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One of the Craziest 'Deadline Dooms' in Marvel History

Knowledge Waits is a feature where I just share some bit of comic book history that interests me.

Today, we look at perhaps the strangest "Deadline Dooms" in Marvel history. One of the biggest changes that Jim Shooter put into place at Marvel when he took over as the Editor-in-Chief in the late 1970s was to greatly expand Marvel's editorial staff. During the early 1970s, Marvel had a relatively small editorial staff, with a lot of their editors also being the people who were writing the comic books that were being edited. So they often had problems with delays. Marvel Editor-in-Chief Marv Wolfman came up with the idea of doing "inventory stories" that could fill in when a book was going to be too late to come out.

However, since there was still a shortage of staff, the "Dreaded Deadline Doom" was still a problem. So you would have stuff like Ghost Rider #10, which reprinted the first appearance of the Ghost Rider, but still had the cover for what the issue was GOING to be about before a deadline was missed (but too late to change the cover for the issue, which gets set before the interior pages).

That would be the most extreme type of example, where a cover did not even fit the book that was inside. However, last minute reprints were not only non surprises, they were practically expected in the 1970s.

Here's a tricky one for you, though, what do you do if your comic book series is a NEW series? What do you do if there is a need for reprints in a book like that? The Ghost Rider book was able to go to the earlier series where the Ghost Rider debuted in, but that was at least a while separate book. What if they didn't have an earlier story? What do you do when you need a reprint to fill in an issue?

That was the problem that popped up when Hero for Hire, the first Marvel ongoing series starring a black character, received a revamp with writer Len Wein taking over as the book was going to change its name to Power Man. Len Wein started writing his direction for the series, which would appear in issue #17. The problem is that the previous writer, Steve Englehart, was off the book with issue #14.

So artist Billy Graham plotted and drew a short story for #15 that Tony Isabella was brought in at pretty much the last possible minute to script. As soon as he finished that script, Isabella had to then write the script for Graham to draw for #16. Isabella later recalled that he had only a few days from when he finished #15 to come up with a full plot or script for #16. Isabella decided to just write a full script, so that way at least his part of the process would be finished. He wouldn't have to wait for Graham to pencil the pages and return them to Isabella for dialogue. Graham could just pencil the book outright.

The issue here was that Graham's short story was, well, you know, a short story.

It was only 11 pages. The comic book had to have 19 pages of story. So what do you do? There are no Luke Cage short stories to reprint. You have #17 already being finished, so you can't reprint an earlier issue (and that would have been super weird anyways, since it was only issue #15 - so reprinting issue #1 would have been strange) since that would push things back and you can't afford to do that. So you need to add a short story to fill the issue out. But who?

The answer may surprise you...

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