This is the one-hundred and fifty-eighth in a series of examinations of comic book urban legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous one-hundred and fifty-seven. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.
This week also marks the third anniversary of this feature, so to celebrate, I figured I’d treat you all to something a little special – not just a DOUBLE-sized edition, but double-sized plus ONE! Why lucky seven? Because I thought that a nice way to make this a STAR-STUDDED anniversary would be to have one legend for each of the writers of the top five comic book runs. Since there were two co-writers in the top five, that makes seven!
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Neil Gaiman reworked his Phantom Stranger proposal into Sandman.
STATUS: Basically True
It is fun to think of DC Comics in the late 1980s, where there was this influx of British writers who also brought with them an influx of creativity. This creativity was displayed with great effect as Alan Moore took a popular (but not THAT popular) DC character, Swamp Thing, and turned it into a critical darling.
In the late 1980s, DC wanted to know if similarly talented British creators could do the same, and writer Neil Gaiman’s first shot at doing a new take on an established DC character was 1988’s Black Orchid.
After that was a success, Karen Berger asked him to pick a new ongoing project.
Gaiman’s first answer was the Phantom Stranger.
He was told no, as DC did not think he was enough of a “hero” to sustain an ongoing series (and he had just had a mini-series anyways).
So Gaiman suggested the Demon.
Nope, just used by Matt Wagner.
Okay, how about Green Arrow?
Nope, sorry, Mike Grell is doing a Green Arrow series.
How about the Sandman?
Free and clear!
However, the specific wonder that reader RR Duran sent in to me a year ago was did Gaiman turn his Phantom Stranger idea into the Sandman?
And here, I’m going to give a tentative yes, but perhaps not the way that Duran is asking me. I believe Duran is asking whether Gaiman had a solid storyline all planned for the Phantom Stranger, then when that was rejected, Gaiman just changed the characters to Morpheus, et. al. Duran suggests this because of what he felt to be similarities between Gaiman’s initial Sandman plots and unresolved plots from the Phantom Stranger’s previous ongoing series.
Instead, what I think happened was that Gaiman had a certain amount of fantastical ideas, and where he initially planned on using the Phantom Stranger to achieve his goals of telling these stories, he instead came up with Morpheus. The two are really a lot alike, in the sense that they both mostly facilitate other people’s stories.
In an interview with Universo HQ a few years back, Gaiman goes into this point deeper, by discussing the similarities between Morpheus and the Phantom Stranger (he details a scrapped plot where he had the two talk for awhile before he realized it was just like the same person talking to himself – so decided against the idea), and specifically saying that any ideas he had for the Phantom Stranger series he had used up during his Sandman run.
So while it was not a direct “replace all usages of ‘Phantom Stranger’ with ‘Morpheus'” reworking, I think it is close enough to give it a basic true.
Here is Neil Gaiman himself clarifying the situation:
As I remember both Grant and I pitched our Phantom STranger stories on the same day, and they both involved Cassandra Craft . That time it was turned down because they’d just commissioned the Kupperberg series. I don’t honestly think that anything in the pitch I did was reworked in Sandman. Some months later, when I was asked what I’d like to do as a monthly series, I asked for the Stranger, and was told no, because he wasn’t a Hero. So took enormous pleasure in writing a series about someone much less a hero than the stranger ever was.
Sandman was plotted from the ground up, starting with the character, not reusing anything. I’m sure that if I’d done a Phantom Stranger series it would have covered as much history as Sandman did. But I got most of my desire to write Phantom Stranger characters out of my system in Books of Magic…
I’ve still got the Phantom Stranger / Morpheus scene from Sandman 24 somewhere, and you can see why it didn’t work – they stand there being gnomic at each other, and it really doesn’t make for drama, so after a page or so I gave it up as a bad job and just started the story a few moments later. But it wasn’t a plot, just a scene.
Thanks to RR Duran for the question, and thanks to Universo HQ and especially, Neil Gaiman for the information and clarifications!
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Chris Claremont modeled an X-Men character after a translator he once had.
As noted in a previous installment, Chris Claremont commonly peppers in appearances of his friends in his comics.
However, apparently only a brief encounter with Claremont can lead to you making an appearance in an X-Men comic, as Lourdes Ortiz found out during the 1980s.
In 1985, Lourdes Ortiz worked as Chris Claremont’s translator when he attended the 1985 Barcelona Comic Convention in Barcelona, Spain.
Here she is with Mr. Claremont…
If you can read Spanish, here is a newspaper article account of Claremont’s Spanish tour.
About a year later, in Classic X-Men #7, Claremont delved into the background of one of the Hellfire Club (powerful, secretive business organization – made up of mostly pretty evil folks)’s leaders, Sebastian Shaw.
In the story, we see Sebastian Shaw torn between the head of the Hellfire Club, Ned Buckman, and Shaw’s lover, the mutant teleporter, Lourdes Chantel, a teleporter from…you guessed it!…Barcelona, Spain.
Both Lourdeses even look similar…
Chantel is killed in the story by the evil mutant-hunting robots, the Sentinels (which were sent by Buckman to kill Shaw), and her death leads Shaw to take control of the Hellfire Club, making the leaders of the group mutants.
So who knows who might appear in a Chris Claremont comic next? Watch out dry cleaners and accountants, your time may come next!!
Thanks to reader Julio for filling me in on this one!
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: John Byrne drew She-Hulk’s nipples in a Marvel Graphic Novel.
Reader yo go re asked me the following last year:
Did John Byrne draw a, ah… “wardrobe malfunction” in the Sensational She-Hulk graphic novel?
As I read it, the story had a fairly sexual bent, what with the public strip searches, the probing, the tiny bare butt-shot on a tv screen, etc. At one point, She-Hulk gets shot in the chest, and while it tears the clothes she was wearing, it obviously doesn’t do anything to the character. We get a panel showing her from the chest up, crushing the gun the guy shot her with, and it’s possible to Rorschach-test your way into seeing barely-concealed nipples. It doesn’t help that they’re colored differently than the rest of her skin.
I haven’t seen a direct quote, but rumor is that Byrne said the inker did it, not him. Seems possible, but not highly likely – considering the way Byrne liked to tease the audience in his run on the book, it seems more likely that he just tried to see if he could pitch one past the editor, and succeeded.
Here is the scene in question, from 1985’s Marvel Graphic Novel: The Sensation She-Hulk
(Thanks to Dave Campbell for the scan!)
Okay, so the nipples are clearly there.
So, was it Byrne or was it the inker of the comic, Kim DeMulder?
Here’s Mr. DeMulder on the subject (I know Byrne has already denied it – so I went right to Mr. DeMulder):
Yeah I added them. I understand that Byrne wasn’t too crazy about that.
I had a lot of fun doing this book, but it got under a very tight deadline crunch toward the end of it. Adding to it all, a few of the pages I had already inked were lost in Marvel’s own mail room. So I had to trace copies of the pencils and re-ink them.
This obviously created less time to do much of any production changes in the artwork. In the first part of the book, I can remember that Byrne had whited out some of She-Hulk’s breast “details” that I had added in! 😉 Later on he apparently didn’t have the time to do that!
Another by-the-way about this book was that it was originally planned to be a regular comic book miniseries and then changed to a graphic novel after we had already started it. So under the heading of “graphic novel”, I felt a little more inclined to add some details that couldn’t be shown in code-approved comics.
So there ya go! A consensus!
Here is a link to Kim’s neat-o website!
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