Welcome to the two-hundred and forty-fifth 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 forty-four.
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 Movie Legends Revealed to find out which James Bond film got its name from a typo!
COMIC LEGEND: Stan Lee once tried to ban exclamation points from Marvel Comics, with bizarre results.
It’s funny, I was meaning to feature this one last week, but plans changed, and then earlier this week, in her column, She Has No Head!, Kelly Thompson spurred a discussion related to this week’s topic. Talk about serendipity!
In any event, as you folks all know by now, exclamation points are used a lot in comic books (check out this old Comic Book Legends Revealed for a comic series that was rumored to be pretty much ALL exclamation points!), and in the past they were used even MORE frequently! One good theory as to why they were so plentiful in the early days of comics is proffered by my pal, Jim MacQuarrie, who suggests that it most likely had to do with the printing processes of the time – when comics were not printed on very good paper, periods would not really be too visible, so you would have to put in an exclamation points to make sure the reader knew what you were trying to do. And in addition (and this is something that continued for years, as comics were still a largely “hands on” printing process for decades), a guy getting a comic page ready for print might think that a period was just an accidental spot and then remove it, while the same would not happen for exclamation points.
However, by the early 1970s, exclamation points were mostly used because comic writers wanted them, not because they had to. It was useful in making comics seem dynamic. If everyone is shouting, then some pretty cool stuff must be going on, right (see the TV series 24 for the same basic concept)?
So pretty much every Marvel Comic would be filled with characters using exclamation points.
Here’s a page from Fantastic Four #106 to give you an idea…
I don’t mean to suggest, however, that Marvel ONLY used exclamation points. They had plenty of dialogue by that time where they used periods, they just used exclamation points a lot (and a book like Fantastic Four was particularly filled with them).
In any event, at one point, Stan Lee decided that exclamation points were too juvenile, so he decreed that no Marvel Comics were to feature exclamation points from then on!
Well, the problem was, most of these issues where he decreed would be without exclamation points were already getting ready to be sent out.
So the solution was to just remove the exclamation points from the issues as they lay. The problem with that is that it only worked with exclamation points at the end of the word balloons (whether that was because they literally couldn’t or because they didn’t feel like it, I don’t know).
So here is the issue of Fantastic Four before the decision (#111)…
Note that, as I mentioned before, Marvel had plenty of sentences without exclamation points- just a lot of sentences with them.
Now here is the issue after it…
See what they did?
They just removed the punctuation entirely!
And not only that, but since it was only from the END of the word balloons, you’d have silly stuff like exclamation points in the middle of a long piece of dialogue but nothing at the end (in addition, obviously, extra-sized marks were kept, like Jameson’s shouts here and Johnny’s “Flame On!”)…
Roy Thomas was against the idea, and he kept using exclamation points in the comics he wrote…
So it was only the comics Stan Lee still wrote (which, in 1971, was basically just Fantastic Four and Amazing Spider-Man).
Interestingly enough, though, the ban of exclamation points was in place for one of the famous “No Comics Code” issues of Amazing Spider-Man (#98)…
In fact, Amazing Spider-Man #100 was caught up in this, as well!
In any event, these issues of Fantastic Four and Amazing Spider-Man also pretty much marked the LAST issues Stan Lee would script of both books, so that likely had something to do with the fact that the exclamation points returned when Archie Goodwin took over as scripter of Fantastic Four (with #115) and Roy Thomas as scripter of Amazing Spider-Man (with #101).
But perhaps Lee just realized it wasn’t a great idea. Either way, they were now back for good!
Thanks to Scott Shaw! (a fellow who is no stranger to exclamation points) for bringing this topic up a few years back on his nifty comic book site, Oddball Comics. Scott asked Roy Thomas about it, and Roy delivered the information I just gave you.
So a big hearty thanks to Scott and Roy! And thanks to Jim MacQuarrie, too.
COMIC LEGEND: Marvel could not do a new Champions book because Marvel discovered that someone else now owned the trademark to the name “The Champions.”
As you likely know, Marvel had a comic in the mid-70s called The Champions, starring a disparate group of Marvel heroes.
It lasted about two years before being canceled.
Well, years later, after the events of Civil War, Marvel was going to have a NEW Champions group (as part of the “Fifty State Initiative,” where each US State would get their own government-sponsored, government-trained superhero team).
They are mentioned in Civil War #6…
However, when the comic debuted, they were now called The Order….
And all the little C’s on their chests (from the initial solicitations) were now O’s.
You see, after Marvel’s series was over (they did receive a trademark on the name, but it came down after the series was over), a Role Playing Game series called the Champions was started by Dennis Mallonee and Heroic Publishing.
Here’s one of their old role playing books…
And in 1986, they did a comic book mini-series at Eclipse featuring the characters…
This was followed by them publishing their OWN Champions comic book series for a little while.
In an interview with Newsarama in 2007, Mallonee stated:
Marvel did seek and was granted registration of the trademark it was using for that title. That registration, however, was not granted until several months after the title had ceased publication. In the mid-80s, on the basis of that registration, Marvel contested registration of the mark Hero Games was using at that time for its Champions role-playing game. The trademark board took notice of Marvel’s abandonment of their earlier mark, and cancelled that registration. In the mid-90’s, although Marvel had never resumed publication of their Champions comic book, Marvel tried again to register their mark. Once again, their mark was declared abandoned.
Heroic Publishing, on the other hand, has since mid-1987 been using Champions as a trademark in connection with Heroic’s small line of superhero comic books, and fully intends to continue to use it. Having resumed publication of their Champions comic book in 2005, Heroic Publishing filed for registration in May of 2006. The patent and trademark office agreed that Heroic’s claim to that mark was both legitimate and eligible for registration. The mark was published for opposition. No opposition was received. Accordingly, Heroic’s Champions trademark has been registered.
And that was pretty much that.
So Marvel changed it to The Order, and all was well…until The Order ended after just ten issues.
But that’s another story (quickly, thanks to Matt Brady for the cool interview with Mallonee)…
COMIC LEGEND: The Order, was canceled by Marvel
STATUS: False Enough for a False
The Order, by Matt Fraction and Barry Kitson, was a very cool comic book series.
And it ended after just ten issues.
The book was seen by many as a symbol of the plight of critically acclaimed, low-selling new titles at Marvel and DC. Heck, just recently, here at Comics Should Be Good, it was cited by more than a few people as a book Marvel canceled when Marvel announced the cancellation of their new title, SWORD.
Hell, I am pretty sure that I referred to it as canceled when it ended.
Matt Fraction, however, disputed this back in 2008, again, in an interview at Newsarama…
Newsarama: Do you have anything you’d like to say about the book’s cancellation or future plans for the characters?
Fraction: That the book wasn’t cancelled: I chose to end it. Marvel allowed me to choose to leave the stage, rather than to continue on in a state in which I felt was compromised and decidedly unawesome.
I don’t think I was too clear about that on Word Balloon: it wasn’t cancelled. I killed it. And if you’re looking for the man that killed The Order, it was me.
Now watch, nobody’s gonna read that and nobody’s gonna care, because it’s way more fun the other way. Oh well.
Now, I don’t know exactly what he’s referring to by “compromised and decidedly unawesome,” and you might very well make the argument that while Fraction was the one who said “let’s end it now,” it was perhaps close to being ended by Marvel ANYways (it was still in the Top 100 at the time of its cancellation), but still, I think Fraction’s point is strong.
Whether the book WOULD have been canceled or not, the fact remains that it was NOT canceled.
Fraction notably brought over a character he had invented in The Order over to his new series, Invincible Iron Man…
The character, Ezekiel Stane, became a major antagonist in the book.
Thanks to Newsarama and Fraction for the info!
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, last 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 all next week!