Welcome to the three hundredth and thirtieth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. This week, learn which Green Lantern Larry Niven wanted to reveal was an alien! Plus, discover a “lost” Calvin and Hobbes comic strip and learn the origin of Clash drummer Topper Headon’s nickname!
Click here for an archive of the previous three hundred and twenty-nine.
COMIC LEGEND: Larry Niven wanted to reveal Guy Gardner was an alien in 1989/1990.
STATUS: Apparently True
In 1973, famed science fiction author Larry Niven wrote a novella titled Flash Crowd, about the problems caused when cheap teleporation is introduced to the public. What happens is that large groups of people suddenly show up at places at once, causing all sorts of problems. Decades later, “Flash Mobs” have become a staple of popular culture, working very much on that same premise (well, except for the teleportation part of it).
Similarly, Niven had another idea that ultimately showed up in a different form. In the late 1980s, DC Comics approached Niven about coming up with a history of the Green Lantern Corps. A “bible,” if you would. It was going to appear in a three-issue Prestige Format mini-series that would lead into a new Green Lantern series.
The mini-series never came about, although Niven’s ideas were adapted by Gerard Jones for the 1990 Green Lantern ongoing series.
Also, many of Niven’s ideas later ended up in the one-shot graphic novel by Niven and John Byrne titled Ganthet’s Tale (where Niven introduced the popular Green Lantern character, Ganthet).
However, once DC got Niven interested, he kept coming up with different ideas. One of them, amazingly enough, was to reveal that Guy Gardner was actually an alien! Niven was going to write it as a three-issue story.
Before it could go very far, though, it was squelched by whoever was handling Gardner at the time (I am unsure if it was by the Justice League International staff or the Green Lantern staff).
Amusingly enough, about five years later, guess what happened?
Thanks to Arthur K. for the suggestion!
COMIC LEGEND: Universal Press Syndicate banned a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon featuring a joke about Calvin playing in a washing machine.
In celebration of Almost Hidden month (where we spotlighted uncollected comic books – here is a list of the books featured), here is a legend about the only uncollected Calvin and Hobbes strip!
Athur K. also asked about the following legend, whether it was true or not:
Universal Press Syndicate refused to publish an early Calvin and Hobbes cartoon because they were afraid it would encourage children to play in washing machines.
That is not true, but it is close!
The November 28, 1985 Calvin and Hobbes strip (less than a month into the strip!) was the following…
However, that version only ran in some of the papers that had Calvin and Hobbes at the time. The rest had the following strip…
Clearly, though, the “playing in washing machines” angle did bother Watterson, as he has never reprinted the strip in any of the Calvin and Hobbes collections. The alternate strip appears instead.
Interestingly, in the recent “Complete Calvin and Hobbes,” Watterson also made edits to two strips that involved Calvin joking about being adopted (the edits came after both strips appeared in earlier collections, though). Here is an example of one of them…
The strip in the collection now reads:
CALVIN: Watch out, Mom. I’m in a bad mood.
MOM: Be in a bad mood somewhere else, OK? I’m busy.
CALVIN: Hmph! I’ll bet A GOOD MOTHER would’ve bought me a comic book and made me feel better instead of shunning me like you.
MOM: Kid, anyone but your GOOD MOTHER would’ve left you to the wolves long ago.
CALVIN: Yeah right. LET’S SEE YOUR TRAINING CERTIFICATE.
Like the ommission of the washing machine gag, this is all Bill Watterson’s doing. Since he has not spoken/written about it, we can only guess as to his motives (although they seem pretty clear, right?).
Thanks for the two great suggestions, Arthur!
COMIC LEGEND: Famed Clash drummer Topper Headon gained his nickname from a comic strip.
Travis Pelkie wrote in with this one.
In an interview about auditioning for the Clash, famed early Clash drummer Nicholas “Topper” Headon reflected…
Headon agreed to an audition but didn’t bother going; he’d briefly been in Jones’ previous band, the London SS, “but they were all long hair and afghans and stuff”. He bought that week’s edition of the NME, however, “and who’s on the cover, but Mick, Joe and Paul [Simonon, bass player], and it was like… ‘Oh, I’ll be down in a minute, then!’ I went in there and went bang! bang! bang! – I had to relearn my whole drumming style.” He ended up with his hands covered in blood blisters but he’d got the job on a wage of £25 a week.
Being part of The Clash meant Headon had to give up his previous existence. Having set off for the audition in casual clothes and with long hair, he returned home dressed in punk gear, his head sporting hacked spikes. His name was changed next; Simonon rechristened him after deciding their new drummer looked like Mickey the Monkey from the children’s comic, Topper. “I wondered: am I doing the right thing? I’d only been in the band a week – I’d had to deny I was married. It was quite intimidating, you had to ditch all your mates and be part of the gang.”‘
Here is Headon…
Here is Mickey the Monkey (by the great Scottish cartoonist Dudley Watkins) from Topper…
Thanks to Travis for the suggestion!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
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See you all next week!