web stats

CSBG Archive

Comic Book Legends Revealed #389

Welcome to the three hundredth and eighty-ninth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. This week, learn whether Thunderstrike was always destined to die! Also, did Jack Kirby really never draw blood? Finally, discover the comic crossover from over a century ago! This week is more interactive than usual, as two of the three legends have challenges for you readers out there!

Click here for an archive of the previous three hundred and eighty-eight.

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: Eric “Thunderstrike” Masterson was always destined to die.

STATUS: True

Someone asked me this a long time ago but I can’t find the name in my notes anywhere. Ah well, if it was you, unnamed person, chime in and let me know! Anyhow, the question was about Eric Masterson, the hero known as Thunderstrike, who filled in for Thor for a little while during the early 1990s. Eric was killed off in the final issue of Thunderstrike…

As the story goes, Tom DeFalco always intended for Eric to die. The unnamed reader wanted to know if that story is true.

I asked Tom about it and he told me:

Yes, Ron Frenz and I always knew that Eric Masterson would not survive his encounter with Thor and we routinely hinted at his fate throughout the series.

So I, of course, had to go through the Thor comics to find these hints and they really were pretty plentiful (although surely some of them were not intended to be actual hints and are just me reaching for hints).

In Eric’s first appearance…

Thor doesn’t use his “death-prediction” powers as much as he should.

Early on, Eric was pretty damn morbid and thought of his kid a lot in relation to his death…

Eric was kidnapped once by a villain who wanted to get to Thor, and notice how everyone figures he must be dead…

When Eric becomes Thor for awhile, the obsession with death and his own mortalty keeps up….

The BIGGEST hint, though, was when the Thor from the future looks into what will happen to Eric in the future…

Yikes, right?

A few issues later, DeFalco presents that flash-forward as Eric thinking about having to give up being Thor…

But, well, how would the future flashforward show Eric’s thoughts? It still looks pretty grim.

The hints are stronger in one of the last issues that Eric appeared in as Thor, where he meets up with a villain who had been transported to the future in the previous adventure with the future Thor…

Now Eric is actually thinking he is destined to die…

In the later issues of Thunderstrike, the whole death thing gets even more obvious, like when Thunderstrike meets Hela…

And six issues before he dies, DeFalco and Frenz go as obvious as they can, as they clearly know Eric WILL be dying in six issues, so in a fight against Seth, the Serpent God of Death, Eric is literally marked for death…

Fascinating stuff, looking back at all the various hints over sixty or so comic books. Also time-consuming. ;)

Thanks to Tom DeFalco for the answer and thanks to the unnamed reader who asked me about it !

COMIC LEGEND: Jack Kirby never drew blood in a comic.

STATUS: False

Longtime reader Da Fug asked me if it is true that Jack Kirby never drew blood in comics.

Obviously, during the Comics Code era, blood was difficult to find. Check out this scene from a Kirby/Lee Thor issue…

But Kirby went way back, of course, to the pre-Comics Code days. So I looked into some early Captain Americas.

Now on the one hand, blood was still pretty sparse (it is important to note that even as early as 1941, comic book publishers were wary about depictions of violence. They feared the Wertham-style backlash a decade before it actually came to pass)…

Kirby did, indeed, draw blood in Captain America #1…

Now you might say, “But Brian, you stupid idiot, Kirby and Simon traded penciling duties in most of #1! How do you know that wasn’t Simon who drew that?”

Fair enough, so here from Captain America #3, in a story penciled only by Kirby, more blood…

Some commenters argue that the blood could have been added by the colorist. Kirby and Simon were in charge of the production of the comic, so no one was putting things into their comics without their permission, but fair enough, if you really want something more explicit, here’s a 1947 story from Prize’s Headline Comics #26, penciled by Jack Kirby…

So Kirby DID draw blood in his career (note that while other artists were doing tons of blood and gore in their crime comics, that was pretty much the extent of Kirby’s depiction of blood in his crime comics and even THAT decreased substantially in the next year or so, as Kirby was likely worried about the crime comics backlash at the time).

An interesting exercise for you readers is to find me examples of Kirby drawing blood in a Comics Code book. Blood WAS technically allowed in Comics Code approved books so long as it was not excessive, but did Kirby actually ever draw it in a Comics Code approved book? I tend to doubt it, but I obviously can’t say for sure.

Thanks to Da Fug for the question!

COMIC LEGEND: The Chicago Sunday Tribune had a comic crossover over a hundred years ago!

STATUS: True

A little while ago, I told you all about William H. D. Koerner’s Hugo Hercules, perhaps the first super-strong comic character. Hugo Hercules was a short-lived comic strip in the Chicago Tribune. However, reader Ed Love noted that Hugo Hercules was involved in something even MORE interesting. In November of 1902, Hugo Hercules was involved in a crossover with the other comic strips in the Chicago Tribune comics supplement! He saves them from a fire (that appears to have been set by one of the other strips in an attempt to wipe out competition)…

How awesome is that?

The comics being featured are three characters from strips by Brad Bradford, Archie the Amateur…

Boggs the Optimist (Archie and Boggs ostensibly shared a strip)….

and the Ingenious Ruggles…

Alice and the Duchess were from Alice’s Adventures in Funnyland, a strip by R.W. Taylor that began as a rip-off of Alice in Wonderland but soon became a standard “nanny trying to keep crazy kid in check” strip…

Thanks to Ed Love for the cool information and thanks to Barnacle Press for the scans! And thanks to ollieno, M Bloom and buttler for the identification of Archie, Boggs, Ruggles and Alice.

Okay, that’s it for this week!

Thanks to the Grand Comics Database for this week’s covers! And thanks to Brandon Hanvey for the Comic Book Legends Revealed logo!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is cronb01@aol.com. And my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/brian_cronin, so you can ask me legends there, as well!

Here’s my new book, Why Does Batman Carry Shark Repellent? It came out this week! The cover is by Kevin Hopgood (the fellow who designed War Machine’s armor).

If you want to order a copy, ordering it here gives me a referral fee.

Follow Comics Should Be Good on Twitter and on Facebook (also, feel free to share Comic Book Legends Revealed on our Facebook page!). If we hit 3,000 likes on Facebook you’ll get a bonus edition of Comic Book Legends the week after we hit 3,000 likes! So go like us on Facebook to get that extra Comic Book Legends Revealed! Not only will you get updates when new blog posts show up on both Twitter and Facebook, but you’ll get original content from me, as well!

Also, be sure to check out my website, Urban Legends Revealed, where I look into urban legends about the worlds of entertainment and sports, which you can find here, at urbanlegendsrevealed.com.

Here’s my book of Comic Book Legends (130 legends – half of them are re-worked classic legends I’ve featured on the blog and half of them are legends never published on the blog!).

The cover is by artist Mickey Duzyj. He did a great job on it…(click to enlarge)…

If you’d like to order it, you can use the following code if you’d like to send me a bit of a referral fee…

Was Superman a Spy?: And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed

See you all next week!

47 Comments

Spiky Thor costume: not a good look!

Fair enough, so here from Captain America #3, in a story penciled only by Kirby, more blood…

And they even included an arrow, pointing right at some of that blood! ;)

Hey brian nice column as always

I remember ahving send you some questions a good long time ago..and one was about eric masterton .;maybe that was me ?

I thought the hundred-year-old crossover was going to be the Yellow Kid’s appearance in that Joss Whedon Runaways book.

Archie and boggs come from a comic strip ( with the same name ?? ) by brad bradford.

I had no idea Masterson was always slated for death. I recall actually enjoying Thor for the first time (I started collecting after the Simonson run) when the title character suddenly was a human being with the powers of Thor and only limited knowledge of him.

Alice and the Duchess are from Alice’s Adventures in Funnyland, apparently a short-live strip that ran from 1901-05.

“And yet I sense intense pain and anguish in his future! Why? WHY?!”

Comics: They don’t make ‘em like they used to.

Even though I followed Thor (well, erratically) during Eric’s tenure, I never picked up on that.

Both “Archie and Boggs” and the “Ingenious Ruggle”s that’s mentioned are comic strips by Brad Bradford. There are collections out there. Just as easy!

Freeze you later,
buttler

Hooo boy, the 90s were not kind to Thor. You know it’s bad when your replacement looks more like you than you do.

Talk about a perfect example of the Ron Frenz Rule of Costume Design, no?

Interesting batch of legends. The old Hugo Hercules strips are really interesting, although it’s nice when anything from that era shows up.
Regarding the Kirby blood, this may be nitpicky, but there aren’t any outlines around the blood, so it seems possible that Kirby did not actually draw it, but the colorist added it on their own. Or did Kirby color his art at that point as well?

Looking at the Kirby art again, especially in the third panel on that page, it looks as if Kirby just drew the brow and forehead wrinkles on the man, and the colorist misinterpreted those lines as a wound, and added the blood. Maybe I’m way off, but it just doesn’t seem to me that this specific instance seals the deal on the “Kirby drawing blood” legend.

From that scene in captain America 3, at least to my eyes, it doesn’t look like that blood was in the pencil/ink art, but was only included via the coloring. Is that possible, that whoever colored the book added the blood, and that Kirby has nothing to do with it? My knowledge of how comics were made in the golden age is virtually non-existent.

“An interesting exercise for you readers is to find me examples of Kirby drawing blood in a Comics Code book.”

So you’ll read through the whole Eric Masterson run to find hints of his impending death, but you won’t look through 87 thousand Kirby comics to find blood?

You’re getting lazy, Brian :p

I was a big fan of the Masterson-Thor run but never read all of it, as back then I was buying much of my comics from the newsstand in my small LCS-less hometown. Too bad almost none of it has been collected.

Yeah, I’m not sold on the blood thing. There are no lines around it, it’s just color. It could have just as easily been the colorist as Kirby.

Pshaw. Kirby drew Blood in every issue of The Demon.

Honestly, those DeFalco & Frenz issues had some pretty solid stuff for what Marvel was putting out at the time. I ended up buying about a 20 issue run through the Thor war and Masterson era for a nice cheap $5 and ended up loving it…

Just for you doubting thomases, I added another pre-Code Kirby page with blood in it.

Cool! Thanks for featuring my legend, Brian! I kinda figured my Kirby IQ was just low. It will be interesting to see if anyone comes up with Code blood.

I dunno, on that new page, it looks like the puddles could have been intended to be urine, judging from the placement. :P

“Code blood” sounds like the worst soft drink ever.

I think you’re giving golden age colourists too much credit. Firstly, wasn’t Captain America done by the Simon Kirby studio? in which case, I doubt that got delivered without one or both of them signing off on it. Also, though we’d have to see the original pages to be certain, the blood looks to have been drawn logically… I’d assume it was indicated on an overlay (or some similar method of indicating it to the colourist).

Just an opinion, I realize, but I haven’t seen a lot (if any) examples of golden age colourists being proactive.

I think you’re giving golden age colourists too much credit. Firstly, wasn’t Captain America done by the Simon Kirby studio? in which case, I doubt that got delivered without one or both of them signing off on it. Also, though we’d have to see the original pages to be certain, the blood looks to have been drawn logically… I’d assume it was indicated on an overlay (or some similar method of indicating it to the colourist).

Just an opinion, I realize, but I haven’t seen a lot (if any) examples of golden age colourists being proactive.

I tend to agree, Bill, but just in case we’re both wrong, I included the Prize Comics’ story, as well.

Interestingly, the copy of Captain America Comics #3 that is available with Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited doesn’t have any blood in those panels.

That IS interesting. How odd. My version is from the late 1990s Cap: Classic Years trade.

Yeah, that raises the question of which version is an accurate recreation of the original. There’s no getting around the blood in the newer example, though.

On page 16 of Captain America 213 (’77), it sure looks like Steve has a bloody nose and lip in the last panel from the beating he just took, but it wasn’t colored red, and at that distance the color might not show anyway. He has a lot of marks on his face prior to that which look like they could have used some red and pink around them, but it’s not a trickle as in the last panel. He doesn’t appear again until the last page, by then he’s had time to get cleaned up. I’m looking at scans of the original comic, if it was reprinted later who knows.

And wow, those were some awful times for Thor, costume-wise and story-wise. I’ve never been a fan of DeFalco’s writing, and I feel that as editor in chief he presided over a huge slide in quality overall, BUT I also know that I don’t envy anyone taking over the Thor book on the heels of Simonson’s run on it! Going in a totally new direction was probably the right thing to do, and Eric Masterson brought a hint of Donald Blake back into the book without actually bringing Don back.

Thanks for that detailed Thunderstrike answer, Brian. I’ve always liked the character but never collected any of his own comics, something I’m now inspired to rectify.

Prize’s Headline Comics #26 appears to be miscolored more than anything.
In the first page/panel, the “blood” is drawn like water (as shown in the second page, fourth panel.)
On the second page, fourth panel, there is water drawn. Yet in the fifth panel of him lying on the ground, there is no water around.

@Ganky: They’re actually quite good in their own terms, particularly compared to some of the stuff that came later. I can’t very well fault them for not being as good as Simonson’s.

“An interesting exercise for you readers is to find me examples of Kirby drawing blood in a Comics Code book.”

They couldn’t even draw sweat during those CC days…

So how did Thunder Strike die? Did they launch his solo title with the purpose of canceling it?

Those pages inked by Brett Breeding really shine. Man, what an underrated inker! The non-Breeding pages just don’t compare. (I am right in saying that some of the earlier pictures excerpted above are inked by Breeding, right?)

Brian read 60 some Thor/Thunderstrike comics by DeFalco, which means he read…

um, carry the 2, do the square root, multiply the woozit….

Approximately 2 million exclamation points. That may be low.

Bill Reed is crying about Thunderstrike, somewhere.

And Buttler’s Demon comment FTW.

Wasn’t “Code Blood” that book that Malcolm Jones was going to do? ;)

And to echo T, Brett Breeding is a fine inker. He worked on the Superman books, too, right? Was it Jurgens he inked a lot?

Separate comment here, in case Brian wants to use this for a future Legend (for some reason):

I wonder if the reason the blood is not in the digital comic one poster above mentions has to do with how the page was prepared.

Some people might have heard of Theakstonization, named for artist Greg Theakston.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greg_Theakston

Under “Comics Restoration”, we get a brief explanation of the process, and what I’ve read about it matches. Essentially, the color is “bleached out” of old comics pages in a way that leaves just the black and white line art. As that would eliminate the “blood” in that Cap page, perhaps when the page was recolored for the digital version, they forgot to look at how the original looked and left out the blood.

Or else it’s a recolored version that the new colorist decided that the blood shouldn’t have been there.

But from what I know of art, and preparing for color print, there are ways to indicate to the colorist that such and such a bit of line work should be “dropped in” (I believe is the term) as just red, or just blue, etc. Maybe that’s what was done here.

There’s also the old story that the colorists were little old ladies in Connecticut, or somewhere, and just colored books with little regard for artistic intent. Or something like that.

Ron Frenz is such an underrated comic PRO!!!

I never read the Thor run by DeFalco and Frenz, but I did read the solo Thunderstrike book (my son got the first issue as a Halloween treat from a newsstand in the mall). I really enjoyed the Thunderstrike book, but in the same way that I enjoyed the !mpact books from DC. It was an older style of comic-book storytelling, but one that I could appreciate from a nostalgic perspective. I also enjoyed most of the Defalco-led M2 books, so my critical credibility is completely ruined. I think this series was also part of Marvel’s short-lived second book in the back initiative and had the Code Blue stories for four issues or so. I remember liking those stories quite a lot.

As far as the blood, two panels are very clear: The Guard on the splash page from “Prize…” is obviously shot and doubled over in a pool of his own blood (even if the puddle in the street is miscolored) and the shot criminal in the next to the last panel of the last page is also obviously bleeding out.
Regarding Ron Frenz, I loved is retro Kirbyesque stuff on Thor and related books. He also did a great job on Spider-Man in the mid-late 80′s with a very Ditkoesque flavor.
In reference to Brian, your “Legends Revealed” web sites rock ! Thank for your efforts !

Brian, thanks for the look back on Eric. As one of the only left handed heroes in comics, I enjoyed him. (and was tickled pink that they got his heroclix right!)

Marvel may have overhyped the ‘everyman’ hero bit, but Eric was a nice change for me. He wasn’t comically incompetent, instead he was a guy doing his best, and occasionally failing. I thought his death was well done, and actually hope he stays dead as a result of the storyline.

“The World Still Needs Heroes.”

Me too (and I mean that in a good way). With his son taking over the gig in the last Thunderstrike series, I think Eric’s safe in heaven.

>So how did Thunder Strike die? Did they launch his solo title with the purpose of canceling it?

Basically, yes. DeFalco has stated Eric’s death was delayed for some time because the character became so popular; under the original plan, he probably would have died in the pages of Thor rather than spinning off into his own title. Despite this, DeFalco & Frenz didn’t mean to end the series when they did: the anecdote states Thunderstrike was outselling Thor at the time, so someone thought by cancelling Thunderstrike, they’d increase sales on Thor. Eric’s death was followed by Warren Ellis & Mike Deodato’s Thor arc, which… I don’t think was geared to welcome Thunderstrike fans home.

As to Eric’s death, he claimed the titular weapon of Bloodaxe, being the enchanted axe which Skurge the Executioner once wielded. Eric hoped with Bloodaxe’s power he could save the Earth from Seth; this worked, but the axe corrupted Eric and drove him evil. He fought the Avengers (allowing us the rare privilege of seeing both Thor & Captain America in their terrible mid-90s armours) and finally – with the help of Skurge himself in astral form – Eric destroyed the axe, but died in the resulting explosion. His final words were, “Hoo boy.”

THE WORLD STILL NEEDS HEROES

Well, damn you to hell, then, DeFalco and Frenz, for making me love Eric Masterson so much.

Honestly, couldn’t he have been a jerk or something?

“Brian, thanks for the look back on Eric. As one of the only left handed heroes in comics, I enjoyed him. (and was tickled pink that they got his heroclix right!)”.

Hey, that makes a good legend.

Brian, is it true? Thunderstrike is the only left hand hero in the wohle world of comics???

I dare you! :)

I know Batman was ambidextrous–signed as Bruce with one hand, Bats with the other to cover up his identity.

Leave a Comment

 

Categories

Review Copies

Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.

Browse the Archives