Welcome to the three hundredth and twenty-sixth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. This week, discover how a story about abortion, of all things, ended up with the effectual end of the Popeye daily comic strip. Plus, did Batman: The Killing Joke inspire a popular indie band? And did famous improvisational comedian Del Close really write a comic book?
Click here for an archive of the previous three hundred and twenty-five.
COMIC LEGEND: The writer/artist of the Popeye daily comic strip was fired for a series of strips involving jokes about abortion.
Bobby London took over the Popeye daily comic strip from the great Bud Sagendorf in 1986 while Sagendorf continued on the Sunday strip.
In 1992, London was fired and the strip was effectively finished (they began reprinting old Sagendorf strips, which I believe they continue to do to this day). Sagendorf passed away in 1994 and was replaced on the Sunday strip by Hy Eisman, who has done the Sunday strip ever since.
What's fascinating is WHY London was fired.
Courtesy of the great Mike Lynch, here are the final two weeks of strips that London sent in. It was these strips that got him fired. If you go to Mike's site, he has the week of strips that lead into this one.
These were all unpublished.
The concept is that Olive Oyl becomes addicted to the Home Shopping Network. She gets a ton of items including a baby doll that she does not recall ordering. Here's what happens next...
It is unquestionably controversial for a comic of its type for the time (heck, even now - and not just for the abortion stuff, but the priest stuff, as well), but firing London seems to be pretty harsh. Especially as these strips were never published, so it is not like the Syndicate was facing pressure from the public.
COMIC LEGEND: The band Killing Joke was named after Batman: The Killing Joke.
On lists of "how bands got their names," I kept seeing the assertion that the British post-punk (I don't like that term but I can't think of a better way to describe them - reader Bookhouse suggests "Dark Wave," as opposed to New Wave. I think that does sound better, but I dunno if that applies, either. Reader Max Meanie says that the band currently calls themselves "industrial punk") band Killing Joke took their name from the famous Batman comic book by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland.
Here's one site making just such an assertion.
Naturally, since Killing Joke formed in the late 1970s and their debut album (below) came out in 1980....
then this is clearly not true.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, though, Los Bros Hernandez's Love and Rockets
often gets confused with being named after the band while in that instance, it WAS the other way around and the band Love and Rockets
took its name from the comic book.
An interesting question, though, is whether Moore and Bolland took the name of their comic from the band or whether they both just used the same term. I tend to imagine it is the latter, as the British slang term "killing joke" (meaning an ironic or paradoxical situation) really DOES describe Batman: The Killing Joke.
COMIC LEGEND: Del Close wrote a comic book.
A couple months ago, reader Jake K. wrote in to ask:
Is it true Del Close, legendary improv master, wrote comics for DC?
This week seemed to be a good time to address this one since I can tie it in with Almost Hidden month, where I spotlight various cool comic books that have, for whatever reason, not yet been reprinted. Here is the archive of the comics featured so far. Well, Jake, Del Close did, indeed, write comic books. Specifically, he wrote a comic I would call an "uncollected classic."
Del Close was a famous improvisational theater director and instructor in Chicago (and everywhere else, really). He directed at Second City for years. The list of people directly influenced by Close is staggering.
Here are a few names:Dan AykroydJames BelushiJohn BelushiJohn CandyStephen ColbertChris FarleyTina FeyShelley LongBill MurrayMike MyersBob OdenkirkAmy PoehlerGilda RadnerHarold RamisAmy SedarisDave ThomasGeorge Wendt
And I cut a lot of notable names from that list. It really is amazing the influence Close had on improv comedy.
He passed away in 1999. Close was familiar with John Ostrander from their respective work in the theater in Chicago, so in 1987, DC debuted the extremely interesting (if short-lived - just 18 issues) series Wasteland, written by Ostrander and Close and drawn by a rotating cast of artists. Initially, David Lloyd, William Messner-Loebs, George Freeman and Don Simpson did the art, but later artists worked into the rotation (like Rick Magyar, Bill Wray and Joe Orlando). Mike Gold edited the title (man, Mike Gold did such an amazing job for DC in the late 80s, didn't he? Look at all the talent and new ideas he brought to the company. Very impressive).
The stories tended toward horror, but a lot of autobiographical stories from Close's life in show business (and out) were also told.
Here's a notable one from #9...
Here's a glimpse at possibly their most famous story, an absolutely brilliantly demented tale drawn by Ty Templeton...
Really, the whole series was very well done. Please collect it, DC!
Some time ago, John Ostrander reflected on the series on his message board. He had a great Del Close story that he noted that they never got around to using. It's quite interesting. Check it out here.
Wasteland is also notable for accidentally printing the cover of #6 on #5 by mistake. Then they reprinted #5 with the right cover and went with a blank cover for #6.
Thank to Jake for the question!
Okay, that's it for this week!
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