Comic Book Legends Revealed #312

Welcome to the three hundredth and twelfth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. This week, discover the Marvel comic that was re-scripted at the last minute in response to terrorist threats! Learn whether James Rhodes replaced Tony Stark in the 1990s because the writer of Iron Man didn't feel that a capitalist like Stark could be a hero! Plus, discover a comic book marketing event gone wrong! All of those stories are part of this special edition of Comic Book Legends Revealed where all the legends are connected to comic book writer Len Kaminski!

Click here for an archive of the previous three hundred and eleven.

Let's begin!

Len Kaminski has written a ton of comic books over the years, but he is perhaps best known for his run on Iron Man during the 1990s where he introduced the "War Machine" armor (with artist Kevin Hopgood). Kaminski would then write the War Machine spin-off, as well. Other series Kaminski wrote over the years include Scare Tactics, Doctor Strange, Morbius, Ghost Rider 2099, Slapstick, Bloodshot and Hellstorm! He also worked as an editor for Marvel. Len has been kind enough to share a bunch of neat information about his comic book career with us. Thanks, Len!

COMIC LEGEND: Marvel changed a Spider-Man story because of terrorist threats, including a bomb threat that emptied the building where Marvel had its offices.


The third ongoing Spider-Man series, Web of Spider-Man, had an odd beginning, where it went through five different writers in the first dozen issues. Part of the "problem" was that the book did not exactly have a focus (presumably because it didn't have a regular creative team).

Eventually, David Michelinie, Marc Silvestri and Kyle Baker appeared to become the "regular" creative team for the series, and the new focus would be Peter Parker and Daily Bugle/Now Magazine (the news magazine that J. Jonah Jameson owned) reporter Joy Mercado would investigate stories "ripped from the headlines."

Heck, the cover of Web of Spider-Man #16 even advertises the new direction of the series...

This new direction, though, would be short-lived.

Reader Liam wrote in to ask about what the deal was with Web of Spider-Man #19-22...

The story finds Peter encountering terrorists in London and Northern Ireland. It starts out as an attempt to engage with the history and politics of the troubles, but following a fill-in issue for #21 resolves quickly with the introduction of new terrorist group working for Roxxon. I was wondering is there any truth to the rumor that Marvel received a bomb threat following the first issue of the story prompting the fill-in issue and a massive storyline change?

Issue #19 just sets up the story, while issue #20 is the real deal. Here are some sample pages...

Things get real personal for Peter when he sees one of the victims...

this also allows Michelinie to give his take on the origin of the problems in Ireland...

And at the end of the issue, Peter and Joy decide to go to Dublin to investigate further...

As you can see, the story is getting quite involved in the troubles in Ireland, and has some stuff in there that certain parties being portrayed in the comic might find offensive.

So it is not so surprising that issue #20 begins with a framing sequence...

that leads to...

a Larry Lieber written/drawn fill-in issue!

This gave Marvel time to make a big change. When the next issue picks up, the story begins basically the same as the seriousness of #20...

but soon the tale turns out to be all part of a super-villainy scheme of that evil corporation Roxxon...

The politics of the story are basically forcibly removed from the tale.

And guess who did the removing? Why, Len Kaminski, that's who! He re-scripted #22 (and then did scripts on the remaining two issues that Michelinie has plotted, before the book went right back to a rotating group of writers - it didn't get a regular creative team until issue #50! Over twenty-five issues later!!), so I asked him about Liam's question. Len replied:

It was originally a two-parter plotted by David Michelinie; the Irritated {alllegely} Residents {I only heard stuff second-hand, I wasn't answering phones that week} Aggrieved made their objections Quite Sincerely Known to Marvel via Mr Graham Bell's remarkable invention.

I can directly confiim that not only Marvel, but ALL OTHER OFFICES at the 387 Park Avenue South location had themselves a very hastily-organized surprise fire drill, emptying the building entirely (with the unexpected result of proving once and for all that the human contents of 387 PAS, when removed from the ten story structure and redistributed on a single plane (in this case, Manhattan sidewalk), the would, in fact, completely encircle the block demarcated by 387 PAS, E28th St, E27th St. and 3rd Avenue) in ranks approximately 8-15 humunits (a measurement coined by Gruenwald of course) deep.

Again, I did not take that call myself, but multiple sources told me outright this move was inspired by several calls that morning claiming there was an explosive device somewhere close by, and that there was a causal relationship between the previously mentioned SPIDEY story and Things That Go Boom.

Then-editor Jim Owsley hired me to re-write the second half to remove the elements that had been objected to. Overnight Using the existing word balloons, which had been whited out. Sort of the cage-match x-treme version of the old-skool DC practice of cooking up an insane cover, then making the writer create a story to justify it somehow, crossed with MadLibs reimagined as a bloodsport.

I can't... ever... talk about the all-nighter I pulled Getting It Done. Go read both halves in light of this new information... and IMAGINE -- it could have been -- YOU!!

Christopher Priest shared his version of the bomb scare at his website here:

[W]e sent out an issue of Michelinie's WEB that dealt with the IRA and the politics of Ireland that got us both national attention and a bomb threat. I returned from lunch to find everyone in the building standing on the street while the bomb squad combed the building for explosives (there were none, it was a hoax).

Crazy stuff!

Thanks a lot for the information, Len! And thanks to Liam for the suggestion! ________________________________________________________________________________________

Check out the latest Movie Legends Revealed to learn the story about how a Back to the Future lawsuit dramatically changed actors’ rights forever, how a hit film accidentally gave away U.S. naval secrets and how Katharine Hepburn’s temperance almost got her killed during the filming of The African Queen!________________________________________________________________________________________

COMIC LEGEND: Kaminski replaced Tony Stark with James Rhodes in part because he couldn't see a "capitalist" as a hero.


Reader Rene commented awhile back about Len Kaminski's Iron Man run. This was the run that had a storyline where Tony Stark is presumed dead (he was not):

and James Rhodes took over the book, becoming the CEO of Stark Enterprises and wearing the newly introduced "War Machine" armor...

Rene wrote:

I also was a bit turned off when I’ve read somewhere that Kaminski had to make Rhodes the star of the book, because he couldn’t quite see a “capitalist” like Tony as a hero. Now, I am as liberal as they come, but that is a bit too much.

That rumor had, indeed, circulated for a while back when the books were coming out. Len responds:

Actually, I never said thing one about Tony not being able to be a hero because he was a capitalist. Heck, I’M a capitalist. I suspect that rumor got its start as a misquote of some comments I made in an interview (possibly MARVEL AGE?), in which I made comparisons between Stark and actual billionaire-industrialist-technocrats (such as Bill Gates). My point was twofold: first was that we DON’T often see “real-life” guys in Stark’s position acting in ways we normally associate with the heroic ideal – and that meant there was something special about Stark besides the huge IQ, bank account and gagetry. Something deep and noble, learned from battling his health problems and personal demons. Something that demands he fight the fight personally, rather than do the “sensible” thing and hire a platoon of Iron Men. The other point I was on about – which I tried to address in CRASH AND BURN – is that Stark believes in a business model rooted in altruism over short-term gain, that making a profit is NOT incompatible with doing right – in fact, it may be essential to long-term growth. Which had nothing at all to do with Rhodes tenure as CEO…

Thanks, Len!

Thanks to Rene for the comment and thanks to Len for the response.________________________________________________________________________________________

Check out the latest Theater Legends Revealed to find out if the theater is responsible for Daniel Boone's coonskin cap, learn how A Long Day's Journey Into Night came out over two decades before it should have and discover which playwright got his start based on an English lesson!________________________________________________________________________________________

COMIC LEGEND: Kaminski produced hundreds of "bootleg" tape cassettes for the Scare Tactics fan club that DC wouldn't let him use.


Scare Tactics was a fun comic book by Kaminski and penciler Anthony Williams and inker Andy Lanning. It was about a rock band made up of, well, monsters, basically.

The band would rock out and then get into various misadventures.

While the book only lasted 12 issues, DC liked it enough that they tried to promote the book in the middle of the series' run by having the team split up for a few months and put the book on hiatus, and in those months, they put out a series of one-shots teaming the various group members up with notable DC characters, in a few month's worth of "Plus" one-shots (DC's plus one-shots of various heroes teaming up were a lot of fun - they should give them another chance!).

The book then picked up from where the Plus one-shots left off...

Sadly, this marketing push didn't work and the book ended with #12.

Interestingly enough, Kaminski had a very clever idea to help promote the book early on - an idea that ultimately did not come to pass. Here's Len on the plan...

I had planned on there being a real-life ST fan club package, which would’ve included a small poster, a backstage pass and a cassette “bootleg” of one of their songs. I wrote the song, and went out of pocket a grand or two on a great east village band (which I can’t name due to weird contract stuff with their manager), studio time (sound engineering and the actual “tune” donated gratis by my friend [and ST fan] Ed) – only to have DC tell me to cut it out, I didn’t own the rights to ST (and besides, it was hinted, they didn’t need me running around making their marketing department look bad). So I had a crate of hundreds of those cassettes on my hands for years before I finally ditched them, keeping just a few for myself.

That's too bad - that would have been quite cool! Click here to download "Inhumanifesto"

Thanks, again, to Len for the information!

Heck, thanks to Len PERIOD, for everything!

Okay, that's it for this week!

Thanks to the Grand Comics Database for this week's covers! And thanks to Brandon Hanvey for the Comic Book Legends Revealed logo!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is cronb01@aol.com. And my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/brian_cronin, so you can ask me legends there, as well!

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Here's my book of Comic Book Legends (130 legends - half of them are re-worked classic legends I've featured on the blog and half of them are legends never published on the blog!).

The cover is by artist Mickey Duzyj. He did a great job on it...(click to enlarge)...

If you'd like to order it, you can use the following code if you'd like to send me a bit of a referral fee...

See you all next week!

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