Welcome to the two-hundred and 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 two hundred and six.
Comic Book Legends Revealed is now part of the larger Legends Revealed series, where I look into legends about the worlds of entertainment and sports, which you can check out here, at legendsrevealed.com.
COMIC LEGEND: Generic Comic Book #1 was written by Chris Claremont or John Byrne.
Reader Josh S. asked me awhile back (like about a year and a half ago):
I was reminiscing on Marvel’s 1984 “Generic Comic”, and I did some Googling. On the surface, it looks like no one is sure who actually wrote/drew it, with rumors including Claremont/Byrne among others. I can’t see how the art could be Byrne, but, anyways, it seemed like such an obvious Urban Legend investigation that I searched through your old columns to check it out, assuming it would have already been covered.
Soon after Josh’s question, I posed the query to Jim Shooter, who did not know. His best guesses were Jim Salicrup or Jim Owlsley, but he stressed that he really did not know.
The Grand Comic Book Database even (as of May 14, 2009) has the issue listed as a mystery.
Well, while he was rumored to have done it for some time, the issue was clearly laid to rest in this week’s issue of Michael Eury’s Back Issue magazine, from TwoMorrows!
In it, we find out that the mystery writer is….
Skeates explain in the interview that he was asked by editor Larry Hama to write the Generic Comic Book, although Skeates does not know whose idea it was originally.
Here are a couple of sample pages…
Skeates mentions that since he was away from mainstream comics for awhile at that point (later 1983/early 1984), he was particularly adept at making fun of the seeming absurdity of it all.
The comic actually led directly into Larry Hama then giving Skeates the job writing the ongoing Peter Porker: The Spectacular Spider-Ham comic that debuted about a year later.
So writing generically CAN pay off!
It’s awesome to have this “mystery” solved. I’m always keeping an eye out for answers to reader’s questions, even ones that were asked years ago!
Thanks to Josh S. for the question and thanks to the long, extensive interview by John Schwirian (this was Part 3) with Steve Skeates for the information!
Click here to purchase a copy of Back Issue #34 to get the full interview (and a lot of other good comic book history)!
By the by, the Comic Book DB were kind enough to notify me that they have had it correctly credited to Skeates for a year now!
COMIC LEGEND: Gary Larson was sued in Australia for listing people’s telephone numbers as being the Devil’s phone number, even though Larson intended to put a fake number in the cartoon.
In the United States, films and television shows and other pieces of fiction often have to use telephone numbers when characters are telling each other what their number is.
The most common thing to do is to use the prefix 555 before the number (although, do note that only 555-0100 through 555-0199 are actually specifically protected for fictional usage – the other numbers are almost always free, as well, but they’re not guaranteed to like 555-0100 through 555-0199 are).
I just did a bit on Movie Legends Revealed where a recent film caused a stir when it listed God’s number withOUT a 555!
However, Gary Larson of Far Side fame once got into a little bit of trouble for giving the Devil’s phone number, only he actually DID use the 555!
You see, while 555 denotes fiction in the United States, it doesn’t really mean anything in, say, Australia (who do have their own fictional numbers, of course – it just happens that it is not 555).
So when Larson did a Far Side comic strip (I’d repost it here, but Larson’s not a fan of people posting his cartoons under any circumstances) about the Devil, where he included some graffiti “For a good time, call Satan, 555-whatever it was,” people, he did it thinking that it was, of course, a fake number.
That was not the case in Australia, so he was actually sued for defamation by the owner of the number in Australia.
The suit was a failure, of course, as no one could reasonably believe that Larson was intimating that the person in question was actually the Devil or, as the Dead would put it, a friend of the Devil.
Here are two prominent Australian lawyers who are experts in the field of defamation law discussing the case back in 2001:
Richard Potter: The Far Side case was a cartoon in which the Devil is depicted in Hell, and there’s some graffiti on the wall saying ‘Satan is a warm and tender guy. For a pleasant conversation, call Satan on 555-1332. And in America, triple-five numbers are used for the very reason that they can’t be mistaken by anyone else, because they don’t exist, and so they’re used by the media and films and all that sort of thing. But of course the number does exist in Australia, and some very strange and weird people rang the number just to find out who was on the other end, and the inevitable kind of insults followed. So the person whose phone number it was sued but in that case it was held it was so far-fetched you couldn’t really say that the meanings contended for, like the plaintiff was akin to the Devil, was a friend of the Devil, you know that sort of meaning, could possibly follow. The reasonable person would not think by seeing that number in a cartoon, that the owner of the telephone, really was akin to the Devil. But there are situations where people’s names have been put in things, and there’s literally no way around it, it’s just absolute liability if it could be thought by anyone, any third person, that that was the person that they were talking about.
Damien Carrick: So as regards the publication of that Far Side cartoon, even though no doubt it was very distressing for the person who picked up the telephone, that person couldn’t prove in a court of law that their reputation had been damaged in the eyes of the reasonable person by having their telephone number splashed across the back of the cave wall in the cartoon.
Richard Potter: Well it was more an identification issue; they could probably prove that their reputation had been damaged by bringing someone who knew them but the fact was that a reasonable person would not think less of that person simply because they can see it’s a Gary Larsen Far Side cartoon, and that it is clearly coincidental, and they can see through that façade and would not believe that this cartoon is really referring to the plaintiff.
Thanks to Potter and Carrick, as well as the Law Report for the transcription!
COMIC LEGEND: Wonder Woman made her first animated appearance on an episode of the Brady Kids!
DC Comics had not had as much success as you would think with using their characters in the world of animation. Sure, there had been the animated Superman serials of the 1940s, but it was not until the mid-to-late 1960s that DC began having regular animated shows using their characters.
First, Superman and Superboy had animated features.
Next, Aquaman got into the game.
Finally, in 1968, Batman got into it, as well.
However, for whatever reason, even though Superman ended up teaming up with various DC heroes, Wonder Woman was not one of those chosen to team-up with Superman.
As the 1970s began, Wonder Woman STILL had not shown up in animated form!
In 1972, Batman and Robin had a notable guest appearance on Scooby Doo.
This clearly began to make the wheels turn that perhaps it would be useful for DC’s characters to make appearances on cartoons.
But really, in the BRADY KIDS?!?
Still, later in 1972, in the Brady Kids animated series, the Brady Kids are sent back in time and figure that they’ll compete in a Greek marathon.
Wonder Woman shows up and convinces them that they shouldn’t, as they might change history!
Here, courtesy of the great Wonder Woman site, Wonderland, are some pictures of Wonder Woman from the episode…
Here is the episode from YouTube.
And that, sadly enough, was the FIRST time Wonder Woman appeared on an animated program!
Luckily, the very next year, Super Friends debuted.
And Wonder Woman has been around ever since, in Super Friends, Super Powers, Justice League and now her own animated DVD!
Thanks to AdzFlickz for the YouTube clip!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
As you likely know by now, this Tuesday, April 28th, my book finally came out!
Here is the cover by artist Mickey Duzyj. I think he did a very nice job (click to enlarge)…
If you’d like to 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!