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COMIC LEGEND: Steve Englehart, Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin’s Deadshot revamp occurred because of a scheduling problem.
Steve Englehart’s run on Detective Comics is one of the most memorable runs on the title, and it lasted only eight issues. The first two issues were drawn by Walt Simonson and Al Milgrom and the final six were drawn by Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin.
The run was always INTENDED to be a short run, as Englehart actually wrote all of the scripts before the first two-parter was even finished. Instead of the Marvel method of script writing, where Englehart would have to interact with the artist on the final product, he just wrote out full scripts which were then given to Rogers and Austin to draw. Englehart and his wife were taking some time off traveling in Europe, so they were not even in the COUNTRY when the famous Englehart/Rogers/Austin issues of Detective Comics began to come out.
A notable aspect of Englehart’s run is how he worked in a spotlight for most of Batman’s most notable villains, as well as a spotlight for Robin. On top of the return of an old villain Englehart got a kick out of, Hugo Strange, Englehart provided spotlights for both the Penguin and the Joker – but also in the middle of it, he also brought back Deadshot, a character who had not appeared in nearly three decades after debuting in 1950’s Batman #59.
Here is Deadshot in his original appearance…
And in Detective Comics #474 (cover-dated December 1977), here is Deadshot…
Marshall Rogers’ new design for Deadshot made the character relevant for the first time since his first appearance and he was used a couple more times in the early 1980s before John Ostrander, while flipping through issues of Who’s Who to find characters to use in his new book, Suicide Squad, was intrigued by the Rogers design and put Deadshot on to the team. The rest is, of course, history for the character, as he became probably the most famous character in the Suicide Squad….
even getting his own mini-series…
and to this day he is a popular character, appearing regularly as a member of the current Suicide Squad.
But get this…Deadshot’s inclusion in Englehart’s run? It came AFTER Englehart had already finished his SEVEN scripts for the series. Yes, the issue with Deadshot was NOT part of the original scripts Englehart did for the run. Bat-Editor Julie Schwartz requested an eighth script by Englehart and he complied, putting the Deadshot issue between two stories, and fleshing out the sub-plots a bit more.
So originally, the Penguin issue…
was going to lead directly into the famous Joker issue…
Why was this change made?
Well, you see, at the very same time Englehart was making comics history in Detective Comics, over in the pages of Batman, writer David Vern and artists John Calnan and Tex Blaisdell were doing ANOTHER memorable storyline, the famous “Where Were You on the Night Batman Was Killed?” storyline where each issue features a different villain explaining how THEY were the one who should be credited with finally killing Batman…
(of course, Batman turns out not to actually be dead)
And the issue featuring the Joker was scheduled to be released with a cover-date of December 1977.
So Schwartz, not wanting to have BOTH Batman books feature the Joker in the same month, asked Englehart to write an extra script so that they could bump Joker’s appearance to another month, and the famous tale of Joker’s Laughing Fish showed up with a cover-date of February 1978.
So think about THAT for a What If..?!! If Vern doesn’t do his story, Englehart doesn’t do his story and Rogers doesn’t re-design Deadshot’s look and Ostrander never uses Deadshot in Suicide Squad and, well, we would have been out a lot of cool comics!!
Thanks to the late Marshall Roger and Steve Englehart for providing the information about the story to the great Jon B. Cooke (who I also thank for GETTING the info) in an early issue of Comic Book Artist. Thanks to Michael Browning and John Ostrander for detailing in an old issue of Back Issue magazine why Ostrander picked Deadshot to use in the Suicide Squad.
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