This is the one-hundred and ninety-seventh 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-six.
This week is a special theme week. The theme? “What’s in a name?”
These two Larry Lieber legends are similar enough that I’m counting them as basically one – so you folks get, in effect, a BONUS legend this week!!
COMIC LEGEND: You can tell which early Stan Lee Marvel books were ghost-written by his brother Larry, because the heroes didn’t have alliterative names.
STATUS: Basically False, Although Based on a True Enough Premise
Reader Matthew posted this in the comments a few weeks back:
I recall reading that you can tell which early Stan Lee Marvel books were ghost-written by his brother Larry, because the heroes didn’t have alliterative names.
This is an interesting subject, because it’s worthwhile examining exactly what Larry Lieber’s role was in the early days of Marvel’s superhero characters.
Larry Lieber was Stan “Lee” Lieber’s younger brother, and he still works with Stan today on the Amazing Spider-Man syndicated comic strip. At the time, though, Stan also got his younger brother involved in producing Marvel Comics. Although exactly what KIND of role he had has often been made not exactly clear, especially when the Iron Man film gave him a co-creator credit.
Lieber’s role in the CREATION of Thor and Iron Man really came down to basically one thing, and that is, indeed, as Matthew mentions, the NAMES of the characters. It was Larry Lieber who came up with the name Tony Stark and the name Don Blake (plus Jane Foster).
But the actual creation of Iron Man and Thor were both done before Lieber sat down to script the books (as to who created the comic book superhero version of Thor, well, I don’t know if we’ll ever know for sure if it was Stan Lee or Kirby – Iron Man, though, is basically a mix of Lee, Kirby and Don Heck – plus Ditko, perhaps, if you think the later armor is extremely important to the character’s “creation”).
But “ghost-written” is not a way to describe these comics. The first appearances of Thor in Journey Into Mystery #83 had no credit boxes, but Thor’s fourth appearance in Journey Into Mystery #86 did have a credit box, and Lieber is credited in the issue for the book’s script.
Iron Man’s first appearance in Tales of Suspense #39 makes it clear right from the first page that Lieber was the scripter.
So do characters named by Larry Lieber stand out in their non-alliterative nature? Certainly.
But non-alliterative names do not mean that Stan Lee did not still create the characters, and it also does not mean that his brother was ghost-writing for him.
Thanks to Matthew for the suggestion!
COMIC LEGEND: Larry Lieber came up with a name for Thor’s hammer when it already had a name!
One of the interesting things about working with characters that are already famous myths is that a lot of the groundwork has already been done, like the names, the adversaries, etc.
However, when it came to Thor’s mighty hammer, Mjolnir (as seen here in a piece of art from Bullfinch’s Mythology)…
Larry Lieber decided to go in a different direction and just decide to come up with a name on his own for the hammer, and he went with the uru hammer, and it is name that has stuck ever since!
Lieber and Roy Thomas discussed it in a great interview for Alter Ego #2 (you can purchase that issue here, on the great site for Alter Ego, TwoMorrows Publishing)…
Lieber: One incident I remember with you and me was: I was in the office, and you came in. You’d been poring over Bulfinch’s Mythology or something, and you said, “Larry, where did you find this ‘uru hammer’ in mythology?” And I said, “Roy, I didn’t find it; I made it up.” And you looked at me like, “Why the hell did you make it up?” You went and found the hammer’s original name, Mjolnir.
Thomas: But I kept your name for it, too, because I thought “uru” could be the metal it was made of.
Lieber: I kind of liked it; it was short. It’s easy on the letterer; they’re going to be using it all the time. I don’t know where the hell I came up with it.
Thomas: Stan said he always thought you got it from a mythology book. I’d been trying to track it down before I talked to you.
Lieber: I used to get names out of the back of the dictionary, from the biographical section where you have foreign names, Russian, this and that. I used to go to it and gets parts of names to put together.
Amusingly enough, “uru” actually IS a word in a number of ancient languages, and some of them even have definitions that are pretty good for Thor (stuff like “great,” “large,” etc.).
Thanks to Larry Lieber and Roy Thomas for the information!!
COMIC LEGEND: Art Thibert “created” two new characters called Starwing and Nightfire.
One of the more amusing gimmicks of the early 1990s was a trading card set called “Creators Universe,” where various then-popular comic book artists would debut a new creation on a trading card, so collectors would, therefore, have the FIRST appearance of some new star creation.
Of all the characters in the set, only a handful, of course, went anywhere past 1993, with Jason Pearson’s Body Bags basically being the only creation still going today (although there WERE a number of good creations in the list, like Howard Chaykin’s Power and Glory and Steven Grant and Gil Kane’s Edge).
In a lot of instances, though, it really did not seem like all the artists involved were putting a ton of thought into their creations. None, though, can match the creations that Art Thibert came up with.
You might recall the Comic Book Legends Revealed from two weeks ago, where I discussed the Nightwing mini-series by Thibert that never materialized.
Well, check out these excellent new creations by Thibert from the Creators Universe set…
Starwing and Nightfire.
How awesome is that?
Over at his blog, …nurgh…, Frank Lee Delano has more info on the characters. So check out Frank’s site here to see more about these bold new creations and their backgrounds. Also, check here for promo art Thibert did for the aborted Nightwing mini-series I mentioned last week (as Frank notes, while the end result was that Nightwing and Starfire were to be married, the specifics of the mini-series from the original plan by Jonathan Peterson, Marv Wolfman and Thibert to the promotional information about the mini-series changed a bit).
Pretty amazing, huh?
Thanks to Frank for the scans! Click here for a checklist of characters created for the set! Thanks to Jeff Allender for listing the checklist!
COMIC LEGEND: When Strikeback! changed companies, Savage Dragon was re-named Savage Finster!
A couple of things worth noting regarding Image Comics.
1. The way it works is that there is no upfront money. The benefits of creators to do books at Image are that you own the book yourself and you get Image’s marketing and brand name to help sell your book.
2. Erik Larsen is INCREDIBLY open to sharing his creation, Savage Dragon, with other artists if they think having Dragon guest-star will help their book. Larsen might be the most open comic book creator out there in that regards.
Here are a sampling of books from other creators that Savage Dragon guest-starred in during 1992/1993 (a couple of them, Larsen had direct interests in, like Vanguard, but still!).
So when Kevin Maguire was going to do his creator-owned series, Strikeback!, at Image Comics, Savage Dragon, naturally, was going to be in the first issue.
Then Maguire, though, decided NOT to go with Image Comics. He instead chose to go with Malibu Comics’ new Bravura line of books. Malibu, at the time, was known for being the initial distributor of Image Comics, but they did not publish Image themselves. They had their own comics, including the Ultraverse and the Bravura creator-owned line of comics.
There was no harm, no foul – he thanks Larsen and Image Comics in the first issue…
And a few years later, when Bravura folded, Maguire DID end up taking the book to Image.
But at the time, suddenly, Maguire had a book with a character that he felt he could not use (Larsen very well might have let him use Savage Dragon ANYways, but for whatever reason Maguire did not feel right doing that) sooo….
Pretty darn funny.
When the series was later picked up by Image, they reprinted the original mini-series as a trade paperback, and in the new edition, Finster became Dragon as it was originally intended.
Thanks to Goerge Khoury for his great interview with Kevin Maguire in Modern Masters: Kevin Maguire, edited by Eric Nolen-Weathington. Buy a copy of the book here! Check out George’s CBR column here! Thanks to Darrell for the info about the change in the Strikeback! trade paperback.
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 email@example.com.
As mentioned last week, Plume Books (a division of Penguin Books) is publishing a collection of my Comic Book Legends Revealed columns (half expanded “best of”/half new stuff) and it is due out on April 28th.
Here is the cover by artist Mickey Duzyj. I think he did a very nice job (click to enlarge)…
If you’d like to pre-order it, you can use the following code if you’d like to send me a bit of a referral fee…
See you next week!