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Comic Book Legends Revealed #315

Welcome to the three hundredth and fifteenth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. This week, learn how Star Comics was almost Care Bears, Droids and…Grant Morrison?!? Plus, did Jim Woodring really design Rubik the Amazing Cube?! And learn what Green Lantern/Green Arrow storyline was once a Captain America tale!

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

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: Grant Morrison was going to do Zoids for Star Comics until Marvel scrapped it because his plotline was too adult-oriented.

STATUS: I’m Going With True

One of Grant Morrison’s first really successful comic book jobs was writing the toy tie-in comic, Zoids, for Marvel UK (note that Morrison was not the original writer on the series – I believe Ian Zimmer might have been. Zimmer definitely did some early work on the series, as did Richard Starkings).

The Zoids began as a back-up in the Marvel UK adaptation of Marvel’s Secret Wars…

but soon gained their own title (along with reprints of Spider-Man comics from the US).

It was during this point in time that Morrison began writing the strip (towards the end of the series run). His run on the title was quite popular among fans and editorial.

In fact, they liked it so much that Marvel decided to bring the series to the United States in an ongoing series for Marvel’s then-new Star Comics line (while presumably also being published in their own solo monthly title in the UK, as well).

Yes, the same line of comics that had Care Bears…

and Droids…

The comic was to be written by Morrison and drawn by Steve Yeowell.

However, Marvel ultimately decided that the story Morrison presented was not age appropriate for Star Comics. In addition, interest in the Zoids property was fading a bit, so Marvel canceled the project all together.

Here are a few pages from #1 to let you know what it would have been like…

While good, I suppose I can see the argument that it is “too adult” for a kid-oriented comic book (although, again, it might have been a combination of “too adult” with “sales slipping”). Man, imagine how different things would have been if it had made it? What would Morrison’s career have been like? For one thing, we know Zenith certainly would not have happened (at least not when it originally occurred), as Morrison and Yeowell would have been busy on Zoids.

Check out this great Zoids fan site here to see more pages.

What’s funny is that I’ve been meaning to do this one for awhile now, but just two weeks ago, commenter Pez-La wrote in to say:

I’ve always had a soft spot for Puma and Silver Sable, as I was intoduced to both characters when Amazing Spider-Man was republished as Spider-Man & Zoids here in the UK. It also had Star Brand as a back up strip, and some Byrne FF stories, too..!

The comic was cancelled after 50 or so issues, and the reason given was that Marvel were to launch an ongoing US Zoids comic, which I don’t ever recall seeing.

Any one know what happened to this Zoids comic..? Or was it just a lame excuse by Marvel UK…

Well, here’s your answer! :)

COMIC LEGEND: Jim Woodring designed Rubik the Amazing Cube.

STATUS: False

Jim Woodring is a brilliant, award-winning comic book creator.

However, early in his career, he also worked for Ruby Spears animation, where he was on staff of some…well…not so great cartoons (a lot of comic book legends were working for Ruby Spears at that time, including Jack Kirby and Alex Toth, only two of the greatest comic book artists EVER).

One of them was the animated adaptation of Rubik’s Cube, starring an anthropomorphic Rubik’s Cube called Rubik the Amazing Cube.

It was a dreadful idea for a TV series, but I have to at least give the show credit for having the kids that Rubik helps be Latino (heck, Menudo even did the theme song!). That was definitely well ahead of its time.

Last week, reader Mitch wrote in to suggest a rumor he had heard that Woodring had actually DESIGNED Rubik the Amazing Cube.

That would be pretty mind-blowing, no? One of the top comic book creators of the past few decades designing something so…not good as Rubik the Amazing Cube?

So I checked with Jim, and he gave me one of the best debunkings we’ve ever had here…

After years of experimenting with falsehoods in all sorts of situations I decided to shame the Devil (as the saying goes) and always tell the truth; therefore I have never tried to hide or even obscure the extent of my involvement with the children’s animation industry during the 80’s. I’ve admitted to being the beneficiary of nepotism, to being unqualified for my cushyjob, to having a terrible attitude problem about the work andto being an incessant whiner. I doubt there was a worse employee ever in the history of the system, but there but Ihad limits: I did not spraypaint racist slogans on my boss’s Mercedes, I never slugged a female writer and I did not design Rubic the Amazing Cube. In fact I did not design any of the characters in any of the shows I worked on. Get that straight!

Awesome!

Thanks so much for the great answer, Jim! And thanks to Mitch for the great question (right on the heels of last week’s nifty Zappa/Kirby question!).

COMIC LEGEND: A rejected storyline for Heroes Reborn Captain America became a Green Lantern/Green Arrow crossover.

STATUS: True

Awhile back, I wrote about how Chuck Dixon was originally going to write the Heroes Reborn Captain America title.

Dixon had gotten far enough to have plotted out the storyline, which would have involved the Red Skull using racism to manipulate people to his benefit. There was a dispute between Dixon and Liefeld over the direction of the plot, so ultimately Dixon walked away from the project.

Not wanting to let his story go to waste, Dixon re-purposed the storyline and used it for the second of his and Ron Marz’s “new generation” Green Lantern/Green Arrow crossovers, titled “Hate Crimes”….

In an interview with Scott Braden (for one of his excellent Overstreet columns) back in 1996, Dixon discussed his original Cap pitch, specifically about how Roland Carmichael, the leader of a white supremacy group called the Yankee Lords and Wallace Mubarak, the head of the anti-semitic, anti-hispanic African Legion are causing trouble and agree to have a nationally televised debate.

Dixon was then going to conclude his first story arc with the Carmichael/Mubarak debate whipping the nation up into a fury, which would’ve been symbolized with Dixon’s focus on New York’s Times Square becoming a powder keg. But just as things get completely out of control, Cap and the Falcon break in on Master Man–the man who, using advanced holographic technology, is literally behind the two racists. “Carmichael and Mubarak are actually the same person,” Dixon revealed, “Master Man.”

Well, in the conclusion of Hate Crimes, in Green Arrow #126…

Pretty neat, huh?

Thanks to Dan Coyle and Jamescush for letting me know about this information! And thanks to Scott Braden and Chuck Dixon for the information itself.

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!

48 Comments

I have four issues of the US Zoids comic, so I thought it was published.

Maybe I’m thinking of something else? Starriors?

Yep, I’m thinking Starriors. Marvel did the cover of the first one like they did the first cover of Transformers.

AverageJoeEveryman

May 27, 2011 at 10:09 am

Oh yeah I was getting confused with Starriors as well. Those Zoids pages really remind me of The Walking Dead for some reason. Just the us vs them tone and lonely feeling I guess.

Bicycle-Repairman

May 27, 2011 at 10:12 am

Some great comic book creators worked in TV animation to pay the bills. I was watching the credits for another Ruby Spears production from the 1980s, “Chuck Norris Karate Kommandos”, and saw Jim Woodring credited for Character Design Supervision and Doug Wildey, Jack Kirby, Alfredo Alcala, and Gil Kane listed as Creative Consultants!

It may have been too “adult” for the Star imprint, but I wonder why they didn’t publish Zoids as a regular Marvel comic? That excerpt seems quite good and doesn’t appear to be any more “adult” than Transformers, GIJoe, or ROM: Spaceknight were around the same time. I have to wonder if, even without an awesome toy line, Zoids might be the cult classic those three are if there’d been a quality comic book published stateside to get people interested.

About all I remember of Rubik is part of theme song: “It’s Ruuuuuuuubik. He’s my friend.” In my defense, every thing opposite Rubik on network television around here must have been truly detestable. And it was on right before The Little People or something. And we didn’t have a remote control for the television… OK, I have no defense. I watched Rubik.

Kirby, Mark Evanier and Steve Gerber all worked on Ruby Spears’ ‘Thundarr the Barbarian’ in various capacities. I don’t see a lot of Gerber in it myself, but some of the Kirby character designs – more so the original works he produced than what ended up in the show – are pretty fun.

I read the FCBD issue of Weathercraft and it was one of the few times in my life where I had literally no idea what was going on in a comic. If it was supposed to have a story, then no doubt it flew far over my head. Perhaps the Rubik’s Cube cartoon would have suited me better, being sort of rube-ish and blockheaded myself.

maths – don’t forget that the 3 central characters of Thundarr were designed by Alex Toth.

Yes, Gerber, Kane, Kirby, Alcala, Wildey & Toth all worked for Ruby Spears. And now they’re all DEAD. Coincidence? Or were Ruby Spears’ offices more dangerous than the set of the Conqueror?

Ouch. Even all these years later, whenever I see a Liefeld drawing, my eyes sting a little.

Kirby designed Thundarr’s best villain, the Janus like, head-spinning wizard Gemini.

I like how Woodring equates designing Rubik with being a racist and punching women.

Brian from Canada

May 27, 2011 at 12:38 pm

Personally, I’m GLAD that Dixon didn’t get to do the story about two racists whipping the country into a frenzy: it was an Avengers story with Black Panther caught in the middle back in the Roy Thomas years, and would have been drawn into comparisons with that by knowledgeable fans.

Red Skull’s manipulations of American feelings later on would give that story kernel much more pop.

Steve Gerber wrote my favourite episode of The Puppy’s New Adventures, set around the Berlin Wall in East Germany.

OK. I just outed myself as someone who watched The Puppy’s New Adventures. I had a sister. It was on at 11:30 when there was nothing else on in 1979…

MDK: Gemini was the best Thundarr villain by far (though I liked the goofy shark lady), and aside from his killer design and powers (like bringing the Statue of Liberty to life to wield a giant flame-throwing torch) the next best thing about Gemini was that he was voiced by Alan Reed, best known as the voice of Fred Flintstone! Yes, Gemini sounds like a very angry, very dark Fred. I kep waiting for him to shout “BAAARNEY!!!”

Also, one of Gemini’s robots seen in the background looked very much like Dr. Doom.

Chris McFeely

May 27, 2011 at 1:09 pm

So who do I need to punch repeatedly to see Morrison’s UK Zoids stuff collected?

Jesse Farrell

May 27, 2011 at 1:09 pm

Maths: “Kirby, Mark Evanier and Steve Gerber all worked on Ruby Spears’ ‘Thundarr the Barbarian’ in various capacities. I don’t see a lot of Gerber in it myself, but some of the Kirby character designs – more so the original works he produced than what ended up in the show – are pretty fun.”

Thundarr is a very similar character to Gerber & Mayerick’s Korek the Barbarian from FEAR, MAN-THING and HOWARD THE DUCK. Korek predates Thundarr, but reading him after, I always heard Korek with Thundarr (Robert Ridgeley)’s voice.

Yeah, those Zoids strips were pretty incredible! Really good stuff, characters would get picked off every now and then as well, which to my 13/14 year old self was just mind-blowing. Would love to read it again! Marvel!

Michael Howey

May 27, 2011 at 1:24 pm

Those Zoids comics were great. Some of the first “adult” comics I read were in UKs Spider-man and Zoids. The Black Zoid story and the very real permanant sense of impending doom blew my 11 year old mind. If you can, get them on ebay.

Doesn’t Dixon looks a little hypocritical whenever he criticizes people for including political and social issues in superhero comics? He has done plenty of it himself.

Ah, my Green Lantern and Green Arrow. Then DC had to rape the rotting corpse of the Silver Age again and screw everything up. About Rubik, I assume the use of Latino characters (thankfully non stereotypes) was done to tie into the push that the Menudo of the time was getting? Not only did they do the song, but ABC showed a bunch of Menudo videos after the show as well.They working hard to get them over in the USA.

“Doesn’t Dixon looks a little hypocritical whenever he criticizes people for including political and social issues in superhero comics? He has done plenty of it himself.”

Yeah, but when he does it, the message is one he agrees with. That’s totally different.

Looking back on it,, ABC had some pretty weird stuff on the air in that era, with Thundarr and Puppy’s New/Further Adventures being two of the more mundane concepts (but wasn’t Puppy crammed into Plastic Man’s show for a while?; two very different feels to them). The Littles, Rubik, Turbo Teen (teen who becomes a car), Pac-Man, various animated versions of live action (e.g. the time-travelling Fonz and the Happy Days Gang). There was also a cartoon version of the Little Rascals even though it was doubtful that the target audience knew the source material. Things get even stranger when you look at some of the PSAs, such as the one featuring the Chopper, whose reason for living was teeth exercising. I think I also recall a number of nutrition PSAs being immediately followed by candy ads, but I’m less sure on that point.

We used to have atleast two Rubiks Cubes around the house. They just disapeared over the years.

Can’t believe they made a cartoon out of it.

@Andy E Nystrom,
I was the target audience and knew the source material. Back then re-runs of Little Rascals/Our Gang and 3 Stooges were typical after school fare.

Oh, and I totally watched the Rubik show. Menudo was extremely popular that season (not that I cared), and they ran their mini-videos between breaks.

Man, the British branch of Marvel did some crazy stuff back the 80s, things like Death’s Head; at one point, they actually produced a sub-imprint that interacted with the main Marvel Universe, with nobody less than our old pal Mephisto as the main menace. I don’t think that particular storyline was ever solved, was it? (That’s a legend for Cronin.)

Rubik’s cube was one of the most blatant, lamest attempts to exploit a current fad I ever saw in animation. If only it had been any good, I would forgive it, but no. Thank goodness shows like Thundarr had people like Kirby behind it (and btw, Thundarr resembled Kirby’s Kamandi so much my first reaction to it was “Hey, they made a Kamandi cartoon!” I actually liked Thundarr better however.)

And let’s not forget JMS also wrote American cartoons, making series such as He-Man or The Real Ghostbusters far better than they had any right to be.

Mr Brian, I think you must rethink your line about the Latino family in Rubik’s. What you are praising as progressive was obviously no more than typical corporate exploitation of the Menudo craze which you mentioned. They’re Latino, I know what Latino’s in 1982 like…Menudo! Queue video. Sounds more like Mistakes of Past History to me.

I want to travel to the alternate universe where Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Jamie Delano, kept working for Marvel and graduated to Marvel USA in the mid-1980s.

Travis Pelkie

May 27, 2011 at 6:17 pm

I’ve heard of Zoids, had Ed Catto tell me about them (along with Captain Action, out from Moonstone), and known Morrison did stuff with them, but I still have no idea what they are.

Was Star all licensed properties? I thought maybe they had some sort of book that Trina Robbins did that was related to Millie the Model. But otherwise, was it all licenses?

I haven’t looked at them in a bit, but I know that in at least one issue of Gnatrat, and I think in a Cerebus BiWeekly issue, there were one page parody ads of those old ads in comics, with xray spex, dribble cups, and all that sort of stuff, done by Woodring, Mark Martin, and a few of their friends. I wonder if there was a reference in there to Rubik’s Cube, and maybe that helped people think Woodring did the design.

Was that ’83? Cuz to me, it looks like it’s a Rubik’s Cube with ET’s face slapped on it. “Design” is a loose term for it.

I have an issue of that GL/GA crossover. It appears I’m not missing much from not having more.

No Star had a few originals like Planet Terry, and a Richie Rich clone that got them sued by Harvey.

“No Star had a few originals like Planet Terry, and a Richie Rich clone that got them sued by Harvey.”

That would be Royal Roy. Wally the Wizard, Misty, and Top Dog are also owned by Marvel. Spider-Ham even had a pre-Star one-shot prior to his Star series. Spider-Ham, Wally, and Misty have had entries in the current Official Handbooks.

Biff Fearless

May 28, 2011 at 1:02 am

That Connor Green Arrow series used to be a lot of fun.

Travis Pelkie

May 28, 2011 at 2:45 am

Huh, interesting that Rich at Bleeding Cool just HAPPENS to feature the Zoids comics (using the same link to that fan site that you have) by Morrison and Yeowell in the Saturday Runaround. I wonder where he got the link…

Its a shame about Chuck Dixon’s stance on certain issues. I feel sad for him in a way because he is so clossed minded. And that is because I actually really like his work – he was the primary writer of the Bat universe for a number of years, and his output, while not always great, was never bad – its just that there is now a stigma surrounding him, which I really wish wasn’t there. And its all his own doing. :(

@Travis – I think Rich also get alot of his movie article ideas from Spinoff too. haha….

I got a question for Brian, regarding a potential Legend – I don’t go to the forum, so I’ll post it here – Anyone can answer it for me really!! ;)

Did Morrison’s ‘death’ of Batman get pushed forward at all? After rereading it again recently it kind of felt like it rushed into the RIP storyline. There were 10 issues where everything was just getting started and set up. Then suddenly straight after the Ras Al Ghul story – it changes gears rather drastically. We get 4 issues of Bruce getting drugged and going a bit loopy – then the 6 issue RIP storyline. Just like that. It all happened really quickly.

Thanks!! ;)

Probably. Morrison got the green light to do Final Crisis, and wanted to tie it in to his Batman stuff at the end.

Morrison said himself in an interview that Marvel pulled the Zoids monthly because they didn’t like the way the story, an extended Vietnam metaphor (!) was going. The twelve pages that the Blood For The Baron site has were all that was completed for it.

Morrison’s Zoids run was pretty good, if heavily derivative of popular sci-fi movies of the time (Terminator and Aliens especially). There’s some stuff in there that mirrors a lot of waht he did later in The Invisibles, as well as a creepy Satanic zombie Zoids subplot that never got resolved.

For anyone clamouring for a collection, both IDW and Panini have tried to get the rights to reprint Morrison’s run over the last few years but both, so far, without success. Blood For The Baron has scans up of all the Morrison issues though, they just don’t have any credits on them (they were listed on the inside front page of each issue). ‘Old Soldiers Never Die’, ‘Deserts’, ‘Bits and Pieces’ and ‘The Black Zoid’ are all by Morrison.

For anyone interested in the actual issues themselves, the early part of the run comes up pretty regularly on UK ebay and can be picked up quite cheap. The last few issues are a nightmare to get though.

@ That Guy: As a Puerto Rican, I can assure you that Menudo WAS a big deal in Latin America at the time, so it wasn’t that crazy to try to reach the Latino audience through them. It was using them *in a show like Rubik’s Cube* that made no sense. It’s like trying to publicize The Backstreet Boys via Spongebob Squarepants.

As a Brazilian I also (unfortunately) remember the Menudo craze.

Mike Loughlin

May 28, 2011 at 5:28 pm

kiddie shows + formulaic pop unlistenable by adult standards = the Disney Channel

Droogies, Losers, Strumpets and Boozers, Now that’s what I call service..! Cheers, fella..!

It was pretty annoying to not get any sort of conclusion to the whole Zoids story. If I remember correctly, the captains son, Griff, had his brainwaves messed up when he piloted Zoidzilla during The Black Zoid storyline. (He was a whiny kid anyways, probably did him a world of good).
As DST says above, lots of cinematic influences in the stories, even the Spider-Head Leg Creature from John Carpenters’ The Thing. Still, all great stuff..!

Must go to that link, seems a lot easier than trying to find my old copies from the attic..!

Thanks once again, Brian. I’ll have to come up with some other crazy stuff to tax your brain, this was obviously waaay too easy ;-)

Rock ‘ard, Rock ‘eavy, Rock Animal..!

Well, obviously Jim Woodring didn’t design Rubik…Erno Rubik did! Minus the head and legs of course.

Rubik the Amazing Cube was a surprisingly good little cartoon. When I found a copy in the bargain bin at a video store back in the 1990s and bought it in a fit of nostalgia, I was pleasantly surprised at how good it was. They don’t make cartoons with that kind of artwork, music, and acting anymore. I miss the eighties.

Since this reference to the Rubik’s cartoon came out first, I wonder if it inspired this on Robot Chicken-

http://youtu.be/d4YKeLe3ujQ

@*James*:–
“I feel bad for him… He’s so close-minded…”
I’m not trying to sound reproachful or accusatory (I don’t know you), but it isn’t just because his ideas differ from yours, is it?

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