait, THE Kyle Baker inked those? Way cool.

Yeah, I made a mistake. I meant Shadow style but mistakenly typed Stray Toasters, probably cuz I was typing about Sinkiewicz in the same paragraph. Thanks Travis.

Scare Tactics was actually a pretty bloody good book. It spun out of the Fate series, if I recall correctly, since one of the characters had a supporting role there. Too bad it didn’t get any traction.

Well, I never expected when I woke up this morning to read three legends about Len Kaminski. But he was a pretty good writer, even if he’s only the third best comics writer to answer to the name “Len”.

The Web of Spidey legend is fascinating, but there seems to be a big piece missing– David Michelinie. Was he offered the chance to rescript the book, and turned it down, or was Kaminski just the closest available warm body? Did Michelinie leave the book in protest, was he removed for causing the problem, or something else entirely? Heck, he had a long, successful run on Amazing not long after, so the PTB couldn’t have been too mad at him. Perhaps a follow-up legend is in order?

Man, you can just see Len Kaminski chuckling to himself as he wrote that explanation of the bomb threat story.

I would love to hear the Scare Tactics song along with the Krs One songs released for Marvel.

I thought NOW Magazine started in the 70s when Carol Danvers was put in charge of it in the first issue of her first series.

Squashua: Coincidence? Not really, other than DC doing a teen character focus at the time. (also Robin, Anima, Impulse, Ray, Damage, were around that time).

Scare Tactics was part of DC’s Weirdverse, an attempt to bring “Vertigoesque” characters back to DCU, with a New Night Force, Fate, another i’m blanking on, and ST.

It had a big online following at the time.

IIRC, Scare Tactics did play at the Rave in one of the final issues.

Jake the Werewolf would later show up in an issue or two of PAD’s Young Justice.

Web of Spider-man #20 was my very first Spidey comic…what a change from the cartoon on Saturday mornings. My young mind did not know the first thing about the IRA or any of that…plus Spidey was running around in the black costume which was quite a revelation…there is a scene where Spidey takes out some gunmen in the sewers from the shadows. The use of shadows and the white, where you can only see his eyes and the white spider symbol was a great visual. Spidey was a lot more vicious back then…using scare tactics and stealth…good stuff.

Hmph. Some reporter Peter Parker is. All that action, Joy’s trying to get information and he just stands around with his hands in his pockets instead of snapping pics! :)

And damn, but I still hate the flexographic press…

@ Scavenger:

i think the other book was the one with Red Tornado & Jack O’Lantern, among other lesser lights, like Claw. Primal Force is what it was called i believe. Althought the group was the ‘Leymen’ like Ley Lines of power circling the globe. It was a fun book, but had one of the lamest endings.


It’s always entertaining to see a group offended by suggestions that they might be violent terrorists respond by threatening to kill the people who whoever made the suggestion. “How dare you call us violent? We’ll kill you for that!”

Is it just me, or does the guy in the last panel of the second spidey page looks just like Silvestri?

I love how there’s a terrorist bomb attack in am airport immediately followed by a vicious gunfight and peter’s investigative reporter friend decides that this could be a story…. Ya think?

Andrew Collins

May 6, 2011 at 2:21 pm

Scare Tactics was part of DC’s Weirdverse, an attempt to bring “Vertigoesque” characters back to DCU, with a New Night Force, Fate, another i’m blanking on, and ST

Danjack is right in that the Primal Force book would have fit in with the “Weirdverse” but the book you’re thinking of is Challengers Of The Unknown, drawn by John Paul Leon. It was the other book launched with Scare Tactics, Night Force, and Book Of Fate.

David Fullam

May 6, 2011 at 2:53 pm

DC can rot and die for cancelling Scare Tactics and the other Spookyverse titles (and Manhunter, Primal Force, Firebrand, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc…….)

Jameson told Peter that he was reviving NOW magazine just a few issues before Michelinie started writing Web. I don’t remember which series or issue it was, but I still have it. I could look it up if needed.

The magazine Carol Danvers edited in the ’70s was Woman. It was already in existence, but not selling well, when Jameson hired her.

The terrorism issue that Kaminsky re-wrote had no credits. I assume they were waiting until the last minute because they didn’t know who the final scripter might be, and then they never did get around to including them. But that’s just a guess on my part.

I was really stunned when I first learned ‘bloody’ was considered a cuss word in Britain. I’d always assumed it was what British people said in place of cussing.


May 6, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Nixing a rock tape to promote a comic. Someone call Arnold Burnsteel, I smell a conspiracy!

Brian, is it possible that Denny O’Neil was the writer who replaced Tony with Rhodey because he didn’t think that a capitalist could be a hero?

Man, if Muslim terrorists had done something like that, it’d be front page news. But the IRA always got softer treatment over here in fiction.

Mike Loughlin

May 6, 2011 at 5:11 pm

Larry Lieber and Vince Colletta? It’s like they were daring kids to come back for the next issue. Silvestri when his art was more restrained inked by Baker? Wow. It shouldn’t work, but it does.

If anyone wants to read a blog that devotes plenty of time to Web of Spider-Man, http://www.notblogx.com is good fun. The writer (G. Kendall) revisited the ’90s X-books to see if they were as bad as their reputation, and is currently writing going through Web of Spider-Man and Spawn issue by issue. I enjoy his take on the era.

Pete, you are correct that in America, bloody is a non-swear word, infrequently used as a softer alternative in place of harsher swear words. Similar to saying freaking or flipping instead of F*cking. It is quite ironic bloody it is often used to playfully portray British and Australian characters to American audiences, without understanding the harshenss of its meaning in British English.

Brian Cronin

May 6, 2011 at 5:47 pm

Brian, is it possible that Denny O’Neil was the writer who replaced Tony with Rhodey because he didn’t think that a capitalist could be a hero?

Yeah, I was thinking that, as well. I remember the rumor back in the 1990s, though, and it was specifically about Kaminski, so I think Len’s take that someone just misconstrued an interview he did (where he talked about how real-life CEOs are not exactly “heroic,” which makes Tony Stark all the more impressive) is likely the correct one.

Thanks, Mary Warner. I was also trying to remember if NOW was the magazine Carol Danvers edited all those years ago.

Most Americans falsely assume that “bloody” is British for “very”. We also assume that “shag” is is British for “fool around”. That’s why Brits are always shocked at how foul-mouthed we portray them, even in PG rated material.

I passed on Scare Tactics back in the day, but this article has kinda got me liking the concept.

Too bad they don’t show up again somewhere, though I certainly can’t see them carrying an ongoing.

I noticed that the Web of Spider-Man issues were printed in that god-awful flexographic method.This had to have been thee worst period for comics,because nothing looked good printed with this metthod .Brian,explain to the bretheren about this scourge to 80’s comics production.

I think it’s not really an matter of not knowing what “bloody” means as the fact that it’s just not a profanity in America.

(I’m sure there ARE Americans who don’t know, but even when I was a little kid “bloody is actually a swear in Britain” was one of those things that absolutely everyone knew but still constantly told everyone else to prove how wordly they were, like “the rest of the world calls soccer football!” or “Dracula was based on a real person!” or “Japanese people say their last name first and first name last!”)

Profanity is such a weird concept at its base. It’s okay to say “excrement,” “feces,” “poo,” “manure,” and a dozen other words but “shit” is off limits! As a kid you get this weird sense that there something magical and wrong about those words (like the “curse words” episode of South Park) but when you grow up you realize that they’re just a collectiong of sounds that for some reason someone at some point decided to declare offensive (usually because they were words used by a culture the people in power wanted to marginalize) and people are now taught that they’re offensive and they end up making some people uncomfortable for no good reason. “Bloody” doesn’t make Americans uncomfortable – just like “merde” or “shceiss” – so it’s okay to say on TV and in comics.

A good counterexample (and another example of those “things everyone knows but tells everyone else anyway”) would be that there’s a certain word that means “cigarette” in Britain but most certainly does NOT mean “cigarette” in America. It’s my understanding that that word is much easier to get into a TV script in the UK than in the states.

Brian, thanks for featuring a legend based on a comment of mine!

I’ve first read about the rumor in the fantastic “Quarter Bin” site (and it’s a pity the site has not been updated in ten years or so). Well, the site is fantastic, but not fool-proof, I see it now.

And I gotta admit it, I’m not really a fan of Len Kaminski.

About Denny O’Neill, I dunno. He’s got a reputation as a leftie, but his replacing Stark with Rhodes seemed more like just shaking things up temporarily in a typical late-80s, early-90s fashion, than an ideologically-inspired story.

And wow, I never knew about the Web of Spider-Man IRA story! There are whole portions of runs that have been ignore here in the Brazilian editions, and that is one of them. The one time I heard about it, was when Garth Ennis was mocking the story in an interview, some Spider-Man story that got things totally wrong, but I never knew exactly when and where it was published.

Oh, and about profanity.

There is something hillarious to me whenever Bill Mantlo wrote a story featuring the White Tiger.

The White Tiger, a Puerto Rican guy, kept saying “carajo” as an expletive in the stories.

“Carajo” is the Spanish for cock, dick, penis. And it’s considered a very dirty word. It’s also a very common expletive in both Spanish and Portuguese (we Brazilians use the word “Caralho”, but it’s the same thing).

And that this word would appear constantly in a Marvel comic in the 1970s, a Spider-Man comic, no less! It’s this very much tame superhero comic book, and then there is one character saying the similar of “fuck” every few panels! It would crack me up.

Silvestri when his art was more restrained inked by Baker? Wow. It shouldn’t work, but it does.

Everyone works when inked by 80s Kyle Baker. To me Kyle Baker’s inks defined that period of 80s Marvel. I so wish he still used that inking style. He even did an issue of Transformers that I remember fondly.

So did any of those Scare Tactics bootlegs ever make it into private hands? Should I be scouring ebay for one (cause I’d love to lay my hands on one).

Regarding Dracula (slightly OT, sorry), I ran into a couple of Romanian immigrants last weekend and while I knew Vlad Tepes was a great hero over there, it was still surprising how intensely passionate they were about him. Apparently connecting him with an undead monster goes about as well as portraying George Washington that way would here.

Hondobrode- I believe Scream Queen is in the current storyline in Superman/Batman.

That Web of Spiderman story resulted in me writing a very angry letter to Marvel because of that page where Joy ‘explains’ the history of the Troubles in the most cock-handed way one could possibly imagine, not to mention the entire issue was just hugely offensive at a time when the IRA were commiting horrendous artrocities on the UK mainland, and in Ireland.

This isn’t to say the subject shouldn’t have been touched, but it should have been better researched and written as it was utterly horrendous, but I never knew of the bomb threat and that’s shocking it caused people to make them.

Stefan Wenger

May 7, 2011 at 7:35 am

Gaaaah, I miss Kaminski! His writing style just in that first e-mail about the bomb story were more interesting than some of the comics I read this month.

So many comics out there today, but without Len Kaminski (and without the aforementioned Christopher Priest) the shelves seem somehow incomplete.

The idea that Tony getting replaced was some left-wing anticapitalist statement sounds more like the kind of silly charge someone would make up to score a political point (“Tony Stark’s not Iron Man? Obviously because the radical left hates American business!”).

Joy Mercado would investigate stories “ripped from the headlines.”

I wonder if Greg Hatcher would consider some of the topics for this entry in line with his column above, where he decries attempts at topicality.

(Of course, in the extremely early Golden Age, writers did similar things. The early Superman stories showed him as primarily a social protestor. Looking back at the early Superman stories (actually as late as the origin issue Superman#53) , many people find the social protester aspect of Superman surprising, considering how staid the series grew later. Alvin Schwartz in 1993 said that he found it inappropriate that the 1992 writers had Superman confront a spouse beater. Alvin Schwartz forgot that Jerry Siegel did the same thing in 1938.)

Of course those Superman stories and precedents. Although Doc Savage and the Shadow did not operate in the manner of “Robin Hoods” for the common man the way Superman does in these stories, Leslie Charteris’ Simon Templar, the Saint, sometimes did. See the short story The Sleepless Knight and The Simon Templar Foundation. The Saint sometimes put pressure on war profiteers, such as those associated with Dr. Rayt Marius. Templar forced Marius’ associates to fund an organization for the families of soldiers. Zorro, of course, worked as a social protestor-despite what Judge Richard Shraniere thought, Zorro’s adopted a dual identity to protect himself from the authorities’s reprisal for his activities as a social protestor. The Green Hornet on radio also mostly confronted crimes that harmed the common man, such as racketeers, extortion, etc. Dick Tracy early on mostly confronted counterparts of Capone, Dillinger, and Floyd. )

Kind of ironic that Len Kaminski removed the politics from a tale, since when he later wrote War Machine, he noted that he intended to deal with topical political issues. (He said this in an article in Comics Scene.)

As regards Marvel and the IRA, I was appalled as a kid that Matt Murdock fell for some woman who was an IRA fundraiser, Glorianna O’Breen, or somesuch – Denny O’Neill, I think that was. With luck, I’m misremembering.

If she ever dated Matt, surely that means she’s been killed by Bullseye by now.

Brian Cronin

May 7, 2011 at 9:39 pm

Not only was she killed, but she had one of the worst deaths of one of Matt’s girlfriends (she was pulled out of limbo just to be killed).


May 8, 2011 at 12:56 am

I wish Len Kaminski would do some more comics.
In my younger years, 11-13, Kaminski was up there with Ellis in my opinion of writers – they did pretty cool warped tales, that read like they were going under the radar and getting away with more than they should in superheroes (and as I didn’t know anything other Marvel or DC, that was the cutting edge as far as I was concerned).
Ghost Rider 2099 felt a million miles away from other books Marvel published (even in the same line) with it’s dystopian world cyberpunk vibe, and a couple of years later, his first issue of The Creeper blew my mind with it’s crazy art and psychological weirdness in a superhero comic – like Anatomy Lesson in Swamp Thing was a shock when it first came out.
I got Scare Tactics through back issue bins a few years back – it was quite a fun read.

I was really stunned when I first learned ‘bloody’ was considered a cuss word in Britain. I’d always assumed it was what British people said in place of cussing.

It is.
Only children and those interacting with the very prudish would get in trouble for saying it.
Maybe the slightest smidgen worse than damn.

Bloody isn’t a very strong swear word, but it’s still just strong enough to look funny in an otherwise Code-friendly book.

I’m from the UK, and when I was a kid I bought an X-Men comic in which the writer had a British character (I forget who) display his Britishness by calling Wolverine a wanker. This completely blew my mind as, in the UK, wanker is an incredibly profane word, only a small step down from calling someone a c**t…………..


May 8, 2011 at 1:13 pm

There was a Claremont/Byrne story in Iron Fist about a friend of Danny’s who was formerly with the IRA but quit, whereupon they hired Boomerang to take him out. “Once in, never out.” Misty broke up with Danny when he defended his friend (Misty’s arm having been blown off by a bomb). I thought this was pretty heavy politically at the time, but apparently the IRA wasn’t bothered by it, since I’ve never heard that they got any flak for it. Perhaps a mention in a book that was cancelled shortly after didn’t draw attention the way an appearance in a higher profile book like Spider-Man later would.

While most of the column’s readers likely already know it, you might want to add that Jim Owsley and Christopher Priest are the same person.

Rene: “Carajo” does not mean “dick”, at the very least in spanish. It is an expletive, yes. But the origin of it comes from the observation point in old ships. Working as watchout from up there was a dangerous task, usually assigned as punishment. The entire expression, “andate al carajo” (go to the carajo) illustrates that more clearly. The first part is usually cut out and people just yell “CARAJO” when they’re frustrated about something.

primitive hombre

May 9, 2011 at 7:59 am

Cronin hello how true is that Jack Kirby was working on before his death, to bring the Bible to the comic is that true?
We apologize that my question has nothing to do with that published

primitive hombre

May 9, 2011 at 8:04 am

some children read ironman but on reaching young people who hate to be a billionaire capitalist toni, sociologically it enough weight to dismiss.

As King Mob said, the history of the “Troubles” in Web #20 is incredibly bad. It’s obviously tough to squeeze the best part of a millenium of history into a couple of panels, but what is there is pretty much plain wrong.

I loved Scare Tactics, and was broken-hearted when it ended.

@ sc – thx for the heads up on Scream Queen !

Len Kaminski

May 9, 2011 at 2:59 pm

I’ll see what I can do about a copy of that bootleg, maybe even some of the other stuff I worked up for the ST fan club package…

Brian Cronin

May 9, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Hooray for Len!


Well at least it got the religions right.

What really puts it over the top is the conviction it is delivered in – you know, so matter-of-factly, like, “Duh, this is clearly what it is all about.”

Web reminds me of the new X-Men book. It was added to have another book, and never really had a point.

“reporter Joy Mercado would investigate stories “ripped from the headlines.”

I find it ironic that Kaminski excised political content from a story. When he wrote War Machine, in an article in Comics Scene, he noted that he wanted to make that series highly topical.

My sympathies go out to Len for the “bootlegs” thing, as writing a song to send out to fan club members sounds like EXACTLY the kind of insane thing I would do if I was a pro writer, and I would be heartbroken when I was told not to. Seriously, let’s hear that song, Len!

I loved Len Kaminksi’s 1992 Morbius series.

If you rewrite the comic book storyline, the terrorists win.

More seriously, while I completely believe Len wasn’t changing things to match his politics (though it does sound like something O’Neil would do….), I think the root of the rumor comes from the long tradition of writers trying to move Stark away from his capitalist, or weapons developer origins, and actually often feel “guilty” about them. And try and take away his riches over and over. Because I do think there are some writers who have a hard time identifying a businessman as anything more than a bad guy in fiction. When really, they’re missing the boat on Stark…he’s more a James Bond character, someone who you want to be as cool and successful as, and not (modern) Lex Luthor with a heart of gold.

One of the things I liked about David Michelinie’s stint on the title was that he played Stark as millionaire playboy to the hilt. Like one story where Rhodey suggests that as the villain’s hiding out in Monaco, Tony should just call the royal family and ask them to find him. To Rhodey’s surprise, Tony proceeds to do exactly that.

I wish just one of the people who commented to mention how bad Joy’s explanation was had at least given some sort of explanation of their own on what exactly was wrong with what she was saying. Not because I think they’re wrong, but because I don’t have a “bloody” clue about the situation other than it was Protestants vs Catholics and lots of horrific violence ensued.

I just bought Web of Spider-Man #20 in a bargain bin for my son. The cover is COMPLETELY misleading: tens of Marvel’s heroes framing a Spider-Man mask. I read the comics before I let him read them and, needless to say, he’s not getting this one yet.

But I wonder if Len can shed some light on whether or not the original cover for Web #20 was also deemed too inappropriate for the newsstand? Like having the six-year-old dying on the cover or some other act of violent terrorism? In other words, did Marvel already have an inkling that the content of this story would upset people?

JD, my understanding of the violence hearkens back to the Church of England vs. the Roman Catholic Church. After King Henry VIII denounced the pope (and the Roman Catholic Church) and wrote the Act of Supremacy claiming that the king of England (Ireland included) was the head of the Church of England, not the pope. England made Roman Catholicism illegal and thus began persecuting Catholics (the story of Edmund Campion is an example of such persecution and the Guy Fawkes story is an example of a famous reaction to such persecution).

But the southern counties of the Irish Republic (predominantly Roman Catholic) fought for independence and gained it. The northern counties of Northern Ireland remained in the control of England. For decades violence was waged by both sides.

@ Matt W.,

From your description it sounds like that was one of Marvel’s “25th Anniversary” covers. It was a theme they did for all the covers that month (November 1986). The heroes in the frame are not meant to be part of the story—if they were, Transformers #22 would have been a much different comic! ?

See also: http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2012/12/08/i-cant-cover-what-i-am-marvels-25th-anniversary-covers/?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

Felicity, that is it exactly! Thanks for clearing that up.

@JD One could go through the points in Joy’s explanation line by line but of the key modern ones the biggies are the implication that the Troubles were the Republic of Ireland trying to take over Northern Ireland and that “England”, by which I assume Joy means the United Kingdom (and the term makes a difference here more than most – many in Nothern Ireland have a greater connection with Scotland instead of England), was just trying to retain Northern Ireland to protect its interests.

Although there had been ethnic conflict in Nothern Ireland for centuries, the modern period of violence, known as “the Troubles”, began in the late 1960s and were an internal breakdown that got out of control. When Ireland was partitioned in the early 1920s, Northern Ireland remained part of the United Kingdom but with many political powers devolved to a local Home Rule parliament known as “Stormont” after its permanent location.

An absolutely key point that I’ve seen many Americans surprised to realise is that the majority population in Northern Ireland has always expressed a desire to be part of the United Kingdom not a united Ireland, and many would take independence as a second best rather than be ruled by Dublin. It’s not a case of “England” clinging on to the province against the will of its population (in fact there have been times when British governments have contemplated ignoring that will and handing over control to Dublin, often to the latter’s horror at what it would get), it’s a case of the province making it clear its majority will is to stay. Complicating things further is the tendency for many Irish Nationalists and sympathisers to focus on the perceived will of all-Ireland and you get a mess where the two sides can’t even agree which majority is decisive.

For fifty years the Stormont government was run entirely by Protestant parties and the Catholic population were discriminated against. Protests demanding full civil rights and equal treatment in the 1960s led to counter protests, repression and violence with the situation spiralling out of control and terrorist groups re-emerging. Though the Republic still sought unification, its government never took military action. The Irish Republican Army is an independent organisation (several actually due to splits but that’s another matter). The United Kingdom sent troops into the province to restore order when local forces were losing control and simply not universally accepted.

The Stormont Parliament was suspended in 1972 and there was a long search for a more acceptable way to govern the province whilst the violence continued. In the late 1990s ceasefires were brokered and a political settlement was reached whereby the province remains within the United Kingdom but with most powers devolved to a local executive that has enforced power sharing between parties representing both main communities. Various other grievances by both sides have steadily been addressed.

[…] The bomb scare had given Marvel’s shadow cabinet ammo to get the wheels in motion, but the catalyst for my demise was my firing Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz off of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. […]

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