Welcome to the three hundredth and sixty-ninth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. I believe this is almost exactly the seven-year anniversary of the column (June 3, 2005 to now, June 1, 2012). Nuts. Anyhow, this week is a theme week. Talking animal comics!! Discover the possible comic origin of Donald Duck! Find out where Bucky O'Hare almost debuted! And finally, marvel at how Marvel nearly had a Spider-Ham comic book....by Dave Sim!!!!!
Click here for an archive of the previous three hundred and sixty-eight.
COMIC LEGEND: Donald Duck debuted in a 1931 illustrated Mickey Mouse book three years before debuting in a cartoon.
STATUS: I am going with False
Awhile back, reader Ortiz e-mailed me with the cryptic inquiry:
I read that Donald Duck is a little older, that he was created in 1931, not in 1934, could you check it please?
When I looked into it, I discovered what Ortiz is referring to.
You see, Donald Duck's official first appearance is in the 1934 cartoon, The Wise Little Hen...
Four years ago, the model sheet for that cartoon sold for $75,000!!
However, in 1931, a Mickey Mouse children's book called The Adventures of Mickey Mouse was released.
In it, it references a duck named "Donald Duck"...
and there is a drawing of what is presumably said duck...
However, it does not appear as though this is an official declaration of the Walt Disney company, but rather that the author just decided to come up with a bunch of names on his/her own for the characters from Mickey Mouse's Silly Symphonies. For instance, the horse is named Henry, while the horse in the cartoons had already been given a name, Horace Horsecollar...
There were duck characters in Silly Symphonies, so almost certainly this is the book author just trying to name them, without checking to see if they HAD names (like Horace).
There was a similar British children's book in 1932 that followed the plot of the 1931 U.S. book carefully, including using the name Donald, as well.
In the end, though, I think this is just the case of a licensed book author making up names and Disney not particularly being invested in continuity (the 1931 book was the first Disney licensed book for sale after a Mickey Mouse giveaway book in 1930).
Is it possible that someone at Disney saw the book and remembered the name Donald years later? It is certainly POSSIBLE, but I find it pretty unlikely. Donald Duck is just a fairly normal name for a character, especially when you already have Mickey and Minnie Mouse.
Thanks so much to KAYA ÖZKARACALAR for discovering the Donald Duck find a few years back! Check out Kaya's blog here for more information about the book. And thanks to Ortiz for the question.
COMIC LEGEND: Larry Hama developed Bucky O'Hare for DC Comics.
Awhile back, reader "Sabrina" wrote in to ask:
I was reading through a few old comics I just got off eBay and came across a DC editorial where Jeannete Kahn (Khan?) mentions a pilot that Larry Hama is working on that's "as wonderfully lunatic as Howard the Duck." She also mentions something that Paul Levitz is working on, as well as the team of Neal Adams and Mike Nasser. Now, I'm guessing these were all victims of the DC Implosion, but the thing is, I'd never heard of any of these projects, even as cancelled ones. Was there ever going to be a DC series by Hama that was supposed to be a take-off on Howard the Duck?
I asked Larry Hama about it and his answer was fascinating, as it turns out the book in question was his famed independent comic book character, Bucky O'Hare!
She was talking about BUCKY O'HARE, which I originally put together as one of the first creator-owned comics for DC, but after a year of waiting for the DC legal department to actually come up with a contract, my lawyer (Ed Preiss, who also represented Siegel & Schuster) reminded me that "a spoken agreement is worth the paper it is printed on," I pulled the project from DC and brought it to Neal Adams, who cut me and Michael Golden in on a very generous creators percentage.
Since there was both a Bucky O'Hare cartoon series AND a Bucky O'Hare video game, I'd say that that worked out pretty darn well for Hama (and Golden)!
Thanks for the question, "Sabrina"! And thanks for the information, Larry!
By the way, Hama had another interesting tidbit in his response that I'll get to in a future legend installment.
COMIC LEGEND: Dave Sim pitched Marvel on a Spider-Ham series.
I have featured a number of Comic Book Legends Revealed installments on whether Spider-Ham was intended as a parody of Cerebus (in retaliation for Dave Sim parodying a few Marvel characters in the pages of Cerebus, like Moon Roach and Wolverroach). This one and this one are the two major ones.
In any event, what's fascinating about Sim and Spider-Ham is that a few years back, Sim actually pitched Marvel on Sim doing a Spider-Ham comic! How awesome would that have been (here is a bit of a sign)?
Here's Sim on the topic (and why it did not pan out) from Claude Flowers' painstaking reproduction and archiving of Sim's blog posts from 2006-2008...
So, I faxed my contact "I really can't sign this, so how about instead I'll tell you half of my idea, the half where there's no jurisdictional risk to Marvel at stake. What I want to do is Spider-Ham but it's a completely different approach to what Marvel has done with the character. So what I'm proposing is that Marvel gives me a stake—nothing huge—but a stake in my version of Spider-Ham and if it turns into a series or Hollywood wants to make a movie out of it, I make a small percentage. If you do YOUR version of Spider-Ham I don't get anything." Given that it's going to cut into my own writing and drawing time and I'll probably be making substantially less money, I have to come up with a scenario, however remote, that would potentially make this a cagey move. Even the outside chance of getting 1% of a 75-million or 200-million dollar movie would justify a certain encroachment on how I do things (is the uneasy underpinning of my rationalization).
Well, he [Sim's unnamed contact at Marvel - BC] went and ran that past whoever he had to run that past and phoned back a couple of days later and said, "No, Joe Straczyinski just did Spider-Ham in Civil War, so Spider-Ham is out." This is one of the things I have trouble understanding about mainstream comics. I'm not talking about Joe's Spider-Ham, I'm talking about Dave's Spider-Ham. It has something to do, I would guess, with creating the illusion that they're actually documenting real-life characters and if Dave's Spider-Ham shows up too soon after Joe's Spider-Ham that will make Spider-Ham less believable in an overall Marvel continuity sense.
The real world part of me thinks "We're discussing a cartoon pig in a Spider-man costume. `Believable' is a relative concept with very, very big quotation marks around it." You know. "Let's get a grip, here." But Dave Sim, fanboy, understands perfectly. Mark "Marvel Universe" Gruenwald (God rest his soul) has been dead and gone for some years, but the urge to make everything conform to One Giant Marvel Comics Flow Chart of Internally Consistent Reality has survived him in spirit if not in fact (a die-hard Marvel fan would know better than I would). Dave Sim, comic-book writer, who has a foot in both the real world and the fanboy world thinks, "I made twenty-six years of a cartoon aardvark plausible to an audience made up largely of grown-ups. Send me what Joe did and I'll figure a way to turn his Spider-Ham into my Spider-Ham in two panels that will have Mark Gruenwald weeping in the great by-and-by at the sheer symmetrical and internally consistent inventiveness of it all." But "real world" Dave understands that that's VERY unlikely to happen. "Real world" Dave is "new around here". When in Rome do as the Romans tell you to do.
The Spider-Ham book by Straczynski is the following from 2007...
Thanks to Dave Sim and Claude Flowers for the information!
Okay, that's it for this week!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is email@example.com. And my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/brian_cronin, so you can ask me legends there, as well!
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