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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Legends Revealed #483

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Welcome to the four hundred and eighty-third 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 eighty-two. This week, was there really a sexually suggestive Mickey Mouse milk ad from 1934? How did Casper the Friendly Ghost give us the Silver Age return of the Spectre? And what was Marv Wolfman’s “escape route” for keeping Barry Allen alive after Crisis on Infinite Earths?

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: A creamery made a sexually suggestive Mickey Mouse ad back in 1934.

STATUS: False

Something I have tried to make clear over the years is that retelling a false legend isn’t a big deal, as that’s WHY they’re legends, it is specifically BECAUSE they are believable. I mean, the entire ORIGIN of this column is that I fell for a false legend involving Walter Simonson years ago (Here is the legend in question). I bring this up because this week we take a look at a legend that I fell for, hook, line and sinker.

A few years back, there was a hilariously sexually suggestive milk ad featuring Mickey and Minny Mouse making the rounds on the internet…

mickey-wants-his-milk-inside-of-minnie

I was wary about the legitimacy of the ad (I’m pretty much a professional skeptic, ya know?) but I thought that I had found confirmation when I found the actual comic book that the ad was from, a giveaway from the Grand Rapids Creamery…

creamery

And sure enough, I saw the ad on the back cover and thought, “Oh, okay, the ad is for real.” So I ran it for I Saw It Advertised One Day.

However, I foolishly didn’t look further. I just saw the ad and said “Oh, okay, the ad is for real” instead of actually EXAMINING the ad. Had I done so, I would have discovered the following copy on the ACTUAL ad…

milkad

A few thoughts…

1. That’s some damn fine editing of the picture by whoever created the fake ad. Well done.
2. While I made the mistake, I still feel somewhat pleased to at least look back at the people who admonished people for thinking that the fake ad was sexually suggestive. “It’s a stretch to read anything dirty into that.” Nope, it being dirty was the POINT of the hoax.

Anyhow, while I missed the change, my pal, the great Disney expert David Gerstein, did not and David let me know about the hoax.

David also threw in some extra neat info about the making of the Grand Rapids Creamery comic book, noting “publisher Hal Horne licensed the characters, then used a mixture of Disney art and his staffers’ own. Dairies like Grand Rapids made arrangements with Horne and Disney to distribute certain numbers of copies with their names attached.”

Awesome. Thanks, David! Be sure to check out David’s website, everyone! It’s filled with neat stuff!
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Check out my latest TV Legends Revealed at Spinoff Online: Discover the strange origins of the TV series Miami Vice!
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How did Casper the Friendly Ghost factor into the Silver Age return of The Spectre?

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46 Comments

“Mickey is no longer being sexually creepy, but he is still being a jerk to Minnie. Dude, seriously? She’s not as good as MILK? Even after she JUST complimented you? Jerk move, guy.”

Hmmm. Sorry, Brian, I didn’t read it that way. I mean, obviously they’re doing some word play with the “outside/ inside” thing (although, it’d be harder to try to work something around the phrase “next to you…”), but I don’t read it as Mickey being a jerk. Heck, one could even say that he’s alluding to the idea that the only way that the milk could be better is if she was involved (by it being inside her).

Conversely, one could say that she’s being a jerk to him by saying that he ranks just above milk…is that really such a compliment?

We’re probably over-thinking this…

The scene with Kid Flash is from later in the series, issue 12. Check that issue–Wally has the same dialogue, and Barry suddenly appears. In other words, Barry briefly went to the future.

Casper, Spectre, Wendy, Scarlet Witch and Terrence 13 team-up needed!! Feiffer’s book was my gateway drug as a fourth grader. I haven’t stopped reading comic books since then :)

That is wrong. It’s the females who produce the milk not the males.

Conversely, one could say that she’s being a jerk to him by saying that he ranks just above milk…is that really such a compliment?

Mickey is so awesome that he’s greater than this awesome milk!

But that said, I do think that you’re right, he’s not saying she’s worse than milk but rather that the milk is so great that it would be great inside of her (you know, it does the body good, etc.).

Pretty sure Mickey is just telling Minnie that the milk is delicious and good for her. Y’know, she drinks it, then it’s inside of her, then she’s happy and healthy.

What a bummer that Barry Allen went out like a hero, had Wally West replace him for a good amount of years, only so DC can say all that stuff doesn’t even exist anymore and have Barry come back for nostalgic reasons. Barry Allen is such a boring character that Geoff Johns had to retroactively make up a dramatic reason (his mom was murdered).

Agreed. Barry’s death was the most interesting aspect of his character. Also, I hate that it negates Mark Waid’s wonderful “The Return of Barry Allen” story arc in the pages of Flash, some twenty years ago. That was one of the best Barry Allen stories, ever.

You know, I can’t really argue that Barry was a boring character–he was never the most interesting guy–but I will say that his pre-Crisis comic was really good, and had been for years. Fun villains, fun stories; I’m a fan of both Broome’s Silver Age weirdness and Cary Bates’s Bronze Age arcs. So I don’t think there was any real compelling reason to kill him off. His story engine was a long was from broken.

That said, there was definitely no good reason to bring him back, either. Barry was way more interesting as a well-remembered dead hero than he was as an awkwardly resurrected one. And all the Johns-added stuff, from the death of his mother to the secret origin of his bowtie, seemed really gratuitous.

brian the brain

August 8, 2014 at 11:31 am

I think it’s just a case of meaning “there is nothing you could drink healthier than that milk”.

I always liked Barry, partly because he was ordinary: I could believe in him as a kid much easier than Marvel’s constantly angsting characters (I appreciate Lee/Kirby a lot more as an adult). And as Buttler says, his series was great fun.
That said, it was a great, shell-shocking death, and no, he shouldn’t have been brought back (I love Wally too). Then again, who am I to question the cosmic wisdom of Dan Didio and Geoff Johns, whose insight clearly rivals that of Agamotto and Oshtur?

And thanks for covering this Brian!

I don’t remember where I read it- it may have been in a Secret Origins or in the DCU handbook- but a year or so after Crisis, I read that Barry ran so fast destroying the Anti-Monitor’s weapon and traveling backwards in time, that he was converted into a bolt of lightning, which then flew through a window at the police station, striking a shelf full of chemicals and splashing humble police scientist Barry Allen. THAT was a cool retcon.

And now Barry’s back. Sigh.

What does Mopee have to say about it?

JJ, that was a Secret Origins Annual 2 from 1988.

You guys got it all wrong. Barry was going to be magically resurrected by putting Mickey’s milk inside him.

Barry was a great character, in the right hands. Let’s face it, he launched the Silver Age. John Broome made him fun. Cary Bates could make him interesting. A lot of other writers? Not so much… A character is as good as the writer, pure and simple. However, I, too, felt that after he died, he should remain dead. His legend grew and it helped to elevate Wally. Wally had to go through an arc of being a self-absorbed jerk into a true hero, and part and parcel in that was the specter of Barry Allen looming over him. It’s like being in a Hollywood family, like the Fondas, or the Barrymores, or the Douglases. Shadows loom large.

I think the world is calling out for the Harvey Crossovers: Hellboy, Son of Satan, and Hot Stuff; Spectre and Casper, Wendy and Scarlet Witch, Sad Sack, Sgt. Fury, and Sgt Rock; Richie Rich, Bruce Wayne, and Tony Stark; Little Lotta and She-Hulk, Baby Huey, Donald, Daffy and Howard the Duck (facing Destroyer Duck); and Stumbo, Colossal Boy, and Giant-Man. If Archie can meet the Punisher, we can make this happen!

I have that Feiffer book! It was pretty awesome.

And I missed it just like everyone did, but I’m surprised no one caught that the photoshop of “that” to “my” leaves more space between the words than anywhere else in the typeset. Pretty obvious to see that part now, but darned if I didn’t completely buy it in the previous post.

I already see the cliched Barry-is-boring talking points are starting, so I figure this is a good place to put in a great comment Dan made last month on this topic:

the New52 Barry Allen is dull because DC sucked out all the interesting pieces that were added by Geoff Johns in the year after Rebirth. Post-dead Barry was darned interesting to me, but this empty shell currently inhabiting the Flash title leaves me cold.

I have every Barry Allen Flash comic since about 1971. Big fan. Never saw him as any more/less dull than Bruce Wayne or Clark Kent. Bruce was just a rich emotional cripple who liked to assault people, and Clark was a dork who couldn’t get the girl of his dreams. Oh, what intense drama those two presented [snark].

I hated COIE once they killed Barry Allen. The death of Supergirl gets this special, giant-sized issue and a mournful cover and all that…and Barry gets a few blurbs on the last page. Supergirl was a nothing character, in comics or in the history of comics. Barry Allen SAVED THE INDUSTRY.

That’s right, Barry Allen revived the entire superhero genre which led to the Marvel Universe and so on. Without interest in superheroes, the comic book publishing industry would have died out some time in the 1970s as people lost interest in every other comic book genre. It was superheroes that reinvigorated the industry and still represent virtually every profitable comic on the stands today.

And now, we’re seeing multi-million dollar movies being made about superheroes–none of which would have happened if not for Showcase #4 in 1956.

SO DC OWES THIS CHARACTER SOME RESPECT. Superman gets respect for starting this whole genre. And so Barry Allen deserves respect for saving it.

From http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2014/07/18/comic-book-legends-revealed-480/

I’m glad that Barry Allen is no longer dead (as great as that death was), but I’d have loved it far, far, far, more if his coming back hadn’t first relegated Wally West (my all-time favorite comic book character) to an obscure background and then compounded that travesty a thousand times worth with Flashpoint and beyond where they through the baby (DCU’s fantastic history and characters) out with the foul bath water (Identity Crisis onward.)

tom fitzpatrick

August 8, 2014 at 5:05 pm

@ Mr. B.C.: Y’know, in all the years that I’ve been reading your column/blog/whatever you call it. Despite all the entertaining anecdotes that you have written about the said book, character, artist, writer, event, etc. You have gained a reputation of being a top-notch researcher.

I imagine for every item you write about, you check, double-check, and maybe even triple-check every facts, statements, items.

It is RARE to see you make a mistake (or in the case of the Mickey Mouse ad – fooled). More importantly, you owned up to it.

Now that’s a class act.

You should include that anecdote in your next book. ;-)

He isn’t saying that she’s worse than milk, but it is weird to turn her compliment into a product pitch.

Andy E. Nystrom

August 8, 2014 at 10:27 pm

I actually quite liked Barry as a character prior to his death (and in flashbacks and the like after his death). But as much as I liked him, his death was about as perfect a hero’s death as you ever see. While I wouldn’t have minded a situation like Wolfman’s that wouldn’t have actually negated his death, that should have remained how he died. And as others have noted, Wally was pretty much the definitive legacy hero. But even beyond Wally, if you can have as close to a perfect death as that one was and still have the character come back, what suspense is there really in DC comics? (Marvel’s not much better, but at least Mar-Vell remains in the grave).

Mickey’s just not into sploshing like Minnie is. Milk belongs on the inside!

i am going to come off as a idiot but i don’t see the difference between the ads could some on please help me

The first one has Mickey saying “my milk in you,” while the correct one has Mickey saying “that milk in you.” The first is very sexually suggestive. The latter is not.

@J don’t worry J, and thank you for asking because my comment would have been asking the same thing!

@T and @Dan: That’s not a very good argument at all.

Bruce was just a rich emotional cripple who liked to assault people

How is this not interesting? PS: Every character admits a reductive one sentence description. Spider-Man’s just a guy who feels guilty about everything. Don Draper’s just a drunk who likes to sleep around. Leopold Bloom is just a schlub who can’t face that his wife’s cheating on him. etc etc etc. It can hardly be a reflection on the quality of the character.

I hated COIE once they killed Barry Allen. The death of Supergirl gets this special, giant-sized issue and a mournful cover and all that…and Barry gets a few blurbs on the last page. Supergirl was a nothing character, in comics or in the history of comics. Barry Allen SAVED THE INDUSTRY.

That’s right, Barry Allen revived the entire superhero genre which led to the Marvel Universe and so on. Without interest in superheroes, the comic book publishing industry would have died out some time in the 1970s as people lost interest in every other comic book genre. It was superheroes that reinvigorated the industry and still represent virtually every profitable comic on the stands today.

And now, we’re seeing multi-million dollar movies being made about superheroes–none of which would have happened if not for Showcase #4 in 1956.

SO DC OWES THIS CHARACTER SOME RESPECT. Superman gets respect for starting this whole genre. And so Barry Allen deserves respect for saving it.

This is just crazy talk on so many levels imo. Barry Allen is a cartoon character. No one owes him anything. Carmine Infantino deserves respect. John Broome deserves respect. JACK KIRBY deserves respect. The Flash is not a living being, so he doesn’t deserve anything.

It almost sounds like you’re pushing for DC to publish Barry Allen comics even at a loss, simply because they “owe him” that much. It would be like demanding that the movie industry shoot unprofitable Westerns because of the historical importance of The Great Train Robbery.

Also, all that stuff about Barry Allen “SAVING THE INDUSTRY” is just baseless speculation. Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and other amazing talents were working on comics in the 50s. If the Flash hadn’t caught on, who’s to say none of their creations would have taken off instead? Moreover, you say that Flash is responsible for the dominance of the superhero genre as if that’s the best possible outcome. Maybe without The Flash, the comics industry diversifies and this leads in turn to a more diverse movie industry today, one that doesn’t produce a dozen samey summer blockbusters per year.

But again, who can possibly tell? There’s no reason to believe that the character of Flash is responsible for anything other than the resurgence of superheroes at the exact particular moment when they resurged. And in fact, I shouldn’t even say “Flash is responsible,” because it’s not the Flash to which Time Warner owes a debt of gratitude. I should say “Infantino, Broome, and Kannigher.”

T, perversely that’s part of what I liked about Barry’s death. He dies doing what he always did, saving lives, but it’s just one death in a big cosmic war. I never felt it was disrespectful. And as noted above, I’m a Barry fan.
I think the only DC character who’s stayed dead was Paul Kirk, though of course his clones kept popping up.

That Wolfman escape route was actually used at least once, but not by DC..In Marvel’s Quasar #s 17 & 58 an amnesiatic blonde in a red suit is suddenly the fastest person in the entire galaxy. He thinks his name is “Buried Alien,” or something like that. His last memory is of running.

Not to complain, but as I recall Mickey Mouse commenced as an animation short prior to adaptation to comic books and strips; this tidbit for this entry does not refer to the comic books or comic strips as far as I can determine. I recall you covered Donald Duck, the Green Hornet and Zartan as well. Do you consider any property adapted to comic books and strips acceptable?

I always figured the easiest way to bring Barry Allen back was to pick-up where his series had left off, with him living in the future with Iris. Who’s to say how many years he lived in the future before Crisis happened, or how many times he traveled back to the “past” while he was still alive?

@PB210 The ad in question is in comic form and is not an animated ad.

@J don’t worry J, and thank you for asking because my comment would have been asking the same thing!

I like hearing that, because it makes me feel better about not noticing it back when I first saw the original, as well (and before I posted the fake one on I Saw it Advertised One Day!) :)

Captain Haddock

August 11, 2014 at 10:07 am

Wasn’t Barry brought back in an issue of Marvel’s Quasar as well..?

That quote by Dan would work pretty well if it actually mentioned anything about Barry Allen the character — not the Silver Age Flash as a publishing phenomenon, but that actual character appearing in the stories — at any point. What, exactly, are the “interesting pieces” that Johns added which have since been excised? What’s the character hook of the classic-model Barry Allen? What is the great Barry Allen *story* that only works because of something special to the Barry Allen character?

I think any character *can* be written interestingly, and even that Barry Allen sometimes was (especially in the later Cary Bates stuff). But I also think that Barry’s death worked dramatically and that Wally West was written more interestingly more often, in a way that practically required Barry Allen as a sort of martyr for Wally to measure himself against. And I don’t think that Johns or subsequent writers have told a story that makes it worth the narrative shenanigans and the various other character excisions — Wally, Linda, Bart, Max Mercury, and the rest — that DC and Johns in particular have employed to try and put Barry back in the spotlight.

I should add that it’s trivial to answer that final question for Batman, Superman, and a host of other characters — including, I’d add, Wally West — and rather hard to do so with Barry.

I agree with Omar here. Not much more to add.

Except that Barry Allen as a boring character AND as a publishing phenomenon that appeared in quite a few classic Silver Age stories isn’t contradictory. You didn’t read DC’s Silver Age because of intense characterization, you read because the stories were inventive and delightful with that gentle science fictional lunacy that you only got in DC’s Silver Age.

But if you compare Barry to a few other SA characters like Hal Jordan and Adam Strange, you see that those other characters had soap opera-ish elements that made them more viable than Barry for character-oriented stories. Barry was more of a “pure” Silver Age character, the interest was all in his powers and gadgets and rogues and travelling to Earth 2 and that sort of thing.

Barry himself was a cypher.

Barry himself was a cypher.

To me, they were ALL cyphers. Every last one. Eventually they would have gotten around to giving him more of a personality. The only problem with Barry was that he never got a Marvel-style writer. Green Arrow and Green Lantern eventually got some Marvel-style writers in the form of Denny O’Neil (Denny was very in love with the Marvel style of writing and aspired to be a Marvel writer and also bring more of that style to DC). Same goes for any DC character who eventually became an interesting character: it was usually do to a Marvel-style writer.

Barry had John Broome and he had Cary Bates as his main writers. Bates gave interviews talking about how much he hated the Marvel style of writing. I’m not saying that Bates was a bad writer, just that his forte as a DC-style writer was not creating compelling characters.

Say what you will about Barry, but Wally was just as boring when he appeared in the Flash books before he eventually started getting written by Marvel-style writers like Marv Wolfman.

And for as boring as Barry was and how much better Wally supposedly was, he was always in Barry’s shadow. By the end, he even had a reporter wife, a secret identity, a Reverse-Flash archenemy and speedster twins. Basically, by the end he had fully become Barry anyway! So Wally ended up with all the trappings of Barry Allen and people are claiming that he’s supposedly so much more interesting. It’s proof that in the right hands Barry Allen could have easily been a compelling character as well.

“To me, they were ALL cyphers. Every last one.”

More or less. Characterization wasn’t a priority, but if you look at Hal Jordan or Adam Strange, the elements for a soap opera were more obvious from the start. For instance, Hal had a girlfriend that was also his boss and had a second personality as a supervillain. That was pretty unique for Silver Age DC. Adam Strange had a romance that was complicated by him always being dragged back to Earth.

I don’t know if the Atom or Hawkman had such elements, but they’re also characters that have had a problem finding niches post-Silver Age.

I agree with you that Wally originally was a blank too. Maybe they could have done the same for Barry had he not died? Maybe. But they didn’t, and we got decades of good stories with Wally, so I find it hard to see anything wrong with Barry’s death.

It’s interesting what you say about Bates saying he hated the Marvel style. His run with Captain Atom was very Marvel-like, IMO. And pretty good too.

One other strike against Barry is that it’s hard for DC to capitalize on his out-of-universe status as the first superhero of the Silver Age.

With the Justice Society or Captain America, they’re tied to specific time periods. But Barry can’t be tied to the 1950s. And he can’t be said to be the first “modern” DC superhero either, in that blurry 10-years ago period, because Superman has that position.

Ironically, Barry only was a patron saint of the Silver Age when he was dead. Barry alive is just some guy that became a superhero after Supes, Bats, and WW. So his out-of-universe importance? Unacknowledged in the comics.

I long thought that the only thing really stopping the DC Universe from happening in real time is that the extended cast of Superman and Batman can’t age. Because lots of people care about Lois Lane, Commissioner Gordon, the Joker, etc.

But Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, the Atom, Green Arrow, Black Canary, Starman, they could all very well age, retire, die and be replaced. DC has done multiple versions of them all with arguably the same degree of success as the originals, and to the general public it really doesn’t make a difference if it’s Barry or Wally or Bart; Hal or Guy or Kyle.

Wonder Woman and the New Gods are unaging, so they could happen in real time too, because people don’t care too much about the human supporting cast of WW or the New Gods.

And it wouldn’t be too hard to mesh that with Batman and Superman. They could be in the “newest” JLA with Barry and Hal in the 1960s, with Wally and Kyle in the 1990s, etc. Just retcon things periodically to make it so there were older versions of the Justice League that had no Superman and Batman, like they did with the JSA.

In that way, Barry Allen could have been preserved as the first superhero of the 1950s.

Both of the posts above are mine, by the way. One from my computer at work, the other at home.

Like Rene, I don’t think it’s entirely down to Barry’s writers, or at least not int he way you’re suggesting.

It’s worth remembering that John Broome also wrote Hal Jordan, and gave Hal a much more developed supporting cast around the same time. Outside of Iris, Barry really didn’t have regular buddies in his comics like Tom Kamalku, nor did he get Hal’s rotating love interests and career paths. Even before Denny O”Neil. Barry did get the “goofy relative/acquaintance” story occasionally with Professor Henry West, but even here, there was no hook as there was with the Jordan Brothers stories in GL around the same time.

Similarly, the Hawks and the Dibnys had their married life, and the Atom had his recurring university colleagues. But until 1980 (!) Barry Allen had Iris…and even thee he just had a generic police chief boss, Darryl Frye, and a lab assistant, Patty Spivot, who was quickly reduced to virtual cameos. No wonder Cary Bates felt he had to kill off Iris to shake things up! Barry was uniquely underdeveloped even for a Silver Age DC character.

Really, Barry seems to have been used as DC’s “Baseline” template for Silver Age characters, so that later Silver Age debuts like GL and the Atom got variation and development that Barry didn’t. This is part of why, as a dead character, Barry could so easily symbolize the “better” past. It was his generic template nature that arguably makes that take on him as posthumous character work. But Barry is not Gwen Stacy, a character whose initial spark of distinctiveness was smoothed away by a combination of curious mishandling in the later 1960s and misplaced nostalgia in the 1980s and beyond. Rather, Barry always was what a lot of fans imagine Gwen was: an honest-to-goodness exemplar of Silver Age innocence, the major exception being a mid-1980s story that most now regard as trying too hard to “mature” the character.

I do agree, to an extent, that Geoff Johns and Mark Waid both pushed Wally in directions that made him superficially more like Barry in terms of his plot setup. Mike Baron and William Messner-Loebs, not so much. And I think this helped Wally a lot, because one of the moves Waid and Johns both employed was to have Wally reflect on his jerkish persona of old, and even be haunted by elements of it. That’s how Magneta became a recurring threat, how Johns’s plotline with Julie Jackham’s infant son drew Wally in, and it even informed Wally’s marriage with Linda Park, who often tried to keep Wally level-headed. but that still isn’t a story you can do with Barry Allen.

The problem is still that none of this gives *Barry Allen* all that much development, nor any classic, Barry-specific stories. Wally also got to play off of being a legacy to a character of great historical importance to the medium, something you can’t really do with Barry. (Jay Garrick is memorable, but Flash Comics #1 doesn’t have anywhere near the prominence of Showcase #4.) And since his return, Barry hasn’t done much of interest. Flashpoint is perhaps important in publishing terms, but the main series isn’t terribly good nor is Barry’s role in it particularly distinctive. Even Johns ended up making Barry “interesting” mainly by using a tongue-in-cheek retcon, having his archfoe literally rewrite Barry’s history to be more traumatic. That says something about the character’s basic lack of potential, or at least about modern DC’s attitude towards characterization in general.

It’s interesting what you say about Bates saying he hated the Marvel style. His run with Captain Atom was very Marvel-like, IMO. And pretty good too.

This was an old 1974 interview he was conducting I believe. It was him and Elliot S. Maggin being interviewed at once. I read it reprinted somewhere. He may have eventually changed his writing style though to fit in with the times. I know he eventually even did some writing AT Marvel.

I actually found it. Strangely enough, it’s not as harsh as I remember:

http://web.archive.org/web/20050407101312/http://theages.superman.ws/Creators/men-behind-super-typewriter.php

They make some good points actually. I think as a kid I was just too into Marvel to realize it so I processed it as being much harsher.

Key sections:

MAGGIN: I was never very interested in the Marvel things. But I’m a closet fan.

BATES: Neither one of us likes Marvel material.

WHY? WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH THE COMPETITION?

MAGGIN: I really don’t think Marvel is competing with National. They’re not working for the same market. I work for National because I’m not interested in writing for college students what should be read by kids. I think the only reason anyone over fifteen should enjoy reading a comic is a kind of whimsical one – because it would have made him happy when he was a kid, not because it boggles his mind now. It should take more than twenty well-illustrated pages to stretch the perceptions of someone that age or older.

BATES: They’re only competing in the sense that they’re taking up space on the stands.

MAGGIN: National’s characters are more viable, I think, the stories tend to be better, and the attitude towards the artwork also tends to be better. But I’ll tell you one thing they do that National doesn’t do well… National doesn’t have the sense of SILLINESS that Marvel does.

DEFINE YOUR TERMS.

MAGGIN: Letter columns, ad campaigns, promotional gimmicks, even fan magazines National puts out, they’re not as SILLY as at Marvel. They take themselves much more seriously at National for some ridiculous reason that’s beyond me. Where Marvel will call their magazine FOOM, spend six months trying to get people interested in what FOOM means, and it turns out to be “Friends of Ol’ Marvel”, with “old” spelled “o-l-apostrophe”… National will put out a magazine called THE AMAZING WORLD OF DC COMICS. It’s an uninteresting name. FOOM is, too, but at least FOOM is dumb and silly, and everyone will say, “FOOM – what a stupid name.” Nobody will think twice about a name like THE AMAZING WORLD OF DC COMICS, it seems to me.

BATES: This is the difference between National and Marvel. Marvel’s readers are older, so they look at the books as more “camp,” to be made fun of. National has younger readers who take the books much more seriously. If National wrote dialogue that tried to be campy, I’d be offended.

DC TRIED THAT DURING THE BATMAN TV ERA. IT SEEMED VERY FALSE FOR OUR CHARACTERS

MAGGIN: As a for instance, I don’t think that when somebody writes a letter to a reader explaining a price hike that it should be pompous. The right thing to do is write on a parallel level with the reader, not condescending, not looking down. Often, I think, National’s attitude is less cynical than Marvel’s, but theirs is an outright put-on.

DO YOU THINK THAT THE STORIES REFLECT THIS SORT OF ATTITUDE?

MAGGIN: Yes.

BATES: Yes, Marvel stories are fun.

MAGGIN: Well, I think that’s the level stories ought to be on.

BATES: If they’re good stories, they should hold up as stories and still be fun, whereas Marvel’s are just fun, fun, twenty pages of fun. There’s no story – just action. There’s nothing there.

MAGGIN: I take it that in your midwestern neo-puritan parlance, “fun” is roughly synonymous with “peurile.” If that’s the case, I agree.

THE WAY MARVEL STORIES ARE WRITTEN IS VERY DIFFERENT FROM NATIONAL’S. WHEREAS WE START WITH SCRIPTS, THEY BEGIN WITH A PLOT CONFERENCE. FOLLOWED BY THE ARTIST DRAWING THE STORY AND THE DIALOG, CAPTIONS, ETC. GOING IN LAST.

BATES: Yes, I think that has a lot to do with it. One, it gives the artist the chance to draw just what he wants to draw, but two, it gets the writer in the habit of just letting the artist carry the ball. He gets lazy and does pretentious dialogue to make up for it.

DOES THIS HURT THE PLOT?

BATES: No. I think it eliminates it. It doesn’t hurt it. There’s just no plot there. I don’t think that was the original intention, of course, but I fully believe that it happens.

MAGGIN: A story-telling artist can pull it off, though. Jack Kirby was different. He knew what to do with Stan Lee’s story ideas.

BATES: Oh, yeah, it works if you have someone who knows what he’s doing.

MAGGIN: Let’s talk about something else.

I love the props they give Kirby at the end.

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Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.

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