Welcome to the four hundred and eighty-ninth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous four hundred and eighty-eight. This week, did the U.S. government pay Marvel to do an anti-marijuana Spider-Man story? Why didn’t we get Frank Miller and Roger Stern together on Doctor Strange? And did Mark Gruenwald really regret creating the Scourge of the Underworld?
NOTE: The column is on three pages, a page for each legend. There’s a little “next” button on the top of the page and the bottom of the page to take you to the next page (and you can navigate between each page by just clicking on the little 1, 2 and 3 on the top and the bottom, as well).
COMIC LEGEND: The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) paid Marvel to do an anti-marijuana comic starring Spider-Man.
This is a weird one for me. Way back in 2007, I was asked by a couple of readers whether the The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) paid DC and Marvel to do two different stories involving marijuana. One was the Batman story “Leaves of Grass” and the other was the Spider-Man story “Fast Lane.”
I got an answer on the Batman story right away but I was stuck on the Marvel one. Years passed and I was no closer to the truth of the Spider-Man one. It certainly SEEMED like it was something that the government would have paid Marvel to do, but nowhere in the comic does it say so and, as I learned from the Batman comic, the Batman comic WASN’T paid for by the government (or written at the behest of the government) so how could I tell for sure?
Well, after five years of waiting, I ultimately decided to just ran the Batman story one week on its own. Here‘s the column for that one.
Finally, though, earlier this year (on 4/20, of course), Chris Sims did a great piece on the origins of Spider-Man: Fast Lane at Comics Alliance.
Here’s what we really need to know for this legend (be sure to read the whole history – it’s interesting stuff!), courtesy of Gregg Schigiel, the artist on the story:
I was an assistant editor at Marvel at the time, and I’d drawn some issues of What If? and maybe by then an issue of Generation X, and was looking for more opportunities to draw. I met the gang in Marvel Creative Services, which was the department that handled licensed products, style guide art, custom comics and things of that nature. We got along, they liked my work, and there was work there; not comics, per se, but drawing superheroes, for sure. I think one of the first things I did with them was a piece for the Spider-Man Monopoly game…or possibly a milk ad. At some point they offered me this Spider-Man story, an anti-drug story in conjunction with the White House ONDCP (Office of National Drug Control Policy), which was a big deal project spearheaded by John Fraser (then Senior VP for Strategic Promotions and Advertising), and Steve Behling, the original editor on it (he then left to work at Disney Adventures magazine) (they also developed the overall story).
They explained the job involved drawing a poster image and four 8-page chapters, and that this thing was going to appear EVERYWHERE. And not just in every single Marvel Comic (every other month for four months), but in Boy’s Life, Girl’s Life, National Geographic World, a magazine called Muse… and I’m sure other places I can’t remember (in the magazine versions they’re on slick magazine paper, which was cool). Basically the circulation was going to be massive, the estimate being around 11 million
So there ya go!
The story involved Peter Parker working on a story about a rock star who really pushes the drug angle with his music. Peter is working on the story with two Daily Bugle college interns, including one guy, Sam, who has gotten into smoking marijuana because of the rock star.
When they show up at the music video shoot, Sam learns that the guy is a phony…
Ultimately, a distraught Sam almost dies after driving his van off of a bridge. Luckily, Spider-Man and a bunch of other Marvel heroes are there to save the day…
and Sam (AND the rock star) learns his lesson…
So there ya go, while my 2007 readers were wrong about the Batman story they were right about the Spider-Man story.
Thanks to the readers for their suggestion and thanks to Chris Sims and Gregg Schigiel for the answers!
Check out my latest TV Legends Revealed at Spinoff Online: How close did Boy Meets World come to not having Cory and Topanga?
On the next page, why did we miss out on Frank Miller and Roger Stern on Doctor Strange together?
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