Welcome to the four hundred and thirty-second in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous four hundred and thirty-one. This week, were every Sabretooth appearances until 1988 actually clones?!? Plus, what’s the deal with John Byrne and the She-Hulk shaving her legs? Finally, did the famous Argentinian author Julio Cortázar really write a comic book?
NOTE: The column is on three pages, a page for each legend. There’s a little “next” button on the top of the page and the bottom of the page to take you to the next page (and you can navigate between each page by just clicking on the little 1, 2 and 3 on the top and the bottom, as well).
COMIC LEGEND: Chris Claremont intended nearly every Sabretooth appearance for the first fifteen years or so of the character to be a clone.
In the final story of his initial run as the writer of Wolverine’s ongoing title, Chris Claremont wrote a classic tale about Wolverine and Sabretooth where he reveals that Sabretooth visits Wolverine on every birthday and typically beats the crap out of Wolverine. This was likely during a time when Claremont considered (as he had originally intended) revealing that Sabretooth was Wolverine’s father.
However, the story did not exactly fit in with some of Sabretooth’s past history. After all, this was a guy who used to pal around with the Constricter, ya know? In addition, Wolverine more than held his own in battle with Sabretooth during the Mutant Massacre.
Claremont, though, had an answer for this.
As he explained to Wizard for their 1996 Wolverine Tribute Special:
What I ultimately was going to establish was that all the Sabretooths we had seen heretofore, with the possible exception of the one in Iron Fist #14, were clones of Mr. Sinister. They were Xeroxes. Whereas Sinister’s modus operandi was to capture an operative, stick him in a stasis chamber, clone a copy and send that person out to do battle. So you have an inexhaustible supply of Marauders from his clutch of villains. In the case of Sabretooth, you had a Xerox of a Xerox. That’s why the Sabretooth that has always appeared working for Sinister has been so flawed and so easily beaten. We’ve never seen the real thing. The real thing is quite happy lurking around the fringes of the X-Men Universe without any interest whatsoever in the X-Men, but an abiding interest in Wolverine. And Wolverine knows it.
While not that unlike what we’ve seen some other writers come up with when they want to make an established character seem more impressive after having a few embarrassing losses, it is still fascinating to see that Claremont’s take on the character.
This likely informed Claremont’s idea, when he returned to Wolverine years later, of giving Sabretooth an adamantium skeleton to make him much tougher. Claremont clearly liked the idea of Wolverine being the underdog in Wolverine/Sabretooth battles, something that hasn’t been the case for many, many years now.
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On the next page, what’s the deal with John Byrne and She-Hulk shaving her legs?
STATUS: False Enough for a False
This is a weird one.
Okay, so in 1989, John Byrne debuted a new title, the Sensational She-Hulk.
Bobbie Chase was chosen as the editor for the new title.
Around this same time, Dwayne McDuffie and Robin D. Chaplik had already submitted a pitch in for a She-Hulk prestige format series (Probably originally a graphic novel). Their series was written before Byrne’s first issue even came out.
Byrne, as the writer of the new regular series, was given the chance (as was the custom) to see if anything in this series conflicted with his title (as Byrne’s first few issues would be out before the Ceremony mini-series would be out).
Byrne made a number of changes and Chase had them changed in the book. All but one. A scene involving She-Hulk shaving her legs.
Byrne explained his problem with the scene (as he to Scott Tipton some years ago)…
On top of this was the scene with She-Hulk shaving her legs. Now, let me state up front that I have an instant prejudice against this sort of scene. I just don’t like ’em. Not sure why, just don’t feel they are necessary to the development of the characters. However, in the context of this particular scene, the “development” was to show that Jen was an idiot. Sitting in the tub, shaving her leg, she immediately breaks the blade. So she grabs another razor, and breaks that on the first stroke. So she grabs another, and breaks that. And another. And another. The “punchline” is to see a huge pile of broken razors by the tub. My objection, of course, was that Jen would not do this (even if she needed to shave her legs, which arguably she did not). The first time she tried, the first time the razor broke, she’d get on the phone to her pal Reed Richards and say “Here’s my problem…” Reed would have an Atomic Leg Shaving Apparatus (which, knowing Reed, would be big as a Volkswagen) delivered to her apartment within the hour! Problem solved.
He asked for the scene to be removed. It was not.
Chase, meanwhile, also had to deal with complaints from McDuffie over all of the changes she DID make to his story. So when it came time for Byrne’s series to begin, Chase also began making some changes to Byrne’s scripts to bring them in line with the story in Ceremony.
Here, then, we come to a bit of a “he-said/she-said” over whether Byrne literally said “Either she goes or I go.” However that point was reached, Marvel Editor-in-Chief Tom DeFalco ultimately sided with Chase over Byrne and Byrne was off of She-Hulk (he would later return after Chase left the title).
The story is often “Byrne left because Bobbie Chase had She-Hulk shave her legs,” and I think that even if you believe that the leg scene was the biggest bone of contention, it was far from the reason that Byrne ultimately left the title, so I think a “false” is fair here.
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On the next page, did famed Argentinian author Julio Cortázar really write a comic book?
Awhile back I wrote about whether the great Argentinian author Julio Cortázar had ever written a comic book.
Julio Cortázar (famous for his role in the so-called “Latin American Boom” of the 1960s and 1970s, when writers like Gabriel García Márquez and Cortázar gained much critical acclaim) was well-known for how experimental he was a as a novelist. His most famous novel, Hopskotch, is notable for the way that it deconstructs the very structure of a novel (it has multiple endings and you can literally “hop” around the plot in the book and create your own unique story from choosing which chapters to read in what order)…
I discussed how he did a work that used comic books but that they weren’t original comics, so I didn’t think he actually wrote any comics himself. As it turns out, though, he actually DID!
Titled “La Raiz del Ombú” (Ombu’s Root), the book was a story of political oppression in Argentina and was drawn by Alberto Cedrón.
Since it was critical of the Argentinian government, it was not published at the time in Argentina. Instead, a few hundred copies were made in Venezuela in 1980. They were then promptly forgotten, especially since Cortázar died four years later. However, in 2004, twenty years after Cortázar’s death, as part of a celebration of the author, Alberto Cedrón was tracked down and he helped the book finally see publication in Argentina…
and soon, a French translation (Cortázar lived in France for the last few decades of his life) will be released…
Has anyone had the chance to read this book? I’d love to hear about it (and if anyone has a copy that you wouldn’t mind scanning a couple of pages to let us know what it looks like, that’d be swell, too)!
Thanks to Juan D. and Sira for their information about this book! And thanks to reader Rufiniano M. for asking me about whether Cortázar wrote a comic book in the first place!
Check out the latest edition of my weekly Movie/TV Legends Revealed Column at Spinoff Online: Was Clair Huxtable in the Cosby Show originally intended to be a female version of Ricky Ricardo from I Love Lucy?
Okay, that’s it for this week!
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