This is the one-hundred and seventieth 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-nine. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Peter David’s Aquaman run was delayed due to a religious misunderstanding.
STATUS: Basically True
One of the seemingly mysterious events at DC Comics in the 1990s was the timing of Peter David’s tenure on the Aquaman title.
After a number of failed Aquaman relaunchs (our own Greg Hatcher had a nice look at the various failed relaunches last year here), DC seemed to score at least a critical hit with Peter David’s 7-issue mini-series, The Atlantis Chronciles, in 1990, which was edited by Bob Greenberger.
Peter David returned to the character with the popular mini-series, Aquaman: Time & Tide, in 1993.
That mini-series followed up on some of the plots of the Atlantis Chronicles, and led directly to a new ongoing Aquaman title in 1994, written by David, which would go on to be a success.
That is a fairly normal progression, right?
Except that there was an Aquaman ongoing series launched out of Atlantis Chronicles by a totally different writer, Shaun McLaughlin, even though clearly Peter David was interested in writing the series!
Luckily for David fans, this ongoing series lasted only a year and eventually led to David getting a crack at the title.
But why was David passed over?
As it turned out, the problem came down to an odd disagreement that incoming editor, Kevin Dooley, had with David’s Atlantis Chronicles, specifically certain religious implications of David’s origins for Aquaman.
Under David, in Atlantis Chronicles, Aquaman’s birth involved a good deal of magic, as his father, Atlan, WAS a sorceror. Dooley read the scene as suggesting that Aquaman’s birth itself was a magic one, or in other words, an immaculate conception (or at the very least, a metaphor for an immaculate conception).
Dooley had problems with this, either for strictly personal reasons or perhaps he thought it looked bad for the comic, period. In either event, he did not want to work with David on the new title, so Dooley brought in Shaun McLaughlin, instead.
Eventually, though, David explained to Dooley that the scene was merely intended to be a sorcerer having sex with a woman and impregnating her – nothing was intended to be a religious metaphor. At the same time, Dooley was having problems with McLaughlin (or, from McLaughlin’s perspective, he was having problems with Dooley), so he decided to bring David back. DC then canceled the Aquaman series, and eventually gave David a brand-new Aquaman series, which led to a successful four-year run on the title with David, until he eventually left (for reasons enumerated last week) after arguing with his editor…Kevin Dooley.
It’s the Circle of Life!
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Multiple artists ghost-penciled some of Marvel Superheroes: Secret Wars.
In 1984, Mike Zeck was given the prominent assignment of being the artist on Marvel’s first maxi-series crossover, Secret Wars.
The deadlines for the book (which involved drawing a whole pile of different heroes and villains each issue) were brutal, and Bob Layton ended up coming in to help with the deadlines by drawing issues #4 and #5 for Zeck.
In addition, for the final issue (and perhaps more), inker John Beatty was joined by other inkers to get the job done.
However, over the years, a number of readers have asked me about what they felt to be different pencilers drawing some of the series, un-credited.
Awhile back, reader Mario wrote in to say:
I was at my favorite comic shop in Dallas, Keith’s comics, and I started flipping through a copy of “Secret Wars”. It’s been awhile since I looked at it and the one thing I remember most was that although most of the book was laid out by Mike Zeck, many pages were drawn by a bunch of different artists. There is one panel in particular, I can’t remember the page, with a close up of Wolverine and Nightcrawler. Was this panel drawn by Michael Golden? I would almost bet my entire collection that he did it. I also remember seeing some early Jackson “Butch” Guice in there somewhere.
More recently, reader Fred wrote in:
I was reading the trade for Marvel’s Secret Wars and noticed in issue 12 when Ben Grim is fighting some blue monster that Klaw creates the art looks nothing like Mike Zeck’s previous rendering of the characters, but instead maybe Todd McFarlane.
If you look closely at that page with the blue monster you notice that the rocky surface on Ben Grim is different and more detailed than any other image of him during the whole series. Also on that same page She-Hulk’s face looks like a traditional Todd McFarlane. Later in the same issue there is a splash page featuring the same blue monster and all of the heroes. Again the art looks more like McFarlane than Zeck’s art – mainly in the detail and shading/cross hatching of the characters.
Some guy at my local comic shop said that McFarlane did help out… I don’t believe him but I do see a major difference in the art on these 2 particular pages of Secret Wars 12.
I’m also pretty darn certain I was asked this more than once on the old blog, as well.
Anyhow, I asked Mike Zeck about it, and he was kind enough to give a detailed answer:
Other than the two fill-in issues (#s 4 and 5), the pencils, or more often breakdowns, were mine only. We were always right up against the deadline wall with every issue, which is one reason why it was necessary for me to revert to breakdowns. Also a reason why pages were given to other inkers as needed. I remember Art Nichols being somewhat regular as a last minute inker. Joe Rubinstein too, I believe. They were both local and able to come into the offices to pick up or deliver pages. That double-sized final issue was spread even more widely among inkers. I’m not even sure how many guys or who they were. I do recognize a few Art Adams inked pages in that last issue though. That last issue is the one that could easily confuse readers in terms of various ink styles.
The Art Adams inking in #12 is also what I thought of when Eric mentioned the different styles, as looking at the comic myself, the Adams’ inked parts of the book DO stand out.
Anyhow, there ya go!
Thanks to Mario, Eric and many others for the question and thanks a lot to Mike Zeck for the information!
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: A fairly offensive joke was snuck into the background of a Marvel comic.
STATUS: True, depending on what you term “offensive,” I suppose.
Isn’t it amazing how popular the Punisher was at one point?
He was so popular that a series of pin-ups at the back of some issues of his title detailing his armory were so popular that they got their own semi-regular series! That’s right, a series just detailing the Punisher’s various weapons!
The writer/artist of the Punisher Armory series was Eliot R. Brown, who was best known for his in-depth drawings of various Marvel paraphernalia for the Official Handbooks of the Marvel Universe. You know, like showing how the Quinjet works or Wolverine’s claws – stuff like that.
In any event, in a move that evokes past legends involving Don Perlin sneaking shit into an issue of Defenders, Joe Staton sneaking a pedophile joke into an issue of Brave and the Bold and, most famously, Al Milgrom sneaking an insult of Bob Harras into an issue of Universe X, reader RL noted that, in the Punisher Armory #1, Brown slipped in a joke relating to an Arabic man..
Click on the following image to enlarge.
Once you do so, if you look at the Most Wanted poster in the background, the man on the absolute bottom right (so close to the edge of the page that he’s partially cut off) is referred to as “Towelhea” with the rest cut off, and his crimes involve something along the lines of “humping camels.”
Now this certainly does not mean anything about Elliot Brown or any views he holds – heck, he might be making a comment about racism in the government or something like that. Who knows?
All I know is that RL is right, whatever the purpose of the joke, it does exist.
So thanks to RL for the heads up!
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!