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Welcome to the three hundredth and seventy-eighth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. This week, learn how Spider-Man’s origin was strangely censored in the first issue of Amazing Spider-Man! Also, learn about the racy side of Beetle Bailey! Plus, who came up with Earth-616?
Click here for an archive of the previous three hundred and seventy-eight.
COMIC LEGEND: Stan Lee and Steve Ditko excised the whole “failed to stop the thief who then killed his uncle” aspect of Spider-Man’s origin in Amazing Spider-Man #1!
The always nifty Scott Edelman came across this a little while ago and it really blew my mind.
Here is the classic story of how Spider-Man went from being an entertainer into being a superhero, from Amazing Fantasy #15 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko…
So awesome. What a classic.
But as Scott notes, when the Spider-Man story continued in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man #1, they CHANGED THE ORIGIN!!!
Isn’t that amazing?
NO mention about how it was Spider-Man’s inaction that led to the burglar getting away and killing Uncle Ben, just that Peter is guilty that he was “busy” while Uncle Ben died. What a dramatic change! I know the space issue was obviously a concern, so that might have been the motivating factor more than a desire to “soften” the origin, but either way, it is a major change.
And while Amazing Fantasy #15 was reprinted in 1964 in the Marvel Tales Annual, I don’t know if they ever did address the “Uncle Ben died because of Spidey” angle until the classic #50 by Lee and John Romita, where that aspect is what drives Peter to become Spidey again after giving it up earlier in the issue…
What a great find by Edelman. It reminds me of the earlier Comic Book Legend about how Uncle Ben never actually SAYS “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility” in Amazing Fantasy #15. It fascinates me all of this stuff that we’ve all read for years without truly noticing it.
Thanks for the great find, Scott!
COMIC LEGEND: Mort Walker frequently would create racy versions of his Beetle Bailey comic strip as a gag.
Mort Walker has been working in comics for more than SIXTY YEARS. He is one of the legends of the business. His work on his creation Beetle Bailey and Hi and Lois have made him one of the most popular cartoonists of the past century.
Just this week I spotlighted some of his legendary first moments from Beetle Bailey in When We First Met.
Now, die hard fans of Mort Walker know that he has had this really funny habit over the years, a habit that was actually turned into a comic book in Sweden back in the mid-1990s.
You see, Walker liked to draw racy versions of Beetle Bailey as sketches to amuse himself and his friends.
They’re really bizarrely funny and it is amazing to know that they are collected into a book!
Here are some samples (remember, be warned – these is some R-rated stuff)…
Thanks to Shaenon Garrity of the Comics Journal for the sample images.
COMIC LEGEND: Alan Moore came up with Earth-616
STATUS: I Lean Towards False
In the Captain Britain feature in Daredevils #7, by Alans Moore and Davis, the term “616” was first used to describe the “real” Marvel universe (as opposed to all those alternate universes out there).
Naturally, Alan Moore is then credited as the coiner of the term. However, do note that in the 616 storyline Moore used a bunch of concepts that Davis had co-created on the series with earlier writer, Dave Thorpe, who Moore had replaced on the Captain Britain series.
Davis wrote in to Tom Brevoort a few years back to give Davis’ side of how the term came about:
616 is an alternate, and some say older, ‘sign of the beast’, 666. It has some basis in Greek numerology (ZAZ?) but I don’t recall the details. Although credited to Alan Moore, like much of the other Captain Britain folklore it was in place before he joined the book. (In actual fact the only significant addition Alan and I co-created was the Fury.) Jim Jaspers, the Crazy Gang, Saturnyne, the Omniversal organisation (Avante Guarde) Captain UK, etc were all conceived by Paul Neary or Dave Thorpe. Most of the more classic elements were Paul’s (he had worked on an Arthurian Black Knight strip for Marvel UK some years earlier that utilised Captain Britain and introduced Jackdaw). Dave Thorpe, who wasn’t a fan of the modern superhero genre, was responsible for most of the more madcap or satirical elements–such as recording his opinion of the Marvel Universe with the designation 616.
The irony is that the Multiverse was created out of Marvel UK’s desire to use Marvel US characters–which wouldn’t have been tolerated at the time. Setting the stories on an alternate Earth offered the opportunity to use any of the Marvel stars without concern for continuity–but Dave had no love for Marvel characters and Alan was offered SWAMP THING before he had finished his first arc so we never took advantage of the possibility.
Fascinating stuff from Davis.
Alan Moore has been asked about 616 in the past and has said that he just came up with a random number for the name (figuring it was just funny since we always get, like, Earth-1 or Earth-2 but not Earth-616), but it is certainly reasonable that Moore would not recollect that the number was already determined before he actually used it in a comic. Of course, Davis could be misremembering himself. Davis, though, tends to have a very sharp recall on matters of comic book history (I’ve always been really impressed with his thoroughness), so in this toss-up, I lean slightly towards Davis’ take.
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. And my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/brian_cronin, so you can ask me legends there, as well!
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See you all next week!
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