Comic Book Legends Revealed #375
Welcome to the three hundredth and seventy-fifth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. This week, did DC Comics do an anti-drug storyline in a 1990s Batman comic at the behest of the government? Plus, a Marvel comic in the 1990s killed by the Comics Code! Also, an interesting “crossover” in DC Comics where Supergirl hears other books in the New 52!
Click here for an archive of the previous three hundred and seventy-four.
COMIC LEGEND: A government agency paid DC to do an anti-drug comic storyline in Batman: Shadow of the Bat.
I think this takes the cake for the longest time between the question being asked and me answering it (although A. I’m probably mistaken about that and B. The longer the column runs, the longer the gaps will be, I suppose).
Back in Aught Seven, reader Nate P. asked:
Is it true that the “Leaves of Grass” story that ran in Batman: Shadow of the Bat 56-58 was paid for by the Office of National Drug Control Policy?
I had heard that the ONDNP gave money to DC to publish a story with a strong anti-marijuana message. And so DC got Alan Grant to do come up with something for the Narcs, and he did: a propaganda Batman story with Jason Woodrue making genetically-enhanced super-duper-reefer, and an ensuing drug war.
The storyline IS about marijuana, but I don’t think it is a propaganda story. Here are some pages from the first part. It sure looks like Grant is being even-handed here…
But anyhow, WAS DC paid to do it?
I asked the great Alan Grant himself and he gave me the fascinating lowdown on the story:
As a lover of conspiracy theories myself, I’d be very happy if the ONDCP had paid DC to have an anti-marijuana storyline (or if High Times had paid DC for a pro-marijuana storyline).
The reality is unfortunately not so intriguing.
I wanted to do a drugs storyline, neither pro nor con, but showing how Robin as a 15-year-old was bound to have come into contact at school etc with illegal drugs. If anything, I myself am for the legalisation – or at least the decriminalisation – of marijuana. My editor, Denny o’Neil, had no problems with the storyline, but the feeling in the higher echelons of the company was that I might be trying to sneak pro-drugs propaganda into a DC comic (something I’d either do openly or not at all).
Consequently each script for the 3-part series (“Leaves of Grass”, Shadow of the Bat 56/57/58) was personally vetted by DC’s top boss, Paul Levitz. To the best of my knowledge, Paul didn’t change a single
word in any of the scripts.
And the story didn’t change a thing in the real world… Ho hum. Such is life.
So sorry, Nate! Five years and not the answer I bet you were looking for.
Thanks for the question, though! And thanks, of course, to the always excellent Alan Grant for the answer.