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Comic Book Legends Revealed #465

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Welcome to the four hundred and sixty-fifth 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 sixty-four. This week, did Jack Kirby design two new costumes for Captain America in case Marvel lost a lawsuit over the rights to Captain America? Learn the bizarre story of how EC Segar and Bud Sagendorf first met (a story they didn’t even know for years)! And finally, did Garfield really die in a comic strip?!

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: Jack Kirby created two new possible costumes for Captain America in case Marvel lost a lawsuit filed against them by Joe Simon over the rights to Cap.

STATUS: I’m Going With True

In 1966, Joe Simon sued Marvel Comics in state court and then the following year sued them in federal court, under the theory that Captain America was his creation and that Marvel had, in effect, usurped his rights to the character and that Simon was the proper owner of the renewal copyright to the character, which would be right around that time.

capcomics1

One of the ways that Marvel maneuvered against Simon was to pursue the alternate theory (their main theory was that Simon had created Captain America as a work-for-hire for Martin Goodman, and that therefore the copyright always belonged to Goodman) that even if the courts ruled that Joe Simon had created Captain America independently of Goodman and Timely Comics, that Simon was only the CO-creator of Captain America, along with artist Jack Kirby.

Marvel soon had an agreement with Kirby stating that they created the character as a work-for-hire. As part of his arrangement, he would get paid whatever money Marvel paid Simon. Eventually, Simon settled with Marvel and agreed to sign a deal where he said that he created the character as a work-for-hire.

However, before Marvel settled the lawsuit, there was always the chance that they would lose. If they did, with Kirby on their side, they likely would not have to deal with actually losing the character Captain America, especially since they had the trademark on the character name, so even if Simon won his lawsuit, it wouldn’t be as though he could do his own comic book called Captain America. However, he COULD do a comic book starring his original version of Captain America. That was at least a possibility.

So if there was going to be a rival Captain America comic book with Cap in his classic costume, Marvel at least entertained the idea of having a new costume for THEIR Captain America, then, to differentiate the two.

So Kirby designed at least two new looks for Captain America. Here they are…

capcostume1

capcostume2

The second one Kirby years later used as the basis for Captain Glory in his short-lived Topps line of comics in the 1990s…

captainglory

Obviously, neither costume was ever needed since Simon settled.

Thanks to Greg Theakston and Mark Evanier for the information behind this one! Theakston first reported on the first costume back in 1995 and at the time, he was unsure of what the purpose of the drawing was (noting that the general belief was that it was for an alternate costume), but coupled with Evanier’s research saying that the second costume was for the same purpose (a possible new costume), I think it is enough evidence to conclude that the first costume was drawn for the same reason as the second costume. They’re both from the same time frame.
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Check out my latest TV Legends Revealed at Spinoff Online: Does Hasbro forbid G.I. Joe’s Snake Eyes from being portrayed as a New York Yankee fan?
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55 Comments

“The topic comes up, someone debunks it, it goes away for a few years until the next group of people hear the legend, bring it up, someone debunks it and then it goes away for a few years until the next batch of people hear the legend and bring it up.”
Or to paraphrase David Brin, no fact has ever been so conclusively disproven it won’t be shared on the Internet.
I can see why people were confused. The “denial” made me wonder if Garfield was just imagining John and Odie at the end. But yeah, definitely striking strips–way better than most Garfield works for me.

I’m a huge Kirby fan so I’m not trying to diss the man’s memory, but I’m starting to think Simon had a bigger hand in Cap’s design than Kirby did, because to me Kirby’s costumes never again quite matched the Captain America costume, and those alternate Cap designs make me think so even more. Does anyone know for sure what the division of duty was between the two men? I know it wasn’t just that Simon was writer, because Kirby’s art looks significantly different when he worked with Simon.

Simon likely designed the costume by himself.

The first alt.Cap look isn’t bad, but the second one doesn’t look right at all.

i concur, those cap alt. costumes seem lacking the impact and dynamism of the original outfit. i happen to think the same thing about most recent armorized capstume but thats a different story

@T. – I would assume that Kirby’s remit was to make the new Captain America costume as different as possible from the original so there would be no more lawsuits. The first one may have been an attempt at something sort of close that made sense for the character, but far enough away from the original that they wouldn’t be accused of copying the costume.

The second one may have been a fallback position, something radically different, but just enough touches that it still looks like America. You’ve got the red, white, and blue colors and a nice eagle emblem that immediately reminded be of Wonder Woman. The yellow seems an odd choice, but I can see him trying for an English banner style. Google search for medieval banner with eagle shows a surprising number of black eagles on yellow background.

But that’s just my imagination.

i concur, those cap alt. costumes seem lacking the impact and dynamism of the original outfit. i happen to think the same thing about most recent armorized capstume but thats a different story

It’s weird that the recent armorized Cap costume is supposedly influenced by the movie Cap costume, given that the movie Cap costume looks 1000x better. Even if one tries to use the excuse that the problem is that movie Cap costume only works in live action, if you look at promotional art from the Cap movies that’s obviously not true either:

http://www.techpedition.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/ca.jpg

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-5r9EYwkDApo/UdNFbrBZa7I/AAAAAAAAmXU/Bbj6807db6c/s653/cap_supesoldier.jpg

The point is, even if Marvel did want a movie-inspired costume there’s no reason why it has to look bad when drawn.

Yeah, those Cap redesigns aren’t just different, they’re not really that good on their own merits. The first one just looks like they’re opening themselves up for a new lawsuit from the creators of The Shield. And the second, if the original, pre-Captain Glory coloring is to be believed, seems more fitting for Captain China.

And the art and storyline in that Garfield sequence really makes the current strip look kinda lazy.

You know, Garfield gets a lot of flak today for supposedly being a poster child for hackiness, but that series of strips shows how good it could be back when Davis was still trying.

I remember that Garfield series vividly. It was so unbelievably different from anything like what Garfield had been before and I honestly expected something huge was happening in the comic. I never got to see the final strip and I was disappointed when everything was back to normal the next Monday. But that series stuck with me and eventually I tracked down the book that reprinted the whole series. By, was I let down by lack of a real ending.

Fraser: That first alt-Cap costume might’ve been much better if Kirby had just colored the leggings the same color as the “trunks.” The grey leggings are just dumb.

I vaguely remember that Garfield storyline. I, too, read it as Jon, Odie, and the rest being Garfield’s fantasy world.

Even after reading the quote from the Davis interview, I waffle back and forth on how the last strip reads. You can read the Jon and Odie panels as the typical “break him out of his fantasy” ending, or read them in a darker light as Garfield escaping into fantasy. Davis’s interview makes it lean towards the former, while the text in the strip itself pushes hard for the latter.

The Davis quote itself leaves things up in the air, though. He says it is a Halloween strip about fear, but he doesn’t actually deny that John and Odie at the end are Garfield’s fantasy. It could just be that the whole storyline is a throwaway holiday fantasy episode, but within that storyline, Jon and Odie are gone and Garfield is alone and living in his own fantasy world.

Garfield series is nicely done; I have a bookshelf of what I can guess is alt reality Garfield stories (I think it was “His 9 Lives”). Some of it, like a story where the cat involved starts attacking its owner, shows Davis can play up the horror angle alright at times.

Then again, Garfield minus Garfield” is sort of creepy regularly anyway.

http://garfieldminusgarfield.net/

The fact that Kirby sided with Marvel against Simon and even (it appears) submitted evidence to the court that he did his work for Marvel as a “work for hire” job casts a definite pall over all his later attempts (and attempts of his family) to claim otherwise.

Those alt Cap costumes are bad.

interesting given that the u.s supreme court ruled that joe simon needed a jury trial for back royalties for captain america that marvel had a back up plan to make sure even if they did lose the character they could still use cap. plus i always though that those garfield strips would turn out to just be garfield dreaming what his final fate may be

Bill Williamson

April 4, 2014 at 1:38 pm

I assume the Topps line of comics were short-lived because Kirby died, right?

Simon likely designed the costume by himself.

Thanks.

LouReedRichards

April 4, 2014 at 2:14 pm

I think they were short lived because they came out at a time when Image and their legion of imitators were the dominant force in comics and those Secret City Saga comics were just too “old fashioned” for the EXTREME early 90’s. The couple I had seemed to be lacking in both story and art, but it’s been a long time.

Even by later day Kirby standards the characters seemed contrived C listers at best.

Topp’s did publish Ray Bradbury’s Comics which had an awesome Mike Mignola contribution, still one of my favorite pieces of his.

LouReedRichards

April 4, 2014 at 2:15 pm

It’s funny because I know the comics Kirby did in the 70’s were often considered out of touch with the youth of the day, and I absolutely love a lot of those comics.

bob, eh thats a good point and kirby nailed the designs in that respect by making them awful. garage doors, huh? i ll surely look into that. oh and garfield was way more hit than miss for me when i was a young child looking over the dailys

@T. – I would assume that Kirby’s remit was to make the new Captain America costume as different as possible from the original so there would be no more lawsuits.

Like M-Wolverine said, the problem isn’t that the costumes are different, it’s that they’re freaking terrible.

@Billy: I feel like the text within the strip is also pointing towards the deserted house being the “fantasy”, actually:

“An imagination… can paint a future so vivid that it can entice… or terrify, all depending upon how we conduct ourselves today”.

Together with the first panel, the obvious inference seems to me to be that, as a result in some way of his complacent attitude towards his current life, Garfield is imagining a future in which that life no longer exists.

“I think they were short lived because they came out at a time when Image and their legion of imitators were the dominant force in comics and those Secret City Saga comics were just too “old fashioned” for the EXTREME early 90?s.”

But the guy who drew those was a total McFarlane clone.

Jack Kirby had NOTHING to do with Captain America’s origins aside from drawing some of the early stories. The character’s “creation” was literally 100% Simon including the costume.

The Secret City Saga was drawn by Steve Ditko as I recall (I have them but haven’t read them for a while and couldn’t be bothered getting off my arse to look) He definitely wasn’t a McFarlane clone.

I feel sad that no one remembers or even noticed Captain Glory (hope I have that name right) and the other characters from the Secret City Saga featured heavily in the recent Kirby: Genesis limited series put out by Dynamite Comics. It was great. Jack Herbert updated the costumes but still kept the influence of Kirby alive.

Oh and I’m assuming when we look at Captain Glory as a proposed Captain America we would also have to imagine it would have been coloured red, white, and blue. Not the colour scheme Kirby used for Glory. Still the star mask is a little too much IMO.

Even if they were just intended as a creepy story for Halloween, those Garfield strips still pretty much say that Garfield is actually alone and Jon and Odie only exist in his mind. It doesn’t really matter if Davis wasn’t thinking about how it would affect continuity, it happened. A lot of things like that have ended up affecting canon even though the author didn’t originally mean for them to. Dr Banner’s first name wasn’t supposed to be Robert, Lee just forgot and called him Bob instead of Bruce for an issue, but now his name is Robert Bruce Banner. There was a whole issue of Justice League of America about how they had an adventure with Adam Strange in the past to justify them mentioning him in another issue. Granted, putting Garfield and canon in the same sentence is kind of absurd, but the point stands. Clearly in every strip after that one, Jon and Odie are figments of Garfield’s imagination.

Jeff Nettleton

April 4, 2014 at 8:13 pm

The Topps comics were introduced with artwork from some old Marvel stalwarts, like Dick Ayers., which made them cool to us old-timers, but story definitely wasn’t spectacular. I’m not a huge fan of the designs either. As for Simon & Kirby, Simon was often the principle designer and he did some of the art chores, but Kirby was so much faster that they could churn out material much faster with Kirby doing more of the artwork. When you look at the original Cap design, it’s a cross between a knight and a swashbuckler/pirate: helmet, chain-mail, shield, buccaneer boots, gauntlets. Kirby’s redesigns are based more on his more recent experiences in creating costumes and have more of a wrestling bent to them. I love Kirby’s artwork, but costumes could be hit and miss. With the New Gods, I always liked Darkseid, Lightray, and Metron’s designs, but am not a big fan of Orion’s (apart from the helmet). Meanwhile, the Female Furies looked great, as did Mister Miracle. The Demon was a bit different, since he swiped the basic design from Prince Valiant (even Jack borrowed from others), but it was effective.

Part of the problem with the Topps stuff was that it was never really developed; mostly just characters designs and names. Roy Thomas helped launch them and it seemed he deliberately tried to make them like classic Marvel, but they just felt dated, though Satan’s Six was a pretty good concept. Of the various superhero launches of that period, that was one of the more unique ones. The Image stuff was completely derivative of past work (apart from Sam Keith’s The Maxx), as was the Ultraverse stuff (Firearm was an interesting idea), the Comics Greatest World stuff at Dark Horse, and even Milestone (though they were more creative with their characters). Secret City Saga was derivative of past Kirby, but at least it wasn’t recent past and felt newer to the younger crowd, though the names involved only meant something to older fans. I have copies of the Kirby Genesis stuff, but haven’t read it yet, so we’ll just have to take a look at that and see if they added anything to it.

LouReedRichards

April 4, 2014 at 9:01 pm

Yeah, most of Kiby’s costume designs are spectacular, but like you, Orion’s left me cold, so boring.

I remember seeing the New Gods depicted in the Superman and Justice League cartoons and thinking how well they translated them and how great they looked in motion.

Just wondering…neither of the alternate Cap costume designs have him using a shield. Does that mean that if Simon had won, Marvel’s Cap would not have had a shield?

No disrespect to “THE KING” but I find the “new” Cap costumes too lame and uninspiring. Gladly, these don’t replace Cap’s truly iconic costume (with the exception on Alex Ross and Epting’s Bucky’s Captain American costume, which is a true nod to Steve’s costume!).

As a big Popeye fan, I’m surprised that I’ve never heard this particular legend before! Really fascinating how things work out.

Those Cap costumes… definitely not Kirby’s best work.

I remember running across one of those Garfield strips when I was little. We only got newspapers once or twice per week, so I got that one snippet which filled my head with WTF, and then the next strip I got to read a few days later was business as usual. It was years before I got to read the whole thing. It’s a really nice run of strips, but it’s also kinda bittersweet to be reminded how good it used to be. It’s been years since I’ve been able to stomach reading Garfield, though I do quite enjoy Garfield Minus Garfield on the Gocomics app every day.

That star mask makes me believe Captain Glory is being controlled by Starro the Conqueror.

I’d like to throw another costume into the mask, Simon & Kirby’s Fighting American:

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-W44L-f1y2DA/UQGPCqu1nGI/AAAAAAAAj2A/vi3inXgjwbk/s1600/FightingAmerican2.jpg

Much better than either of the two above.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fighting_American

I assume the Topps line of comics were short-lived because Kirby died, right?

I believe they already were doing poorly before Kirby died.

Jack Kirby had NOTHING to do with Captain America’s origins aside from drawing some of the early stories. The character’s “creation” was literally 100% Simon including the costume.

It really doesn’t matter if Simon designed the costume by himself (which he most likely did). The first story featuring Captain America was produced by both guys (heck, Kirby specifically drew the first story himself), so in the absence of a contract specifically stating that Kirby was not the co-creator of Captain America, he is the co-creator of Captain America from a copyright perspective. Unless, of course, the work was a work-for-hire, in which case the copyright would be owned by the guy who hired Simon and Kirby to create Captain America.

Just wondering…neither of the alternate Cap costume designs have him using a shield. Does that mean that if Simon had won, Marvel’s Cap would not have had a shield?

The famous round shield wasn’t introduced until Simon and Kirby definitely were working for Marvel, so they never had to worry about the round shield not being theirs. In fact, it would be Simon who wouldn’t be able to use the round shield in the theoretical world where he somehow won back 50% of the rights to Captain America.

I’d like to throw another costume into the mask, Simon & Kirby’s Fighting American:

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-W44L-f1y2DA/UQGPCqu1nGI/AAAAAAAAj2A/vi3inXgjwbk/s1600/FightingAmerican2.jpg

Much better than either of the two above.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fighting_American

But again, also likely designed by Simon.

Holy crap.

If Tom Batuik ever needs a ghost writer, I think we just found the guy.

Brian, have you ever written either here or elsewhere on the story the triangle shield was changed precisely because of fears they might get sued by MLJ, the Shield’s publishers?

Yep! In a couple of hours, you can read about it when I do a post that is is a collection of old Captain America comic book legends.

I suspect Jack wasn’t really enthusiastic about working on the Cap lawsuit. The possibility that he just grabbed two drawings off the scrap pile and handed them to Stan shouldn’t be dismissed. Also the Supreme Court has ruled several times that trademark doesn’t trump copyright. If Simon had won back 100% of Captain America (what he was asking for) then Marvel’s trademark would have been unenforceable.

Oh true, Bob, but I imagine Marvel was likely presuming that best case for Simon was winning half, and thus just planned for that possibility.

If Marvel had lost the rights to the original Captain America design, any redesign would have to be radically different, as these demonstrate. My dad worked on an ad campaign in the early ’80s featuring a character called “Rebate Man.” He poured through my comic collection, looking for the slightest similarity with any existing design that could bring a claim of copyright infringement.

Ted Craig:

Again, the problem isn’t that they’re radically different. Everyone gets why they would have to be. The problem is that they’re ugly.

Jeff Nettleton

April 5, 2014 at 2:43 pm

@Bob Hughes

I was going to suggest the same thing. I doubt Kirby was siding with Marvel for any other reason than he needed to feed his family and had bad experiences with legal issues on the Skymasters strip. I suspect Kirby would have rather just create a new character to take Cap’s place. Mark Evanier has said that Kirby suffered from two recurring nightmares: the war and producing work to feed his family. Kirby didn’t start fighting publishers until his kids were older (or adults) and he was looking at things to take care of retirement and to take care of the family when he was gone. I believe Simon remarked in his book that he threw in the towel mainly because Marvel had Jack pretty well under their thumb; or, at least, that was what I inferred from his description of that episode. I haven’t read that in over 20 years, so my memory is hazy.

Les Fontenelle

April 5, 2014 at 2:57 pm

I actually think the first of the two designs has a certain flair; it purposefully goes in a different direction from the classic but retains a sense of style. The second one is a mess that would be considered garish in a clown convention.

Kirby often made baffling coloring choices in his character designs – sometimes that boldness clicked together surprisingly well, like in Mister Miracle’s costume, but sometimes it was a brief glimpse into insanity. And that second design isn’t just a glimpse, it’s a long hard stare into the mouth of insanity.

If Marvel had lost the rights to the original Captain America design, any redesign would have to be radically different, as these demonstrate. My dad worked on an ad campaign in the early ’80s featuring a character called “Rebate Man.” He poured through my comic collection, looking for the slightest similarity with any existing design that could bring a claim of copyright infringement.

True, but again, with Kirby on their side, it was unlikely that they were ever going to lose the complete rights to the original Captain America design, since even if Simon won, Kirby had already agreed that no matter what, Marvel would be getting Kirby’s half of the rights. Joe Simon would have an extremely tough time trying to gain 100% of the rights to Captain America when the guy who drew Captain America’s first appearance (and co-wrote the first appearance) was not on his side.

These alternate designs would be just possibilities for an unlikely, but theoretically possible result, which was:

1. Joe Simon winning his half of the rights
2. Joe Simon turning down Marvel’s offer for those rights (which is what happens most of the times these things happen – the larger company will just buy the rights back, because they are worth more to the company than they are to the individual, which is why the Siegels sold their rights right back to DC)
3. Joe Simon deciding to put out a competing Captain America comic book (not called Captain America, of course, because Marvel would retain the trademark on Captain America along with their 50% ownership of the character)

All three things happening were very unlikely. But if they all did happen, Marvel at least wanted to have the possibility of changing their Cap to look different from Simon’s Cap.

Am I the only one who likes the second new design better than the first?

Don’t get me wrong, the head piece is absolutely hideous. But I kind of like the rest of it. The first one is just too circus strongman for me.

Wasn’t Simon a witness for National Comics (DC) in their case against Fawcett, when they destroyed Captain Marvel by saying he was a Sueprman knockoff? And then here you explain how years later he loses his own copyright case to Marvel due to Kirby testifying against him. And then Kirby loses HIS own copyright cases years later. A sad cycle of incredible artists being pitted against one another repeating itself…

Wasn’t Simon a witness for National Comics (DC) in their case against Fawcett, when they destroyed Captain Marvel by saying he was a Sueprman knockoff? And then here you explain how years later he loses his own copyright case to Marvel due to Kirby testifying against him. And then Kirby loses HIS own copyright cases years later. A sad cycle of incredible artists being pitted against one another repeating itself…

I agree with the general point, as that tends to be how these things work, the little guys have to do what they can do to get by, and as a result often get used as tools by corporations against other little guys. That said, in the specific examples used, I don’t think Joe Simon testifying against one comic book company on behalf of another comic book company is particularly analogous to Kirby supporting a comic book company against a fellow artist. Fawcett might have been a “little guy” compared to National, but they were not a particularly little “little guy.”

and since Simon & Kirby did the first solo Captain Marvel book, which was very early in Cap’s career, he would be able to testify to what instructions he was given by Fawcett. And if Fawcett did tell him to do things similar or the same as Superman, he’d have to testify to that or commit perjury. I’d have to look at the timing of the lawsuit and when the depositions/testifying happened, but by the end of the war, Simon was no fan of National either. Most of the Simon & Kirby post-war work was very specifically done for publishers other than Goodman and National.

Stephen Conway

April 6, 2014 at 2:09 pm

Jim: Simon and Kirby worked on Captain Marvel two years after he’d already been created so it is very doubtful that they had to be told directly to ape Superman as the standard had already been set.

@ Scott Harris: Nope, you’re not alone. The first design was simply awful in every way. Just too busy. The second design I actually quite like, just not for Captain America. I think it’s the yellow that ruins it for me.

Man, am I ever glad that cap got to keep his standard costume.

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