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Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #122

by  in Comic News Comment
Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #122

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

Let’s begin!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: The mid-80s Hex revamp of Jonah Hex was not the original plan for the character.

STATUS: False

In the mid-80s, Jonah Hex, which started in the late 70s, was drawing to a close.


The last issue came out in 1985…


However, rather than really END, the book instead got a revamp. Hex went from the Old West to the far-off future, in a sort of Mad Max story…


The book lasted an additional 18 issues past its initial cancellation.


The changeover from Jonah Hex to Hex, though, was fairly abrupt, causing some to wonder – was it always intended to be this way?

Was there another change to Hex in the works that was dropped in favor of the Mad Max Hex?

I asked Michael Fleisher about it, and he told me that no, the future Hex story was always what they had in mind, as the book was facing cancellation, and that was the only way they could save the title.

Thanks to Michael Fleisher for the information!!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: DC pulled an issue of Batman: Gotham Knights after it was solicited because it was too graphic.

STATUS: True

Reader Matthew Lazorwitz sent me the following urban legend…

There was an issue of Batman: Gotham Knights written by Devin Grayson that editorial found so disturbing that they dropped it after it was solicited and replaced it with a random fill-in. It’s in regards to Batman: Gothan Knights #12, a part of the unfortunate “This Issue: Batman Dies!” month. It was supposed to focus on Mr. Zsasz, the knife-wielding lunatic introduced by Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle in “The Last Arkham” story. The solicitations in Previews showed up with the description of the story and the cover. But when the issue came out… it was an issue about Oracle. I read somewhere on some message board (making me think it was an urban legend) that the issue was just so creepy, and Zsasz portrayed as so monstrous, and his “murder” of Batman so perverse, that they canned the story and replaced it with a fill-in.

Here is the published issue…


I posed the question to Bob Schreck, who edited the issue in question, and here is what he had to say…

It was an issue that was started by Denny O’Neil, actually, and his then assistant, Frank Berrios, was diligently waving a red flag all the way through production trying to warn Denny and myself (as I was beginning to take over the Bat titles at the time) that it might not pass muster. As I was new, I didn’t feel I should interfere with a book that Denny had commissioned, as he and Devin had established a strong editorial relationship over the years. I loved the story. She did a great job of writing it as did the rest of the team bringing to the comics page.

It was decided after solicitation that the tale was a little too gory for an all ages book.

Not all that exciting as the “urban legend” version.

Here is a detail from the solicited cover in question…


Thanks to Bob Schreck for the answer, and thanks to Matthew for the question!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Al Columbia finished issue #4 of Big Numbers, but destroyed it.

STATUS: Apparently True

Reader Paul Lee suggested, awhile back, that I tackle the Al Columbia/Big Numbers story, and I figured, I might as well.

I have kept away from this one in the past mostly because so much of it is on the iffy side, fact-wise.

However, I think upon further reflection, we probably do know enough facts about it to piece together a general idea about what happened.

Paul relates “the legend”…

The story goes that there was a completed issue of Alan Moore’s Big Numbers #3. Though the art was credited to Seinkiewicz, it was really done by his protoge, Al Columbia. The issue was already at the printers when Al Columbia had a freak out and went to the printers and tore up all the film? originals? Hence, no #3 ever saw print. The story also goes that Bill has a photocopy of #3 and shows people sometimes, and that there may be a copy or two floating around out there.

Okay, first off, let us set the scene.

Alan Moore and Bill Sienkiewicz got together and created the comic, Big Numbers. It was a very ambitious idea, exploring the ideas of chaos theory and mathematical formulas. It was pretty heady stuff. Anyhow, the first two issues were completed and published by Alan Moore’s own publishing company, Mad Love.

It was taking a bit too long to complete, though, and it wasn’t working financially for Moore, so they moved the project over to Kevin Eastman’s Tundra.

Here, Sienkiewicz pretty much finishes issue #3 (maybe he’s 85-90% done, but whatever, let’s just call it completed), but wants off the project. So Tundra negotiates a deal where Sienkiewicz’s assistant, Al Columbia, is to finish the project.

Columbia works on issue #4, and is paid for the issue, but he takes the pages home at one point while in the middle of the issue, and never returns them. The pages are never seen again.

Did Columbia destroy them? I don’t think we’ll ever know for sure, but he definitely destroyed SOME of the pages.

In any event, in 2000, Columbia posted the following on the Comics Journal message board:

This will be the only definitive statement I ever make regarding ‘Big Numbers’.

I recall it being a lot of fun, actually. I got to fuck a lot of girls, spend money and be driven around London in a white Rolls-Royce Limousine (twice!). These are only a few of the luxurious benefits provided by Kevin Eastman, much to his credit and kindness. It is true that Kevin has a big heart–no sarcasm there.

I suppose at the very least I should apologize publicly to him for withholding and finally destroying the artwork he paid me to do. True, he never purchased it ‘to own’ and legally he had no claim to it, but still….ethically speaking, I should have handed it over to him to use at his discretion, according to our contract.

I cannot blame him or Paul Jenkins (they are indistinguishable in my mind at this point in terms of their stance on all this) for bad-mouthing me all these years. I have even been entertained by some their more imaginative accounts of what happened.

The simple truth is a truth much worse than rumor. At the risk of ruining the mystique surrounding the whole affair I will recount how I remember things to have occurred…as briefly and as clearly as possible. I was paid $9,200.00 to complete issue number four of Big Numbers. A lot of times Paul Jenkins was good enough to pay me as I went along, without even seeing the pages. I actually came to like Paul after a while. I felt bad for all the responsibility and pressure that was taking it’s toll on him. I remember he was often sweating and that his eyes were always popping out of their sockets like they would in a funny cartoon. He had a lot on his shoulders. He was a hard worker. Indeed, Paul’s tireless efforts on his own behalf should certainly be applauded.

However, my opinion that Paul may be a snake in the grass is beside the point and inconsequential to what happened. He actually treated me like a little brother. A very lovable English chap was he.

Okay, don’t tell anybody, but the truth be told, I didn’t even finish the issue–but was paid for it anyway. The reason I tore up the pages was so that I wouldn’t have to admit that I had only completed about half the issue when I quit despite having cashed all those checks. I loved Kevin’s money, I really did.

You see, I never had any intention of staying with the project but merely attatched myself to it in order to gain (through Eastman’s money) a certain prominence, at which time I would quit in the manner that we have all heard about. This way, with no visible proof of the artwork, it would always shine as a masterpiece in people’s minds and imagination. I would be reviled by some and made a sort of hero by others who can understand or sympathize with ‘artistic integrity’ and all that punk rock bullshit.

Yes, I am a boy with horns. There is not a single thing I say or do that is not designed with a specific outcome in mind. Any and all rumors about myself were generated and manufactured by me and me alone. Please allow me to introduce myself…

Okay, so obviously a great deal of that is spin by Columbia, but the basic gist of it is true. He got paid for the pages, but he never delivered the pages, and if he says he destroyed the pages, I guess I believe it…but whether he did or not, they’re AS good as destroyed.

So there you go – the Big Numbers ordeal in a nutshell.

Okay, that’s it for this week!

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