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Welcome to the four hundredth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. This week, in honor of the four hundredth edition of Comic Book Legends Revealed, you’ll get a TRIPLE-sized column this week, in three parts (today, tomorrow and Sunday). The special theme this week will be that I will feature one legend that was suggested to me in each of the nine years that I’ve been doing the column, so a legend someone suggested in 2005, a legend from 2006, etc. All the way up to 2013, which is only a few days old! Today, we learn the truth behind whether Steve Ditko and Stan Lee really fought over whether to reveal that Norman Osborn was the Green Goblin! We learn of the bizarre superhero version of the Shadow from the 1960s that was written by Superman creator, Jerry Siegel! Finally, we learn about how the Son of Sam case led police right to DC Comics!
Click here for an archive of the previous three hundred and ninety-nine.
COMIC LEGEND: Steve Ditko did not want the Green Goblin to be revealed as Norman Osborn.
STATUS: Seems to be False
In July of 2009, reader “A Tari,” wrote in to ask:
Didn’t seen this covered, thought it would be a good one at some point. The guy who runs spiderkicksbutt.com postulated that the breakup of the legendary Ditko/Lee team from the Silver Age was over the idea that Ditko did NOT want Norman Osborn to be Green Goblin. I was wondering if anyone knows this for sure, or if it could be found out?
While this is the suggestion I was able to find, I’m sure someone has asked me about this in other years, as well, as it is one of the most famous comic book urban legends I’ve come across over the years. However, it is also one that people have mostly gotten WRONG over the years. Heck, I believe in my first book, Was Superman a Spy?, I even got it wrong initially!
In that book, I correctly noted that there were so many reasons for Ditko to leave Amazing Spider-Man (mostly financial stuff) that it was highly unlikely that he left because of a dispute with Stan Lee over who the Green Goblin was going to be (with Lee wanting it to be revealed as Norman Osborn and Ditko wanting it to be someone Spider-Man had never met).
However, I believed that that was an actual dispute between the two.
In retrospect, it really does not seem to be the case.
Ditko and Lee first introduced Green Goblin in Amazing Spider-Man #14, where he met Ditko’s greatest creation, Fancy Dan…
At the end of his first appearance, we learn both that the Goblin is new at this villainy thing and also see that the Goblin has a secret identity worth hiding…
Three issues later, Ditko and Lee reiterate that the Goblin’s identity is something that should be of interest to us…
In Amazing Spider-Man #23, Ditko first draws the man who would become Norman Osborn as one of J. Jonah Jameson’s business friends.
In Amazing Spider-Man #31, Harry Osborn is introduced…
In Amazing Spider-Man #37, Norman Osborn is introduced…
And boy is he suspicious…
In Amazing Spider-Man #38, Ditko’s last issue, Osborn gets even MORE suspicious…
And obviously, the next issue, the first issue without Ditko, the reveal occurs…
Also note that in Amazing Spider-Man #27, Lee and Ditko did the whole “it is not anyone you know” reveal with the Crimemaster…
So it would be a BIT odd if Ditko wanted to go back to that well so soon.
But really, one of the things I overlooked earlier was that towards the end of their partnership, Ditko was not even communicating with Lee directly. He was dropping off issues completely drawn and Lee would then just script them. I imagine someone must have been working as a go-between (reader Tony notes it was likely Sol Brodsky, Marvel’s production manager at the time. Thanks, Tony!). However, it seems hard to believe that under this arrangement, Ditko could ever have been FORCED to reveal the Green Goblin as anyone he did not want to reveal him as.
Ditko, though, seems to make it all come together in a 2009 essay he wrote for The Comics, stating:
Now digest this: I knew from Day One, from the first GG story, who the GG would be. I absolutely knew because I planted him in J. Jonah Jameson’s businessmans club, it was where JJJ and the GG could be seen together. I planted them together in other stories where the GG would not appear in costume, action.”
“I wanted JJJ’s and the GG’s lives to mix for later story drama involving more than just the two characters”
“I planted the GG’s son (same distinctive hair style) in the college issues for more dramatic involvement and storyline consequences”
“So how could there be any doubt, dispute, about who the GG had to turn out to be when unmasked?”
Also note that when John Romita took over Amazing Spider-Man, he thought that it was obvious that Ditko wanted Osborn to be the Goblin and was surprised when he “learned” from others that Ditko did NOT want him to be the Goblin. I believe this is because the folks who told Romita otherwise (and it has been Romita’s repeating of what was told him that has formed the main basis of the “Ditko left because he was mad about Green Goblin” legend) were incorrect.
I tend to believe Ditko here.
Thanks to commenter S. for supplying the Ditko quote! And thanks to A Tari for the suggestion!
Check out some Sports Urban Legends Revealed!
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COMIC LEGEND: New York City detectives went to DC Comics for help during the Son of Sam investigation.
During the Summer of 1976, serial killer David Berkowitz haunted New York City by a series of shootings that left six people dead and seven more wounded.
It was not until August of 1977 that they actually caught him. You can only imagine how desperate the police were to catch this guy, who was seemingly taunting police by leaving letters behind at the scenes of the crime. Here are some samples…
You might notice that his lettering is pretty interesting. Well, according to Bob Rozakis, the police at one point were so desperate that they came across the idea that maybe the killer was a comic book letterer or a comic strip letterer! So they actually brought the letters to DC Comics’ offices in Manhattan to ask if anyone recognized the lettering!
Obviously, no one did (good thing they never saw one of Alex Toth’s letters! :))
Ultimately, Berkowitz was done in by simple good ol’ fashioned police work, as he was spotted near the scene of a July 1977 shooting and the NYPD contacted the Yonkers police (where Berkowitz lived) to get their help to bring him in for questioning in August (initially as a witness, not a suspect) and they were surprised that the Yonkers police had had their suspicions that Berkowitz might actually BE the killer. So the police went to his apartment, found his car, discovered a rifle and more and, well, the rest is history.
Thanks to Rob London, who suggested this to me the other day, giving me a 2013 suggestion and thanks to Bob Rozakis for the information!
Check out some classic Steve Ditko-related Comic Book Legends Revealed!
Did Steve Ditko once have a story censored because it had the devil in it?
COMIC LEGEND: Archie Comics did a superhero version of the Shadow during the 1960s.
If there’s any consistent thing about comic book history, it is that when something becomes popular with one comic book company, you can safely bet that other comic book companies will try to follow suit. During the 1960s, superhero comics were booming once again. This led to some interesting experiments by other comic book companies. I’ve written in the past about how Dell tried to make Dracula a comic book superhero, but in 1964, Archie also tried the same…with the Shadow!
Graeme Burk suggested this in January of 2007.
The cover of Archie’s first Shadow issue seemed normal enough…
but inside (written by Robert Bernstein with art by John Rosenberger), the Shadow is dressed in unfamiliar attire…
The next issue, though, just drops all pretenses of not being a superhero comic book, as they debut Shadow’s superhero outfit!
Jerry Siegel himself took over the book with #4 and wrote it until #8. Here’s a sample from Siegel’s first issue…
Pretty darn funny. Thanks for the suggestion, Graeme!
Check out the latest edition of my weekly Movie/TV Legends Revealed Column at Spinoff Online: Was Roger Moore really Ian Fleming’s FIRST choice to play James Bond?!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
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