This is the one-hundredth and second in a series of examinations of comic book urban legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous one-hundred and one. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Marvel came out with a Broadway musical starring Captain America.
A good deal of people have asked me about the Captain America musical. Too many for me to remember all their names, but the most recent were Mike Johnson, David Stevens and Jeff Watson.
In any event, with the recent announcement of production beginning on a Spider-Man musical (with words and music from Bono and the Edge, of all people!), I thought now would be a great time to address this one.
Doing a musical based on a comic book character is not exactly the most unique of ideas.
In 1966, there was a musical released based on Superman titled “It’s a bird It’s a Plane It’s Superman”.
Needless to say, the production was not a great success (although almost a decade later, it appeared on television!!).
In the mid-80s, most Marvel Comics included the following ad (scan courtesy of Retrojunk):
The New York Times reported at the time that the music and words were being done by Mel Mandel and Norman Sachs.
Did the production ever open, though?
For the lowdown, I went to the guru of all things Marvel, Tom Brevoort, who explained to me that the plot of the musical was to involve a little girl and a 60-year-old Captain America. The contest was presumably a key part of the marketing of the play (similar to the recent NBC program that had the contest for who would star in the revival of Grease), and Brevoort explained that the production fell apart quickly.
So, sadly, we never got to see a 60-year-old Captain America dance with a little girl on stage.
Rob Liefeld began his run on New Mutants with issue #86 in early 1990. As a preview of his run o n the book, Marvel Age #82 showed some sketches and concept designs that Liefeld had done to prepare for his run.
A couple of them you may be familiar with – folks by the name of Cable and Stryfe.
However, there was one fellow who never popped up in the New Mutants. His name was Cougar.
Here’s what he looked like:
Here’s what they had to say about him: :
This mean dude’s name is Cougar. He’s half man and half cat and according to Rob’s notes, he’s all trouble! Note that his pants have the same outside stripe design as the design on the New Mutants’ costumes shown last issue.
The implication is that he was to be a member of the New Mutants, but it was not clear.
What IS clear is that he never actually appeared in the pages of New Mutants (despite being shown in the same issue of Marvel Age in a mock-up for an upcoming New Mutants cover).
A couple of years later, Liefeld helped co-found Image Comics, and in his new title, Youngblood (which, as mentioned in the second Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed, was mostly a reworking of a pitch Liefeld made to DC for a new Titans book), he featured a character named, interestingly enough, Cougar.
Cougar was essentially the same character as the proposed New Mutants character.
Liefeld did a good deal of redesigning on the character, though. He did not just completely re-use the character or anything like that. And even if he had, it would be reasonable enough. He DID create the guy, after all.
Reader comixkid2099 shared with me the following quote from Team Youngblood #1, where Liefeld explains why Cougar never made it into New Mutants:
Cougar was set to appear in those pages [New Mutants] as well – in fact, a cover featuring him was done up by myself and inked by pal and Spawn superstar Todd MacFarlane – but i pulled the cover and the storyline at the last minute, feeling uneasy about loosing control of yet another creation. Needless to say, it’s a move I’ve never regretted.
Thanks for the quote, comixkid2099!
Anyhow, in an amusing turn of events, Cougar actually DID end up in a Marvel comic book!!
Later in 1990, Terry Kavanagh and Chris Wozniak did a fill-in issue of Avengers West Coast. At one point in the story, Captain America is facing off against duplicates of a number of Marvel characters. Wozniak must have been given a reference sheet with all the current Marvel characters, and Cougar must have been on that sheet, because here he is – right next to Cable.
Click on the image to increase the size.
Thanks to Bill for suggesting this one, and thanks to Madison Carter and the good folks at the amazing comic book resource, The Appendix to the Handbook of the Marvel Universe, for the scan of the Marvel Age picture and the quote.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Justice League had to create the Justice Guild at the last minute for their Legends episode, because DC would not let them use the Justice Society.
Most folks realize that the Justice Guild, from the two-part episode “Legends” from the end of Season 1 of the Justice League, were based upon the Justice Society of America.
The story details (five year old spoilers here!) the Justice League being accidentally transported to a parallel world and discover the Justice Guild of America, comic book characters in the Justice League’s world. While battling super villains in this other dimension, they discover that the world is just an elaborate illusion.
However, more interesting is the fact that rather than being analogues to the Justice Society (in the same way that Squadron Supreme are analogues of the Justice League of America), the Justice Guild was originally meant to just plain ol’ BE the Justice Society of America (in fact, in the original commercials for the episode, they WERE the Justice Society!!)
Bruce Timm explains all in an interview courtesy of ToonZone:
What happened was this: from the very beginning, we intended our ‘JSA crossover’ to be a modern-day spin on those old Gardner Fox ‘Earth II’ stories. We wanted to use the Golden Age JSA, rather than the more recent incarnation, to contrast the ‘old school’ superheroes with a more contemporary take on the characters. Teaming up our guys with the current JSA just didn’t seem to make much sense, somehow-what we’d end up with would be just a mega-sized Justice League, with twice as many heroes to deal with. Now, taking this course with the story meant that we ended up gently (but affectionately!) spoofing the Golden Age guys with their old-fashioned primary-colored costumes, their roll call, their teen mascot, their too-good-to-be-true personalities, etc. The fun in the story comes from seeing how the Justice League react not only to the Golden Age heroes, but also to the wild Golden Age villains and the whole Golden Age-styled world they live in, like an incredibly romanticized version of the late 1940s…all well and good, we thought we were on to something. The script turned out well, exciting, funny, charming, and oddly moving in its own way.
However, DC Comics publisher Paul Levitz had some concerns with the story. He felt the story as written disrespected the JSA and was overall an inappropriate use of the characters. We pleaded our case, but we could clearly see his point, too: the DC guys have spent a lot of time and effort in revitalizing the JSA recently (to the point here it’s now one of their most popular titles) we certainly didn’t want it to seem as if we were saying the JSA was a joke. No disrespect was intended on our end-quite the opposite! We wanted the story to be a love letter to the original JSA and a bittersweet nod to simpler times. [However], Paul saw our point and quickly agreed to a compromise: we’d change the names and designs just enough to make them not quite the JSA, but still get the point across. They’re now the superheroes of ‘Earth Two-and-a-half’, if you will…kinda similar to what Alan Moore was doing in his Supreme run.
It did give us a few hairy moments, as all this stuff was happening at literally the eleventh hour. [We] were actually on the phone with the legal department, awaiting clearances on our new JGA characters’ names, at the voice-recording session. We started recording not knowing what some of the character’s names were going to be!
It’s funny how things work out: at first, we were still kinda disappointed that we couldn’t use the ‘real’ JSA, but we’ve come to realize that the story actually works better this way. The ‘Green Lantern,’ ‘Flash,’ and ‘Black Canary’ doppelgangers are fairly close to the originals, but the ‘Wildcat’ clone is almost a Batman / Wildcat hybrid and the ‘Atom’ character has quite a bit of classic ‘Superman’ in him as well. So, in effect, we’re not just spoofing / paying homage to the JSA, but also to the Fox-era Silver Age JLA, too…sweet!
So, I know there’s been a bit of grumbling about DC Comics not letting us ‘do’ the JSA, but you won’t hear any complaints from us-the folks at DC have been an absolute joy to work with. They’ve given us an enormous amount of leeway while letting us play with their toys, stepping in only when it looks like we’re gonna break ’em.
Nice little bit of information, eh?
By the way, to be fair to Levitz, the JSA-analogues DO come off pretty bad in the episode. The Flash substitute, for one, makes a pretty racist comment towards John Stewart (“You’re a credit to your race!”), so I personally think it is pretty reasonable of Levitz to object to the JSA being shown this way.
Thanks to Robin MacNeil, who wanted to know what was the deal with the change. And Robin, your OTHER suggestion will likely be showing up next week or the week after!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free to drop off any urban legends you’d like to see featured!