Welcome to the two-hundred and fortieth 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 thirty-nine.
Comic Book Legends Revealed is 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 installment of Moive Legends Revealed where we see what movie tricks the director of Shane had to use to make it look like Jack Palance was mounting a horse!
Since it is New Year’s Eve, and most folks have better things to do today and tomorrow than read Comic Book Legends Revealed, Jonah and I talked it over, and you folks are going to get quite the New Year’s treat. The regular edition of Comic Book Legends Revealed will run this coming Monday (with another brand new installment at the regular time next week). Today will be a special edition of the column, featuring all “False” legends involving some of the stranger legend suggestions I have received over the years, all involving whether certain comic book professionals, well, exist!
COMIC LEGEND: Lynn Varley is a pseudonym of Frank Miller.
Years ago, a reader sent the following suggestion:
What about the rumor that Lynn Varley is actually a pen name for Frank Miller? I’ve never been able to find out anything about Ms. Varley that isn’t connected to Miller’s work.
Has anyone else heard this and/or is able to dispute this with proof?
While I knew that this one was false, I mean, Ms. Varley won the Eisner Award for Best Colorist for her work on 300…
and her work on Elektra Lives Again…
and nominated for her work on Sin City…
– she’s pretty clearly a “real” person. Using a pseudonym once for an award nomination or win is possible, but winning multiple awards over many years? More than a little bit unlikely.
Also, Varley was married to Frank Miller – we’re to believe that Miller invented a wife?
In any event, even if you wish to be all “the awards mean nothing! It’s all still a ruse!,” my pal Johnny Bacardi rightfully pointed me in the direction of an old Comics Journal interview with Trevor Von Eeden where he talked about dating Varley before she dated Miller. That is pretty much the nail in the ol’ “is she a real person?” coffin.
(NOTE: I had a photo of Varley from the Associated Press, but they appear to have totally botched their credits, and it was not Varley, but Miller’s current girlfriend, Kimberly Cox. I wonder how often they mis-credit people?)
COMIC LEGEND: Frank Quitely is a pseudonym of Grant Morrison.
Reader Sandy wrote in recently to note that, apparently, because Frank Quitely’s name IS, in fact, a pseudonym, that there were rumors that it was a pseudonym for Grant Morrison, a noted creative partner with Quitely (Morrison DID draw comics at one point in his career).
In actuality, the name Frank Quitely came about when young Vincent Deighan began writing for the Scottish comic magazine, Electric Soup in 1990, while in his early 20s.
He drew a strip called The Greens, and in case the ribald humor would embarrass his family, he took on the fake name (a play on the phrase “quite frankly”).
Soon he got attention from 2000 AD in England, and in 1994, he began working for American comics, with his full comic book debut coming on the 1994 mini-series, Flex Mentallo.
That comic was written by Grant Morrison, and the pair would have a number of other notable collaborations over the years, from JLA: Earth 2…
to New X-Men…
to All Star Superman…
to Batman and Robin…
Alternatively, my pal Dan told me that there were rumors back in the late 1980s that another Morrison collaborator, Chaz Truog, was ALSO a pseudonym for Morrison. Truog, though, is not even British! He was born in Minnesota!
And no, he is not a pseudonym for Grant Morrison. Check out his nifty website to read more about Truog, who is an interesting fellow!
COMIC LEGEND: AJ Lieberman is a pseudonym of John Byrne.
STATUS: I’m Going With False
This was a funny one, because at least in the other cases, there at least is some connection between the two people that, I dunno, at least SORT of explains why someone might think that there was something going going on with the two (Quitely being a pseudonym and working so much with Morrison, Varley working almost exclusively with Miller the past twenty years and not having a very public profile at all).
In the case of Andrew J. Lieberman and John Byrne, though, it was simply a case of “process of elimination” following a comment by Byrne.
A few years back, on his forum, John Byrne made a comment saying that he had been writing some comics for DC Comics under a different name. It appeared as though it was meant as a joke, but it was not plainly stated “this is a joke,” (which is how most jokes go – they tend not to include “Oh by the way, this is a joke” disclaimers) so soon, Byrne’s comment was translated into “John Byrne is definitively writing a comic for DC Comics under a different name – let’s find out who!”
And when everyone at DC was properly “eliminated,” AJ Lieberman was the only one “left standing” as he was a new writer at DC Comics that no one knew anything about, but he had become the writer of two titles, Harley Quinn and Batman: Gotham Knights.
So based solely on no one knowing him all that well (and his lack of interviews at the time), Lieberman was labeled as Byrne’s pseudonym.
Even as Lieberman later did Martian Manhunter, it continued…
I can’t say that Byrne was NOT writing for DC under a pseudonym, but I am just about 100% certain that Lieberman was not it.
I’ve read tons of interviews with Lieberman, and he specifically mentions about how he got into writing comics (before writing comics, Lieberman worked for MTV as a writer) and his experiences beginning comic book writing (specifically he talks about Harley Quinn as the first comic he ever wrote), and currently, he is working on a comic for Image called Cowboy Ninja Viking.
Besides the unlikely nature of Byrne keeping up a pseudonym for five years at two different comic book companies, Lieberman’s interviews would all have to specifically be him lying for this to be true, and I don’t buy it.
Not only that, but a reader noted that he had heard Lieberman interviewed on a podcast, and it sure did not sound like Byrne.
So while I suppose I can’t prove that it is not an extremely elaborate ruse by Byrne that has been carried on for five years, I think it is very safe to go with a “false” on this one.
Cowboy Ninja Viking is awesome, by the way.
Okay, that’s it for this year!
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!
Happy New Year, everybody!