Welcome to the three hundredth and thirty-sixth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. This week, marvel at the great Spider-Man/Chameleon Boy feud of 1966! Plus, legends involving Jack Kirby and Alan Davis!
Click here for an archive of the previous three hundred and thirty-five.
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COMIC LEGEND: A comment by Stan Lee in a Bullpen Bulletins led to a response in a Legion of Super-Heroes story that then led to a response in an issue of Amazing Spider-Man!
All this month, we’re featuring “Meta-Messages,” instances where comic book creators use characters in their stories to comment on the work of other comic book creators. Click here for an archive of all the meta-messages we have featured so far.
Reader Keith Alan Morgan wrote in with a suggestion that I found went way past just a typical meta-message, as it involved three separate examples of inter-company commentary!
It began with Stan Lee’s Bullpen Bulletin for March 1966. It opened with a direct shot at Marvel’s rivals, including presumably mainly DC Comics…
Then came Adventure Comics #350, which came out roughly the summer of 1966 (I featured Adventure Comics #350 in a previous Comic Book Legends Revealed on an unrelated topic). The issue was written by Legion assistant editor E. Nelson Bridwell (with Legion editor Mort Weisinger having heavy input in the issue, as well, mostly for the reasons I detailed in the aforementioned previous Comic Book Legends Revealed).
Well, at one point in the issue, Chameleon Boy faces off against a bad guy and takes on the form of a spider, leading to an interesting bit of breaking the fourth wall…
Fascinatingly enough, though, Lee then responds BACK!
In Amazing Spider-Man #47 (which came out roughly at the end of 1966), an issue which is perhaps best known now as the issue of Spider-Man that Deadpool later time-traveled into (as featured in a Year of Cool Comics post here)…
reader Gerard Addonizio of Medford, Massachusetts writes in to discuss the Chameleon Boy comment…
While thumbing thru a Brand Echh comic, I came across something that infuriated me. Some orange-faced character belonging to an (ugh) group of super-boobs had just finished tying up a monster with his web after turning into a spider! He then said, “In case a certain web-headed character thinks I’m stealing his thunder, I’d like to remind him that I was changing to all sorts of weird shapes long before he walked up his first wall.” As you know, he was referring to our own Spidey! You fellas usually make your Brand Echh references in a good-natured half-kidding way; and you’ve never actually pin-pointed any competitive mag or character. But they’re getting nasty. I think you should really let them have it. I’ve never written before, but when I saw that statement, I just had to. Your comics are the greatest!
Lee then replies:
Quite a few indignant Marvelites have commented upon that same reference to Spidey in a mag which we shall charitably not identity. We deeply appreciate the concern of all you True Believers – but don’t worry about it, gang. Any knock is a boost… and our ill-advised competitors have been unintentionally boosting us all over the place!
Stan is inspired by Gerard’s letter in another way, though, wondering why it was that it:
took a mention in another mag to get you to write to us? Why have you chosen to remain aloof so long? Why haven’t you cared enough till now? What have we done wrong – where have we failed? Must we contact our competitors and beg them to mention us in order to hear from you again?
That was the last of this mini-feud, but now doesn’t it make you want a Spider-Man/Chameleon Boy crossover issue where they hash out their problems with each other once and for all?
Thanks to Keith for the suggestion! And thanks to my pal Michael at the Legion Omnicom for finding the reference on the always awesome Spiderfan.org to the Spider-Man letter!
COMIC LEGEND: The plot of Fantastic Four #176 was changed after the editor of the comic received Jack Kirby’s cover for the issue.
It almost seems impossible (pun not intended) to imagine, but after first appearing in Fantastic Four #11
the Impossible Man did not pop up again (okay, the pun was intended that time) until over 150 issues later, in Fantastic Four #175!
What’s particularly fascinating about this story is that the issue ended up having the story altered by Jack Kirby, who just did the cover of the book.
You see, Kirby had just recently begun working for Marvel Comics again and when FF writer Roy Thomas decided to include the Impossible Man as a surprise at the end of Fantastic Four #175, he decided that it only made sense to then have Jack Kirby, co-creator of the Impossible Man, do the cover for #176, spotlighting the Impossible Man.
So Thomas then called Kirby in California to describe what he wanted the cover to look like. Basically he wanted it to show Impossible Man hosing down the Human Torch and hammering the Thing.
Kirby, though, thought it would be interesting if the Impossible Man used his powers to imitate Iron Man and Thor (and suggested that he do so with other Marvel characters, as well), and that is what he penciled in the delivered cover…
Thus, Thomas was inspired to then tell FF penciler George Perez (who was about halfway through the issue) to incorporate Kirby’s ideas into the second half of the comic! So Impossible Man imitates Thor, Black Bolt and the Wasp!
It is very impressive how quickly Thomas and Perez were able to adapt the story to fit Kirby’s ideas! Talk about creating an issue on the fly!
By the way, while I don’t think anything in that issue necessarily fits the definition of a “Meta-Message,” it IS fun to see the real-life Marvel employees depicted in the issue…
Thanks to Roy Thomas for sharing the behind-the-scenes story of FF #176 in a column that appeared in the issue.
COMIC LEGEND: Alan Davis requested that Marvel run only filler issues on Excalibur until he could take over the title.
Continuing the Meta-Messages theme this week, in a previous installment of Meta-Messages earlier this month, I discussed Alan Davis’ way of dealing with an Excalibur story that had come out before Davis (who had created the title with Chris Claremont) took over the book as the writer/penciler.
In the comments, someone noted that it seemed unfair of Davis to have a concern with a one-off special that came out before he took over the book as Davis supposedly asked Marvel specifically to run filler issues following Chris Claremont’s final issue of Excalibur (#34) until Davis was able to take over the title.
CBR’s own Greg McElhatton (of Read About Comics fame), however, had the full scoop on what actually happened….
Having actually interviewed Alan Davis when he took over the writing and art of Excalibur, that’s not the case at all, and I have no idea where that rumor got started.
Originally he and Paul Neary were slated to take over the book with #35 as co-authors; in other words, immediately after Chris Claremont’s final issue (#34).
They got slightly delayed, so it was pushed to #37 and two fill-ins from Scott Lobdell were commissioned. (If you take a look at those two issues, they are quite different from what was about to come.)
Then the exchange rate between the dollar and pound shifted dramatically, to the point that Davis and Neary felt it was no longer economical for them to co-write the book. Neary dropped out of the project, and Davis had to start over in his plotting of the comic since the plots he’d developed with Neary needed to be thrown out.
As a result, his arrival was delayed to #42, but Davis specifically asked that those additional five issues (#37-41) wrap up some long-standing dangling plot lines that he’d planned on tackling himself, but with the additional delay felt it was best to just be taken care of in those issues. So, Lobdell was hired to write #37-41, and sure enough, the Soulsword is written out,
Nightcrawler’s teleportation issues are fixed, and Excalibur discovers that the X-Men are still alive.
(Based on how Davis and everyone else handled the character starting with #42, I think the dialogue in #37 is also supposed to state that Shadowcat is completely healed and her phasing is back to normal, but it’s not crystal clear. But regardless, that dangling plot line is certainly gone as of #42.)
Great stuff, Greg, thanks a bunch!
Be sure to check out Greg’s site (linked above) and read his CBR reviews (you can see them all here)!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
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