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Comic Book Legends Revealed #475

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Welcome to the four hundred and seventy-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 seventy-four. This week, did Todd McFarlane used to hide spiders on the cover of Spider-Man? Was Charlie Brown ever going to kick that football? And was Professor X originally in Age of Ultron?

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: Todd McFarlane used to hide spiders on the covers of Amazing Spider-Man

STATUS: Basically True

A number of years ago (four, to be precise), I did a Comic Book Legends Revealed about how Todd McFarlane would hide Felix the Cat in all of his comics as a cute reference to a guy he knew (read the column to find out the amusing reason WHY McFarlane began putting Felix into his comics). Recently, though, reader Dave L. asked me about that column, specifically about whether it was true that McFarlane ALSO used to hide spiders on the cover of his Spider-Man issues.

The answer is basically true.

Basically because McFarlane did not START doing it until he was on Amazing Spider-Man for a few issues. Amazing Spider-Man #303 was the debut of the hidden spider, as you can see in the upper left of the Sandman’s extended arm…

asm303

As you can see, McFarlane was also using the Direct Market corner box (the box that comic book covers had to always have for newstand comics to put UPC codes in them, so comic book companies would typically just put a brief ad, like “The New DC! There’s No Stopping Us Now!” or just a generic picture of Spider-Man or whatever) to do a doodle containing the issue’s number.

Here’s where I am a bit confused, though. I don’t know for sure whether McFarlane began doing the hidden spiders as soon as he did the first one in Amazing Spider-Man #303 (McFarlane has confirmed that he was, in fact, hiding spiders, but I’ve never heard him go into specifics about it). What I mean is that it might have been meant as a one-off gag for #303 that he then decided to do on a regular basis later on, or #303 might have been the start of it all. I guess that’s just another way of saying that I can’t seem to locate the hidden spider on the cover to Amazing Spider-Man #304…

asm304

However, soon it was CLEARLY a recurring gag on the covers, as seen on the covers to #307-309…

asm307

asm308

asm309

McFarlane added an extra touch, though, as his signature box soon became a sign to how many spiders were hidden on the cover. If there was no number, then it was just one. If it had a number, though, that’s how many spiders were hidden on the cover. See Amazing Spider-Man #311, for example…

asm311

This came to a hilarious head with the cover to McFarlane’s Spider-Man #1 (where he wrote and drew the comic), where it has so many spiders on it that McFarlane just threw up a question mark…

sm1

Very cute stuff.

So there ya go, Dave!
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Check out the latest TV Legends Revealed at Spinoff Online: Did Mr. T seriously never say “I pity the fool” in any episode of The A-Team?
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64 Comments

Wow, Marvel didn’t need to really worry about spoiling that twist because even after reading the whole thing, I never realized that.

Kevin T. Brown

June 13, 2014 at 9:43 am

You finally answered my question!!! Thanks!!!

Jeff Nettleton

June 13, 2014 at 9:46 am

I wondered if Charlie Brown would kick the football in the final strip, when it was announced that the series was ending; but, I have to agree that not doing so was the right call. However, there was one instance that I thought it got overly cruel. In the animated special, “It’s Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown!” there is a complete football game and Lucy constantly pulls the ball away. Everyone yells at Charlie Brown, instead of Lucy. Nobody ever calls Lucy out. I still think that everyone should have chased her off the field, yelling for blood! Meanwhile, they showed the Little Redheaded Girl, which was another mistake. It worked better when she was left to your own imagination, like the adults and the neighbor cat that Snoopy feuded with.

Ah, I always wondered why McFarlane put a question box under his signature on the “Spider-Man” 1 cover. I always thought “Is he confused who he is, or something?”

Pretty sure there was a strip in which Lucy doesn’t pull the football but Charlie Brown misses the ball and kicks Lucy’s hand by accident.

Hirschfeld? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Wow, Marvel didn’t need to really worry about spoiling that twist because even after reading the whole thing, I never realized that.

However, while that was the INTENT, as we discussed when Chad spent a month earlier this year examining Age of Ultron, there were enough instances of tie-ins seemingly negating the twist (like establishing that Otto Octavius is the Spider-Man during Age of Ultron or establishing that the events took place after the Fantastic Four left for their trip into outer space) that it calls into question the entire continuity of the series.

Hirschfeld? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

There was a Comic Book Legends Revealed on Hirschfeld’s Ninas just a little while ago! Here it is: http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2014/04/18/comic-book-legends-revealed-467/

WoW?!? All this time I thought everybody knew about McFarlane’s hidden spiders? Oh yeah, the spider is hidden in plain sight on #304. It’s on the web in the white box.

Does that count as hidden, though? Plus, it only showed up on direct market comics. Seems odd to hide an easter egg in something that a large chunk of the readership wouldn’t see.

Arachknigwht might be the stupidest comics word ever

Say what you will about Family Guy, but it was satisfying to see Lois jump kick Lucy in the head in revenge for pulling that shit on Charlie Brown for so many years.

Tarot creator Jim Balent did the same thing when he was the artist of Catwoman. He hid a cat in every cover of the book. Except for that one cover with the aquarium.

Turned out he drew a catfish in there.

The cartoon version did kick a football. It was during an NFL game on either NBC on Sunday or ABC/ESPN on Monday, not long after Schulz died. Metlife is a sponsor and they use the Peanuts characters in their ads, they made a little video where if I remember right, he kicks a field goal.

interesting for figured after what became a staple of the peanuts universe that charles would decide not to pull a fast one and at last charlie brown got to kick the football though he did try to do that in a peanuts special when snoopy made him invisible. plus given how continuity in comics is fast and lose surprised marvel is denying that till they had xavier whacked by cyclops that he was suppose to take the role emma had in age of ultron given the mu has other worlds of their characters

LouReedRichards

June 13, 2014 at 10:39 am

I wept when Schultz died; the childhood memories of reading those collections under the sheets when I was supposed to be sleeping, the timing of his retirement and death were just so touching.

His death touched me more deeply than Kirby’s and I’m much more of a Kirby fan, but didn’t discover his work until later in life.

I’m glad he didn’t have Charlie kick the ball, it would have been much too maudlin of an ending.
The simple letter and the astounding fact that his family didn’t want it to continue without him, that was the classiest way I could possibly imagine a strip like that ending.

My wife claims to like Lucy, when she said that I was a bit amazed. How could ANYONE like Lucy? I loved the Empire, Cobra and the Cylons… but Lucy?!?!?

In a just world she would have been drawn and quartered a long time ago.

Looking at those Spider-Man covers it’s easy to see why McFarlane seemed so exciting back then, if we only had known what his rise would lead to…

This article made me look more closely at McFarlane art than I ever wanted to. I loved that stuff when I was a kid but can barely believe how horrible it really is. It’s a shame Liefeld’s art gets so much more hate than McFarlane, when they are about equally bad.

And I also read Age Of Ultron, and totally missed that “twist.” Even after having it pointed out, it just seems pointless.

Macfarlane’s rise led to the formation of Image Comics, which I think in retrospect even the most jaded former readers of “edgy” 90s comics can be thankful for.

I remember many a time looking for those spiders….and still think he forgot a couple of covers and had us looking for nothing.

@pg- the cartoon version kicked the football before that. Although Charlie Brown was invisible at the time…

At around the 8 minute mark

http://youtu.be/zkSqy4ZVpeI

Or if you want to cut to the chase with less explanation

http://youtu.be/l6J1MhmQRV8

Jeff Nettleton

June 13, 2014 at 10:57 am

@LouReedRichards
Oh, I don’t know; I kind of like Lucy in the same way that someone likes JR on Dallas. Villains can be a great source of fun. I prefer her in the psychiatric booth, though. I can tolerate her a heck of a lot more than Peppermint Patty, though when it’s just her and Marcie, she’s fine. That said, I would have like to see Charlie Brown go postal on her.

When I heard about the final strip, my mind conjured up Charlie Brown winning the baseball game, kicking the football, and finding out that the Little Redheaded Girl liked him. The final panel would have Snoopy asleep in Charlie Brown’s lap, while he and Linus sit under a tree, looking contented, saying, “It’ll never get any better than this.”

huh! i did not know that about the spiders and McFarlane. very clever.

There was one ambiguous football strip (the final one, I believe), although Lucy wasn’t holding the ball. She was going to, but got called inside by her mother, so she had Rerun (Lucy and Linus’ little brother) hold it for Charlie Brown. Cut to Rerun coming inside the house, with Lucy asking “Did he kick it?”, with Rerun answering “You’ll never know.” (So even if Charlie Brown did kick it, his track record with Lucy was still intact, although he may have had the satisfaction of kicking the ball at least once…)

011001010100011101

June 13, 2014 at 11:02 am

Completely odd point about this…Charlie Brown did actually kick the football. It was in television cartoon series from the late 80′s I believe, when Schultz was still involved in the project, and Charlie Brown had been accidentally turned invisible, and was able to kick the football a couple of times without Lucy seeing him. He then went to make a running kick and was revealed again, in time for Lucy to pull the football away. This lead to an exchange with Lucy where Charlie Brown insists he did kick the football, but that Lucy says she didn’t see him do it, and no one else did either. Possibly even more depressing.

Cameron Kivari

June 13, 2014 at 11:08 am

It always seemed to me that Toddy McToddTodd hid the spiders when he couldn’t draw either the front or back spiders on Spidey’s body itself. I don’t know how true that is or not…but…thanks to my OCD, I noticed that pattern fairly early on.

I also recall that animated special, “It’s Magic, Charlie Brown”. Snoopy does a backyard magic act using a book checked out at the library and makes Charlie Brown invisible. For some reason the book had to go back to the library before Snoopy could make Charlie Brown reappear. Once the invisible Charlie Brown kicked the football and taunted Lucy about it, she checked out the library book and demanded Snoopy fix things, which he did as Charlie Brown was trying to kick the football again.

And yes, even we the viewers didn’t actually see Charlie Brown kick the football either…

Xum

I just want someone to clarify to me what it means to be “kidnaped”? Did Marvel have any editors working there in the 90′s who knew how to spell words of the English language before publishing them in big bold letters on the cover of one of their most popular comic books?

one of the twists in the Age of Ultron is the revelation that the comic is set “now”
[...]
obviously Marvel did not want to give that twist away (as the hook for some time was “The events of Age of Ultron are happening right now”)

I’m sorry, I’m confused – the hook was “it’s happening now,” but Marvel also didn’t want to reveal that it was happening now? Then how was it a hook?

And more importantly, why would anyone assume it WASN’T happening “now”?

You’re right 011001010100011101. I linked to the scene on YouTube, but it’s still awaiting moderation.

LouReedRichards

June 13, 2014 at 11:31 am

@Matt Amylon – you’re absolutely right, Image did eventually turn into a true force for good in the comics world. That’s a valid point.

It just had all that crap it had to get out of it’s system first.

I don’t consider myself a former reader of 90′s edgy comics though. I only dabbled in them a little. The early Mcfarlane Spider-Man and a tiny bit of Liefeld’s New Mutants – after that I was outta there.

Kinda like Clinton’s “I didn’t inhale” line.

Oh, how I really miss Todd’s great and detailed Spidey art. Proud to be a 90s dude!

I could be wrong here but didn’t Savuik and Buscema start adding spider tongue covers too?

Tongue was a strange auto correct indeed.

Odd thing in the Age of Ultron panels…

Emma’s in an awkward pose that suggests that she was drawn over Xavier with a minimum of touching up – the hunch and the rigidly straight arms which make sense for Xavier and his crutches, but not for Emma. But comparing their relative positions to Wolverine and Beast, and the positions of their legs, it was clearly a much more extensive redraw than that. So I’m left wondering why she’s in such an awkward pose.

Loved McFarlane in the 90s and still do. Yes, somehow it is far from perfect, but honestly II often losthe todays art, full of CG backgrounds, Poser references ant whatnot. I prefer my art more cartoony and thus McFarlane fits the bill.

I can recall Alex Saviuk on Web & Sal Buscema on Spectacular following suit (and Marvel Tales too?!).
It was always fun finding the spiders when we were kids. I had read back then that it was a tribute the hidden bunnys on Playboy (which also made me enjoy Playboy covers a little bit more).

McFarlane was truly the last visionary artist on Spider-man–probably until Marcos Martin that is.

@Brian: “calls into question the entire continuity of the series.” Which is what we all did… for about 5 seconds, before completely forgetting about it and never dwelling on that piece of garbage again.

What exactly was the “nothing will ever be the same! EV-uhr!!!” event of Age of Ultron exactly. I didn’t read it, but I tried Marvel several times after the event and for the life of me I couldn’t see anything different.

Michael Howey is correct. (Well, not the tongue part.) The hidden spider was regularly featured on all three Spidey titles, although I’m pretty certain the first few times were on McFarlane’s Amazing.

It had even been sneakily announced ahead of time. One of the first changes Salicrup made when he took over was to change the Spectacular and Web logos to match Amazing (he also dropped ‘Peter Parker’ from the title of Spectacular). I remember thinking this was a huge mistake at the time, since it made it easier to get the series confused (a big problem when some convenience store would pull the remaining Webs when Amazing came in, for instance).

Anyway, the original Web Of Spider-Man logo featured a little spider descending on a web-line, or sometimes going across horizontally depending on the cover art for that issue. Shortly after the logo was changed, Web printed a letter from someone who said he missed having the little spider there.
The entire reply to this was, ‘Watch for the return of the little spider coming soon– on ALL the Spidey titles!’

I don’t know if the hidden spider was Salicrup’s idea, or if McFarlane had already discussed it or included in an early draft of #303, but he clearly liked the idea and already had it planned as a line-wide feature before McFarlane’s first issue hit the stores.

I don’t remember which issue had the letter, and I don’t feel like searching through my collection right now, so I’m not sure how far ahead it appeared. But if anyone wants to check, you could probably find it pretty quickly.

So it was supposed to be Xavier instead of Emma?

Well that changes EVEYTHING then!
Knowing this, Age Of Ultron now becomes a masterpiece of graphic storytelling, and not the giant steaming pile of moose crap we all think it is!

@GreenLuthor…I love that final “did he or didn’t he kick the football” gag strip. For those that haven’t, you can see it here:

http://www.gocomics.com/peanuts/1999/10/24#.U5th2vldV8E

It’s just enough ambiguity, and just enough revenge on Lucy. Schulz’s best parting shot.

McFarlane was uniquely well-suited to Spider-Man. I still think those covers look pretty exciting.

The problem is that hyper-stylized art doesn’t suit every property. Spidey was co-created by an artist with a pretty expressionistic style in Ditko. It is not exactly a shock that he and his cast looked good when rendered by an extreme artist, like McFarlane. However, characters that were created (or co-created) by more naturalistic artists looked terrible when rendered by the Image guys and their imitators.

Of course, exactly the opposite is true of highly realistic and photo-referenced art. Ditko characters and later Silver Age Kirby characters (e.g. The Inhumans) look terrible in that style.

@Jeff Nettleton:

In the animated special, “It’s Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown!” they showed the Little Redheaded Girl

Any chance she said “Face it, Tiger, you hit the Jackpot” or words to that effect?

Back then I figured if Charlie Brown ever kicked the ball, it would land in the Kite-Eating Tree…

Damn, Mary Warner beat me to it.

Everything she said is correct; the spider was on ALL the Spidey covers during Salicrup’s editorship. It wasn’t just a McFarlane thing.

i always hated Peanuts. It was just so depressing. Charlie Brown never wins, at anything. Yuck. i don’t want to be actually depressed when i read fiction. Some losing is understandable, but always? Horrible.

Early Peanuts surprised me in that i liked it, but after a while, the tropes are so unrelentingly depressing that i couldn’t read it. i wish Charlie Brown kicked Lucy after a while. What a brat she is.

i worked at a comics store when Schultz retired or Peanuts hit 50 or something. My boss had the TV crew that came in for ‘expert opinion’ interview me to get some perspective. i said i felt that early Peanuts was like jazz, but after the early years, it turned me off by being so depressing. Never knew if they aired it as i didn’t have a TV.

The spider you can’t locate on the cover of Amazing Spider-Man #304 is located in the white box. It’s so simple you wouldn’t think it’s the one, but I’m pretty sure it’s the only time it’s a spider and not Spider-Man or a number.

I never knew about these! Took me back to the Groo the Wanderer Epic covers that had a “Secret Message” on a heap of them. So much fun trying to spot them.

Spider-Man 304 is one of the worst drawn covers of all time. Just horrible.

What exactly was the “nothing will ever be the same! EV-uhr!!!” event of Age of Ultron exactly. I didn’t read it, but I tried Marvel several times after the event and for the life of me I couldn’t see anything different.

They busted time, essentially, by using time travel too much. So the Multiverse in the Marvel Universe is sort of broken, so people can flit in and out of universes at any moment. And it might get even worse as time goes by (I BELIEVE that’s what Hickman’s big upcoming Avengers event is about, but I could be wrong).

I’m sorry, I’m confused – the hook was “it’s happening now,” but Marvel also didn’t want to reveal that it was happening now? Then how was it a hook?

And more importantly, why would anyone assume it WASN’T happening “now”?

If a comic comes out where most of the Marvel Universe is destroyed, you automatically think “alternate universe” or an alternate future (like DC’s current Futures End, which takes place five years from now and features a bunch of changes that will obviously not actually take place in the DC Universe in the future). The reply from Marvel, though, was that this was not an alternate universe. This was not an alternate future. This was the current Marvel Universe right now. However, what they didn’t say (because it would blow the twist) is that it is the current Marvel Universe after Ultron went back in time and took it over back in 2011. So since he took over the world in 2011, then stuff like Otto Octavius becoming Spider-Man or Professor X being killed by a Phoenix-possessed Cyclops would not have happened. But if you have Peter Parker as Spider-Man (or Professor X alive), it makes it pretty clear that it is not the current Marvel Universe, that some sort of timeline shift is in play. Bendis avoids the former by just not doing much with Spider-Man but the latter couldn’t be explained, so they had to write him out of the story.

“However, what they didn’t say (because it would blow the twist) is that it is the current Marvel Universe after Ultron went back in time and took it over back in 2011.”

So…isn’t that an alternate timeline, then? I’m still not sure I get what the twist is. And I like alternate timeline stories.

And despite a month of Chad’s writing about AoU 10, I still want to read AoU at some point ;)

Anyway, these are some neat legends. I too remember hearing something about Schulz thinking he should have let Charlie Brown kick the football, but didn’t think it was something he thought too much about doing.

And like LouReedRichards, I was crying about Schulz’s death. Saw a program about him not long after his death and the end of the strip hit me really hard.

I gotta say, you read Peanuts at any point in the strip, and yes, he goes over the same tropes again and again, but to me, even the most depressing stuff is still hilarious.

And I love Lucy for how loud and obnoxious she is. It’s hilarious when she gets all up in arms over Snoopy sniffing in her root beer and getting dog germs in it, for example, as she did in a recent reprint strip.

The Angry Internet

June 14, 2014 at 4:50 am

I just want someone to clarify to me what it means to be “kidnaped”? Did Marvel have any editors working there in the 90?s who knew how to spell words of the English language before publishing them in big bold letters on the cover of one of their most popular comic books?

“Kidnaped” was once a common U.S. variant spelling, supposedly introduced by the Chicago Tribune in the 1920s. Marvel seems to have adopted this spelling as part of their house style in the 1980s, since it appears in some of their other comics from the period. For example, X-FACTOR #43 is actually titled “Kidnaped!” On the other hand they apparently weren’t using it in 1981, since UNCANNY X-MEN #145 is titled “Kidnapped!”. The Chicago Tribune itself stopped using “kidnaped” in 1990 and I suspect Marvel followed suit, though “worshiped” (another variant the Tribune introduced in the 1920s) is still hanging in there.

I could see someone connecting to Lucy over her hopeless love for Schroeder despite her many less charming features.
She did become a lot less of a virago after Rerun was born, which Schulz noted (he wasn’t entirely pleased with the change but he said it flowed out of her being in charge of the baby a lot).
Like Travis I find the strip hysterical. It’s also interesting reading Fantagraphics’ Complete Peanuts and seeing its evolution over time.

I think the ‘Kidnaped’ error is hilarious, but it doesn’t really compare to Amazing Spider-Man #102, in which Morbius is spelled ‘Moribus’. Editing, anyone?

Wait, Ultron doesn’t go back to Avengers 12.1. He shows up in 12.1 for the first time since Annihilation conquest, escapes, then jumps FORWARD conquering the Marvel Universe and using the future as a base to invade the past. I always thought that was the twist. He’s striking from the future and they fix things by changing the past (altering the outcome of Avengers 12.1).

The opening arc of Avengera ties into AoU but it’s a heck of a mess trying to make that tie in fit, even though the Avengers story and AoU have references to each other.

@Travis Pelkie
Yes, it was in effect an alternate timeline.

Marvel wanted people to care about the story, so they lied. No one was going to believe that Age of Ultron wasn’t another alternate timeline story with a cosmic reset button on the horizon, so Marvel lied in the hopes of getting readers to believe.

I still think the biggest reason behind breaking time was so that Marvel could use it as an excuse to explain away any faulty characterization and contradictions to pre-break status. Particularly Bendis, who seemingly doesn’t care at all about the pre-Bendis version of any character he writes.

Wait, Ultron doesn’t go back to Avengers 12.1. He shows up in 12.1 for the first time since Annihilation conquest, escapes, then jumps FORWARD conquering the Marvel Universe and using the future as a base to invade the past. I always thought that was the twist. He’s striking from the future and they fix things by changing the past (altering the outcome of Avengers 12.1).

He jumps forward in time but then comes back to #12.1 and conquers the Earth. So they go back to #12.1 to stop him before he can go into the future.

I stopped trying to find spiders once I realized the word “Kidnapped” was misspelled on the cover of Amazing #308.

It’s hilarious that no one here can really say what the twist in “Age of Ultron” was.

I don’t know if anybody else mentioned it but there used to be a cat hidden on the cover of every issue of catwoman, they were a lot if fun to find but some of them were tricky.

Man with No Face

July 18, 2014 at 12:56 pm

Re: kidnaped/kidnapped and Morbius/Moribus…isn’t anyone going to mention that great newspaper, the Daily Bulge?

@Adam and @Man with No Face,

‘Kidnaped’ is the proper spelling. ‘Kidnapped’ has been acceptable for years because of frequent misspellings, but ‘kidnaped’ is accurate.

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