Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the five hundred and ninety-eighth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. This week, did the “Superior Spider-Man” almost come out two years ahead of schedule? Did Robert Kanigher co-create Black Lightning? And did DC Comics edit a reference to the n-word out of a Dwayne McDuffie “Justice League of America” issue so that the dialogue no longer makes any sense?
Superior Spider-Man almost came out two years earlier than Dan Slott intended.
The genesis for what eventually became “Superior Spider-Man” happened in “Amazing Spider-Man” #600 (by Dan Slott, John Romita Jr. and Klaus Janson), where Doctor Octopus used a whole bunch of little octobots controlled by his brainwaves to take over New York City (and right on the same day that Aunt May was marrying J. Johan Jameson Sr.! How rude!). Spider-Man tracked the bots back to Doctor Octopus and Spider-Man figured out a way to stop the bots from tearing the city apart…
In the end, Doctor Octopus escapes, along with the helmet Spider-Man used to override Doctor Octopus’ brain pattern…
As he wrote the issue, Slott thought, “Huh, so Spider-Man just basically gave his brain patterns to Doctor Octopus, didn’t he?” And hence the genesis of what would eventually become the Freaky Friday/Saturday Switch of comic book plots occurred.
However, while Slott was planning to lead up to that storyline for “Amazing Spider-Man” #700, which he knew would be scheduled to come out at the end of 2012, Spider-Man’s 50th anniversary, he had a big of a problem.
You see, when you’re writing a flagship title like “Amazing Spider-Man”, you’re beholden to certain outside interests. As a flagship title, you’re expected to do a certain amount of event storylines that help drive sales of the title. That’s only fair. The issue is that sometimes that means changing plans to fit into the event structure. For instance, Slott had some stories planned to lead into the story of what eventually became “Ends of the Earth”, which was Doctor Octopus tries to mess with the whole world one time before he dies. It’s a big, bold story. However, since Marvel needed an event for 2011, they were going to push “Ends of the Earth” up to 2011. So Slott was going to lose some issues between then and “Ends of the Earth.” However, when Slott was asked by Tom Brevoort what would happen to Doctor Octopus at the end of the story, Slott explained that it would lead into what became Superior Spider-Man. Then a problem happened – Brevoort liked THAT idea for the event better than he liked “Ends of the Earth.”
Slott explained it to Newsarama (and our very own current CBR managing editor Albert Ching) back in 2013:
I’m like, “Oh no, that’s not what’s going to happen. I’ve got a Doc Ock story after that.” “What’s that?” “Oh, that’s my #700. They’re going to swap brains.” “What?” “Yeah, right before Doc Ock dies, he swaps brains with Spider-Man, Spider-Man’s got like four hours left to live in Doc Ock’s dying body, and he has to try and get his body back.” Brevoort goes, “That’s our event.” And Steve Wacker went, “Yep, I agree.” I turned to Tom Brennan, who was the assistant editor then, “Brennan, help me out?” He’s like, “No, I agree with them.” Suddenly, even “Ends of the Earth” was going to get ripped out. We were going to jump straight to #700, around the #660s.
“Spider-Island” was a Hail Mary pass, because that was on a Friday. I called Steve at the end of the day — “Did you run this by marketing yet?” “No, I’m going to on Monday.” I’m like, “If I can give you something as good as the brain swap, can I keep everything in place?” He’s like, “Sure, we’ve got ’til Monday.” And I spent all weekend pitching ideas with my best friend from high school. He threw something back to me when, “What if everyone in the world gets Spider-Man powers?” “Everyone in the world?” “Yeah, Spider-Man’s about great power and great responsibility, what if everyone had great power?” I’m like, “Ah, they just did that with the Hulk… ooh, what if it’s just Manhattan, because that’s his world?” And all the characters you care about in Spider-Man are all in Manhattan; Jonah, and MJ — everything just all fit together. I pitched that on Monday, and Steve was like, “Yeah, that’s good, let’s do that.” And that’s how “Spider-Island” was born. It was a Hail Mary to save the brain swap.
This is something I wanted to do for a hundred issues. And you can see in “Spider-Island,” in “Ends of the Earth,” in “No Turning Back,” there are all these places where I seeded, knowing it’s coming. There are things like Madame Web’s prophecies that also get seeded. We laid the track for this for a hundred issues. This wasn’t a last-minute decision. It wasn’t “Oh, here’s a gimmick, let’s just throw it at Marvel NOW!. This was carefully planned for a hundred issues.
The first issue of Superior Spider-Man came out in January 2013, almost exactly two years after it would have if not for Dan Slott’s quick thinking.
Thanks to Dan Slott and Albert Ching for the information!
Robert Kanigher co-created Black Lightning
Gerry Conway made a very common mistake the other month, and it is one that I have made myself in the past (over a decade ago on the CBR message boards). In both instances, Tony Isabella was quick to make a correction (as well he should). The mistake is to give Robert Kanigher any credit in the creation of Black Lighting.
Conway just mentioned on Twitter back in September that Black Lightning was created by Tony Isabella, Trevor Von Eeden and Robert Kanigher. That’s not the case, it’s just the first two.
Why does Kanigher so often get credit? It’s because what became Black Lightning was originally a new series by Kanigher called “The Black Bomber”. The problem was that the Black Bomber was kind of a weird concept. Here’s Tony Isabella on what happened…
I will say that I created Black Lightning after convincing DC not to publish another “black” super-hero on which they had started work. The Black Bomber was a white bigot who, in times of stress, turned into a black super-hero. This was the result of chemical camouflage experiments he’d taken part in as a soldier in Vietnam. The object of these experiments was to allow our [white] troops to blend into the jungle.
In each of the two completed Black Bomber scripts, the white bigot risks his own life to save another person whom he can’t see clearly (in one case, a baby in a stroller) and then reacts in racial slur disgust when he discovers that he risked his life to save a black person. He wasn’t aware that he had two identities, but each identity had a girlfriend and the ladies were aware of the change. To add final insult, the Bomber’s costume was little more than a glorified basketball uniform.
DC had wanted me to take over writing the book with the third issue. I convinced them to eat the two scripts and let me start over. To paraphrase my arguments…
“Do you REALLY want DC’s first black super-hero to be a white bigot?
Therefore, since Isabella took over from Kanigher and both books were called “Black ____”, it is a common mistake to think that what Isabella did was take Kanigher’s concept and change it to what became Black Lightning. But instead, it’s clearly a case of Isabella and Von Eeden creating a new character out of whole cloth to just take the place of Kanigher’s creation on the DC schedule.
I have no idea why it’s taken me so long to feature this as a legend. Huh. Anyhow, this leads into the next legend!
(Rich Johnston did a detailed write-up on the interactions between Conway and Isabella on the subject here at Bleeding Cool)
Check out my latest Movie Legends Revealed at CBR: Was Die Hard originally going to be a sequel to the Arnold Schwarzenegger film, Commando?
DC edited out a reference to the n-word in an issue of “Justice League of America”, leaving the dialogue making no sense.
The late, great Dwayne McDuffie was an informed student of comic book history, so he obviously knew all about the Black Bomber. He also managed to actually give the Bomber his DC debut after all of these years! In a storyline in the pages of “Justice League of America”, which McDuffie was writing at the time, there is a story with the League being altered, with different versions of the Leaguers suddenly being present (so Flash is Impulse, Aquaman is Ocean Master, Batman is a killer known as Paladin, you get the picture). Well, for the alternate version of Black Lightning, McDuffie decided to use the Black Bomber (only now he is the BROWN Bomber)…
You might notice that there is clearly a line missing from the bottom page, as Vixen is not responding to anything. The missing line? The Bomber wanted to know if it was okay for him to use the n-word.
I don’t really mind them cutting the joke, per se, as I can see why they would think it might have been a bit much, but it’s super weird that they didn’t cut the response to the line!
Sadly, that was pretty normal for how McDuffie was being edited on “Justice League of America” at the time. He would have to constantly work around editorial changes to his work, characters being pulled out of the book, stuff like that. He eventually complained enough about it publicly that they fired him. It’s a real shame that we never got a true Dwayne McDuffie “Justice League” book. I bet it would have been amazing. I didn’t even mind his editorially mixed-up one, but with him having full sway? Wow, that would have been good. Imagine if Grant Morrison was never given the chance to put “JLA” together?
I know someone suggested this legend to me, but I can’t seem to find it in my notes anywhere. If you suggested it, feel free to write it to ask for credit!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
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