This is the one-hundred and sixty-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 sixty-five. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Jim Starlin accidentally killed off the wrong character in the first Shang-Chi story.
Shang-Chi was originally created by Jim Starlin and Steve Englehart completely apart from Fu Manchu. Marvel had licensed the famous Sax Rohmer novels featuring the Asian villain, so Roy Thomas suggested (Starlin seems to recall it as “told” rather than “suggested”) that Fu Manchu would be the father of this brand-new character, Shang-Chi.
Now having to work in a whole series of novels to the back story of his comic, Starlin read over the early 20th Century novels, which featured the evil criminal mastermind Fu Manchu, who is constantly chased after by two British heroes, Commissioner Sir Denis Nayland Smith and Dr. John Petrie. Petrie is basically the Watson character to Smith’s Holmes (Petrie narrates the early stories).
In the debut issue of Shang-Chi (with one of the longest titles you’ll ever see Special Marvel Edition Featuring the Hands of Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu), Shang-Chi is sent by his father to kill Dr. Petrie.
And in the comic, Dr. Petrie dies.
The problem is, Starlin did not INTEND for Petrie to die in the comic!
Starlin co-plotted the book and Englehart scripted it, and since Starlin was not particularly familiar with these characters, he mixed them up, and killed off Petrie when he meant to kill off another character (perhaps Nayland Smith, who was 90 years old when the story began). Englehart did not recall/know that Petrie was not who Starlin wanted to kill, so Petrie was offed, and it was this death that led to Nayland Smith explaining to Shang-Chi what a bad guy his dad is, leading to Shang-Chi going to work for Nayland Smith, and the rest, they say, is history.
HOWEVER, there is a twist – not only did Starlin kill off the wrong character, he REALLY killed off the wrong character, as apparently there was a Rohmer story (Helpful reader Michael Hoskin informs me that it was The Trail of Fu Manchu) where Fu Manchu promised that he would never kill Petrie (the novels were filled with those “honor thy enemy” things). So Sax Rohmer’s widow was quite irked that Petrie was killed, and she complained to Marvel (Starlin and Englehart were gone by then, so it was Doug Moench’s problem) so faster than you can say James Buchanan Barnes, Dr. Petrie was revealed to have faked his death in Giant-Size Master of Kung Fu #3.
Marvel no longer has the rights to the Rohmer characters, so it really doesn’t matter anymore, but at the time, that’s pretty darn quirky, eh?
Thanks to Jon B. Cooke and Jim Starlin for the information (Cooke interviewed Starlin about it in the great comic book magazine, Comic Book Artist – click here to buy Comic Book Artist issues!).
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Steve Gerber was going to write a new Howard the Duck ongoing series in the 80s, but it was denied due to how he wanted to explain away Howard’s other comic book appearances.
I was reminded of this one recently, when John Seavey featured Rampaging Hulk in his Storytelling Engines.
As you may or may not know (if you read the column, you’d know!), Rampaging Hulk was a book set in the past, after Incredible Hulk #6 (a la X-Men and Wolverine First Class, nowadays). Well, occasionally, writer Doug Moench would do stories that, if not CONTRADICTED, came close to contradicting continuity.
In the stories, the Hulk and Rick Jones accompany an alien from the planet Krylor named Bereet, and at the end of the run, they team-up with other superheroes from the time (pre-Avengers) to ward off a Krylorian invasion.
A few years after Moench’s run on the title ended, writer Bill Mantlo explained away all of the stories of Moench’s run as being fictional films by Bereet.
Meanwhile, Steve Gerber created and wrote the first two-plus years of the Marvel comic book, Howard the Duck. He then left Howard the Duck due to legal issues with Marvel. Bill Mantlo replaced him and did a number of issues with the character.
A few years later, when the Howard the Duck film was due out the following year, Gerber had resolved his issues with Marvel, and he was asked to produce a new Howard the Duck ongoing series.
Gerber’s came up with a plot for the first issue that he felt would resolve what happened with the book since he left, and since the man who replaced him was Mantlo, Gerber came up with a Mantlo style plot, as Gerber’s first issue ALSO involved a Krylorian film-maker, Chirreep (who was a Cyndi Lauper take-off). Chirreep, like Bereet, ALSO made up all the stories starring Howard after Gerber left the book, giving Gerber a blank slate to work with (he also named Howard’s parents, contradicting the names given by other writers after Gerber).
The story was found to be too insulting to Mantlo (and the rest of the story was also filled with shots at Marvel and DC, too, which probably did not help matters, either), so changes to the script were requested of Gerber. He balked, so the project was scrapped (it was never even drawn).
As a result, to tie into the film (besides the official film adaptation), Marvel instead brought back the original series of Howard for two more issues, but since the film was such a bomb, the book faded away once again.
Thanks to the late, great Steve Gerber for sharing the unpublished script on his website a few years back.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza created Shatterstar and Domino because they were denied the use of Longshot and Black Widow, respectively.
While researching the Longshot urban legend from a few weeks back (as seen here), I came across an old rumor about the creation of Shatterstar and Domino, started by a fellow named Ryan, who stated matter-of-factly:
As far as Shatterstar is concerned, the fact is that Liefeld actually wanted to use Longshot, but Arrogant Art wouldn’t let him, and niether would the editors, who didn’t think that Rob’s interpretation fit the character. (Coincidentaly, Liefeld also wanted to use Black Widow rather than Domino) Apparently, Liefeld wanted to give Lonshot the same costume as Shatterstar, sans headgear, and the same disposition! Talk about hack writing. So at the last minute, Rob and Fabian whipped up the hokey concept of a futuristic Longshot, hence Shatterstar.
So I posed the question to Fabian Nicieza, and he had this to say:
No truth to that at all, as far as I know.
Rob never once mentioned either option for the title in all the conversations we had. The Black Widow one is odd in a way, since we wanted mutants on the team, Domino was a mutant and Black Widow isn’t.
I also don’t recall him ever wanting to make Shatterstar and Longshot even related. Our first appearance of the character mentioned he was hundreds of years from Longshot’s future, I recall.
I think that’s enough to call it, don’t you?
Thanks to Ryan for the question and thanks a ton to Fabian for the answer!
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!