Comic Legends: When Marvel 'Forgot' to Credit Harlan Ellison for a Comic

Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the six hundred and eighty-sixth installment where we examine comic book legends and whether they are true or false.

As always, there will be three different posts for each legend this week!

NOTE: The CSBG Twitter page hit 10,050 followers, so I did a bonus edition of Comic Book Legends Revealed earlier this week. We'll keep the bit going, though. Every 1,000 followers of the CSBG Twitter page, I'll do a bonus Comic Book Legends Revealed that week.


Marvel intended to adapt a Harlan Ellison story into an issue of the Hulk, but accidentally left off the credit.



In 1983, Incredible Hulk #286 came out. Titled "Hero," it was about a soldier from the 41st Century, where he forced to constantly fight in an unending war, who ends up in the past.

If it seems familiar, it is because it pretty much a straight up adaptation of Harlan Ellison's short story, "Soldier From Tomorrow," that was adapted into an episode of the Outer Limits in 1964 called simply "Soldier" (the episode proved so popular that they re-titled the original story "Soldier" in all future reprintings of the story since).

The soldier coming from the future, the helmet that forces him to keep fighting, the special rifle, the unique dialogue, it is all essentially directly lifted from "Soldier" and put into the issue of Hulk, with Hulk and Kang just getting involved in the tale.

A few people noticed the similarities, and so three issues later, Marvel explained that its editors just made a mistake and the story was always intended to be an adaptation of "Soldier" but the credit to Harlan Ellison was just accidentally left off of the issue and now they were addressing that, along with including the appropriate copyright notices...

This, though, turned out to just be a face-saving measure by Marvel.

Marvel Editor-in-Chief at the time, Jim Shooter, explained what really happened years later on his website...

But while I was EIC, [Bill Mantlo] ripped off a Harlan Ellison story for an issue of the Hulk. That issue I signed out — but I had never seen the episode of Outer Limits (I think) that Bill had ripped it from, so I didn’t know. I remember thinking what a good story it was, and that Bill must be improving. The day the book hit the stands, Roger Stern called me and said, “Are you nuts?! This is a Harlan Ellison story!” I said, “It is?” Then my secretary told me Harlan Ellison was on the other line.

Harlan said, words to the effect, you ripped me off. I said, yes, I know, I just found out about it. That admission calmed him down. I asked him what he wanted. Should we turn this over to the lawyers and let them work something out? I assured him that there was no contention, that Marvel did it and would fess up to it.

Harlan’s damages, by statute, would have been in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and he had us dead to rights. But, he said he’d settle for the same money as Bill was paid to “write” the script, an acknowledgement, plus a lifetime subscription to everything we ever published. Done. Thank you, Harlan.

I wonder whether Ellison lost that lifetime subscription when Marvel went through bankruptcy in the 1990s!

Thanks to Jim shooter for the information and thanks to the late Harlan Ellison for such a cool story!

Check out some legends from Legends Revealed:

Did John Fogerty Write “Centerfield” After Watching the MLB All-Star Game From the Centerfield Bleachers?

Check back tomorrow for part 2 of this week's legends!

And remember, if you have a legend that you're curious about, drop me a line at either brianc@cbr.com or cronb01@aol.com!

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