Welcome to the two-hundred and twenty-sixth 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 twenty-five.
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. I’d especially recommend you check out this TV Legends Revealed, if you’re interested in two possible links between sitcoms and pornography!
This is a theme week! You might find this week’s theme hard hard to believe (heck, I find it hard to believe), but today’s theme is…all comic book legends having to do with…Deadman!?!? Hard to believe, but read on, true believers!!
COMIC LEGEND: Green Lantern/Green Arrow #85 was the first Comics Code approved story involving drugs.
First off, here’s an interesting tidbit you might not know about the original Comics Code. There was no official banning of the depiction of drugs or narcotics in the actual text of the Comics Code. Any objection would have been made based on the general clause:
All elements or techniques not specifically mentioned herein, but which are contrary to the spirit and intent of the code, and are considered violations of good taste or decency, shall be prohibited.
It was this clause that was used to tell Marvel Comics that they could not do a storyline in Amazing Spider-Man in early 1971 about drugs, even though the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare not only sanctioned the concept, but REQUESTED it.
Marvel, as you know, decided to go without the Comics Code approval for these issues…
this quickly led to the Comics Code being changed so as to allow stories involving narcotics, so long as narcotics are shown to be bad.
And DC, who had been basically sitting on an issue of Green Lantern/Green Arrow on the topic of drugs, quickly moved on the new freedom and did a much more powerful issue involving drugs.
This issue has long been cited as the first Comics Code approved comic book to involve drugs.
But that’s not true.
I honestly don’t know WHAT comic book was the first one to be approved by the Comics Code while having drugs in it. Like I said, it wasn’t officially against the rules of the Comics Code, so depending on who was making the decision that day, I’d imagine there might be a few comic books out there that sort of sneaked drug references in there.
But one comic that I know preceded the 1971 amendment was Strange Adventures #205, the first appearance of Deadman!
Deadman is about a circus acrobat named Boston Brand, known as Deadman because his stunts are so dangerous, every time someone comes to one of his performances, it might be the day he dies. Well, in Strange Adventures #205 (written by Deadman creator Arnold Drake and drawn by Carmine Infantino), Brand actually DOES die, shot by an unknown assailant during his act.
But then he discovers that he “lives” on as a ghost, as the goddess Rama Kushna has given him the ability to possess any living being in his quest to gain justice for his murder.
Well, in the issue, he does just that, possessing another member of the circus and while in possession of this other man, he discovers…
So there you go, a clear reference to narcotics, over THREE YEARS before Marvel Comics would have to go without the Comics Code to do an issue about drugs.
Now granted, it’s one thing to have a bad guy be selling drugs and a whole other thing to actually do a FEATURE on drug use like the Spider-Man story or especially the Green Lantern/Green Arrow story, but still, the fact remains that while some think that Green Lantern/Green Arrow was the first Comics Code approved use of narcotics, it was not.
Thanks to Paul Blanshard for suggesting this one!
COMIC LEGEND: An artist’s error lead to a storyline in Jack Kirby’s Forever People.
Neal Adams became the artist on the Deadman feature in the next issue of Strange Adventures, and Drake left after that story. After a number of issues with Jack Miller scripting the book, Adams took over the writing duties on top of the art with issue #212 (although Robert Kanigher wrote issue #214), writing the book until Deadman left the title after issue #216.
Well, in issue #215, Deadman finally finds the man who killed him!
The problem was…well, let’s first take a look at Deadman #205…
So, the guy who killed Deadman had a hook on his right hand.
But if you take a look at the cover of Strange Adventures #215…
Notice anything odd?
The hook is on the LEFT hand!
All throughout #215 and #216, the hook keeps showing up on different hands…
Uhmmm…no hook at all, it seems?
Next issue, right hand…
Granted, Neal Adams did not draw #205, but still, pretty confusing, no? But hey, mistakes happen, right?
That WOULD be the case if it were not for Jack Kirby getting an odd assignment.
In 1972, a few years after Deadman’s story had basically finished (he had found his killer and gotten justice for his murder), Jack Kirby was told to have Deadman guest star in Forever People.
Kriby was a trooper, so he did what he was told. So to come up with ideas on what to do with Deadman, he and his assistants (okay, maybe just his assistants) read the original series, and it was there that Kirby’s assistant, Mark Evanier, recognized the same mistake we noted. Evanier told it to Kirby, and that mistake became the foundation for a new story that would appear in Forever People #9 and #10.
When the Forever People go to a medium…
Later, Deadman possesses basically an android version of himself (this was another innovation of Kirby, give Deadman a corporeal form, but have it be an inanimate object, so he’s still technically a “deadman”) and finds out that a group called the Scavengers were behind his death…
And that’s how Kirby left Deadman.
Isn’t that funny? A mistake by Adams led to a story by Kirby!
COMIC LEGEND: Deadman appears as a DJ in a couple of videos for the music group Cassius.
STATUS: Basically True
Cassius is a house music group from France consisting of Philippe Cerboneschi and Hubert Blanc-Francard, who go by the names Philippe Zdar and Boom Bass, respectively.
They had a hit single on the UK charts in 1999 titled, appropriately enough, “Cassius 1999.”
In the video, oddly enough, DEADMAN shows up!
Or, well, a guy dressed as Deadman except for a C on his chest for Cassius.
He shows up at various points throughout the video…
but mostly, the video depicts motorcycle racing.
Cassius’ NEXT single, though, “Feeling For You,” is basically ALL Deadman/Cassius DJ hero!
He turns into the hero when he spills a soft drink on to the stereo where Cassius’ music is being played – the resulting feedback turns him into this hero…
He then races to the club…
The club goers are suffering the music of a…GASP…LAME DJ!!!
Cassius/Deadman punches the DJ out and then rocks the house…
Sadly, Cassius/Deadman draws too much attention with his awesomeness, and a bunch of record producers kidnap him…
and try to force him to sign with a Major Record Label…
One guy even goes so far as to put a pen in his mouth so he can sign the contract…
Only Cassius/Deadman responds by spitting the pen through one of the executives brain and uses the distraction to break free and escape!
Pretty hilariously bizarre, no?
Reader Luciano wrote in to tell me about this last year.
Thanks to Luciano for the suggestion! Check out Luciano’s website here.
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, at the end of April, 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!