This is the one-hundred and ninety-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 one-hundred and ninety-two.
COMIC LEGEND: Art Spiegelman started his career doing Garbage Pail Kids.
STATUS: False, with Specks of Truthiness
Reader Manolis V. passed along a legend that he had heard from a friend of his:
that Art ‘Maus’ Spiegelman started his career drawing Garbage Pail Kids cards
What I imagine caused the confusion is the dates.
Spiegelman’s amazing tale of the Holocaust, Maus, came out in 1986.
Garbage Pail Kids, which were co-created by Art Spiegelman, came out a year earlier.
However, Art Spiegelman by this point was already a known commodity in the comics world, particularly with the creation of Raw in 1980.
In fact, Maus first appeared years earlier (first in the early 70s as a short story and later the first six chapters of Maus were serialized in Raw), pre-dating Spiegelman’s involvement with Garbage Pail Kids.
However, the specks of truthiness in the story lay in the history of how Spiegelman actually DID start his career, and while it was not with Garbage Pail Kid, it was with Garbage.
When Spiegelman was in his late teens in the late 1960s, he was interning at Topps Bubble Gum (most notably the company that produced Bazooka bubble gum and Topps baseball trading cards) and soon found himself working on staff in Product Development.
Spiegelman was crucial to the creation of Garbage Can-dy, candy shaped like, you guessed it, garbage.
But it was his involvement with Wacky Packages that solidified his position at Topps for years to come.
Wacky Packages were trading cards that consisted of parodies of notable products, like Crust toothpaste instead of Crest, etc.
Spiegelman helped hire a veritable Who’s Who of the independent comic book scene to work on Wacky Packages, including such luminaries as Kim Deitch, Jay Lynch, Bill Griffith, Drew Friedman and Spiegelman, himself.
By this point, Spiegelman was already heavily involved in independent comics. In 1980, he and fellow artist Françoise Mouly (an artist whom Spiegelman had a some familiarity with) co-created Raw, a comic magazine geared toward the elite of the independent comics set.
In 1985, while still at Topps, Spiegelman, along with Mark Newgarden, co-created Garbage Pail Kids, which became a national sensation (even getting its own TV series and film).
The next year, Spiegelman’s acclaimed Maus stories were finished (the six chapters from Raw were re-tooled for the final book) and collected into a graphic novel, which drew considerable national acclaim. Five years later, Spiegelman released the second volume of Maus. In 1992, the series as a whole received a special Pulitzer Prize, making it perhaps THE most acclaimed graphic novel of all time.
Spiegelman left Topps in the late 1980s, presumably over dissatisfaction over creator’s rights, and has done a number of tremendous works since.
In any event, no, Garbage Pail Kids did not start Art Spiegelman’s career, but his time at Topps was clearly a big part of his life and career.
Thanks to Manolis for the question! And thanks to Jim Turoczy for an important correction (Maus’ first appearance in comics was in the 70s not 1980. Jim also correctly points out that Spiegelman goes by “art spiegelman,” sans capital letters).
COMIC LEGEND: Mark Gruenwald planned for a time on killing off the Falcon.
Sam Wilson, the Falcon, appeared in Captain America #117, and was Marvel Comics’ first African-American superhero (with Black Panther not being, you know, American!).
After awhile, Sam changed from green to the red color theme he has been known for ever since.
Then, during Steve Englehart’s tenure on the book, the Falcon gained wings (courtesy of the Black Panther) and he has been a high-flying hero ever since!
In 1992’s Captain America #408, the Falcon debuted a new look…
Sleek and armored, Falcon looked every bit the typical 90s hero.
However, if it had not been for a change of heart by Mark Gruenwald, the Falcon would have been part of something ELSE that was typical for a 90s comic book hero, he would have been killed off and replaced by a younger hero!
Mark Gruenwald himself detailed the story in an October 1993 edition of his Mark’s Remarks column, where the conceit was that some folks were coming to enlist Gruenwald’s help in killing off a major character.
While he turns them down, he opens up about what he ALMOST did to the Falcon…
“Actually your plight reminds me of a discussion I was involved in concerning Captain America’s pal, the Falcon. I’d gotten a lot of fan mail from people who were interested in seeing Falc return to Cap’s book, and so I was considering it. My problem with the Falcon was something like what you said. Through a succession of writers, Falc’s backtory got very, very convoluted and messy. I also thought the way he looked was a bit too ’70s-ish, and what he could do was no big shakes anymore. An artist came up with a proposal to kill him off and have him be replaced by a young continuity-free protege in a slicked-up ’90s suit [Tom Brevoort notes that this artist was James Brock, who drew a Falcon story in the 1992 Captain America Annual that followed up on Falcon’s re-introduction in Captain America #408 – BC].
“As I mulled over the idea, I began to realize my great affection for Sam Wilson and the storyline where he was first introduced, well before his life got all mucked up. It also hit me that he was Marvel’s first African-American super hero. I couldn’t condemn such a guy to death just because he had the misfortune of having some writers make him complicated instead of interesting. So I told the artist, how about if we just ignore all the stuff that makes Sam’s backstory so unsavory – not negate it, mind you, just never refer to it again – and work on updating him for the ’90s instead? The artist agreed, we did just that, and well, the Falcon’s been back and the response to his return has been generally good.”
Great decision, Mark!
The costume was not exactly long-lived, though.
By the by, at the end of the above column, Mark remarked (I couldn’t help it):
Reader alert: Somebody with his own book is going to die real soon, and I swear I had nothing to do with it.
This was October 1993. I have no idea offhand who is he is talking about (especially as he does not specify for sure in his piece that it is even a Marvel character!). Anyone recall?
EDITED TO ADD: Tom Brevoort confirms that it was Wonder Man, whose solo book ended just as he joined Force Works (and was killed).
Thanks to the late, great Mark Gruenwald for being so open with information! And thanks to Tom Brevoort for the same reason!
COMIC LEGEND: A Bob Dylan joke made on Comics Should Be Good led to a scene in a DC comic book.
Reader Tim wrote in to ask:
Did you really get a joke into an issue of Salvation Run?
Wow! An opportunity to talk about myself! Why thank you, Tim!
What Tim is thinking about is something that happened about a year ago.
DC was doing a series called Salvation Run, where the United State government decided to send all the super villains in the world secretly off to an alien planet. As you might imagine, hijinx ensued.
Bill Willingham was the original writer, but after a few issue, Matthew Sturges took over.
A little over a year ago, I did a blog post where I stated
Matthew Sturges, Help! There has to be a scene in Salvation Run where, when complaining about being stuck on the prison planet, Joker says to the Shadow Thief, “There must be some way out of here!”
Matthew showed up himself in the comments to say that he liked the idea a lot.
So in Salvation Run #6, Matthew came up with his own variation on the joke.
Here is what he came up with (click to enlarge)…
Pretty darn funny!
Matthew was kind enough to let me know about it in his blog, where he noted “Brian Cronin, this page is for you.”
Pretty darn cool, overall.
So there you go, Tim! Thanks for asking!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Thanks to the Grand Comic Book Database for this week’s covers!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
See you next week!