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Welcome to the three hundredth and thirty-third in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. This week, discover the amazing story of the #1 Women’s Tennis Player in the World who became a writer and editor for Wonder Woman! And that’s not even close to the craziest job she had in the 1940s! Plus, legends about Deadpool and the artistic excellence of Jimmy Cheung!
Click here for an archive of the previous three hundred and thirty-two.
COMIC LEGEND: The number one women’s tennis player in the world retired from amateur competition and then became a writer and editor on Wonder Woman’s comic book.
Between 1936 and 1940, Alice Marble was one of the world’s greatest female tennis players.
The California native (who overcame a sickness early in her amateur career that was originally mis-diagnosed as tuberculosis!!) won a whopping EIGHTEEN different Grand Slam championships during her amateur career. In 1939, she was the #1 women’s tennis player in the world.
She retired from amateur competition in 1940 and became a professional tennis player. Playing tennis professionally back then was a lot different than it is now and it was a whole lot less lucrative. Plus, with World War II raging on in Europe, there were no international competitions, so Marble had to find other work.
Meanwhile, in 1941, Max Gaines and his All American Comics comic book company (which was at the time not an official part of DC Comics/National Publications) debuted a brand-new comic book character created by William Moulton Marston called Wonder Woman. Marston’s hook with the character was always that she was different from your standard superhero – she was meant to be a bit of a symbol for female readers.
Gaines took an unusual approach for the promotion of this new character – he gained testimonials from famous athletes of the day.
Here are endorsements of Wonder Woman from boxing champions Gene Tunney and Jack Dempsey…
Almost certainly while pursuing Marble for an endorsement, Gaines and Marble decided to come to a different arrangement. Marble would come WORK for Gaines on the comic book!! She became an associate editor on the comic.
Here is Marble in a promotional photo for the book…
Marble then decided to take Gaines’ idea and go even further by sending letters to notable women in the United States for endorsements of the character. Here is a sample letter (written to a high-ranking women in the Internal Revenue Service)…
Marble took this inspired approach of celebrating strong women into the pages of the comic itself. For the first 20 issues of Wonder Woman, Marble would write four-page stories about notable women in history…
Pretty awesome, right?
Marble’s tenure as associate editor was a lot shorter, though. She had married a U.S. pilot who was killed in World War II in 1944. Around the same time, Marble miscarried what would have been their only child. She was so despondent that she attempted to take her own life. She had stopped editing for Wonder Woman at the end of 1943. I presume she stopped writing, as well, and they just used stories she had already written to keep the feature going until Wonder Woman #20 in 1946, but I could be mistaken. The feature was continued by other writers for another six years or so before being discontinued.
Things get even crazier for Marble, though!
Once she recovered from her suicide attempt, she claimed that she SPIED for the United States government, through the Office of Strategic Services (OSS)! As a famous celebrity, Marble could go places others could not. She was sent to Switzerland to do some celebrity tournaments. Her real mission, though, was to come into contact with a Swiss banker that she had been involved with in the past that the U.S. thought was doing business with the Nazis. Marble’s job was to acquire Nazi financial data. She claimed that she did but was SHOT IN THE BACK by an enemy agent in the process!!! Luckily, she recovered, and went on to live a long life.
She passed away in 1990.
Again, that’s pretty damned awesome, no? Admittedly, the spy stuff seems a bit fishy and I don’t believe it has ever been confirmed by the government, but hey, it is interesting either way – if it happened, wow. If it didn’t, it is interesting that she would be bold enough to make up a story that crazy!
Thanks to Diamond International Galleries for the Marble letter.
COMIC LEGEND: Joe Kelly’s last issue of Deadpool was originally the last issue of the series period.
Reader Leonel wrote in awhile back:
At the end of Joe Kelly´s run on Deadpool (Deadpool #33, 1997 series) the last page has Deadpool walking into the sunset hand i hand with Death. The image suggests that it was going to be the last issue of the series, instead the dialogue states that Deadpool is only “99%” dead and that he will be back to life in 30 days, just in time for the next issue. So was this a cop out due to Marvel not canceling the series as planned?
Here are the pages in question from Deadpool #33, Joe Kelly’s last issue on the series…
And yes, what Leonel wrote is basically what happened.
You see, as soon as Joe Kelly began writing Deadpool, he expected the book to be canceled quickly. Surprisingly, though, it held on for quite awhile (it lasted three more years even after Kelly left!). However, the word came down that #25 was going to be the last issue. Kelly then crafted that issue to be a final issue. However, due to fan outcry, Marvel decided to keep the book going.
Fair enough. That’s good, so Kelly was certainly okay with it.
A few months pass and then word comes down again, now #33 would be the last issue of the series. Once again, Kelly crafted a farewell issue (only this time, he figured it had to be for good, as you don’t uncancel a book TWICE, right?). However, once again, the book WAS un-canceled.
This time, though, Kelly decided not to return with the comic. Between him already preparing to move on and the fact that, again, he had come up with AN ENDING (so he’d have to quickly come up with new plots, etc.) he just decided he had had enough.
So yes, the issue WAS originally written as a final issue.
Thanks to Leonel for the question!
COMIC LEGEND: Jimmy Cheung did collages of old artwork for the backgrounds of his Young Avengers Presents covers.
It reminded me of a story that was going around when those Young Avengers Presents covers originally came out a few years ago. As you can see from the Hawkeye cover, the background is a collage of moments of the Avenger who inspired the Young Avenger. In this case, it is Hawkeye. Here are all of the covers (click on each cover to enlarge them).
Well, the presumption at the time was that Jimmy Cheung naturally enough used Photoshop or something like that to create a collage of panels from old comics. I had some healthy debate with a number of commenters over the topic (with me suggesting that he did them himself)
Well, amazingly enough, those WEREN’T panels from old comics, those were BRAND-NEW drawings by Jimmy Cheung just drawn in the style of the old panels!
I confirmed it the other day with Marvel Executive Editor Tom Brevoort. Tom recalled:
Yes, in his mania, Jim didn’t merely use clip art for all of those assorted background images on those covers, he meticulously recreated each one by hand, matching the style of the original artist. A great deal of work for very little return save personal artistic satisfaction.
How cool is that? Jimmy Cheung, you rule!!
Thanks for the confirmation, Tom!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
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See you all next week!
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