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Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #115

by  in Comic News Comment

This is the one-hundred and fifteenth 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 fourteen. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.

This is a special theme week. Each urban legend this week is a follow-up on a previous urban legend installment!

Let’s begin!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Marvel had a line of female heroine comic books in the 1970s.

STATUS: True

As conveyed in a recent installment of Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed, a reader asked me about a line of female superheroes by Marvel, and I detailed to her how, in 1948, Marvel attempted to try out a line of female superheroes, starring Namora, Sun Girl and Venus.

However, I was reminded the other day that I could have also mentioned ANOTHER time that Marvel had a line of comic books designed for females, in 1972, where Roy Thomas took the idea of female comics to a very interesting place for that time period.

In Comic Book Artist #2, Roy Thomas and Stan Lee have a conversation, and the topic comes to an idea that Lee had in the early 70s…

Thomas: I’ve heard that there was a great dropoff in female readers in the early ’70s. We came up with three strips for which you made up the names and concepts: Shanna the She-Devil, Night Nurse, and The Claws of the Cat. Were we trying to woo the female readers back?

Lee: Yes, and also to appeal to the male readers who liked looking at pretty girls. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to draw the girls the way they’re drawn now, because I think if we had been, our sales would have soared much more than they did!

As Thomas relates, in late 1972, Marvel launched three new titles, all starring female heroines.

The Claws of the Cat


Night Nurse


and

Shanna the She-Devil.


In a brilliant piece of creative thinking, Thomas assigned to each book a separate FEMALE writer!!

Linda Fite (later long-time wife of artist Herb Trimpe) wrote The Cat, Jean Thomas (Roy’s wife at the time) wrote Night Nurse and Carole Seuling (wife of Direct Market innovator, Phil Seuling) wrote Shanna the She-Devil.

In addition, Thomas had Marie Severin draw The Cat!

The books, sadly, did not do well commercially, and all were canceled after only a few issues each (sadly, this meant that an issue of The Cat, drawn by comic legend Ramona Fradon, never saw publication).

Tony Isabella revived the star of The Cat, as the mystical creature, Tigra!


(Note the amusing use of the term “Were-Woman”).

Steve Englehart used the costume from The Cat for a new superhero, Hellcat.


Steve Gerber (who gave Seuling some assistance on Shanna) brought Shanna to the pages of Daredevil.

Night Nurse basically faded away into limbo.

It is too bad – it is nice to see companies take a shot at a different market.

Thanks to Roy Thomas for the great interview with Stan Lee!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Disney once kept a company from publishing comic strips that, at the time, were most likely in the public domain.

STATUS: True

In last week’s installment of Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed, I discussed a series of Mickey Mouse comic strips by Floyd Gottfredson from the late 1930s. How a company was kept from publishing those stories is quite an interesting tale of the power of corporations.

In the late 80s, Malibu Graphics, through its Eternity Comics line (stupid typo! I wrote Eclipse when I meant Eternity! Sorry, folks!), published a number of comic strips and older comic books that had fallen into the public domain.

The Three Stooges, for instance.


In 1989, they decided to go for the big brass ring, and go after comic strips starring Mickey Mouse that had, to most observers, fallen into the public domain. Floyd Gottfredson’s classic strips had been sporadically reprinted in the past, but in almost every instance, they had been heavily censored. Malibu was taking this opportunity to present the strips as they originally appeared, including (eventually) the infamous “Mickey tries to kill himself” strips.

As you all may know, there is a difference between copyright and trademark. The Mickey Mouse strips in question may very well not have been protected by copyright (and, again, let us please note that Disney has never conceded that these works ARE in the public domain, even though the evidence certainly suggests it), but they certainly WERE still trademarked (and will continue to be trademarked so long as the Walt Disney corporation exists).

Therefore, “Mickey Mouse” could not be used to advertise these comics, nor could they be designed so that they would confuse readers into thinking they were authorized Disney products.

Malibu’s response to this dilemma was inspired.

They titled the book The Uncensored Mouse, and had the covers all black. They only mentioned the fact that they were collecting classic Floyd Gottfredson comic strips. Finally, they were sealed in a bag so that a casual reader would be unable to pick up the book and confuse it for a Disney product.


Satisfied that they had jumped through the required hoops, the series was released, reprinting strips from January to March in issues #1 and 2 (the first issue featured strips written by Walt Disney himself!).

However, Disney was displeased by the product, and sued Malibu.

The records are sealed, so we will never know for sure WHAT legal strategy Disney used, but most likely, they argued that some of the strips that were collected in the comic were reprinted later by Disney in collections that WERE protected by copyright, and that therefore, The Uncensored Mouse was in violation of THOSE copyrights.

Or heck, they very well could have just threatened to keep Malibu in court for years, piling up legal fees.

WHATever tact Disney took, it caused Malibu to back down, and the second issue of The Uncensored Mouse was the last issue of The Uncensored Mouse, leaving the book MANY months shy of actually reprinting the suicide strips.


Malibu destroyed any remaining copies it had, but there are still a number of copies out there on the secondary market.

Thanks to noted Disney expert, Jim Korkis, for his valuable insights into these events.

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Al Milgrom was blacklisted from Marvel Comics after he snuck an insult of Bob Harras into a comic book.

STATUS: False

In one of the very first installments of Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed, I detailed how Al Milgrom snuck an insult of exiting Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras into the background of a panel in an issue of Universe Special: Spidey.

Commenter Cyberman, however, thought that it is worthwhile to point out some misconceptions regarding the event, and I know Daniel Best also felt that some things were misconstrued.

Cyberman wished to point out that there has been this belief that once he was fired, Milgrom was basically blacklisted from Marvel.

This is not the case, as Milgrom worked with Jim Starlin on Thanos afterwards.


In fact, Milgrom even stayed on the book after Starlin left, inking Ron Lim.


So no, Milgrom was not blacklisted from Marvel.

Another misconception arises from the basic accepted phrasing of the occurrence: “Al Milgrom was fired by Marvel because he snuck an insult of Bob Harras into a comic book.”

This is most likely false. You see, the mistake was actually caught BEFORE the book was printed. It was accidentally sent to the printer ANYways, leading to a costly pulping of the comic.

Therefore, THAT, more than the insult, is more likely the reason for Milgrom’s firing.

However, a (fairly believable, really) conspiracy theory has formed that the whole exercise was basically a convenient excuse to fire Milgrom “for just cause,” thereby keeping Marvel from having to pay him a severance package. This is basically impossible to prove (I can just imagine asking Marvel, “Oh yeah, I remember that! Yeah, we pretended to be mad so we could fire him!”), so it will just have to be filed under “unverified.”

Milgrom is currently working for Archie, inking their “new style” line of comics.


Thanks to Cyberman, Rich Johnston (who did a great job covering the story when it first happened) and Daniel Best.

Okay, that’s it for this week!

Feel free to drop off any urban legends you’d like to see featured!