Welcome to the three hundredth and sixteenth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. This week, learn the amazing tale of when Jack Kirby met Paul McCartney! Plus, discover the truth behind Will Eisner’s testimony in the Wonder Man/Superman copyright infringement case and marvel at DC’s late-90s determination that Green Arrow had superpowers!
Click here for an archive of the previous three hundred and fifteen.
COMIC LEGEND: Jack Kirby had a special meeting with Paul McCartney in 1975.
In case you were unfamiliar with the tune, on Paul McCartney’s 1975 Wings’ album, Venus and Mars…
there is a song called “Magneto and Titanium Man.”
It is a cute, fun song where three Marvel villains from the 60s commit a robbery.
and Titanium Man…
The inspiration for the song came from the fact that while McCartney on vacation in Jamaica, he had to keep his kids entertained. So he and his wife Linda would buy them a bunch of comic books every Saturday. McCartney had been a comic book fan as a kid and now he found himself interested in these modern comic books (it is probably a bit of a stretch to say that McCartney was a “fan,” though) and they inspired him to write the above song when he got back to recording the album.
Later in 1975, Wings went on an international tour to support the new album. In June 1976, they made their way to California. Gary Sherman, brother to Jack Kirby assistant Steve Sherman (and therefore, friend to the Kirby family) thought that Kirby and McCartney should meet, so he came up with the story that Kirby had a drawing that he wanted to give to McCartney. Eventually, McCartney’s people agreed and Gary then, of course, had to tell Jack that he had to now do a drawing for McCartney!
Kirby being his typical awesomeness, he whipped up a great drawing of Magneto, Paul, Linda and the band in less than an hour.
Paul thanked Kirby for the drawing and thanked him for helping to entertain his kids during the vacation. He gave Jack, Gary and Jack’s daughter Lisa tickets to the show that night.
At the concert, McCartney introduced Kirby, “In the audience tonight we have the creator of Magneto and lots of other comic characters, and I’d like to dedicate this song to Jack Kirby” and then played “Magneto and Titanium Man.”
What’s awesome is that the Jack Kirby Museum actually has the drawing AND photographs of the meeting!
Here, courtesy of Rand Hoppe’s blog, is the actual drawing…
And here, courtesy of Rand Hoppe’s blog (via Lisa Kirby) is a photograph of Paul and Linda with Kirby….
Go the Kirby Museum here to see two more photographs!
Thanks to Steve Sherman for the scoop on the meeting (which he relayed in Jack Kirby Collector #8) and thanks to Rand Hoppe and the Kirby Museum (and Lisa Kirby) for the drawing and photos. I was planning on doing this bit for a couple of months now, but I should note that commenter mrclam suggested I do it a few weeks ago.
And thanks, of course, to Gary Sherman, who passed away a couple of years ago, for making the whole thing possible!
Check out the latest Movie Legends Revealed to learn the story about the major film release that actually threw a horse off of a cliff, changing the way films used animals forever! Plus, was Satanist Anton LaVey really in Rosemary’s Baby? Also, marvel at why Spaceballs actually DIDN’T have any merchandising!
COMIC LEGEND: Will Eisner testified that he was hired by Victor Fox to do a Superman knock-off called Wonderman.
This is a really interesting one for me because I got it wrong in my book, Was Superman a Spy?: And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed
. I mean, it is not a major point in the story, but still, I repeated the same story that Will Eisner said for years – that when it came time for him to testify in the case against Victor Fox and Wonder Comics for copyright infringement for the similarities between Wonderman and Superman, that Eisner refused to follow Fox’s orders and lie and say that he was not hired by Fox to specifically do a knock-off of Superman.
Eisner had told this story repeatedly over the years. He even included it in one of his graphic novels, The Dreamer.
And for years, no one had ever disputed his take on the situation, so I was comfortable with the truth of the matter, as you’d figure SOMEone would have noted if he was off base in his recollections.
However, last year, the excellent comic book historian Ken Quattro was approached by someone who had the actual transcript of Eisner’s testimony.
Quattro posted the transcript on his website here and, well, it was basically the opposite of what Eisner had said that he said for years.
Here’s a snippet of Eisner’s testimony (the full transcript goes on for over 20 pages)….
Q: At the time that you made the drawing marked with a capital X had you in any way known or heard of the plaintiff’s character “Superman”?
A: No, sir
Q: And at the time you thought of the phrase or words “The Wonderman,” had you at that time ever heard or had you ever known of “The Superman,” which is the plaintiff’s character?
A: No, sir.
Q: And until you heard of this lawsuit you, the creator of “Wonderman,” never read the strip “Superman,” is that right?
A: That is true.
Despite Eisner’s testimony, DC/National Comics still won their case and Fox had to stop making Wonderman comics.
It is fascinating that such an ingrained part of comic book history was shown to be false. Thanks to Ken Quattro for the excellent work illuminating this fascinating part of comic book history. Be sure to click that above link to the testimony, as Quattro has tons more interesting information about the trial.
Check out the latest Music Legends Revealed for a special “Baseball Music” edition of the feature to learn just why is it that the Boston Red play “Sweet Caroline,” discover the Hall of Famer centerfielder who helped to name a critically acclaimed rock band and see the baseball song that pre-dated the Civil War!!
COMIC LEGEND: DC had an editorial mandate in the late 90s/early 00s that Green Arrow had superpowers.
STATUS: Essentially True
Back in 2000, a reader wrote in to Andrew “Captain Comics” Smith asking if it was true that Green Arrow was a metahuman (DC’s term for people with super powers).
This was due to a recent issue of Robin that said as much…
Smith found that Chuck Dixon noted at the time:
Connor inherited some of his father’s metahuman abilities. Ollie’s took the form of remarkable (and near infallible) marksmanship. Connor’s took the form of his talents in martial arts. The metahuman deal for Ollie and Connor was editorially driven. I was told to hype this in the ‘Year One’ annual I did for GA. … Love it or hate it, DC’s idea was to make both GAs more like superheroes and less like one-trick ponies. There is an unstated fear at DC (unstated until now) that their heroes are irrelevant because their powers are antiquated. … I think their fears are unfounded. Characterization is the key and DC’s superheroes have that. The powers are secondary.
Here is the Year One Annual that Dixon is referring to, when a young Ollie Queen is a brilliant marksman right off the bat…
and when he picks up the bow and arrow as an adult…
Wow, isn’t that bizarre?
Luckily, DC no longer has such a take on Green Arrow.
Thanks to Andrew and Chuck for the information! Thanks to Loquacious Lad for asking the question!
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!
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The cover is by artist Mickey Duzyj. He did a great job on it…(click to enlarge)…
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See you all next week!