Welcome to the three hundredth and forty-sixth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. This week, examine the odd history of Snake-Eyes and just what role Larry Hama played in his creation! Plus, what popular teen-themed comic strip backed away from having a gay character over fear of possible controversy? Also, what exactly happened to the unused Superboy TV scripts from the 1960s?
Click here for an archive of the previous three hundred and forty-five.
COMIC LEGEND: Snake-Eyes was based on Larry Hama’s design for a Nick Fury outfit.
Today we finished our countdown (based on YOUR votes) of the Top 50 Most Memorable Covers of the Marvel Age. Here is #50-26 and here is #25-1. Coming in at #10 on the list is this classic Nick Fury cover by the great Jim Steranko…
A reader wrote in about the cover asking if Larry Hama used this cover as the basis for Snake-Eyes’ design in the original G.I. Joe, A Real American Hero toy line from the early 1980s.
I would imagine that this is likely based on the true legend (which I covered waaaaaay back in this old installment of Comic Book Legends Revealed here) that much of Marvel’s pitch to Hasbro for the development of the storyline behind the new G. I. Joe line was, in fact, based on a Nick Fury pitch that Hama had been working on for Marvel, the so-called “Fury Force.”
However, while the folks at Marvel developed the STORY behind G.I. Joe and even went so far as to make suggestions as to what KIND of characters to make (Marvel pushed them to make female figures and villain figures, something Hasbro was wary about at first), it was the toy designers at Hasbro that actually designed all of the toys. They then would give the designs to Marvel (Hama in particular) to come up with back stories to fit the designed character.
In the case of Snake-Eyes, his initial design came about as somewhat of an accident. In an attempt to save money on paint detailing for the line of figures, the Snake-Eye figure was just unpainted black plastic.
Thanks to to the good folks at YoJoe.com, here is what Snake-Eyes looked like back then (note that even his grenades are black)…
Hama had a somewhat similar character in his Fury Force pitch, but the design was not really all that close to the above figure – Hama clearly then adapted Snake-Eyes to the broad strokes of his Fury Force character who “had his face covered with a cowl and was a mysterious assassin type.” That’s what Hama did with most of the early characters – try to meld them as best as he could with the characters he had already created for Fury Force.
Hama was the one who wrote all the file cards for the toys and he is the one who developed all of their personalities (and he was who really made Snake-Eyes cool…
), but the actual design of the figures was handled by the good folks at Hasbro. Commenter TrueJoeKnowledge said that specifically it was Hasbro designer/artist Ron Rudat who designed Snake-Eyes (and most of the original G.I. Joe characters). Thanks, TrueJoeKnowledge!
Thanks to commenter “some stupid japanese name” for the question! Thanks to Thomas Wheeler for the interesting information about the paint job on Snake-Eyes. And, of course, thanks to YoJoe.com for the picture! Also, a shout out to Richard J. Marcej, who answered “some stupid japanese name”‘s question before I could put it aside for future use.
COMIC LEGEND: Greg Evans backed away from having a gay character in Luann because of his worries over possible backlash.
STATUS: I’m Going With True
Luann is a charming comic strip by Greg Evans about a teenage girl named, shockingly enough, Luann. It debuted in 1986. For the first decade or so, the apple of Luann’s eye was Aaron Hill, one of the cutest (if not THE cutest) boys in her grade.
Well, in 1997, Evans seemed like he was possibly heading in the direction of revealing that Aaron was gay. Here are a few strips from this time period…
Heck, one of Luann’s friends even suggests that could be the case…
In the end, it turned out that Aaron was interested in an older woman (I think they were supposed to be roughly 13 or so and he was into an 18 year old).
At the time, Evans noted that if he had Aaron be gay, it might cost him many of his 300 clients, something he could not afford, unlike Lynn Johnston when she suffered the loss of clients after she had a friend of one of her characters in For Better or For Worse come out. He said that his syndicate warned him of the consequences, but allowed him to make the final call.
Evans even said at the time, “I wish I had the freedom that other forms of media do to explore all kinds of stories, but I don’t.”
As Aaron continued with various relationships over the years, Evans eventually more or less wrote him out of the strip by having him move to Hawaii.
Around this time, Evans participated in a chat with Washington Post readers. Here’s one of the questions:
Provincetown, Mass.: Mr. Evans, You’ve tackled a lot of controversial topics in your strip (drugs, Luann’s first period, etc.) Do you think you’ll ever do a storyline on gays or gay marriage, since it’s so much in the news these days? I remember how much grief Lynn Johnston got when she introduced her gay character in “For Better or Worse.” But it seems like gays are the only “politically correct” prejudice in high schools. I think it would be great if you would tackle this one, too.
Greg Evans: There are several “touchy” topics I’d love to explore in Luann but can’t risk. For Better Or For Worse is in about 2500 papers. I’m only in 400. Lynn can afford to lose a few clients. I can’t.
So, while I surely cannot say that Evans would have had Aaron come out if it were not for the accompanying controversy, it seems clear that Evans would have had some sort of gay character in his strip if it were not for the controversy. It’s a shame that he is put into such a position where he really can’t take a risk writing a story that he would otherwise like to write.
Do make a point of checking the Luann comic strip out. You can find it here.
COMIC LEGEND: Unused Superboy TV scripts ended up as Superboy comic book stories.
However, while we were unable to see the scripts for the show appear on the air, we DID get to see them!
You see, Whitney Ellsworth must have been a proponent of “Waste not, want not,” because the unused scripts for the Superboy TV series were then used as Superboy stories in the early 1960s!
Here’s a snippet from the pilot, “Rajah’s Ransom” (that was filmed but never aired)…
And here’s a snippet from another unused TV script “One Man Team”…
Does anyone know for sure what other of the TV scripts later became comic book stories?
Thanks to commenters Herb Finn and Fraser for reminding me about the recycling DC did with the Superboy scripts!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
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See you all next week! Merry Christmas!