INTERVIEW: DiDio & Lee on "Dark Knight 3," Vertigo's Future & DC's Evolving Readership
Welcome to the three hundredth and fifty-sixth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Today, what was so controversial about a Static issue that DC would not release the original cover? Speaking of obscene, was the first daily comic strip seriously canceled because William Randolph Hearst found it obscene? Finally, discover how comic books gave the world…Chess Boxing!
Click here for an archive of the previous three hundred and fifty-five.
COMIC LEGEND: DC refused to publish the cover of an issue of Static because it showed sex.
In Spring of 1995, Milestone Comics (through DC Comics) released Static #25, a frank look at teenage sex by Ivan Velez, Jr., penciler Wilfred and inkers John Stanisci and Steve Mitchell.
In it, Virgil “Static” Hawkins loses his virginity to his girlfriend, Daisy (not before talking about it with his dad first)…
Here is the original cover for the book…
However, Milestone Editor-in-Chief Dwayne McDuffie soon found out that the cover was not approved. He initially thought it might be because they show condoms on the cover. He offered to edit them out. DC said that no, the real issue was that it depicted sex.
In the end, the compromise was making the original cover appear as an interior cover, beneath the following cover…
McDuffie, though, was not pleased. He discussed the issue in the letter page of Static #25…
Here’s the sad part, if I had commissioned a cover where Daisy was wearing a thong and kicking one leg high in the air so everybody could get a really good look at her crotch, or if she had her back to the camera and her spine arched at an improbable angle to accentuate her ass, or if her enormous breasts, miraculously immune to the effects of gravity, were positioned so you couldn’t quite tell whether those shadows were her nipples, there would be no problem. Problem>? Heck, we’d probably have a “hot book” on our hands.
Later on, he specifically mentions this Legionnaires cover by Adam Hughes from the previous year as an example of such a cover as he described…
It is too bad that two teens kissing was seen as too much.
Thanks to reader David A. for suggesting I feature this one.
COMIC LEGEND: The sport of Chess Boxing was inspired by a comic book.
You may or may not have heard of it, but Chess Boxing has become a rather hip sport, mostly in Europe.
The concept is simple – competitors begin with a four-minute chess round. Then they box for three minutes. They alternate rounds up to eleven rounds (with a minute break between rounds). You can win by either knocking your opponent out, achieving checkmate, having your opponent use up all of his/her time during chess (as there is a time limit to the match) or by judge’s decision based on the boxing if everything else is a tie.
While the idea of combining chess and boxing in fiction appears as though it might go back awhile (even to the 1970s), the inspiration for actually PLAYING the sport lies directly with a 1992 comic book by the great French comic book artist and filmmaker, Enki Bilal. In the third part of his acclaimed Nikopol Trilogy, Cold Equator, Bilal depicts Chess Boxing…
Dutch artist Iepe Rubingh began doing Chess Boxing in 2003 as a piece of performance art (he specifically cited Bilal as an inspiration, although he changed how the rules worked from Bilal’s book. In Bilal’s book, it was a full boxing match and then a full chess match, not alternating back and forth rounds like Chess Boxing is today). However, while it began as performance art, Rubingh soon found that the sport was actually quite fun. Over time, more and more matches began taking place. The first World Championship tournament in the sport was held in 2005. It has only grown in popularity ever since.
You can check the World Chess Boxing Organization’s website out here.
Thanks to reader Steve D. for recommending I feature this one!
COMIC LEGEND: The first daily comic strip was canceled because William Randolph Hearst found it too obscene and/or too vulgar.
STATUS: I’m Going With False
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the first successful daily comic strip, A. Mutt (which became better known as Mutt and Jeff).
A. Mutt was quite similar (although I’ve never seen anything to show that the similarities between the two strips were anything but coincidental) to a comic strip from December 1903-May 1904 by Claire Briggs in the Hearst newspaper the Chicago American called A Piker’s Clerk, which was about a man who would place bets (on actual horses) every day and then fans could tune in to see if he won his bets (and possibly take betting advice from him).
A. Piker’s Clerk is often credited as being the first daily newspaper comic strip.
A part of the legend of A. Piker’s Clerk (so much so that you can see it referenced in a dozen or so comic history books) is that it was canceled by publisher William Randolph Hearst because Hearst found it either too vulgar or too obscene. This part of the story, though, was only told by Briggs’ editor at the time, Moses Koenigsburg and he wrote about it way back in 1941. Since then, it has just been accepted as fact. However, slightly more recent work by comic historians such as the great Bill Blackbeard have cast much doubt on this story.
First of all, the notion that Hearst, king of sensationalist news, would have a problem with a comic strip about gambling? That just seems hard to believe. Especially because just three years later Hearst was falling over himself to hire Bud Fisher to do A. Mutt for Hearts’s papers (and again, A.Mutt had the same exact set-up – daily comic strip about a guy gambling on a different horse each day – although Fisher would keep a running tally of how well Mutt was doing, something Briggs didn’t do), so he sure didn’t find the idea too obscene or too vulgar THEN.
Most importantly, though, is the fact that after the initial three week daily run of the strip, it appeared sporadically in the Chicago American over the next five months. If the strip had been dropped because of its vulgarity, why did it keep appearing?
Here’s another strip from later in the strip’s run…
More likely it got dropped because it just wasn’t doing well, despite Koenigsburg claims to the contrary (Blackbeard posited a fascinating theory that the strip was hurt by the fact that when it was a daily strip, it would not appear in ALL the editions of the daily newspaper, which had twelve editions at the time, and the lack of consistency in where readers could find the strip hurt its popularity).
In any event, I think the evidence strongly leans against Koenisburg – Hearst seems unlikely to have a problem with a strip like this, but moreover, it DIDN’T stop right away – it kept going for months, so I’m going with a false here.
Thanks to Bill Blackbeard for the great research.
Okay, that’s it for this week!
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