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Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #17!

by  in Comic News Comment
Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #17!

This is the seventeenth 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 sixteen.

Let’s begin!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Steve Ditko used original artwork as CUTTING BOARDS!

STATUS: True

The beginnings of this situation happened back when Marvel was caught up in the whole “not returning art to the original artists,” using the argument that Marvel not only paid for the production of the art for the comics, but for the art itself. In any event, after some time, Marvel eventually relented, under the following condition – it would give the artists back the art, but it would be as a GIFT due to Marvel’s generosity. They still believe that THEY (Marvel) own the work fair and square, but would allow the artists to have the work itself.

Well, Steve Ditko did not like that arrangement.

As a result of this (and other factors I am sure, like not wanting to look to his past and hell, probably some other stuff, damned if I know), Ditko basically just let the art pile up, and actually used some of his old work as cutting boards!!

The story appeared in an issue of Wizard a few years back (thanks to Linda Burns at Ditkoland, for transcribing this last year):

There’s simply no way to separate the fact from the fiction, no way to determine which Ditko is the real Ditko. One story about him contradicts the next, which-in turn-contradicts the next.

Take for example, one of [Comic publisher and restorer, Greg] Theakston’s last visits to Ditko’s studio. While embroiled in a conversation, the historian noticed a piece of illustration board leaning up against a wall, slashed to pieces.

“He’d been using it as a cutting board,” Theakston said. “I looked a little bit closer and I detected a comics code stamp on it.”

He asked Ditko to turn the board around, a request met with a deadening gaze from the artist.

“I didn’t think he was going to do it,” the historian recounted. “It looked like a ‘Screw you’ look.”

Slowly, however, Ditko reached out and flipped over the board. It was a page of original art from a late 1950s issue of Journey Into Mystery [NOTE: This piece was not from Journey Into Mystery, but from Charlton Comics’ This Magazine is Haunted), a splash featuring a hard helmet diver. Theakston couldn’t believe it. Not only was Ditko not displaying, preserving or prizing this piece of original art, he was using it as a cutting board.

Theakston quickly offered Ditko a deal: “Steve, I will go down to the nearest art supply store and buy you a cutting board that will mend itself-a plastic cutting board that’s so smart that when you cut on it, it mends itself-and you’ll have the finest cutting board on the block.” “Nope,” Ditko replied, twisting the artwork-turned-cutting-board back around.

Theakston pleaded. “Steve, geez. That’s worth a fair amount of money. At the very least-damn, Steve-it’s an artifact. It’s an important piece of publishing history in terms of comics.”

The artist turned and pointed to the drapery-obscured window next to Theakston’s chair. “Lift that curtain up,” he said.

The curtain, the historian estimated, was about 18 inches off the floor. He pulled the drape aside and saw a stack of original artwork from Marvel standing roughly a foot-and-a-half high.

“Can I look at these?” Theakston excitedly asked.

“No.”

The writer was dumbfounded. “I was sitting next to a hundred thousand, two hundred thousand dollars, maybe, worth of Ditko artwork and he was cutting it up without letting people look at it.”

For whatever reason-Theakston feels Ditko may have thought Marvel was wrong for returning the pages-the artist seemed to attach no particular affection to his early work.

“He would rather not have people think of Steve Ditko’s best work as being Spider-Man from 30 or 40 years ago,” the historian said. “He wanted to be represented not by what he had done, but by what he’s doing-he wants now to be his best time.

Amazing, isn’t it?

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Robert Loren Fleming is dead.

STATUS: False

This is a weird little urban legend (which was suggested by reader MarkAndrew), and has been making the rounds for at LEAST the past couple of years (as I remember reading it at the time, and worrying about it, then, until I found out it was false).

In any event, just recently, in the comments section on the super duper blog, Snark Free Waters, Dan Coyle (who will always be Dan Boyle to me…hehe), asked “Wait, Robert Fleming’s not dead? I could have sworn I read an article around the time Ambush Bug returned in the pages of Lobo Unbound referring to him as “the late Robert Loren Fleming.”

Apparently, this comment in Lobe Unbound, coupled with Mr. Fleming not doing any big mainstream comic work, was cause to believe the claims in the comic book.

Mr. Fleming himself showed up later in the comments section of that fantabulous comic blog, Snark Free Waters, to state, “Fleming here, back from the dead… ….p.s.: Those bus crashes really smart!”

So it was all just a joke by Keith Giffen.

Good thing, too, because Robert Loren Fleming is a fine writer. It would be a shame to lose him too soon.

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: The first Marvel/DC crossover was The Wizard of Oz.

STATUS: True

A lot of people generally think that Superman vs. Spider-Man, in 1976, was the first Marvel/DC crossover, but in fact, the first crossover happened a full year earlier!

Marvel was planning on doing a Wizard of Oz adaptation, just using the book. DC, however, was planning an adaptation using the movie (and the image rights to the actors). So they decided to just publish the book TOGETHER.

It was this spirit of cooperation, I presume, which led to the other, more memorable, crossover a year later.


Marvel AND DC Presents…wow, we really AREN’T in Kansas anymore!

Well, that’s it for me this week!

Feel free to tell me some urban legends you have heard, and I will try to confirm or deny them!