This is the twentieth 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 nineteen.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: The characters in Watchmen were originally meant to be based on a defunct line of superheroes.
When Alan Moore first came up with the idea that became the comic series, Watchmen, he thought that what would work perfectly would be a line of superhero comics that was not being used at the time. The comic company that Moore initially considered?
The MLJ/Archie Superhero line!
Says Moore, in Comic Book Artist #9:
That was the initial idea of Watchmen-and this is nothing like what Watchmen turned out to be-was it was very simple: Wouldn’t it be nice if I had an entire line, a universe, a continuity, a world full of super-heroes-preferably from some line that has been discontinued and no longer publishing-whom I could then just treat in a different way. You have to remember this was very soon after I’d done some similar stuff, if you like, with Marvelman, where I’d used a pre-existing character, and applied a grimmer, perhaps more realistic kind of world view to that character and the milieu he existed in. So I’d just started thinking about using the MLJ characters-the Archie super-heroes-just because they weren’t being published at that time, and for all I knew, they might’ve been up for grabs. The initial concept would’ve had the 1960s-’70s rather lame version of the Shield being found dead in the harbor, and then you’d probably have various other characters, including Jack Kirby’s Private Strong, being drafted back in, and a murder mystery unfolding. I suppose I was just thinking, “That’d be a good way to start a comic book: have a famous super-hero found dead.” As the mystery unraveled, we would be lead deeper and deeper into the real heart of this super-hero’s world, and show a reality that was very different to the general public image of the super-hero. So, that was the idea.
As luck would have it, DC happened to purchase a DIFFERENT defunct line of superheroes, the Charlton heroes, and Moore took this idea that he had based on the MLJ/Archie heroes, and applied it to the Charlton heroes. This was what led to the original proposal for Watchmen, which later, due to the fact that Moore pretty much made the characters unusable after the series was over, changed to being ORIGINAL characters based on the Charlton heroes.
However, even after the changes, a remnant of the MLJ/Archie influence remained in Watchmen, as Hooded Justice is very likely based upon the Archie superhero, Hangman.
Imagine…Who Watches….The Crusaders? Coulda happened!
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: When Len Wein created the “All New, All Different” X-Men, he created Thunderbird with the intention of killing him off two issues later, which is what he did.
Thunderbird was a marked man from the moment he was created.
However, originally he was NOT to be killed at the hands of Count Nefaria. He wasn’t even supposed to be on the team then! In fact, Thunderbird was not meant to make it past the All-New All-Different X-Men’s FIRST mission!!!
Here is Peter Sanderson discussing the topic with Dave Cockrum, from The X-Men Companion – Part I:
SANDERSON: “Now was it originally intended that Thunderbird would really be a member of the team? When was it decided to kill him off?”
COCKRUM: “Kind of at the last minute. The way this all came about was that when we were first planning out that first issue, we decided what we were going to do was have it be an aptitude test or an entrance exam or something like that. They would be sent off to rescue the original X-Men, but the original X-Men would not actually be in any danger. We figured if it’s an entrance exam, theoretically, there are people who are going to flunk as well as people who pass, and so we had Banshee and Sunfire, and we were going to flunk ’em. Then we thought, well, that doesn’t seem fair, we ought to have a new guy to flunk too, a new guy who’s unsuitable. So that was what Thunderbird was for, to be a flunker. He was unsuitable because he was anti-social. Hah! As if Wolverine’s not anti-social. But at the last minute- well, I liked Banshee and we all liked Thunderbird, so we figured to hell with it. It turned out not to be a test anyway. So we had Sunfire, who nobody much liked, go off in a huff, and we kept Banshee and we kept Thunderbird. But then we didn’t know what to do with Thunderbird because we never thought him out. It was easier to kill him off than to think him out.”
SANDERSON: “Was it thought that he duplicated Wolverine too much?”
COCKRUM: “He duplicated both Wolverine…”
SANDERSON: “And Colossus, with his super-strength.”
COCKRUM: “Almost everybody in the group did something he did, and he seemed kind of superflous. He was fast, he was strong. I mean, he was fast enough and strong enough to run down a buffalo and pull it down, and faster than Colossus, but not as strong. The whole thing seemed pointless so we did him in.”
SANDERSON: “Do you think that it was a good idea to do him in so early? I know that when the story was written, you thought that it was only going to be a quarterly book, but nevertheless, it was only the second story. Len [Wein] says it was done for shock value.”
COCKRUM: “I guess it was more than anything else. We couldn’t figure out what to do with him, so we figured, all right, let’s kill him off. You don’t often find a character that’s introduced and so abruptly killed off. I imagine it did shock a lot of people. We never intended to bring him back, although we’ve toyed with the idea of having a younger brother show up wearing the same costume.”
Poor Thunderbird. Created to be kicked off of the team, then given a reprieve, and the reprieve leading to his death!!!
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: A character once escaped from X-Men custody in 1977 and did not have the plot resolved into another comic book…thirteen years later!!
From that very same storyline that Thunderbird died in was the female mutate, Dragonfly. Along with the Ani-Men, she was put into lock-up (we learn later that it was on Muir Isle).
Well, in X-Men #104, during a battle on Muir Isle, two locked-up people escape. One, Mutant X, is addressed twenty issues later, in the Proteus fight. The secon, Dragonfly, is never mentioned again!
I do not know if Chris Claremont had a plot for her, but dropped it, but in any event, she was long known as one of the more prominent “dangling plotlines” in Marvel Comics, so noted stickler for details, Mark Gruenwald, resolved her story – THIRTEEN years later! – in the pages of Quasar.
In Quasar #15, we learn that right after she escaped, she was taken captive by the Stranger, which is where she’s been ever since!
All wrapped up in a nice little bow!
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!