As you already know if you’re here reading this, the internet can be a really weird place. For comic book fans, it’s been both a blessing and a curse. Back in the ’90s, the world wasn’t as accepting of superhero nerds as it is today, so when the internet first started gaining widespread popularity, it was one of the few places where comic book readers could gather and discuss their favorite characters, stories and creators. The downfall of this sudden platform of instant widespread information is that a lot of weird superhero urban legends started popping up. While many of them were completely fictitious, sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.
Some superhero urban legends just sound too weird to be true, but we have the proof to back it up! Big thanks are owed to CBR’s own Brian Cronin for the bulk of the research on these urban legends, who’s been writing about comic books for over 12 years. Check out his column Comic Book Legends Revealed, or pick up his book, Was Superman A Spy? And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed for more information! For now though, CBR presents 15 internet urban legends about superheroes (that are 100% true!)
15. STAN LEE FORGOT HULK’S NAME
You might think we’re just making an “old man” joke by talking about Stan Lee’s memory, but there’s a reason he’s a household name. Back in the ’60s, Stan Lee co-created hundreds of Marvel characters over a short period of time with artist Jack Kirby, and he was writing most of their books all at the same time. The reason for names like Peter Parker, Reed Richards and J. Jonah Jameson was because it made it easier to remember all their names, but that didn’t always work out.
Even as a young man, you could forgive the guy for not being able to keep track of it all, but of course fans noticed when multiple issues of The Incredible Hulk started referring to Bruce Banner as “Bob Banner.” So, Stan Lee decided to own his mistake in the best way possible and canonize the character’s name as “Robert Bruce Banner.”
14. WOLVERINE WAS ALMOST A WOLVERINE
The creation of Wolverine can mostly be attributed to writer Len Wein and art director John Romita Sr., who intended Wolverine to be a teenage mutant like the rest of the X-Men, but almost everything we know about his character is thanks to writer Chris Claremont. The retractable claws, the age difference, the metal skeleton, and if Stan Lee hadn’t stepped in to object, he would have been a super-evolved literal wolverine courtesy of the High Evolutionary.
This plotline is even introduced in X-Men #98 when a scan of his body reveals that he’s not really a mutant in the traditional sense. As much gratitude as we owe Chris Claremont for his contributions to the X-Men mythos, we should all take a moment to thank Stan Lee for offering some editorial oversight when it was needed most.
13. HULK HOGAN VS. MARVEL
Terry “Hulk Hogan” Bollea debuted as the then-WWF’s newest professional wrestler in 1979, cashing in on the popularity of The Incredible Hulk TV series, which was in its third season at the time. Playing fast and loose with copyright infringement, the World Wrestling Federation didn’t consult Marvel Comics before his debut, which didn’t exactly thrill the comic book publisher.
Marvel initially warned the WWF to cease use of the name, but rather than rebranding him as “The Incredible Terry,” Vince McMahon Sr. struck a deal with Marvel to license the name to them. After rebranding himself as “Hollywood Hogan” in 1996, Marvel refused to release him from their agreement until 2005 when, rather than continuing to pay the licensing fees, Hogan decided to purchase the full rights to the name “Hulk Hogan” from Marvel outright.
12. BATMAN: YEAR TWO CAME BEFORE YEAR ONE
Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One is widely considered one of the best Batman stories of all time, but it wasn’t really the first attempt at retelling Batman’s origin story. It was just the first attempt that DC allowed to be published. A few years before Frank Miller would write Year One, DC writer Mike W. Barr approached DC with a story titled Batman: 1980 dealing with Batman’s first year as a vigilante, in his attempt to unify the scattered, conflicting Batman canon into one unified origin. Sound familiar?
DC told him that they saw no need to go messing around with Batman canon at the moment, which apparently changed by the time Frank Miller approached them with his pitch two years later. Following Year One’s success, Barr reworked the concepts of Batman 1980 into a follow-up called Batman: Year Two, which DC was happy to publish.
11. HULK WAS ALMOST RED ON TV
The world didn’t get introduced to Red Hulk until January 2008, but we almost got our first glimpse of a red Hulk way back in 1977. Rather than General Thunderbolt Ross, though, it would have been
Bruce David Banner in The Incredible Hulk. In an interview with IGN, creator/producer of The Incredible Hulk, Kenneth Johnson, stated that he actually called Stan Lee up and tried to get permission to make the Hulk red in the series.
“The color of rage is red… It’s a real human color, you know when people get flushed with anger.” However, that image of the green Hulk from the comics was just too iconic to mess with, so Johnson had to go on without his red Hulk, and the series was likely a lot better for it.
10. JOKER DIED IN HIS SECOND APPEARANCE
Batman’s rivalry with The Joker goes way back to the very first issue of Batman. In a way, there is no Batman without The Joker… but he was actually killed off in the same issue in which he made his first appearance. Bob Kane didn’t like to reuse villains, so the Joker accidentally stabbed himself at the end of the issue and that could have been the end.
Thankfully, editor Whitney Ellsworth saw the potential of the iconic clown prince of crime and had them add in a final panel after the comic was finished where a paramedic exclaims, “He’s still alive!” Knowing comics, some writer might have brought the Joker back to life eventually anyway, but take a second to imagine almost 80 years of Batman comics with only one Joker appearance, and he accidentally stabs himself to death.
9. WONDER GIRL EXISTS BECAUSE ONE WRITER DIDN’T READ COMICS
In the ’50s, Wonder Woman writer Robert Kanigher started telling stories exploring Diana’s younger years as a teen when she went by “Wonder Girl.” Things started to get confusing around the early ’60s when, thanks to Wonder Girl’s explosion in popularity, Kanigher started writing “impossible tales” when adult Wonder Woman would team up with Wonder Girl and Wonder Tot (her toddler self).
Bob Haney was putting together his team for the first issue of Teen Titans and probably assumed that Wonder Girl was just Wonder Woman’s teenage sidekick, so he added her to the roster along with the current timeline heroes. When someone finally pointed this out, it began the long tradition of conflicting and confusing origin stories for the girl now known as Donna Troy.
8. BATMAN AND SUPERMAN FIRST TEAMED UP TO SAVE MONEY
Batman and Superman have been DC’s most iconic characters since their respective debuts, and they’re arguably the most iconic superheroes of all time. So it might come as a surprise that even though they appeared on covers together all the time, the two didn’t actually team up until 1952 in Superman #76 by writer Edmond Hamilton and penciler Curt Swan, 13 years AFTER their debut.
What’s even weirder is that they didn’t team up because someone naturally realized how awesome it would be to see these two together, it was because of economic inflation. Rather than raise the prices of comics, publishers opted to reduce the number of pages per issue until the point where it became impractical to publish a Batman story and a Superman story in one issue, so they just paired the two up for one big story to save money instead of publishing two new books.
7. KEVIN SMITH KILLED MYSTERIO (WITHOUT MARVEL’S OK)
Kevin Smith is most widely known for his directing career, but many comic fans will always remember him for his legendary Daredevil run in 1998, which helped launch the Marvel Knights line. If you haven’t read it, the arc deals with Mysterio launching a grand scheme to kill Daredevil; but in the end, Mysterio reveals that he’s been diagnosed with terminal cancer and kills himself.
This probably wouldn’t have been a big deal, except that during Kevin Smith’s run, another major story arc centering around a not-dying Mysterio had begun in The Amazing Spider-Man, and because the final issue of Smith’s arc ran a few months late, the finale came while Mysterio’s arc was still in full swing over in the pages of The Amazing Spider-Man.
6. SPIDER-WOMAN = WOLVERINE?
Although Spider-Woman has become an immensely popular character who managed to break out as her own unique character rather than just a female version of Spider-Man, she had a really weird path to making her debut. For one thing, Marvel only created her to hold on to a copyright when another company wanted to cash in on Spider-Man’s success by making their own Spider-Woman.
In the rush to get a new character out as fast as possible writer Archie Goodwin took the nixed origin of Wolverine and made the original Spider-Woman a literal spider evolved by the high evolutionary into a woman. Marv Wolfman quickly took over the character, but it was too late to go back on the origin story at that point, and several characters have used the name since then.
5. VENOM WAS ORIGINALLY A WOMAN
We got our first real look at Venom in The Amazing Spider-Man #299, but writer David Michelinie actually started to introduce the character in Web of Spider-Man #18. Peter Parker is waiting for a subway train when a hand comes from the crowd and pushes him in front of the train, never triggering his spider-sense.
The original story was of a pregnant woman in labor who sees her husband hit and killed by a cab driver who was distracted by Spider-Man and a villain. The shock causes her to lose the baby and be institutionalized. The black symbiote is drawn to her because of her hatred for Spider-Man after that fateful day. When Michelinie started writing Amazing Spider-Man, he pitched his idea, but an editor didn’t like the idea of a female villain, so he adapted the idea for Eddie Brock, and the rest is history.
4. AQUAMAN DIDN’T HAVE A NAME (FOR 19 YEARS)
Aquaman gets kind of a bad rap for someone who’s one of the Justice League heaviest hitters. It’s not just teenagers on the internet poking fun at the king of Atlantis for talking to fish, even DC gave him the short end of the trident for almost two decades. It took him 19 years to appear on a comic book cover, and for the first 18 years, he didn’t have any connections to Atlantis or even the name Arthur Curry.
It wasn’t until Adventure Comics #250 in 1959 when writer Robert Bernstein and artist Ramona Fradon told us his name, Arthur Curry, and that his father had conceived him with an Atlantean woman named Atlanna. Before that, the city of Atlantis hadn’t even been mentioned in connection to Aquaman.
3. BLACK PANTHER CHANGED HIS NAME (BECAUSE OF POLITICS)
These days, there are a lot of odd little urban legends about Black Panther being somehow connected to the political organization: that his name was an homage to the group, that the group was named after him, but the truth is a little weirder. The superhero actually debuted a few months before the political group in 1966.
By 1972, the name was more associated with the political group, and in an attempt to distance the character from association with the group, his name was briefly changed to “Black Leopard” starting in Fantastic Four #119. It wasn’t just a retcon though, T’Challa actually explained that he didn’t want to condemn nor condone the group, so it was changed. As we know now, the rebranding didn’t stick and in 1977, T’Challa got his own ongoing series under the name Black Panther.
2. HULK WAS GREEN BECAUSE OF CHEAP PAPER
Most Marvel readers are aware that The Hulk started off as gray rather than green, but what’s less well-known is why he became green. Back in the golden age of comics, it was pretty expensive to publish, so they had to cut costs in any way possible. One problem with this was that the materials they used were pretty cheap and the coloring process wasn’t very refined.
According to Stan Lee, he got a call from Marvel’s printer after The Incredible Hulk #1, telling him that the four-color separation process couldn’t render a consistent gray color for the Hulk. He kept changing shades from page to page, looking more blue in a lot of them. However, they could keep green consistent, so issue #2 made the change and Hulk has been green ever since.
1. WATCHMEN WAS FIRST AN ARCHIE BOOK
Alan Moore’s Watchmen ended up turning out a lot differently than his initial vision for the story. It was only supposed to be a simple six-issue story, a slightly grimmer, more grounded look at a pre-existing universe of superheroes that was no longer being published. The original idea was to use the defunct Archie superheroes, the Mighty Crusaders.
However, by coincidence, DC had just purchased another defunct line of superheroes, the Charlton heroes, so they became the subject of Watchmen instead. Ironically, by the time he was finished the characters were all basically unusable, so he had to make them based on the Charlton heroes instead. Even more ironically, DC later purchased the Archie superheroes, so in another universe, we could have ended up with a very different Watchmen.
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