This is the ninety-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 ninety-one. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Namor the Sub Mariner was created as a movie tie-in.
There was a lot of talk a little while ago about Namor being the next Marvel property to make his move to the big screen.
This is especially interesting as it turns out that Namor came into being AS a movie tie-in!
A marketing idea in the late 30s was to give away comic books at movie theaters. The comic was called Motion Pictures Funnies Weekly, and in the book (featuring a few stories), Bill Everett introduced Namor, the Sub-Mariner! The idea quickly fell apart, though.
Until 1974, most everyone thought that Namor’s first comic book appearance was in Marvel Comics #1, but that very same story appeared in Motion Pictures Funnies Weekly!
Only about nine or so copies exist, with almost all of them coming courtesy of the publisher of the comic book (his death led to the discovery of the copies in his estate).
With the series cancelled, Everett pitched the idea to Timely Comics’ Martin Goodman, who bought the rights to the character and published Everett’s story (expanded from 8 pages to 12 – you will even notice a box on page 8 that once read “To Be Continued” but is now just colored in blank) in Marvel Comic #1.
Namor graced the cover of Marvel Comics #4, and the rest, as they say, is history.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: John Byrne almost followed Walt Simonson on Fantastic Four!
Walt Simonson’s Fantastic Four run was a marvelous take on the characters, and besides John Byrne’s run, was probably the highlight of the book since Stan and Jack left the book, so when he left the book in the early 90s, it was quite a shame.
Astonishingly enough, though, he was quite almost followed on the title by none other than John Byrne himself!!
Paul Ryan explained how this amazing reunion almost took place in an interview with Sean Kleefeld over at the fantastic Fantastic Four web resource site, FFPlaza.com (Please note that Daniel Best, from the awesome Adelaide Comics, also mentioned this one to me a few months ago):
Sean Kleefield: How did Marvel first approach you about doing the Fantastic Four? What was your initial reaction? At the time, did you know Tom DeFalco would also be working on it?
Paul Ryan: It is kind of funny how my tenure on the series came about. When word of Walt Simonson’s decision to leave the FF was announced I got a call from John Byrne asking if I would be interested in working with him on the title. John and I had recently collaborated on Avengers and Avengers West Coast. I was very excited at the prospect of not only working with John again (his FF run was one of my favorites) but working on my favorite Marvel title. I bought the first issue at the tender age of 11.
What John failed to mention at the time was that editor Ralph Macchio had not offered him (John) the book. John was of the opinion that because Ralph knew that John wanted the book that Ralph should call John. In speaking with Ralph I discovered that Ralph was of the opinion that if John wanted the book, he (John) should call Ralph. I made repeated calls to both parties. They wouldn’t budge. I could see the FF series slipping through my fingers. Finally I just gave up and continued to work on the two Avengers titles.
Not too much later John asked me to pencil Iron Man. I gave up the WCA to do Iron Man. The following Friday, Ralph called to offer me the penciling chores on the FF. DeFalco was to be the writer. I said NO, along with a few expletives. I had just taken on another series and I wasn’t too happy at the prospect of having to give up the Avengers to take on the FF. That’s how we left it on Friday. All weekend long I kept thinking about the FF and how much I loved that series. First thing Monday morning, even before office hours, I left a message for Ralph, “I’ll take the book.”
My timing couldn’t have been better. On Friday, after I turned down the offer, Ralph called Dan Jurgens to offer him the book. Unable to reach Dan, Ralph left a voice mail message. I got through to Ralph first and the rest is history.
Imagine how different things would have been!
Tom Brevoort wrote into me recently to give some more context to Paul’s recollection. Apparently, Byrne and Macchio eventually did get on the phone with one another, but Macchio felt that some changes that Byrne wanted to make to the title with regards to continuity were too much, so he ended up turning down Byrne’s return on the title, leading to DeFalco replacing Simonson. Thanks for the info, Tom!
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: T.M. Maple’s real name was never revealed.
Reader John Kuczaj wrote in a few months back, asking if I could address the rumor that “[t]he identity of prodigious letter column writer T.M. Maple was never revealed.”
As it turns out, the late, great T.M. Maple did reveal his name, in the late 80s, where, in the pages of Zot! #21, he revealed that his name was Jim Burke.
T.M. Maple, for fans who do not recall him, was one of the greatest letter writers in comic book letter column history, with well over 3,000 letters written.
He originally signed his letters “The Mad Maple,” but when Jim Shooter became Editor-In-Chief of Marvel, he instituted a policy in which Marvel would not publish letters from letter writers using pseudonyms (which isn’t a half bad policy, really). Editor Tom DeFalco got around this by abbreviating The Mad Maple as T.M. Maple.
Burke liked this abbreviation, and used it for the rest of his letter-writing journey.
Sadly, Burke died in 1994 of a heart attack.
But fans of letter columns will always have his great letters to look back upon and read!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free to drop off any urban legends you’d like to see featured!