Comic Book Legends Revealed #381
Welcome to the three hundredth and eighty-first in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false.
Click here for an archive of the previous three hundred and eighty.
COMIC LEGEND: During 1904, there were dueling Wizard of Oz-based comic strips.
While everyone is familiar with L. Frank Baum’s classic The Wonderful World of Oz (which was published in 1900), less famous is the illustrator of the book, W.W. Denslow.
Here is one of Denslow’s pages from the book, where he defined the look for the various Oz characters…
Interestingly enough, Denslow owned the copyright to the first book with Baum 50/50.
While the book was popular upon its release, it was not until the book was adapted into a play in 1902 that it became a sensation.
It was also at this time that Denslow and Baum had a falling out. Denslow felt that he was being squeezed out of profits from the play.
Well, with the play now being such a success, Baum was “forced” to do a sequel to the first book. The Marvelous World of Oz debuted in 1905 and was illustrated by John R. Neill, who drew most of the future Oz works from that point on.
As a promotion for the new book, Baum did a comic strip with artist Walt McDougall called Queer Visitors from Oz beginning in 1904. Here is a sample…
Denslow was pissed at being cut off, so he actually did his OWN competing comic strip, The Adventures of Scarecrow and Tinman. Here is a sample…
As you can see, these early comic strips were more like illustrated stories, and Denslow’s stories were later collected into a children’s book.
Here are pages from the collected book…
Sadly (for Denslow), even then, Baum was accepted as the “real” author of the Oz characters and while Queer Visitors was a hit (as was the new novels, which Baum would continue putting out until his death in 1919), Denslow’s strip faded into obscurity very quickly.
Still, it’s amazing to know that we used to have not one, but TWO comic strips based on the Wizard of Oz…AS THE BOOKS WERE COMING OUT!
Thanks to Sunday Press Books for the sample pages of the strips and thanks to James Wallace for the scans of the Denslow book. If you’re interested, Sunday Press Books has collected all of the strips (the Baum/McDougall as well as the Denslow) into a book. Read more about it here.
COMIC LEGEND: Chris Claremont planned to explain Kitty Pryde’s absence during his second X-Men run.
One of the stranger seemingly abandoned comic book plotlines came in Chris Claremont’s second X-Men run when, in his first issue, (X-Men #100), Kitty Pryde uses armor from one of the Neo (the bad guys Claremont introduced in that issue) for a daring escape and is presumed dead…
(it seemed at the time as though Claremont was doing an homage to Jean Grey’s sacrifice at the end of the first X-Men #100)
She never shows up again during his second run on the books, although she does pop up in his X-Treme X-Men eventually.
As it turned out, it was a case of editorial changing Claremont’s story after it was too late to change the first part.
As Claremont later recalled:
My idea was to establish Kitty as a subplot that would run through the conclusion of the Neo arc, around (X-Men vol.2) #104-105, and then move center stage. Then, (the X-Men) go after Kitty. When the arc structure got nuked by the editorial decision to reunite the two books and teams in July, to coincide with the movie, the Kitty arc was shifted over to a stand-alone mini-series (X-Men: Shadowcat – Captains Courageous) which would cast Kitty and a team of Captains as a kind of pan-temporal S.W.A.T. team, dealing with crises on alternate Earths and serve as the foundation/springboard for a possible new ongoing series.
The Captains Courageous mini-series was based on an idea Claremont was going to do with Nightcrawler back when Claremont was working on Excalibur. He didn’t get a chance to do it then, and, as it turned out, he didn’t get a chance to do it this second time, either. Claremont continued:
We had plots, we had an artist (Lee Moder) but then the green light turned orange after Labor Day and the whole shebang fell into turnaround Hell. I have further plans for Kitty and assorted other characters, and for the macro-story I set out to tell in her series, but I’m leery of talking about them too far in advance for fear I’ll jinx the concepts.
In the end, Claremont had to throw in a bit in his last issue where Viper just basically tells Wolverine, “Trust me, Kitty is still alive.”
She showed up in the next issue, which was written by Scott Lobdell. He explains that Kitty has moved on, but does not explain what she was doing in the missing time. The missing time in Kitty’s life has never been explained.
Thanks to Chris Claremont, Cinescape and Michael C.T. Andersen for the information!
COMIC LEGEND: Paul Grist’s Jack Staff was based on a rejected Union Jack series proposal for Marvel Comics.
Jack Staff is an excellent series of comics by writer/artist Paul Grist which tell the story of a new British hero (the aforementioned Jack Staff) surrounded by characters based on heroes from British comic book past…
For years, people have told the story that Jack Staff was based on a rejected proposal that Grist had made for a Union Jack series at Marvel.
However, the truth was more complicated than that. Yes, it is true that Grist thought about working on a pitch for a Union Jack series at Marvel in the late 1990s, going so far as to ask Tom Brevoort if they’d be interested in such a proposal.
As Brevoort notes in the comments:
I can’t seem to lay hands on it at the moment, but back during the time that Paul was doing some work for Marvel on things like the DAILY BUGLE limited series he wrote, he at one point sent me a letter with a drawing of Union Jack at the bottom of it asking if we might be in the market for a pitch. But at that point the UNION JACK series that I edited with Ben Raab and John Cassaday was either just about to come out or had just come out, and so nothing ever came of it–aside from that one letter drawing.
Thus, since it never got to the point where Grist actually began the proposal it was never rejected. Instead, Grist decided that INSTEAD of doing Union Jack, he would use his ideas for a brand-new hero, which became Jack Staff.
As Brevoort and Grist both noted, at the time he was considering making his pitch, Marvel had just done a Union Jack mini-series anyways (the one with John Cassaday art)…
Still, it is definitely a major “What If…?” for what if Grist HAD made his proposal. I think we’re better off that he did not, as Jack Staff is awesome and I doubt we’d have had this many years of Union Jack by Paul Grist.
Thanks to Paul Grist for the information (and to some slight corrections in the initial piece)! Thanks to Tom Brevoort, as well, for some more information!
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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The cover is by artist Mickey Duzyj. He did a great job on it…(click to enlarge)…
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See you all next week!