Welcome to the three hundredth 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 ninety-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 Musical Legends Revealed to discover how a Broadway musical directly affected the legacy of a U.S. President, plus also the true origin of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic tune, “Edelweiss.”
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Since this is the 300th installment of Comic Book Legends Revealed, this week you will get more than TRIPLE the regular amount of legends! In fact, we’ll be taking up the entire weekend with Comic Book Legends Revealed! The second part is posted here and the third part is posted here. The special theme this week is that there will be one legend related to each one of the Top Five Writers and Top Five Artists from our recent Top 100 Comic Book Writers and Artists countdown! So that’s a total of ten legends! And all about the biggest names in comics! In fact, Part 3 on Sunday will contain perhaps my most requested legend of all time! So be sure to come by every day this weekend to get the full experience of Comic Book Legends Revealed #300!
COMIC LEGEND: Stan Lee never finished the screenplay he was working on with famed French New Wave director Alain Resnais.
STATUS: Quite Literally Both False and True.
Stan Lee was #5 on the Top 50 Comic Book Writers countdown.
Alain Resnais first gained notoriety with his classic documentary about the Nazi concentration camps, Nuit et Brouillard (Night and Fog), which was one of the first documentaries to tackle this very difficult subject upon its release in 1955.
Emboldened by his documentary success, Resnais turned to feature films, and his first film, 1959’s Hiroshima mon amour, firmly placed him right up there with the best of the French New Wave scene.
His 1961 film, L’Année dernière à Marienbad (Last Year in Marienbad), also gained a ton of acclaim.
Interestingly, though, for the dark subject matter of his early films, Resnais was a big fan of comic books. In fact, before the release of Hiroshima mon amour, Resnais was hoping to adapt Herge’s TinTin album, The Black Island.
Around this same time, he tried to do a film based on Red Ryder!
So it is not much of a surprise that when he visited New York City in the late 1960s/early 1970s (some time between 1968 and 1971), he made a point of seeking out Stan Lee. The two men became friends and Resnais told Lee (well, at least Lee said that Resnais told him) that Resnais learned English through reading Marvel Comics! Around that time, the two decide to work together. Resnais, you see, never writes his films. Instead, unlike many directors, he not only treats his screenwriter as a valuable piece of the puzzle, but as “co-auteur,” and much in the theater tradition, Resnais treats the screenwriter’s words as practically sacrosanct.
In any event, soon after meeting Lee, he decided to collaborate with Lee.
And here is the rub. I’ve received a number of questions over the years (well, three, but three is a number!) about the extent to which Lee worked with Resnais. Did they ever get anything done? Obviously they never made a movie together, but what DID they do? Some readers insist they completed a screenplay while others feel that they never did (thinking that it was just another one of those projects you hear about that just went nowhere).
The trick is that they did BOTH – an aborted project and a full-out screenplay. You see, Lee and Resnais collaborated on TWO proposed films!
In a 1972 article for the Harvard Crimson, writers Phil Patton and Sharon Shurts noted:
What emerged was a script for a film to be called The Inmates. The setting was to be the Bronx, which, Resnais says, has for the Frenchman all the attraction of the exotic. Then the problems began. Resnais went to producers and offered to shoot the script for a million dollars. No, they said, to do it right you would have to go to Japan for special effects and spend three million: for a million it would only be an “intellectual” film. Now a second script by Stan Lee also seems doubtful of acceptance by American producers, and Resnais speculates on the irony that he may end up shooting The Inmates in a mock-up of the Bronx in Yugoslavia.
A collaboration of Alain Resnais and Stan Lee, if it is ever realized, may well be a combination as significant and as perfect as that, eleven years ago, of Resnais and the French author Alain Robbe-Grillet, in the creation of Last Year at Marienbad.
In an interview with David Kraft for the FOOM (Marvel’s mid-70s fan magazine), Lee spoke of the film:
It’s called The Inmates, and it has to do with the whole human race, why we’re on Earth, and what our relationship is with the rest of the Universe. It poses a theory which I hope is a very original, unusual one. But it’s done in human terms, like a regular story; it’s not a far-out science-fiction thing. It’s very philosophical – but there is a lot of science fiction. I think it’s a great story. I’ve written the treatment for it, and I suggested that Alain get another screenwriter to do the screenplay based on my treatment. It’d still be our story: I’d still be involved in it; yet, this way, we wouldn’t have to wait. But he keeps saying he wants it to be my script completely – he wants it to be my language.
Over twenty years later, Stan Lee was still speaking of trying to do something with the project. It never make it past the treatment stage. So to reader Jay S. who wrote in to say that he heard that Lee and Resnais never really got any substantially done on the Inmates, you are correct.
However, soon after they met, Lee DID complete a DIFFERENT screenplay! This one was called the Monster Maker.
It was about a B-movie horror director (think Roger Corman) who tries to move out of that niche and direct a high budget, expensive movie and finds he needs to go back and rely on his monster making skills to help himself succeed. While Corman is a comparison, the script also clearly had some basis in Lee’s own life. In Jordan Raphael and Tom Spurgeon’s book on Lee, Stan Lee and the Rise and Fall of the American Comic Book, they show the clear connection between Lee’s life and his script…
At one point in the movie, Larry Morgan tells his ex-wife, Catherine, about his new, meaningful work. She glows with pride: “Larry, you must have known how I always felt about those shallow horror films of yours. I always wondered how you could bring yourself to keep grinding out such juvenile, unintellectual pablum. But now, to think of you tackling a worthwhile theme like pollution — to think of you turning your back on commercialism in order to say something that must be said — Oh, Larry — I can’t tell you how thrilled — how proud of you I am.”
In an amazing 1987 interview with Lee, Pat Jankiewicz got Lee to go into detail about why the film never got made…
In France, they do screenplays differently. In those days, it didn’t cost much to make a movie there, and he had me put in everything but the kitchen sink! He wanted a lot of “big scenes,”so I put them in. We gave it to a producer who liked it and bought it for $25,000. It’s pretty petty now, but it was a lot money then, which I split with Alain! The producer said, “The only thing is, you’re going to have to cut a lot of this stuff out, or I can’t afford to make it,” and my nutty friend Alain said (adapting thick French accent) “Shhtan will not change a word!” – one of these moralistic ideas. It’s like that joke – “Pay him the two bucks!” I said “Alain, I’ll change it, I’ll change it!” “No, you wheel not change a word!” Well, the goddam script is still sitting there, on a shelf somewhere.
Amazingly enough, in both instances, Resnais’ deep respect for the work of his writer collaborators ended up squelching both films. The first screenplay not getting made, though, clearly soured Lee on writing full screenplays when he could just do treatments.
Imagine how Stan Lee would have been viewed differently if he either movie with Alain Resnais had gotten made during the 1970s?
Thanks to Patton, Shurts, Kraft, Raphael, Spurgeon, Jankiewicz and, of course, Stan “The Man” Lee himself, for the information. Be sure to pick up a copy of Jeff McLaughlin’s collection of Lee interviews titled, Stan Lee: Conversations. That’s where I read the Kraft and Jankiewicz interviews. Oh, and thanks to Jay S., Ralph and Samantha for the suggestions over the years that I discuss Lee’s work with Resnais.
COMIC LEGEND: Neal Adams was the original artist for God Loves, Man Kills.
Neal Adams was #5 on the Top 50 Comic Book Artists countdown.
In Jon B. Cooke’s amazing magazine, Comic Book Artist #3, Neal Adams discusses a project that he almost worked on at Marvel in the early 1980s. Jim Shooter called Adams up and offered him a graphic novel that they wanted him to do. Adams agreed, but only if they could work out a contract for him that was not “work-made-for-hire.” Shooter agreed and send Adams the outline.
Adams asked if he could play around with the outline a bit and Shooter said okay. He asked Shooter about the contract and Shooter said they were still working on it, but Adams could start working on the comic in the meantime if he liked. So Adams drew six pages and then checked in a couple of weeks later, when Shooter told him that he could not get a contract approved for Adams. So Adams’ six pages were for naught (he didn’t even get paid for them).
The pages were actually for what later became the acclaimed 1982 X-Men graphic novel, God Loves, Man Kills, by writer Chris Claremont and Adams’ replacement, Brent Anderson.
Here are a couple of pages from the comic where you can compare each of their interpretations of the material…
However, Adams obviously mixed things around, as the pages preceding the Danger Room scene were dramatically different from what ultimately occurred in the graphic novel…
Adams was under the impression that it was Shooter who came up with the plot for the series, but that was just Adams’ impression. I’m pretty sure that the comic was a Claremont endeavor through and through. Claremont (and the X-Men) were hot enough at the time (and the comic plot was such a typical Claremont story – and I mean that in the nicest sense possible) that it makes more sense that Claremont would have plotted it (if someone knows otherwise, please let me know!).
Warren Ellis was #4 on the Top 50 Comic Book Writers countdown.
In 1999, Warren Ellis was hired by Marvel to work on a very ambitious 12-issue series that, remarkably enough for Marvel at the time, did not involve superheroes. It was called End Times and it dealt with changes in reality itself.
Years ago, Ellis spoke about the reasons behind the project’s cancellation to Matt Springer at PopCultureCorn :
As far as I know, Marvel simply decided that they couldn’t get a toy line out of it or something… it was just dumped, after something over a year of development and writing following a direct request from Bob Harras. Marvel management just got gutless again. The idea of a 12-issue series without superheroes in it scared the shit out of them, I suppose.
It was a pain in the arse, and annoying, more than upsetting. You get used to the knockbacks. I still think END TIMES would’ve been a good thing for Marvel (but then, I would, wouldn’t I?) — going sideways from all expectations and producing a (hopefully) strong piece of adventure fiction that relied on none of the things that’ve kept Marvel superhero comics propped up all these years… that, ultimately, didn’t rely on the superhero subgenre. But what do I know, right?
Fast forward six years and Ellis was working on a project called Ultimate Nightmare, which was going to work as prelude to an Ultimate “event” by Mark Millar.
However, Millar had to back out due to illness (while Ellis was working on Nightmare), so suddenly Marvel had a prelude with nothing to go AFTER it! So Ellis agreed to step in and quickly turn his prelude into the first part of what is now reffered to as the Ultimate Galactus Trilogy.
Ultimate Nightmare was followed by Ultimate Secret…
And that, in turn, was followed by Ultimate Extinction…
Rich Johnston, though, noticed something interesting about Ultimate Extinction. Ellis was basically adapting his old End Times script to fit into the Ultimate storyline. I mean, that’s obviously totally fair enough. Ellis had what was a really good script and no place to use it, and suddenly he had to come up with a script for this storyline, so it makes perfect sense.
So the male private detective in End Times becomes Misty Knight in Ultimate Extinction. Check it out, based on Ellis’ script (which you can find on his website here) and the comic itself…
Behind Leary is a man we’ll soon come to know as COYLE. He’ll be using a false name to Leary. A smaller man than Leary, in his forties, very well dressed in a slightly old-fashioned, musty way. Head shaven or bald. Educated. Piercing eyes. A disturbing air about him. Ed Harris.
Coyle sticks out his hand, smiling a strange close-lipped smile, eyes glittering. Creepy. Something lizardoid about him, the way his mouth moves, the ways his lazy eyes study you slowly, half-lidded.
COYLE; EDWARD SCHAFFER. WE SPOKE ON THE TELEPHONE YESTERDAY.
LEARY; DIDN’T HEAR YOU COME IN BEHIND ME, MR SCHAFFER.
Not the right way to answer such a question. Awkward pause as they shake hands. Leary tries to size him up….
Coyle smiles his weird smile silently, hands clasped in front of him in front of his legs. Leary backs off towards his desk, somehow troubled but trying not to show it.
LEARY; PLEASE, TAKE A SEAT.
They seat themselves, and Leary pulls a thin folder towards himself, opens it, takes a pen;
LEARY; OKAY. FROM THE NOTES I TOOK FROM OUR TELECON OF LAST NIGHT; YOUR WIFE HAS ABSCONDED WITH MONIES…
COYLE; I BELIEVE SHE’S BEEN ABDUCTED, MR LEARY.
LEARY; …AND HAS TAKEN THOSE MONIES TO ONE PAUL MAITREYA, WHO IS SOME KIND OF FAITH HEALER…
Coyle twists the photo on the desk towards him, admires the beautiful woman.
COYLE; HE’S A CULT LEADER. CHARISMATIC. SLIGHTLY DANGEROUS, IN THE WAY THAT THESE PEOPLE ARE. AND GREEDY.
COYLE; HE SEDUCES MARRIED, MONIED WOMEN OF A CERTAIN AGE, AND FEEDS OFF THEM. AND MY CAROL… WELL…
Leary takes the photo and lays it down flat on the desk. He’s sick of other men looking at his wife.
LEARY; LET ME TRY TO CONDENSE HERE. YOUR WIFE HAS RUN OFF WITH A CULTIST AND TAKEN THE CREDIT CARDS?
COYLE; I WOULDN’T HAVE PUT IT QUITE THAT WAY, MR LEARY.
LEARY; I REALISE THAT.
LEARY; I’LL NEED A PHOTO OF HER, OF COURSE. I CAN UNDERTAKE TO CONFIRM HER LOCATION TO YOU WITHIN FORTY EIGHT HOURS. WHAT YOU DO WITH THAT INFORMATION IS UP TO YOU.
Leary passes over a piece of card to Schaffer/Coyle, almost apologetically. We get the feeling that Leary’s a nice guy who hates large amounts of his life.
LEARY; MY RATE CARD. CASH, CHECK, AMEX, VISA, MASTERCARD.
CUT TO; Late afternoon sun over Manhattan…
OPEN ON; LEARY’S OFFICE, LATER.
Leary’s jacket’s off, tie loosened, and he’s pacing around with a cordless phone.
LEARY; HOW DOES IT GET TO BE SO DAMNED HOT IN NEW YORK IN DECEMBER?…
LEARY; YES, I’M STILL HOLDING. BUT HURRY IT UP, PLEASE. I DON’T WANT TO SPEND MY BIRTHDAY ON THE PHONE.
LEARY; MY BIRTHDAY’S IN JULY.
LEARY; YEAH, YOU TOO, LADY.
Leary breaks into a big smile.
LEARY; SEAN KEOGH, AT LONG ******* LAST…
LEARY; YEAH, YEAH, WHADDAYA WHADDAYA… LISTEN, I NEED A FAVOR.
LEARY; NO, BITE ME. YOU OWE ME, SEAN. NOW COME ON, GIVE.
Leary turns, leans over his desk to refer to his notes.
LEARY; OKAY. GUY’S USING THE NAME “PAUL MAITREYA”. M.O. APPEARS TO BE SUCKERING OLD LADIES INTO GIVING HIM LOTS OF MONEY TO SUPPORT HIS NEW RELIGION.
LEARY; ODDS ON THE NEW RELIGION INVOLVES MAKING SAID OLD LADIES SAY “OOH, YOU’RE THE BEST” A LOT.
LEARY; YOU HEARD OF THIS GUY? OKAY, ALL I’M LOOKING FOR IS A CURRENT LOCATION.
LEARY; UH-HUH. GOT IT. LISTEN, HOW COME YOU HAD ALL THIS TO HAND, SEAN?
LEARY; YOUR WIFE, HUH?
LEARY; SHE DID, HUH?
LEARY; SORRY TO HEAR IT, MAN.
LEARY; LEAVE IT WITH ME, HUH? OKAY. BYE.
Close in; We see people moving in that apartment. Men and women. Quite a few of them, of all ages, but all dressed the same way; simple white blouses and white dresses or trousers. Not sexual at all — more religious, archaic.
LEARY finds and thumbs a tiny TAPE RECORDER.
LEARY; CASE NOTES: SCHAFFER. IT’S A LITTLE BEFORE NINE P.M.
LEARY; AMAZING STROKE OF LUCK. A BUNCH OF UNRENTED APARTMENTS SCHEDULED FOR RENOVATION FOUND DIRECTLY OPPOSITE MAITREYA’S APARTMENT.
LEARY; THIS’LL BE WRAPPED UP TONIGHT. JUST A CASE OF TAKING PHOTOS AND A LITTLE VIDEOTAPE.
Leary spins a zoom telephoto lens onto the camera…
LEARY; A FEW MORE EASY GIGS LIKE THIS AND I’LL BE ABLE TO AFFORD A PLANE TICKET TO EUROPE EARLY IN THE NEW YEAR.
LEARY; NEW MILLENNIUM, EVEN.
…and points it out the window at the other apartment, eye pressed to the viewfinder.
LEARY; AH, HELL… THERE’S SEAN KEOGH’S WIFE…
LEARY; AND THERE’S THE MAN HIMSELF. MUST BE.
PAUL MAITREYA — tall, very handsome, bald black man. We close in on the other apartment as Maitreya enters the main room we can see. Immediately, all of the attention in that room is aimed at him. Obviously charismatic, obviously beloved. He wears only a pair of loose white trousers.
LEARY (FROM OFF); PAUL MAITREYA.
The tall black man is glowing, gently… its candlepower rising with every passing moment… his people go to their knees before him.
Without taking his eyes off the scene, Leary reaches for his camcorder, and holds it up, hitting RECORD by reflex…
LEARY; NO WAY.
LEARY; NO WAY.
… little fireflies of light dance in the air in that other apartment, leaving luminescent trails hanging in space. Paul Maitreya’s glow intensifies… and WINGS made of light begin to manifest on his back, huge and majestic in their span…
Pretty impressive merge, huh?
Then again, Ellis IS one of the best comic book writers around, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by how smoothly he pulled this off.
Thanks to Rich Johnston for picking up on this years ago and thanks to our own Chad Nevett for letting me know about it! Oh, and of course, thanks to Warren Ellis for sharing the script and Matt Springer for that great quote from roughly a decade ago!
Okay, that’s it for this part! Come back tomorrow for Part 2!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. And my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/brian_cronin, so you can ask me legends there, as well!
Here’s my book of Comic Book Legends (130 legends – half of them are re-worked classic legends I’ve featured on the blog and half of them are legends never published on the blog!).
The cover is by artist Mickey Duzyj. He did a great job on it…(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 tomorrow!
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