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Comic Book Legends Revealed #341

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Welcome to the three hundredth and forty-first in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. This week, learn the amazing story of how Alan Moore decided to let Marvel reprint his Captain Britain stories. Plus, discover how long Steve Gerber was willing to wait to deliver on a joke!

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

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: Alan Moore’s decision to let Marvel reprint his Captain Britain stories came about due to an interesting meeting at a British pub.

STATUS: True

Awhile back, I cited the great British comic book reporter and editor Phil Hall on the story of Alan Moore and how his displeasure with Marvel Comics reprinting his work for Marvel UK changed the path Chris Claremont was taking on Uncanny X-Men due to a hesitance to use characters from Moore’s Marvel UK stories (you can read it here).

At the end of that piece, I noted:

Eventually, Marvel and Alan Moore worked out a deal (this led to the X-Men Archives reprints of Moore’s Captain Britan work) so they can now freely use the Moore characters.

Phil later wrote in to me with a wonderful story giving further detail into an encounter he had with Alan Moore that LED to Moore working out a deal with Marvel allowing them to reprint his Captain Britain stories in the mid-1990s…

Here’s Phil…

I was working for Dez Skinn at Comics International at the time and Alan Moore and Skinn by this time had sort of become the arch nemesis of each other; although to be fair Alan was far more indignant about Skinn than the other way around. I was also friends with Marvel’s then head of communications, Lou Bank, and while at dinner one evening, Lou informed me that Marvel couldn’t reprint the Moore/Davis CB stuff because of Alan’s refusal to allow the reprints. Now Lou made a telling comment at the time which was something along the lines of, “I’m sure Alan (Davis) doesn’t need the money, but I’m pretty sure that Dave Thorpe has never worked in comics since and that guy could probably do with a few thousand bucks!”

A couple of months later, I’m in a pub called The County Tavern in Northampton, which just happened to be my local and also the closest pub to Alan’s home. He came in with a mutual friend – a guy called Tom Perkins; a violinist as opposed to the guy of the same name who worked in comics and I wandered over to say ‘hi’. I knew Alan, but the only previous time we’d had any meaningful conversation, I’d upset him by saying I thought his Swamp Thing had pissed on the Wein/Wrightson creation and has he wanted to do some existential bullshit, he should have done it with something else (this had been at an exhibition of photographer Mitch Jenkins – the guy now co-producing films with Alan under the Orphans of the Storm logo – back in 1986 or 87). Anyhow, I digress; the three of us are all talking, Alan finds out I’m working for Skinn; I have to make it clear to him that i think my employer is as much of a c*nt as Alan claims he is and once this is sorted, we settle down to an evening of civilised discussion until the subject turns to Captain Britain. Now, as you might have garnered, I’m not exactly a sycophant; working in comics was just that work and while I was a fan of comics, especially some of the stuff Moore had done, In was not overawed by people who, like me, take shits.

I mentioned to Alan exactly what Lou Bank said about Dave Thorpe and how his obstinacy was depriving thousands of fans from seeing something great just because he was pissed off with a previous administration at Marvel. Quite remarkably, Alan acknowledged this and the following week, in my column for CI called Movers & Shakers, I recounted the above in a toned down and abridged version and by the end of the month Marvel was in dialogue with Moore over the reprint edition, which I believe came out about 6 months later.

An interesting open question that Phil doesn’t (and I don’t) have an answer to is – did Dave Thorpe ever get the royalties? Anyone happen to know?

Thanks, Phil, for an awesome tale!

How did a one-off joke in an issue of Howard the Duck become a comic book two decades later? Find out on the next page!

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55 Comments

Roy Thomas is the best.

Man, that Frank Robbins is awesome! Although, C’mon, Steve Rogers, in a daze realizes instantly his bonds have been severed by an “alternate reality shield?”

That is pretty awesome how an evening of beer and quiet chit chat mended an unrepairable bridge :)

In an interview I did with Alan Moore around the release of Watchmen in TPB, he said “Dez skinn has certainly left his mark on comics…but with luck, it’ll wash off”.

He also verified what I’d theorized all along, and he’s repeated in other places, that Rorshach’s speech petterns were based on Herbie the Fat Fury.

Captain America’s final moments before suspended animation sure were revisited a lot. There was story (I think it was CA #220) that revealed that Cap was found in the ocean by a Nazi scientist after falling off Zemo’s plane. He proceeded to have an adventure in Newfoundland which he escaped in a plane which got shot down and he wound up in the ocean again. It seems like they were constantly making tweaks, but I still think the version from Avengers #4 is the best.

Gerber’s Nevada mini-series was a dementedly fun read.

It seems like they were constantly making tweaks, but I still think the version from Avengers #4 is the best.

I agree. That’s a big problem I have with Roy Thomas and his obsessive revisiting and tweaking of continuity. He took things that were elegantly simple the first time around and made them needlessly complicated and convoluted. Sometimes it resulted in a clever story but what was gained from it was far outweighed by what was lost. I’m currently going through a lot of 70s Marvel and the Roy Thomas mindset is really present in the books even when the writer isn’t Roy.

wait isn’t the continuity fix that there is other Caps after WW2? or is that an another issue I am thinking of? with the Patriot and such

Interestingly (or irritatingly), Brian Michael Bendis seemingly retconned away part of What If #4 with a throwaway line in New Avengers a couple of years ago. In the What If story, Adolf Hitler is killed by the original Human Torch in order to prevent him from blowing up Berlin via a self-destruct button in his bunker. However, Bendis later had Bucky Barnes offhandedly claim to have killed Hitler, to the surprise of his teammates.

Considering that Bendis just used it as a throwaway joke (and a way to kill off an entire page with reaction shots – has there ever been a comics author more averse to using comics pages to actually advance a plot?) and never mentioned it again to my knowledge, I prefer Thomas’ version of how der fuhrer met his well-deserved end in the Marvel Universe.

The Watcher sure is one scary serious-faced dude in that comic!

Fooled by the series title again! “What if” this thing that totally happened…well, what if it happened exactly the way it did? But yeah, I do enjoy Rascally Roy’s uber-geekery.

SoggyHydrox: Yep, that’s what happens in this issue.

I’m very surprised you left out what actually prompted Gerber to create a Nevada series after all those years elapsed — it wasn’t that he originally intended there to ever be such a comic, or that he was waiting for all those years to pay off an obscure joke, but rather that one of the most prominent writers in comics specifically asked him for it.

wait isn’t the continuity fix that there is other Caps after WW2? or is that an another issue I am thinking of? with the Patriot and such

Yeah, that’s the one.

I’m very surprised you left out what actually prompted Gerber to create a Nevada series after all those years elapsed — it wasn’t that he originally intended there to ever be such a comic, or that he was waiting for all those years to pay off an obscure joke, but rather that one of the most prominent writers in comics specifically asked him for it.

I totally blanked on it, Richard. Thanks for reminding me.

Fooled by the series title again! “What if” this thing that totally happened…well, what if it happened exactly the way it did? But yeah, I do enjoy Rascally Roy’s uber-geekery.

Alan Kupperberg had a good line defending the similarly off-kilter What If…? #9. Something along the lines of, “So long as we deliver the premise stated in the “What If…?” then I think the format is flexible to support many stories.”

I have never been a fan of Frank Robbins art, which was unfortunate since I loved picking up any Invaders back issues I could as a kid, and many of them featured his art. It seemed like the few Batman comics I had back then also were by him. I don’t dislike it as much now as I did as a kid, but those intial impressions still linger.

Yeah, when i was a kid I was put off by a lot of the less “realistic,” more stylized artists, not just Robbins but even Kirby and Ditko! Fortunately, the writing usually overrode that, and eventually I got over it.

“Vanished forever from the sight of men…” That Watcher fella ain’t much good at watching.

Schnitzy Pretzlepants

November 18, 2011 at 11:21 am

Man, I have a deep appreciation for Roy Thomas, buy still always get a kick out of those moments where he has characters speaking with his own voice, rather than in-character.

Eg.: The Watcher getting into the specifics of Hitler’s gun make and model cracks me up.

The alternate reality shield is a pretty strange, and unnecessary plot device. Might as well have broken the fourth wall completely and had Thomas and Robbins appear, saying: “The world needs you too much, Cap! You might be done in WWII, but the future has dire need of you!”

Does Uatu here remind anyone else of “The Toe” from Animaniacs?

Steve claims it to be another version of his shield, Jason. Not really the same as one from an alternate reality (which it explicitly isn’t) or even one from another timeline or time period (which it was).

I never noticed that the Watcher didn’t reference alternate timelines back then (I was pretty young). Everyone I knew thougt it was another “What If” until Marvel later stated it was in continuity about the other Caps. We were all amazed and thought it was pretty cool. I also loved when they said the “What If” about the 1950′s Avengers (later “Agents of Atlas”) was in continuity. Of course they later changed their minds because they wanted to say our Avengers were the first Avengers. UNTIL recently, when they now say that Nick Fury had his own Avengers in the late 50′s. Or is that just a way to make yet more money off the Avengers’ name?

FYI, I LOVED the Invaders comic back then (no later mini ever matched it) but also hated Springer’s art. He made Cap (and everyone else) look like Steve Rogers BEFORE the super-soldier formula.

Didn’t they forget to thank Alan Moore in the foreward of the Captain Britian tpb reprints or something, resulting in him getting pissed at Marvel all over again?!?

Thomas says outright in a text piece in What If? #4 that “this story is the first one (from What If) which really COULD have happened – and maybe DID happen – in what is known as the mighty Marvel Universe! So why did Roy [...] choose to do this story in What If? Why, simply because it wouldn’t fit anywhere else!”

Thomas says outright in a text piece in What If? #4 that “this story is the first one (from What If) which really COULD have happened – and maybe DID happen – in what is known as the mighty Marvel Universe! So why did Roy [...] choose to do this story in What If? Why, simply because it wouldn’t fit anywhere else!”

The “maybe” is interesting there, because that would suggest that it wasn’t quite decided yet if this was canon or not.

Wire: “Considering that Bendis just used it as a throwaway joke (and a way to kill off an entire page with reaction shots – has there ever been a comics author more averse to using comics pages to actually advance a plot?) and never mentioned it again to my knowledge, I prefer Thomas’ version of how der fuhrer met his well-deserved end in the Marvel Universe.”

Thomas’ version was mentioned as recently as Invaders Now!#1 (by the Human Torch himself) so it’s still canon.

SNikt snakt “Didn’t they forget to thank Alan Moore in the foreward of the Captain Britian tpb reprints or something, resulting in him getting pissed at Marvel all over again?!?”

Briefly yes (they left out a creator credit), but Quesada publicly apologized and took steps to rectify the matter, after which Moore publicly accepted his apology. He’s since made negative remarks about Marvel again, but at the time he accepted the apology.

I love Frank Robbins’s art. He draws skulls really well. I loved how he drew the Red Skull and Ghost Rider in his runs on Captain America and Ghost Rider.

I think Moore said something like “this just confirms that I’ll never work for Marvel again” and then, when he accepted the apology, he said “I understand, no hard feelings, but I’ll still never work for Marvel again.”

What’s funny is, he didn’t seem to care that they messed up that printing — I believe it was a page printed without dialogue, or the page order was wrong, but whatever it was, that printing was definitely bad (and I bought it before I knew better, and I’m not quite anal enough to buy a new printing for one page [I am anal enough to have printed out a corrected page and stuck it in]).

“Didn’t they forget to thank Alan Moore in the foreward of the Captain Britian tpb reprints or something, resulting in him getting pissed at Marvel all over again?!?”

It was actually that Marvel screwed up the copyright notice and instead of saying those stories are owned by Moore and Davis that they were owned by Marvel. Quesada apologized and Moore accepted the apology.

Frank Robbins is one of my all-time favourite artists. He’s an acquired taste, but his Invaders work is just amazing. No one draws the Union Jack and Baron Blood as well as he did. I miss his work.

Bucky claiming to kill Hitler is easy, at least, to No-Prize away, thanks to all those Hate-Monger clones and Bucky working for a Hitler-hating Soviet general for decades.

I had no idea Neil Gaiman provided the impetus for Steve Gerber to do Nevada. Thanks for the info!

Frank Robbins is, as Jamie said, an acquired taste. Like buttler, I didn’t quite get his work until I was older. Same deal with Mike Sekowsky.

I’m sad that Gerber didn’t live to complete the NEVADA trilogy.
R.I.P. Gerber

I still think Roy Thomas revisiting Cap’s “Death” in Avengers 56 is terrific (it’s where the alt.shield came from)–watching Cap watch Bucky die a second time is really gut wrenching. Had he but known Bucky was OK …

Nevada was supposed to be a trilogy? Wow. Really?

If I recall, the whole Human-Torch-kills-Hitler idea is actually from Marvel’s Golden Age — when they brought Human Torch (and Toro, Namor, and Cap) back in the rather quirky short-lived era they had in the 1950s (mainly fighting Communists), wasn’t that in there somewhere before What If?

Brian: What If #4 was not titled “What If…Captain America Survived World War Two?” On both the cover and the splash page, it is clearly lettered “What If… the Invaders Had Stayed Together After World War Two?”

Now, the cover of What If #5 reads “What If Captain America Hadn’t Vanished During World War Two!” [sic], while inside, that story is entitled “What If… Captain America and Bucky Had Both Survived World War II?”

I know the complaint looks picky, but you might want to change it sometime before any sequel to “Was Superman a Spy?” sees print.

I remember when that What If? story came out all of my friends and I took it to be in Marvel’s main continuity and never had any problems with that. Those first issues of What If? were a lot of fun…

But I do have to say I never cared for Robbins’ art, and still don’t.

How easy is it to find those Captain Britain reprints? (The Moore/Davis stuff, that is) Is any of that stuff in those recent CB Archives HCs?

Nevada was pretty good, as I recall. Don’t remember if it was intended to be a “trilogy”, but I thought Gerber did want to do more with it. IIRC, there are Nevada stories in the first 2 Vertigo Winter’s Edge Specials. The GCD reminds me that there was a trade of it. And I remember in the back matter of the issues about Neil being the impetus for the series. I think there were also letters from several other comics pros in those issues — was Nevada Gerber’s first major comics work in awhile at that point?

I just recently got that What If issue (and the one after it), after being made aware of it by Hatcher’s “alternate universe” contest a while back. I thought it was pretty clear, if not completely explicit, that 4 was intended to be canon. I think there was something about the Invaders already having a story for the annual planned, and What If was a larger book than some (48, maybe 64 pages?), so that’s where a story of that magnitude could fit in. Plus, Thomas was a big shot at Marvel at that time, right, so if he wanted it to be canon, it would be. It’s a pretty good story (and amusing who the Invaders save near the end). Wasn’t this also referenced in the recent Captain America Patriot mini that you reviewed, Brian?

I do find it amusing that you say that this was not a “traditional” What If. It was issue 4, so a “traditional” issue wasn’t all that established yet :) (I get what you’re saying, really.)

(Perhaps that’s WHY they seem to hedge a bit as to whether this is “in continuity”. It didn’t “fit” the purported purpose of this series, and they had the decency to be chagrined that it didn’t. Plus, as much as they pushed the “buy everything” mentality, they may have been aware that Invaders fans would have been annoyed to find out that not only was an important story done in a book that wasn’t the “main” title, but also cost 50 #$#%^ing cents! 50! cents!)

While we’re talking of What If, I like the issue a little later (11, I think), where the original Marvel Bullpen gets the powers of the FF. Good fun stuff.

Travis Pelkie
November 19, 2011 at 2:20 am

How easy is it to find those Captain Britain reprints? (The Moore/Davis stuff, that is) Is any of that stuff in those recent CB Archives HCs?”

You can get the reprints easily but getting you hands on the three different Marvel UK titles they originally appeared in (Marvel Superheroes, The Daredevils, Mighty World of Marvel) is much tougher because of the patchy distribution some of them received.I’ve seen the Thorpe issues go for £50 plus, and the first Moore story goes for about the same on the rare occasions they pop up.

As for Dave Thorpe, I know he stayed in comics editing and last I heard he was doing some consultancy work for the government. Frankly he wasn’t a very good writer of comics, but hopefully Marvel did pay up but I seem to have a vague memory of Marvel not paying Alan Davis full reprint fees for those strips.

@Travis,

Panini Comics (UK) have published five volumes of Captain Britain with all his Marvel UK appearances (plus Marvel Team Up 65 & 66). They are all readily available from Amazon UK.

All the Thorpe, Moore and Delano written stories appear in vols. four and five.

For us Marvel UK readers, vols. three and four were what we were waiting for. It reprinted the 50-part Black Knight/Captain Britain epic (originally published in Hulk Comic Weekly) that strayed into Lord of the Rings territory. Great story and art by Steven Parkhouse and John Stokes. This story leads on from Captain Britain returning from the US after meeting Spider-Man in MTU 65 & 66.

Check out the Captain Britain in wikipedia, the information on the collected editions is pretty good.

I have an answer directly from Roy Thomas, to your Captain America, What If #4? Inquiry and it comes from my research for my book, The Essential Marvel Age Reference Boom 1961-1977 (http://comicbookcollectorsclub.com/essential-marvel-age-reference-project/).

I know that sounds like a plug, but I wanted to present by credentials. Here is the story, and it comes from Roy Thomas: In 1972 Roy now Marvel’s editor, asked Captain America writer Steve Englehart to come up with a story explaining Cap’s absence from 1945-1963. Roy wanted Steve to write that there were several different Captain Americas. He also wanted the stories to incorporate the Atlas 1954 continuities. Englehart wrote a brilliant 4 issue story arc from Cap issues 154-157, but it only included one Captain America, the one that actual appeared in Young Men Comics, 1953-4. It did not cover the Cap in Captain America Comics from 1945-50.

Roy told me that he saw What If #4 as a way to correct that. So the story explained when Cap “disappeared” other Caps replaced him. This was incorporated into the later Invaders stories and many others, which I’ll mention in a moment

I mentioned to Roy that What If even says it’s an alternate reality and the letter’s page backs that up. Roy stated that it was his mistake being a bit to “cute” in the letter’s column saying it “coulda should mighta happen.” He wishes he was firmer.

The importance to my book is the identity of the Hate Monger in Fantastic Four #21 (1963) and many other Marvel Comics. When his identity is revealed is shown to be Hitler or a double. In What If #4, duplicating the scene from “The Return of the Human Torch” from Young Men #24 (1953) the Torch incinerates Hitler. That becomes important because in Marvel Super-Villain Team Up 16-17 (1979-80), we learn that Armin Zola took the ashes of Hitler and made a clone. That clone was the hate Monger in Fantastic Four. And that Hitler clone is transported into the Cosmic Cube.

Roy states that this story has become a “canon” (his word) of the Marvel Universe. To see if play out the best, Roy did a 12 issue run in 1988, the Saga of the Sub-Mariner and a 1990 Saga of the Human Torch which incorporates all this magnificently in one, well two long stories.

Thanks to king mob and Mars Bonfire for the info. It’s always great when we try to help each other out here. One of the big reasons to love CSBG.

“The alternate reality shield is a pretty strange, and unnecessary plot device.”

It’s from Avengers Vol 1 #56, where Cap and The Avengers (Goliath, Wasp, Hawkeye, Black Panther) journey back thru time to see exactly how Bucky died.
The future Cap used his shield to cut the WWII Cap’s bonds while the Avengers battled the giant androids out of sight of WWII Cap.

http://courthouseforum.com/forums/view.php?id=1069795

I wanted to suggest a legend:

This legend would stand as formally outside of the ambit of this column without the reference to Superman, but anyway:

Judge Criticizes Lawyer, Misunderstands Zorro and the Shadow; they had alter egos to shield themselves from reprisals for their actions

http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/what_would_superman_do_judge_gives_heroic_examples_in_ruling_against_lawyer/

“He also wrote that DeFilippo “must be reminded that Zorro (Don Diego de la Vega), The Shadow (Lamont Cranston) and Superman (Clark Kent) each had an alter-ego but was, in fact, only one person who understood the difference between right and wrong and, unlike the defendant, never sought to disavow responsibility for their own actions.”

It unfortunately appears that this judge did not manage to see even the 1994 film version of The Shadow or the 1998 Zorro movie, or have read Walter Gibson and/or Johnston McCulley’s novels and short stories. Zorro and the Shadow worked outside of the law. As Max Allan Collins pointed out in Amazing Heroes#119, they adopted alter egos since the cops would have arrested them on the spot (and in Zorro’s case, the Spanish army would have executed him). Zorro acted as a social protester, in the 1994 Shadow film the police commissioner noted he would appoint a task force to stop the Shadow from interfering with police affairs (the Shadow tampers with the commissioner’s mind to protect his alter ego’s activities and stop him from appointing the task force-not a stellar example of obedience to rule of law).

Phil Hall says ‘a guy called Tom Perkins; a violinist as opposed to the guy of the same name who worked in comics’. The Marvel UK artist was TIM Perkins.

Now that you mention it, Martin, I’m almost thinking that Phil just got the name wrong in the first place, and that both guys are TIM. IIRC, Moore collaborated on musical projects with a Tim Perkins, so maybe Phil knew they were the same name, but just got the name wrong.

Three lovely fun snippets of comic book history, which are the reason I like this column. Thanks Brian. Please do more of these and less of the let’s-see-how-I-can-spin-that-bit-teenagers-haven’t-read-elsewhere-yet–into-a-”legend”

I wish What If? #4 had been reprinted in Invaders Classic. Now I have to find a reprint of the What If? issues.

The series is well worth getting! Though you can also get it as a back issue.

@PowerBook Pete – It’s in the first WHAT IF? CLASSIC trade. It’s probably OP, but seems to be readily available. There are currently 30 copies available from sellers through Amazon.

[...] sources of information on the Moore vs Marvel stuff, above and beyond just the Usenet stuff, at: Comic Book Legends Revealed #341 | Comics Should Be Good! @ Comic Book Resources Comic Book Legends Revealed #300 – Part 3 | Comics Should Be Good! @ Comic Book Resources [...]

I will have to check out those Panini collections Mars Bonfire mentions.
I have the Moore/Davis stuff reprinted in one part of a “Classic Marvel” collection of HCs, also by Panini. I figured something about them being an Italian company allowed them access through some rights loophole, but I see it was actually resolved.
As much as I genuinely love Moore, the line that went something like “… though Moore felt more contempt for Skin than vice versa.” Haha. He’s a curmudgeon, alright. It’s nice to hear about him making a calm and reasonable decision regarding one of the big two publishers (who as noted, were totally different entities than the ones he had had his issues with).

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