In the latest Comic Book Legends Revealed, discover which member of Spider-Man's classic supporting cast had their original origin altered by Stan Lee.
Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the eight hundred and thirty-sixth installment where we examine three comic book legends and determine whether they are true or false. As usual, there will be three posts, one for each of the three legends.
NOTE: If my Twitter page hits 5,000 followers, I'll do a bonus edition of Comic Book Legends Revealed that week. Great deal, right? So go follow my Twitter page, Brian_Cronin!
John Romita had a whole other origin in mind for Spider-Man's supporting cast member, Joe "Robbie" Robertson, but Stan Lee declined to use Romita's origin.
John Romita's run as the artist/co-plotter/plotter on Amazing Spider-Man is one of the odder runs in comic book history, because Romita himself has noted that during the vast majority of his run, he felt like he was basically a fill-in artist on the series. That's unfair, of course, as Romita's run on the book was obviously a major aspect of the book going from one of Marvel's best-selling comic books to one of the best-selling comic books PERIOD and a licensing bonanza, with a whole generation of fans knowing Spider-Man pretty much only as the John Romita version of the character (up until Todd McFarlane revamped the design of Spider-Man, Romita's version of Spider-Man was the predominant version of Spider-Man in the eyes of most casual fans and even today, Romita's Spider-Man is probably still how a great deal of fans "see" Spider-Man). However, in the mind of John Romita, the series was Steve Ditko's book and he was just filling in until Ditko wanted the book back. Clearly, even Romita noted that after four years or so, he realized that that wasn't ever going to happen and that the book was "his," and Romita got more adjusted to his role as "the" Spider-Man guy, but as he noted to Pat Jankiewicz in Comics Scene #33, "That's why I always felt like a temporary artist."
In the earliest issues of the series, Romita tried to more or less just do his best version of Ditko, but by Amazing Spider-Man #50, Romita's style was coming through (I typically point to Amazing Spider-Man #47 as the point where Romita was finally, like, "Okay, forget this, let me do some of my Romita-ness on this book," but you could argue his design of Mary Jane Watson in Amazing Spider-Man #42 already did that). During that time, Romita was still working a bit closely with Stan Lee on the plotting of the book, but as Romita would note in that same Comics Scene #33 article, plotting with Lee would typically be like, "I created the look of the Kingpin. Stan would write the character's name, and I would find an index card with the word 'Kingpin' on it. Next month's villain will be the Kingpin. It would be up to me, when I did the panel where he first shows up, to come up with an interesting character. It was my idea to make him bald, 400 pounds and dressed like a tycoon. I wanted him to be as unlike a normal thug as possible, so that would be a nice combination when thugs were used against him. it worked out very well. I took great relish in doing all the Kingpin stories."
Here is the Kingpin's first appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #50, an issue that is, of course, better known for the "Spider-Man No More!" aspect of the book, despite it having the first appearance of such a major character like Kingpin...
Around that same time, Romita and Lee introduced Joe "Robbie" Robertson, the city editor of the Daily Bugle and one of the very regular Black supporting cast characters in a major series like Amazing Spider-Man. He first showed up in Amazing Spider-Man #51 (by Romita, Lee and inker Mike Esposito, who also inked #50), without a name...
In the next issue, though, with J. Jonah Jameson kidnapped by the Kingpin, Robertson had to step up in a big way...
Interstingly, though, in that same Comics Scene #33 article, Romita explained how he had a whole other origin set up for Robbie Robertson that Stan Lee squelched. He noted:
We had Robbie Robertson, the Daily Bugle City Editor. We got a great response on the character. Robertson was contrived, but in a beneficient way. We weren't trying to cash in - we felt the actual need to show [minorities]. Stan told me he wanted a Black City Editor, but nobody knew he was supposed to be an ex-fighter - that's why I gave him a broken nose.Originally, when I first gave Stan the character sketch, I drew him with a cauliflower ear. Stan told me not to use it because young readers wouldn't understand that kind of stuff; they would think it's a bady drawn ear, and they would write in asking, 'Why doesn't John Romita know how to draw ears?' Stan never pursued Robbie's origin, as a young Black fighting his way out of the ghetto who became a Golden Gloves prizefighter and then a City Editor. Whenevr I created a character, I always gave him a background, something to hang it on.
I believe it wasn't until decades later in Gerry Conway's 1980s Spectacular Spider-Man and Web of Spider-Man runs that we really saw Robertson's origins (they were not as a prizefighter).
Thanks to John Romita and Pat Jankiewicz for the great information!
SOME OTHER ENTERTAINMENT LEGENDS!
Check out some entertainment legends from Legends Revealed:
1. Was the Villain Max Schreck in Batman Returns Originally Going to be Harvey Dent?
2. What Surprising Character on Friends Was Originally Going to Have a Kid?
3. Did Paul McCartney Acquire the Rights to the Phrase “Ob La Di, Ob La Da” in a Unique Fashion?
4. Why Were There No Spaceballs Action Figures?
PART TWO SOON!
Check back soon for part 2 of this installment's legends!