Welcome to the four hundred and eighty-second 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 eighty-one. This week, why did Todd McFarlane leave Marvel Comics? What strange way was the Blondie comic strip launched? And did War Games really end with Leslie Thompkins letting Stephanie Brown die to prove a point to Batman?
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 quit Spider-Man over a panel of the Juggernaut getting stabbed in the eye.
STATUS: Basically True
In a Comic Book Legends Revealed a while back, I wrote about the incident that made John Byrne quit drawing X-Men. Byrne felt that his plots were constantly being altered by scripter Chris Claremont so that while the incident that ulimately led to him quitting was minor, it was symbolic of his problems with Claremont. It was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.
A little more than a decade later, a similar incident led to Todd McFarlane leaving Marvel Comics.
McFarlane had become the regular artist on Amazing Spider-Man in 1988 and soon became one of (if not the) most popular artists working in the comic book industry.
He became so popular that he ultimately decided to leave Amazing Spider-Man as he wanted to try writing comics, as well, and he theorized that he could obviously package himself to get that writing gig (you know, “Get the superstar artist Todd McFarlane in exchange for also taking the neophyte writer Todd McFarlane”). Surprisingly to McFarlane, Marvel decided to take him up on his offer but not for a lesser title like he was expecting but instead for his own brand-new Spider-Man comic.
The comic came out and was the biggest selling first issue in comic history (a year or so later, fellow superstar artist Jim Lee broke the record with X-Men #1).
The comic was a huge hit and McFarlane was pleased at first, especially with the freedom he had with the comic. He more or less had his own little playground where he could write the book how he felt and not have to worry about continuity.
As time went by, though, that freedom slowly went away and he was asked to make more and more changes with the book. He was okay with it at first but then felt that he was being asked to make too many changes, especially for what was one of Marvel’s highest-selling titles.
Issue #16 was the first part of a crossover between Spider-Man and fellow star artist Rob Liefeld’s new title, X-Force.
The story involves Spider-Man and X-Force fighting Juggernaut. Here is a scene from the battle…
That scene on page one ended up being the straw that broke McFarlane’s back.
Here is his original page for that issue, as supplied by McFarlane’s Facebook page.
Marvel Editor-in-Chief Tom DeFalco believed that it was too graphic (either for Marvel or for the Comics Code). Right or wrong, McFarlane disagreed and had just grown too tired of having to make changes. So he left the title with that issue. This was before Image Comics was a thing, but obviously McFarlane knew that he would have options if he wanted them. But he did not leave the book specifically TO form Image Comics. That came later when he was deciding what to do next.
Thanks to Todd McFarlane for the interesting insight into his departure from Marvel Comics!
Check out my latest Movie Legends Revealed at Spinoff Online: How did the hit song “Let it Go” save Frozen’s Elsa from being a villain?
How did lingerie factor into the debut of the comic strip Blondie?
COMIC LEGEND: Blondie was launched with a strange stunt involving her lingerie.
Blondie is a familiar comic strip to many readers. It is a cute, domestic comic about Dagwood Bumstead and his wife, Blondie (and their kids and Dagwood’s job and his love of sandwiches).
However, it did not start out that way.
When its creator, Chic Young (his son Dean currently writes the strip), began the strip, he was already a successful comic strip creator, working on the popular strip Dumb Dora…
After the Stock Market Crash of 1929, Young tried to renegotiate his deal with his syndicate. He eventually worked out a new deal where he would get a nice cut out of a new strip he would debut. This strip would be called Blondie.
Back in the 1930s, just like today, if you were a hit in syndication you could make a bundle of money. It is a lot harder to get a comic picked up by newspapers nowadays then it was back in the 1930s when there were lots more newspapers and lots more pages of comic strips in each paper. However, while it was easier to get a strip picked up PERIOD, it was very hard to get your strip noticed in the deluge of comic strips at the time. Therefore, comic strip syndicates would come up with stunts to promote their new strips. The one that they used for Blondie is one of the oddest.
The original concept for the strip was that Blondie was a flapper who was dating a rich guy named Dagwood, whose family presumed that she was a gold digger.
Here is the first strip…
So to launch the strip, an engagement notice was sent to newspaper comic strip editors announcing Blondie and Dagwood’s engagement. Then a letter from Dagwood’s father’s lawyer followed, saying that the engagement was a lie. Then a letter from Blondie followed, saying she would come to visit them to straighten things out. She was going to send a suitcase ahead, though, and please don’t look inside!
The cardboard suitcase arrived and it was filled with women’s clothing. Paper doll women’s clothing, of course.
Finally, Blondie arrived herself, mailed in her lingerie with a note “Here I am, just like I told you I’d be. Only, please, Mr. Editor, put some clothes on me quick. I sent them on ahead, you remember my pink bag. I’m so embarrassed! Blondie.”
How awesome is that?
The strip actually didn’t do too well early on, but when Young actually decided to marry Dagwood and Blondie and make it a domestic strip, it REALLY took off.
Amusingly enough, Young continued doing paper dolls with Blondie in her underwear on the Sunday pages. Here are a few courtesy of Suzanne Young…
I love that they even did them for the Bumstead’s neighbor, Herb!
Thanks to R.C. Harvey (who wrote a fascinating article for Comics Journal about Chic Young and the development of Blondie) and Brian Walker (whose book Chic Young’s Blondie: The Complete Daily Comic Strips from 1930-1931 revealed the story) for the information about this early time in Blondie’s history!
On the next page, did the Bat-crossover War Games end with the revelation that Leslie Thompkins let Stephanie Brown die to prove a point to Batman?
COMIC LEGEND: War Games featured the revelation that Leslie Thompkins killed Stephanie Brown.
I noticed something interesting when War Games finished #62 on our recent Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told countdown. People seem to have totally forgotten what the story actually entailed. Many commenters were angry at its inclusion on the countdown because of what they felt that it did to Leslie Thompkins’ character.
Specifically, they’re talking about this sequence, where Leslie Thompkins reveals that she intentionally killed Stephanie Brown (who was injured during the crossover) to prove a point to Batman…
That was seriously messed up (and as I explain in this Abandoned an’ Forsaked, something DC quickly retconned).
However, it was NOT during War Games! That took place in Batman #644, in a SEQUEL to War Games called War Crimes.
War Games ended in Batman #633. Here is Stephanie’s death sequence…
See? Leslie’s involvement ITSELF was a retcon (that was then thankfully retconned). So don’t blame War Games, people! You don’t have to like War Games, but don’t blame it for Leslie Thompkins’ character being hurt!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
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