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Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #54!

by  in Comic News Comment
Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #54!

This is the fifty-fourth 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 fifty-three.

This week is a theme week! It is MIKE GRELL Urban Legends week!!

Let’s begin!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Warlord was cancelled after its third issue.

STATUS: True

Grell tells the intriguing story of Warlord’s beginning, ending and un-ending (which will make sense as you read) at his great website here:

While working on SUPERBOY AND THE LEGION OF SUPERHEROES and a slew of other titles, word came down that SEABOARD comics was looking for new titles – AND – they were offering to pay $100 per page, nearly double what I was earning at DC. So, I packed up my SAVAGE EMPIRE presentation and marched up to Jeff Roven’s office to give him my pitch. He liked it, and made me an offer that sounded good, but I was reluctant to jeopardize my position with DC (I had a wife and a dog to support). I asked him to hold off on announcing the deal until I had at least two issues completed, in order to ensure some security and demonstrate to DC, whom I considered my primary client, that I could do both without problems. Jeff agreed to wait, and I left to drop off pages at DC.

It was about a twenty minute walk.

By the time I arrived at DC, Carmine Infantino, the publisher, was waiting for me. Jeff Roven had phoned him as soon as I left the office to boast that (according to Carmine) he had “signed your boy Grell to two books a month.” Naturally, Carmine wanted to know why i hadn’t brought the property to him first. Money aside, I told him that, considering DC’s lack of success with the sword & sorcery genre, I didn’t think he’d be interested. “Why not let me be the judge of that?” he said. I followed him to his office to do the SAVAGE EMPIRE pitch.

It was about a twenty foot walk.

But in those twenty feet I realized “He’s never going to buy it.” Luckily, the phone rang as we walked in and Carmine excused himself for a couple of minutes while my brain went into high gear. In the next two minutes, I mentally rewrote the whole thing.

Jason Cord, the archeologist, became Travis Morgan, pilot of an SR-71 spy plane. Atlantis became Skartaris, the world at the earth’s core, a mix of Burroughs, Verne and half a dozen other “Hollow Earthers”. (The name comes from the mountain peak Scartaris that points the way to the passage to the earth’s core in “JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH”). The city of Shamballah came from the Tibetan city of gold, which, according to legend, lies buried somewhere beneath the Himalayas. (At the time, THREE DOG NIGHT had a song lyric: “How does your light shine on the road to Chamballah?”).

Tahnee, the warrior woman became Tara, queen of Shamballah. The only name that remained unchanged was the villain, Diemos. I confess, I thought about changing it to Phobos, but It just sounded so cool. The title was lifted from a Charlton Heston movie, “THE WAR LORD.”

Carmine liked the pitch and said, “Run it past Joe (Orlando). If he likes it, we’ll give it a year’s run. Gauranteed.” It was that guarantee that made the difference. Seaboard proved to be a crapshoot that didn’t pan out for anyone for very long. It vanished, along with some very good titles that should have had a longer run.


Unfortunately for me, Carmine wasn’t exactly true to his word. I picked up the third bi-monthly issue of THE WARLORD and read “THE END” on the last page. That’s how I found out it had been cancelled. No phone call, nothing.


Unfortunately for Carmine, Jeanette Kahn arrived a couple of weeks later and assumed the mantle of publisher of DC COMICS. It seems that Jeanette made it a point to read all the titles in the lineup and THE WARLORD was her favorite. When she looked at the roster and found it missing, she asked what had happened to it and was told that Carmine had cancelled it. I’m told (and I choose to believe it, because it makes a great story) that she said, “Well, I just cancelled Carmine. Put it back on the schedule.”


Later, when the big DC IMPLOSION hit and titles were being cancelled left and right, those that survived the cut were made monthly. THE WARLORD was one of them. In a short time it became the top selling title at DC.

Thanks to Christopher Elam, who reminded me that when Grell says “third issue,” he is counting First Issue Special #8, which was Warlord’s first appearance. So the “third issue” is actually Warlord #2, which was released in early 1976. Warlord #3 came out in late 1976, after Kahn un-cancelled it, which is why it says “Warlord is back!” on the cover. Thanks again, Christopher!

It’s a real interesting story by Grell (and be sure to click the link to see a funny framing story by Grell, as well). I especially like that Grell made sure to say the Kahn quote may be apocryphal, as it sounds like it.

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Black Canary was raped in Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters.

STATUS: False

Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters was a project that Mike Gold convinced Mike Grell to do for DC Comics, in an attempt to revamp the Green Arrow character, with the ultimate goal being the release of a new Green Arrow series.


Part of the revamp involved making the book a lot more gritty and realistic than before. Gone were the trick arrows, and also gone was Black Canary’s sonic scream.

HOW she lost her scream, though, was due to an event in Longbow Hunters, which was Dinah being captured and tortured.

Nowhere in the issue (and I just reread it) is it implied that Dinah was raped. Unless, of course, you wish to presume that if a woman is tortured, it is implied that part of torture will be rape.

But that’s a big leap to make.

In any event, when asked about it, Grell responded as follows (courtesy of the DCU messageboards):

In the Longbow Hunters I remember, Dinah is badly beaten and nearly killed. […] was this a rape? -Dhaise

Grell: Nope. No way. It always amazes me at how people read that into the scene. I tried to address the question in an issue of Green Arrow where Dinah is talking to a therapist. The line says, “People say things like ‘at least you weren’t raped’…as if that’s the worst thing that could happen.”

One guy even said he resented the fact that I had “shown Dinah being raped.” When I pointed out that it never happened, he coutnered that I had shown her “being punched in the face.” Again, although she is bruised and bloodied when we first see her in the scene, the only person who touches her lifts her head up by the hair…an instant before ollie kills him.

It is perfectly reasonable for folks to take issue with the scene. However, it does not appear as though Dinah was raped, and it was not the intention of the writer/artist.

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Mike Grell got his start working as an assistant to Dale Messick on Brenda Starr.

STATUS: True

It may be hard to believe, but Mike Grell, the guy behind such macho comic books as Warlord and Green Arrow, got his start working as an assistant to Dale Messick on her popular comic strip, Brenda Starr, which follows the adventures of a reporter who travels the globe having adventures.


Grell told the story at his ever-informative website

I first met Dale in 1972 through the auspices of Willard Colston, then editor of the Tribune Syndicate. Fresh out of art school, I had been trying, unsuccessfully, to peddle a comic strip of my own and Willard mentioned that Dale Messick needed another assistant. He arranged a meeting and I went to Dale’s Chicago lakeshore digs to show my stuff.Dale had the same impact on me that she had on all men. I was instantly charmed and instantly impressed with her amazing talent and wit. She regaled me with tales off the Golden Era of newspaper comics and showed me some of her collection of early drawings by pals like Irwin Hasen. Eventually, Dale got around to looking at my portfolio and said she liked the way I drew women. I came away with a week’s worth of daily strips to ink and a serious crush that has lasted to this day.

Grell eventually became more involved, inking everything but Brenda’s face (Grell joked, “I told Dale I was going to title my autobiography, ‘Doing Brenda’s Body.'” He left, though, in 1973 to move to New York City to pursue a comic book career. A career that, well, as you all know, has worked out well for Grell.

Dale Messick passed away in 2005 at the age of 98.


Well, that’s it for this week, thanks for stopping by!

Feel free to drop off any urban legends you’d like to see featured!!