Welcome to the five hundred and fifty-sixth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the first five hundred (I actually haven’t been able to update it in a while). This week, was Marvel not allowed to refer to Red Skull as a Nazi in the early 1990s? Was Grant Morrison forced to change the ending of Final Crisis to give it a happy ending? Why did Clark Kent go from working for the Daily Star to the Daily Planet?
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 was not allowed to refer to Red Skull as a Nazi during the 1990s.
STATUS: False, With Some Truth to It
G. Kendall is doing a great weekly series on this here blog where he examines old issues of Wizard: The Guide to Comics. In any event, in Wizard #30 from late 1993, he came across an interview with then-new Homage Studios editor David Wohl explaining some of the reasons for why he left Marvel to go work for Marc Silvestri’s Homage. One of the reasons Wohl cited was that he felt that Marvel, as a public company, was far too concerned with what people might complain about, even if their complaints were unreasonable. As an example, he said:
We had a trading card with the Red Skull standing in front of a Nazi flag with a swastika on it, and someone wrote in objecting to it. The guy said that he didn’t want to have to explain to his ten-year old what a swastika was. Eventually the word came down that the Red Skull is not to be referred to as a Nazi. He’s just another villain.
Here’s the card in question, from Marvel’s 1990 trading card set…
Wohl was right that a father DID complain about the card and it DID have an impact on how the Red Skull was depicted in Marvel Comics, but not to the extent that Wohl recalled. I asked Tom Brevoort about it, and he noted that it was really a matter of the VISUAL depiction of the Red Skull, particularly when it came to licensed products. Essentially, stuff like trading cards and the like – the stuff that was most accessible to the outside world. In other words, don’t show him wearing swastikas. The comics followed that basic set-up, as well. He would still occasionally be referred to as a Nazi, like this bit from a 1991 Captain America issue…
but he wasn’t decked out in Swastika gear, and you would never see that stuff on licensed products.
That was basically the set-up that was in place when a Captain America animated series was proposed that would be set in World War II but not reference Nazis. The fear was that a general audience would freak out when seeing Nazis and Swastikas.
The comics, themselves, though, still continued to have the Nazi stuff in moderation, like Mark Waid’s first Cap stint (where Cap is trapped inside the Cosmic Cube, intent on killing Hitler, who was also trapped in the Cube)…
and then the infamous re-written Mark Waid Captain America issue still contains Nazi references and swastikas even after it was re-written…
But the basic idea that that trading card set off a change in how Marvel did things was correct, in a way. Just not to the extent Wohl described it.
Thanks to G. Kendall for the suggestion, thanks to David Wohl for the quote and thanks to Tom Brevoort for the information!
Check out some recent entertainment and sports legends from Legends Revealed:
Was Snakes on a Plane Re-Edited after a Parody Trailer of the Film?
On the next page, was Grant Mprrison forced to change the ending of Final Crisis to give it a happier ending?
COMIC LEGEND: Grant Morrison was forced to add a scene to give Final Crisis a happier ending.
STATUS: Bit of a True/False Mixture
A few years back, reader Michael G. wrote in to ask (among some other legends, which I still haven’t addressed):
Did DC editorial make Grant Morrison add a scene to the ending of Final Crisis to make it a happier ending?
Final Crisis was a crossover by DC back in 2008-09, with a basic plot (and this is really distilling a complicated plot down to just the most basic levels) of Darkseid coming back to life (after the events of Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle) by essentially traveling through time. This time travel has made a bit of a hole in the multiverse and has made it possible for an evil Monitor to break free from the prison that the other Monitors placed him into at the beginning of the multiverse. So Darkseid finally manages to conquer Earth with the anti-life equation. Eventually, though, whichever heroes on Earth remain unaffected manage to fight back and take control of Earth and defeat Darkseid. The heroes then must take on Mandrakk, the evil Monitor, who is using this opportunity to basically destroy all of the multiverse. Superman and a legion of Green Lanterns and other heroes stand up to defeat the evil Mandrakk (Superman first encounters Mandrakk during the tie-in series, Superman Beyond, when he gets caught up in the story while trying to save a mortally injured Lois Lane).
Batman plays a major role in the story, as he is captured by Darkseid and is seemingly killed, but not before Batman mortally injures Darkseid. It is this aspect of the story that Michael is referring to.
A major scene in the series is when Batman takes out Darkseid, but not before Darkseid’s Omega Beams are sent out and seemingly take out Batman, too…
This leads to a memorable scene where an enraged Superman cradles a seemingly dead Batman…
The scene even made the cover of the hardcover collection of the story.
However, there were some clues that Batman was not really dead, most importantly being that Darkseid’s Omega Beams had been shown to send people traveling through time in the past and, in fact, Morrison had used them that way in Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle. So there was a very good chance that Batman was not actually dead, but trapped in time.
It is fair to say, though, that that was certainly not explicit in the text, so DC did request that Morrison add a scene where he made it clear that yes, that IS what happened to Batman, and so he did.
In a great Matt Brady interview with Morrison at Newsarama after the series ended, Morrison explained:
[M]y simple goal was to reach the end without too much hassle and/or interference! Apart from one scene at the end, which I included at DC’s request, and contrary to online rumours, there were no rewrites on Final Crisis. Every word is mine. The guilt and the glory are all mine!
So this is definitely what Michael is referring to, but like Morrison notes, the ending didn’t CHANGE at all. It was just now more explicit. So I’m hesitant to say that it actually gave the story a happier ending. I think it was just to make the ending that was always there a little clearer, that’s all.
Thanks to Michael for the suggestion and thanks to Matt Brady and Grant Morrison for the information!
On the next page, why did the Superman comics change the name of Clark Kent’s newspaper from the Daily Star to the Daily Planet?
COMIC LEGEND: The Daily Planet debuted because of Superman’s comic book strip not wanting to alienate newspapers.
STATUS: I’m Going With True
Last week, I discussed how Warner Bros. successfully sued a newspaper calling itself the Daily Planet despite not having a trademark on “Daily Planet” themselves. Commenter Christopher Bennett, though, brought up an interesting piece of almost-ironic information that I thought worth mentioning here, that it was amusing that Warners was keeping someone from calling their paper the Daily Planet because they picked the name Daily Planet to avoid confusion with newspapers called the Daily Star!
As you may or may not know, when Superman debuted in Action Comics #1, the newspaper he worked for was called The Daily Star, named after the Toronto Daily Star, where Joe Shuster was from…
Superman, though, was soon a major comic star and was about to get his own comic strip. Once the strip began, one of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s editors at the McClure Snyndicate in New York, told them that they had to change the name of the newspaper to something other than the Daily Star, so it became the Daily Planet in 1939…
The comic books eventually picked up on this, as well.
We don’t know for an absolute fact what the reasoning the Syndicate editor used for insisting on a name change, but the most commonly theorized reason (and the one Christopher wrote in with) is just so clear that I’m willing to go with it, which is that the Superman strip was a hot property, and the McClure Syndicate would naturally want to get it into a ton of newpapers, and the “problem” was that there were roughly 20 newspapers out there with the name Daily Star back then and no major newspaper called the Daily Planet, so as to avoid any confusion (including newspapers not wanting to promote a strip that theoretically promoted their rivals) they changed the name to Daily Planet. Roy Thomas mentions in his introduction to Superman: The War Years, “The paper’s name would soon be changed to the familiar Daily Planet, because there were many newspapers with the word “Star” in their name, but nobody had ever heard of one with “Planet” on its masthead.”
We know that Joe Shuster said a syndicate editor told them to make the change and we know that there were a bunch of newspapers named Daily Star at the time and we know that the strip was being launched nationally, so I’m willing to give this a true.
Thanks to Christoper Bennett for the suggestion!
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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