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Comic Book Legends Revealed #351

COMIC LEGEND: Steve Gerber based a super-villain on a newspaper writer who gave his work a bad review.

STATUS: True

Howard the Duck's arch-rival, Doctor Bong, debuted in Howard the Duck #15....

In the great Steve Gerber The Comics Journal interview from 1978 (which The Comics Journal is allowing you good people to read for FREE right now at their site here), Gerber explained the name of the character...

The origin of the name is funny, too. I was over at Gene Simmons’s apartment — this was during the time we were working on the Kiss book — and he was showing me some of the group’s fan mail. Someone wrote them a very strange letter that said, “Come over to the house. We’ll have some good music, some good wine and some bonging.” Whatever that meant. Gene didn’t know, and neither did I. We had different assumptions about it. But it struck me as very funny, and it stuck with me, and when it was time to create this new villain, Dr. Bong was it.

Moreover, though, Gerber explained Doctor Bong's rather...unique origins...

Then, a fellow by the name of Bob Greene, with the Chicago Sun-Times, wrote an incredibly vitriolic article about our Kiss book — prior to its publication, with no solid, factual basis for the criticism except his own negative attitude toward the group. The article was syndicated to some 100 newspapers around the country, and the mail began pouring in to Marvel from outraged people who, though they hadn’t seen the book either, were certain we were out to corrupt the moral fiber of the nation’s young. They warned us they would never buy Marvel comics again if we dared publish the book. They vowed to burn every copy that reached their neighborhood newsstands. It caused a great deal of trouble for me with Marvel. So I decided to have a little fun. Bob Greene had previously written a book called Billion-Dollar Baby, about his experiences touring and performing onstage with Alice Cooper. Knowing nothing of Greene’s past other than that, I set out to construct a character as loathsome as Greene was in my eyes at that time — a former yellow journalist who utilized the power of the press amorally to his own ends.

Amusingly enough, a relative of Greene's eventually showed Greene the comic and Greene loved it. He and Gerber talked and Greene later wrote a positive review of Gerber's Howard the Duck work.

Thanks to Gary Groth and Steve Gerber for the information!

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