Welcome to the five hundred and ninety-fourth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. This week, be disgusted by some gross comments Bob Kane made regarding Batman as a gay icon, find out if Dave Stevens was sued by Marvel over criticizing them and discover a lost John Byrne project!
Bob Kane had a bizarre, extreme homophobic response to people who viewed Batman as a gay character.
Obviously, we’ve likely all seen the various “Batman and Robin are gay!” memes that make the rounds on the internet.
Plus, since Fredric Wertham first gave official voice to the idea that Batman and Robin were a “wish dream of two homosexuals living together,” the idea has become a prominent one in our pop culture.
A while back, I explained that Wertham’s views were actually a bit more subdued than people recall (while still being awful, of course, including making up data to fit his points), but the fact remains that the idea WAS certainly out there by the time of the great success of the “Batman” TV series of 1966-68.
Reader Clyde M. wrote in to suggest that I spotlight an amazing piece of history from that time period, where Bob Kane, Batman’s co-creator, actually spoke on the issue and…well…oh boy, you might not want to read this if you have a problem with people spouting off stupid stuff.
In 1967, Paul Sann wrote a well-timed book called “Fads, Follies and Delusions of the American People.” Well-timed because it was right smack in the middle of the success of the “Batman” TV series “Bat-mania” fad.
One of the articles in the book, then, was about “Bat-Mania” and Sann brought up the idea of homosexuality in the context of the “Batman” character and he turned to Bob Kane for his reaction on it and…yikes…
Batman is the epitome of virility and manliness—just the opposite image of the fag. Wertham read homosexuality into this thing because I had a man and a boy living in a big house together—in the same bedroom—with just a butler and no female around. The doctor read homosexuality into it, through his eyes, but for that matter he also put down the WONDER WOMAN comic as a lesbian invention.
Kane then tried to claim that he was behind the introduction of Aunt Harriet…
It was all hogwash but I had to do something about it anyway. So I changed their bedrooms and I added Aunt Harriet—sort of a mother to both of them.
Before finishing out with an awful conclusion…
Even so, I suppose the homosexuals like the TV show because of those tight outfits Adam West and Burt Ward wear. I imagine they sit around watching them on the screen and slap each other on the knees with the sheer joy of it all, but what can you do about that? I can’t change the characters because they weren’t homos in the first place and because you have to be crazy to fight success.
Kane didn’t bring the topic up at all in his later memoir, “Batman and Me,” so there’s that, at least.
Still, even while taking into account the era Kane was in when he made those comments, it’s still a shame to read such nonsense.
But thanks to Clyde for bringing it to my attention, as I think it is worthwhile to see it, as dumb as it is.
Dave Stevens was sued by Marvel because he insulted their work for hire rates.
I’m Going With False
In a recent Comic Book Legends Revealed, I talked about how Marvel actually sued Dave Stevens over the use of the name “Rocketeer,” as they had previously introduced a group of villains known as the Rocketeers.
And here, of course, is Stevens’ Rocketeer..
Reader Jerry wrote in to say:
I have heard another angle to the Stevens/Marvel story worth stating here. In an interview in the early 80’s, possibly with the short lived “Comics Scene” offshoot from Starlog, Stevens was asked if he’d ever work for Marvel. He said no because in his opinion their work-for-hire payments were the worst in the industry.
The higher-ups at Marvel wanted to hurt him for that statement, and ordered their attorneys to look for any loophole that would allow for a lawsuit. Hence “the Rocketeer being a rip-off of our Rocketeers.”
In short, the lawsuit was an act of revenge. One which Marvel lost.
I’m not necessarily saying that I would put such a thing above Marvel, but the fact of the matter was that they were doing that sort of thing a LOT back then. At the same time that they were getting into it with Dave Stevens, they were also sending Don Simpson a cease and desist letter for his “Megatropolis Quartet”…
And Simpson had no beef with Marvel. This was just something they did back in the days before parody laws became more explicit. They would send out a lot of cease and desist letters. Heck, even afterwards, they kept up the practice well into the 1990s.
In addition, when Stevens talked about the lawsuit back in 1987 in this excellent Comics Journal interview with Gary Groth, he made it pretty clear that he thought it was the simplest answer, as well, Marvel was just throwing their weight around…
GROTH: But you felt strongly enough about this to not capitulate and change he name.
STEVENS: What for? I don’t believe they’re within their rights to come after me. As far as I’m concerned, it’s nothing but an aggravation suit. All they’re doing is flexing their muscles because they can. I think they were hoping that since I’m a little guy, they could bleed me dry very quickly. But I hung in there. I think at some point it’s going to be resolved in my favor. It can’t end any other way, really. I believe they have such a weak, weak stance, if any. If it weren’t so stupid it’d be hilarious.
GROTH: Yeah, that’s how I felt.
STEVENS: I feel sorry for some of the other people they have gone after. They’ve caused similar grief to others because they weren’t able to defend themselves financially. Luckily, I used most of my profits off the Rocketeer album to fight the thing. Unfortunately, now I’m in a position where I’ve had to work something out with Henry Holmes, my lawyer, regarding payment. I wasn’t going to back down, though, because it was my character. I built up a certain amount of credibility over the years with it, and it’s readily recognizable. Everybody who hears the name or sees the name associates it with me, not with Marvel. Their whole bone of contention was that it was causing confusion in the marketplace between my character and their characters, and I haven’t found anybody who has read, seen, or even heard of their characters.
GROTH: If you had ever considered working for Marvel in the past, would this change your mind about that?
STEVENS: Well, I don’t hold grudges, really, because business is business. I did, however, want to do a project that I had to pass on because of this battle, because my lawyers thought that it would be just asinine for me to get in there and do a job for people who were costing me thousands of dollars and I had to agree.
GROTH: This was a project for Marvel.
STEVENS: Yeah. Kaluta had done a Shadow graphic novel that I wanted to ink. It was the most gorgeous piece of work I had ever seen him do and I think it’s going to be looked at forever after as the definitive ’30s statement for Mike Kaluta and it killed me not to be able to it. But I was entertaining the notion because I wanted to do that book so badly. Before this lawsuit happened, they did come to me with several covers that they wanted me to do. It was all work for hire, and I explained to them I don’t do work for hire. They got a little miffed, I guess — they thought that I should… prostrate myself on the floor making obeisance because they are Marvel, the God that is, she who must be obeyed. But even without work for hire, there really isn’t any other project at Marvel besides the Shadow that I would’ve been interested in working on.
GROTH: But you wouldn’t exclude the possibility.
STEVENS: Never. I’d like to think that I could do work for anybody at this point. It’s just that the two major companies, Marvel and DC, are so difficult to work with, with all the red tape you have to go through. I had a terrible time getting paid from DC for those Who’s Who drawings I did, not to mention Elvira’s House of Mystery.
Notice that Stevens, even while noting that Marvel didn’t like him turning them down, doesn’t blame that and if anyone had reason to feel otherwise, it would be Stevens.
I think that this is just such a straightforward “Goliath trying to step on David” type situation that I’m willing to go with Stevens’ take.
Thanks to Gary Groth and Dave Stevens for the information and thanks to Jerry for the suggestion.
Check out my latest Movie Legends Revealed at CBR: Did Agent Coulson only appear in a film after “Iron Man” because Nick Fury had to be written out of “Thor” due to Samuel L. Jackson’s contract negotiations, so the film needed a replacement SHIELD agent?
John Byrne almost released an adaptation of Edmond Hamilton’s “City at World’s End,” beginning the project in his spare time!
Edmond Hamilton’s classic 1951 science fiction novel, “City at World’s End” is about a small town somehow surviving nuclear armageddon sand then, well, being a city that has to survive AFTER “world’s end.”
It’s one of comic book superstar artist John Byrne’s favorite novels, and he apparently re-reads it frequently.
Back in the late 1980s, Byrne began working on an adaptation of the book in his spare time, before any publisher actually suggested publishing it.
Here is a page from the adaptation…
It got as far as WaRP Graphics actually announcing that they would put it out officially when Byrne left “Fantastic Four.”
But obviously it never actually quite came together.
Byrne still thinks about doing the adaptation to this very day. Here are some doodles of the cast members he did back in 2013…
Sounds like it would be a great book. Maybe someday we’ll get to see it!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
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See you all next week!
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