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Comic Book Legends Revealed #343

Welcome to the three hundredth and forty-third in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. This week, learn about the Superboy TV series that would have pre-dated Smallville by forty years! Plus, the strange history of Shuma-Gorath and the sad (for fans) story of the Aquaman II mini-series that never was.

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

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: There was nearly a Superboy TV series in the 1960s!

STATUS: True

Years before Tom Welling first bared his chest on the TV screen in Smallville…

or Superboy flew the skies in the late 1980s/early 1990s syndicated series…

there was nearly a Superboy TV series in the 1960s!!

You see, as soon as The Adventures of Superman TV series officially ended with George Reeves’ death, Whitney Ellsworth (the DC editor who became the main producer of the Superman TV series) tried to come up with a follow-up series.

Eventually, he pitched and produced a pilot for The Adventures of Superboy in 1961.

The Amazing World of DC Comics #2 had a picture of Johnny Rockwell as Superboy/Clark Kent…

That same issue also listed the names of the 12 additional scripts ordered for the series besides the pilot “”Rajah’s Ransom” (with the notion that if the pilot WAS picked up, they’d want to get into production right away)….

However, the series was not picked up and viewers would have to wait nearly 30 years to see Superboy reach the small screen.

COMIC LEGEND: Robert E. Howard created Shuma-Gorath.

STATUS: False Enough for a False

Reader Joe C. wrote in with a question about the character Shuma-Gorath, who has become somewhat famous due to his strange inclusion as a part of the video game Marvel vs. Capcom…

Joe wanted to know why was it that Marvel was able to own the rights to Shuma-Gorath even though they no longer have the Robert E. Howard license. As he asks, “How is it that Shuma-Gorath is basically considered a Marvel Comics character; wasn’t he created by Robert E. Howard for a Kull story?”

The answer is interesting, Joe. You see, while yes, Robert E. Howard did, indeed, come up with the name Shuma-Gorath in a Kull story “The Curse of the Golden Skull,”(that went unpublished until 1967, looooooooooong after Howard’s death), it was ONLY a name. A character mentions the “iron-bound books of Shuma-Gorath” in the tale.

And yes, Gardner Fox later used that name for an unseen villain in an issue of Marvel Premiere starring Doctor Strange (#5) and then Steve Englehart later actually introduced the memorable Doctor Strange villain a few issues later when he came aboard as the writer of the title….

But while the name was clearly based on the name in the Howard story (especially since it was written by Gardner Fox, a notable fan of fantasy pulp fiction), there’s a hitch.

You see, you can’t copyright just a name.

Thus, Marvel owns the actual character that they introduced using the name Shuma-Gorath.

That’s just a legal right, which is why I said “false enough,” because you could easily argue that you think creating the name still counts as creating Shuma-Gorath.

So there ya go, Joe! Thanks for the question!

COMIC LEGEND: There was going to be a sequel to the 1986 Neal Pozner/Craig Hamilton Aquaman mini-series.

STATUS: True

In 1986, DC released a mini-series that saw a major shift in Aquaman’s status quo, including a brand-new costume!

The series was written by Neal Pozner and was penciled by Craig Hamilton, who was only 20 years old at the time! It was on our list of The Greatest Aquaman Stories Ever Told (which you can read here).

The series was a success, so fans rightly expected to hear more from the series.

In the 1986 Amazing Heroes Preview Special, details for a sequel to the series were released. Here is a snippet:

After the phenomonal response to DC’s first Aquaman series, a sequel seemed a foregone conclusion. Well, here it is. The second mini-series will lake place minutes after the first one ends, and will deal with the rest of the “Aquaman Family,” as well as the star of the book. “Mera, Aqualad, and the rest of Atlantis did not show up much in the first series,” notes writer Neal Pozner, ‘but they’re very important to this series. In the first series, we were trying to change and restructure Aquaman alone. Now we’ll see how he’s going to react to everybody else. The whole theme of the series is change, and how different people react to it. There have been radical changes in the lives of all the players, and we’ll be looking at how those changes manifest themselves, and how each character deals with them. The three main characters will be Aquaman, Mera, and Aqualad, but we’ll also be focusing on Makaira, Vulko, anew character named Tawna, Ronal, and (from Swamp Thing) the Sunderland Corporation.”

As the series begins, we will find that Makaira (Vulko’s wife), is ruling Atlantis in his stead, as he was injured in the fight with Ocean Master. Atlantis is going through a culture shock, as they have been isolated for two thousand years, and now they are interacting with the surface world. The surface world is finding that Atlantis is a great place to get rid of all the stuff it doesn’t need and to get all the technology that they do need. Some Atlanteans are so taken with these new ideas, that they’ll accept anything. “So they’ve got hula-hoops and Pac-Man and disco clothes that they’re using underwater. There is even a fast-food restaurant that has been opened by the Sunderland Corporation, and the religious zealots use that as a focus for their protests against the surface worlds’ imports. Makaira is caught between the religious zealots and the other Atlanteans, in her attempt to rule Atlantis.”

Aquaman, meanwhile, is trying to deal with the fact that he loves his wife, and, he also seems to love another woman. Also, every rule he’s ever lived by, he doesn’t believe in anymore, and he will catch himself reverting back to his old actions. “This is not going to be the pat super-hero-gets-a-cosmic-revelation. When he gets mad, he’ll lose his temper, except he’ll catch himself midway through. Mera is going to have a really hard time also, because the man she married is not the man that returns to her. She’s going to have a hard time trying to help. because she was raised having everything she wanted!’ When Aquaman returns to New Venice, he finds that Mera has basically saved the whole town by herself. “Mera will be portrayed more heroically. In her own way, she is more powerful than Aquaman.”

Aqualad will still be mourning Aquagirl’s death, and he will retreat from the surface world to Atlantis. He eventually meets a young girl named Tawna. whom he will fall in love with. “The focus of the series is primarily on Aquaman, Aqualad, and Atlantis, but there will be all these subplots running along in the background.”

Sounds cool!

However, as Hamilton related to Rob Kelly at the great Aquaman Shrine a few years back, Hamilton quickly fell behind schedule on the second mini-series. The first series saw four issues drawn in eight months or so. On the second one, Hamilton only did a handful of pages in two months. I don’t believe Pozner even plotted past #2, so it was not like he was pushing the series hard, either.

DC even asked Jerome K. Moore to try to help out by drawing some pages in Hamilton’s style…

Ultimately, it appears as though DC just got impatient, especially since they really wanted to get Aquaman back to his old costume (Pozner was forced to include a return to the old costume in the script for Aquaman II). So instead, in 1988, Gary Cohn and Dan Mishkin (along with artists George Freeman and Mark Pacella) did a one-shot where Aquaman’s original costume returned and some of the plots from the Pozner/Hamilton mini-series were resolved.

Once that was done, the sequel was never to be.

It’s a real shame. Check out the Aquaman Shrine here to read more from the Amazing Heroes Preview Special. And heck, just read the Aquaman Shrine period. If you like Aquaman, you will love the Aquaman Shrine!

Thanks to Rob Kelly for the great collection of info (he also posted the Moore page).

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 you’ll get a bonus edition of Comic Book Legends the week after we hit 3,000 likes! So go like us on Facebook 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!

44 Comments

I won’t post the URLs because I doubt the legality, but you can find the original Superboy pilot on YouTube and probably other places

That Aquaman costume was awesome, but I guess not Aquamany enough

I’m pretty sure hula hoops don’t work underwater.

“Ultimately, it appears as though DC just got impatient, especially since they really wanted to get Aquaman back to his old costume” -Yeah, because a costume colored various hues of blue in a wave design is just so wrong for an underwater character. Incidentally, since everything underwater is shifted to the blue end of the color spectrum (depending on how deep one is) and orange is blue’s complimentary (opposite) color, old Art Curry’s shirt should look murky brown when we see him swimming around down there. Just saying’…

Hey thanks for answering my question! That one really had me confused. And I still think S-G was dusted off to please the tentacle porn aficionados out there :P

Also, I loved that Craig Hamilton Aquaman costume and really wish they had stuck with it.

The Superboy pilot has been circulating in bootleg videotape for years. Er, so I hear. DC later turned it into a Superboy comics story, ditto most of the script concepts listed.
Since you’ve brought up Shuma-Gorath, I’d like to ask the flip side: How is it that Marvel’s version of Red Sonja travels with the Conan license rather than sticking with Marvel? I know she’s based on a character in one of Howard’s historical swashbucklers (Hawks Over Shem, I believe) but I’d have thought she’d stick at Marvel (much as Kulan Gath, who debuted in Conan, shifted over to Xmen).

Have we ever talked about how exactly it is that Marvel doesn’t own the rights to Red Sonja? That was another case where only the name was picked up from a Howard story, and even that was Red Sonya, a very different character. And now, while Marvel has kept Shuma-Gorath and Kulan Gath, somehow Sonja is owned by neither Marvel nor the Howard estate. I understand how she escaped the Howards, but I don’t get how she managed to slip out of Marvel’s domain.

Even weirder, Kulan Gath is a very confusing rights issue, since he debuted in Conan during a special crossover with the Elric of Melnibone stuff. Michael Moorcock didn’t quite know who owned him a few years ago, and noted that elements of the character came from multiple sources — the name may have even been Stan Lee’s!

http://www.multiverse.org/fora/showthread.php?t=4473

It’s worth noting that Marvel last used Gath in a 2000 story in Kurt Busiek’s Avengers, and lost the Conan license in 2003. So maybe they don’t think they own the character either?

Whoops! Apparently Marvel used Kulan Gath in some post-2003 issues of Exiles, apparently…maybe they DO own him, then?

I love reading through those old Amazing Heroes Previews every couple of years. You could probably spend the next year going over some of the books and story-lines that get mentioned but never come to pass…

Were those Chris Claremont-written Exiles? He’s the one who used Kulan Gath over the years, so maybe the years of inactivity were because nobody (besides Busiek) was interested.

Thanks for the multiple mentions, Brian! I still cry when I think of what that series could have been…

rob!

It should be mentioned that the 1961 pilot is a special feature on the Smallville complete series set.

the original Suerboy pilot can be found easily on youtube
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32-_Ns8aWfc

I’m more intereste to know if the laegend arround why it didn’t get broadcast it’s true, It says Wheaties cereal wanted to sponsor it, but that Kellogs, sponsored reruns of the Reeves show so they did it’s best to abort the project.

Were those Chris Claremont-written Exiles? He’s the one who used Kulan Gath over the years, so maybe the years of inactivity were because nobody (besides Busiek) was interested.

Nope, Tony Bedard wrote ‘em.

What *is* the affection for that orange-and-green number of Aquaman’s? I don’t hate it, but I don’t see it as a “classic” either.

Was I the only one who watched the Adventures of Superboy tv series from the late 80′s, mentioned here?!?

No, I much enjoyed it after the first, rather mediocre season.

Regarding Shuma-Gorath, I did a quick look-see in my Essential Dr. Strange vol. 2, which reprints Dr. Strange (first series) 169-177 and Marvel Premiere 3-14, and even though I don’t think Shuma-Gorath actually appeared until MP #9 (the first issue with Englehart and Frank Brunner as a team), Shuma-Gorath was first mentioned in MP #5 (Gardner F. Fox began writing at that point and did so up to issue #8).

Interestingly, he was alluded to with issue #3 (but unnamed), which was written by Stan Lee (from a Barry Windsor-Smith plot, who also drew it).

I think I watched Superboy every week, loved it. Lana was pretty hot.

Shuma-Gorath was first mentioned in MP #5 (Gardner F. Fox began writing at that point and did so up to issue #8).

Now that’s particularly interesting, because Fox was a huge fantasy fan who also wrote his own series of sword-and-sorcery novels (starring Kothar, Barbarian Swordsman). Normally I’d have thought Roy Thomas would have been the most likely suspect to insert Robert E. Howard references into the Marvel Universe, but I’m sure Fox was very familar with the source material himself.

Thanks, the Relic. I’ll add that in!

Roy Thomas and Neal Adams created an X-Men villain specifically-named after Sauron, Tolkien’s ultimate villain, although the Marvel character is totally-different in appearance and powers than the Lord of the Rings character.
The Marvel version appeared in multiple episodes of the “X-Men” animated series as well as one ep of the “Wolverine & X-Men” animated series and cameoed in the second X-Men movie (photo and name on computer screen readout of known mutants).
And there are Sauron action figures from Marvel.
None of this seems to conflict with the Tolkien estate who have their own Sauron action figures…

Gardner Fox also created the FIRST comic book barbarian: Crom the Barbarian, who appeared in only three stories in various titles published by Avon Comics in the 1950s, and probably named in tribute to Conan’s creator Robert E Howard!
Nobody complained about him being named after a Cimmerian god (who was named after a Celtic deity)…

If I remember correctly, Marvel did indeed own Kulan Gath but sold the character himself to Dynamite since Dynamite had the Red Sonja license. It was issue 12 of the Dynamite Red Sonja series, I believe. If they didn’t outright sell him (which I can’t find at the monent but seem to recall being the case) then they at the very least licensed the character to Dynamite to use with Red Sonja.

Englehart talks about having no clue to the Shuma-Gorath direction in the “Separate Reality” Dr. Strange collection. I don’t remember him mentioning Shuma-Gorath as a city.
One thing I wonder about, given that the whole arc was very HP Lovecraft, did they go with Shuma-Gorath rather than Yog-Sothoth or Cthulhu because they didn’t have any rights to use HPL? Or did they just want a little more flexibility rather than sticking with an existing mythos?

I’ve never been able to understand why MARVEL owns Shuma -Gorath, but not Red Sonja; Yeah, REH had a character named Red Sonya, but the Red Sonja that we know is basically 90% Roy Thomas.

Its funny, when I got into comics in the 90′s and loved a new series, I’d hunt down all the back issues I could – I did it with the Outsiders (got all their old 80′s series) and I did it when I started reading PAD’s Aquaman series, so I got all the minis one-shots and series from the 80′s – early 90′s!! haha… Lots of different takes on the character, but I enjoyed them all.

It was also a nice nod to this mini when PAD had another version of Aquaman wearing it for a couple of issues early in his run. It had Major Disaster, as a major bad ass! (haha…) and was one of my favorite issues!! :)

“I’ve never been able to understand why MARVEL owns Shuma -Gorath, but not Red Sonja; Yeah, REH had a character named Red Sonya, but the Red Sonja that we know is basically 90% Roy Thomas.”

Because Roy Thomas himself gave the rights to Conan Properties Inc, arguing that he didn’t really create Red Sonja (though he more or less did). When Sonja became big business, a new company, Red Sonja LLC, was formed. Then Marvel lost the trademark, the old CPI went bankrupt, and we have this bizarre situation of Red Sonja, Conan and Shuma-Gorath being trademarked by three different companies despite all being named by a Texan author of the 1930s.

Yes, the Craig Hamilton costume rocked, but I’m very curious if there was initially any desire than out of tradition in the DC offices to get Aquaman back to the orange & green.

Trajan23 – I’m just guessing, but Shuma-Gorath seems to have first appeared in the Marvel Universe Dr. Strange, while Red SonJa was created by Roy Thomas but featured in Conan, which was licensed with Roy Thomas who was in a special position with the owners of the Conan trademark so it’s possible that due to the arrangement Roy’s creations that appeared in the Conan & related titles like Kull are owned by them instead of Marvel.

As for Gardner Fox, didn’t he he have Felix Faust namedrop some Lovecraftian references in old JLA comics? Or am I misremembering?

Not that I think it matters, but for the trivia buffs, Shuma Gorath has been in video games since at least 1995 in the Marvel Super Heroes fighting game where he could wield the Infinity Gauntlet if you got all the gems.

He’s been a main stay in many of the Capcom fighters that feature Marvel characters since then. Why they have him in these games is a mystery (and they have Blackheart as well…Mephisto is playable as a hidden character in Marvel/Street Fighter, but he’s just a re-colored Blackheart). Odd choices, but I wonder if they were cheaper to license.

Taranaich:”Because Roy Thomas himself gave the rights to Conan Properties Inc, arguing that he didn’t really create Red Sonja (though he more or less did). When Sonja became big business, a new company, Red Sonja LLC, was formed. Then Marvel lost the trademark, the old CPI went bankrupt, and we have this bizarre situation of Red Sonja, Conan and Shuma-Gorath being trademarked by three different companies despite all being named by a Texan author of the 1930s.”

That’s fascinating. So Roy Thomas was free to relinquish rights to a character that he basically created, even though work for hire applied to everything else that he created while working for MARVEL. How does this work for all of the other characters that he was responsible for while writing Conan?Did he relinquish them as well?

Poor Aquaman. Anytime something new and interesting happens, something or someone screws it all up.

I did an article for BackIssue #46 (my last with the publication) concerning the Aquaman II Mini. More info and previously unpublished Craig Hamilton pencils therein.

Aha! I kept thinking “Hasn’t Brian done this Aquaman one already?” I was thinking of Richard’s excellent article in Back Issue. That whole issue (on aborted projects) is well worth checking out. (And mining for future Legends)

Felix Faust was reading the Necronomicon in his first appearance.
Shuma-Gorath actually shows up in Conan near the end of the Marvel run, with Kulan Gath (I think) trying to free him from the mountain where Crom had imprisoned him at some point.

There are also those Captain Marvel issues by – Alan Grant, perhaps? Shortly after the first Thanos saga. Uatu actually conspires with the Lunatic Legion, engages in a fistfight against Mar-Vell and ends up judged for that.

the desire by editorial for the orange and green is no mystery: that’s the costume of the character on all the licensed materials, including anything Super Friends. Had Aquaman not had his own cartoon in the 60′s, and thus been included in the Super Friends, DC editorial could care less, but there is potential merchandise to sell with the orange and green costume, especially at that time period.

the real question is why Aquaman was ever sold as his own cartoon in the first place. I’ve long suspected that it’s because Weisinger was connected to the West Coast licensors, and it was one of his creations. There was a huge interest in the oceans at that time from Jacques Cousteau and “Sea Hunt” (as seen in Sea Devils), but still, Aquaman had always been a backup character to that point, really.

jim kosmicki:”the real question is why Aquaman was ever sold as his own cartoon in the first place. I’ve long suspected that it’s because Weisinger was connected to the West Coast licensors, and it was one of his creations. There was a huge interest in the oceans at that time from Jacques Cousteau and “Sea Hunt” (as seen in Sea Devils), but still, Aquaman had always been a backup character to that point, really.”

I suspect that the fact that walking is harder to do in animation than swimming/flying might have also have had something to do with it as well.

If that is the case, why does Marvel NOT own Red Sonja? They changed the name and created the visual.. Chain mail bikini as well as changing the character.

Is Johnny Rockwell of the Superboy pilot any relation to Robert Rockwell, who played Jor-El in the first episode of The Adventures of Superman?

Many,if not all, of the scripts (Including the pilot) written for the proposed SUPERBOY series were later reworked for stories appearing in Superboy and Adventure Comics!

The 1961 pilot will also be an extra on the complete Smallville DVD set!

Sadly, Kulan Gath is a one trick pony.

Smokescreen: “Odd choices, but I wonder if they were cheaper to license.”

The Capcom fighting games were made by Japan. I think Japan in general recognizes the names and looks of some characters, but that is about all. Shuma-Gorath probably made it in because he offered a different play style and look. He returned because he became popular. (I don’t think Marvel cared quite as much back then either. And Capcom of America, which probably has more employees with more knowledge of Marvel, probably had less influence. Compare that to Marvel vs Capcom 3, where alternate colors for Marvel characters were designed specifically to bring alternate existing outfits to mind, and not just whatever color schemes some guy in Japan felt looked interesting or hadn’t bothered to use yet elsewhere.)

Remember that Japan’s old Spider-Man show wasn’t Peter Parker, and he had a giant robot.

Even recent shows play faster and looser with characters than American cartoon adaptations. The X-Men anime has an Inner Circle (“Hellfire Club” is never used, just “Inner Circle”) that consists of Mastermind, Emma Frost, a guy who produces spikes from his body, and a creepy molester-looking ghost guy who flings white goo at women and binds women in white tentacles. (I’m serious about the last guy. Watch the show and notice how he always goes after female characters.) Storm collapses if she tries to use her powers for five seconds. Xavier finds out that he has a previously unknown son who is a bit insane and has world-threatening reality manipulation powers, except the boy is now half-Japanese and not named Legion. Secondary mutations are generally lethal.

Or the Wolverine anime, where a now tall and slim Wolverine uses his super-hearing to track someone on a different floor of a skyscraper, clearly shows super-strength in multiple fights, and has claws that at times would seemingly have trouble cutting through a wet paper bag.

,,,Brian, one other thing to keep in mind: from what was going around the usenet/internet grapevines after the 2nd “Aquaman” mini was officially listed as cancelled, the reason Neil Pozner had made so little progress on the scripts was that he was having health issues. Issues that would lead to his being diagnosed with AIDS/HIV, which would eventually kill him in 1994. So it wasn’t as if he didn’t have any interest in doing the mini, but that his medical concerns took priority.

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