Welcome to the two-hundred and fifty-fourth 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 fifty-three.
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 learn about the original ending of Pretty in Pink and how wigs were involved in “fixing” the original ending!
In honor of his nomination to the Will Eisner Comic Industry Hall of Fame, all the legends this week are about the late, great Steve Gerber! And since Gerber often broke conventions, I will as well – I’m going to give you an EXTRA legend this week!
COMIC LEGEND: DC Comics Presents #97 was an unused proposal to revamp the Superman line of comics.
Reader Crooow wrote in over three years ago to ask:
Here’s an urban legend I once heard: the story from DC Comics Presents #97 was an unused proposal to revamp the Superman mythos.
The story was written by Steve Gerber(the one of Howard the Duck fame, I presume). The tale(billed as “an untold tale of the pre-Crisis DC Universe”) shows Mr. Mxyzptlk discovering the Phantom Zone and ultimately imprisoning the inmates in a jewel, but not before destroying the Bizarro world(they all celebrate, and Superman finds out when Bizarro’s head falls on Clark Kent’s WGBS-TV anchor desk). Also, the Phantom Zone criminals attack Earth(they pick up the Washington Monument and toss in into the Capitol dome, etc.). The darkest moment in a story full of them is when Mxy finds Argo City(now a giant chunk of Kryptonite) and throws it towards Metropolis. Supes manages to shatter it, but his powers fail and Kryptonite rocks and dead Kryptonians rain on Metropolis.
Of course, DC decided to use John Byrne’s reboot instead, and Alan Moore wrapped up the Silver Age stories with an “imaginary story” that was even more depressing than Gerber’s tale.
That WAS a dark story, but no, it was not meant to be part of Gerber’s pitch for a Superman revamp.
Instead, it was exactly what you referred to with regarding Alan Moore. Just like Alan Moore’s “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” was written as a “goodbye” to the pre-Byrne Superman and Action Comics titles, so, too, was this story by Gerber a “goodbye” to DC Comics Presents, only in this instance, it was literal, as this was the last issue of the title.
So no, this was just Gerber giving the book a send-off knowing that the then-current Superman mythos were going to no longer “Exist,” so he could basically do whatever he wanted (and what he wanted to, in this case, was do a dark sequel to his earlier acclaimed mini-series, The Phantom Zone).
HOWEVER, it IS true that Gerber was in the works to pitch a Superman revamp for DC Comics.
A lot of different people have asked me this one over the years, and I always put it off because Steve told me he would eventually give me some more information on the topic. Obviously, that never happened because he tragically died two years ago.
So I suppose now, with him up for Eisner Hall of Fame (and I sure hope he makes it), is as good a time to discuss it as any.
Yes, Gerber and Frank Miller pitched DC on revamps of the “Trinity.”
The three titles would be called by the “line name” of METROPOLIS, with each character being defined by one word/phrase…
AMAZON (written by Gerber)
DARK KNIGHT (written by Miller)
Something for Superman – I believe either MAN OF STEEL or THE MAN OF STEEL, but I’m not sure about that (written by both men)
However, DC made it clear that for their revamp of their three major franchises after Crisis, they were going to accept a number of proposals and then pick their favorite, and Gerber was not interested in such a situation. Meanwhile, he and Miller also planned on introducing a brand-new Supergirl that they were going to want to get a cut of, ownership-wise, and it seemed unlikely that DC was going to go for that, so they backed out.
Someone else asked me once if Gerber backing out is why there was a delay between the end of Wonder Woman’ first series and the George Perez reboot. No, that was not because of Gerber. He was out of the running long before that.
As to whether Gerber brought in aspects of his revamp into his finale of DC Comics Presents, I asked him about that back in 2007, and he told me “Not really, no.”
Miller revamped his Batman pitch (going from contemporary to the future) and that became Dark Knight.
And obviously, his success with Dark Knight then translated into Batman: Year One…
Bruce Patterson and George Perez’s pitch for Wonder Woman was accepted, and that became Wonder Woman…
I don’t know specifically how John Byrne got Man of Steel…
Reader Graeme Burk tells me that Byrne did, indeed, do a proposal that DC chose (over at least two other proposals – perhaps more – but at least Cary Bates and Marv Wolfman’s proposals – although obviously DC liked Wolfman’s enough to add him to Byrne’s reboot), so there ya go! Thanks, Graeme!
I liked Byrne’s Man of Steel, so I can’t complain, but it sure would have been interesting to see what Gerber and Miller could have come up with!
Thanks to Crooow (and the man other people who asked, in general terms, about the Gerber/Miller revamps) for the question and thanks to the legendary Steve Gerber for the information he gave me back in 2007.
COMIC LEGEND: A Steve Gerber comic indirectly led to the establishment of DC’s current Submission Guidelines (or lack thereof).
STATUS: True Enough
In 2000, Steve Gerber wrote a nice little two-part prestige mini-series for DC’s Elseworlds line called Superman: Last Son of Earth…
Well, in October of 2001, a fellow named Marcel Walker sued DC, because he had submitted a comic proposal called “Superman: Last Son of Earth” back in 1998.
DC moved for a summary judgment dismissing the case, and they won. Walker appealed and the Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s ruling.
Interestingly enough, the Court did not even rule on whether DC Comics actually DID take Walker’s idea or not (his idea different substantially from Gerber’s), but rather, that a work like Walker’s – an unauthorized derivative work – CANNOT receive copyright protection, as it, itself, is technically a copyright infringer (since DC did not authorize Walker to use their copyrighted characters in his proposal).
It’s an interesting position, and that is why it was ruled Summary Judgment, because since the case was invalid on the face of it, there was no reason for a trial.
Anyhow, pretty clearly in response to this, in December of 2001, DC released the following to the press (courtesy of our own Jonah Weiland at Comic Book Resources)
DC regrets that recent circumstances have dictated a change in our submissions policies, and that we will no longer be able to review unsolicited submissions of ideas, stories or artwork. As before, we cannot accept phone inquiries.
“We really do understand how frustrating this may be for some fans who want to show us their work. Most of us at DC started out as fans. Still, we’ve gotten almost no new talent from unsolicited submissions for a number of years,” says Richard Bruning, DC’s VP – Creative Director. “The artists and writers that we’re likely to use have almost always gotten their start elsewhere, an independent publisher or whatever, and we’ve seen their work that way. Despite their passion, few fans are at the level where they’re ready to write and draw for our books.
“We’re still keeping our eyes peeled for new talent, but it’s more likely we’ll see it in print somewhere or we’ll meet them at conventions. This policy more accurately reflects that reality. There were always many more submissions pouring in the door than we could effectively handle, and I don’t think anyone ever learned much from a form letter. We’re trying to be practical and honest here, not disrespectful.”
And that is DC’s policy to this day.
Thanks to my pal, Loren, who suggested this piece back in 2008.
COMIC LEGEND: Steve Gerber was going to be the writer of DC’s 1980s Spectre re-launch, but was fired before the first issue was even finished.
In 1987, DC debuted a Spectre ongoing series, written by Doug Moench and drawn by the great Gene Colan…
However, this comic was ORIGINALLY supposed to be written by Steve Gerber, only everything fell apart before the first issue was even completed!
In a great interview with Dwight Jon Zimmerman in Comics Interview #37-38, Gerber told the story of how his run on Spectre ended before it ever began.
You see, the Howard the Duck movie was filming at the time, and there was a standing invitation to Gerber to stop by the set while they were filming (a little outside of Lucas’ studios in San Rafael, California – just outside of San Francisco). Gerber lived in Los Angeles, but he could never find the time to get out there (it is not super close by – it’d be a seven hour car ride and a 45 minute plane ride).
Finally, one day he got a call to say that filming was ending in two days – so if he wanted to meet Lucas and see the filming of the movie based on his creation, he had to come NOW.
So he went.
Which is fair enough, except that he had to turn in his dialogue to the first issue of Spectre that same day.
He actually had a full day to get the dialogue in for the first issue, but he chose instead to go shopping for a new wardrobe for the filming (Gerber noted that he did not have anything to wear as he had not done laundry in awhile) instead of just getting his clothes washed. So he pretty clearly just blew DC off in favor of going to see the filming.
So understandably (as Gerber was already behind his deadlines for delivering the plot for #2 and had agreed to a strict deadline for the delivery of the dialogue to #1), DC let him go from the book.
But that wasn’t the whole story, of course. He was already fighting with DC over the title, as he felt that Gene Colan (who obviously Gerber had great affection for – they worked with each other often)’s pencils for the issue were below par, and he actually asked DC to have Colan re-draw the issue.
According to Gerber, they said okay at first, but soon backed down to “We’ll have him re-draw a third” to “a few pages” to “some panels,” so Gerber and his editors (Bob Greenberger and Mike Gold) were not on great terms already due to the squabbling over Colan’s pages. So the book had been delayed for awhile now (Gerber’s natural lateness was a major factor – he was NEVER a timely writer, hell, he basically wrote an entire issue of Howard the Duck about it!), so when Gerber missed his deadline, that was the final straw, and Gerber was off of the book.
So eventually Moench was asked to step in, with Colan remaining the artist.
And I think the final product was pretty darned good, but I have never seen the pages Gerber was not pleased with.
There are a few unpublished Spectre pages by Colan making the rounds. I’d post them here, but I don’t know if they are, in fact, from that first issue that never was.
Thanks to Dwight Jon Zimmerman and Comics Interview for the information, and thanks again to Gerber for supplying his end of the information!
COMIC LEGEND: Marvel forced Frank Brunner to redraw a panel from Howard the Duck #2 because of it being a bit too salacious.
This wasn’t really worth its own legend, but as a BONUS legend, it’s perfect!
If you were a fan of Howard the Duck’s original title, you know how edgy it was for the time.
A perfect example of that is in Howard the Duck #2, where (thanks to the awesome site, The Gerber Curse, for this panel!) artist Frank Brunner drew Howard under the covers (in just his feathers) with Beverly Switzler…
The Comics Code disapproved, so the panel was re-drawn for the final edition…
Thanks to The Gerber Curse for the panel and the info!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Here’s hoping Steve Gerber makes it into the Hall of Fame this year. He certainly deserves it!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is email@example.com.
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!
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