Welcome to the four hundred and thirty-eighth 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-seven. This week, what organization got DC and Marvel to team-up for an ultra rare comic book in 1978? And what future famous comic book writer wrote it? Plus, who is Silkie and how did she almost become a member of the X-Men? Finally, just what’s the deal with Cyclops’ powers and other dimensions?!
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: Superheroes from DC and Marvel teamed-up in a comic written by Kurt Busiek in 1978 for…the Boston Symphony Orchestra?!
A few weeks back, reader Albert A. wrote in to ask:
Didn’t Kurt Busiek, when he was younger before he became a professional writer, get a hold of DC and Marvel Comics in order to get permission from them to use their characters for a comic book that he produced for a local library or museum? Something like that? And that it was also listed in one of the prominent comic book price guides?
Pretty much exactly that, Albert.
In 1978, a group of teenagers, including 17-year-old Kurt Busiek did, indeed, convince DC and Marvel to allow them to license their characters for a special comic book that would be sold as a fundraiser for the Boston Symphony Orchestra. In the comments section, Kurt stopped by to explain how it came about:
[The comics’] Artist Chris Bing was the guy who pulled the project together creatively, in part because his mother was on the BSO’s Junior Committee (which runs or promotes or in some way is involved in the Pops opening night fundraiser.
Chris talked his mom into pitching the idea of a comics-themed opening night, and the BSO got Marvel and DC to agree to let us do our strange promo comic.
It was sold for $10 at the opening concert of the orchestra that year. The plot of the comic was that a bad guy kidnapped the orchestra and the combined might of the DC and Marvel heroes would be needed to save them (with help from the orchestra’s conductor, Seiji Ozawa, of course).
The print run was only 250 copies and the licensing agreement stipulated that all unsold copies be destroyed that night.
Therefore, as you might imagine, the comic is very valuable. A copy sold for over $1,000 recently at Heritage Auctions. While there, though, I was able to see it for the first time.
Here is the cover…
And two pages from inside…
Most amazing is the credits for the book…
Yep, besides comic book great Kurt Busiek as the writer, the layouts for the book were by Scott McCloud (known as Scott McLeod back then)…
Future comic book artist Richard Howell (currently the head of Claypool Comics) lettered the book…
And the pencils were done by the previously mentioned Christopher Bing, who won a Caldecott Medal in 2001 for his artwork on his version of Casey at the Bat…
What an impressive collection of talent! And what a cool story overall! Generous of DC and Marvel and very enterprising by Bing, Busiek and the rest of the guys!
Thanks for suggesting it, Albert! And thanks to Heritage for posting the scans! And thanks to Kurt Busiek for the extra information!
Check out some Entertainment Urban Legends Revealed!
Did a Famous Chef Once Kill Himself in Part Because of Losing a Michelin Star?
On the next page, who is Silkie and how did she almost become an X-Man?
People sometimes seem to act as if the idea of comic creators wanting to own their characters was something that popped up in the last couple of decades or something like that. The desire to own your own comic characters goes back as far as the EXISTENCE of comic characters. In the past, I featured both conflicts over creators not owning their own characters in the the early days of comic strips and creators who sneakily won the rights to their characters. However, it is fair to say that the 1970s and the 1980s were when such ownership battles really took on a whole new life as the amount of money at stake seemed to be going up and up and up (and it continues to go up to this day, as Marvel builds an empire around their superhero movies). The 1970s then were more or less the last time that comic book companies got access to great new characters without their creators having a stake in the characters’ success. Characters like Wolverine, Punisher, Storm, Nightcrawler and Colossus were major characters for Marvel but did not result in any sort of compensation for their creators. In the case of three of those characters, the creator in question was artist Dave Cockrum, who introduced those three along with writer Len Wein (who also was the creator of another character on that list, Wolverine) in Giant-Size X-Men #1 in 1975.
While Cockrum did not make any money off of the popularity of Storm, Nightcrawler and Colossus, at least he had a chance to make good money as the artist on Uncanny X-Men. Cockrum was the first artist on the X-Men series starring those aforementioned characters but he left after a dozen or so issues when the title was moved to a monthly schedule. Cockrum was followed by John Byrne. By the time Byrne left the title thirty or so issues later, the book was now one of Marvel’s top sellers and Cockrum was given the chance to return to the title to replace his own replacement. Cockrum achieved a good deal of success on the title during his second run and he even decided to once again introduce a new character. This time, though, Cockrum wanted to make sure that he got a piece of the character.
In a 1981 issue of the British fanzine Cerebro, there was a promotional piece talking about Cockrum’s new creation, the amphibius mutant Silkie, would make her debut in Uncanny X-Men #150…
A deal couldn’t be worked out, though, so Cockrum pulled the character. He continued working on the book, but his thoughts kept turning to the idea of owning his OWN characters. So in 1983, he left X-Men a second time to work on his own characters, including Silkie, who he introduced as part of his new group, the Futurians…
You can see her more clearly on this cover (she’s green)…
Sadly, while Cockrum owned the Futurians, they did not sell that well and X-Men was soon selling well enough that the royalties on the title became quite impressive.
Cockrum kept working in comics for decades until he passed away in 2006, but he sadly never saw a ton of success for his independent characters unlike the massive success he saw the X-Men achieve.
Luckily, today Marvel and DC have programs in place where creators can participate in the profits generated by their creations (unless, of course, they want to just own their own characters outright, in which case they still have to do independent works like Cockrum did).
I don’t know what Silkie would have been like as an X-Man, but I wish things went differently and we could know for ourselves.
Thanks to Sean Howe for the image of Silkie!
Check out some classic Comic Book Legends Revealed ALSO involving Dave Cockrum!
Did Dave Cockrum re-draw Wolverine throughout Giant-Size X-Men #1 to make him look the same as Gil Kane made him look like on the cover (when Kane accidentally drew Wolverine’s cowl wrong)?
On the next page, what does Cyclops’ power have to do with other dimensions?!
STATUS: I’m Going With False
Reader Frank W. wrote in to ask me what the deal was with Cyclops’ powers, namely, what’s up with the idea that his powers come from a different dimension.
The confusion, Frank, began with the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe in 1983. The idea of the series was to have a specific guideline for every character in the Marvel Universe. How their power worked, what the limits of their powers were, etc. However, in a few instances, the handbook also took some liberties.
For instance, in X-Men #43, Roy Thomas and Werner Roth had already explained how Cyclops’ powers worked…
By the way, I love that story for the way that it dealt with one of the ultimate nit-picking thing, all of the panels where Cyclops blasts someone without touching his visor…
So that’s pretty clear, right?
But in the Handbook, it says that Cyclops’ eyes are:
interdimensional apertures between this universe and another, non -Einsteinian universe, where physical laws as we know them do not pertain. This non-Einsteinaian universe is filled with particles which resemble photons, yet they interact with this universe’s particles by transferring kinetic energy in the form of gravitons. These particles generate great, directional concussive forces when they interact with the objects of this universe.
That’s almost as good as the handbook’s explanation for how Spider-Man sticks to walls!
Anyhow, in the updated version of the Handbook that ran in 1986, they corrected the previous edition, stating instead:
Cyclops apparently somehow metabolizes sunlight, and presumably starlight as well, in the process of generating the force bams. It has been argued that Cyclops could therefore prevent himself from generating the force beams by confing himself to places sealed off from sunlight. However, for unknonw reasons, deprivation of sunlight for extended periods sets up a dangerous physiological imbalance of unknown nature in Cyclops’ body.” The exactu means by which Cyclops stores the solar energy his body absorbs, and by which he stores the unknown energy of his optic beams, also remains unknown
That more or less settled it, except when fans read the original Handbook and presumed that it was the official stance of Marvel, which would make sense, since it said “Official Handbook” on it. In fact, the entry from the original Handbook was added to Marvel’s own website at one point or another and it even made it into an X-Men Handbook in 2004…
Cyclops possesses the mutant ability to project a beam of heatless, ruby-colored concussive force from his eyes, which act as interdimensional apertures between this universe and another. Cyclops’ body constanty absorbs ambient energy, such as sunlight, from his environment into his body’s cells, which allows him to open the apertures. Cyclops’ mind generates a psionic field that is attuned to the forces that maintain the apertures
That’s just repeating the original mistake.
While don’t get me wrong, Brian Michael Bendis can decide tomorrow “Oh yeah, Cyclops gets his powers from another dimension” and write it into an issue of X-Men and it WILL be true, at this exact moment it is not true.
Thanks for helping me open a big ol’ can of convoluted worms, Frank!
Check out the latest edition of my weekly Movie/TV Legends Revealed Column at Spinoff Online: What’s the mysterious origin of Scooby Doo? What classic TV sitcom was it based on?
Okay, that’s it for this week!
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