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Welcome to the four hundred and sixtieth 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 fifty-nine. This week, did Marvel really ban the color green from their covers during the 1990s?
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 banned the color green from covers during the 1970s.
STATUS: False But Effectively True
A few years back, I wrote about how an errant Stan Lee comment resulted in Iron Man getting a nose on his facial armor. Well, a similar thing also happened with Lee and the color green on comic book covers!
You see, green is very rarely used as a background color on comic books. Go check your comic collection and see how many covers have a green background. Not a lot, right?
This has led to the legend that Marvel actually BANNED the color at one point. However, the truth was extremely similar to the aforementioned Iron Man nose job.
When Jim Shooter became Editor-in-Chief of Marvel in the late 1970s, the great George Roussos was in charge of coloring pretty much every Marvel comic book cover. Once he became Editor-in-Chief, Shooter began to oversee Roussos’ work a bit more and they soon came into conflict with a cover from the Summer of 1978, Mike Zeck’s cover for the Master of Kung Fu #68, which Roussos refused to color the way Shooter asked him.
Shooter wanted the background to be green and Roussos explained to him that Stan Lee wouldn’t allow the color green be used as a background color of a cover and if Roussos did so, he’d be fired as Stan hates the color green as a background and wouldn’t allow it on any Marvel covers. Shooter and Roussos went back and forth, to the point where Shooter basically told him that he’d either do it or else SHOOTER would send him home. Roussos eventually capitulated (Shooter also said that he, Shooter, would take the blame for any consequences from the action).
Shooter then took the colored cover to Stan Lee’s office and showed it to Stan (while within earshot of Roussos) and asked Lee about it. Lee liked it.
As it turned out, like the nose comment by Lee, Lee would say something offhand and it would be taken as gospel and Lee would typically forget it right away. He’d say something hyperbolic and not really mean it, but everyone would presume that he DID. When Lee and Shooter discussed the story in an early 1980s issue of Marvel Age, Lee still did not recall ever actually saying the green comment.
Thanks to Jim Shooter, who has explained this story a number of places over the years.
Check out my latest Movie Legends Revealed at Spinoff Online: Was there no secret decoder ring in A Christmas Story? And if so, WHY not? The answer is surprising!
On the next page, did George Reeves’ death open the door for a Jimmy Olsen spin-off in the 1950s?