Welcome to the three hundredth and 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 three hundred and 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 new installment of Football Legends Revealed for the story of how the manager of a football team turned a $1 investment into 10% of the Minnesota Vikings!
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COMIC LEGEND: An artist amusingly misunderstood a script direction by Peter David regarding the term “helicopter shot.”
Peter David wrote a six-issue Dreadstar mini-series for Malibu Comics in the 1990s, with artwork by the great Ernie Colon.
Here are the first few pages from issue #1…
Well, those are the first few pages as PRINTED, but amusingly enough, that was not what the first page originally looked like. Reader Jeb wrote in a few months back to tell me a story Peter David had told at a convention about that issue.
I asked Peter about it, and he was kind enough to go way past just confirming the story, and instead told me the whole thing:
It was the first page of the first issue of the “Dreadstar” limited series published by Malibu (Bravura). The artist was Ernie Colon. I had written the plot for the first issue (I wasn’t writing full script in those days but instead in the form that’s known as “Marvel style”) and I got back the pencil pages for dialoguing. The first page was intended to be a series of establishing shots of an alien world. And there, smack in the middle, was a Bell UH-1 Iroquois attack helicopter, commonly referred to as a Huey, with guns blazing. I stared at this thing and said, “What the hell is a Huey doing on my alien world?”
And I went back to my plot, read the first line and kicked myself. What I had called for on the first page was a series of steadily closer angles of the surface of the world, a jungle setting. I had wanted to convey that the “camera” should start from a high altitude and then, over a series of panels, get closer and closer. It’s the kind of shot that was used in the openings of such films as “Lethal Weapon” and “The Birdcage.” But what I said specifically was: “Helicopter shot of the surface of an alien world,” which is the movie making term used to describe such visuals since they’re accomplished by mounting the camera in a helicopter and moving quickly through the air. Ernie, apparently having never heard the term, drew in an actual helicopter, shooting (hence “shot”) at the panel borders.. I went back to the folks at Malibu and said, “Please get this helicopter out of my alien world.” The art correction was made, either by Ernie or someone else, and the page saw print without it.
Now: Several things in Ernie’s defense.
First of all, it was an exquisitely drawn helicopter, hyperaccurate. This was before the days of Google images, so you have to appreciate that he did the research.
Second, I have worked with artists in my time who regularly ignored what I put in the stories. They’ve left out crowds when called for or put in crowds when they weren’t supposed to be there. They’ve left out entire scenes because they didn’t see the point of them, which on occasion has been catastrophic since the scenes were there to lay plot groundwork for future issues. They’ve totally changed sequences because they felt like it. They’ve changed what was intended to be multi-panel pages into splash pages because splash pages fetch higher prices in the art resale market. So although in the case of “Dreadstar” it was a spectacular miscommunication, as a writer I really appreciate that Ernie was so dedicated to respecting the writer that he went ahead and drew in this Huey in meticulous detail even though it made absolutely no sense at all. Ernie must have figured, “It’s what the writer wants, he must know what he’s doing, and it’s not my job to question it but simply give him what he asked for.”
I don’t tell that helicopter anecdote at conventions to say that artists are big dummies. I tell it to underscore how important it is to the writer to convey exactly what he wants in terms so clear and precise that the artist cannot possibly misinterpret it.
Great story, Peter, thanks so much! And thanks to Jeb for the suggestion!
COMIC LEGEND: The depiction of Aquaman’s telepathic powers as concentric circles emanating from his forehead came from the Filmation Aquaman cartoon from 1967.
Reader Graeme Burk asked me the other day about whether the depiction of Aquaman’s telepathy as concentric circles emanating from his forehead was as a result of the 1967 Filmation Aquaman series.
I thought it must have been, since for decades, Aquaman’s power was not depicted that way.
Aquaman began talking to fish in his third appearance in More Fun Comics #76…
but back then it was more of a “hey, guys, thanks a lot” rather than Aquaman COMMANDING them or anything like that…
But even as it evolved into Aquaman commanding his fishy friends, it continued to be depicted with no visual cues as to the telepathy being used. This continued even when Aquaman became popular enough for his own comic. Here he is in the first issue of his solo book, from 1962…
That issue was drawn by Nick Cardy, who drew the first 39 issues of Aquaman. I would have totally bet that when Cardy changed to start drawing the circles that it was due to the show. In fact, even though I knew that the circles appeared in the comic before the show came out, I still figured that it was because they knew the show WAS coming out (as after all, the writer of Aquaman, Bob Haney, also wrote for the cartoon show – as did the editor of the comic, George Kashdan).
However, surprisingly to me, in mid-1965, after years of drawing it one way, Nick Cardy began drawing it the way the cartoon eventually used it.
If it was closer to 1967, I would say that the show still influenced it, but early 1965? There’s no way that that was being influences by the show.
The changeover actually occurred in late 1964.
In late 1964’s Aquaman #19, Aquaman uses his powers as he had for some time…
Then the next issue, the circles begin…
I guess Cardy just liked the new effect, as he began using it regularly after that.
Thanks to Graeme for the great suggestion! I was quite surprised by the answer myself!
COMIC LEGEND: A Charles Addams cartoon was used to test the intelligence level of mentally challenged adults.
STATUS: I’m Going With True
Charles Addams! The gift that keeps on giving! In recent Comic Book Legends Revealed installments, I’ve discussed the false legends that Charles Addams’ New Yorker cartoons were used to test lunacy (in the sense that if you understand them, you must be crazy) and that Addams himself was driven insane by one of his cartoons (including a cartoon that he never actually drew, but people insist they remember seeing).
However, today there is a true Addams-related legend, suggested to me by commenter Da Fug.
It once again involves “The Skier,” one of Addams’ most famous (and most homaged) cartoons. Here is the cartoon again…
Linda Davis, in her great Charles Addams biography, Charles Addams: A Cartoonist’s Life, detailed the story of Linda Ray, a psychologist at the Lincoln, Illinois state school for the feebleminded, who wrote to Addams a few months after “The Skier” was published.
You see, as one part of the famed Stanford-Binet test for intelligence (created by French psychologist Alfred Binet and modified by Stanford University psychologist Lewis Terman), you would show people humorous images and ask them to explain to you why the images are funny. Well, Ray wrote to Addams that she felt that “The Skier” would be perfect for this sort of thing (due to its simple construction and lack of caption). And she added that it was, as it worked wonderfully for the test.
Pretty cool, huh?
Thanks to Da Fug for the suggestion and Linda Davis for the information!
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. 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 all next week!