This is the one-hundred and thirty-third 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 thirty-two. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: The rolling boulder scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark was an homage to a Carl Barks’ Uncle Scrooge comic.
The fact that George Lucas and Stephen Spielberg’s Indiana Jones was at least partially inspired by Carl Barks’ classic Uncle Scrooge comics is fairly evident, as Indiana Jones’ globe-trotting searches for lost artifacts are extremely similar to Uncle Scrooge’s similar trips (along with his nephew Donald and his other nephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie). This fact was made quite clear when George Lucas wrote the introduction to the 1980’s collection of Carl Barks’ comics, Walt Disney’s Uncle Scrooge McDuck: His Life and Times, and spoke directly about the influence (as an aside – it is quite silly that that collection is out of print. Amazon is currently selling the PAPERBACK edition of the collection for a LOW price of $114!! If you want to see this baby back in print, please contact Celestial Arts here).
A oft-repeated story that is quite a deal less evident is that Lucas and Spielberg’s famous rolling boulder scene in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark was an homage to a Carl Barks’ comic story.
Reader Jamie Coville (of Coville’s Clubhouse fame) asked me about the legend recently. Coville asked:
Here is an urban legend I’ve yet to see any confirmation of.
In Raiders of the Lost Ark there is the famous rolling ball scene. Apparently either Spielberg or Lucas was inspired by a Barks’ Uncle Scrooge story showing the same thing.
The Barks scene in question is from “The Seven Cities of Cibola,” from Uncle Scrooge #7, where the Beagle Boys, just like Indiana Jones, removed an idol that is on a pedestal, tripping a lever that sets off a trap that releases a giant boulder down upon them.
This homage is quite often passed off as an undisputed fact. Heck, noted Barks historian, Geoffrey Blum says of the homage – ” Every reviewer worth his salt knows of this borrowing,” and the homage is cited in Indiana Jones’ Internet Movie Database’s trivia page.
That said, as you can see, while the scene certainly bears a resemblance to the famous rolling boulder scene in the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark, it is not really a straight reproduction by any measure, so it is surprising that histories of Barks keep referring to it as though it is explicit, never with an actual source from Lucas or Spielberg. It is just “a given.” And, as Coville quite rightly points out, it really does not seem to be confirmed anywhere, just a lot of presumptions.
Luckily, I was able to contact Edward Summer, noted writer, filmmaker and journalist, who put together the aforementioned Barks collection, Walt Disney’s Uncle Scrooge McDuck: His Life and Times, the one with with the Lucas introduction.
Summer told me that he had been friends with Lucas for some time before Indiana Jones came out, and Lucas was definitely a fan of Barks’ work, but as to the specific scene, Summer recounted to me an incident that occurred while he was putting the book together (the comics were all specially prepared for the collection, including being recolored). Summer spoke with Lucas, and at the time, the specific comic that was being prepared for the book was “The Seven Cities of Cibola,” and Lucas told Summer plainly that yes, the boulder scene in Raider of the Lost Ark was a conscious homage of “The Seven Cities of Cibola.”
I would certainly say that Summer is a reliable source of information, being the editor of the collection and a contemporary of Lucas, so it is quite gratifying to be able to give you fine readers an actual confirmation that yes, the rolling boulder scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark was an homage of a Carl Barks’ Uncle Scrooge comic book.
Thanks to Jamie Coville for the question, and thanks so much to Edward Summer for taking the time to supply me with the confirmation of the legend.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Brian Michael Bendis was going to write a comic starring Jessica Drew.
Reader Tommy Marx wished for me to revisit an old column, and looking back at the piece myself, I probably should give a little more information on the topic.
That was listed false then, and I would still list it as false.
Please note, the key interview with Bendis on that point came months BEFORE Alias was released, where he notes BEFORE Alias ever came out:
You may have heard that ‘Alias was originally going to star Jessica Drew, Marvel Comics’ original Spider-Woman. You would have heard wrong, though.
[Bendis:] ‘Nope. This is an urban myth that I believe I will never live down. I was at one time toying with doing Jessica Drew because she has the best hair of any superhero in comics, but this book is entirely different than what that idea was to be.
This character is totally different in every way but sexual gender. And there’s that Jessica name that’s not going to help me convince anyone.
Any writer can tell you that the development process can be a sparkling and surprising one. You start in one place and end up in an entirely different one. I was also toying with a pornographic version of Dial H for Hero, doesn’t mean that this is that book either.’
The problem is, this is a very narrow row to hoe – as yes, Bendis WAS going to do a book starring Jessica Drew.
It started much earlier, when he was planning a Spider-Woman series for Marvel West Coast with artist Rick Mays (here is some of Mays’ art for that series).
That series was going to star Jessica Drew as a superhero SHIELD agent. A lot of the ideas from that series were incorporated into Bendis’ quick stint on Elektra.
However, years later, he again revisited the whole “Jessica Drew as SHIELD agent” idea, but as the idea changed into what more resembles the book that became Alias, Bendis decided that a brand-new character was better for the role, so created Jessica Jones.
Years later, when Bendis finally DID do a Spider-Woman series, he made the quote:
Originally, “Alias” was going to star Jessica Drew, but it became something else entirely. Which is good, because had we used Jessica it would have been off continuity and bad storytelling.
Which is certainly frustrating, as basically, Bendis, by attempting to be succinct, instead helped foster the very urban legend he bemoaned YEARS earlier (in the first quote).
And it is that urban legend that Tommy was asking about – “Was Alias set to star Jessica Drew before Marvel made him change it and use an analogue character instead, like DC did with Alan Moore and Watchmen?” (Tommy actually cites Moore as an example of what he thought happened here).
And to that, the answer is still false.
But was Bendis planning on writing a Jessica Drew comic book?
Yes – back in the mid-90s, and again, when he turned an initial idea for a Jessica Drew comic book into a DIFFERENT idea, which became Alias, which was never starring Jessica Drew.
Bendis goes into the subject with much more depth for the Alias Omnibus, where he basically confirms the original Urban Legend.
So there ya go, Tommy! Probably more confusing than it is worth, but hey, it gave me an opportunity to answer an old suggestion I got from reader Craig way back in July of 2006, who wanted to know what the deal was with the 90s’s Spider-Woman!
Reader Willie sent me in the following…
I have a question for Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed that may seem a little stupid but i’ve been curious about it for a while now. I used to be a big fan of The Exiles comic that Marvel puts out. I am also a fan of Godzilla movies, which is why I was very excited whenever I saw an Exiles story coming out called “Destroy All Monsters” In this story the Exiles fought Giant Monsters in a giant robot. The solicitations for one of the issues originally read that it would be the return of a marvel license, then at the end of one issue there is a red Power Ranger clearly drawn. I thought that because that had been a classic marvel license maybe they actually intended to use Power Rangers in the next issue for some strange reason. Then the next issue rolls around and the character is nowhere left to be scene with no explanation, fans are left to assume it was Morph who had been on the last page. So my question is was this a purposeful red herring or did they actually believe they could, and intend to, use the Power Rangers license at some point?
I asked Tony Bedard about it, and he had the following to say:
There was no attempt or intention to use the Power Rangers. I don’t even much like the Power Rangers. But I do LOOOVE Godzilla, the Thunderbirds and especially Ultraman. That story was a little love note to those old faves from my youth. I was a grownup before the Power Rangers happened along. And, yeah, that “ranger” was just Morph doing a sight-gag.
So sorry, Willie!!
Thanks to Willie for the question and to Tony Bedard for the information!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
See you next week!