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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Legends Revealed #448

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Welcome to the four hundred and forty-eighth 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 forty-seven. This week, was the hit film Man of Steel the result of a legal obligation on DC’s part? Plus, in honor of Fred Van Lente Day, two legends suggested by Fred himself! Was Marvel responsible for Conan being known as Conan the Barbarian? Did Barry Windsor-Smith re-use his Archer and Armstrong characters in his Storyteller series?

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: DC had to make Man of Steel to fulfill a legal obligation.

STATUS: Basically True

Reader Luis A. wrote in about this one a while back.

You see, one of the interesting side effects to the various court cases that DC has had with the estate of Jerry Siegel is that when it comes to the Siegel’s rights to the Superman character, there was an additional argument that went beyond the argument that the Siegels were part owners of the character. This additional argument was over HOW much money DC owed them due to their disputed part-ownership of the character.

One of these major areas of debate was over how much money DC was getting paid from their parent company, Warner Brothers, to adapt Superman comics into films. The Siegel estate argued that DC was effectively selling the character at below cost to Warner Brothers and that the Siegels should be able to go after Warner Brothers directly for more money. The courts ultimately ruled that the Warner Brothers/DC Comics arrangement was a fair market deal and that the Siegels could not go after Warner Brothers.

However, one area where the courts did more or less side with the Siegels was over the concept of whether DC Comics was optimizing the Superman property. The charge by the Siegels was that DC owed them a right to make as much money off of the character as they possibly could, and that DC was screwing things up by not making Superman movies (just one movie was made since the late 1980s).

The court basically sided with the Siegels on this issue and ruled that if DC did not begin work on a Superman movie by 2011, then the Siegels would be able to sue over misuse of the character and be theoretically eligible to get some money from DC Comics for not making the best use of the character.

All they “won” was the right to sue if that did not happen, but DC, of course, did not want to let it even go that far, so they were under a particular time crunch to get a movie into production by that deadline (they wanted to make a new Superman movie ANYways, of course, but they specifically HAD to get one into production to avoid the lawsuit), and that was a major factor in the exact timeline on what eventually turned into the 2013 blockbuster The Man of Steel…


Here‘s a Variety article on the 2009 ruling.

Of course, earlier this year, a Court of Appeals ruled that the Siegels didn’t actually own any rights to Superman anymore (ruling that the Siegels had sold their rights in 2001 to DC for a large financial settlement), which makes the whole thing a non-issue going forward.

Thanks to Luis for the suggestion!

Check out some Entertainment Urban Legends Revealed!

Did Tom Lehrer Really Stop Writing Protest Songs Because Henry Kissinger Won the Nobel Peace Prize?

Was Mumbly Invented to Replace Muttley in the Laff-A-lympics?

Was E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial Originally Going to be a Horror Film?

Was the Song “The Cover of Rolling Stone” Re-Titled by the BBC?

On the next page, the first Fred Van Lente suggestion – was Conan not a Barbarian before his Marvel series?

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Interestingly, Brian, after I suggested this to you, I was proofing the final issue of Ariel Olivetti and my adaptation of Robert E. Howard’s “People of the Black Circle” and completely forgot about this line of dialogue from Howard’s original; Conan says: “Listen: I was born in the Cimmerian hills where the people are all barbarians.”

So though the character describes himself as such, it was the Marvel comic that popularized it as his “title.”

Right, Fred, that was exactly what I had in mind when I noted that Howard came pretty close to saying it without ever actually using the phrase “Conan the Barbarian.”

very cool legends today! Is there anything Valiant writers don’t know or can’t do? lol

I voted for BWS Archer & Armstrong on the best runs ever list.

So how exactly would Archer and Armstrong be more marketable? I don’t know either series.
I knew “Conan the Barbarian” wasn’t Howard’s term, but I never really connected the origin with the Marvel book, interesting.
Howard himself, of course, repackaged an unsold King Kull story to create Conan, which I imagine you cover in your book.
Read through the Monster pages at the link. More interesting, from the look of it, than the Mantlo story we did get.

Probably the biggest advantage Archer and Armstrong has is that it is set in present day. But in general, Archer and Armstrong is a bit toned down in approach and humor.

interesting to learn that stan lee himself did not want marvel going after conan. and that is where he also got the barbarian part. plus that superman returns got made so dc would not have to pay the estates any money in their quest to make sure they don’t share any of the profits with who they should be doing.

Unclean… unnnncllleeeaaaan….

one thing that hasn’t worked out? The horrible recoloring of BWS art in reprints

BWS is a great storyteller and he lays out his pages magnificently but I’ve always disliked the way he draws faces.

Did you ever cover the unauthorized Mexican Conan comic books La Reina de la Costa Negra? It shared a magazine with a similar ex officio adaptation of the Spider.

Thank you Brian Cronin..

Am I the only one who thought “Man of Steel” referred to the comic miniseries?

Excellent articles, Brian. Now this MoS is more than meets the eye.

Thank you, Aaron! I had totally forgotten that there was a nasty little movie called “Man of Steel” and I assumed that Brian was talking about the comic. It was only when I got to the end of the piece that I got confused and I realized, “Oh, he must have been referring to that movie that came out last summer! Come to think of it, that was also called ‘Man of Steel’!”

“so as a result, Marvel could not afford either of the two artists who most wanted to draw the Conan comic, John Buscema (their biggest artist at the time) and Gil Kane (not far from Buscema in stardom).”

Funny. You’d think that, if either Buscema or Kane had wanted to draw the comic badly enough, they would’ve accepted a lower page rate for a certain number of issues with a gradual increase to their normal rates if the series proved successful.

In the case of both guys, though, they weren’t working at Marvel because they liked working at Marvel, ya know? They worked there because Marvel paid them the most money. So I don’t think either guy was interested in risking any money on a work-for-hire gig (Kane obviously was willing to risk money on his own work, but not for work-for-hire stuff. It’s not like they would have gotten any royalties out of the book if it was a success. Their best case scenario was the same page rate that they were getting for drawing their regular books). Plus, if the book was successful, they knew that they would get a chance to work on it later on without giving up any money, which both guys did (although just one short story for Kane).


In an era where artists had to draw two books a month just to make a living, I highly doubt either Buscema or Kane would give up a better paying job for Conan.

Why do you keep doing this CBR. Every time you bring up MAN OF STEEL you know fanboys well go nuts in a negative way. WAIT for page views and comments? You’ve won this time CBR.

But no one went nuts in a negative way here, did they?

I always felt BWS’ style would have been better suited to doing adaptations of the work of Jack Vance or Lord Dunsany, had such existed in comics. I like his artwork but I never felt it was the Conan of the originals. Both Buscema and Kane, and now Giorello are closer IMO. I think not only would Buscema have not drawn Conan for less, but Marvel wouldn’t have allowed him to. I think Conan would have been a success earlier if he had, and his time on the book even more highly valued.

the first was published Conan in comic books was in a mexican edition in 1950. http://www.lacovacha.net/2013/11/clasicos-conan.html

In a way, in my opinion it worked out for the best regarding Buscema (in the case of Kane, I would have loved to see a lot mor of his Conan!) If hehad started working on Conan The Barbarian right off the bat, he probably would have been assigned a regular Marvel inker and his work would have looke like other stuff he was doing around that time. The fact that he was later put in the B&W Conan magazines, with iconoclastic inkers such as Alfredo Alcalá, resulted in pretty unique and fantastic work for Buscema. Plus, BWS had the chance to hone up his skilss, and by the end was producing work as amazong as his adaptation of Red Nails! Everybady wins! (Well, except Gil Kane)

In the case of Kane, I doubt he could have accepted a lower page rate if he wanted to. I’m not sure of the actual timeframe; but, I read once in an interview that part of the reason he churned out so many covers for Marvel in the early 70s was because of his divorce and that he needed to generate income. He was cranking stuff out then. Like I say, I don’t know if that was during the launch of Conan or after. Kane also said he had lobbied for Marvel to make a pitch for Conan before Roy Thomas secured the rights (this was a Comics Journal interview, early 90s).

I got to meet Kane once, at a Heroes Con, in Charlotte, NC. Nice guy. I got him to sign a cover that he did for THUNDER Agents. He said he hadn’t seen one in years, which made it even cooler. Unfortunately, it wasn’t one where he had done an interior story (he checked), though I had those issues at home (I found the particular issue at the con). I really wish I could have talked to him longer, but them’s the breaks.

Archer and Armstrong; for my money, the best book Valiant published. At first, I was a little blasé about it; but it kept getting better and better with each issue. I think my favorite is the riff where Armstrong and his two brothers are Alexandre Dumas’ Three Musketeers and Archer is D’Artagnan. That was fun!

Everybady wins! (Well, except Gil Kane)

Sort of sounds like Gil Kane’s whole career in a nutshell right there. Of all the top comic book superstar artists, he probably had the worst lot of them all from a financial standpoint.

The thing that impresses me most about Buscema’s Conan work was that he would take Howard’s often bland descriptions of monsters (for some reason, REH loved to label his demonic horrors “toadlike”) and come up with something genuinely monstrous.

Brian… you mentioned Man of Steel… I am going SO nuts, right now. I am not likely to be contained. I mean it. NUTS. Nuts like you’ve never seen. I’m going it. Now. I’m clicking refresh like a madman, to give you more page views. And you KNOW I can comment. I’m doing it. Stand back. Nuts.

hmmmm…tied to the first one is the question of how many of the changes to Superman (his Man of Steel suit, origin changes, his whole New 52…everything, really) is tied into not making it too much like what the S&S estates might have had rights to in creating Superman. There was a lot of talk they were making the changes in case the lawsuit went South. I think Superboy was involved too. Did DC change Superman and his history to make sure they had rights to some portion of the character?

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