This is a request for more “insider” type answer columns. In your 20+ years at DC, there must be some good “inside” stories, such as:
A – Projects that never made the stands (with various popular characters/creators) that might not have made it as far as being advertised (Pandora Pan, The Deserter, Vixen)
B – Storylines that may have been abandoned for various reasons (creators leaving, not being approved)
C – Possible other names that were suggested for characters (Just for an example, I’d like to see the other suggestions for Firestorm).
D – Inside jokes that made it to the comics, like character names, or the Abel/Chaykin murder mystery.
I am not looking for anything seedy or mean-spirited, just some little stories that no one may have learned outside of DC personnel that might be good trivia…
— Erik Peek (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Well, Erik, every now and then someone asks a question that results in the kind of column you’re looking for, but a lot of things that no one outside DC personnel knows is that way for a reason – they’re nobody’s business.
As for the specifics you cite:
A – There will always be projects that are started and then never get finished. The creative teams get bogged down with other work, the project turns out to be not what was expected, management has second thoughts, or the market changes.
B – There are plenty of storylines that are abandoned as well. One that I was involved with was a Robin plotline towards the end of my tenure as writer of the series. There was an ongoing plot that was to have been the work of the Calculator, but when I was told I would be relieved of the scripting duties, I changed it to be the work of the criminal organization MAZE instead, so that I could wrap it up in a single installment.
C – Two character names that I wanted to use were changed. A villain in BATMAN FAMILY was changed from the Energy Czar to the Power Sower. Editor Al Milgrom thought the former name was “too Russian-sounding.” In my brief tenure on KARATE KID, I turned Iris Jacobs into a crystalline creature and wanted to call her Diamondette. Al preferred Diamondeth and changed it. (I eventually used my choice as the name for a character in HERO HOTLINE.)
D – I doubt there is a writer in the business who hasn’t used the names of his/her friends as characters in stories. As for in-jokes, there have been plenty of those as well, but if you don’t know the people / situation involved, they don’t make much sense. (There was one involving a prominent writer and his encounter with a pot of oatmeal, but, as I said, if you don’t know the situation, it doesn’t make much sense.)
In any case, I’m glad you’re not asking for anything nasty. Some of that type of material showed up in the All the Rage column and prompted some quick objections (and the removal of the column).
All that said, let’s take a look in the emailbox and see what questions might fill the bill…
What was the story with Amalgam?
Ah, Amalgam Comics, the project that was kept such a big secret that most people working at DC did not know what the deal was.
As part of the DC VERSUS MARVEL crossover in 1996, the two companies came up with the idea of merging their characters and pretending for a week that there was only one comic book company – Amalgam – and that DC and Marvel had ceased to exist. Exactly what was going on was kept on a “need-to-know” basis as worked progressed so that word of the surprise would not leak to the media.
One part of the gimmick was that the Amalgam books would carry no references to DC or Marvel, meaning that using house ads for the regular books was verboten. Well, in the effort to keep the project a secret, some of the people at DC who needed to know this particular fact were kept in the dark. Because the sale of advertising pages was lower than expected, the DC portion of the line was printed with a variety of DC house ads in them. When advance copies showed up in the office and the error was discovered, there was a frantic scramble to recall all the books and have them reprinted in time.
The books were reprinted and shipped on time… with only a few people aware of what had almost happened.
What is the origin of the “For Mature Readers” labeling on DC Comics? Was there a lot of objection to this in the DC editorial offices?
— Ken Brooks (email@example.com)
The labeling on the Vertigo books was a necessity because of the content. With the general public believing that comic books are intended for children – a situation that still exists today – it was important to keep these books out of the hands of underage readers. The obvious answer was to follow the example set by the movie business and use ratings or warnings… and the “For Mature Readers” labeling was born.
There is no argument that Vertigo has produced some great material – the Sandman books being perhaps the finest example – that could only be understood and appreciated by a more mature audience. However, more than one creator was apparently confused by the meaning of “mature” and took it as a license to do pretty much anything in the books, particularly regarding the use of “colorful” language. (One title had the “F-word” appearing 52 times in a single issue, prompting the then-Director of Production to ask the Publisher, “Is this REALLY necessary?”)
HAWK AND DOVE was ended when DC decided to make Hawk the secret villain behind ARMAGEDDON 2001. I read that Captain Atom was supposed to be Monarch, which made sense. Why make a change, since it looked like C.A. was going to be Monarch?
And can you find out where the H&D series was going? (They had been revealed to be part of some Lords of Order and Chaos scheme.) It was a great and consistent series and is sorely missed.
— Carlos Tron (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Captain Atom was indeed originally planned to be Monarch, but that secret leaked out to the fan press. The decision was made to change the story so that the secret would again be a secret. Many people involved with the series felt it was a bad decision, especially since the groundwork had been laid to have Captain Atom turn out to be Monarch.
As for where the Hawk and Dove series was going or would have gone, I have no idea.
What Eclipse comic book was recalled because the cover stock used the first time was the wrong paper stock?
— Perry (email@example.com)
Whatever one it was, it is hardly the only book that was recalled and reprinted because it was on the wrong paper. As the publishers experimented with more formats and paper stocks, the possibility increased that one or another title would end up in the wrong format. Some of these were discovered and reprinted, others made it to the stands.
One that I recall was THE POWER OF SHAZAM #29, which was printed at Ronalds Printing on some kind of leftover newsprint that was much thicker and heavier than the norm. We caught the mistake and had the book reprinted, though there are a few copies of that odd version still in existence.
How did Vince Colletta ever succeed in getting so much DC work in the seventies? He decimated Ramona Fradon’s delicate pencils in those SUPER FRIENDS issues (and Ric Estrada’s SUPER FRIENDS #2 is definitely the worst inking job I’ve ever seen in a mainstream comic, and I challenge anyone to look at it and disagree). Not to mention so many Curt Swan Superman stories that would have been classics under Anderson or Oskner. I’m curious to know why someone else couldn’t see how rushed, flat, and uninteresting Colletta’s work was? Did Colletta have some sort of Svengali-like hold on management with DC or just some interesting blackmail footage?
— Rod Keith (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Colletta was DC’s Art Director in the late ’70s, so he was part of that management. As such, it was his responsibility to assign and/or approve pencillers and inkers. He obviously thought highly of his own abilities.
I just read Alan Moore’s “For the Man Who Has Everything…” which featured an appearance by Jason Todd. I explained the whole Jason Todd debacle to my best girl, but couldn’t come up with the numbers on the phone-in vote. I’m pretty certain it was a landslide, though. Was it? Poor kid…
— Mark Hale (email@example.com)
It was hardly a landslide, Mark. The vote was 5343 to 5271 in favor of offing Jason. Two versions of the page revealing his fate were drawn, colored, separated and sent to the printer. When the tally was completed, I called the printer and said “Use Version A” and the rest is comic book history.
ON THE CONVENTION TRAIL AGAIN
I’ll be one of the guests at Ithacon 28 on Saturday, September 20 in Ithaca, New York. Check out http://www.comicbookclub.org/Ithacon.html for details and if you’re in the area, stop by and say hello.
Next week, more of your questions and my answers. Meantime, you can turn the tables by answering my Anything Goes Trivia questions every day at http://www.worldfamouscomics.com/trivia. See you next week.