CSBG Archive

Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #121

This is the one-hundred and twenty-first in a series of examinations of comic book urban legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous one-hundred and twenty. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.

Special theme week! I didn’t even notice at first, but two of the three bits I was doing this week involved Disney, so I figured, what the heck, so I scrapped the original third and made this week an ALL-DISNEY THEME WEEK!!

Let’s begin!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Walt Disney forced Marvel to change Howard the Duck’s appearance.

STATUS: True

I was already planning on doing this bit when reader Matthew Johnson wrote in with basically the same question – which was a pretty darn freaky coincidence!!

Matthew asked whether the drastically different look for Howard the Duck in the new Howard the Duck mini-series has to do with Disney threatening Marvel over similarities between Howard and Donald Duck.

1498new_storyimage9094703_full.jpg

That, Matthew, I am afraid I do not know for sure, but what I do know is that yes, Disney did, in fact, threaten to sue Marvel over the appearance of Howard the Duck. It led directly into the depiction of Howard in the 2002 Howard the Duck mini-series.

Here is how Howard looked when he first got his own series in the late 70s…

2347_4_011.jpg

Disney threatened suit later on in the 70s, after Gerber had left the book, and Marvel capitulated to Disney’s demands, which included that Marvel must make Howard look like a design sheet that DISNEY’S artists supplied!

Marvel agreed. The biggest difference was that Howard was to wear pants…

3186_4_33.jpg

When Gerber returned to do the MAX series in 2002, he wanted to have an artist redesign Howard, but as it turns out, Marvel’s deal with Disney forbade Marvel from doing just that – they could not come up with a new design. Since the Howard in the new release looks nothing like the above cover from Brian Bolland from 1986, it appears as though Marvel manage to renegotiate that part of the deal.

But in 2002, it was not the case, which led to Gerber’s humorous solution – have Howard become OTHER animals!!

And, appropriately enough with the specific company that caused the changes, the first animal was none other than a mouse!

10005_4_001.jpg

If someone else out there knows how/if Marvel got their deal changed, let me know!

Thanks to Matthew for the question, and thanks to Steve Gerber and Darren Schroeder (whose great interview with Steve back in 2001 at Silver Bullet Comics provided the information) for the info.

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Walt Disney refused to allow a comic called “Donal Duck’s Atom Bomb” to be reprinted.

STATUS: True

Reader Eric Henry sent me in the following recently:

I have a potential comic book urban legend for you. I have seen listed in the Overstreet Price Guide a comic book called ‘Donald Duck’s Atom Bomb’ and have heard that Disney will not allow this book to be reprinted (thereby making it a valuable collectible). I was wondering if there is any truth to this story.

There is, indeed, some truth to the story, Eric.

In fact, it’s just plain old true, period!

In 1947, Carl Barks wrote and drew a 32-page (done comic strip style, though, so like an 11-page comic book) giveaway comic that was given away with boxes of Cheerios.

atom011.jpg

The comic depicts Donald Duck’s attempts at creating an atom bomb. The comic has, indeed, been banned by Disney from being reprinted as it was originally written. This was confirmed by the good folks at the Bruce Hamilton company. The late Bruce Hamilton published Gemstone comics, which reprinted a good deal of Barks’ past comics, and they confirm that Disney would not let the original comic be reprinted, leading the original giveaway (remember, this comic was FREE sixty years ago) to sell for upwards of $1000.

But why can it not be reprinted?

Was there something racist in it?

Something lewd?

Heck, did they make unwise statements regarding nuclear power?

Nope, it was that Donald Duck acted “mean” in the comic.

In the comic, the radiation from Donald’s atom bomb causes everyone to lose their hair. At the end, a scientist wants Donald to keep working on his bomb. Donald has other ideas.

Here are the last two pages from the comic…

atom291.jpg

atom301.jpg

Disney felt that this was too mean of Donald, so banned the comic from being reprinted as originally written. The new version has Donald saying, “No thanks, Professor! I’ve got more than money in mind!” And the banner at the top of the booth now no longer says the word “Atomic” and now reads: “Free Samples — Growth Guaranteed!”

Pretty funny, eh?

Thanks for the question, Eric! And thanks to the Bruce Hamilton Company for the information.

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Disney sued comic book artist Wally Wood for doing a pornographic poster featuring Disney characters.

STATUS: False

As you may or may not know, towards the end of his life, comic book legend Wally Wood was in poor health, and most of the comic work he did right before he committed suicide was mostly stuff that one would consider appropriate for “Tijuana bibles,” that is, raunchy versions of notable comic characters.

This was no new thing for Wood, who did, in fact, produce an amusing poster for the zine, The Realist, in 1967, featuring Disney’s characters in various states of debauchery.

I will not reprint it here, because this column is pretty much all-ages, but I will provide you a link to it, if you care to see it for yourself. Click here if you must see it.

In any event, contrary to reports I have heard from a few folks, neither Wood nor the Realist were ever sued by Disney over the poster. Most likely, they thought it would do more harm than good, PR-wise.

Disney DID sue, however, a gentleman who later reprinted the poster and put it up for sale as a black light poster. That is probably where the confusion arises.

Thanks to illegal-art.org for the information and the picture!

Okay, that’s it for this week!

Feel free to drop off any urban legends you’d like to see featured!

47 Comments

That Disney-picture is priceless!

While going through some old Batman comics, I noticed that some faces which were supposed to be Novick/Giordano looked very strongly like the work of Neal Adams.(See Batman #258, specifically) Knowing that Adams and Giordano shared a studio and that Adams redrew faces in Superman/Spider-Man, did he also have a hand in some Giordano inked Batman stories after he had officially left the character? Thank you.

The third urban legend sounds like it was also confused with Dan O’ Neill and the Air Pirates, where Disney most certainly did sue.

Donald Duck was too mean? Since when is he supposed to the nice guy? (And I’d say his plan is still alot nicer than if he kept trying to make an atom bomb with which to kill millions… just sayin’.) Good Lord, Disney never can just leave something alone can they?

And let us not forget the Harlan Ellison story that got him fired from Disney his first day.

Interesting to have that contextual explanation provided for the MAX Howard The Duck series. Not knowing quite that much about the character being trapped in lawsuits he never launched, I thought Gerber et al had made a serious error in judgement relaunching their property with a cover bearing a complete visual contradiction.

Turns out they was just bein’ funny!!!

I can see the Disney execs: “How dare Marvel do a comic with a pantsless duck! Only Disney, the wholesome family company, can do cartoons with a strangely disturbed partially naked fowl!”

…Frigging Disney.

I’ve read that Donald Duck’s Atom Bomb story in a reprint from around 15 years ago. I don’t remember if it had the altered ending or not, but I knew exactly which story you were talking about. Weird.

I remember in the 70′s buying a poster called who Disney did it. I alway though that it was made by a local D/FW artist. Now I know where it came from. (My poster was in color but not Black Light.)

And at the risk of being Waaaay off topic. I refuse to read any Howard The Duck, Omega the Unknown, or Foolkiller that is not written by Gerber.

Bobb
(An old fuddy-duddy.)

I don’t know if Gerber wrote it, but the Foolkiller series made around 1990 (+/- a yesr or 2) was great.

That Disney-picture is priceless!

You should see it in color! I’d provide a link but, well, I’m not sure it’d be appropriate.

The biggest difference was that Howard was to wear pants.

Funny that when ToyBiz made a Howard the Duck figure, it was the original, pantsless design. Wonder if that’s why they had to discontinue it?

But honestly, other than the pants, pre-Disney Howard and post-Disney Howard look pretty much the same to me. That’s not really a huge change the company mandated…

“Too mean?” I’ve got comics where Donald goes on an arson spree, so I don’t know what bug was up their asses.

When Howard appeared in Generation X, i don’t remeber him wearing pants, so maybe the agreement went out of date during the 90 ties, i think Gerber just poked fun at the old rule, when he did Max, but god, isn’t that new look for Howard, quite awfull.

Ah man, my dad used to have a print of that lewd Disney picture.

It must have been at least 30 years old.

I threw it out though!

“god, isn’t that new look for Howard, quite awfull.”

No?

I was under the impression there was no formal lagel agreement with Disney. Marvel just caved and agreed to draw Howard as Disney redesigned him. I understand it was because Marvel could not fight Disney at the time. If this is true and there is no legal contract then as far as I see Marvel could simply use the original look for Howard.

Slight inaccuracy on the Howard story:

The redesigns that Disney created for Howard made him look completely NOTHING like how he was orginally created.

You can check issues of the HTD series after Gerber left to see this. In fact, he looked pretty much like the live action movie version Lucas did and not how he originally looked in the Marvel Comics.

Disney made sure any similarity (in their minds) to Donald were not able to be seen at all.

“god, isn’t that new look for Howard, quite awfull.”

Nope. I really like the new look and think I even prefer it to the old one.

And, no, I still have no idea how to quote on here.

I still think the “new” HOward looks like Harvey Pekar as a duck.

Apparently, lying isn’t the only thing that makes Pinocchio’s nose grow.

“I still think the “new” HOward looks like Harvey Pekar as a duck.”

Exactly what I was thinking when I saw that picture.

What I don’t understand is that if Walt had no problem with the Donald’s Atom Bomb story why did the present suits?

Also, Disney needs to get it’s collective corporate head out of it’s @$$ and re-release an unedited Fantasia as well as The Song of the South in letterbox. Both of which are classics that should remain true to the original artists vision.

Do you hear me, you Disney Corporate B!#*%$!!

Oh… and the original John Hennry cartoon as well…

thank you for your time.

I agree with James Elkins, but you have to remember the bind Disney has itself in for being a “family entertainment” company for years. Some nutcase thinks a castle on the cover of The Little Mermaid looks like a penis? Uproar and accusations. Someone thinks they see “sex” in a cloud of dust in The Lion King? Threats of boycott. Naked ladies in windows in The Rescuers. Um, well, that one was true.

I do believe that Disney can and should produce collector’s DVD sets of the original unaltered movies; they can contain editorial material about how the films within may not be politically correct for modern sensibilities but historically reflect the attitudes and popular culture of the day. (Similar to the Dr. Seuss Goes to War book, for example).

But as long as there are crackpots and Helen Lovejoys out there, crying out that the Disney name must not be besmirched, they’re between a rock and a hard place. If I were running the place I’d put ‘em out responsibly and let the chips fall where they may, knowing Disney has some of the best spin doctors and lawyers in the business. But you can’t blame them for wanting to not rock the boat.

Er…just on the basis of those covers, the Disney-approved redesign of Howard looks a whole lot more like Donald to me than the original.

As for Donald ‘being mean’…the hell? As others have pointed out, this is sweet and tame in comparison to his usual hijinks (besides being totally in-character for the nephew of Scrooge McDuck!)

If I were running the place I’d put ‘em out responsibly and let the chips fall where they may, knowing Disney has some of the best spin doctors and lawyers in the business. But you can’t blame them for wanting to not rock the boat.

Well, you can, sort of, if you approach it from the artistic-integrity-vs-almighty-dollar angle. If Disney imagined for a moment they’d make more $$ from the uncensored reissues than they’d lose from the boycotts, they’d be all over those deluxe DVDs like moss on rocks.

Still though…the Fantasia material is by all accounts merely a few minutes of filler in what’s already the weakest of the sequences. Also, trust me, Song of the South (which I saw in its last reissue as a teen) is nowhere near as exciting as the drama surrounding it. So I’m not too outraged, all told.

Very good point, KM…I think you’re right here on the subject that Disney would do it if it were profitable. Follow the money.

Huh, so one of the porno rumors about Disney was real? (I mean the one in The Rescuers, not the Disney Wally Wood poster- that one I knew of long ago, and it wasn’t a real Disney product.) But hey, thanks for that, I hadn’t thought about The Rescuers in ages and that comment led me to revisit my memories of that wonderful little movie. ;)

The Donald thing is inconsequential because it was written at a time before the true horror of atomic war had sunk into the public- and Donald WAS a big jerk before he was reinterpreted in modern times as short-tempered but mainly nice.

And yeah, the new Howard looks AWFUL. Not that I think it really matters since even its creator screws him up all the time.

Thanks for finding out the truth about ‘Donald Duck’s Atom Bomb’ for me.

I had always assumed that if it was true, it was because the story had been written before the true horror of nuclear war was known and Disney later didn’t want Donald Duck being shown as a monster who builds horrific weapons. I would never have dreamt it was because they didn’t want to show him making money of others’ misfortune.

The original story was weird enough. The truth is even weirder.

As for the Howard The Duck toy recently made by Toy Biz, I remember the comic book convention where Toy Biz debuted that figure. I saw the design and had the same question about why it looks like the classic design, and not the Disney redesign. The response from the guy at Toy Biz, was that since this figure was being only released as an accessory for the first run of Silver Surfer figures, they were trying to sneak it by under the radar. When I asked what if Disney did find out, would the figure ever be released, he said that the main point of the Disney redesign was the pants, and if they needed to, they would just add cloth pants to the already finished figures.

Cheeky Gerber. I didn’t realize the similarity of the MAX cover to Mickey Mouse.

Thanks a lot, Steve!

I THOUGHT the pants were the main point.

If I remember correctly, the black & white magazine version of Howard the Duck included diagrams of the mandated changes. in addition to the pants, the changes included:

* Feet couldn’t be flat. They had to be thick and have rounded toes.

* Howard had to be a darker shade of yellow, not the cream/off-white color he had been.

• Howard’s bill had to be thicker and more rounded.

there were a few others, but I am old and senile and it was a long time ago.

That sounds about right, Jim. Gerber, in the above linked interview, states that he actually got a chance to read the legal document with the design, and his description basically matches yours.

And as you can see with those changes, the most noticeable one is still pretty much the pants, no?

Donald has never been mean.
Just look at this classic comic with him and Goofy.
http://i107.photobucket.com/albums/m294/Armitage72/wdcs001480rm5oc9ey.jpg

on 21 Sep 2007 at 9:15 am 12.Michael said …

“Too mean?” I’ve got comics where Donald goes on an arson spree, so I don’t know what bug was up their asses.

The story to which I think you’re referring is given a modicum of acceptability as Donald was (to put it mildly) “not in his right mind”. It’s been a while since I’ve read that story (I’ve got a copy somewhere, but just don’t have the wherewithal to find it at the moment) but I seem to recall that he’d had some sort of accident (bump on the head) which made it clear that Donald wasn’t really responsible for his actions.
I think the “meanness” in this particular story has to do with Donald’s creating a disaster and then taking advantage of (profiteering off) those who’d been affected by it. That sounds like something we’d expect more of Scrooge McDuck, not Donald. (In most of Scrooge’s get-richer-quick schemes, it’s usually Donald and the Nephews who attempt to stop the scheme, or at least, minimize the profit that Scrooge realizes.)

Yeah, I can buy deliberate meanness as a rationale, but it’s still a pretty flimsy one.

For your next Disney set, how about the details on the University of Oregon’s “duck” mascot, which is 99% Donald, no question. Rumor always had it that there was a deal of some sort between the UO and Disney, but I don’t know any details: licensing, duration of deal, limitations, etc.

Remember that Wally Wood usually did the “Disney comic strip” parodies for MAD magazine so it gave him some practice doing the characters on model.

A fuller discussion of the creation and history of Wally Wood’s famous Disney Orgy poster can be found in this column by Disney Historian Wade Sampson: http://jimhillmedia.com/blogs/wade_sampson/archive/2004/05/10/1212.aspx

so if i find a comic book with Howard The Duck with no pants is that worth anything?

Remember that Wally Wood usually did the “Disney comic strip” parodies for MAD magazine so it gave him some practice doing the characters on model.

A fuller discussion of the creation and history of Wally Wood’s famous Disney Orgy poster can be found in this column by Disney Historian Wade Sampson: http://jimhillmedia.com/blogs/wade_sampson/archive/2004/05/10/1212.aspx

Good point, Jim!

I should have mentioned that in the piece.

So let me get this straight – Disney advised Marvel to change Howard from looking like Donald Duck for “CHICKEN LITTLE” Sans Glasses?!!

Robert Pincombe

October 6, 2007 at 7:40 am

Howdy,

I ran into Ty Templeton picking up comics two days ago and we both checked out Howard The Duck #1. I actually put my copy back on the rack because Ty’s so fun to bug.

I mentioned the old Disney lawsuit when I saw the new design and Ty said that was an urban myth. The new version of Howard is there because the artist wanted to redesign him. I guess he wanted to put his own stamp on it.

The fun fact here is that previews leaked on the net and there was a backlash against the new design. As a consequence Howard is going to morph back to his original design by issue four! No explanations. He just… is!

I can’t wait to see that!

“Also, Disney needs to get it’s collective corporate head out of it’s @$$ and re-release an unedited Fantasia as well as The Song of the South in letterbox. Both of which are classics that should remain true to the original artists vision.”

While I agree they should release both films unedited (or in the case of the latter, at all), I don’t know about letterbox. I know for certain that Fantasia was Academy ratio, and I’m reasonably sure Song of the South was also Academy.

Let’s not allow Disney to add “Tilt-&-Scan” to their list of crimes…

[...] Comics Should Be Good! » Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #121This is the one-hundred and twenty-first in a series of examinations of comic book urban legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous one [...]

[...] In fact, as mentioned in a previous Urban Legend installment, there was an old Barks story from the time period that Disney wouldn’t reprint in full, because Donald was TOO amoral in the comic! Usually, Donald learns his lesson at the end of the story, but not so in this particular tale, where Donald ends up conning some folks. [...]

Interesting that Gerber turned Howard into a mouse in the Max series, considering that after the first time he left Howard, he did the Stewart The Rat graphic novel, which was quite similar to HTD in tone, setting, and plot.

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