Welcome to the two-hundred and seventy-first 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 seventy.
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 Architecture Legends Revealed to learn if it is true that there is a law prohibiting any building in Washington D.C. to be taller than the Washington Monument.
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COMIC LEGEND: J.M. DeMatteis was originally going to be the writer on Books of Magic.
J.M. DeMatteis is no stranger to books about magic.
Just last month, he released a children’s novel involving magic, Imaginalis…
You can read the first SIX chapters (plus a bit of the seventh) here, plus there’s a link to where you can buy the book.
But what about J.M. DeMatteis and Books OF Magic?
Specifically, the classic Neil Gaiman mini-series that introduced Tim Hunter to the world?
Reader Mike asked me awhile back:
I read full runs of 1980s series and the latest is the Spectre. In issue #12 (Mar. 1988), the editor, Bob Greenberger, mentions a mini-series that will “define our [the DC] magical community.” It was a 3 issue Prestige Format series by JM DeMatteis and painted by Keith Williams and John Jay Muth called The Book of Magic. This could have been a typo and he meant Kent Williams and John J. Muth. Was this The Books of Magic (emphasis on plural) by Gaiman et al in an early stage?
I asked DeMatteis about it, and that is EXACTLY what it was!
John Marc says…
Yes, it’s true, I was the original writer of BOOKS OF MAGIC and the plan was to have Jon J Muth, Kent Williams, Dave McKean and others doing the art. My memory is that. after the plan was firmed up, the artists decided, for reasons that I can’t recall, not to get involved with the project; so I stepped back from it, as well. I don’t think I ever got around to writing anything — we were in the very early stages of development.
At the time, I was a little disappointed that the project fell through, but, clearly, it all worked out very well in the end!
And sure enough, none of those above artists (including McKean, who obviously is no stranger to Gaiman) ended up doing work for the completed series, which instead had art by John Bolton, Scott Hampton, Charles Vess and Paul Johnson.
John Marc later wrote to add a little extra tidbit, that the format was going to be text by him on one side with a full painted page on the other side, the same format he and Muth later used for Farewell, Moonshadow.
Thanks to Mike for the question and thanks to John Marc for the answer! Imagine the DC Universe without Tim Hunter?
COMIC LEGEND: Frank Quitely homaged the famous “Joker laughing scene” from Batman: The Killing Joke on the cover of Batman and Robin #3.
A poster named Tanker on the Comic Bloc forum was the first person to make the following connection, but it soon spread all over the internet. I even featured it here (asking people if they felt it was intentional).
If you flip the cover of Batman and Robin #3 upside down…
you can make out a possible homage to the following famous scene from Batman: The Killing Joke…
When you add in the fact that the issue of Batman and Robin ALSO featured the same circus from the Killing Joke (note Gordon confirms it)…
then it made a lot of folks feel that it was deliberate. Fellow artists were complimenting Quitely on the effect.
However, Rich Johnston got a firm denial from Quitely on Bleeding Cool here and Morrison similarly addressed it later on in the collected edition of Batman and Robin.
Both men LIKE the idea and wish they HAD done it on purpose, but they did not.
I figure it is worth featuring here since I still see people make reference to it as being an intentional homage.
Thanks to Tanker for the initial idea and thanks to Rich Johnston and Frank Quitely for the debunking!
COMIC LEGEND: Marvel UK made some rather interesting changes in their adaptation of Secret Wars and Secret Wars II into British comics.
Over the years, other countries reprinting US comics have had some real ups and downs. I’ve featured already the amusing nature of Brazil’s reprinting of Marvel’s Secret Wars.
Now let’s take a look at how Marvel UK handled it!
Now obviously, they couldn’t just reprint the twelve issues in twelve issues. Of course not. So over 25 issues in 1985 to 1986, they mixed in the Secret Wars story while also having stories from various other Marvel titles (like Iceman and Alpha Flight, oddly enough).
The best part about the book was how they had to come up with their own covers often, since they were doubling the story.
Here, courtesy of SpiderFan.org, are the ALTERNATE covers…
Amusingly enough, though, a toy tie-in comic began as a back-up, as well, featuring Spider-Man and the Zoids (Steve Parkhouse wrote it). This became popular enough that it actually took a cover of one issue (it later got its own spin-off comic, written by Grant Morrison!)
That issue also featured an ORIGINAL Spider-Man story written by Jim Shooter and drawn by two young British artists who never did any comics ever again, Barry Kitson and Mark Farmer.
The best cover change, though, has to be #26, which came out in Christmas, so Doctor Doom’s defiant victory….
The next issue, they just re-used a John Byrne Fantastic Four cover!
This, however, was a whole lot more normal than what they ended up doing with Secret Wars II! Marvel UK decided to reprint the whole thing. Okay, you might say, that sounds fair enough. But no, I mean the WHOLE thing, ALL of the tie-ins, plus extra issues to make sure that the tie-ins make sense! So a total of EIGHTY ISSUES to tell Secret Wars II!!!
Steve Goble painstakingly goes over MANY of the changes in this great blog piece here.
I will just borrow a couple that amused me.
First, this edit in this Thing dialogue…
but best of all, check out the edits here, to presumably make it fit the UK more…
Our British 1980s fans point out that Laverne and Shirley was never popular in the UK, but Cagney and Lacey did quite well.
Thanks to Steve for the great work he did!
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 email@example.com. And my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/brian_cronin, so you can ask me legends there, as well!
As you likely know by now, in April of last year my book 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!