This is the one-hundred and eighty-first 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 eighty.
COMIC LEGEND: John Byrne based aspects of a Fantastic Four antagonist on Neal Adams.
Neal Adams is a proponent of the theory that the current state of the Earth is different than it was millions of years ago, and that the Earth has actually expanded since then.
The theory is that the continents used to be one gigantic land mass, but as the Earth expanded, the continents broke apart and the oceans were formed.
Adams differs from other theorists who support this topic in how he believes the expansion occurs. His theory is that there is an electron/positron pair production within the core of the Earth. Pair production is the theory that a particle and an anti-particle combined would produce energy. Adams believes it is this energy that causes the Earth to expand.
Generally speaking, this theory of an expanding Earth is not an accepted one in the scientific community, who have all generally accepted the theory of continental drift (explained via plate tectonics) as practically undisputed fact.
However, there are those who still do continue to support it.
In any event, in a storyline during his awesome run on Fantastic Four, John Byrne introduced a fellow named Alden Maas, who was a Walt Disney type who also subscribed to the expanding Earth theory, and actually came up with a plan to use the Human Torch’s supernova flame to re-ignite the Earth’s core and make the Earth expand to help take care of the growing population of Earth.
The Mole Man gets involved as the drilling to the Earth’s core interrupts his world.
While initially Byrne did not intend to base the character on Adams (most likely, originally it was supposed to be strictly a Disney pastiche), as the story went along, it seemed more and more like Adams – enough so that Byrne knew that whether he intended it or not, people would certainly see the character as based on Adams. So Byrne decided to go all out, even naming the character Alden Maas (an anagram for Neal Adams).
And visually, the similarity is certainly there.
Anyhow, Byrne has routinely expressed great admiration for Adams, so this is not some hack job on Adams or anything like that. Maas is not even really much of a villain in the piece – he’s doing what he thinks is for the betterment of Earth. Byrne is just slightly poking fun (if you even wish to call it that, it’s barely even poking fun) at Adams’ theories.
In the late 60s and early 70s, Marvel had a certain status among the New York intellectual circuit. The legendary “New Journalist,” Tom Wolfe, for instance, was a great admirer of Marvel, even appearing in an issue of Doctor Strange.
However, that did not prepare the world for Marvel actually adapting Wolfe’s “These Radical Chic Evenings”” story for an issue of the Incredible Hulk!
Wolfe’s story “These Radical Chic Evenings” first appeared in an issue of New York magazine.
Later it was collected as one-half of a book of the two essays by Wolfe, released in 1970, titled Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers.
“These Radical Chic Evenings” was the story of a party Leonard Bernstein threw at his New York apartment for his rich, liberal friends who wished to support the Black Panther party. In the article, Wolfe satirizes these rich white people as the “radical chic,” people who are supporting causes like the Black Panther party more for social status than for actual interest in the cause. For instance, Wolfe notes that for the party, Bernstein dismissed his normal staff of black workers and hired white South American servers for the party. So I think you get the basic picture.
Well, the next year, Wolfe and Marvel did an adaptation of “These Radical Chic Evenings” in an issue of the Incredible Hulk, written by Roy Thomas (art by Herb Trimpe and John Severin).
In the issue, a liberal couple decide to throw a party for a cause. Their daughter wants them to do a party for women’s liberation, but they tell her no, because one of their friends already did a party on that topic!
So their topic of choice? Why none other than the Hulk himself!
Of course, their angry daughter decides to picket the party and get the superhero supporter of women’s lib, the Valkyrie (I didn’t think to specify, but as my pal Kurt mentions in the comments, this is the women’s lib supporter, Valkyrie, not the Defender hero by the same name), involved.
Here are a couple of pages (courtesy of layne, who also supplied the Neal Adams picture from the previous legend) from the issue, including Wolfe himself appearing at the party in his trademarked white suit!
Trippy stuff, no?
EDITED TO ADD: My pal Kurt thinks it is worth explaining that Wolfe did not co-write the story, he just gave permission for his name and likeness to be used. Kurt also thinks the story is more like a parody than an adaptation.
Reader John K. wrote in to ask:
A few years ago i stumbled across a zygote on the internet that claimed that Gambit from the X-men was actually intended to be Longshot who had recently left the book to find himself after the Siege Perilous stuff in Uncanny X-men. So I am curious, is this, or any part of this true?
Well, John, first off, Longshot, as far as we could see, never actually went through the Siege Perilous.
Rogue (Uncanny X-Men #257), Dazzler (#251), Colossus (#251), Havok (#251) and Psylocke (#251) were the only X-Men from Australia to actually go through the Siege Perilous.
Longshot left on his own accord.
That said, of course, that does not mean that Longshot was not still intended to be Gambit, as just because he didn’t go through the Siege Perilous does not mean that he could not have been changed otherwise. Especially due to his relation to Spiral and the Body Shop.
However, Chris Claremont did not intend Gambit to be Longshot, rather Gambit was going to be a new villain with ties to Mister Sinister (granted, the original conception of Mister Sinister, not the one that ensuing writers came up with).
I discussed a lot of this topic in an installment of Comic Book Legends Revealed almost exactly two years ago!
Thanks for the question, John! And thanks again to Chris Claremont for the information about Gambit’s origins!
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 email@example.com.
See you next week!