Welcome to the four hundred and fiftieth 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 forty-nine. This week is a special theme week! All legends related, in one way or the other, to Christmas! Discover the first strory that Alan Moore wrote for Dez Skinn before Marvelman (hint – it featured Santa Claus)! Was the Christmas story in Marvel Team-Up #1 supposed to be one of a series of Spider-Man/Human Torch team-ups? And did Carl Barks’ really get censored by Disney on one of his classic Christmas stories?!
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: Before he wrote Marvelman for Dez Skinn, Alan Moore’s first job for Skinn was a Santa Claus two-pager!
Alan Moore’s career as a comic book superstar is an interesting one. Since he first came to prominence in England, a lot of the timeline of his career gets sort of muddled. This is also impacted by the fact that Moore so quickly established himself as a top talent once he actually got a real chance to write an ongoing series that he seemed to be everywhere at once. As Moore himself has later noted to George Khoury, “I remember that what was generally happening was that everybody wanted to give me work, for fear that I would just be given other work by their rivals. So everybody was offering me things.” And then DC came a-callin’ and Moore was an international comic superstar within a few short years.
However, before Moore got his first big break on Marvelman and V for Vendetta for Quality’s Warrior in late 1981…
Moore was still a largely unknown comic book creator. He was starting to get some attention from people, but he had yet to land an ongoing gig before Warrior.
There is a bit of a dispute over HOW Moore got the gig, though.
In 1981, Moore had contributed to an article in a British comic creators newsletter and one of the questions was about what project you’d like do. Moore said he’d love to reboot Marvelman. Quality Communications founder Dez Skinn was planning a Marvelman reboot for Warrior, so it seems like an obvious connection. Alan Moore certainly thinks that is what the connection was (he figures that David Lloyd, the driving force of the newsletter, likely passed it along to Skinn).
Skinn, meanwhile, doesn’t recall how he got hooked up with Moore, but he seems to believe that it was Steve Moore (no relation), a mutal acquantince between Skinn and Alan Moore, who suggested Alan Moore.
Skinn had Alan Moore write up a pitch and Skinn was blown away and the rest is, as they say, comic book history.
However, amazingly enough, Skinn later recalled that he had actually worked with Alan Moore BEFORE!
You see, before founding Quality Communications in 1981, Dez Skinn had worked for Marvel UK for a few years. While there, he launched a number of titles, including Marvel UK’s answer to Mad Magazine, Frantic. Before making it into an ongoing series, Marvel UK gave the book two try-out issues. A Winter issue and a Summer issue.
Here is the Winter Special from 1979…
In the issue, there was the following two-page story…
Yep, that was both written AND drawn by Alan Moore.
Skinn later noted that he apparently had Moore’s info in his rolodex the whole time!
Pretty darn funny.
Thanks to George Khoury (the absolute expert on all things Marvelman/Miracleman-related. Check out his book Kimota: The Miracleman Companion and also his more recent The Extraordinary Works of Alan Moore – George is awesome) and Dez Skinn for the information!
Check out some Entertainment Urban Legends Revealed!
What Clever Approach Did Studebaker Come Up With to Afford Sponsoring Mister Ed?
COMIC LEGEND: Marvel Team-Up was originally intended to be strictly a Spider-Man/Human Torch team-up comic.
The number five comic book story on our ongoing countdown of the Greatest Christmas Comic Book Stories Ever Told (based on YOUR votes!) was 1971’s “Have Yourself a Sandman Little Christmas!”
The issue was notable not just for being a great Christmas story (that helped set up years’ worth of Sandman character development) but also for being the debut issue of a brand-new Marvel comic book series, Marvel Team-Up.
The first issue was written by Roy Thomas, the only issue to be written by Thomas.
Gerry Conway took over with the second issue, which also was a Spider-Man/Human Torch team-up.
As was the third issue…
But with issue #4, the book was Spider-Man teaming up with the X-Men…
and the book became Spider-Man team-ups from that point forward.
Well, reader Pat S. wrote in about this change. He had just read an old issue of Back Issue where Conway said the following:
Because Johnny Storm and Spider-Man were both young adults, and had shown some chemistry playing off each other in the past, Roy probably felt this would be an interesting team. But the limits of this set-up became obvious pretty quickly, so we moved on to the alternating-hero idea, and then ultimately, to the team-up of the month formula.
So Pat wanted to know if Marvel Team-Up was originally intended to be a Spider-Man/Human Torch team-up series and Conway just changed the concept after a couple of issues.
I asked Roy about it and Roy confirmed that it was always intended to be a book with Spider-Man teaming up with different characters, although he notes that they likely DID intend for the Human Torch to show up more often than other characters. Thomas also noted that in addition, Conway wouldn’t have been able to change the title on his own, anyways (it is worth noting that Thomas officially took over as Editor-in-Chief of Marvel with issue #4 of Marvel Team-Up).
Interestingly enough, the Torch did come back to share the title with Spider-Man throughout most of 1974 and 1975…
even getting to the point where it was a steady “every three issues the Torch gets to star in the book”…
until that set-up ended with issue #36.
Thanks to Pat for the suggestion, thanks to Roy Thomas for the information and thanks to Jonathan Miller of Back Issue and Gerry Conway for the great quote!
Check out some classic Comic Book Legends Revealed related to Spider-Man!
Did the whole “stopping the thief who killed his uncle” plot from Amazing Fantasy #15 get cut out of Amazing Spider-Man #1’s recap of Spider-Man’s origin?
COMIC LEGEND: Carl Barks was censored by Disney on his classic Christmas story “The Golden Christmas Tree.”
The number twelve story on our Greatest Christmas Comic Book Stories Ever Told countdown was Carl Barks’ 1948 classic “The Golden Christmas Tree.”
The story is about the nephews wanting a Golden Christmas tree. They get caught by a witch and Donald must save them. The whole thing seems to be a commentary on obsession over material things, but then the ending goes a much sappier direction…
As it turns out, as pointed out to be my commenter Swamp Adder, that ending was actually FORCED on Barks!
“I felt sourly about the finished story because the editors had made me do some changes in the fight sequences between Don and the witch that I thought took the guts out of the story. I still gag when I read the last two pages of the story. But the rest of the tale was robust enough.”
“About the last two pages of ‘The Golden Christmas Tree’… only the last four panels are mine as they were in the original.”
Check out the latest edition of my weekly Movie/TV Legends Revealed Column at Spinoff Online: How did Charles Schulz owning a Ford indirectly lead to A Charlie Brown Christmas?
Okay, that’s it for this week!
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See you all next week!