Welcome to the five hundred and forty-second in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the first five hundred (I actually haven’t been able to update it in a while). This week, was Bishop of the X-Men the first X-Men character to be created entirely for marketing reasons? Did Calvin and Hobbes nearly debut as a delivery system for the character Robotman? And what did ToyBiz do with the already produced but never released final line of Iron Man toys from the mid-90s?
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: Bishop was created because Marvel’s marketing department said Marvel needed a black member of the X-Men.
STATUS: Basically False, but Very Close to Being True
Bishop debuted in Uncanny X-Men #282, a time-traveling mutant from the future who eventually joins the X-Men…
Created by Whilce Portacio (with help from Karl Altstaetter and Jim Lee), Bishop has given rise to an interesting legend, which was suggested to me by reader PJ Perez….well, a long time ago. PJ wrote about the following, which he saw on G. Kendall’s excellent Not Blog X site:
“According to legend, Bishop was the first X-Man created solely for marketing reasons. Marvel’s marketing
department wanted a new X-Man, and they wanted him to be black. Gun toting tough guys were also really popular back then, so there you go.”
The legend is false, but it is really, really, REALLY close to being true, as the marketing department IS how Bishop came to be black.
Here, in an excellent interview with Portacio by Zedric Dimalanta, Portacio goes into detail on Bishop’s origin:
There, every other X-Men story was a story Jim and I wanted to draw. And we traded that off with, the other story was the story the company wanted us to draw. So they gave us that back-and-forth. And so the actual real timeline is, [editor Bob Harras] says “Okay, we’re going to do this X-Men #1 thing and we’re going to do this two-team deal, and the perception is that the old, original team was underpowered, so we need another X-Man in there.”
So I go, “I’ll do that, I’ll create it,” and I go, “Are there any parameters?” And he said, “We just want something very powerful and someone that everyone will react to.”
And so that’s what I did. I designed him, I took each character one by one and said “What kind of personality would make him react in a natural way and what would then make all of them have a similar reaction?” So you didn’t just have somebody coming in and two or three characters going, “Hey, you’re a pretty cool guy.”
Everybody had an issue with how we were building him. And while we were building him, Karl Altstaetter helped me design Bishop and we wanted to make him Filipino. I was trying to do Filipino gimmicks and stuff, I drew Cyclops with a leather jacket with a Filipino flag which a lot of Filipinos reacted to (author’s note: Portacio might have been referring to this image from Uncanny X-Men #290 showing Colossus, not Cyclops, wearing a jacket with a Filipino flag patch).
So we decided, since they didn’t “parameter” it, to make him Filipino. Well, when we then finally sent it up and we called up Bob Harras to pitch it, he loved it, and then he said, before I could mention that he’s Filipino, that [marketing] wants a black character, because [the X-Men] had a huge black following at the time wondering why there wasn’t a black [male] X-Man.
And so [we decided not to fight for it because] there was nowhere else where we could get the creative synergy of what we had there, and, I mean, especially back then, the X-book was the book to get noticed. We were shot to the top. If the situation was different, or if we were having a tough time there, trying to get our voice out there, it would have been a big deal.
As Dimalanta notes, this is the jacket scene that Portacio was referring to…
Portacio is so candid with his answer, that I tend to believe him there. If he says that marketing only came into play when it came to deciding if he should be black or not, I’m willing to go with him.
By the way, one of the things Bishop was trying to stop in the present was the “X-Traitor,” who murdered the X-Men. I did a recent piece on who that X-Traitor turned out to be here.
Thanks to PJ for the question (sorry it took me, what, eight years?, to answer it) and thanks to Zedric Dimalanta and Whilce Portacio for the information! And let’s thank G. Kendall as well for a great X-Men blog!
Check out some entertainment and sports legends from this week at Legends Revealed:
On the next page, was Calvin and Hobbes almost a comic strip designed to advertise another character named Robotman?
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