Welcome to the two-hundred and forty-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 forty-six.
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 Play Legends Revealed to find out which actor actually pretended to be British to get a gig on Broadway, what famous playwright got his start in the pages of Weird Tales and just who was it that coined the term “robot”?
COMIC LEGEND: Wally Wood did a particularly racy prank while working on an issue of Weird Science-Fantasy.
DISCLAIMER: By “racy,” I mean there’s going to be some nudity involved here. Feel free to skip to the next legend if you’re put off by the showing of nudity.
The gang of artists working at EC Comics during the 1950s were a pretty loose bunch, and one of the ways they particularly liked to mess around was through the use of “pasteovers,” little pieces of art that would be pasted over the REAL artwork, for comedic effect, like pasting over the title of a story “She Married a Man Who Gave Her No Love,” with “She Married a Man With No Balls At All” to see if they could shock the editor who is reading the story. And, at the same time, perhaps try to see how far the gag could go before the editor (or someone) realized what was going on.
In any event, the great Bhob Stewart, author of the brilliant book about Wally Wood from TwoMorrows, Against the Grain: Mad Artist Wallace Wood (which I believe is sadly out of print at the moment, which is a real shame), actually managed to come across one of these pasteovers!!!
Here is one of the pasteovers…
The pasteover goes along with Weird Science-Fantasy #23.
Here’s the page as it was originally printed…
Now here’s how the pasteover would have gone…
So the idea would be that Al Feldstein (or maybe even Bill Gaines himself) would be reading the story with everything looking normal and then…BAM! And Wood would get a laugh, and then they’d take the pasteover off and the book would be printed as intended.
Apparently, the EC guys did this frequently, but as you might imagine, you don’t often come across the original pasteovers, so it’s really cool that we are able to see this glimpse into the atmosphere of the EC Comics “bullpen” of the 1950s.
Thanks so much to Bhob Stewart, who has a really wonderful website called Potrzebie that you should really check out (here is a link), for the pasteover image and the information behind it! If you check his site out here, he does the pasteover so perfectly that it matches exactly as how it would have looked in 1954. I didn’t feel right using that here, as that was a lot of work on Bhob’s part.
COMIC LEGEND: Sauron was created as a way to get around the Comics Code ban of werewolves.
Reader Joe wrote in the other day with the following:
I came across the following info on the Wikipedia page for the X-Men villain Sauron:
“He was created in response to the Comic Code Authority’s prohibition on the use of werewolves: instead of becoming a werewolf, Karl Lykos (whose name is a deliberate reference to lycanthropy) becomes a were-pteradon In this form, he is an energy vampire who often inhabits the hidden prehistoric jungle the Savage Land.”
While I love the idea of Roy Thomas and Neal Adams sneaking aspects of vampirism and werewolfism into comic books despite of (or to spite) the comics code authority, the source that the Wikipedia links to just repeats the same story without any citation. So, is this story true?
Short answer is no.
The long answer is, yes, partially (in only that the citation mentions vampires, and that’s what it’s about).
From Tom DeFalco’s brilliant Comic Creators On… series of books (the X-Men one), here’s Neal Adams talking Sauron…
There were things you couldn’t do because of the Comics Code Authority in those days. For instance, the Comics Code Authority wouldn’t let you put a vampire in a comic book story. So I wondered if it was possible to come up with a character that was just like a vampire, but would still pass the Comics Code Authority. If you look at Sauron, he’s basically a vampire, but an energy vampire. What is blood? Blood is energy. It’s what makes your body move. He takes your energy our of your body and you look all wrinkled. I couldn’t have him turn into a bat because that was too obvious. What else flies and has leathery wings? A pterodactyl. Okay, so a pterodactyl bites somebody. He gets sick and seems to die. But he comes back to life by drawing energy from someone else. Sauron was basically a vampire and the Comics Code never spotted it.
Now, of course, when it comes to Adams/Thomas X-Men, there’s great differences between the two on just who came up with what, but there isn’t really any argument on what the deal with Sauron – he was, indeed, a wink wink nudge nudge vampire (he also was named after a Lord of the Rings character, which Thomas once said got Marvel an angry phone call from Tolkien’s representatives).
So vampire, not a werewolf, although I suppose, sure, Lykos DOES mean “wolf,” so the werewolf connection is not COMPLETELY out of left field or anything, but really, he’s supposed to be a vampire riff, not a werewolf one.
What interests me, really, is that the source Joe referred to in his e-mail is an article from this past October by Owen Vaughan that appeared on the UK Times’ online edition (it’s such a long piece that I doubt it appeared in the print edition) titled “Jacko tried to buy Spider-man: 70 facts you didn’t know about Marvel”
And #52 is:
The Comics Code Authority forbade the use of werewolves in comics so Marvel writers had to come up with ingenious ways of including the classic villain archetype. For X-Men No 60 (1969) Roy Thomas and Neal Adams created Sauron, a were-pterodactyl to get round the code.
So that’s where the problem comes from, but what’s interesting is that this here column is heavily cited in the piece. In fact, at one point (from around #6 to #24) 16 out of 19 facts are taken directly from past Comic Book Legends Revealed (I probably would have spread them out a bit more). Don’t get me wrong, at the end of the article, Vaughan cites the column (and me by name), so it’s all good, it was just weird to see, especially since I had not read the article until Joe sent me the e-mail about it.
In any event, why this is interesting is because BY citing me, Vaughan helped (at least a little bit) to convince the good folks at Wikipedia that the story was, in fact, true, as the fellow who added the bit to Sauron’s Wikipedia entry noted “and the Times cited Brian Cronin’s book on Comic Book Urban Legends.”
So here, I’m effectively debunking a legend that was at least partially substantiated through someone citing me.
That’s pretty funny, right?
Thanks to Joe for the question, and thanks to the great Tom DeFalco for doing his nifty “Comic Creators On…” books, and thanks to Neal Adams for the information! And apologies to Owen Vaughan, I really don’t mean to seem like I’m taking the piss, because that’s not my intent. The same goes for the editor on Wikipedia – the people who put the time into making Wikipedia filled with interesting information are to be lauded – me occasionally pointing out a tiny error is nothing in the grand scheme of how much great AND accurate information is available on Wikipedia!
COMIC LEGEND: Marvel once did a movie adaptation for a movie that ended up not being released in the United States!
STATUS: True Enough (as it was released in a few theaters – just no wide release)
During the late 1970s, Marvel did a number of “Marvel Super Special” editions (effectively Treasury Edition comics, although not all of them were magazine format) adapting a number of major motion pictures.
Since Marvel had to do the adaptations before the movies were released, Marvel really didn’t know which movies would be hits and which ones would not be (well, okay, sequels to major hits are usually a pretty good bet, but otherwise…).
And so they did adaptations of blockbuster films…
But they also did adaptations of films that were not as popular…
And they also did adaptations of films that were total flops (at least upon their initial release)….
But nothing was quite the same as….Rock & Rule…
A film adaptation to a film that was NOT RELEASED IN THE UNITED STATES!!
Yes, you see Rock & Rule was an animated rock and roll film (similar, I suppose, to the original Heavy Metal film, at least that was likely their ambition) by the Canadian animation studio Nelvana.
The film was set to be distributed by MGM in 1983, and Marvel, figuring the movie looked like a decent bet for a hit, signed on to do the adaptation.
However, in 1983, MGM purchased and merged with United Artists, and the ensuing company had totally different personnel – they considered tinkering with the film for a little while before just saying, “No thanks,” and so the film was not released in the United States (some folks have noted that it DID appear in a few theaters, just no widespread release in the US. It actually saw a second small release in 1985 in New York).
So Marvel now had a tie-in comic without a film to tie into!
The book was produced by taking stills from the film and turning it into comic book format.
Here are some sample pages…
Amazingly enough, the sales were not even that terrible on the comic!
Eventually, the film did gain some success in the United States when it was picked up by HBO and Showtime and played in fairly regular rotation (bootleg videos of the film were also popular).
In 2005, an official DVD was released, so now anyone who is interested can easily obtain a copy!
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!