This is the one-hundredth and eleventh 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 ten. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: A doppleganger of Superman created in a special Superman comic was originally intended to be the way for Superman to return from the dead after his death against Doomsday.
As I mentioned in an earlier installment of Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed, when Doomsday appeared on the scene and killed Superman, there was this mad rush to find out more about him, or just more about the death of Superman period.
Books became “hot” because someone theorized that they might have something to do with the death and/or the return of Superman.
One such book was 1992’s Superman Special by Walt Simonson.
The comic was an homage to Denny O’Neil’s Superman run where O’Neil revamped Superman during the 70s. The original comic featured a creature made of sand who stole some of Superman’s powers. The character was dropped soon afterwards (O’Neil was not on the book very long). Simonson’s one-shot also featured a doppleganger of Superman that was a sort of creature made out of sand.
At the end, the sand creature appeared to die, but the ending was left vague.
Therefore, the theory became that it was the DOPPLEGANGER who died during the fight with Doomsday, and that the real Superman was in hibernation somewhere.
A reader wrote to me awhile back asking if DC had, in fact, planned on doing this, after all, the comic came out in 1992, the same year Superman was killed off, and it was done by a prominent creator in Walt Simonson.
That seemed off to me, though, because when the Special came out, it struck me as though it was an old Annual, or something like that.
In any event, for the truth, I went to the man himself, Walt Simonson, and here was his reply:
I think your poster was right–there was a rumor running around at the time that the Special had some connection to the Death of Superman stories but it didn’t. The Special was actually supposed to have come out at least a year earlier and it just took me a long time to do. So it wasn’t timed to come out with any relationship to the Death storyline. But I do seem to remember some speculation at the time along these lines. Don’t remember any more than that now.
Thank you, Mr. Simonson! And thank you poster whose name I have since forgotten (feel free to leave your name in the comments and I’ll edit you in)!!
On the next page, did Marvel have a line of female superhero comics…in the 1940s?!?!
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Marvel Comics once had a line of female superhero comic books.
Reader Kate C. wrote in earlier this week with the following:
Either I read this somewhere or someone told me, I can’t remember exactly where I heard this – but supposedly at one point Marvel had a whole line of female superhero comics. Is that for real?
The answer may surprise some that it is, in fact, true. What is even more surprising is WHEN the line happened – in 1948!!
To fully grasp the situation, you have to consider what the comic book scene was like post World War II.
During the war, comic sales were booming. Printing comics was like printing money. In fact, as related in a previous installment of Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed, there wasn’t enough paper to go around during the war, so printing paper became a hot commodity!
After the war, though, sales slumped – BIG TIME. So companies were quick to try anything they thought might work. That, really, is how superheroes as a whole came about. Superman hit it big, so everyone tried to make their own Superman. So now, a decade later, people were trying to find the NEXT big thing.
Marvel (which was, at the time, called Timely) surmised that they had a larger than normal population of girls reading their comic books. They had launched in the mid-40s a superhero comic starring a heroine named Miss America that quickly turned into a general interest girl’s magazine that was doing well.
Meanwhile, they had a female version of Archie’s popular Archie Andrews also make her debut in Miss America, and Patsy Walker soon gained her own comic book series that last for quite awhile (and had a few spin-offs).
Therefore, later on, while Marvel’s superhero sales were faltering, they did notice that sales on a fairly recent hero, the Blonde Phantom, were doing pretty well.
Stan Lee and Martin Goodman were quick to try pretty much anything if they thought it could sell, launching and quickly cancelling numerous titles (heck, earlier in 1948, Marvel had launched a series of Western comic books, most of whom were successful, some lasting well past the superhero boom of the 1960s).
So in 1948, they decided to make a big push for that girl market that they thought they had via Miss America, Patsy Walker and the Blond Phantom, by launching a series-wide push for female superheroes!!
There was Namora, cousin of Namor…
Who got her own title AND was a prominent guest star in Namor’s title…
There was Sun Girl, sidekick of the Human Torch….
who got her own title and was a prominent guest star in the Human Torch’s title…
There was Golden Girl, who was a prominent guest star in Captain America’s title (replacing Bucky) and was featured in back-up stories…
And there was Venus, who was the most successful of the group, lasting 19 issues between 1948 and 1952…
Sadly, both Namora and Sun Girl were cancelled after 3 issues, and by the beginning of the 1950s, Timely’s superhero line was pretty much toast, and when the characters were revived for a short period in the 50s under the new company name of Atlas Comics (where Cap became a COMMIE SMASHER!), only Namora stuck around in the pages of the Sub-Mariner, and that revival was quite short-lived.
When the Marvel Silver Age superhero reconnaissance occurred, Namora made a few appearances, but she was soon killed off. Venus showed up from time to time, but for the most part, this era of Marvel Comics was lost for decades.
Luckily, Jeff Parker’s recent series Agents of Atlas has brought both Namora AND Venus back to prominence (and Namora is even featured prominently in the World War Hulk crossover!).
So that’s something! But can you imagine…a line of superheroes meant for girls? Pretty darn cool idea, eh?
Speaking of the 1940s, did Marvel have a Golden Age comic book featuring THOR and Loki?!?
John McDonagh sent me this one a ways back, but I never got around to using it, but when the topic of Venus came up, I figured I was duty-bound to use this one.
In any event, when Thor made his first appearance in the pages of Journey Into Mystery #83, it wasn’t the first time Thor had appeared in a Marvel/Timely/Atlas comic book!
Years earlier, the comic book Venus depicted the adventures of, well, the Roman goddess Venus.
She lived on the planet Venus and came down to Earth and took the alias Vicki Starr, as a reporter for a fashion magazine. She fell in love with a male reporter and was caught up in a love triangle with him and another female reporter.
Eventually, throughout the run of the series (which lasted 19 issues, from 1948-1952), Venus encountered versions of many other deities.
In issue #6, she encountered Loki during Mardi Gras, of all things!
And later, in Venus #12, Venus was captured by an evil sultan.
She was forced to turn to Loki for help, and who else showed up to help out? Why none other than Thor himself!
Venus made a few post-Silver Age appearances, thereby tying these early Thor and Loki appearances into the actual history of Loki and Thor, rather than simply ignoring them.
So yes, Marvel did publish comics featuring Loki and Thor BEFORE the Silver Age!
Thanks for the heads up, John!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free to drop off any urban legends you’d like to see featured!