Bob Rozakis is a thirty-year veteran of the comic book industry, having spent the first twenty-five at DC Comics.
As a writer, Bob is perhaps best known as the co-creator of 'Mazing Man, but his credits include more than four hundred stories featuring Superman, Batman and virtually every other DC character. In addition to a few stories for Archie Comics, he has done a number of "custom comics" projects for the U.S. Postal Service, Six Flags, Con Edison, OnStar, and the San Francisco Giants. Outside the comic book business, he has written storybooks for educational publishing projects and co-authored The Complete Idiot's Guide to Office Politics with his wife, Dr. Laurie Rozakis.
Bob was DC's Answer Man for several years, using his vast knowledge of the company's history and characters to respond to all sorts of readers' questions. Adapting to the technology, Bob utilized his credentials as a master of comic book history by hosting a weekly trivia chatroom on America Online for more than six years. His daily Anything Goes Trivia Quiz appears online at World Famous Comics and his weekly It's BobRo... The Answer Man! column can be found here at Silver Bullet Comics.
During his seventeen years as head of DC's Production Department, Bob guided his staff into previously unexplored areas of computerized color separations and typesetting, electronic page preparation, and computer-to-plate printing. These efforts earned DC Comics over one hundred awards for printing excellence and resulted in Bob twice being profiled and cover - featured in PUBLISHING & PRODUCTION EXECUTIVE.
In the "real world" Bob is an accountant for Preload, Inc., a firm that designs and builds concrete water tanks and reservoirs around the U.S. He teaches creative writing courses for the Johns Hopkins University / Center for Talented Youth summer program for gifted students and has taught similar courses for the Farmingdale (NY) Youth Council and Sylvan Learning Centers. He plays softball and volleyball, works out at the gym four times a week, donates blood and/or platelets as often as they'll let him, and even sleeps occasionally.
Can you tell me what is behind the Marvel comic book FANTASTIC FOUR: THE FANTASTIC VOYAGE OF SINBAD? The alarming thing to me is that whenever I try to ask about it on message boards it immediately gets censored off the board.
Here are the details behind the book: The opening page is a picture of thick smoke billowing out of the twin towers and covering NYC with an eerie fog. This has effectively shut the city down. "The airports are closed, pedestrians move with extreme caution."
The FF set out to discover who is responsible for doing this to New York. They find out on page 11 as the villain makes his grand entry “I AM JIHAD!!! And you will bow before me!" (Catch the significance here, this book was published and distributed nationwide in July and JIHAD is declared on page 11 of the September -- the ninth month -- issue.)
The FF then come to battle a huge mutated eagle (America?) that they cannot seem to harm, so they decide to conquer this foe by using its own fear against it (the use of terror). They track the bird to its nest which is in the lap of an idol described to be “as tall as the world trade centers twin towers." They then light this nest on fire to scare the bird and Ben Grimm says that he is feeling antsy because he has that feeling he gets just before a plane goes blooey.
All this in a book published almost 2 months prior to 9-11-2001!
And to top it off, the latest Al Qaeda member caught in the act used an alias derived from this very story. The shoe bomber “Richard Reid” is a play off of the leader of the Fantastic Four Reed Richards.
So is it coincidence, psychic or possible that it was used as a communication to coordinate 9/11? -- Chip (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Chip, I almost ran your letter in last week’s column, but I was afraid people might think it was some kind of April Fool’s joke. That you can even suggest that a comic book was used as the communications source of the terrorists behind 9/11 is, well… let’s just say I can see why you were getting censored off message boards.
Comic book stories, TV shows, movies, and novels abound with incidents that seem to predict actual events. Chalk this up to imaginative writers who are able to take things that their readers (or viewers) are familiar with and spin them into something that seems plausible, if not always likely.
During World War II, there were comic books and comic strips that predicted the use of nuclear bombs well before the weapons were employed against the Japanese. In the early 70s, some of Jack Kirby’s DC work revolved around the DNA Project and the concept of cloning – not so far-fetched any more, is it? And in the past 100 years of movies and TV, is there any recognizable building or monument that HASN’T been destroyed in one way or another?
So, no, Chip, this was not used as a signal for the 9/11 attacks or even that the writer was a psychic. Regardless of how some people may feel about the senior management of the various comics publishers, I don’t think any of them are pawns or part of Osama bin Laden’s terror network. It’s just a COINCIDENCE!
By the way, I asked my pal Bob Greenberger about the book, since he worked at Marvel at the time, and he had this to offer: FF/SINBAD shipped something like six months late and finally came out last summer. I remember it being a stupid story and not worth the wait.
***** Dear Mr. Rozakis:
Congratulations on your 100th column at SBC! And now, without further ado, on to my mindless rambling. I think that you should be uniquely suited to answer this question, although I am not sure how well it fits within the framework of your column. Please note, though, that I am not looking for fame and or fortune; I would merely like the honest opinion of someone who has seen the ebb and flow of comics.
I have been out of the comics loop for quite some time; my disposable income went towards pizza and the occasional cocktail down at college. And then there was the matter of the engagement ring... But I digress. After a several year hiatus, I have jumped back into the comics fold.
And that is where my question comes into play: -Batman -The X-Men -Lex Luthor -Spider-Man The aforementioned villain and heroes are household names for the most part. Of all the comic entities that have been created in the last ten years, which titles/characters do you think we will still be talking about twenty years from now? Venom was huge (and everywhere) when I made my digress from collecting comics; now he is nowhere to be found. (I am assuming that he burned out after all of those pointless crossover appearances.) I also had high hopes for Azreal, Agent of the Bat, but in recent issues I picked up, he has not even been in costume.
What are your thoughts on that? Will comics continue to thrive on the established characters by re-imagining them and reinventing them, or will the creators give us new heroes and villains to pass along to our children?
Good luck, good thinking, and I hope to hear from you. Continued success. --Dave Trowbridge (Deadpan21@aol.com)
Well, Dave, I suspect it will still be Batman, Superman, and Spider-Man. The X-Men may be recognized, but which team would it be? An old reader like me things of Cyclops, Iceman, the Angel, the Beast and Marvel Girl; later readers who think of different mixes, and movie fans yet another.
Creating a icon is not easy – sixty-five years of comic books have not given us more than a handful of characters who transcend their roots and are recognizable to people who have never seen them in any publication. With that in mind, I don’t think we’ve seen a comic book character in the past quarter century who matches up with Supes, Bats or Spidey.
But I’ll open the floor to my army of readers – fans and comics pros alike. Let’s return to this topic in a few weeks and see what some of them have to say.
FEEDBACK ON PAST COLUMNS: You mentioned in your column on variant covers that the first time it was used was with BATMAN: LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT #1. Technically, wasn't this technique first used with John Byrne's MAN OF STEEL #1? If I remember correctly, there was a standard cover that coincided with the design of the following issues with a key character on the left side and a story image on the right. But the variant cover was a simple image of Clark ripping his shirt apart to show off the "S". It even had a different logo. -- Dave Carr (email@example.com)
Perhaps I should have been a bit clearer in what I meant. LODK #1 was the first time variant covers were created to be sold in the same market. The Byrne MAN OF STEEL #1 had one cover for comic shop sales and the other for newsstands. (Similarly, JUSTICE LEAGUE #3 and FURY OF FIRESTORM #61 were sold in some areas with different covers as a marketing test.)
***** Oliver Townshend asked:
"Pictures of Batman in BATMAN: YEAR 1 look like a young Cary Grant and John Constantine originally looked like Sting. Do you know of any other movie star images used in a superhero setting?"
I'm surprised in your answer you didn't mention that it's generally acknowledged that in the first several issues of WHIZ COMICS that Captain Marvel's appearance was based on Fred MacMurray!
Somewhat related trivia to Oliver's question is that one celebrity's appearance was based on a super-hero -- namely, Elvis Presley's own hairstyle was apparently inspired by Captain Marvel, Jr. according to several sources I've read. -- Jon B. Knutson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
***** Anal retentive that I am, I feel it incumbent upon me for no particularly good reason to respond to Oliver Townshend's question in this week's column. Gil Kane specifically stated that Hal Jordan was based on actor Paul Newman and the Ray Palmer Atom was based on actor Robert Taylor. Go back and look at those early issues if you don't believe me. -- Len Wein
***** As you surmised, Bob, in answer to roblol13's question, the follow-up to Aunt May's finding out that Peter was Spider-Man did occur in issues 37 and 38 of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. -- Howard Margolin (Doctor OHM@aol.com)
***** Just a few additional comments on the new column: R.J. Brande was a Durlan and the father of Chameleon Boy on both Earth-One (revealed in 1981’s SECRETS OF THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #3) and post-Crisis (1990’s LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #8 and L.E.G.I.O.N. ’91 #23). Post-Zero Hour, though, the Legion creative teams have played it cagey, establishing Brande as notoriously close-mouthed about his past while never actually confirming or denying his Durlan origins.
I know there are many more but off the top of my head I recall … Captain Marvel was supposed to have been based on Fred MacMurray. John Byrne described Kitty Pryde as a young Sigourney Weaver. Among Gil Kane’s many artistic models were Paul Newman (Green Lantern) and Lee Marvin (Savage). My favorite example is in 1962’s THE ATOM #3, where David “Chronos” Clinton bears a striking resemblance to then-recently failed presidential candidate Richard Nixon. When the story was reprinted in 1971’s SUPERMAN #245, reader Sissie Ramirez sent this letter (published in #252): “Was it necessary to make the evil Chronos look like Richard Nixon? I happen to think that the President is a fine man. Shame on you.” E. Nelson Bridwell’s editorial response: “You’re the first person who ever noticed this resemblance -- and we’re not certain it was deliberate. Of course, Gil Kane always liked to base his villains on real people, but Chronos’ bald head is certainly unlike Mr. Nixon -- who was not the President when the story was drawn, anyway.” Years later, writer Roger Stern played around with the resemblance in 1988’s POWER OF THE ATOM #s 4-8 by placing Chronos’ base in Nixon’s retirement home of San Clemente, California.
The first Sandy story (1941’s ADVENTURE COMICS # 69) is a real trip, one that would easily qualify for mockery in Scott Shaw!’s Oddball Comics or Scott Saavedra’s COMIC BOOK HEAVEN. Briefly, Wes (Sandman) Dodds encounters young Sandy McGann while driving through the countryside. Sandy is a huge Sandman fan, going so far as to make a red and gold outfit similar to his hero’s. (And this was a neat trick, since Wes hadn’t started wearing his purple and gold costume until this story!) Sandman and Sandy wind up battling giant bees, including their leader -- yep! -- the Queen Bee, and, afterwards, they shake hands and decide to form a permanent partnership. Years later, in 1987’s YOUNG ALL-STARS #4, Sandy begins to retell his origin and then mutters, “Oh, it’s too crazy a story to repeat. Nobody’d believe it … not even me!”
Following ACTION #421, Captain Strong returned in #439, had a cameo in #456, had guest-star roles in SUPERMAN #361 and ACTION #566 and closed out his pre-Crisis career with another cameo in DC CHALLENGE #10. Cap hasn’t officially been revived in current DC continuity but he appears unnamed at the end of 1997’s SUPERMAN: THE MAN OF STEEL #72 fighting alongside Bibbo. -- John Wells (email@example.com)
Thanks, John, and everyone else who contributed this week.
Where can you see Peter David, Bob Greenberger and yours truly on April 20th? Well, it’s not at WonderCon out in Oakland! It’s at I-CON, the annual comics and science fiction convention held at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. For details, check out the website at
And speaking of websites, don’t forget my daily quiz at Anything Goes Trivia at www.wfcomics.com/trivia.