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Comic Book Legends Revealed #321

Welcome to the three hundredth and twenty-first in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. This week, we examine the role Disney, of all comapnies, played in the early days of Vertigo Comics. Plus, learn the somewhat sad story of why the Superman Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon is now, and always will be, the largest Macy’s balloon of all-time! Finally, did DC give us a sneak peek at Kyle Rayner in 1991?!?!

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

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: Disney nearly had a Vertigo line before DC even had a Vertigo line!

STATUS: True Enough

In the early 1990s, you could count on one hand the amount of companies that DIDN’T try to get a piece of the speculator boom of that era. Printing comics was like a legal form of counterfeiting, since you were practically printing money. Not so surprisingly, though, a lot of these bold leaps into the world of comics ended up as failures.

One of the boldest was Walt Disney, which had been in the comic book business almost as soon as there WAS a comic book business. Disney licensed their characters out to various companies, and it was a mutually beneficial relationship. Disney comics were often some of the best-selling comics in the United States, and even when they fell by the wayside a bit stateside, they continued to reign supreme in Europe and other countries. As the 90s began, though, Disney began to think that they could do better by getting into comics themselves. So in 1990, they pulled their licensed ongoing titles in the United States and launched Disney Comics, Inc. They had a lot of money behind them and they hired some great comic book creators, including the great Len Wein as their initial Editor-in-Chief.

Initially, Disney launched an expansive release of kids comic books based on their wide array of properties…

That was meant to be just one phase of the company, though. Through Martin Pasko, Disney planned to launch a line of superhero comics (not only was everyone and their cousin forming comic book companies in the 1990s, they almost all were forming superhero comic book lines). However, they also planned something a bit more innovative. DC had recently gotten quite a bit of attention for their Mature Readers comics. From the massive success of Alan Moore’s Saga of the Swamp Thing in the early-to-mid 1980s to the then-current runs of Neil Gaiman on Sandman and Grant Morrison on Doom Patrol (not to mention Peter Milligan on Shade the Changing Man and Jamie Delano on Hellblazer and Tom Veitch on Animal Man), DC had made quite a name for themselves in mature comic book entertainment. Disney decided that they wanted a piece of that. Karen Berger was in charge of these comics, but Art Young was her second-in-command. So Disney made Young an offer he could not refuse – head up an entire line of mature readers comics where he could hire pretty much whoever that he wanted (and it would be worth their time).

Named after Disney’s “mature” movie company, Touchstone Pictures, the comic line was called Touchmark (why not Touchstone Comics?). The legendary Todd Klein came in and designed the logo (I do believe that’s Klein’s actual fingerprint in the logo). Disney announced the new line of comics at the 1991 San Diego Comic Con with a booklet detailing the comics. Here is that booklet along with a couple of pages from within…

So yeah, pretty clearly, you had a veritable Who’s Who of contemporary awesome comic book creators. In addition, though, you had comics that were pushing the boundaries so much. Look at their spotlight comic, the wonderful (but evocative, especially for 1991) Enigma by Peter Milligan and Duncan Fegredo. That is a comic that would be innovative if it had been released in 2011, let alone 1991!

I say that the line would have been Vertigo before Vertigo was Vertigo because at the time, while DC’s mature titles were definitely getting a lot of attention, they had not yet solidifed themselves as a “line” of comics. If they had, then you wouldn’t see stuff like Animal Man being in War of the Gods…

In any event, like many things that seemed too god to be true, this was. There was money problems and all their proposed launches were canceled. Luckily, DC hired Art Young back and took in many of the projects he had signed.

I have seen it written some places where Touchmark should get some credit for the launch of Vertigo. I dunno, I think Vertigo was coming no matter what. I mean, don’t get me wrong, Touchmark was very important for Vertigo, since Young’s stable of books (including Enigma, Mercy and Sebastian O) helped practically double Berger’s initial Vertigo launch in terms of ready-t-go new books, so it definitely made it easier for her to launch Vertigo. But I am nearly positive that we would have seen Vertigo had Disney not created Touchmark.

Anyhow, neat story, huh? Thanks to Todd Klein for the scans of the booklet (he was noting that he did the logos for Mercy and Enigma).

COMIC LEGEND: The most recent Superman balloon for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is and will always be the largest balloon in the history of the parade.

STATUS: True

Reader Mark wrote in to ask if it was true that the Superman balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was the biggest balloon ever in the parade, and if it was true that due to some new restrictions, it would ALWAYS be the biggest.

The simple answer is yes, but the reasons behind the restrictions are interesting (if pretty sad).

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City began in 1924, making it the second-longest running Thanksgiving Day Parade in the United States.

Three years into the parade, Macy’s began to have big balloons as part of the parade, beginning with a giant Felix the Cat balloon. Over the next decade, slowly but surely more balloons were added. In 1939, they added their sixth balloon, an 80 foot Superman!

Check it out – not exactly the best likeness…

Traditionally, after awhile, balloons got replaced by newer balloons and the older ones were retired. That happened to Superman, as well. But in 1966, a SECOND Superman balloon joined the parade!

Slightly better likeness.

After the retirement of that balloon, as well, 1982 saw the latest and greatest Superman balloon. It was the last balloon made by Goodyear. 14,000 cubic feet of helium and air was needed to inflate this bad boy, which measured out at 104 feet (104 feet!!!) long and 35 feet wide.

Impressive stuff. At the time, it was the largest balloon ever made for the parade.

Likely due to the logistics of it all, it did not have a particularly long run, retiring after 1987. Ten years later, though, tragedy struck at the 1997 Thanksgiving Day Parade. A Cat in the Hat balloon that was over 80 feet long was caught by heavy 40 miles per hour winds and knocked down a street lamp into a group of people, sending a metal crosspiece into the face of 34-year-old Kathleen Caronna. Caronna was in a coma for 22 days and ended up suffering brain damage and vision impairment. So the city buckled down and passed a rule limiting the size of the bigger balloons in the parade. Right away, Bugs Bunny, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Woody Woodpecker and the Pink Panther were all eliminated (along with the Cat and the Hat, of course, as it would have been quite weird to have that balloon show up the next year). The ban applied to all balloons exceeding 78 feet in length, 40 feet in width or 70 feet in height. In addition, none of the larger balloons were allowed to be inflated if winds top 23 MPH or gusts hit 34 MPH. On top of that, Macy’s (at their expense) paid for new lamp posts along the parade route, as admittedly, the lamp post was designed in the worst way possible (it hooked up, easily snaring the balloon ropes).

Even with these precautions, in 2005, an M&Ms balloon also knocked over a light post, hitting a 26-year-old woman in a wheelchair and her 11-year-old sister (they luckily only suffered minor injuries). At least the Superman balloon wasn’t responsible for it! I can only imagine how many biff and pows would have been in the headline!

Thanks for the question, Mark!

COMIC LEGEND: DC gave us a sneak peek of future Green Lantern Kyle Rayner in the Hawkworld Annual tie-in to Armageddon 2001.

STATUS: I’m Going with False

Reader Paul Blanshard sent this one in quite some time ago.

So, as you may or may not remember, Armageddon 2001 was a crossover in the 1991 DC Annuals. It saw this fellow from a terrible future (2001, natch) named Waverider who traveled back in time to find out who would become the evil tyrant of his time known as Monarch (all he knew was that Monarch was once a hero).

If Waverider made contact with someone, he could see what their life would be like in 2001 and he could tell if they were going to become Monarch.

(by the way, good job noting what Maxwell Lord was up to, Waverider)

In any event, in the Hawkworld Annual (by the great John Ostrander and artist Gary Kwapisz), we see a possible future where the villain Atilla links up with Katar Hol and, for a moment, we see how Katar could become a tyrant when his law and order ways would run wild.

Check out the second page. See the Green Lantern? Well, here’s something you have to ALSO remember about the 1990s. People used to dig over comic books for all sorts of stuff that could be the first appearance of a character, so that way they could sell the comic for more money. People paid big bucks for issues of Web of Spider-Man with venom’s ARM in a panel!!

So a rumor soon began that this was the first appearance of Kyle Rayner, the Green Lantern who showed up in 1994 after Hal Jordan went bonkers.

And ya know what? I don’t think I even need any confirmation from anyone on the creative side of this comic. I’m just going with a flat no. There’s no way Kyle Rayner was planned back in 1991, and especially not in the pages of Hawkworld (who shared no editors-in-common with Green Lantern). Thanks for the suggestion, Paul!

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!

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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)…

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Was Superman a Spy?: And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed

See you all next week!

54 Comments

Yeah, I dunno who drew that Hawkworld comic, but judging from that Justice League cameo, facial likenesses don’t seem to be this artist’s strong suit. So the GL looking nothing like Hal isn’t really so strange.

Ted Kord looks like he’s going to murder someone.

Ah yes, that IS a bit of amusing nostalgia. Remember when people would practically speculate that they’d found the earliest appearance of Cable, e.g., in their soup?

Good times.

That panel with a robotic Hawkman standing at a podium harranguing a crowd made me guffaw.

I would say its too much of a stretch to claim thats Kyle Rayner. Maybe after a few drinks and trying to be extremely generous one could argue that its him…

Hal’s laying there with a yellow glove on and it didn’t occur to some people that there might just be some coloring mistakes in that panel?

Travis Pelkie

July 1, 2011 at 8:51 am

I dunno, I’d guess that Vertigo, although coming anyway, possibly had a different makeup due to the Touchmark thing. While you didn’t make it clear in the piece, the 3 books you show here were 3 of the Vertigo launch books (probably due to being ready, but still…). I’d guess that with these books already created (I assume), Berger had the “pull” to point out that this was the new direction of comics, these were guys (Morrison, Milligan, etc) that DC had working for them already, a GIANT corporation was willing to test this out, and so forth. DC had Pirahna Press at this point, but was presumably not doing a whole lot, so DC was heading towards this kind of thing (adult, edgy works that DC owned or co-owned). I’d guess Berger and Young could show DC that Vertigo could be viable with the right backing, DC already had a “line” of mature books, Young had edited this line and apparently could bring the books to DC.

So…yeah, Vertigo would have happened, but maybe not in the way that it did without Touchmark.

Wow, I’d never even HEARD of it before, let alone that it was so freakin’ cool!

Is there a list of other books that Touchmark was going to put out, and were any of the others ever published?

And are there any legends about some other Vertigo books that were announced but never published? I can’t think of the name of the one, but I’ll probably come across it and email you.

That is a sad story about the balloons. Neat pics of the Superman balloons. It’s always interesting to see how early on Superman was getting merchandised. Were there ever Batman balloons?

While it’s not the Kyle legend I asked about :) that Hawkworld thing is pretty cool. I love the JLE Armageddon 2001 Annual. Did Waverider actually touch Max, though? Maybe that’s how he escaped notice…

Actually, did any of the 2001 Annuals ACTUALLY show any REAL glimpses of the DCU?

Is it possible that’s not even a Green Lantern at all but a totally different hero that’s been miscolored? Because while I doubt it’s Kyle Rayner, it also doesn’t really look like Hal either.

Travis Pelkie

July 1, 2011 at 9:10 am

Ahem, that last bit of mine should read any REAL glimpses of the DCU’s future, as it was later published. That is, did anything that showed up in Armageddon 2001 get picked up and used in later issues of a DC title?

Who’s the blue guy on top of “Green Lantern”, either? Izzat Blue Beetle, then?

And on the Touchmark thing, DISNEY ran into money problems with it? Wha-huh?

Did Touchstone put out the Rocketeer movie? That would have come out around that time, and it’d be interesting if Dave Stevens might have been pushed to do some new Rocketeer stuff for Touchmark.

Unless I am mistaken, Macy’s also paid to have the streetlights (and possibly stoplights) in question REMOVABLE, so they can take them down before the parade, and replace them afterward. I think it’s mainly the ones on the corners of the streets along the parade route.

If I remember correctly, from an earlier Legends, Hal going bad was kind of a last-minute decision and rushed story line, which is what made it so heinous. (I think it’s funny you give the legend a proper “false” and pretty much dismiss it – but without really saying anything about it. Deadline crunch? :) Or trusting us to fill in the blanks?)

I love those Superman balloons, even the wonky-looking ones. Just goes to show how immensely popular Superman was from the start. I went into NYC in 1987 with some friends overnight to watch them setting up the parade, inflating the balloons. I wish I could definitively say I remember watching them blow up Superman for the last time, but I really don’t remember any specific balloons or floats, just the company (and playing/singing the Fat Boys’ version of “Wipe Out” at top volume driving through the Lincoln Tunnel. Good times.)

I’d forgotten about Touchmark! For all the crap going on in comics at the time (the B&W bust, the Image personnel, the Franklin Mint approach of the comics industry), there were a lot of really good things happening in the medium. Which the aforementioned Franklin Mint-style of comic book printing is primarily responsible for killing.

The “Touchmark” brandname might have been a way to avoid making fans think that they were going to do comics about Touchstone Pictures characters.

I actually remember that promo, though I had so little interest in it I never noticed that the line didn’t come out.

Btw didn’t Marvel’s Epic Comics line precede Vertigo and Piranha? Cuz I remember some rather Vertigoesque comics in there (Strikeforce Morituri, Metamorphosis Odyssey, Moonshadow, Coyote etc.) done by some pretty big names too (Starlin, Englehart, etc.) Yet nobody remembers to list them when talking about how much comics have “matured”.

The Macy’s balloon accidents are a sad thing to learn, but considering how the parade has been such a complex affair that’s gone on for decades, sooner or later something bad had to happen. (Btw, is it me or does the last Superman balloon look like he has a moustache? Maybe it’s really his cousin Super Hombre from down the border! Old Batman fans will get that joke. :D )

As for Armageddon 2001, back then NOBODY intended for Max to ‘always have been evil’ so there was no chance of Waverider to have ‘found it out’. Also AFAIK nothing was ever done with the stuff shown in the Annuals, for all purposes they ended up being a bunch of ‘Imaginary Stories’. Too bad, as I rather liked the ones were Superman becomes President and the one where he married Maxima.

I remember the speculator market and the hunt for first appearances. Wizard helped that alot. It wasn’t about reading comics, it was about collecting them. They were the ones that first introduced the idea of Venom’s “arm” in Web of Spider-man. McFarlane early said in that mag that he created Venom and Michelinie came back and said he actually had the idea for Venom during his Web run, where someone pushes Peter Parker on the subway tracks and it doesn’t alert his spider-senses. After I saw the page in question it’s just some regular looking arm in a jacket. Not like a black hand or anything.

I remember Wizard mentioning the GL Armageddon thing. As cool as that would have been even a kid like me at the time agreed wtih the mag that it was probably just a coloring mistake.

To be fair, though, I can see how fans could have said that surely that must be Kyle in the panel, not even because the artist intended it to be but that subsequent events showed that it coulddn’t possibly be Hal. Hal was dead, Kyle was the one remaining Green Lantern, and surely that was going to be the status quo for a long time to come. Sort of like Claremont retroactively deciding that some random woman in an early issue of Marvel Team-Up was Misty Knight just because she kind of looked like her. I noticed something like that in the Wikipedia page about Access recently–the suggestion that some random criminal in the background of Batman vs. Hulk could have been Access long before anybody even came up with the idea of Access.

So yeah, it’s silly to think that’s a planned glimpse of Kyle rather than just shaky art, but as fan-imposed continuity nerdom, I can kind of see it. But as others have mentioned, the Armageddon 2001 view of what 2001 would look like in the DCU didn’t really have anything to do with what was really coming. Unlike Kingdom Come, Armageddon 2001 didn’t really inspire other comics writers to try to recreate its events when the real 2001 came along.

“Look at their spotlight comic, the wonderful (but evocative, especially for 1991) Enigma by Peter Milligan and Duncan Fegredo.”

Is anyone actually able to read the image in question? Because all I see is the name Enigma, a bunch of scribbles, and a picture of a guy in a mask.

And @J-dog, “After I saw the page in question it’s just some regular looking arm in a jacket. Not like a black hand or anything.”

That’s because he was walking around as Eddie Brock. Obviously he couldn’t sneak up on someone in a crowd while looking like Venom. It’s still ridiculous to call that and the window thing “first appearance”, but they WERE supposed to be Venom, since his Spider-sense doesn’t go off.

I remember “Sebastian O” being published. Didn’t “Enigma” also see print?

Is anyone actually able to read the image in question? Because all I see is the name Enigma, a bunch of scribbles, and a picture of a guy in a mask.

Well, no, but Vertigo wound up publishing Enigma, and it was a good comic. Same with Sebastian O. I don’t remember Mercy at all, but apparently Vertigo published that too.

I would say the most likely explanation re: Green Lantern is that they wanted to indicate its being the future by having a new Green Lantern. Like in Batman Beyond. Or Kingdom Come. Or any of a number of other stories set in the future.

You would do your writing a huge favor by performing an additional round of editing before posting, eliminating all the pointless verbiage such as “So, as you may or may not remember” (meaningless), repeated overuse of “though”, and reducing unnecessary commas.

“I remember “Sebastian O” being published. Didn’t ‘Enigma’ also see print?”

It sure did. I have trade paperbacks of both collections (SEBASTIAN O and ENIGMA) on the bookshelf right in front of me.

Mercy was released as a OGN. I bought it when it was published

Ah, I see the confusion. When I said “stable of talent,” I meant the books Young brought with him back to DC (Enigma, Mercy and Sebastian O). I see that that could be confusing, so I put in an edit there to help folks out.

I think it’s funny you give the legend a proper “false” and pretty much dismiss it – but without really saying anything about it. Deadline crunch? Or trusting us to fill in the blanks?)

It was just so obvious that I didn’t feel it needed much elaboration. I mean, three years earlier without even shared editors? That’s just clearly bogus.

Unless I am mistaken, Macy’s also paid to have the streetlights (and possibly stoplights) in question REMOVABLE, so they can take them down before the parade, and replace them afterward. I think it’s mainly the ones on the corners of the streets along the parade route.

They did that later on, yes.

M Bloom:

Actually, that yellow glove looks more like Booster Gold’s arm, with Booster squashed on top of the GL and mostly underneath Wonder Woman – you can see other parts of Booster’s uniform between WW & BB, on GL’s back.

TAILSPIN. GREATEST CARTOON EVER!

Didn’t a Sonic the Hedgehog balloon also nearly injure (or nearly kill) someone one year?

Regarding the comments about early appearances of Venom and Misty Knight– More recently, Bendis wrote a story which claimed that a random girl in the background of an old Spider-Man story was actually Jessica Jones.

About the Kyle Ryner legend, I first read about it in a lettercol in Wizard way back. Here’s a scan of that particular fan letter and the magazine’s reply:

http://i229.photobucket.com/albums/ee191/jetamago/KyleRynerWizardlettercolumnscan.jpg

I worked at a comic store during the time frame people have been commenting on and it was so annoying dealing with the speculators. I can’t tell you how many copies of X-Men #1 we sold to speculators who bought multiple copies of all the various covers. The cover gimmicks they pulled back then were so freaking absurd. The worst was Eclipso #1 because it had that stupid plastic gem glued on the cover. It would cause a little dent in the issue packed on top of it so you had a whole shipment of the comic with little dents all in the back cover. We actually had customers complain about it as if we could do anything about it.

As for Touchmark, I knew about it but never knew the backstory so thanks for that info. It would be interesting to find out what the actual financing issues were or if that was just a cover story for Disney getting cold feet about publishing really edgy comics. Anyway, I’m glad that Sebastion O eventually got published and I actually would have like to see that it had been continued as a regular series.

ParanoidObsessive

July 1, 2011 at 3:19 pm

>>> Btw didn’t Marvel’s Epic Comics line precede Vertigo and Piranha? Cuz I remember some rather Vertigoesque comics in there (Strikeforce Morituri, Metamorphosis Odyssey, Moonshadow, Coyote etc.) done by some pretty big names too (Starlin, Englehart, etc.) Yet nobody remembers to list them when talking about how much comics have “matured”.

I was thinking about Epic as well – with Vertigo debuting in 1993 (and Touchmark being developed in 90-91), Epic certainly predated it (with Epic starting in 1982). And Epic certainly had some pretty mature titles, as well as the whole creator-owned framework in place. While Vertigo was pretty clearly DIRECTLY influenced by Touchmark/Disney, I’d actually be curious how much INDIRECT influence the Epic line might have had on DC’s opinion of whether or not a creator-owned/mature line could work in the market without drawing too much backlash (a la dropping the Comic Code).

Though I definitely know how you feel – sometimes it feels like I’m the only person on Earth who still remembers Strikeforce: Morituri (which wasn’t actually an Epic-branded title) or stuff like the Shadowline books (which were).

Ethan Shuster

July 1, 2011 at 3:32 pm

Gavin, I’ve often seen it pointed out that the same era was very similar for the sports cards business / hobby. In an effort to create “collectible” cards, now that the more recently produced cards weren’t being tossed out or damaged like the old ones peoples’ moms threw out, lots of limited inserts were included in packs. Foil cards, 3D cards, hologram cards. Pretty much the same kind of gimmicks on all the promoted comic covers. Also, lots of new companies sprang up, many of which are no longer around. And in a similar fashion, there was a big drop in the industry and hobby towards the end of the era.

Forget about Waverider- J’onn actually read Max’s mind a couple of times and didn’t notice he was evil. The whole “Max was always evil” plot made no sense whatsoever.

Btw didn’t Marvel’s Epic Comics line precede Vertigo and Piranha? Cuz I remember some rather Vertigoesque comics in there (Strikeforce Morituri, Metamorphosis Odyssey, Moonshadow, Coyote etc.) done by some pretty big names too (Starlin, Englehart, etc.) Yet nobody remembers to list them when talking about how much comics have “matured”

_________________________________________

Yes, EPIC Comics preceded Vertigo and was doing the the types of stories that Vertigo later became famous for doing. Heck, Marvel’s magazine line of books from the 70’s and early 80’s were also doing Vertigo types of stories.

OMT, Strikeforce Morituri was not part of the EPIC line of comics.

Ethan, you are totally right but it wasn’t just the sports cards. We carried all the collectible cards targeted at comic fans and the like. We sold a lot of them to poor saps who thought they were going to be worth something in the future. There were literally customers we had that had NO interest in comics and cards other than the potential value. They would brag about how the stuff they were buying would be paying for their retirement in a few decades. I felt bad for them, but it did pay for my wages. Hell, people were buying copies of Previews because it came with some supposedly limited edition hologram card of Venom, not realizing that limited meant they ONLY were going to sell hundreds of thousands of copies that would never be opened.

The same thing also happened to the action figure market a few years later. We dealt a little bit in that as well. People were looking at the prices that original Star Wars, Mego, G.I. Joe, etc, etc were going for and started buying up new figures thinking they would sky rocket in price. The variant issue became a deal there, especially with McFarlane’s line of figures. That company was notorious for pushing out paint variants just to get completists to buy multiple figures. We actually had a customer who was so into collecting the figures that he bragged about getting a job at Toys R us just so he could get first crack at stashing figures from new shipments aside so he could buy them before the other collectors did. To think now that the poor deluded guy worked a crappy retail job just to buy plastic toys that wouldn’t be worth that much in the long run makes just shake my head.

Is it known why Touchmark didn’t happen?

I don’t remember the Armageddon 2001 Annual where Waverider touches Mel Brooks.

Was Strikeforce Morituri actually Epic? Not that it wasn’t awesome (well, until they changed writers and decided the whole die-in-one-year angle was too much of a downer).

“Did Touchstone put out the Rocketeer movie? That would have come out around that time, and it’d be interesting if Dave Stevens might have been pushed to do some new Rocketeer stuff for Touchmark.”

I know there was at least one original Rocketeer short in Disney Adventures, the little digest-sized thing they printed for a few years back in the early 90s, done by Peter David and Gray Morrow. I’ve heard there was a second, but that it wasn’t actually published.

It would be nice if, when IDW collects The Rocketeer Adventures, these “lost” Rocketeer stories could be collected. :)

Joe Gualtieri

July 1, 2011 at 8:41 pm

Re: Venom

Web #18 and #24 really are Venom’s first appearances, but Micheline’s plans called for a female Venom, not Eddie Brock. McFarlane and the editor of ASM rejecting the female Venom is why Eddie Brock has such a stupid and nonsensical motivation– it was a rush job. I’m pretty sure this was actually covered in a past Comics Legend column.

Not enough people are saying it, so I will: Enigma’s one of the best comics ever. Simply brilliant, and Milligan’s shining masterpiece. It’s a shame it’s nearly forgotten, and that the collection’s out of print.

Sebastian O was okay (no pun intended), and Mercy wasn’t very good at all. I’d also love to know what some of the other planned projects were, as that’s a pretty interesting list of creators.

Epic indeed preceded Vertigo and Piranha, and Moonshadow did eventually get back in print via Vertigo (similarly Vertigo reprinted Breathtaker, which I think originally came out from Piranha?).
And I guess the big point of Epic was to be a motivator and a playing ground for the creators, they could do creator-owned series of almost whatever they wanted there so they could happily work on the regular Marvel stuff too…I wonder if Epic was ever meant to be a big seller.

Enigma is indeed a great comic, hunt down the issues or the trade if you can. Mercy and Sebastian O I haven’t read, and those were basically the first new series to come out from Vertigo beside the already-running ones. What else was there…Kid Eternity was an old DC character, I think, so he probably couldn’t be there, but Last One and Invisibles were also among the early Vertigo books, and the idea of Disney publishing Invisibles is just too funny.

Yeah it’s definitely just a colouring error in Hawkworld. That title was plagued by things like that (as were many comics of the era). Carter and Shiera Hall’s hair colour changed with every appearance they made, sometimes even within the same issue.

@ Everyone who pointed it out: thanks for mentioning that Strikeforce: Morituri wasn’t an Epic Comic title, I didn’t follow it so I wasn’t sure. Still my point was that there’s a lot of stuff from Marvel that preceded DC’s as being ‘revolutionary’ (for mainstream American comics) but never gets enough credit today.

Regarding the idea of retconning a casual character in one story as being one that got introduced in later years, I’m OK with that- as long as there’s a point to it. For example, in the Misty Knight example, it was the punchline for a story where Spider-Man keeps thinking that he’d met Misty before, but was not sure where. It was a funny bit that’s even funnier if you actually saw the earlier story (which I had not, at the time.) After all if you want to set up a new character as having some story with existing characters that hadn’t been shown yet, it’s nicer to do this instead of just inserting a whole new story retroactively (like they tried to do with The Sentry). I particularly like it when some villain’s mook (such as the Joker’s) turns out to become his own villain later on. So yeah, maybe that CAN be Kyle in that Hawkman future- even if it wasn’t planned that way back then, nothing wrong with that as long as it gets stated officially in a comic later on.

In fact, wasn’t it established (during Infinite Crisis I believe) that Kyle was indeed going to be the next Green Lantern anyway (except on Earth-8, before the multiverse was combined into one world in the first Crisis?) Obviously a retcon, but it fits.

Interestingly, Armageddon 2001 did offer peeks into a few future storylines: I remember one of the Superman annuals showed Superman fighting Brainiac in the “Panic in the Sky” storyline (which I’m pretty sure came out in 1992) and Lois and Clark’s marriage (then planned for 1992 as well). It also showed Intergang’s Bruno Mannheim blowing up Metropolis: this was the (subconscious) impetus for Superman to finally dismantle Intergang in the monthly books published at the same time. I think they even showed the exact same nuclear device in the issue where Mannhein dies.

Travis Pelkie

July 2, 2011 at 11:15 pm

Lemme nerd out a bit.

The lineage of Vertigo, as I see it, starts with the undergrounds of the mid-60s. Go from there to the fall of the head shops and rise of the comics shops/rise of the direct market opening up new avenues of sales to older comics fans. Factor in the Warren magazines, including the Spirit mag (which later came out from underground stalwart Kitchen Sink Press), as showing there was a market for non-superhero comics (add in a bit of the old Marvel mags, too). Then we get things like the self publishing movement, which came out of the fan press/APAs (which later led to Dark Horse, among other things). Self publishing “successes” (in terms of the comics world, anyway) include Jack Katz’s First Kingdom, Elfquest, and Cerebus, part of the success coming from collected editions. Also, include Eisner’s A Contract with God (while not neglecting a nod back to things like It Rhymes With Lust and Gil Kane’s Blackmark and His Name is Savage) and Eclipse’s Sabre as GN type books for the new DM. Around the same time we’re getting Epic Illustrated, Marvel’s response to Heavy Metal, which is of course the North American version of Metal Hurlant, the magazine Moebius et al started after leaving Pilote. Epic Illustrated’s success led to both the Epic line of comics and was the starts of careers of people like Bissette and Rick Veitch, who went on to Swamp Thing, which had Alan Moore’s North American debut. Epic Illustrated featured a few things from the Marvel U, like Elektra Assassin and Wolverine/Havok Meltdown, but was mainly a showcase for “creator controlled” books like Dreadstar, and also was where Marvel published some things that they picked up from the “alternatives”, like Groo, Elfquest reprints, Trouble With Girls, and so on. As I said, in there was also the rise of the alternatives, like stuff from Eclipse, First, and Dark Horse. These companies lured some big time creators away from the big 2, like Chaykin, Miller, Gibbons, and so forth, with “creator control”, which wasn’t the same as creator owned, as some people learned with First in particular. All these things showed that “mature” and “adult” comics had a market and DC saw that they could exploit that market with Vertigo. And don’t forget that Image comics started right around the same time as Vertigo (6 months before, maybe?).

On DC’s side, things like royalty payments, mini and maxi series, “creator controlled” books, all helped lead to things like Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen, Swamp Thing, so on. Swamp Thing’s success led to the British invasion, bringing young Brits like Morrison, Milligan, Gaiman into the DCU, and they had some decidedly different takes on comics. The critical success of things like Shade and Sandman and Animal Man helped lead to Vertigo, of course, since they were anchor books of the line. Also don’t forget DC’s version of Epic, Piranha Press, which gave us Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children and Gregory (and Epicurus the Sage, I think).

Of course, DC also pissed off some creators like Moore and Miller with talks of a ratings system/cover warning in the late ’80s, along with things that Jenette Kahn apparently nixed, like the Rick Veitch Swamp Thing meets Jesus story, and the Sandman bit from the serial killer convention story where we’ve found out that in the DCU, people don’t masturbate. I suspect losing a few people like Miller and Moore (to DH or self publishing) led to thoughts of how to separate some books to allow for greater expression without a draconian rating system.

DC already had Piranha, which seems to be a line that some of these Touchmark books could have fit into. I’m guessing that Young having been Berger’s second in command, DC saw the opportunity when Touchmark fell through to snatch him back and the books he was doing for Touchmark. Add that in to the mature line Berger had, and you’ve got a line of already successful books backed by books that DISNEY was willing to invest in, and that’s a winning combination.

Vertigo was certainly going to happen (DC would probably let Berger do a lot of what she wanted since she was a long term editor with an amazing track record at the company, and her husband is Richard Bruning, DC’s…Art Director, I think?, and why piss off a power couple like that?), but Touchmark probably gave it a different shape that I think helped lead to a better line. I’d guess if Vertigo had been JUST the mature books like Shade and Animal Man and so forth, it would have faded out as the creative teams on those books left and the books died off, but with the books from Touchmark, it showed that books with absolutely no ties to the DCU could be “successful”.

It’s that mix, I think, that kept Vertigo from being just a collection of unrelated books with mature themes, like the Epic line, or just a collection of edgy but not too related “superhero” books (like First or Eclipse). It’s the same reason, I think, why Image has been successful over the years — it started with more related titles, but also had some “weird” stuff like the Maxx, and has gradually moved to primarily creator owned “stuff” with only a few ties to the superhero stuff that they used to do.

Damn, that was long.

@AS, Vertigo also reprint Blood, A Tale, which Epic originally published. It’s either Kent Williams or possibly Jon J Muth. And I think Invisibles was a bit into Vertigo before it got published, but probably within the first year.

Man, I gotta dig out the Vertigo Encyclopedia and the Vertigo Preview. Such good stuff, and it hit me right around when I was first collecting.

I’m just glad the woman from the Macy’s Day Parade survived. Having your head smashed in by a lightpost knocked over by a giant inflatable Cat in the Hat sounds like a way for a character on “Dead Like Me” to shuffle off the mortal coil.

Travis,

Blood was by Kent Williams, Moonshadow was by Jon J. Muth.

Also, Disney also tried another (short-lived) alternative line in Italy a few years ago, which included this still unpublished in english Howard Chaykin book:
http://coa.inducks.org/issue.php?c=it%2FBVL+++5

Andrew Perron

July 3, 2011 at 2:57 pm

Travis: That’s an excellent capsule history of mature comics.

Disney Comics put out a thee issue “bookshelf” mini-series that pre-dated the Warren Beatty Dick Tracy movie. Actually, IIRC, the first two issues were pre-quels, with the third being the movie adaptation. The greatest part was that they were done by Kyle Baker, in the style he used for his wonderful “Shadow” series around the same time. The Dick Tracy character had to resemble Beatty due to licensing issues, but the other characters were Baker’s style all the way. (for those of you who are too young to remember, “bookshelf” was also sometimes called the “Dark Knight” format – 48 to 64 pages squarebound pages).

This was a fabulous comic, especially the two issues that didn’t have to follow the movie’s plot. Somebody also put out a trade paperback at some point, because I have a copy of it somewhere in my collection. Because of the double-licensing (Dick Tracy AND the film), I don’t see it ever being re-released, but it is worth looking for. Once the Dick Tracy movie came out and was not the Batman style smash that everyone expected, the Dick Tracy merchandise was dropped ASAP, and this book just got dumped on the market. It probably didn’t help that Disney’s latest comic publishing venture was collapsing at much the same time.

i have a question i was wondering if some one could answer for me who has the rights to roger rabbit i always thought he was a third party charter and nether disney or warner own him i was asking because of the disney roger rabbit comic

Wow. I just discovered this article series a little over a month ago (you may have noticed me commenting on some of the older entries) and I have finally caught up. I read every single one from the first to now, and I’m looking forward to now being one of the readers who expects it every Friday.

Thanks for giving me a month worth of time-sink for when I’m bored at work, Brian! I’ll keep reading.

“Factor in the Warren magazines, including the Spirit mag (which later came out from underground stalwart Kitchen Sink Press), as showing there was a market for non-superhero comics”

Superhero comics were barely extant in the 50s/early-60s. If there was a market for comics at all, it was in ANYTHING BUT superheroes.

Oh, and yeah, Disney own Roger, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit is a Disney movie. Characters from other studios appear by special arrangement or because they are public domain.

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