Welcome to the five hundred and ninety-second in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. This week, find out if Richard Pryor was originally going to be Brainiac in “Superman III!” Learn the story behind Thanos’ first solo story! And how did comics and “Star Trek” factor into the very first licensed Happy Meal?
Richard Pryor was originally going to play Brainiac in “Superman III.”
A few years back, longtime reader Sue Denim wrote in to ask about an alleged piece of trivia that she read about the film “Superman III.”
In Superman III, Richard Pryor, of all people, plays a wage-slave who gets some basic computer training and is soon able to crack into just about anything. The character was originally supposed to be Brainiac in disguise, explaining his abilities, but Executive Meddling turned the character into comic relief.
Sue wanted to know if that was the truth.
It is not.
It IS true that the original film treatment for “Superman III” involved Brainiac as the main bad guy (it also involved a very peculiar role for Supergirl), but that treatment had been eliminated well before Richard Pryor had been cast in the film. Warner Brothers felt that it was too “sci-fi” for their tastes and they felt that it would be too much trouble (and likely too costly) to translate Brainiac to film.
Soon after, Ilya and Alexander Salkind, the producers of the film, decided on adding Pryor to the film after Pryor had expressed interest in being in a “Superman” film. Warner Brothers liked this idea a lot, as they figured that Pryor would bring his fans to the film while the established “Superman” audience would ALSO go to see it and the film would be box office dynamite.
It didn’t work out that way. The new screenplay for the film did incorporate a few of the Salkinds’ original plot ideas, with the Brainiac plot turning into the computer storyline in the film, plus the Salkinds had a plot in their original treatment where Superman fights an evil double of himself. That became a major part of the new film’s screenplay.
But no, Pryor was never Brainiac. Thanks for the question, Sue!
Thanos got his first solo story because Marvel couldn’t work out a deal to do more new “Logan’s Run” stories.
Reader Tariq L. wrote in to ask about a very strange backup story by Marvel Comics. He wrote:
I am deeply curious about any more details available on the Marvel Comics series of Logan’s Run – which was notably cut short, I believe with no plot resolution.
More interesting to me though, is any light you may be able to shed on the seemingly bizarre choice to add the Thanos backup story to issue #6 – I have looked on the internet to try to find out why that decision was made, as it seems so out of place.
“Logan’s Run” #6 did, indeed, feature a back-up story starring Thanos and Drax the Destroyer. It was the first artwork that Mike Zeck ever did for Marvel…
So what was the deal? In a past Comic Book Legends Revealed, I explained how Marvel thought that they had a deal with MGM where they could do new stories set in the world of Logan’s Run, but MGM disagreed, which ultimately led to the comic book series being abruptly canceled after issue #7 (while in the middle of a story). Future back-up stories for the series would later appear edited into an issue of Bizarre Adventures (as detailed in this Comic Book Legends Revealed).
It was that very disagreement that led to this super weird back-up story.
You see, Mike Zeck had done the story as a try-out for Marvel. Archie Goodwin hired him to draw “Masters of Kung Fu” based on that story (Zeck really did do a great job on it), but the story was basically just an inventory story. A really good inventory story.
Well, while Marvel was negotiating with MGM, they had a deadline crunch, and thus, they needed to fill five page quickly, and it wasn’t like they had a ton of Logan’s Run material to use, so Thanos it was!
They actually admitted as much at the time. Here is the letter column to “Logan’s Run” #6…
Check out my latest Movie Legends Revealed at CBR: Why did Deadpool really forget his bag of guns at the end of the Deadpool movie?
The first licensed Happy Meal toys were “Star Trek” comics!
Like a lot of corporate ideas, the origin of the “Happy Meal” is a bit obscured, as a lot of these things are often one person has an idea that another person builds on and then another person builds on it and then another person builds on it to the point where the finished product is a lot different than the original idea. In this instance, most people generally credit the first idea of a designated meal for kids being that of Yolanda Fernández de Cofiño, who operated a McDonald’s franchise in Guatemala with her husband in the mid-1970s. The idea of putting together a box kit and the name “Happy Meal” came from advertising executive Bob Bernstein, whose agency worked for McDonald’s at the time.
The Happy Meal first debuted in Kansas City in 1977 before getting a national rollout in June of 1979.
Unsurprisingly, someone quickly seized upon the idea of using the cardboard boxes that the Happy Meal came in for advertising, and just a few months after the Happy Meal debuted nationwide, it had its first licensed Happy Meal. And that first license was “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.”
Star Trek comics appeared on the Happy Meal packaging. Here are some…
Plus, the very first toy included in a Happy Meal was a “Star Trek” communicator that allowed you to scroll through and read another comic (the comic art was all by Ron Villani) of sorts.
Thanks to fanboy.com for the images of the Happy Meal boxes!
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!
Here’s my most recent book, Why Does Batman Carry Shark Repellent? The cover is by Kevin Hopgood (the fellow who designed War Machine’s armor).
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Here’s my book of Comic Book Legends (130 legends. — half of them are re-worked classic legends I’ve featured on the blog and half of them are legends never published on the blog!).
The cover is by artist Mickey Duzyj. He did a great job on it…
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See you all next week!
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