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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 (Friday, yesterday and tomorrow). 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 less than a week old! Today, we learn how Jackie Onassis was briefly the world’s most famous comic book editor. Plus, how did a minor continuity gaffe lead to a classic Adam Strange story? And was Alan Moore’s Top 10: The Forty-Niners originally meant to be a mini-series?
Click here for an archive of the previous three hundred and ninety-nine.
COMIC LEGEND: Jackie Kennedy Onassis was a comic book editor.
Following the assassination of her husband, John F. Kennedy, Jacqueline “Jackie” Kennedy eventually married Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. Following Ari Onassis’ death in 1975, Jackie decided to become a book editor. First she worked at Viking Press and then at Doubleday, which is where she worked for the rest of her life until her death in 1994.
While at Doubleday, Onassis worked on a variety of book projects, including, surprisingly enough, a comic book collection!
Larry Gonick had been doing his Cartoon History of the Universe comic books for years, first as comic books…
and then collected into a book in 1980 by the independent company, Rip Off Press…
Here is a sample of Gonick’s work…
In 1988, he was signed to Doubleday by Onassis. Here is how Gonick described the process to Greg Lawrence’s for Lawrence’s fine book, Jackie as Editor: The Literary Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis…
[The comics] circulated around, and someone approached me from the University of Southern California about doing an animation project…and he sent it around. Through him, the comic fell into the hands of a man named Karl Katz, who was the head of the film and TV office at the Metropolitan Museum, and Caroline Kennedy for him at one time. So he’s the one who passed the comics to Jackie. He thought that if they had overground publishing exposure that there might be a film in it.
One day I had a call from Karl Katz, and he said, ‘I never told you this, but I’m a good friend of Mrs. Onassis.’ He said, ‘I gave her your comics, and I didn’t want to call you until I thought she was actually going to do something with them. The publisher at Doubleday has revieved them, and I think they want to publish them. Why don’t you give her a call?’
I swallowed hard when I heard that…I called and they relayed the message to Jackie. And she called me when I was at dinner that night, about nine New York time. We had a discussion, and she was very supportive….It took quite a long time to actually finalize the deal. The sales department at Doubleday was very skeptical, and Jackie made them review it again. I don’t remember how much time went by…I had lapses in contact for months, and then finally, I was like jumping out of my chair. I took a walk in the neighborhood and ran into a neighbor, who told me, ‘Don’t get mad. Use humor. You’re a humorist.’ So I wrote a note, a little handwritten note with a cartoon on it that showed my grave, and on the headstone it said, ‘Jackie Onassis called him once.’ I basically said, ‘Mrs. Onassis, what’s going on? I’m dying out here.’ And after that, the deal was done within two weeks.
The book became a massive success and Doubleday put out a sequel four years later…
Gonick and Onassis became fairly close, with Gonick telling her at a time when it seemed like she might be pushed out at Doubleday that he’d leave with her (it did not happen and she passed away in 1994, the same year the second volume was released).
Thanks to Jeff Ryan for the suggestion a few months back (so this would be the 2012 contribution) and thanks to Greg Lawrence and Larry Gonick for the fascinating tale of Jackie Onassis, comic book editor.
Check out some Entertainment and Sports Urban Legends Revealed!
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COMIC LEGEND: Complaints about a minor continuity error in an early issue of Justice League of America led to a highly acclaimed Adam Strange story.
In Justice League of America #4, the various members of the Justice League debate adding new members…
They end up adding Green Arrow. However, some fans wrote in to note that Flash had never actually MET Adam Strange, so how was he nominating him for membership in the Justice League?
Gardner Fox took the criticism to heart, so he then wrote an Adam Strange/Justice League team-up in Mystery in Space #75 that was set BEFORE Justice League of America #4.
In it, the Justice League and Adam Strange take on the villainous Kanjar Ro together.
Kanjar Ro has a Cosmic Gong that can freeze the entire population of Rann when struck. Adam Strange figures out a plan. He’ll strike it and then be transported to Earth where the effects of the Gong will wear off.
While on Earth, he meets the Justice League…
The problem is, Kanjar Ro recently went to a star system that gave him powers like Superman (but greater), so he the Gong cannot hold him…
Luckily, after Ro is tearing through the League, Adam has an idea. If he has the STRENGTHS of Superman, perhaps he has the weaknesses?
So there you have it, one of the first examples of a writer writing a story specifically to address a fan’s complaint about continuity. Amusingly enough, the issue was highly acclaimed. It won the 1962 Alley Award for “Best Book-Length Story.”
So let’s celebrate the 50th anniversary of comic book writers writing stories just to address continuity mistakes pointed out by fans!
Thanks to Steve B. for recommending this one back in 2010.
Check out some Comic Book Legends Revealed about other famous people with surprising connections to comics!
COMIC LEGEND: Alan Moore’s Top 10: The Forty-Niners was originally planned as a mini-series but was changed to a graphic novel over fears regarding the gay relationship at the heart of the story.
Alan Moore, Gene Ha and Zander Cannon’s Top 10 tells the story of the police force in Neopolis, a city where basically EVERYone is a superhero of some sorts. Who polices the super-police?
The excellent graphic novel, Top 10: The Forty-Niners (drawn by Gene Ha)…
shows the forming of the city (and its super police force) after World War II…
While the formation of the city’s super-police is a major part of the story, a major part of the story is the experience of a former World War II action hero as he falls in love with an older pilot (who was part of a Blackhawks-type group back in the War…
The two men are still together in the present day (as seen in the Top 10 regular series).
In any event, reader Phil asked me in the comments section of the THIRTIETH Comic Book Legends Revealed (back at the old blog, http://goodcomics.blogspot.com, in 2005):
Was Alan Moore’s The 49ers published as a one-off upmarket graphic novel rather than a mini-series because DC were concerned about the mass market’s response to the prominence of a gay relationship?
I asked Scott Dunbier, who edited the graphic novel, and he told me:
No truth at all. Alan intended this to be an OGN from day one.
So there you have it, Phil!
Thanks to Phil for the question and thanks to Scott Dunbier for the quick answer!
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!
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!
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