Welcome to the three hundredth and sixty-fourth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Today, learn whether Luke Cage was nearly an Avenger almost 15 years before he actually joined the team, find out if Jemm was originally not the Son of Saturn but the Son of a much closer planet and discover the real life war hero who was fighting in a war and appearing in a comic strip at the same time!
Click here for an archive of the previous three hundred and sixty-three.
COMIC LEGEND: Larry Hama invented Rage as a substitute when he was denied the use of Luke Cage in the Avengers.
Reader Frank W. wrote in to ask about Larry Hama’s early 1990s short run on the Avengers (issues #325-333). Frank wanted to know if it was true that Hama planned to add Luke Cage to the team but was turned down because Marvel had something else in the works for Cage (which ultimately became his short-lived ongoing series)…
so Hama then invented Rage as a replacement…
I asked Hama about it, and he explained the situation like this:
Not true. I just always liked the whole Billy Batson thing, where the character is actually a little kid who somehow transforms into a powerful hero. I also liked the whole Aunt May thing, so that that got grafted on as the kindly grandmother. Making the character African-American was third down on the list, but it fit very well, and I changed the rest to make it all fit.
Here is Rage’s origin. It is fascinating to read it with those inspirations in mind…
Thanks to Frank W. for the question and thanks to Larry Hama for the answer!
COMIC LEGEND: Jemm, Son of Saturn was originally supposed to be from Mars.
Jemm, Son of Saturn was a really neat maxi-series from DC from 1984-1985 by writer Greg Potter and artists Gene Colan and Klaus Janson.
Here is Jemm’s introduction to Earth…
here is where we learn his name…
and here is where we learn that he is from Saturn.
Interestingly enough, though, Potter initially intended Jemm to be from MARS!
As he revealed in Amazing Heroes #50, Potter wrote the first six issues of Jemm with the idea in mind that Jemm was a cousin to J’onn J’onnz, the Manhunter from Mars!
As Potter stated then, “”I originally wrote the first six issues on the basis that he was from Mars, and that he was going to be a cousin of J’Onn J’Onzz. Then Janice calls me one day and says he can’t be from Mars any more because [J’Onn J’Onzz is] coming back in the Justice League.”
You see, the Martian Manhunter had JUST returned as a regular character to the ongoing Justice League title for the first time in over a decade…
I dunno why that necessarily precluded Jemm from being J’onn’s cousin, but whatever the reason, that’s what happened.
Years later, John Ostrander would officially establish a Mars/Saturn connection in the pages of Martian Manhunter…
So alls well that ends well!
Thanks to Greg Potter and Alf Nossiter for the information!
COMIC LEGEND: Milton Caniff wrote a real life war hero into Terry and the Pirates as a regular character while World War II was ongoing.
Milton Caniff was always a strong supporter of the American military in all facets of his life (he was so supportive he even agreed to questionable ideas like the “How to Spot a Jap” comic), but perhaps his most notable tributes came in the pages of his comic strip.
I’ve already featured the classic comic strip where Terry (the lead of Terry and the Pirates, natch) is given a speech from his flight instructor, Flip Corkin, about the joys of serving your country, a strip so moving that it was read into the Congressional Record.
However, what is especially fascinating to me is Flip Corkin himself. You see, Flip essentially WAS Philip Cochran, an actual real-life war hero whose life Caniff used as the basis for Flip Corkin, including sending him on the same missions and everything (after the fact, of course).
Here is Caniff speaking of how this arrangement came about…
Early in 1941 Lieut. Philip Cochran, an old friend from Ohio State University, came to my house for a weekend. He mentioned that he had a squadron under his command that looked like a “hot” outfit, and asked me to design an insigne for the group. His idea was a fighting cock with a chip on his shoulder and a shamrock (Cochran’s own good luck piece) around its neck. I put the design together and made up the necessary three colored drawings to be submitted to the Air Forces for approval.
Here is that insignia….
Some months later Cochran invited me to Groton, Conn., to watch the (then) 65th Fighter Squadron ‘fly a review.’
It was while watching these men lead their squadron in practice bombing, strafing and other fighter airplane maneuvers that I began to realize what potential material they were for Terry Characters. The reader reaction to Dude Hennick, who I had patterned after another Ohio State classmate (Capt Frank L. Higgs of China National Aviation Corp.) had convinced me that comic strip people inspired by real persons carried much more conviction than purely fictional heroes and heroines.
Since we do not use real names in a strip, I introduced Cochran on 3 August 3, 1942, as Capt. Flip Corkin. Cochran has since received the Soldiers’ Medal for heroism in circumstances not directly connected with enemy action. In addition, he has been promoted to the rank of Major. Flip has not yet caught up in rating with his real life counterpart, but will soon do so.
As I had hoped, the reaction to Flip Corkin was immediate. Not only did the general readers begin accepting him as a very real person (not knowing of the actual Flip) but all his old friends in the Air Force pounced upon the opportunity to send me anecdote abut Cochran covering the years he was in training, during which I had no contact with him.
Since publication of the story of his being awarded the Soldiers’ Medal (which mentioned his connection with the Terry characters) and the Croix de Guerre, Cochran now gets fan mail direct. Some of it simply addressed to’ Major Philip C. Cochran, Army Air Forces, Washington, D.C.
These scrappy American make better copy and are better models than can be hired from an agency. The only trouble is that their real life adventure are so spectular I must turn out fast continuity to keep up with what I read about them in the papers.
How awesome is that?
Cochran retired from the Air Force in 1946 and became a consultant in films and various other endeavors. He passed away in 1979. One more crazy fact about Cochran – he dated Betty White! He even proposed to her! She turned him down, but the two continued dating. In fact, she was dating Cochran and Allen Ludden simultaneously there for awhile until she began to get serious with Ludden so she broke it off with Cochran (she eventually married Ludden). As if Betty White’s life wasn’t already awesome enough?
Thanks to Eugene D. Rossel of the Air Commando Association for the wonderful Caniff quote.
Okay, that’s it for this week!
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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!
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