Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #165

This is the one-hundred and sixty-fifth 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 sixty-four. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.

Let's begin!

Oh, wait, before we begin - I forgot to ask for one last scanning request. Does anyone have a good resolution scan (800x1000 pixels or better) of the "methylene" panel from Walt Disney Comics and Stories #44, "The Mad Chemist"? It's the first panel on the second page of the story. The story was reprinted in Walt Disney's Donald Duck Adventures #15 in 1989. Thanks for any help y'all can lend!

Sorry about that, NOW we can begin! :)

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Strikeforce: Morituri was originally intended to be a New Universe title.

STATUS: False, at Least in the Typical Sense of the Term "New Universe"

Reader Rob M. wrote in with this one just a week or so ago, so the turnaround on this one is not too shabby, if I do say so myself (which is what I was just doing, in case you missed it ;) ). Rob asks:

Hey! I remember in the mid-80s, when Marvel first announced the New Universe, seeing Strikeforce: Morituri on the list of books. I think it was in one of Shooter's columns...Was Strikeforce supposed to be a New Universe title? If so, why was it removed from the line-up?

So I says to myself, "Self," I says, "Who better to ask this of than the guy who created Strikeforce Morituri, Peter Gillis himself?"

So I posed the question to Mr. Gillis, and he was kind enough to give me a prompt response:

Nope. Completely bogus.

I had been shopping the series around to various companies, and a number of them were interested. Since I was working with Carl Potts on Dr. Strange, I showed it to him. Carl surprised me by saying he wanted to do it. He's the one who suggested Brent Anderson draw it, which delighted me still more.Both Brent and I had to feverishly insist that this was NOT a New Universe book, no no no, please don't associate us with it, because most of the people said New Universe the way people say 'boy band' or 'reality show" these days.

It was a bitter truth that Jim Shooter had cancelled a whole slew of books to 'free up the creative teams' to do the New Universe, but that none of those people were offered slots in that project. He had killed two of my series, Defenders and Micronauts, and I was feverishly looking for work to make up for it.

Plus, for Morituri to be a New Universe book, it would have to have been a Shooter idea, as they all were, and I get just a little bit indignant at THAT suggestion.

Carl Potts was trying to develop his own distinctive approach to comics, and Morituri was part of that, much in the same way that Larry Hama put out The 'Nam. They deserve credit for their daring.

So there ya go!

I would slightly add to Gillis' recollection that the New Universe wasn't ALWAYS made up of Shooter creations - that's just what it ended up being at the end of the day, so theoretically, Strikeforce: Morituri COULD have been envisioned as a New Universe title (like Speedball was). I allow that, as Gillis notes, in the case of Strikeforce: Morituri it was NOT, but I just thought it notable to point out that just being a non-Shooter creation isn't, in and of itself, reason for a book not to have been meant for the New Universe.

EDITED TO ADD: Carl Potts helpfully chimes in on his blog by saying that yes, this WAS, in fact, one of those original New Universe designs, like Speedball, when the New Universe was an entirely different animal.

Anyhow, thanks to Rob for the question, and thanks a lot to Peter Gillis for the wonderful response!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Geoff Johns once had an Avengers script sent back because it had "too much story."


Reader Dave M. wrote in awhile back asking:

I remember hearing somewhere that Geoff Johns had a script for an issue of Avengers split into two issues by Marvel. That sounds hilarious if true - but is it true?

That story, Dave, is BASICALLY true.

It is funny, the story popped up in 2003, when Johns was pretty early into his run on Avengers, and at the time, the whole "Marvel is padding their books - the stories are too spread out" argument was really getting a lot of traction.

So when the rumor started that Johns pitched an issue of Avengers and had his ONE issue turned into TWO issues, well, that just was the epitome of that, wasn't it?

As it turns out, Rich Johnston, in his Lying in the Gutters column back then, addressed the rumor, and as it turns out, it was BASICALLY true.

Here's what Rich had to say back then:

At Wondercon, Geoff Johns stated that after writing one of his first Avengers scripts, it was sent back for having "too much story." He then cut the script in half, padded it out a bit, and made two issues out of it.

He was then not surprised to see reviews saying that not enough happened in the comic. He agreed. When a version of this was posted on an AOL board, Tom Brevoort confirmed Johns' account, saying "I would have chosen a different way to describe all this, but yes, that's essentially accurate."

So, yeah, Dave, I guess the story is, more or less, true.

However, Tom Brevoort feels the story is skewed. Here is Tom on the incident:

Boy, I wish you'd asked me for a clarification about that Geoff Johns/AVENGERS item before posting it-because the way it's being spun isn't quite the way it went down.

On "Red Zone", Geoff initially beated the story out with me as a five-issue arc. However, during this period, Marvel President Bill Jemas was very concerned about how our stories were opening, how much information and backstory was being thrown at the reader all at once, and how accessable this was making them. This was a concern up and down the line, not just for AVENGERS-and while Bill could certainly be dogmatic about his opinions, there was some merit in what he was saying.

So when we spoke about the opening to "Red Zone", Bill suggested that we were hitting the ground too quickly, especially since it was the arc on which Olivier Coipel would be joining the creative team, and there was going to be a much bigger push on this issue. We discussed it, and Geoff in essence decided to take the events that would have played out in the single issue #65 and spread them over issues #65 and #66. Bill was very big on introducing the characters and situations deliberately and linearly, and was especially big on building up reader empathy through connections with ordinary people within the story. So the inital Red Zone attack became more involved, and the family who dies is given a bit more screen time, in order to try to make them feel like real characters rather than simply cannon fodder. Doing this had nothing to do with writing for the Trade and needing to hit a magic six-issue length -it was all motivated by a desire to make the opening of the story as welcoming to new readers as possible. And any complaints that the rest of it was just as padded are just plain wrong-the last four parts precisely mirror Geoff's original outline for the story. It was only the first two issues that were affected.

And while Geoff probably tailored his approach on his remaining stories to take Bill's feedback on this into account, we were never bothered in this way again, so "Search for She-Hulk" is four parts because we chose to make it four parts. If it felt padded and empty to people, that's because they didn't like the story, not because somebody was looking over Geoff's shoulder and making him write bad. If we produced a clunker, then we produced a clunker-but in all honesty, I don't really think we did. I'm very proud of Geoff's run on AVENGERS and would work with him again in a heartbeat. You may fel differently about those stories, but that's what makes horse races.

Tom B

Thanks to Dave for the question and thanks to Rich Johnston, Geoff Johns and Tom Brevoort for the information!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Legion of Superheroes character M'rissey is named after Legion fan Rich Morrissey.


Some rather rude individual (I forget the poster's name) asked me about this one awhile. I really ought not to answer it, but it's a good story, so here ya go!

Rich Morrissey was a really notable comic book fan, who was deeply involved in fandom. He passed away in 2001 at the far too young age of 47.

Mark Evanier has a great piece on him here. Rich was especially known for being a really smart guy with a real love for comic trivia.

Recently, Jim Shooter introduced a Legion applicant named M'rissey, whose "power" is that he is really really good at calculus and trivia. He has become a real supporting character in the book as the team's business manager.

I asked Shooter about the character and here is what he has to say:

The character M'rissey in the current LSH run is an homage to Rich Morrissey. Though I had little contact with him except for a few encounters in the seventies and reading his LEAPA zines (copies of which my friend Harry Broertjes sent me), I counted Rich as a friend. He was a good man.

So there you go!

Thanks to Jim Shooter for the information, and thanks to Rich Morrissey for making us comic fans look good!

Okay, that's it for this week!

Thanks to the Grand Comic Book Database for this week's covers!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is cronb01@aol.com.

See you next week!

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