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Welcome to the three hundredth and sixty-eighth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. This week, an unexpected theme developed. Comics that are so bad that they’re good! This week, learn of how Evel Knievel inadvertently led to one of the oddest (yet awesomest) Marvel Comics of the late 1970s/early 1980s. Also, an amazing tale of how the first issue of that title was made! Plus, did the Thing show up before Fantastic Four #1?!?!
Click here for an archive of the previous three hundred and sixty-seven.
COMIC LEGEND: A 1977 arrest of Evel Knievel led to the creation of Team America.
Evel Knievel was the most famous stunt motorcyclist in the world during the 1970s. He was riding high with plenty of big ticket endorsements.
His career took a major hit in 1977 when he served a six month jail sentence for assaulting one of his former promoters, Shelly Saltman, for writing an unflattering book about him.
At the time, one of his endorsement deals was for a line of toys by Ideal Toys, most famously the Stunt Cycle.
Well, after his conviction, Ideal Toys canceled the contract and re-released the toys as Team America…
In 1974, Marvel had produced a promotional Evel Knievel comic book for Ideal promoting the various Evel Knievel toys Ideal was making at the time (thanks to Brent Frankenhoff for letting me know about this comic).
So a couple of years after Ideal launched the “Team America” replacement line of toys, that connection (also likely inspired by the success that Hasbro had with having Marvel craft a back story for the G.I. Joe action figures) led to Ideal hiring Marvel Comics to make a comic book based on the Team America toy line. Team America first showed up in the pages of Captain America #269…
You don’t get much more awesome than Captain America doing motorcycle tricks with a bunch of dudes in polyester! Look how happy Cap seems!!
However, when it came time to write an ongoing series starring the characters, Marvel really did not yet have an idea of exactly WHAT to do with the characters, which leads us to our second legend of the day (Thanks to the King of the Stuntmen for the images of the Stunt Cycles)…
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