Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #18!


One of Elliot S! Maggin's first stories for DC (specifically, it apepars to have been his second ever!) was the classic "Must There Be a Superman?" from 1972 (Superman #247), where the Guardians of the Universe cause Superman to question whether his constant assistance to the human race actually had some effect on IMPEDING human progress.

It is a very interesting tale, and definitely one that was a bit more sophisticated than other Superman stories of the time, and this is reflected in the comic being collected in "The Greatest Superman Stories Ever Told."

Mark Waid has stated that this issue was one of his inspirations for Kingdom Come.

The funny thing was, though, was that it wasn't Maggin's idea!

Maggin explains the story in his introduction to the trade collection of the partially inspired by "Must There Be A Superman?", Kingdom Come...

I have a friend named Jeph. You know Jeph. I was maybe nineteen or twenty and he was maybe twelve or thirteen and I was a student at this college and Jeph's stepdad was a big muckamuck at the college and stepdad and I made friends. I went over to stepdad's house for dinner one day and Jeph and I got to talking there about our mutual love for super-heroes and their stories. We came up with a nifty story over mom and stepdad's dinner table. See, I'd just sold my first comic-book script, a Green Arrow story called "What Can One Man Do?" and I had a problem. I had a meeting soon with Julius Schwartz, the Bard of Bards, to see whether I was a one-trick pony or I could do this sort of thing again. I had to come up with a hit-it-outta-the-park idea for a Superman story or else spend the next three years in law school. I guess I told Jeph a few of my ideas and I guess Jeph told me a few of his. And Jeph came up with this thing he called "Why Must There Be a Superman?" It was about the Guardians of the Universe planting a new idea in Big Blue's head. The idea was that maybe, in his zeal to preserve life and ease the path of the human race, Superman was keeping ordinary everday good humans from growing on their own. Maybe he was killing the butterfly by helping it out of the chrysalis. Not for sure, but just maybe. That was Jeph's idea.

So I went to Gotham, to see the Bard and I had maybe a dozen little germs of ideas packed under my scalp. I'd try this one on him. I'd toss him that one. I'd pitch him another one. Some of them he liked; some of them he didn't. Some of them inspired ideas of the Bard's own; some of them made him snort or snore. By the end of a couple of hours - they were a loud, intense couple of hours, as hours I spent with the Bard of Bards always would be - I was emotionally exhausted and still he wanted to hear more. So I dredged up this idea about what might happen if the Guardians came calling on Superman with the tiniest little criticism of how he was doing his job. Now you're talking fresh stuff, the old man let me know. He got excited. He yanked people in from the hall and made me repeat the idea for them.

I called the story "Must There Be a Superman?" and Saint Curt and Murphy drew it and it made me happy and I put words in Superman's mouth pretty much steadily for the next fifteen years and never went to law school. And I swear I did not have a clue where the idea had come from. Who knows where ideas come from anyway? I didn't remember - still don't remember, in fact, but I believe Jeph - until Jeph told me about his contribution years later. Like twenty or so years later.

Jeph has never suffered, I don't believe, for my inconsiderate oversight, and in fact has always been my friend. He's done well, too. With his buddy Matthew he wrote the first great super-hero movie of the modern period, Commando with Arnold Schwarzenegger, and lots of other great stuff. And one day later on I was editor of Jeph's first comic-book series of his own, an eight-issue masterpiece with Tim Sale called Challengers of the Unknown. Now he writes for Hollywood and he writes for DC and Marvel and he's happy and he's still my friend, and now I get to make this right too.

The post script on this story happened ten years later, as related in a Jeph Loeb interview here,

10 years later, I was working with Tim Sale on Challengers of the Unknown, Elliot was living in California, and we all went out to lunch together. There used to be a comic-book store right around the corner from my office, so we went to the comic-book store, and Elliot, flitting through the back-issue bins, pulled out "Must There Be a Superman?." He said, "This was always one of my favorite stories." And I said, "It was always one of mine, too, and I always wondered why you told the story that I sent to you." And he turned pale. I said, "Elliot, please. (A) It was so long ago, and (B) you were so helpful, and (C) if I get anywhere in the comic-book business it's because of your advice and friendship." But he was just absolutely flabbergasted - in utter shock. And as we went back to have lunch, every 5 minutes he would look at me and he would say, "I can't believe that I did that." And I would just say, "Elliot, I don't care. I was really flattered that I had come up with an idea that you might use."

I guess ideas really DO come from all sorts of places!

Well, that's it for me this week!

Feel free to tell me some urban legends you have heard, and I will try to confirm or deny them!

He-Man: Masters of the Multiverse Re-Introduced the Two Worst. He-Men. Ever.

More in Comics