This is the one-hundred and fifty-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 fifty-two. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.
Special Theme Week! Today’s theme is “What’s in a Name?”
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Rob Liefeld bought the rights to Fighting American under legal pressure from Marvel.
The story of Rob Liefeld’s transition from Captain America at Marvel to Fighting American at his own Awesome Comics is pretty interesting in the way that the story overlooks a fairly significant part of the story, in my opinion.
Here is Wikipedia on the situation:
At Awesome, Liefeld and Loeb attempted to resurrect their unused Captain America plots for a new character, Agent America. This character was nearly identical in appearance and background to Captain America. Under legal pressure from Marvel, Liefeld scrapped Agent America and acquired the rights to Jack Kirby and Joe Simon’s Fighting American, updating the design.
Okay, so the part where Liefeld does Captain America for Marvel is correct.
He then left the book, along with a number of stories that he and writer Jeph Loeb had finished, but Marvel was not going to use.
So Liefeld decided to turn the unused pages into a new comic book, with some changes.
Now here is where the story takes a bit of a twist – the first place Liefeld went was to GET the rights to Fighting American. He knew that he’d be better off using an established character with these unused pages, so that’s what he went to do.
He could not strike up a deal at the price he wanted, and that’s when he created Agent America, which was more a matter of compelling the Fighting American rights holders to give him the rights to Fighting American, which they did. He did a pin-up or two using the character. It was the Fighting American people who first considered taking legal action, but in the ensuing negotiations for Fighting American, Marvel then sued Liefeld.
Before the trial started, Liefeld finalized the deal to license Fighting American, which bolstered his claims, and at the end of the trial, both parties had what they felt to be a “victory.”
Liefeld was able to reuse his Captain America pages as Fighting American, but Marvel got the judge to rule that Fighting American could not throw his shield, and that there must be some cosmetic changes (like more brown in the costume).
International Hero has a great display of the three characters (click to enlarge)- Captain America, Agent America and Fighthing American.
They also have a display of the three sidekicks (click to enlarge)…
Thanks to Luke Y. Thompson of The OC Weekly for the information!
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Bug of the Micronauts got a name change so Marvel could own him.
Last year, Christopher Mah asked me:
If the Micronauts were licensed characters from Mego, why can Marvel use “Bug” (=Galactic Warrior) in their new “Annihilation” stories??
I am going to take a bit of a leap from standard practices and just answer this one without any actual confirmation from anyone as I’m just about positive that I am right, so who needs confirmation? 🙂
Anyhow, here (courtesy of the awesome Micronauts website, Inner Space) is a picture of the Micronaut toy, Galactic Warrior…
Okay, now here’s Bug…
They barely look alike, right?
Okay, so when the Micronauts comic came out…
Bug IS referred to as Galactic Warrior for the first three issues, then he’s Bug for the rest of the run.
So here’s what I’m pretty sure happened – Marvel felt that they had created a pretty interesting character on their own, and he really did not have that much of a connection to the Galactic Warrior, figure, so instead, Marvel just said he was NOT the Galactic Warrior, but rather, a brand new character named Bug.
So when their license expired, Marvel still owned Bug.
And that’s that! 🙂
A reader named John asked me about this character awhile back, to see if this was seriously just Zatanna as a black woman named Conjura, or if it was some other obscure character, but yes, it’s true, DC really did turn Zatanna into a black character for the sake of a project!
Warner Educational Services did a Super Dictionary (plus some spin-off educational books for schools, where they would have simplified stories of DC heroes, with questions at the endl) in the 1970s, with artwork by the great Joe Kubert.
In the Dictionary, as with the educational books, on top of creating some multi-cultural characters, Kubert also changed some characters up so that they would be more multi-cultural – one of them was the Superman supporting character Lola Barnett, and one of them was Conjura!
Here, from Mike Kooiman’s amazing collection The Obscure DC Characters website, is a description of the story by Xanadude:
The middle story is the most important to us, since it stars the covered featured Conjura in “The Magic Piper”. The story is a reprint of the Zatanna story from SUPERGIRL #2, with all of the Zatanna and Jeff Sloane figures redrawn to be Conjura and her friend Biff (both are African- American). Again, it’s kind of disconcering to have these Kubert drawn figures set into a Don Heck drawn story. Conjura has the exact same powers as Zatanna, with the addition of her having a magic carpet (in The Super Dictionary, she also has a time tunnel). Basically, a tenement building is infested with rats that will not go away, even with Conjura’s magic. So Conjura goes back through time to get the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Her magic isn’t able to bring him forward in time, but in the last panel, a man looking exactly like him appears, saying “My name is Pete Piper. But I come from a long line of rat catchers!”
Here is the back cover, and I am pretty darn sure that that is Conjura in the purple, but if someone has a scan from inside the comic that is better, PLEASE send me it! I’ll love you forever for it.
David Farrell and Kari won my love by sending me some scans of Conjura. David sent me a piece from the actual dictionary, while Kari sent me scans of copies her sister had of the aforementioned educational storybooks (if anyone is interested – she’s selling them!).
As a last tidbit, this Dictionary was where the classic “When no one was looking, Luthor took forty cakes. He took 40 cakes. That’s as many as four tens. And that’s terrible” bit came from!
Thanks to John for the question and Matt Kooiman for the information!!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Thanks to the Grand Comic Book Database for this week’s covers!
While you’re here, check out the Top 100 Comic Book Runs countdown (you can follow it here)!
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!