This is the ninety-eighth 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-seven. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: DC once asked Marvel Comics for a page of Jack Kirby’s New Gods artwork when they needed a copy for reference work.
Much has been written about Jack Kirby’s departure from Marvel Comics in 1970, and rightfully so, as the move was a major point in comics history, as Marvel was forced to scramble to replace their most popular artist, and co-creator of a number of their most famous characters.
As you might imagine, workers at Marvel were quite interested in exactly what Kirby was going to come up with at DC Comics. Towards the end of his Marvel tenure, angry over what he felt to be breaches of agreements; Kirby was resistant to use new creations at Marvel, choosing instead to save up his new ideas until his situation was settled. Ultimately, his situation was settled by going to work for DC Comics, where Kirby’s Fourth World line of comics debuted at the beginning of 1971.
The interest at Marvel, however, soon found an avenue to see what it was that Kirby was working on, in the person of Vince Colletta.
Colletta was a prominent inker at Marvel Comics during the 60s, inking Kirby on a number of issues of Fantastic Four, but most notably, a long run inking Kirby on the Thor feature in Journey into Mystery.
Colletta also freelanced for DC, mostly working on DC’s romance titles. So when Kirby came to DC in 1970, it was determined that it would be an nice sign of familiarity to fans for Kirby to be inked by Colletta on the Fourth World comics.
This was all fine and good, but since Colletta was working for both companies, he would often bring the pages by the Marvel offices to show everyone what Kirby was working on – not in a malicious sense, but merely in a “hey, look what Kirby’s doing now!” manner.
The Kirby pages were popular at the Marvel offices, and it soon led to an interesting situation that I read about in a few places (including Ronin Ro’s book on Kirby), but it seemed so darn implausible that I was quite doubtful. But surprisingly, as implausible as it sounds – it actually happened!
I asked Mark Evanier, one of Kirby’s assistants at the time, about it, and here’s what he had to say:
When Jack was doing an issue of New Gods, he needed reference on something he’d drawn in an earlier issue. He asked DC to send out a stat but they never got around to it. So I called a friend at Marvel. I’d been back there a few weeks earlier and seen stats on the wall that they’d made when Colletta was up at the office with pages. My friend at Marvel sent Jack the stat he needed.
Isn’t that amazing?
For what it is worth, Colletta only lasted on the New Gods titles for the initial issues, with Jack Kirby choosing Mike Royer to be his new inker. That, though, almost certainly had more to do with general dissatisfaction with the appearance of the finished product than the fact that Colletta was loose with the pages he was working on.
Just recently, there was a little brouhaha over an ESPN Radio announcer who used some jokes that someone (presumably a producer of the program) found on a sports blog. The radio personality did not credit the blog where he found the material (although, after a backlash, he ultimately apologized and credited the website). Besides the whole ethical question about taking credit for someone else’s work, it deals with the problem of, when you have two people using something – and one is a major personality while one is a minor one, odds are folks are going to think that the minor one took it from the major one, whether that is the actual truth or not.
This is the situation that has come about in the revisionist history of Daimon Hellstrom and the film The Omen.
The film the Omen stars a young child named Damien, son of Satan.
The comic book featuring Daimon Hellstrom stars Daimon, son of, you guessed it, Satan.
Naturally, as comics have long taken from the popular world of film (Alien becomes The Brood, etc.), it is only natural that people would think that Daimon Hellstrom was a riff on Damien from the Omen. After all, “the son of Satan” is not exactly the most unique idea ever. After all, Rosemary’s Baby came out just a few years prior, which was ALSO about the son of Satan.
However, the comic book Son of Satan was released in 1973 (first in the pages of Ghost Rider, then in Marvel Spotlight).
The Omen was released in 1976.
It IS likely, however, that the hype surrounding the release of The Omen did, in fact, lead to Marvel giving Hellstrom his own title in late 1975, which lasted for only 8 issues.
Quite often, comic projects are announced and just, well, disappear. There really is not much to say about them, except that they just never got made.
Sometimes, though, we can find things out about these ephemeral projects, like in the case of Tom Fontana writing a Batman graphic novel. Reader DWEarhart asked the other day what ever happened to the project that Tom Fontana, famed creator of the television series Homicide: Life on the Street and Oz, was supposed to be writing.
The project was announced all the way back in July of 2005, and was going to be drawn by the estimable Cliff Chiang and be released at the end of 2006. It even had a title – Batman: Hopelessness and Faith.
But here we are at the beginning of the second quarter of 2007, and there has been nothing heard about – no solicitations, no announcements, nada. Does this project even exist? Or is it just a rumor?
Luckily for DWEarhart, CBR’s own head honcho, Jonah Weiland, was on the case, and did some checking for me, and here is what he has to report:
I spoke with Kevin Deiboldt, one of Tom’s assistants, and he gave me an update. He said that Tom turned in a draft some time ago and DC came back with some notes, but Tom’s been so busy with his TV and writing career that he hasn’t had time to go back. Tom’s currently working on a pilot for NBC as well as writing a novel. As for a time frame on getting this thing out, Kevin said “your guess is as good as mine,” but this is still something Tom wants to do and excited to be a part of. Basically, to use a Hollywood term, it’s in “Production Hell,” but promises it will come out of that hell once Tom’s schedule allows for it.
So there you go, folks, the project is not ephemeral! It may be delayed, but it does exist!
Then again, the cover of the book was later used for a cover of Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight, so that’s always worrisome….
Thanks to Jonah Weiland for the info!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free to drop off any urban legends you’d like to see featured!