This is the sixty-second 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 sixty-one.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Marvel had a special insert in an issue of Fantastic Four because they irked the Nixon Administration.
In Fantastic Four #128, there was a puzzling four-page, glossy insert in the middle of the issue, for no added cost.
Roy Thomas explains it in the letter column of the issue, but I’ll first give you some back story about what happened.
In the early 1970s, inflation was a mess in America. Costs were skyrocketing.
With books released the month of Fantastic Four #116, Marvel raised their prices from 15 cents to 25 cents, a huge increase at the time, but Marvel’s answer was to make the 25 cent books giant-sized.
Sadly, cost restraints were such that Marvel had to make the books normal-sized after just ONE month, but at a price of 20 cents per issue.
Meanwhile, though, the Nixon Administration had implemented a price freeze for the nation. So when the Wage and Price Control Board heard that Marvel ESSENTIALLY raised prices by charging 20-cents for 32 pages, they were upset.
But after things got hashed out, there was no big “to-do” about it, and Marvel offered up what was essentially their form of community service – a free, full-color glossy insert in Fantastic Four #128!
Here is Roy Thomas on the situation, from that issue’s letter column…
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Kenneth Johnson wanted the Hulk to be red on the TV show.
This is a fun one for me, because I have been waiting to hear the creator of the Incredible Hulk, Kenneth Johnson, address some urban legends regarding the Incredible Hulk TV show, but have never seen him give quotes. Too often it is secondhand stuff, “I hear Johnson thought ____,” etc. Luckily for us, Johnson recently did a commentary track for the new DVD collection of the first season of The Incredible Hulk, so he did an interview on IGN.com with Todd Gilchrist, talking about the show.
In fact, the interview with Gilchrist was SO cool, it was enough for TWO Urban Legends this week!
First, Gilchrist asked Johnson about how much influence the comic book had on the TV show, which managed to discuss the odd color scheme Johnson had for the Hulk initially:
Gilchrist: A big part of the stuff you talk about includes the decision-making that went into how much of the comic source material you would retain for the TV show, like you had the idea to make him red.
Johnson: Yeah, I called Stan Lee and I said, man, what’s the logic of green? Is he the envious Hulk? Is he green with envy or jealousy? The color of rage is red, which I was also pushing for because it’s a real human color – you know, when people get flushed with anger. That makes sense, but the Hulk turns green. And Stan told me, “well, actually he started out grey, and then our printer came to us” – not the publisher, but the printer – ” and said we can do a pretty consistent green, so we decided to go with green.” I said, Stan, that’s not really very organic! But that was a battle I could not win; at least I got to change Bruce Banner’s name to David, but I couldn’t make the Hulk red because he was just too iconic already in the comic books.
This leads into the next Urban Legend….
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Bruce Banner’s name was changed in the Incredible Hulk TV series because the show’s creator thought that the name sounded “too homosexual”.
This is one I have really wanted an answer on, and Gilchrist follows Johnson’s mention of the name change with an excellent follow-up question:
Gilchrist: In the commentary you indicated your disinclination for alliterative comic book names. Can you clear up once and for all why you chose to change his name on the show? Because the rumor has circled for decades that folks thought Bruce was a ‘gay name’.
Johnson: I don’t recall feeling that way at the time, because Bruce Wayne was a pretty straight guy. But it was more the alliteration that bothered me, the Lois Lane, Clark Kent, that sort of thing, and as always I was trying to get as far away from the comic book origins as I possibly could. I mean, virtually the only thing I kept from the comic book was gamma rays and green and metamorphosis, and everything else was made up out of what I hoed to be presented as the real world. And again, when you put somebody into a story whose name is Bruce Banner, it just immediately starts to sound comic book-y, and I was very anxious to attract the adult audience, because I knew that we could not have a hit show if we just had kids.
So there you go, a definitive answer on the subject!
Thanks again, to Todd Gilchrist and IGN.com, for finally letting me resolve this one!
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!!