This is the one-hundred and forty-ninth 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-eight. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Gil Kane had a book refused to be printed because his work was considered pornography.
STATUS: Ostensibly True
There have been many things written about the work of Gil Kane, but you would not think that “pornographic” would be one of them, and yet that was the reality that happened when Kane attempted to first release his original graphic novel, His Name Is…Savage.
It’s a totally different time now, but back then, the idea of an artist doing an original graphic novel was practically unheard of, as it had only been done once or twice by St. Martins Press, so Gil Kane was quite a trailblazer when he attempted to launch a series of original graphic novels by himself (along with Archie Goodwin’s writing).
So it was certainly an edgy move by Kane, but a pornographic one?!?!
Our own Greg Hatcher wrote about the graphic novel last year, and as Greg notes, the story certainly is a bit on the “pulpish” side of the coin, and I could certainly imagine it being a bit out there for when it was published (1968), but on the other side of the coin, the movie it was heavily inspired by, Point Blank, had come out a couple of years before, and that was not considered pornographic.
Still, the relatively graphic violence of Savage was a rarity for the time, so it is a bit more reasonable why the printers would take issue with it, but the idea that Kane could not even get the book PRINTED at first (although eventually it DID get printed), because it was considered pornographic?
That sounds absolutely bizarre, doesn’t it? And yet that was the case.
While the printers never specified WHY the book was considered pornographic, they told Kane that it was, so presumably they were referring to the violence in the comic which, as aforementioned, was more graphic than standard comic book violence at the time.
However, I say “ostensibly,” because who knows what was going on behind the scenes. I would imagine that DC and Marvel would not be pleased with the idea of their creators going off to produce independent works of their own, so perhaps DC had some sway in keeping Savage out of the printers for so long.
I do not know, but if you manage to get a chance at reading Savage (perhaps via this handy reprint by Fantagraphics in the 80s),
make sure you are not caught reading it on the subway – don’t want folks thinking you are some sort of pervert!
Thanks to Greg Hatcher for his fine column last year on Gil Kane’s graphic novels, and thanks to the five or so Gil Kane interviews over the years where he has discussed the problems with printing Savage for the information!
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Barry Windsor-Smith snuck an amusing note into an early issue of Conan.
Reader Jeff T. sent me the following:
Is it true that Barry Windsor-Smith had some wise ass comment in the background of an issue of Conan the Barbarian?
That’s basically the truth of it, Jeff, as there is a famous/infamous panel in Conan the Barbarian #8 where Windsor-Smith has some fun with backgrounds.
Luckily for us, Mike Sterling, of the great blog, Progressive Ruin, was good enough to scan the panel in question for a feature he did a few years back on “easter eggs” in comics.
Check it out!
If you can’t see, Windsor-Smith wrote in the coins – I must be mad to sit here drawing all these coins.”
A classic piece of comic tomfoolery!
So there ya go, Jeff! It is true!
Thanks to Jeff for the suggestion, and thanks a lot to Mike Sterling for the scan!
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Marvel forced Malibu to change the name of one of their characters from Masked Marvel.
Interestingly enough, the first comic character to bear the name “Marvel” was not a comic from Marvel, at all, but rather Centaur Publishing’s Masked Marvel, which ran for three issues in 1940 (as well as appearing in other Centaur Publishing comics of the time, after making his debut in 1939).
The Centaur characters all lay dormant after Centaur went out of business, so they all lapsed into the public domain.
In 1992, Malibu decided to use a number of public domain characters for their series, The Protectors.
The Masked Marvel was one of the characters they chose, but when he showed up in the Protectors, he was called Night Mask. A lot of readers thought that perhaps Marvel had threatened Malibu, but in reality, it was a simple matter of avoiding a problem before it ever came about, and renaming him on their own accord.
Of course, one of the more interesting twists about renaming a character Night Mask to avoid irking Marvel, is that Marvel had just recently had a title called none other than, you guessed it, Nightmask!!
I doubt Marvel was worried too much about it, though.
Also, as a final piece of interesting news on the matter, in 2006, Marvel debuted a new character, finally taking into use the name that Malibu intentionally gave up for them, and introduced the NEW Masked Marvel (created by Karl Kesel, I believe).
Can’t keep a good name down, I guess.
Or even a sorta good name….
Oh, by the by, Night Mask was killed in an issue of The Protectors, and it was an issue featuring one of the more notable gimmicks of the day – a bullet hole through the whole comic book (and through Night Mask’s chest)!!
Fun times, the 90s were…
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Thanks to the Grand Comic Book Database for this week’s covers!
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!