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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Legends Revealed #432

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Welcome to the four hundred and thirty-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 thirty-one. This week, were every Sabretooth appearances until 1988 actually clones?!? Plus, what’s the deal with John Byrne and the She-Hulk shaving her legs? Finally, did the famous Argentinian author Julio Cortázar really write a comic book?

Let’s begin!

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: Chris Claremont intended nearly every Sabretooth appearance for the first fifteen years or so of the character to be a clone.

STATUS: True

In the final story of his initial run as the writer of Wolverine’s ongoing title, Chris Claremont wrote a classic tale about Wolverine and Sabretooth where he reveals that Sabretooth visits Wolverine on every birthday and typically beats the crap out of Wolverine. This was likely during a time when Claremont considered (as he had originally intended) revealing that Sabretooth was Wolverine’s father.

However, the story did not exactly fit in with some of Sabretooth’s past history. After all, this was a guy who used to pal around with the Constricter, ya know? In addition, Wolverine more than held his own in battle with Sabretooth during the Mutant Massacre.

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Claremont, though, had an answer for this.

As he explained to Wizard for their 1996 Wolverine Tribute Special:

What I ultimately was going to establish was that all the Sabretooths we had seen heretofore, with the possible exception of the one in Iron Fist #14, were clones of Mr. Sinister. They were Xeroxes. Whereas Sinister’s modus operandi was to capture an operative, stick him in a stasis chamber, clone a copy and send that person out to do battle. So you have an inexhaustible supply of Marauders from his clutch of villains. In the case of Sabretooth, you had a Xerox of a Xerox. That’s why the Sabretooth that has always appeared working for Sinister has been so flawed and so easily beaten. We’ve never seen the real thing. The real thing is quite happy lurking around the fringes of the X-Men Universe without any interest whatsoever in the X-Men, but an abiding interest in Wolverine. And Wolverine knows it.

While not that unlike what we’ve seen some other writers come up with when they want to make an established character seem more impressive after having a few embarrassing losses, it is still fascinating to see that Claremont’s take on the character.

This likely informed Claremont’s idea, when he returned to Wolverine years later, of giving Sabretooth an adamantium skeleton to make him much tougher. Claremont clearly liked the idea of Wolverine being the underdog in Wolverine/Sabretooth battles, something that hasn’t been the case for many, many years now.

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Did a Baseball Player Once Effectively Promote Himself to the Major Leagues?

Did Airline Passengers Really Sue Southwest Airlines Over the Use of a Nursery Rhyme by a Flight Attendant?
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On the next page, what’s the deal with John Byrne and She-Hulk shaving her legs?

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54 Comments

I haven’t read Byrne’s She-Hulk in a long time but boy did I love it when it was coming out. It has one of my all-time favorite gags, when She-Hulk and her friends escape a death trap by tearing a hole in the page of the comic and run across a double-page Mile High Comics style ad. Once they reach the other side she tears another hole and they come out through the panel on the other side.

I have no problem with an editor changing the work of a writer or artist. Part of their job is to be a caretaker to the property, and if they feel something is not in line with the property, then so be it.

What I find troubling about the Byrne/Chase incident — and many other examples we’ve heard about in the comics industry — is that it appears that editors frequently change things without running the changes by the creative team before going to press. That is an issue. It’s not done in any other publishing industry that I’m aware of, and if it is it’s the sign of a bad/disreputable editor.

Ultimately that book has John Byrne’s name on it, and yet the final publication was clearly not what he — as the creator — intended it to look like. We’ve heard numerous stories about editors changing things without so much as an email to the creators letting them know what they’re doing. And I think that’s irresponsible and unprofessional. It most certainly creates a combative working relationship.

And for the life of me I cannot imagine why an editor would change elements of a critically acclaimed ongoing series so that it more closely resembled a limited-scope project. That is just baffling.

And for the life of me I cannot imagine why an editor would change elements of a critically acclaimed ongoing series so that it more closely resembled a limited-scope project. That is just baffling.

I’d imagine that the theory was that to make the limited-scope project seem like it “mattered” (and therefore, worth buying) Chase wanted to make sure the main series acknowledged it, even if it meant adding in mentions herself.

Dwayne McDuffie eventually brought the leg-shaving incident into Damage Control (wherein She-Hulk asks them to provide her with a razor) and visited the joke again in World War Hulk: Aftersmash – Damage Control when Eugene decides to make her a razor from all the surplus Adamantium left over from WWH.

Funny that there should be such a kerfuffle over Shulkie shaving her legs being an unnecessary scene, after Mr. Byrne took time to show how Clark Kent managed to shave in Man Of Steel. Maybe he figured a shaving gag had already “been done” even though it was another book, time and publisher..

Funny that there should be such a kerfuffle over Shulkie shaving her legs being an unnecessary scene, after Mr. Byrne took time to show how Clark Kent managed to shave in Man Of Steel. Maybe he figured a shaving gag had already “been done” even though it was another book, time and publisher..

It wasn’t her shaving that he took issue with, it was the gag that accompanied the shaving.

The multiple broken razor gag indeed makes Shulkie look like an idiot.

The Superman shaving scene makes him look clever.

Yes, I get that it makes Jen look dumb breaking a pile of razors, and the gag doesn’t add to the character, unlike the Clark scene.

My “embarrassing loss” memory for Sabretooth.

An issue of one of the Spider-Man comics where he was literally beaten to a bloody pulp by Black Cat in a one on one fight.

In fact, when he showed up in X-Men later I couldn’t figure out why he was supposed to be so scary and tough because she had beat him.

Ganky: exactly. It’s like the old “pile of broken alarm clocks” gag.

I don’t understand why the planned revelation for Sabretooth contradicts any of his previous history (as far as who he hangs out with, or the fact that he’s lost battles in the past.)

By the way, Cortazar french edition “La racine del ombru” will be published next November. Here’s the publishers page with some ilustrations.
http://editionscmde.org/A_l_ombre_du_maguey/La_racine_de_l_Ombu.html

It’s just another example of Byrne overreacting to a story/joke he didn’t write/tell. Very often, if it’s different than what he would have done, it’s “wrong” and he dons the hairshirt of mock outrage.

Granted, it’s a lame joke, but the punchline isn’t “look at how stupid Shulkie is.” It’s not like she spent the rest of the story doing stupid ditzy things. The punchline is the juxtaposition of the character doing something feminine like shaving her legs but being too tough to pull it off. Multiple razors just underscore the “humor.”

She-Hulk is one of the last places to complain about characters not behaving the way they “really should.”

Machine: Losing to Black Cat isn’t quite as problematic as in X-Factor#39 where he lost a fight to Wolverine… off-panel!

I wonder if Brian was inspired to post the Sabretooth legend just because of having been reminded of it when writing the recent “Week of Cool…” entry, or if this was a specific response to a conversation we had in the comments about Sabretooth basically being a mid-grade, not-at-all-frightening villain nowadays.

Maybe every ‘Tooth appearance since the early 2000s or so has been a clone, too.

I came across it during Wolverine week a couple of weeks back, so I wrote the Week of Cool entry with it in mind that Claremont intended this to be the “true” Sabretooth/Wolverine relationship.

I always thought Sinister’s cloned Marauders were a great idea but it never occurred to me that they explained away such inconsistencies. That makes it an even better idea. :D

The She-Hulk legend reminds of an early Byrne story (last few issues before he left, iirc) where She-hulk went into outer space and Xemnu altered her DNA to make her his bride giving her a lovely fur. After that, she was given a full-body PERMANENT laser depilation. “Heh… take that, McDuffie and company”. :p
I have to side with Byrne on this one. Making a limited series at the same time the ongoing is just getting started with a different creative team is just asking for trouble, particularly when the creators aren’t in sync about their views of the characters. Imho, priority has to be given to the ongoing. Furthermore, the joke is really lame and it makes her look like a moron. I would be ok in the right context like a silly book full of silly humor but I don’t think McDuffie’s book is one of those. In the end, what Chase did wasn’t fair to either Byrne or McDuffie.

I can’t wait to tell my sister about Cortazar’s comic. She’s a professor of Literature and a big fan of his. Thank you, guys.

No pile of razors? Uh… whats that on top of the table?

No pile of razors? Uh… whats that on top of the table?

Ha! Yeah, you’re right, thanks, I’ll fix that. I was wondering where the pile was.

Sam Robards, Comic Fan

August 16, 2013 at 12:51 pm

I’ve always loved Sabretooth. When used right, he’s the perfect mix of terrifying, formidable and clever. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been written well since Mike Carey used him (with Greg Rucka doing an ok job before that and Frank Tieri doing a fantastic job prior to Rucka). Since they brought him back from the dead, however, there’s been no real point to the character other than being the “bad Wolverine” for whatever team he’s on at the moment, which is extremely disappointing (to say the least).

I was always fascinated in Claremont’s original idea for the Wolverine/Sabretooth relationship. While a little cliche, the father/son dynamic would have been really neat, and it would have created an entirely different history for the character than the one we know. I like the “old war buddies” dynamic, too, but it hasn’t really been used in any meaningful way for a while now. I wonder if Kieron Gillen’s going to use him in the upcoming Origin sequel. I also love the idea of Wolverine being the perpetual underdog against Sabretooth: it seems to make the wins he gets that much more meaningful.

The multiple clones, thing, however, I can take or leave. The good thing about it is that you can write off poor performances in other books with a “he’s just a clone” handwave, but, at the same time, all the awesome things the character does would be wiped out with a similar gesture. The only way it could really work is if it were a short-term arrangement, and there were plans to see the “original” Sabretooth at a predetermined point.

I just wanted to speak in defense of the razor scene. Maybe it’s just me, but haven’t there been times when most of us have gone through a ton of paper towels because finding a sponge is too much of a pain? There’s no indication She Hulk was completely unable to shave with the normal razors, just that she tended to blunt or break the blades very quickly. So I don’t read this as her being dumb, just lazy, or perhaps embarrassed to ask her friends to whip out their gadgeteering chops just to build her a razor.

I remember thinking, in Blood Syndicate #1-2, that McDuffie’s “Rob Chaplik” character seemed pretty detailed and specifically realized. I hadn’t realized that she was based on an actual person!

Ah … the perils of tight continuity.

Like a lot of comic readers, my idea of how a superhero universe should function was formed by reading early Marvels. Things could be goofy, but they “fit” and that gave the whole thing a sense of realism. The challenge is that the early Marvels were the product of a very small cohort of people working closely together on a limited number of titles under the clear leadership of one person. None of those things have been true of Marvel in a very long time, nor have they ever been true of DC.

It was admirable that Jim Shooter tried to bring that spirit back in the ’80s, but dust-ups like these were inevitable.

I mean, it would have been simple enough to say “that was Dwayne McDuffie’s take on Shulkie and this is John Byrne’s”. That takes Byrne out of the position of having to try to edit McDuffie. By same token, Claremont could’ve said “my Sabertooth appeared in IRON FIST and X-MEN”.

By same token, Claremont could’ve said “my Sabertooth appeared in IRON FIST and X-MEN”.

Of course, most of what Claremont wanted to retcon by making the old Sabretooth a clone was his own previous writing.

Dwayne McDuffie eventually brought the leg-shaving incident into Damage Control (wherein She-Hulk asks them to provide her with a razor) and visited the joke again in World War Hulk: Aftersmash – Damage Control when Eugene decides to make her a razor from all the surplus Adamantium left over from WWH.

He seems to have really been in love with that joke!

Claremont eventually revealed the “real” Sabretooth in his X-Men Forever, right?

Now that I think of it, was there ever a definitive Sabretooth origin? I can’t think of anything that showed his life before he was a killer/Romulus’s associate/Team X member.

Claremont eventually revealed the “real” Sabretooth in his X-Men Forever, right?

Yeah, and he also started on the true origin of Gambit and Mr Sinister plotline as well as the Dark Wolverine plotline, both of which he’s talked about in interviews but we never got to see cause the book got the axe. Kind of wish they’d have let him finish them off since they sounded pretty interesting.

Then again he may have actually written “Dark Wolverine” way back when he was secretly helping Alan Davis write the X-titles (when Wolverine became a Horseman of Apocalypse) right before he officially returned with X-men #100.

Brian from Canada

August 16, 2013 at 4:35 pm

The real question about Byrne’s departure is WHAT changes did Chase make? Were they major ones or minor ones?

And count me in on Byrne’s side about the shaving scene: Jennifer’s a smart woman. Getting caught underestimating her opponent or not expecting an outcome in battle is one thing, but shaving issues is another — particular when this would have been solved long ago by Tony Stark or Reed Richards during her time on those two teams. (If it wasn’t shown on panel, it’s a pretty high expectation just like “unstable molecules” got mentioned from time to time.)

Clark Kent’s shaving is different, because it comes in a wave of rising realism in comics (at least, compared to Golden/Silver Age) and actually solves the differentiation between five o’clock shadow Clark and shaved Clark. In Jen’s case, we can assume that (a) she has a razor given to her by the Marvel geniuses to deal with the problem or (b) the gamma radiation took away the need to shave green hairs away. In Clark’s case, we were shown he can grow stubble, so how does he get rid of it — because, just like his hair cuts, it would be impossible for him to cut the hair.

What I don’t understand is, why would She-Hulk even try to shave her legs in She-Hulk form when she can turn back and forth at will?

@Sean- Ceremony takes place during a time when Jen COULDN’T change back to her human form.

If it’s any consolation to Byrne, the shaving scene was probably still the best part of Ceremony.
I thought it was just a really boring series.

I thought that he did a back-up in Classic X-Men that had Wolverine getting stalked by Sabretooth (never shown; yeah, #10 apparently). So then is that to be considered real or fake Sabretooth under Claremont logic?

I get that it’s a convenient out to explain away why Sabretooth can get handled by Iron Fist, Daredevil or Black Cat, but man that just doesn’t work for me.

Agreed in regards to X-Men Forever. I really wish that Marvel would have let Chris Claremont finish off the second year of the book before axing it. I really enjoyed that series, and it had some of his best writing in years.

And, yes, another occasion when Sabretooth (presumable the original one) memorably showed up to screw with Wolverine’s head was in the back up story for Classic X-Men #10, later collected in the first X-Men Vignettes trade paperback.

The real question about Byrne’s departure is WHAT changes did Chase make? Were they major ones or minor ones?

They were all pretty minor. McDuffie later remarked that Byrne essentially wanted all of the jokes removed. I imagine a lot of it was “She-Hulk wouldn’t do that. She-Hulk wouldn’t do that. She-Hulk wouldn’t say that” etc. etc. etc.

Well, Chase was (and still is) a good friend of Harras, which is SELF-EXPLANATORY.
Wherever Harras goes, Chase goes too. Or should I say “Chase chases him?”
Nowadays they are in DC, and they still didn’t learn from their mistakes.

Okay, backing up – where did Red Comet hear the Chris was helping Alan Davis write X-Men? I’ve read those issues and they kinda have a Claremont feel, but there aren’t enough “Claremontisms” to convince me of that.

On the She-Hulk Legend I was on Byrne’s side until I read this on his website…

“I wrote copious notes thruout the plot, pointing out all the things that were wrong, and sent it back in. Frankly, I thought it was pretty much unsalvagable. ”

I can picture John Byrne going to Tom DeFalco (EiC at the time) and saying “this story that you planned to release as an expensive prestige format graphic novel is so bad you need to scrap it entirely and take a loss”. Given that it isn’t surprising he lost the argument. Especially given the writer of the graphic novel was Dwayne McDuffie, a rising star at the time and a well liked member of the Marvel editorial staff.

On the She-Hulk Legend I was on Byrne’s side until I read this on his website…

“I wrote copious notes thruout the plot, pointing out all the things that were wrong, and sent it back in. Frankly, I thought it was pretty much unsalvagable. ”

Oh boy! I think that John Byrne is an amazing artist, and in the past he has written some really great stories. But, that said, I am continually turned off by his attitude that no one at Marvel has handled any of the major characters correctly since the original Lee/Kirby/Ditko years, and that he is the only one who knows how to “properly” present them in new stories.

I mean, I can definitely understand Byrne being proprietary and protective about characters he created or co-created on X-Men, Fantastic Four, Alpha Flight, etc. But when he goes about with the attitude that’s on display in the quote posted above by TomC, well, I find it distasteful.

The She-Hulk story reminds me of the final issue of Silver Sable. The back-up story has a cartoonish version of Sable being sent to the Land of Cancelled Series and teaming up with several other female characters who’d all lost their titles. One of them (I don’t remember which one) was complaining about her hair, and She-Hulk says ‘Hey! At least you can cut yours. Mine is like steel cable all over.’

I remember one of the people involved with that She-Hulk GN (I’ll avoid names because I could be recalling the comment incorrectly) mentioning that it felt like Byrne’s real bone of contention was that someone else beat him to the idea of doing She-Hulk as a comedy book. That *that* seemed to be what was really driving his demanded alterations.

That sounds very possible, in the sense that I believe most of the things Byrne changed were jokes.

The She-Hulk thing is interesting. As it appears here, it looks like she’s getting some shaving out of each razor, but not quite enough.

Which is the same with me sometimes with my Alan Moore-y beard, and I’m not even gamma powered.

Any idea if it was originally intended as a “scene” and not just the panel seen here? If it went on longer than the one panel (and I assume the aside about getting Reed doing the adamantium razor bit was a concession to Byrne’s point), it’s too much, but here it’s a nice little bit.

And also, if Jen couldn’t change back from Shulkie, then presumably until that point, she’d just shaved her legs as Jen. If she was stuck as Shulkie (and I don’t know when that happened), it makes perfect sense that she’d just now try shaving as Shulkie, get a little ways, then keep breaking razors. It’s quite a good moment there, actually.

But I might concede Byrne’s point of view were it not for the bit “(even if she needed to shave her legs, which arguably she did not)”.

Huh? Why wouldn’t she need to shave her legs? Hair grows on her body, obviously, and as a swingin’ single gal, she’d probably be someone who shaves her legs.

I’m not sure what Byrne’s getting at with that comment. If the implication is that she doesn’t grow hair because of her gamma infused body, well, that kinda contradicts the scene that others brought up (and that I thought of) in Man of Steel. By Byrne. Wouldn’t it be arguable that Superman would have to shave?

Also, as Ceremony was apparently the first solo She-Hulk book since Savage She-Hulk, the leg shaving bit is a nice contrast — she used to be Savage, now she’s sophisticated.

And look at that “joke” on the cover of 31, Byrne’s first issue back. Trying to “paste over” to make it issue 9, as if he’d never left the book. Jeez. I like Byrne’s stuff (Batman/Captain America is a fun ride, and he’s done plenty others I like too), but he seems to get awfully proprietary. I’m guessing he got a lot of “does not play well with others” comments on his report cards as a kid ;)

Plus, the bit TomC pointed out about “copious notes” brings to mind Comic Book Guy. Worst. Leg Shaving Scene. Ever.

I think I’ll read any Byrne comments I come across with Comic Book Guy’s voice from now on.

Wouldn’t it be arguable that Superman would have to shave?

Well, there had been various stories over the years showing Superman growing a beard. I guess that raised the question of why and how that doesn’t happen all the time.

Pre-Byrne, Superman’s hair didn’t grow except under a red sun, when he was depowered. No explanation why being super would prevent him having a beard–Byrne’s actually makes more snese.
(I think the main reason for the no-beard was to explain why Clark’s barber didn’t notice he had hair stronger than steel. I’m not sure if that’s it, though).

Well, like a lot of things with Superman, that wasn’t entirely consistent. They eventually settled on the explanation that his beard just didn’t grow under the yellow sun, unless Red Kryptonite affected him or something, but there were also a number of stories showing him growing a beard when he got old.

Also, the heat vision solution had been used way back in 1960, although he needed the help of both Kara and Krypto to do it.

http://superman.wikia.com/wiki/Superman's_beard

Something I’ve always wondered is why did She-Hulk lose the bangs between her eyes. I always thought it helped make her face different from other heroines and she had it since her debut. At some point in the 90′s she appeared with Bettie Page bangs and never one back. It still hasn’t (ahem) grown on me.

The info on Superman’s beard is cool.

My point was more “why would Byrne say that Shulkie wouldn’t have to shave?”, and if his answer is “because she’s got a gamma powered body”, my immediate response is “you did a scene where Superman had to shave, what’s the difference between him and Shulkie?”

You’ll also notice that I do indeed love referring to her as Shulkie.

In Claremont’s master “they were all clones” plan did he explain WHY Mr. Sinister would care to have one of his clones teaming up with the Constrictor and fighting Iron Fist?

Reading all those books as they came out and catching all the clues that Sabretooth was Wolverine’s father made it seem so obvious that it had to be a fake-out. I kept waiting for Claremont to reveal that Wolverine was actually Sabretooth’s father, which I think would have been a better twist.

Brian – Did you already do one on the story that, while on FF, Byrne wanted to say that all appearances of Dr.
Doom, with the exception of his introuction, were all robots?

The impression I get of John Byrne is that he needs to calm the hell down about innocuous things he can’t control.

in fact, she-Hulk Ceremony wasn’t intended as a graphic novel or a prestige serie. It was a script for a romance ongoing she-Hulk serie, okayed before Byrne said he wanted to write a she hulk ongoing. Dawyne Mc duffie explained it here:
http://dwaynemcduffie.com/scripts/

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