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Welcome to the three hundredth and ninety-fourth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. This week, we have the second of two weeks celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Death of Superman with a legend relating to the event. Was Neil Gaiman originally going to write the Death of Superman? In addition, we have two non-Death of Superman related legends. Did Lucasfilm allow a bootleg Star Wars comic adaptation finish up nearly thirty years after it began? And what was the deal with DC Comics’ so-called “Superstorm”?!
Click here for an archive of the previous three hundred and ninety-three.
COMIC LEGEND: The Death of Superman was based on a Neil Gaiman and Matt Wagner pitch.
STATUS: Some Truth to it, but Basically False
I’ve written in the past about how the Death of Superman arose out of the Superman writers being disallowed from telling the story they ORIGINALLY planned for that time period (roughly Superman #75), which was the wedding of Clark Kent and Lois Lane. The debut of the Lois and Clark TV series forced them to push the wedding back and while Mike Carlin and his writers were trying to figure out something to put in the place of the “event” of the wedding, the idea to kill him off temporarily was developed.
Reader Ron, though, wrote in awhile back to ask about how he recently heard that the idea to kill Superman off actually came from a pitch from Neil Gaiman and Matt Wagner.
So, did the same guy who gave us Death…
almost give us the Death of Superman?
The answer is…sort of.
I asked Neil about it and he explained that he and artist Matt Wagner (here’s a nice Superman cover by Matt Wagner…
did, indeed, pitch Archie Goodwin on a prestige format mini-series. Here is how Gaiman described it:
It was going to look like the Fleischer cartoons. There would have a been a Fall, a winter (with a dead Superman) and a spring rebirth. It would have been outside continuity.
With Carlin and the Superman team, though, having their OWN Death of Superman story (which I believe was developed independently – I have seen the story of the development of the Death of Superman so many times consistently describe the genesis of it that I believe it), Gaiman and Wagner’s series was dropped in favor of the in-continuity Death of Superman.
As Gaiman noted:
It was killed by mike Carlin for the best reason possible… he wanted the regular Superman team to get Superman glory and royalties, not two guys who’d come in, do a story and go.
And I never minded that they were the ones who got to kill Superman.
Amusingly enough, Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale later did a prestige format mini-series starring Superman based on the seasons, Superman for All Seasons…
Thanks so much to Neil Gaiman for the information! And thanks to Rob for the question!
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COMIC LEGEND: Nearly thirty years after the fact, Lucasfilm allowed a Hungarian bootleg adaptation of Star Wars to be officially finished.
Reader Robert V. filled me in on a fascinating occurrence in Hungary. During the 1980s, there was a Hungarian comic book adaptation of the first two Star Wars films.
Here’s two sample pages…
However, they never actually asked for permission and when Lucasfilm found out about it, they forced them to stop the adaptation. They had finished the first two films, but not Return of the Jedi.
Well, fast forward to just this year and Lucasfilm has actually allowed the local Hungarian Star Wars Fan Club to commission the original artist on the adaptations, the great Attila Fazekas, to do a 500 copy print run (absolutely no more than 500 copies) of an adaptation of Return of the Jedi!
It just came out last month!
Here’s a sample page…
And here‘s a web page about the event (with links to more images from the comic).
Isn’t that awesome? What a cool thing to do by Lucasfilm. Thanks so much to Robert for the head’s up on this cool story!
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COMIC LEGEND: Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo’s Luthor mini-series was originally part of an interconnected group of titles.
STATUS: Basically True
Clearly, one of the hardest things to do in comics is to coordinate multiple titles with different creative teams. Throw in some controversy and delays and things get even more difficult.
That was the problem with the so-called “Superstorm” series of books that were planned by DC in late 2004/early 2005.
Originally intended to launch out of Brian Azzarello and Jim Lee’s “For Tomorrow” storyline in Superman…
The Superstorm was going to be four interconnected but independent titles that all somewhat tied to the construction of a Spire in Metropolis. They were going to be (in addition to Azarello’s Superman) Luthor: Man of Steel…
The Question by Rick Veitch and Tommy Lee Edwards….
and the Vigilante by Micah Ian Wright.
The problem was that Micah Ian Wright then had a controversy that more or less led to him being dropped by DC entirely (I’ve decided I don’t want to dredge up an old screw-up by a guy from nearly a decade ago, so just go to Wright’s Wikipedia page if you want to know what happened. If I just posted stories about times comic book creators screwed up, I’d have enough material for years but I’d feel real icky about it, so I’m not getting into it). The tie-in books were pushed back well into 2005. However, Azzarello’s Superman run had already begun, so then THAT had to be re-written to take it more or less out of the Superstorm story.
Eventually, the Question and Luthor SORT of tied together, but not particularly (the Question mentions the Spire a lot, that’s basically it). Luthor ended up more or less a stand alone story (Azzarello just had the confrontation he planned for the pages of Superman take place in Luthor instead). They were both really good mini-series, by the way. Two top notch writers and two excellent artists.
Here’s Veitch on the issues of the Superstorm…
One of the odd things about doing the Question was that it was a Wildstorm book edited on the West Coast, but its set in the heart of DC continuity so the New York office should have been intimately involved. We had our original planning meetings in New York, but after that it seemed like there was a big disconnect. There was no coordination between the creators and publishing. Tommy and I didn’t even know Superstorm was in trouble until the first issue of Question was ready to roll out! Right now the only other Superstorm book that I know of that is on track is the ‘Luthor’ mini by Brian and Lee that’s just started coming out. It gets deeper into Luthor’s plans for the Spire. There was also supposed to be a ‘Vigilante’ series by Micah Wright, but he got let go. I don’t know what’s going on with that. And originally Jim and Brian were planning a ‘Superman’ arc that would show Luthor trying to kill Superman with the Spire to cap everything. But whether or not that’s going to happen is really a question for those guys.
As I just noted, it didn’t happen.
Ultimately, Bruce Jones did the Vigilante mini-series, but as to how much of Wright’s original pitch is in there, your guess is as good as mine.
Thanks to Steve F. for the suggestion and thanks to Rick Veitch (and Jonah Weiland, who interviewed Veitch) for the information!
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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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