I meant to feature this legend last week. Since NBC is airing a live performance of The Wiz tonight, I felt that it didn’t make a ton of sense to debut this legend tomorrow, so instead, this week you’ll get FOUR legends! The regular three tomorrow plus this bonus one today (I’ll also reprint it at the end of tomorrow’s column, for those who just check in with that column).
Did DC Comics nearly make a comic book based on The Wiz? Read on to find out!
The Wiz was a hit Broadway musical released in 1975 that was a retelling of The Wizard of Oz with an all-African-American cast. Universal and Motown got together to produce a 1978 big screen version with some major names as the main characters. Diana Ross as Dorothy and Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow!
DC wanted in on the movie, which seemed like it would be a hit just like the musical, and DC thought it would be nice to try to sell comics to a whole different market. They were even planning on selling copies of the book in the lobbies of movie theaters showing the film. They initially were going to have Len Wein and Sergio Aragones do the book and then Aragones and writer Mark Evanier, but Aragones had recently split with DC over concerns about work-for-hire contracts. Aragones suggested to Mark Evanier to have Dan Spiegle, who Evanier had been working together on Hanna-Barbera comics for a few years at this point (for Gold Key and then Marvel Comics), draw the book. DC agreed, and as Evanier recalled on his website:
I had to trudge up to Universal Studios and see a rough cut of the movie and then write an adaptation
The only problem was that when Spiegle was about 25 pages in or so into the treasury format edition comic, DC got wind that the movie was probably going to bomb, so DC squelched the project.
If the NBC version of the show is a success, I wonder if DC would consider finishing the project! It’d be kind of neat!
Thanks to Dan Johnson’s article on the topic in Back Issue #11 for the scan. Thanks to Travis Pelkie for suggesting I feature this one. I was already going to, but he didn’t know that! And thank to Mark Evanier for all the information (from his own site and for Johnson’s article)!
EDITED TO ADD: Ha! I guess I should have checked to see if Mark did an update today as he sure did. Here is his much more in-depth take on the story.
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