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Comic Book Legends Revealed #431

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COMIC LEGEND: Herb Trimpe snuck an amusing “salute” into an issue of G.I. Joe.

STATUS: I’m Going With True

Jared Osborn currently does Radiant Comics, which you can check out here.

Back in the early 1990s, though, he worked at Marvel as a production staffer. Recently, he wrote in with a hilarious story about his days as a staffer at Marvel, specifically about G.I. Joe #119, which was a rare G.I. Joe issue not written by Larry Hama (instead it was written, drawn and colored by the great Herb Trimpe).

I happened to be working in the Marvel Production bullpen at the time this issue was being worked on and the splash page came across my desk (it was my job to paste the lettering down). On page one I noticed a small figure at the end of the dock, about half an inch tall, who sure looked like he was giving the finger. We in the Bullpen had a good laugh over it but didn’t mention it to anyone in editorial just to see if anyone would notice. It’s real small. Sure enough it’s there in the printed book.

Here is the page…


Osborn continued…

Not only that but Trimpe, who also colored the book, put a yellow spotlight on the guy giving the finger. We referred to it as the “Secret Cobra Salute” after that.



Thanks for the great story, Jared!

Check out the latest edition of my weekly Movie/TV Legends Revealed Column at Spinoff Online: How did Nightmare on Elm Street, of all things, nearly lead to DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince starring in House Party?

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? 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.

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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)…

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

See you all next week!

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Hi Brian,

Could we get a link to the WW letter columns you reference?

Thanks, and (as always) wonderful stuff!

Makes me wonder if Fabian Nicieca or the editors were influenced by this when they had Kyle hook up with Donna Troy in the 90’s.

The zoomed-in picture of the Cobra-guy giving the Cobra Salute had me laughing out-loud at work. It’s like something straight out of the Venture Bros. I can just picture all of the Monarch’s henchmen flipping each other off all day long. Great legend!

Didn’t WW date Aquaman in the 90s?

The “Cobra guy” is obviously Cobra Commander himself, impatient about the delay in picking him up. I suspect that he *is* flipping the snake, but I suppose he could just be holding up his pointer finger??

Call me crazy, but I think the Wonder Woman/Hal Jordan match up would be awesome. He’s such a hot headed egotist, she’s a passionate, justice seeking, righteous warrior…it just makes sense to me. Much more than Superman and Wonder Woman. She seems like the only woman who could deal with Hal’s attitude.

Herb Trimpe, awesome!

Didn’t WW date Aquaman in the 90s?

No, but there were a couple of cute stories suggesting an attraction, if maybe only a one-sided one.

There was a story in Justice League Quarterly (I think) that had Aquaman and Wonder Woman teaming up, with Arthur grumping about it the whole time, and at one point he got tangled in her lasso and started rattling on about how intensely annoying he finds her and how he doesn’t understand why he wants her so badly.

And in another story, when the Queen of Fables puts Wonder Woman in a Snow White-like coma, Aquaman figures out that what she needs to wake her up is a kiss from a handsome prince (himself, that is).

Now, of course, they were going to get married in the Flashpoint universe, even though only as a diplomatic measure, but that ended very badly.

That’s “just to spite him,” not “spit,” Brian. :-)

On a bit of a tangent in that one Machine Man letter column there’s a letter from one Matthew Waterhouse. The same Matthew Waterhouse who went on to become Adric in Doctor Who. Nerdtastic!

From Jim Shooter’s blog:

“Marvel paid creators, usually the writer of the series, to go through the fan mail, choose letters to print and write replies. Because Jack was in California and didn’t want to do the lettercols, David Anthony Kraft was assigned (before I became EIC) to write the lettercols for Jack’s books. DAK chose largely negative letters. Jack called me and complained. We fired Kraft and got someone else. Kraft’s excuse was that he was writing an “honest” lettercol, reflecting the general tenor of the mail. Horseshit. A lettercol shouldn’t bash the book it’s in.”


Sean Howe’s recent book, Marvel Comics, the Untold Story, provides plenty of evidence of the hostile attitudes of many younger editors at Marvel, and the rather juvenile nature they possessed. He paints a pretty damning picture of Marvel’s editorial staff in that period, though Stern is not one of the culprits. I’m sure, to Kirby, it felt like he was being knocked in the columns, since he was being knocked behind the scenes by some. Perhaps his notorious faulty memory just merged the two things. Jack was never a great scripter, but his plots and concepts were years ahead of what most of the people at Marvel, at that time, were doing. Of course, he wasn’t the only artist or writer to be pushed aside by younger editors.

” Kraft’s excuse was that he was writing an “honest” lettercol, reflecting the general tenor of the mail.”

If Shooter’s story is true, I believe Kraft. Those Kirby books were pretty bad, even The Eternals. Black Panther was an especially jarring change in tone from what had been done in the Jungle Action stories.

Also, remember, Kirby alienated a lot of Marvel folks with Funky Flashman and Houseroy.

Let’s see. I’m not seeing a whole lot about Jack Kirby, the greatest artist ever to pick up a pen so I guess I’ll weigh in.
Having worked in a corporate environment, I can say I wouldn’t put it past some jealous writers or even artists to try and unseat Jack from his assignments. In fact, as competitive as the business was and is, I’d say the denials of “knock letters” being falsely submitted by his fellow creators is just that. A denial. In other words, lies from a bunch of lying liars. Jack represented a time when comic books reflected patriotism and love of country. The comics industry was seeing an influx of baby boomers and hippies who were bent on quashing a voice they felt was antiquated and passé. Writers and artists are a passionate bunch. And stooping to the depths of cowardly attacks is something to be expected. It’s all good as their one united voice is heard. What a disgrace! Jack helped build the industry and was the biggest thing ever to happen to paneled illustration since hieroglyphics.

@RW Castro-Miller: Hal wasn’t nearly that much flawed before the 1990s. That is one of many things that were retconned in the GL mythos in that darned decade.

@Al Sedano: Donna hooking up with Kyle Rayner certainly seems like it should fall under DUI law…

@Ted Craig: I agree. If nothing else, Kirby was not going out of his way to show regard for the work of the writers before him. And his writing, well, it was quite mediocre, despite a few good ideas in Black Panther. His Captain America was quite a trial, his Eternals only slightly less so, and his Black Panther was often just plain goofy.

My favorite bit about this current post is the image of Superman and Wonder Woman pawing each other in the rain. That belongs on a romance novel cover.

@Michael Huff: Does the Kirby family know you’ve exhumed his body and you’re keeping it at your house?

Seriously, dude. Chill. Kirby WAS good. But NOT after he went back to Marvel. If Marvel had gotten a writer (or at least an editor who’d control the man’s over-the-top silliness–which all too often ventured into the realm of camp), his mid 70s material might have really matched his previous work. (And, much the same applies to his time at DC.)

You’re entitled to your opinion, but YOU don’t have any hard evidence to support some of your more outlandish comments–especially compared to the scans of ACTUAL letter columns which kind of put lie to the idea that the lettercols were “filled” with negative feedback. In fact, one of the scans includes a letter that actually begins “Since you don’t print any criticism about Jack . . . .” Now, if the lettercols WERE laden with as much negative letters about Kirby, why then would a Marvel fan lead off his letter with such a comment? (Incidentally, that same lettercol ends with a missive stating, “As for the criticisms, if I forgot them they must not be worth remembering.”)

I personally wasn’t all that into his Black Panther run, though there was fun stuff in his Cap. But Eternals, man, I loved that, and apparently I wasn’t alone because it left a lasting mark on the Marvel universe–especially for something that he didn’t seem to have even intended to be in the Marvel Universe. Devil Dinosaur and 2001 both were also great stuff. I can understand if it was too “out there” for kids used to more straightforward superhero stories, but that’s exactly why it blew my mind when I was a kid in the ’70s.

Baron Von Munchausen

August 9, 2013 at 1:29 pm

I always find it weird how completely insecure comic book writers & editors are. So what if a fan had the same idea? Show some balls and go with your creative urge, and let the fans be happy to see what they were hoping for. Jeez, if the Kirby heirs can’t get a percentage, the letter-writing fanboy surely poses no legal or creative threat. Sheesh. I’m not all for a Lantern-WW relationship, but I find the big two’s fear of “fan service” or cries of stealing an idea to be ridiculously paranoid.

Actually, it was probably DC’s attorneys who were cautious. My dad was a trademark attorney and explained to me once that comic companies were probably always worried about being sued for stealing ideas. The Kirby heirs lost because Jack Kirby was a Marvel employee. A random letter writer would have a much better claim.

If you look at most of the Marvel comics’ lettercols from the mid-’70’s, it seemed that EVERY book had their share of “knock letters”. In early issues of Wolman’s Nova, they ran an abridged version of the reactions they were getting in the snail mail – As a big fan of that series when I was a kid, I was shocked at how many people slammed it. So Kirby wasn’t singled out. The ugliest example was when the great Frank Robbins took over the art chores on Captain America. They even published a short letter that simply said: “Kill Robbins before he kills Cap”. I guess these letters pages were preparing us for the nastiness of the internet age.

Also, in Marvel’s Silver Age, there were a lot of few knock letters that Stan would respond to in his own unique style.

I started reading comics at the age of 6 in the early 70s when Jack was at DC. There was no bigger Jack fan than me back then- for his 60’s work. I picked up just about everything he did between reprints and back issue bins. But, growing up then from ages 6-15, I hated his 70’s work (except for Machine Man- loved the character though the story moved at a snail’s pace).

He is one of the greatest artists and co-plotters of all time, but left alone and unfettered, his work was terrible and the horrible sales numbers back this up. It isn’t that the characters he created then were so good. It’s just that great creators, who adored Jack, came along later and took his characters and wrote them well. Could anyone else have named a character Granny Goodness and not be laughed out of the office?

I blindly bought his Cap book because I lived the Englehart run but was pulling my hair out about how bad the Kirby issues were. I also noted at the time that the letters back then were so complimentary and I thought that Marvel was falsely loading the letter page with nice comments.

Give the man his due but also recognize his faults.

I was not a fan of Kirby’s mid 70s marvel work. My memory of the letter columns was that they were very positive. I remember being very surprised that my negative feelings were in the minority. I thought his ignoring previous continuity especially with the black panther was just too much of a total change for me. He had some moments on cap & eternals but for the most part this era even when I recently reread them just isn’t very good. I did at the time love machine man & this has aged pretty well for the most part. It was a fun title that went downhill without Kirby.

Kirby’s 70s Marvel work has aged much better than the Engelhart and MacGregor stuff that it got compared to.

Kirby’s Black Panther is the bomb. It’s really fascinating to read it right after the Don McGregor stuff, as I did in the Essential Black Panther collection.

It isn’t that the characters he created then were so good. It’s just that great creators, who adored Jack, came along later and took his characters and wrote them well. Could anyone else have named a character Granny Goodness and not be laughed out of the office?

As someone who never understood what the big deal about the New Gods for decades until I finally read the original Kirby stories for myself, I have to strongly disagree. I’ve never read the New Gods done as well as when done by Kirby. Kirby gets a lot of flak for his writing, which I don’t get because a lot of these people love Roy Thomas’s writing, which I find impossible to read. I can only get through a Roy Thomas book by skimming or reading it over multiple sittings so as not to get overwhelmed by the awfulness, whereas Kirby I can binge-read with ease.

I know Kirby co-created T’Challa, but in the Black Panther series he uses him awfully–instead of a guy with some of the world’s best tech, and a royal figure to boot, he comes off as a generic Big Strong Sidekick to Mr. Little. I’ve wondered if Kirby really wanted a story about the Collectors and tried using Black Panther as a way to do it.
Though I still doubt it would have worked–most of the ideas he was playing with would have been novel about 40 years earlier but not by the time the series came out.
Kirby’s various post-New Gods 1970s series were my first prolonged exposure to his work. It’s why I couldn’t figure out why he was supposed to be so awesome until years later when I read his earlier stuff.
I do like Eternals, though. I’d have preferred it if it never came into the MU (where Von Danikenish gods fit very awkwardly alongside the real gods)

T. reading New Gods in order, I can see how Kirby was shooting for some kind of grand design that he never got to finish. Though I do prefer Thomas overall (YMMV of course)—and I preferred Mr.Miracle to the New Gods series overall.
Has Kirby ever said how he originally planned to end it? I enjoyed the finish in Hunger Dogs but I’m wondering if his ideas changed over the years. Certainly if anyone else had shown Orion blowing off his final battle with Daddy so that Orion could live happily ever after, I think people would have complained they didn’t “get” Kirby.

Hmmm…I wonder how many of these “70s Kirby was a hack” commenters correlate with “Kirby and his family don’t deserve that money” commenters in the stories about the copyright trials.

The last time there were this much unwarranted Kirby bashing was when this column did one on how DC had kept redrawing Kirby’s Superman faces.

Yes, Kirby’s dialogue is deliberately stylized and goofy. Yes, he had an eccentric sense of humour not everyone shared. Yes, he did his own thing on the titles instead of aping his predecessors. That’s because Kirby’s strengths did not lie in in achingly earnest attempts at making “relevant” comics. They lay in crafting slam bang adventure, mind blowing ideas for kids to discover, and startlingly powerful visuals.

The fact the rest of Marvel was not doing anything simular was only a problem because Marvel staffers acted like it was.

wonder woman is such a whore.

I don’t think that Kirby got many more knock letters than other people at the time – and it is right to say that the great Frank Robbins got even worse. I will also grant you that Captain America, in particular, was FANTASTICALLY badly plotted. By the time we get to the Arnim Zola story, there is practically no continuity from issue to issue – Zola acts on instructions that the Skull never gave him, Cap and Donna Maria recognize two monsters they have never seen before; and a good bit of space is wasted on a pointless jaunt by the Falcon, which is eventually settled off-panel. But that is not what the fans were whining about: what they did not like was that Kirby was not as “adult” as the dreadful Don McGregor or as “relevant” as the pretentious Steve Englehart. Kirby was being asked to imitate artists infinitely lower than him, and approaches whose absurdity was growing obvious even then. And knock letters or no – and please notice that Shooter, who has no dog in the fight, asserts as a fact that they did happen – the hostility towards Kirby among younger professionals was a fact. And Kirby was not the only one. The other giant at Marvel at the time, Steve Gerber, suffered exactly the same treatment. Read his old Comics Journal interview: he says something like (I’m quoting from memory): “any time there is a comic whose success they can’t explain” – he meant Howard The Duck – “there is a competition among them over who can do it better; indeed, over who can do it right.” HOward was in fact taken from Gerber in the end, and no story ever done by anyone else is anything but a disaster'; and Gerber and Kirby got to vent their feelings in DESTROYER DUCK.

@Ted Craig: “The Kirby heirs lost because Jack Kirby was a Marvel employee.”

Kirby was NEVER a Marvel employee.

The Kirby heirs lost due to the Instance and Expense Test, a legal principle applied to determine the work-for-hire status of pre-1978 works. The judge deemed that Kirby created his works at Marvel’s request, not on his own initiative, and that Marvel paid him for them and therefore assumed all financial risk. (There are perfectly good reasons to question both of these conclusions, but we’re veering off-topic as it is; suffice it to say that, right or wrong, that’s what the judge decided.)

Please stop spreading the “Kirby was a Marvel employee” story. It’s one of those claims that inevitably comes up in every single discussion of the the rights dispute, and it is unambiguously false. It’s misinformation and utterly toxic to any factual discussion of comic creators’ rights — not just Jack’s but every other freelancer’s, too.

@The Eye
Is it really “unwarranted Kirby bashing” if the topic is “Was there a plot to bad mouth Jack Kirby?” Obviously, one explanation is the letters were an accurate reflection of fan opinion.


Either way, there was a contract and payment. My point stands that Joe Letterwriter would have a stronger claim of intellectual property theft.

RE: Michael Huff

Hate to burst your conservative bubble, but Kirby was a big-time liberal, who thought quite a lot of the hippies and the young generation. That was the motivating factor behind the Forever People and his use of Mark Evanier and Steve Sherman as assistants. It had less to do with political ideology than writing styles.

Red Comet, I”m a firm believer Kirby’s heirs deserved their cut. I still don’t like most of Kirby’s stuff from the 1970s. And not because it was different from Englehart and McGregor, I didn’t think it was as good–or even good in its own right (I read the Black Panther run for the first time less than a year ago). But certainly that’s a matter of taste.
To take another example, Kirby’s Jimmy Olsen run (and in light of Jeff’s comment on Kirby’s politics, was it Kirby’s decision to add a black kid to the Newsboy Legion?) was certainly better than the goofball Silver Age stuff, but rereading it recently I didn’t find it that good otherwise–stock adventure with none of the extra elements New Gods or Mr. Miracle had.

Hal and WW? You know, I like that idea. I’m surprise it never occurred to me. Hal is such an alpha male that I can see him with her. It makes much more sense than Supes, Bats, or Aquaman. (I haven’t been reading DC since 52, so I don’t know if it’s going well there.) Diane really hasn’t had a viable love interest since, well, ever. I think they would make a good match. Maybe if (when) DC has another reboot they should consider it.

@Red Comet- I have never bashed Kirby’s heirs or anyone else’s heirs for going after their piece of the pie. In fact I usually defend them in these threads. I note that some of their claims are allowed under the revised Copyright Act. The provisions that they rely on were put in to throw a bone to creators because big corporations were getting to extend their copyright protections over creations that would have gone into the public domain. the proponents of the revised act were Disney and Time-Warner (Marvel and DC).

So wrong assumption on your part. In fact, the people who get so apoplectic at these families infuriate me.

@Ted Craig: “Either way, there was a contract and payment.”

No, there was NOT a contract. Are you doing this on purpose?

Not only was Kirby never a Marvel employee, but there is no evidence that he ever signed any contracts with them prior to 1972.

I think it is abundantly clear at this point that you are either (1) not aware of the basic facts of the case or (2) are aware of them and are deliberately and repeatedly misstating them.

Colleen Doran has a summary of the ruling, and a complete copy of the ruling itself, at http://www.adistantsoil.com/2011/07/28/marvel-comics-vs-jack-kirby-decision-marvel-wins/ . Please read it before you make any more spurious claims.

@Jeff Nettleton: “Hate to burst your conservative bubble, but Kirby was a big-time liberal, who thought quite a lot of the hippies and the young generation. That was the motivating factor behind the Forever People and his use of Mark Evanier and Steve Sherman as assistants.”

Evanier may have been a member of the “young generation”, but he was a self-described conservative at the time he first started working for Kirby. Here’s a recent blog post from him where he discusses his political beliefs at the time: http://www.newsfromme.com/2013/08/04/tales-of-my-father-7/


August 11, 2013 at 4:28 pm

I always find it weird how completely insecure comic book writers & editors are. So what if a fan had the same idea? Show some balls and go with your creative urge

Actually, it was probably DC’s attorneys who were cautious.

My guess is was absolutely the latter.

In the modern, overly-litigious age we live in, a fair number of critically-acclaimed writers won’t even read web forums discussing their work (or have admins on those forums solely dedicated to deleting any and all “Hey, you should write about X in your next book!”) for fear that, if the writer DOES write something along those lines (even if they had the idea long before Random Internet Guy #43425 posted about it), then someone will have the grounds to sue them for a percentage on the grounds of “intellectual property rights”. Same reason a number of writers absolutely WILL NOT read unsolicited screenplay or novel ideas from fans. Is the fan likely to win a case like that? Maybe not, but why would the writer want to risk having to deal with it through lawyers and possibly in court in the first place?

Yes, there are certainly cases where it seems comic writers try and “swerve” the audience solely because they’re mad that people guessed the obvious ending and it’s not a surprise anymore, but fear of lawsuits could easily be a factor in a lot of that sort of thinking. Maybe not as much back then as it is now, but even 30+ years ago, one nervous lawyer might easily have made a comment that quashed the deal.

Love the Evanier story at the link. He’s a terrific raconteur.

I grew up reading Marvel comics in the 70s and I`ll admit at the time I wasn`t too keen on Kirby. However it was his art and ideas that burned their way into my imagination while other books I devoured as a kid faded with time. I reread the them all as an adult and it`s true his scripting wasn`t his strong point, but those images and concepts are gold.

Back when DC & Marvel were still doing crossovers, it would have been fun to see a New Gods/Eternals crossover, but I dunno who really could have done it justice.

Ugh. I still cringe at GI JOE #119. Not to knock Trimpe, it’s just that this was a non-Hama issue and it stuck out like a sore thumb. I was 10 or 11 when it came out. I didn’t realize right away it wasn’t Hama (I didn’t really pay much attention to the creator credits at the time), but it was noticeably different stylistically. I was taken aback by the dialog having a few “hells” and “damns” strewn in. Not that I was a prude, it’s just that Larry Hama very rarely used those tired expletives. Plus the plot was yet another dreaded “hero vs his doppelganger” throwaway story. Even at that age I was already burned out on Cap vs. Cap, Superman vs Superman, etc (and this was before the Infinity War!). And here we had the obligatory Snake-Eyes vs Snake-Eyes.

Heh, man, I’m a little to angry over that issue. Gotta go for some pilates or something…

I’m surprised no one every came up with a Hal attraction for Diana considering he original love interest has been a pilot for many of his incarnations. Steve Trevor would be Hal if he was cool and had super powers.

And while I think some of the New Gods stuff is genius and other parts of it is crap, I just don’t get the appeal of the Eternals. Just seem like poor carbon copies of other characters so you could mess with them. That works fine if you’re creating Watchmen; but the Eternals didn’t seem to mirror that in design or use.

I don’t like Jim Lee, I don’t like Geoff Johns, I certainly don’t think “Superman and Wonder Woman are doing it” is anything more mature or novel than something from a twenty-year-old Kevin Smith script, but for some reason I’m kind of into that Justice League #12 cover. Superman’s sharing the truth, and it’s that he’s Wonder Woman’s buff love slave.

The characters are just drawn really heavy and fleshy and rock-solid with those thick black lines and Superman’s hands are so forceful and tactile. You can feel the cover.

“Back when DC & Marvel were still doing crossovers, it would have been fun to see a New Gods/Eternals crossover, but I dunno who really could have done it justice.”

How about Neil Gaiman and Alex Ross?

You know, as long as we’re dreaming.

I’ve always thought Hal Jordan was an exceedingly boring, cookie cutter leading man so the idea of him with WW doesn’t really appeal to me (hell, I still wish he’d stayed dead)…though it’s no worse than her with Superman (which doesn’t make any sense at all beyond a superficial level). I kind of like the Batman/WW thing they had going during Joe Kelly’s JLA run and in the cartoon. The two characters come from such different worlds that it just seemed like there was a lot of story potential there. I wouldn’t expect it to be some epic love story but it would have been fun for a while…far more so than Superman/WW (so obvious and so incredibly boring). Then again, I have no interest in the new 52 so let them do whatever they want with it.

I liked Kyle a lot more than Hal. Same reason; just always found Hal kinda boring.
I love in the Alan Moore Superman annual when WW gives Supes a birthday kiss and says ‘hmm, why don’t we do that more often?’ And Superman replies ‘I don’t know. Too obvious?’

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