This is the one-hundred and twenty-first 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 twenty. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.
Special theme week! I didn’t even notice at first, but two of the three bits I was doing this week involved Disney, so I figured, what the heck, so I scrapped the original third and made this week an ALL-DISNEY THEME WEEK!!
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Walt Disney forced Marvel to change Howard the Duck’s appearance.
I was already planning on doing this bit when reader Matthew Johnson wrote in with basically the same question – which was a pretty darn freaky coincidence!!
Matthew asked whether the drastically different look for Howard the Duck in the new Howard the Duck mini-series has to do with Disney threatening Marvel over similarities between Howard and Donald Duck.
That, Matthew, I am afraid I do not know for sure, but what I do know is that yes, Disney did, in fact, threaten to sue Marvel over the appearance of Howard the Duck. It led directly into the depiction of Howard in the 2002 Howard the Duck mini-series.
Here is how Howard looked when he first got his own series in the late 70s…
Disney threatened suit later on in the 70s, after Gerber had left the book, and Marvel capitulated to Disney’s demands, which included that Marvel must make Howard look like a design sheet that DISNEY’S artists supplied!
Marvel agreed. The biggest difference was that Howard was to wear pants…
When Gerber returned to do the MAX series in 2002, he wanted to have an artist redesign Howard, but as it turns out, Marvel’s deal with Disney forbade Marvel from doing just that – they could not come up with a new design. Since the Howard in the new release looks nothing like the above cover from Brian Bolland from 1986, it appears as though Marvel manage to renegotiate that part of the deal.
But in 2002, it was not the case, which led to Gerber’s humorous solution – have Howard become OTHER animals!!
And, appropriately enough with the specific company that caused the changes, the first animal was none other than a mouse!
If someone else out there knows how/if Marvel got their deal changed, let me know!
Thanks to Matthew for the question, and thanks to Steve Gerber and Darren Schroeder (whose great interview with Steve back in 2001 at Silver Bullet Comics provided the information) for the info.
NOTE: Obviously, in the years since this column first came out, Marvel was actually purchased BY Disney, so the Howard/Donald issue is likely much less of an issue nowadays.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Walt Disney refused to allow a comic called “Donal Duck’s Atom Bomb” to be reprinted.
Reader Eric Henry sent me in the following recently:
I have a potential comic book urban legend for you. I have seen listed in the Overstreet Price Guide a comic book called ‘Donald Duck’s Atom Bomb’ and have heard that Disney will not allow this book to be reprinted (thereby making it a valuable collectible). I was wondering if there is any truth to this story.
There is, indeed, some truth to the story, Eric.
In fact, it’s just plain old true, period!
In 1947, Carl Barks wrote and drew a 32-page (done comic strip style, though, so like an 11-page comic book) giveaway comic that was given away with boxes of Cheerios.
The comic depicts Donald Duck’s attempts at creating an atom bomb. The comic has, indeed, been banned by Disney from being reprinted as it was originally written. This was confirmed by the good folks at the Bruce Hamilton company. The late Bruce Hamilton published Gemstone comics, which reprinted a good deal of Barks’ past comics, and they confirm that Disney would not let the original comic be reprinted, leading the original giveaway (remember, this comic was FREE sixty years ago) to sell for upwards of $1000.
But why can it not be reprinted?
Was there something racist in it?
Heck, did they make unwise statements regarding nuclear power?
Nope, it was that Donald Duck acted “mean” in the comic.
In the comic, the radiation from Donald’s atom bomb causes everyone to lose their hair. At the end, a scientist wants Donald to keep working on his bomb. Donald has other ideas.
Here are the last two pages from the comic…
Disney felt that this was too mean of Donald, so banned the comic from being reprinted as originally written. The new version has Donald saying, “No thanks, Professor! I’ve got more than money in mind!” And the banner at the top of the booth now no longer says the word “Atomic” and now reads: “Free Samples — Growth Guaranteed!”
Pretty funny, eh?
Thanks for the question, Eric! And thanks to the Bruce Hamilton Company for the information.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Disney sued comic book artist Wally Wood for doing a pornographic poster featuring Disney characters.
As you may or may not know, towards the end of his life, comic book legend Wally Wood was in poor health, and most of the comic work he did right before he committed suicide was mostly stuff that one would consider appropriate for “Tijuana bibles,” that is, raunchy versions of notable comic characters.
This was no new thing for Wood, who did, in fact, produce an amusing poster for the zine, The Realist, in 1967, featuring Disney’s characters in various states of debauchery.
Don’t read any further if you don’t want to see the pornographic poster in question!
In any event, contrary to reports I have heard from a few folks, neither Wood nor the Realist were ever sued by Disney over the poster. Most likely, they thought it would do more harm than good, PR-wise.
Disney DID sue, however, a gentleman who later reprinted the poster and put it up for sale as a black light poster. That is probably where the confusion arises.
Thanks to illegal-art.org for the information and the picture!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free to drop off any urban legends you’d like to see featured!