Welcome to the four hundred and seventy-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 seventy-four. This week, did Todd McFarlane used to hide spiders on the cover of Spider-Man? Was Charlie Brown ever going to kick that football? And was Professor X originally in Age of Ultron?
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: Todd McFarlane used to hide spiders on the covers of Amazing Spider-Man
STATUS: Basically True
A number of years ago (four, to be precise), I did a Comic Book Legends Revealed about how Todd McFarlane would hide Felix the Cat in all of his comics as a cute reference to a guy he knew (read the column to find out the amusing reason WHY McFarlane began putting Felix into his comics). Recently, though, reader Dave L. asked me about that column, specifically about whether it was true that McFarlane ALSO used to hide spiders on the cover of his Spider-Man issues.
The answer is basically true.
Basically because McFarlane did not START doing it until he was on Amazing Spider-Man for a few issues. Amazing Spider-Man #303 was the debut of the hidden spider, as you can see in the upper left of the Sandman’s extended arm…
As you can see, McFarlane was also using the Direct Market corner box (the box that comic book covers had to always have for newstand comics to put UPC codes in them, so comic book companies would typically just put a brief ad, like “The New DC! There’s No Stopping Us Now!” or just a generic picture of Spider-Man or whatever) to do a doodle containing the issue’s number.
Here’s where I am a bit confused, though. I don’t know for sure whether McFarlane began doing the hidden spiders as soon as he did the first one in Amazing Spider-Man #303 (McFarlane has confirmed that he was, in fact, hiding spiders, but I’ve never heard him go into specifics about it). What I mean is that it might have been meant as a one-off gag for #303 that he then decided to do on a regular basis later on, or #303 might have been the start of it all. I guess that’s just another way of saying that I can’t seem to locate the hidden spider on the cover to Amazing Spider-Man #304…
However, soon it was CLEARLY a recurring gag on the covers, as seen on the covers to #307-309…
McFarlane added an extra touch, though, as his signature box soon became a sign to how many spiders were hidden on the cover. If there was no number, then it was just one. If it had a number, though, that’s how many spiders were hidden on the cover. See Amazing Spider-Man #311, for example…
This came to a hilarious head with the cover to McFarlane’s Spider-Man #1 (where he wrote and drew the comic), where it has so many spiders on it that McFarlane just threw up a question mark…
Very cute stuff.
So there ya go, Dave!
Check out the latest TV Legends Revealed at Spinoff Online: Did Mr. T seriously never say “I pity the fool” in any episode of The A-Team?
COMIC LEGEND: Charles Schulz originally intended to end Peanuts with Charlie Brown finally kicking the football.
Reader Kevin B. wrote in a number of years (that number is six) to ask:
I remember a rumor floating around that Charles Schulz had drawn a “final” strip that was to be published at the time of his death. The strip was supposed to show Charlie Brown finally kicking the football and he then walks off into the sunset happy. I know it was never published, but was there any truth to that rumor? Did that particular strip ever actually exist?
Charlie Brown never kicking the football is a rare instance of a recurring gag where the writer/artist never deviated from the standard gag….
In other words, unlike Charlie Brown’s baseball team never winning a game, the football gag never had an exception in the Peanuts comic strip.
So with that in mind, there certainly would be a certain poetry to ending the strip by Charlie Brown doing what he had never done in the strip. Obviously, though, that’s not how the actual strip ended, as here is the final strip (the final strip was published literally the day after Schulz passed away)….
But did Schulz ever have an alternate in mind?
Over the years, he was pretty adamant that it wouldn’t work for Charlie Brown to kick the football, noting: “I couldn’t have Charlie Brown kick that football; that would be a terrible disservice to him after nearly half a century.”
But in an interview in 1999 about his feelings after finishing that final strip, he slightly recanted on that earlier stance, “All of a sudden I thought, ‘You know, that poor, poor kid, he never even got to kick the football. What a dirty trick — he never had a chance to kick the football!’”
However, as you can see from the context of the quote, it was written after he had completed the final strip. So he was reflecting on the fact that he DIDN’T have Charlie Brown kick the football.
In addition, his widow, Jean Schulz, was once asked if such a strip ever existed and she said no.
So there ya go, Kevin! You only had to wait six years for an answer! Quick service!
Professor X was originally a cast member of Age of Ultron.
Last week, I discussed whether Age of Ultron’s ending (which revealed that Angela was now part of the Marvel Universe) was edited from an original ending involving Marvelman and that that change was the reason why Age of Ultron was so delayed (it was originally intended to be released before Avengers vs. X-Men but ended up coming out after it). It was not, but reader Tony F. wrote in to point out that the delay DID lead to a relatively notable change in the comic, a change that reader Chris C. had written in to me to suggest I feature a number of months ago (that number is three), which is that originally, Age of Ultron was going to feature Professor X but since it came out AFTER Professor X died in Avengers vs. X-Men, a change had to made and Emma Frost took Xavier’s place in the story.
However, the Professor still ended up in the background of one panel.
Rich Johnston posted the above panel at Bleeding Cool but more notably, showed that the original version of this scene…
was this one…
The interesting thing is that one of the twists in the Age of Ultron is the revelation that the comic is set “now” because Ultron went back in time to Avengers #12.1 to take over the Marvel Universe so what we’re seeing is the “now” that was created when he changed the timeline by going back in time to take over the world. So since Xavier was alive at the time of Avengers #12.1, he could have still been alive in the Age of Ultron timeline. However, showing him alive in issue #1 would reveal that that was the case, so obviously Marvel did not want to give that twist away (as the hook for some time was “The events of Age of Ultron are happening right now”) so even though he didn’t need to be removed from a continuity standpoint, he had to be removed for the story to work from a surprise standpoint.
Thanks to Tony and Chris for suggesting this and thanks to Rich Johnston for getting that great original panel featuring Professor X!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
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