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Welcome to the four hundred and twenty-second in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous four hundred and twenty-one. This week, did Marvel really back out on making Ultimate Captain America black because of the response to their mini-series Truth: Red, White and Black? Plus, two legends involving Conan the Barbarian during the 1970s. First, did Marvel really cancel Conan after just seven issues? And finally, how did Roy Thomas get “revenge” on Neal Adams drawing a monster in an issue of Conan with a mouth that, well, evoked the genitalia of a woman?
NOTE: The column is on three pages, a page for each legend. There’s a little “next” button on the top of the page and the bottom of the page to take you to the next page (and you can navigate between each page by just clicking on the little 1, 2 and 3 on the top and the bottom, as well).
COMIC LEGEND: Marvel decided not to make Ultimate Captain America black after seeing the response to their series Truth: Red, White and Black.
Reader David A. wrote in a couple of weeks ago to ask:
I was thinking about something the other day that I thought you had covered but I did a search online and couldn’t find anything. Anyway, a few yeas ago seem to remember that at the birth of the Ultimate Marvel universe the plan was to make the Captain America of that universe African American. But because of the negative fan reaction Kyle Baker’s (Truth was it?) comic series that basically said that the first Captain America was a group of African American soldiers that were used as Guinea pigs for the super soldier serum before it was perfected. So the idea was scrapped and Ultimate Nick Fury was instead made African American. Bendis actually gave this a nod when in Ultimate Secret he revealed Fury was actually the first person to receive the super soldier serum.
Simply put, no, that’s not how it happened.
To wit, Truth #1 came out in December of 2002…
So no, Ultimate Captain America was not based on any sort of reaction to Truth.
Here, from an article in the Daily News by Jerome Maida about the release of Truth (which was a good series with amazing Kyle Baker art and a strong story from the late Robert Morales), Joe Quesada explains the REAL connection between Truth and Ultimate Captain America…
“We were in the process of creating this new line of Marvel Comics called the Ultimate line, which is sort of a re-envisioning of our Marvel superheroes,” he recalled, “and the idea of a black Captain America came out of that meeting.”
Marvel CEO Bill Jemas gets the credit, Quesada continued. “He just thought it was an interesting idea, because so much of America’s military is African-American. He just felt that it would only make sense that an African-American male would most likely be Captain America.”
Fiscal considerations scuttled the idea at first.
“We have so many companies that license out the image of Captain America, and that particular image of Captain America is of Steve Rogers, a white American male,” Quesada said. “So we couldn’t go in that direction with Cap.”
But Marvel wouldn’t let the idea die. Fan reaction was too strong, though it wasn’t necessarily positive.
“The first time I had heard [the idea],” said “Truth” editor Axel Alonso, “was when I heard what a response it had evoked from people on the Internet . . . 90 percent of whom were severely angry and uncomfortable with the notion of a black man in the Captain America outfit.
“From there, a common-sense question emerged, which is ‘Why would it make people uncomfortable?'”
And eventually that took us to Truth.
Thanks for the suggestion, David!
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On the next page, was Conan really canceled after less than a year’s worth of issues came out?