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Comic Book Legends Revealed #179

by  in Comic News Comment
Comic Book Legends Revealed #179

This is the one-hundred and seventy-ninth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous one-hundred and seventy-eight.

This week, we have a rather oblique theme going – “Almost, but not quite, related to Batman”

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: Marlon Wayans was paid to not be Robin in Batman Returns and Batman Forever

STATUS: True

I’m sure a few people thought of this as well when I did the recent entry on whether Billy Dee Williams was paid NOT to be Two-Face in Batman Forever, but reader BAT actually put it into a comment.

wasn’t Marlon Wayans also paid NOT to play Robin in Batman Returns?

And the answer is yes, the young 19 year old actor, not even yet appearing on In Living Color, was hired to play Robin in Batman Returns, and when that did not work out, was retained for Batman Forever, but when Joel Schumacher came on to the project, he wanted nothing to do with Tim Burton’s original plans, so Wayans was paid NOT to be in the film.


In a 1998 interview at the Onion’s AV Club, Wayans gave the following details…

The Onion: What was your involvement with Batman Returns?

Marlon Wayans: I got paid for almost being Robin. Actually, I was Robin: They paid me, and then they decided they wanted somebody else. I was like, “Hey, as long as the check clears, baby.”

O: Did they make that decision during test screenings?

MW: No, this was way after that. I got the role, and I was supposed to do the second one. I got my wardrobe fitted and everything, and what happened was that there were too many characters, and they felt Robin wouldn’t be of service. So they put me in the third one, and when the third one came around, they got a new director on it [Joel Schumacher replaced Tim Burton], and their vision of the project changed. They decided they wanted somebody white to play Robin


Before Robin was removed from Batman Returns, David Walker’s original script for Batman Returns featured a number of scenes for Wayans, who was to be called “The Kid” throughout most of the movie, until towards the end….

Batman squeals his Ski-boat to a stop and vaults off it.
The Kid rushes up and flips him the pinwheel object.

THE KID
Guess I won’t be needing to borrow
the descrambler anymore. At least
not for a while…We save the city
or what?

BATMAN
Getting there. I owe you two.
Got a name?

THE KID
Yeah…..but I like to be
called…Robin…

BATMAN
Nice name…Oh Robin…

When Batman turns back around, the Kid, ROBIN, is gone.
Batman smiles at the utilization of one of his own traits.
Losing the smile, Batman fires up a grapple to a high
echelon of rollercoaster track. He swooshes upward.

So there ya go!

Amusingly enough (well, to me, at least), Wayans’ outfit as Ripcord in the GI Joe movie seems sorta like a Batman Forever-like costume!


Thanks to BAT for the question, the Burton site for the script link and Nathan Rabin, Marlon Wayans and the Onion AV Club for the information!

COMIC LEGEND: A Batman-like character named the Black Bat debuted practically simultaneously with Batman

STATUS: True

Reader Paul Blanshard wrote in to discuss the Black Bat, although, to be honest, while I don’t recall if he did, it sure sounds like the sort of thing John McDonagh might have written me about in the past, too.

In addition, Greg Hatcher covered the Black Bat a few years back in one of his columns, however, Greg makes an interesting note when he says:

The star of the pulp magazine Black Book Detective, the Black Bat, probably was on Bat-writer Bill Finger’s mind and he HAD to’ve been on Bat-artist Bob Kane’s. At least in terms of Bruce Wayne’s fashion sense.

“HAD to’ve been” is a bit of a stretch, considering Detective Comics #27 almost certainly debuted BEFORE the Black Bat’s first appearance in Black Book Detective.



Or rather, the Black Bat that would have been an influence upon Batman.

The first Black Bat appeared in pulp novels in the early 1930s, in a short lived pulp magazine series called Black Bat Detective Mysteries. In these stories, the Black Bat was a typical pulp hero – just a standard detective who was nicknamed the Black Bat.


There were some occasional drawings mixed in of stylized Black Bats, but really, it’s doubtful that this guy influenced Kane, as A. It wasn’t a hit and B. It mostly just featured a regular detective – no costume or anything like that.

That series didn’t last long, but in the pages of Black Book Detective (a series that began in the early 1930s), in July 1939, the Black Bat debuted.

The Black Bat was a former District Attorney who was blinded and scarred by acid from a bad guy (hmmm…where have we heard that before?) and dressed up as, well, the Black Bat.


The Black Bat was so popular that the Black Book Detective lasted into the 1950s, far past almost every other pulp magazine (which generally all petered out after World War II).

So yeah, there are definitely similarities, but it is almost certainly a coincidence. Neither guy is exactly coming up with brilliantly original ideas here – they’re both more or less Shadow knockoffs.


However, the two companies (National Comics and Thrilling Publications) felt that they other company had ripped them off, and they threatened lawsuits back and forth until ultimately, Whitney Ellsworth (who was an editor at Naitonal but had worked at Thrilling in the past) came up with a settlement between the companies.

The Black Bat is currently appearing in Germany in new pulp-like stories.


Batman, by the by, DID, in fact, steal one thing from the Black Bat (two if we count Two-Face’s origin) – the Black Bat often (but not always, oddly enough) wore these cool gloves on the covers, and Bill Finger recommended to Kane that they incorporate them into Batman’s costume, and the gloves with the little jagged edges at the end have been a staple of the Batman outfit ever since.

In one last amusing twist, both Batman and the Black Bat debuted well into the run of their respective comics (Batman in issue #27 of Detective Comics and the Black Bat in about the 33rd issue of Black Book Detective), and the first issue covers for both magazines featured fairly offensive Asian villains!



Funny, eh?

In any event, thanks to Paul for the idea!

And a nod to Greg for featuring the Black Bat in his column a couple of years back.

Here‘s a cool gallery of Black Book Detective covers!

COMIC LEGEND: Steve Englehart had to change the Shroud’s origins to make him less like Batman

STATUS: False

Reader Ken wrote in to suggest:

This comes from (I’m pretty sure) an old interview Jim Shooter gave to the Comics Journal. He bacame an editor at Marvel around the time that they were publishing Super Villian Team-Up, which introduced the Shroud, written and created by Englehart. And, as recounted in SVTU #5 his origin is very familiar. It is, in fact, Batman’s exact origin. Shooter pointed this out to Englehart, who said something like “I know” or “exactly”. Anyway, Shooter considered that plagiarism, and they had to scramble to change the origin enough to differentiate him from Batman.


Thing is, I read this several years ago, and can’t find the mention of this story anywhere (I think it was in a very old issue of the Journal, that I read in a library). So I would like to know if Englehart intended to, essentially, create Batman within the Marvel Universe, and that Shooter (or anyone else) at first missed his intentions, then worked to undo them.


So I went to the man himself, Steve Englehart, and this is what he had to say:

Not at all. First, nobody “forced” me to do anything back in those days. The origin was exactly what I wanted it to be – a mash-up of the Batman and the Shadow, because I thought I would never do the real Batman. So the similarities were intentional, and non-controversial.

I wonder how that rumor even got started.

Of course, the funny twist was that Super Villain Team-Up was in 1975, and by 1977, Englehart was writing the real thing, in his acclaimed run on Detective Comics with the late, great Marshall Rogers.



Thanks to Ken for the suggestion and thanks so much to Steve Englehart for the answer! Be sure to check out Steve’s website, steveenglehart.com!

Okay, that’s it for this week!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is cronb01@aol.com.

See you next week!