This is the one-hundred and forty-sixth 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 forty-five. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Ray Bradbury had a rather interesting response to finding out his stories were being adapted into comic form without his permission.
We tend to have pretty lofty ideas of famous personalities – there is an almost unspoken expectation that writers and actors are constantly “on,” and that they are as clever in their personal lives as they are in their professional ones.
That is not often the case, but in the case of the legendary Ray Bradbury, his letter exchange with William Gaines certainly lives up to our expectations of the man.
The situation began in 1951, when William Gaines and Al Feldstein, in a rush to come up with an original story for one of their numerous magazines, decided to simply swipe a Ray Bradbury story.
The story, “A Strange Undertaking…,” a swipe of Bradbury’s “The Handler,” appeared in Haunt of Fear #6.
Feldstein did a couple more swipes after that, but it was one he did in 1952’s Weird Fantasy #13 that caught Ray Bradbury’s eye (and, presumably, a bit of his ire).
The story, titled “Home To Stay!,” was cobbled together between two Bradbury stories, “Kaleidoscope” and “The Rocket Man.”
Now, some writers would react to their work being swiped by getting angry. Bradbury, however, decided to play it a different way, by sending the following brilliant letter to Gaines in 1952:
Just a note to remind you of an oversight. You have not as yet sent on the check for $50.00 to cover the use of secondary rights on my two stories THE ROCKET MAN and KALEIDOSCOPE…I feel this was probably overlooked in the general confusion of office work, and look forward to your payment in the near future.
Gaines was no fool – he quickly sent the money, along with a cordial response, and pretty soon, Bradbury was authorizing EC Comics to do OFFICIAL adaptations of his stories, and that became a draw for their science fiction titles, so long as they lasted.
Isn’t it awesome to see something that could have been ugly resolved so nicely?
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Avengers Forever was originally intended to be a different crossover called Avengers: World in Chains.
This story really comes from a question from a reader named Cory, who read in the introduction to the collection of Avengers Forever something about a story called Avengers: World in Chains, and basically wanted to know what it was, exactly.
The progression is quite interesting.
Kurt Busiek and Carlos Pacheco wanted to work on a project together. Ultimately, they came up with an idea that became Avengers: World in Chains. It was announced in the various news places as a new 12-issue series the pair were going to do for Marvel, so when a DIFFERENT 12-issue seres by the duo came out titled Avengers Forever, most folks just presumed it was the original story with a different title.
That was not the case. Avengers: World in Chains is, in fact, a still untold story.
It started off with a simple idea – what if Captain America had never been unfrozen? Using that as the basic starting point, the story would involve this alternate reality, and I don’t know what else beyond that (and I doubt either Busiek or Pacheco would like to explain further, because, well, why talk about it if they could possibly do the story themselves in the future?).
So the story was planned for 1999, however, there was a snag in their plans. Another Marvel series started around that time that used a fairly similar premise. I do not know if they ever specified WHAT series, but the best guess (and I believe Busiek confirmed this somewhere – I just can’t find the citation) is that the series in question was Mutant X, a 1998 series which told the story of Alex Summers (aka Havok) being stuck in an alternate timeline, with various alternate X-Men (like a vampire Storm, etc.).
World in Chains was considered to be a bit too similar to Mutant X (or whatever other series, if it was not, in fact, Mutant X) to be released at the same time. So with their original storyline off-limits, Busiek and Pacheco came up with a similar, but different, project called Avengers Forever, which told the story of a group of time-displaced Avengers (picked from various points in Avengers history) forced to get involved in a war between Kang and Immortus.
In the final issue, which featured practically every Avenger there was, including all sorts of alternate Avengers, Busiek and Pacheco had some fun.
In the issue, they snuck in some characters they had designed for use in Avengers: World in Chains. I thought that was a cute idea.
After the series was done, presumably the pair considered doing World In Chains as a possible follow-up to Avengers Forever, but you know what happens to the best laid plans of mice and men…
So now, almost a decade later, Busiek and Pacheco have just recently finished a run together on Superman. Busiek is going to be extremely busy the next year on his weekly series for DC, so it is doubtful we will see World in Chains in the foreseeable future, but who knows?
Thanks to Cory for the suggestion, and thanks to Kurt Busiek and Carlos Pacheco for their various official statements on the story.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: DC planned on killing Batman off during Knightsend, and having Nightwing become Batman.
As you all probably know, in 1992, DC began a storyline called Knightfall.
The story resulted in the crippling and replacing of Bruce Wayne as Batman by Jean-Paul Valley, who was introduced in 1992 as Azrael.
Valley’s tenure as Batman was told in the storyline called Knightquest (Bruce was given his own, parallel Knightquest storyline – Valley’s was Knightquest: The Crusade, while Bruce’s was Knightquest: The Search, as Bruce was searching for his kidnapped girlfriend, Ms. MacGuffin).
Eventually, Bruce was healed by Ms. MacGuffin, and he returned to kick ass and chew gum, and he was all out of gum.
This was told in the Knightsend storyline.
At one point in the story, it appears as though Valley has killed Bruce via an exploding Batmobile.
Nightwing is there, and as you might expect, he goes nuts, and tries to beat the heck out of Valley.
Bruce shows up, though, as he was not dumb enough to fall for the ol’ “exploding Batmobile” gag, and he ultimately defeats Valley and reclaims the title of Batman (only to promptly give it to Dick to use for a little bit while Bruce goes on a vacation and gets to chew the aforementioned gum).
The fact that Dick was given the title so quickly after Knightsend apparently led to some folks thinking that perhaps the ORIGINAL ending of Knightsend was that Bruce WAS killed in the bombing (or, at least, presumed dead, to return some time later on), and that Dick was going to become Batman officially (remember, this was before Nightwing had his own series, so he’d be available). The theory then went that DC changed their mind at the last moment and had the writers change the story to the way it saw print.
It sounded pretty unlikely to me, but reader William Moore, who suggested it, told me he hears it fairly often (Will later e-mailed me to tell me he first heard it on the DC message boards). So I posed the question to Alan Grant, who wrote 1/4 of Knightsend, and he let me know that, no, there was never any plans to have Dick become Batman permanently, that it was always going to be Azrael becoming Batman for awhile until Bruce came back to take the name again.
Thanks to Will for the suggestion and thanks ever so much for Alan Grant for being gracious enough to fill me in on the answer!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Thanks to the Grand Comic Book Database for all this week’s covers!
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See you next week!