Welcome to the four hundred and sixty-sixth 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-five. This week, did DC Comics really nearly have Jimmy Olsen die of AIDS? Did Hydra really appear in a Marvel comic years before either SHIELD OR Nick Fury? Finally, did Jim Davis really have a Garfield comic strip that was somehow offensive to veterans?
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: At one point, DC Comics planned on having Jimmy Olsen die of AIDS
STATUS: True Enough for a True
After John Byrne re-introduced the character into the Post-Crisis DC Universe after The Man of Steel…
Jerry Ordway definitely put Jimmy Olsen through the ringer in the late 1980s in the Superman titles…
But was it almost much worse for Superman’s pal? Did DC almost decide to have him die of AIDS?
A few years ago, I debunked a similar story that DC was originally going to have Jason Todd, the second Robin, die of AIDS. However, that same legend forms the basis for this story.
In that legend, it was based on Jim Starlin explaining how DC at one point decided to have a major character in their comics contract HIV and AIDS and then die from the disease (note to pedants before you write in to complain, we get it, you don’t actually literally die of AIDS itself – but I think we can all accept the short hand). Starlin, desperate to get rid of Jason Todd, kept pushing for it to be Jason Todd. He lost out on that, but eventually got the seed of the idea of killing of Jason in Denny O’Neil’s head and the rest is comic book history. However, back in 2010, Starlin had not commented on who DC eventually DID decide to kill off. Just that it wasn’t Jason Todd.
Well, last year, at the Nashville Comic & Horror Festival, Starlin discussed the topic further and revealed that the character that DC eventually settled on was Jimmy Olsen. However, according to Starlin, the fact that Marc McClure, the actor who played Jimmy Olsen in the Superman movies, was gay in real life, made DC rethink the topic and decide to drop the idea.
I hesitate to give this a full “true” because so many of these ideas are destined to die on the vine before they ever actually get published or even get fully committed to. In addition, I can’t speak as to whether McClure’s sexual orientation actually played a role in the decision-making (heck, I have no idea what McClure’s sexual orientation is and nor do I think we need to know details about his private life), but I think it is fair enough to say that at one point (however early in the planning process), DC was, indeed, planning on having Jimmy Olsen die of AIDS.
Which would have been quite a sensation at the time. Yikes, I can only imagine the media coverage.
Thanks to reader Pat S. for suggesting this one and thanks to Jim Starlin for the information!
Check out my latest Movie Legends Revealed at Spinoff Online: Are all the clocks in Pulp Fiction really set to 4:20?
On the next page, did Hydra appear in Marvel Comics BEFORE both SHIELD and Nick Fury?
COMIC LEGEND: The terrorist organization Hydra existed in Marvel Comics before either S.H.I.E.L.D. or Nick Fury debuted!
The terrorist organization known as Hydra is having a big month so far, playing a major role in both Marvel’s movie empire as well as its television landcape…
Hydra is well known for being sneaky and showing up where you would least expect it, but is it true that they actually managed to debut in comic books BEFORE either S.H.I.E.L.D. or even Nick Fury himself?
That’s the question Chad Walters tweeted to me yesterday.
is there any truth to the idea that HYDRA first appeared in Menace #10 (1954)?
In 1973’s Crypt of Shadows #5, a story Menace #10 from 1954 was reprinted.
Here is a panel, where a government scientist selling out U.S. secrets is approached by none other than Hydra itself!
This has led to many people believing that Hydra debuted back in 1954. It’s even on Hydra’s Wikipedia page.
This, however, is not the case.
Just like one of my very earliest Comic Book Legends Revealed (The 26th edition, to be precise), this was just a case of Marvel having a little fun with their reprint comic books. Just like the other Comic Book Legend, where a 1950s scientist retroactively became Hank Pym, so, too, did the following ACTUAL panel from Menace #10 become the Hyrda panel above…
So the answer is no, Chad, there is no truth to it!
On the next page, did Jim Davis get into trouble over a Garfield comic strip that people felt was mocking veterans?
Right off the bat, let me just tell you – Garfield creator Jim Davis is not going to write an offensive comic strip intentionally. That’s just not what Jim Davis is about. This is not meant as an insult (nor is it praise), that’s just not what Jim Davis is trying to achieve with Garfield. Last week, we discussed one of Davis’ more adventurous Garfield strips of all-time (there’s another fascinating one, by the way, that I might feature here at some point in time). Even there, though, the intent was not to be offensive – it was just Davis spreading his storytelling wings a little bit more than normal. Davis is here to entertain, not to piss people off. Garfield is not Doonesbury – it is not trying to push the envelope. That is why the Veteran’s Day controversy of 2010 (suggested to me last week by reader Charlie L. after he read last week’s column) struck me as a bit on the silly side of things. The controversy requires readers to ignore the entire approach that Garfield has used for decades now to find offense.
The strip at hand debuted on Veteran’s Day, 2010…
So yeah, obviously you can read that as a very sharp (and very harsh) critique of Veteran’s Day as a holiday. But come on, it’s Garfield!
The first hint that Davis did not intend to offend (well, besides the aforementioned fact that this is Garfield, for crying out loud!) was the strips on the three days of the week leading to that strip on Thursday, November 11th…
And the two strips that followed…
Obviously, he was just doing a week of Garfield versus spider gags (a recurring topic in the strip).
However, after people began freaking out, Davis quickly apologized even though he had not intended to offend, explaining that he had scheduled these strips many months ago and he used a very basic calendar that did not have holidays on it when he was scheduling where each strip would go and did not realize the awkward coincidence.
Dear Friends, Fans, and Veterans:
In what has to be the worst timing ever, the strip that runs in today’s paper seems to be making a statement about Veteran’s Day. It absolutely, positively has nothing to do with this important day of remembrance.
Regarding today’s Garfield comic strip, it was written almost a year ago and I had no idea when writing it that it would appear today — of all days. I do not use a calendar that lists holidays and other notable days, so when this strip was put in the queue, I had no idea it would run on Veteran’s Day. What are the odds? You can bet I’ll have a calendar that lists EVERYTHING by my side in the future.
My brother Dave served in Vietnam. My son James is a Marine who has had two tours of duty, both in Iraq and Afghanistan. You’d have to go a long way to find someone who was more proud and grateful for what our Veterans have done for all of us.
Please accept my sincere apologies for any offense today’s Garfield may have created. It was unintentional and regrettable.
So there you go.
Thanks to Charlie for the suggestion!