Welcome to the three hundredth and thirty-seventh in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. This week, discover the strange story of how close Gerard Christopher (from the Superboy TV series) came to being Superman on Lois and Clark! Plus, was James Robinson ever going to do a Silver Age follow-up to his Golden Age? And marvel at likely the only comic ever to be entered into the Congressional Record!
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COMIC LEGEND: Gerard Christopher was cast as Superman in Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman until producers discovered that he had played Superboy on the Superboy TV series of the late 1980s.
STATUS: False (but close to true!)
Gerard Christopher took over from John Haymes Newton as the title character in the syndicated Superboy series in 1989. After Newton did a season in the role, Christopher did Seasons 2-4.
Christopher had an impressive physique and although he looked young, he was actually 30 years old when he took over the role!
Therefore, when the series ended in 1992, he was the “right” age to play Superman, and it just so happens that in 1993 ABC television was casting for Superman for an upcoming Superman television series. Christopher decided to go up for the role, and as a number of tellings of the story go (here’s one from a Superboy/Young Superman TV fan site):
Gerard Christopher was originally cast to play Superman in the Lois and Clark TV show, but one the producers of Lois and Clark realized that he had done Superman before (or in his case, Superboy). The producer immediately recasted him with Dean Cain. Just think, Gerard was going to be Superman; and he was being cast twice for the same role!
It’s a great story, but it is not exactly true. Christopher was never cast as Superman. However, the true parts of the story are still interesting!
In an interview by Brian McKernan that was later reprinted on Christopher’s official website, Christopher tells the full story…
McKernan: Were you involved with the production of Lois and Clark?
Christopher: I actually read for the show. It was interesting. At first the casting director didn’t like my interpretation. Then she asked me to change it. I did and she liked it. Then she brought me in to meet the producers. When I walked into the room, they had no advance knowledge that I had done Superboy.
Now, there are two ways to look at that: They’re either going to love it because I had done the part before, or the opposite would be true – they’d hate it. I read for the producer and his reaction was, “Wow! You’re great, it’s wonderful, you’re the perfect guy for this!” There was a room of six or eight people, it was kind of exciting. Then he grabbed my resume, looked at the work I’d done, flipped it over and said, “You’ve done this already!” He threw my resume down on the table and basically threw me out of the room. It was pretty funny.
You have to keep in mind the situation that the Lois and Clark people were in. It’s similar to when a restaurant goes out of business and is taken over by new owners: The new management wants to change the decor, the menu, the colors, the fabrics on the chairs – everything. He could have looked at the new show as an easy transition for me – from Superboy to Superman. I’m older, I’m experienced, and I have a following. But he was making a big move, a big transition in how the character would be interpreted. He wanted to go a different way. People like to do things their own way and often times they cut ties with anything that came before for their own personal reasons. I’m not making any judgements; if that’s what he wants to do it’s his business.
It’s a fascinating story.
In any event, obviously, Dean Cain ended up winning the role…
Interestingly enough, the actor who DID end up being “the other guy” when it boiled down to it, was a pre-Hercules Kevin Sorbo! I wonder how he would have handled the role. He certainly had the build for Superman!
Thanks to Brian McKernan and Gerard Christopher for the scoop on a fascinating story!
COMIC LEGEND: A Sunday Terry and the Pirates comic strip was read into the Congressional Record the next day.
Few popular cartoonists were quite as devoted to the United States military as Milton Caniff was. The star of his famed Terry and the Pirates strip, Terry, ended up joining the Air Force in the strip and serving in World War II. Caniff even donated a spin-off strip that he worked on throughout the war just for military newspapers. Granted, sometimes his devotion to the war efforts went to some regrettable places (like this previous Comic Book Legends installment will attest), but it is clear that Canniff was a man who loved his country and the people who served to protect it.
Perhaps never was this more evident than in his October 17, 1943 Sunday strip for Terry and the Pirates, popularly known as “The Pilot’s Creed.” The strip depicted Terry and his flight instructor, Colonel “Flip” Corkin, with Terry getting a lesson from Corkin about his responsibilities as a fighter pilot. The strip drew such a positive reaction that the following day, the strip was read aloud in the United States Congress and actually added to the Congressional Record, the only comic that I know of ever to receive such an honor.
Dean Mullaney, over at IDW’s Library of American Comics, shared Caniff’s hand-watercolored guide for the engravers of the famous strip…
Thanks a lot, Dean!
COMIC LEGEND: James Robinson planned to do a Silver Age follow-up to his Elseworlds mini-series The Golden Age.
Some time ago (March 2008, to be exact), reader Cory T. wrote in to ask me:
had an urban legend i was hoping you could look into for me. i heard a rumor that at one time james robinson was going to follow up his golden age mini series with a solver age version. do you know anything about this or what he was planning or what the story entailed? cant wait to see what you uncover.
Well, you had to wait a few years, Cory, but here goes!
The Golden Age was a prestige format Elseworlds mini-series that Robinson wrote with excellent artwork from the great Paul Smith.
The series basically launched Robinson’s career in mainstream comics.
Rumors of a possible Silver Age follow-up have followed Robinson for years, but I never saw him confirm or deny it either way (Howard Chaykin was the artist rumored attached to the follow-up). That is until late last year, when Robinson addressed the rumor in an interview over at Ain’t It Cool News.
Professor Challenger: Finally, is working on the JLA tickling your creative bone to do a THE SILVER AGE mini-series sequel to THE GOLDEN AGE? 🙂
Robinson: I was developing the SILVER AGE with a big name artist and for one reason and another it didn’t happen when it should have. Since then between Mark Waid’s JLA YEAR ONE and especially Darwyn’s Cooke’s NEW FRONTIER, the story I wanted to tell has been told and by better and more talented guys then me.
So there ya go, Cory! Confirmation that he was, in fact, planning on doing it and with the references to JLA: Year One and The New Frontier, a pretty good idea of what kind of story that he had in mind.
Michael Sacal wrote in with an article from Wizard from the early 1990s that gives more details as to what Robinson had planned…
Thanks for the question, Cory! And thanks to Professor Challenger, Robinson and Michael Sacal for the information! Thanks also to Derek W. for confirming an earlier question I had about whether Chaykin was definitely the artist (Michael’s artcle also achieved that purpose).
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!
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See you all next week!
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