Welcome to the four hundred and sixty-fifth 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 sixty-four. This week, did Jack Kirby design two new costumes for Captain America in case Marvel lost a lawsuit over the rights to Captain America? Learn the bizarre story of how EC Segar and Bud Sagendorf first met (a story they didn’t even know for years)! And finally, did Garfield really die in a comic strip?!
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: Jack Kirby created two new possible costumes for Captain America in case Marvel lost a lawsuit filed against them by Joe Simon over the rights to Cap.
STATUS: I’m Going With True
In 1966, Joe Simon sued Marvel Comics in state court and then the following year sued them in federal court, under the theory that Captain America was his creation and that Marvel had, in effect, usurped his rights to the character and that Simon was the proper owner of the renewal copyright to the character, which would be right around that time.
One of the ways that Marvel maneuvered against Simon was to pursue the alternate theory (their main theory was that Simon had created Captain America as a work-for-hire for Martin Goodman, and that therefore the copyright always belonged to Goodman) that even if the courts ruled that Joe Simon had created Captain America independently of Goodman and Timely Comics, that Simon was only the CO-creator of Captain America, along with artist Jack Kirby.
Marvel soon had an agreement with Kirby stating that they created the character as a work-for-hire. As part of his arrangement, he would get paid whatever money Marvel paid Simon. Eventually, Simon settled with Marvel and agreed to sign a deal where he said that he created the character as a work-for-hire.
However, before Marvel settled the lawsuit, there was always the chance that they would lose. If they did, with Kirby on their side, they likely would not have to deal with actually losing the character Captain America, especially since they had the trademark on the character name, so even if Simon won his lawsuit, it wouldn’t be as though he could do his own comic book called Captain America. However, he COULD do a comic book starring his original version of Captain America. That was at least a possibility.
So if there was going to be a rival Captain America comic book with Cap in his classic costume, Marvel at least entertained the idea of having a new costume for THEIR Captain America, then, to differentiate the two.
So Kirby designed at least two new looks for Captain America. Here they are…
The second one Kirby years later used as the basis for Captain Glory in his short-lived Topps line of comics in the 1990s…
Obviously, neither costume was ever needed since Simon settled.
Thanks to Greg Theakston and Mark Evanier for the information behind this one! Theakston first reported on the first costume back in 1995 and at the time, he was unsure of what the purpose of the drawing was (noting that the general belief was that it was for an alternate costume), but coupled with Evanier’s research saying that the second costume was for the same purpose (a possible new costume), I think it is enough evidence to conclude that the first costume was drawn for the same reason as the second costume. They’re both from the same time frame.
Check out my latest TV Legends Revealed at Spinoff Online: Does Hasbro forbid G.I. Joe’s Snake Eyes from being portrayed as a New York Yankee fan?
STATUS: I’m Going With True
E.C. Segar was the creator of Thimble Theatre and its most famous character, Popeye. Segar passed away at the far too young age of 43 in 1938, with his character of Popeye at the time being one of the most famous comic characters in the world.
At the time of his death, Segar had a longtime assistant named Bud Sagendorf, who had worked for Segar since the younger man was 17 in 1932. Here’s Sagendorf at around the time of Segar’s death…
While many considered Sagendorf the logical heir to his mentor’s “throne,” as it were, he was considered a bit too young to take over the strip at that particular point in time (as after all, the strip was a huge money maker for King Features Syndicate and they weren’t about to just let a 23-year-old take over, no matter how much they, and everyone else, liked his work).
Sagendorf kept working for King in other areas, including Popeye licensing materials (again, everyone agreed that the guy was really talented) and in 1948, he began a long-term stretch drawing the Popeye comic book for Dell…
And finally, in 1958 he took over the comic strip and he drew it until his death in 1994 (although he stopped doing the daily strip in 1986, instead just doing the Sunday strips), becoming perhaps THE artist most associated with Popeye, even more so than Segar.
However, the story at hand is a fascinating one my pal Stony told to me years ago but I was never able to find confirmation on until I bought a copy of Sagendorf’s excellent book, Popeye: The First Fifty Years, which is amazing in that you rarely see a current comic creator do as good a job of comic history work as Sagendorf does in that book (well, Jim Steranko as a notable exception, of course).
In any event, Sagendorf tells the story of how one day, while working with Segar, Segar began reminiscing about the office he kept for a while in Santa Monica (the office building opened in 1927, so let’s say 1927). It was there that he had actually created Popeye in 1929 as a new character for Thimble Theatre. Segar mentioned a newspaper boy that he would see all the time while at the office. Sagendorf was shocked. HE was that newspaper boy!
One of the first jobs Sagendorf took when he was a boy when his family moved to Santa Monica was as a newspaper boy, selling papers on the corner. He didn’t know who Segar was at the time, he was just a nice regular customer who would always give him a sizable tip (even in those pre-Popeye days, Segar was making a fine living on Thimble Theatre).
Isn’t that awesome? Two comic greats, meeting years before they “really” met and never knowing about it until many years later?
Thanks to my friend Stony for suggesting this one and thanks to the late, great Bud Sagendorf for the information.
An interesting thing about online “legends,” is that there almost seems to be a certain cycle to them. The topic comes up, someone debunks it, it goes away for a few years until the next group of people hear the legend, bring it up, someone debunks it and then it goes away for a few years until the next batch of people hear the legend and bring it up.
I mention that because that seems to be the case with the prevalent “Is there a Garfield comic strip where Garfield and/or Jon and Odie were killed?” legend was just brought up to me by reader Joe B. in an e-mail.
It is funny how these things go, because while the strips in question happened almost twenty-five years ago, it was not until the 21st Century that they became a bit of a sensation (particularly when Boing Boing did a feature on the strips in 2006).
Here they are from October 1989…
Now obviously, first off, how awesome were those strips? That’s just damn fine cartooning right there.
Secondly, what the hell was going on with those strips?
You can understand how people would sort of freak out about the strips at the time and especially how people might throw out all sorts of wild conspiracy theories (“Garfield has been a ghost this whole time, man!”) when exposed to the strips years later.
However, the truth is far less controversial.
Davis was interviewed about the subject for the 20th Anniversary of Garfield, and he noted:
During a writing session for Halloween, I got the idea for this decidedly different series of strips. I wanted to scare people. And what do people fear most? Why, being alone. We carried out the concept to its logical conclusion and got a lot of responses from readers. Reaction ranged from ‘Right on!’ to ‘This isn’t a trend, is it?’
So no, Joe, there was never any intent for any sort of sweeping meaning behind those strips besides being a Halloween tie-in.
So now, when someone hears about this legend in 2017, we at least have a Comic Book Legends Revealed section on it for them to look at!