Welcome to the five hundred and 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 five hundred and one (by the way, no one got the joke about last week’s title!). This week is an all-Christmas legends edition! Did Marvel Comics have a ban on Christmas stories during the Silver Age? How did confusion at DC editorial lead to a classic silent Christmas story by John Byrne? And how did MARVEL editorial lead to a crazed Wolverine reaction to a mistletoe kiss between Nightcrawler and Wolverine’s girlfriend?
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: Marvel had a “no Christmas stories” edict in place during the Silver Age.
All this month, I’m doing a Silver Age Christmas, where I spotlight Silver Age Christmas stories (revealed through the Comics Should Be Good Advent Calendar). What’s interesting is that Marvel really did not do a lot of Christmas stories during the Silver Age (here is a bizarre Lee/Ditko one and here is another one from the end of the 60s), although by the Bronze Age they had enough that they even devoted a couple of Treasury Editions to the topic…
They were so sparse that reader Steve F. wrote in to ask if it could be that Marvel just had a sort of ban on Christmas stories, like perhaps Stan Lee felt that it would hurt their sales if they had a Christmas story on the cover for a book, as even the eventual Christmas issue of Marvel Team-Up #1 in 1971 doesn’t show on the cover that it is a Christmas story.
So I figured I’d ask the fellow who wrote that issue of Marvel Team-Up and a guy who would obviously know what was what about Marvel positions during much of the 1960s, Roy Thomas, and Roy told me that there wasn’t any particular stance on Christmas stories at Marvel while he was there.
I think it just wasn’t something that interested Stan… perhaps because such stories tended to become all warm and cuddly, and Stan wanted to stay away from much of what comics had heretofore been. I don’t recall asking him if it was okay if I turned the first issue of MARVEL TEAM-UP into a Christmas story; I think that I simply saw when that first issue would come on sale and I decided to do it. Stan was very happy with it, as I recall. But neither he nor I ever pushed Christmas stories per se.
So there ya go, Steve!
Thanks a lot for the answer, Roy!
Check out my latest TV Legends Revealed at Spinoff Online: Was the classic TV special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer so different from the original Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer book because the screenwriter couldn’t get a copy of the original book before he wrote the TV special?
COMIC LEGEND: Someone not knowing whether Enemy Ace spoke English or not led to an all-silent Christmas story.
DC Comics’ Christmas With The Superheroes #2 was a great collection of Christmas stories from some of DC’s top comic book talent. One of the best stories in the collection was an Enemy Ace tale by John Byrne that he wrote and drew (with finishes by Andy Kubert, son of Enemy Ace’s co-creator, Joe Kubert).
It was a great silent story, but as it turned out, it was silent only because whoever Byrne asked at DC did not have a definitive answer on whether Enemy Ace knew how to speak English or not. Since Byrne couldn’t get a clear answer, he decided to just have the whole story be silent!
And thus, through an odd set of circumstances, a Christmas classic was born!
Thanks to JohnByrneDraws for the information!
COMIC LEGEND: Wolverine almost killed Nightcrawler over Nightcrawler kissing Mariko under the mistletoe because Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief felt Wolverine wasn’t crazy enough.
STATUS: I’m Going With True
In X-Men #96, Chris Claremont’s first issue as solo writer on the X-Men (art by Dave Cockrum and Sam Grainger, Nightcrawler makes the mistake of messing with his new teammate a bit too much…
However, as the years went by, the team seemed to solidify and Wolverine had his inner demons a bit more under control. That’s why it was somewhat surprising to fans to see Uncanny X-Men #143 (by Claremont, John Byrne and Terry Austin), where Nightcrawler uses mistletoe to kiss Wolverine’s girlfriend, Mariko, only to nearly get killed for his troubles…
As you can see, the scene was sort of just put out there and quickly forgotten. As it turns out, it was because the scene was pretty much forced on Claremont and Byrne.
Claremont recalled a year or so later, in X-Men Companion II, to Peter Sanderson:
Jim [Shooter, Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief at the time – BC] came in and demanded to know why Wolverine was being turned into such a sissy. Evidently, what he wanted was for Wolverine to have the capacity to go crazy and kill but never be allowed to kill. He wanted Wolverine to be as much of a potential danger to the X-Men as to other people. So we turned right around and had Wolverine try to cut Nightcrawler’s head off over Mariko, which made no sense whatsoever. As I see it, Wolverine’s fundamental character is that he is trying desperately to maintain rational control over himself, but every so often, without wanting to, for no reason, he goes crazy. He goes berserk.
Thanks to Claremont and Sanderson for the information!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. And my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/brian_cronin, so you can ask me legends there, as well!
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See you all next week! Happy Holidays!