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Comic Legends: The Strange Origins of the Whistling Skull/JSA Team-Up

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

Click here for Part 1 of this week's legends. Click here for Part 2 of this week's legends.

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COMIC LEGEND:

JSA Liberty Files - The Whistling Skull was originally going to be a creator-owned Whistling Skull series.

STATUS:

True

Joseph Hedges put out an awesome oral history of Wildstorm a while back. You should pick up a copy, it's really good. It was SO good that there were awesome stories that they didn't even have room for in the book, like the story of how Tony Harris and B. Clay Moore almost did a creator-owned series called The Whistling Skull for Wildstorm but then the company was officially absorbed into DC Comics and all their individual projects went away. So they came up with a rather clever way to keep the project going.

Moore was interviewed for the book and Hedges shared some bonus interviews, including this bit from Moore:

We built this unique pulp themed world about this generational hero and we pitched it to Ben, he asked us to fine tune it. He ran it by Jim Lee, we went back and forth for a while. And I think Hank Kanalz, who was basically in charge of WildStorm was the guy who ultimately greenlit it and said, “Let’s do it.” This was actually when Ex Machina was still being done. So originally the idea was that we would follow Ex Machina with Whistling Skull. But it got drawn -- like I said, it is 2007, right? So the first issue came out in the end of 2012. So it was five years before we saw the book.

We were slowly building this book, and Tony was finishing Ex Machina and other things and I had written all six issues. And while we were doing this, WildStorm collapsed. It was absorbed into DC proper. Pretty much everybody at WildStorm stayed where they were but the WildStorm brand was gone, so that meant no books were being published through WildStorm. Suddenly we had this book that we’ve been working on for four years, with six issues already written, that had no home and was in limbo.

Luckily, Tony Harris had a plan:

So Tony -- to this day I still can’t really grasp how this worked because If you’ve seen the book, the final title when it was published was “JSA: The Liberty Files - The Whistling Skull.” Obviously we didn’t create it with any idea that it would be related at all to the DC Universe. So, Tony one day called me up, or emailed me. He was worried that we would get shuffled over to Vertigo, which I would have been fine with but he always wanted this book to be more all-ages friendly. He’s thinking about his kids and everything- just wanted it to have a broader appeal than what he thought Vertigo would be. He had created the Liberty Files universe about 10 years earlier with Dan Jolley. It was an Elseworlds’ book so it has these alternate universe versions of Hourman and Dr. Mid-Nite, and all these characters. He hadn’t done anything with those characters for about 10 years, but he said, “I want to see if they’ll let us bring those characters into the Whistling Skull, and then publish it as a DC book.” And I just said, “There’s no way that is going to happen.” This is a creator owned book. It was approved through WildStorm, which is totally separate, even today the West Coast is separate from what is going on on the East Coast in the DCU. I just couldn’t conceive that this would work.

Here is the Liberty Files prestige format series that Harris had done with Dan Jolley in 1999-2000...

So sure enough, they worked out a deal and the Whistling Skull was released as a miniseries tied into that JSA Liberty Files continuity...

Here's an example of how it was adapted...

Pretty freaking cool, right?

That was a good miniseries.

Thanks to Joseph Hedges and B. Clay Moore for the information! Again, folks, you really should pick up Hedges' oral history of Wildstorm. It's a great read.

Check out my latest Movie Legends Revealed - Did a teenage Tony Hawk really choreograph the skateboarding in Back to the Future?

OK, that's it for this week!

Thanks to the Grand Comics Database for this week's covers! And thanks to Brandon Hanvey for the Comic Book Legends Revealed logo, which I don't even actually use on the CBR editions of this column, but I do use them when I collect them all on legendsrevealed.com!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is cronb01@aol.com. And my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/brian_cronin, so you can ask me legends there, as well!

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See you all next week!

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