Comic Book Legends Revealed #337
Welcome to the three hundredth and thirty-seventh in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. This week, discover the strange story of how close Gerard Christopher (from the Superboy TV series) came to being Superman on Lois and Clark! Plus, was James Robinson ever going to do a Silver Age follow-up to his Golden Age? And marvel at likely the only comic ever to be entered into the Congressional Record!
Click here for an archive of the previous three hundred and thirty-six.
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COMIC LEGEND: Gerard Christopher was cast as Superman in Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman until producers discovered that he had played Superboy on the Superboy TV series of the late 1980s.
STATUS: False (but close to true!)
Gerard Christopher took over from John Haymes Newton as the title character in the syndicated Superboy series in 1989. After Newton did a season in the role, Christopher did Seasons 2-4.
Christopher had an impressive physique and although he looked young, he was actually 30 years old when he took over the role!
Therefore, when the series ended in 1992, he was the “right” age to play Superman, and it just so happens that in 1993 ABC television was casting for Superman for an upcoming Superman television series. Christopher decided to go up for the role, and as a number of tellings of the story go (here’s one from a Superboy/Young Superman TV fan site):
Gerard Christopher was originally cast to play Superman in the Lois and Clark TV show, but one the producers of Lois and Clark realized that he had done Superman before (or in his case, Superboy). The producer immediately recasted him with Dean Cain. Just think, Gerard was going to be Superman; and he was being cast twice for the same role!
It’s a great story, but it is not exactly true. Christopher was never cast as Superman. However, the true parts of the story are still interesting!
In an interview by Brian McKernan that was later reprinted on Christopher’s official website, Christopher tells the full story…
McKernan: Were you involved with the production of Lois and Clark?
Christopher: I actually read for the show. It was interesting. At first the casting director didn’t like my interpretation. Then she asked me to change it. I did and she liked it. Then she brought me in to meet the producers. When I walked into the room, they had no advance knowledge that I had done Superboy.
Now, there are two ways to look at that: They’re either going to love it because I had done the part before, or the opposite would be true – they’d hate it. I read for the producer and his reaction was, “Wow! You’re great, it’s wonderful, you’re the perfect guy for this!” There was a room of six or eight people, it was kind of exciting. Then he grabbed my resume, looked at the work I’d done, flipped it over and said, “You’ve done this already!” He threw my resume down on the table and basically threw me out of the room. It was pretty funny.
You have to keep in mind the situation that the Lois and Clark people were in. It’s similar to when a restaurant goes out of business and is taken over by new owners: The new management wants to change the decor, the menu, the colors, the fabrics on the chairs – everything. He could have looked at the new show as an easy transition for me – from Superboy to Superman. I’m older, I’m experienced, and I have a following. But he was making a big move, a big transition in how the character would be interpreted. He wanted to go a different way. People like to do things their own way and often times they cut ties with anything that came before for their own personal reasons. I’m not making any judgements; if that’s what he wants to do it’s his business.
It’s a fascinating story.
In any event, obviously, Dean Cain ended up winning the role…
Interestingly enough, the actor who DID end up being “the other guy” when it boiled down to it, was a pre-Hercules Kevin Sorbo! I wonder how he would have handled the role. He certainly had the build for Superman!
Thanks to Brian McKernan and Gerard Christopher for the scoop on a fascinating story!
COMIC LEGEND: A Sunday Terry and the Pirates comic strip was read into the Congressional Record the next day.
Few popular cartoonists were quite as devoted to the United States military as Milton Caniff was. The star of his famed Terry and the Pirates strip, Terry, ended up joining the Air Force in the strip and serving in World War II. Caniff even donated a spin-off strip that he worked on throughout the war just for military newspapers. Granted, sometimes his devotion to the war efforts went to some regrettable places (like this previous Comic Book Legends installment will attest), but it is clear that Canniff was a man who loved his country and the people who served to protect it.
Perhaps never was this more evident than in his October 17, 1943 Sunday strip for Terry and the Pirates, popularly known as “The Pilot’s Creed.” The strip depicted Terry and his flight instructor, Colonel “Flip” Corkin, with Terry getting a lesson from Corkin about his responsibilities as a fighter pilot. The strip drew such a positive reaction that the following day, the strip was read aloud in the United States Congress and actually added to the Congressional Record, the only comic that I know of ever to receive such an honor.
Dean Mullaney, over at IDW’s Library of American Comics, shared Caniff’s hand-watercolored guide for the engravers of the famous strip…
Thanks a lot, Dean!
COMIC LEGEND: James Robinson planned to do a Silver Age follow-up to his Elseworlds mini-series The Golden Age.
Some time ago (March 2008, to be exact), reader Cory T. wrote in to ask me:
had an urban legend i was hoping you could look into for me. i heard a rumor that at one time james robinson was going to follow up his golden age mini series with a solver age version. do you know anything about this or what he was planning or what the story entailed? cant wait to see what you uncover.
Well, you had to wait a few years, Cory, but here goes!
The Golden Age was a prestige format Elseworlds mini-series that Robinson wrote with excellent artwork from the great Paul Smith.
The series basically launched Robinson’s career in mainstream comics.
Rumors of a possible Silver Age follow-up have followed Robinson for years, but I never saw him confirm or deny it either way (Howard Chaykin was the artist rumored attached to the follow-up). That is until late last year, when Robinson addressed the rumor in an interview over at Ain’t It Cool News.
Professor Challenger: Finally, is working on the JLA tickling your creative bone to do a THE SILVER AGE mini-series sequel to THE GOLDEN AGE?
Robinson: I was developing the SILVER AGE with a big name artist and for one reason and another it didn’t happen when it should have. Since then between Mark Waid’s JLA YEAR ONE and especially Darwyn’s Cooke’s NEW FRONTIER, the story I wanted to tell has been told and by better and more talented guys then me.
So there ya go, Cory! Confirmation that he was, in fact, planning on doing it and with the references to JLA: Year One and The New Frontier, a pretty good idea of what kind of story that he had in mind.
Michael Sacal wrote in with an article from Wizard from the early 1990s that gives more details as to what Robinson had planned…
Thanks for the question, Cory! And thanks to Professor Challenger, Robinson and Michael Sacal for the information! Thanks also to Derek W. for confirming an earlier question I had about whether Chaykin was definitely the artist (Michael’s artcle also achieved that purpose).
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is email@example.com. And my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/brian_cronin, so you can ask me legends there, as well!
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See you all next week!
October 21, 2011 at 9:22 am
Too bad, i´d love to read Robinson’s Silver Age!!!! Maybe it could be the new 52 universe silver age!!
October 21, 2011 at 9:36 am
The way I’ve read about the Lois Clark casting, Kevin Sorbo was thought to be better for Superman, and Dean Cain for Clark. I don’t know if that’s true, but since the series gave Lois a lot more emphasis than she usually gets, as well as the Clark-Lois relationship, it does seem to make sense.
October 21, 2011 at 9:46 am
The first item is a bit nit-picky. Gerard hadn’t technically been cast as Superman in Lois and Clark, but it sounds like he was certainly in the running until they saw he’d been Superboy. So it’s a bit of a stretch just to focus on whether or not he’d been cast …he did lose out on the role because he’d played the character before.
October 21, 2011 at 9:47 am
Did I misread or did you say the Superboy/man legend was untrue then go on to prove it was in fact true… ?
October 21, 2011 at 9:50 am
Did I misread or did you say the Superboy/man legend was untrue then go on to prove it was in fact true… ?
October 21, 2011 at 9:57 am
Dude, I sent in the question about the Silver Age on 4/5/2010, it even included a scan from an article in Wizard in which Robinson is quoted about the plot for the story.
October 21, 2011 at 10:01 am
Cool stuff, Michael, thanks! That was before Robinson gave the interview, so I didn’t put two and two together with regards to your question from April 2010. But I’ll add that into the piece now!
October 21, 2011 at 10:06 am
October 21, 2011 at 10:09 am
Brian does get caught up on how he chose to word the legend at times. From a purely technical standpoint, change “cast as” to “considered for” and the status of the Superman legend is true. For most people, however, the spirit of what’s being communicated would be the same in either instance, and the rest is just semantics.
October 21, 2011 at 10:14 am
From a purely technical standpoint, change “Gerard Christopher” to “Margaret Thatcher” and then you really have yourself a legend!
Seriously, though, the legend IS that he was cast. Google “Gerard Christopher cast as Clark” and you will get multiple stories saying he was cast as Clark until they discovered that he was on the Superboy TV series. That is the legend being debunked here. It is a prevalent FALSE story. So I debunked it here. That it also allowed me also to tell a cool story about his reading in front of the producers was gravy (really cool gravy, though!).
October 21, 2011 at 10:16 am
I think that a more accurate wording would be that he read for the part but was not cast because of his past association with the role.
October 21, 2011 at 10:30 am
I agree with both sides. Technically Brian is right, he did debunk a myth, but it could definitely have been worded more clearly. Count me among the initially confused. I had to reread the myth before I realized what he meant. When I saw the word “False” without any qualifier, I thought the whole legend was going to be untrue, like for example he was disqualified for a totally different reason.
October 21, 2011 at 10:36 am
A qualification in the status is fair enough. I do do those frequently enough, so I’m fine with adding that.
October 21, 2011 at 11:27 am
That’s a crying shame about Robinson’s Silver Age. I recall reading the Golden Age and thinking what an awesome story that was. I recall working in the local comic book shop as we all eagerly awaited Chaykin on Silver Age. I’m truly sad to learn it won’t be happening ever.
October 21, 2011 at 12:07 pm
Yeah, I’m bummed The Silver Age never came out. Didn’t know Chaykin was to be the artist. How awesome would that be ?
I’m sure if DC published it, it’d still sell. Those two names on the sequel to the Golden Age = $ale$
October 21, 2011 at 12:22 pm
That Terry and the Pirates strip is quite wordy piece, not exactly a shining point of comics storytelling…but amusing to note how “22 Panels That Always Work” it has been executed…
October 21, 2011 at 1:34 pm
That Terry and the Pirates strip is quite wordy piece, not exactly a shining point of comics storytelling
I beg to differ, just being wordy isn’t in and of itself bad storytelling. It was wordy, but it was great writing. I never read the strip before, but in a single strip I totally grasped who they people were and their personalities immediately. And it was inspiring. And I think as storytelling it was very good because I liked the contrast in the last panel, where it’s silent. By filling the other panels full of words, the contrast makes the silent panel at the end that much more powerful, as you can tell the powerful words are marinating in Terry’s head and he has just been sent off to become a man.
October 21, 2011 at 2:03 pm
Going slightly off topic, for my money, that Superboy show was the BEST live-action realization of super-hero comics ever. Sure, it was low budget, but the kinds of stories and their tone were like the best of the Silver and Bronze eras combined. Not surprising, when you consider the number of scripts written by the likes of Cary Bates, Mike Carlin Andy Helfer, Denny O’Neill, and J.M. DeMatteis!
October 21, 2011 at 2:15 pm
They really should have done The Silver Age.
October 21, 2011 at 2:41 pm
Whoa! I read that article about Robinson’s “The Silver Age” way back then, but had completely forgotten about it until I saw that scan! It’s a damn shame the project never happened.
October 21, 2011 at 3:45 pm
Seconding Perry’s fondness for the Superboy during the Christopher run (first season is best forgotten).
The Caniff speech was wordy, but it works for me. And of course it was in an era when we were in the middle of the war and talk like that would have meant more (and flying was a lot cooler in people’s eyes).
I remember Clark Kent’s one time in uniform in WW II was when he did a story on the maintenance crews by volunteering as one of them.
October 21, 2011 at 3:47 pm
Checked out “how to spot a Jap” at the link. Almost mild compared to a lot of anti-Japanese propaganda.
Even the Bowery Boys got in on this subject (back when they were the East Side Kids), harassing a local store owner who turns out to be a Chinese-American rather than Japanese.
October 21, 2011 at 6:07 pm
Say what you will about the Superboy TV show, but Stacy Haiduk was an infinitely better Lana Lang than Kristin Kreuk. This is known.
October 21, 2011 at 6:21 pm
I think Brian’s on the money here. All we really know is that Christopher had a good audition. There’s a big difference between that and being cast.
October 21, 2011 at 6:33 pm
Sorbo has the build for Superman all right, but not the face. And Clark Kent… fuhgeddaboudit. Can you even picture him in glasses?
I loved Cain’s Superman when I was a kid, so I think it worked out for the best. As for Sorbo, if you want to see him play a superhero who’s always right, that’s what Andromeda’s for.
October 21, 2011 at 7:40 pm
Golden Age – probably the best comic book story I have ever read IMO
Final Frontier probably the 2nd best comic story I have ever read IMO
October 21, 2011 at 9:03 pm
Once again, I agree with T.
Naturalistic dialogue isn’t the be-all, end-all of storytelling. People from Dostoyevsky to Cervantes had very wordy dialogue. They’re still geniuses. I really wish people stopped mocking comics from the past for “wordiness.”
Never saw the SUPERBOY TV show. One of those shows that never made it into Brazil, I suppose. Watched LOIS CLARK for the first couple of seasons, but soon I grew tired of it. I never liked the typical superhero TV show that didn’t involve supervillains or other superheroes, just the one superhero fighting against normal people.
I do remember Robinson’s proposal. I had wet dreams about it at the time, I was so crazy about Robinson. How things have changed…
October 21, 2011 at 9:33 pm
Ah, Kevin Sorbo, the littlest Hercules. He may have made a good Perseus or Jason, but he always seemed (to me) too small to really be a good Hercules.
Similarly, I remember thinking that Dean Cain would have been a spot-on Kyle Rayner GL, but had neither the size nor presence to pull off Superman.
I liked the Superboy show in the 90′s because they did a Bizarro episode that was pretty cool for a TV version, but I’m not sure what season that was.
October 21, 2011 at 10:18 pm
Ok, perhaps a bad choice of words…I didn’t mind the actual number of words or how natural the talk sounds like, just how it was presented, as a series of talking heads. It’s like Caniff came up with the text and then remembered that oh yeah, this is going to the comic page, he should probably do some pictures to go with it.
October 21, 2011 at 10:44 pm
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October 21, 2011 at 11:50 pm
I vaguely remember hearing about that Superman story. That’s pretty funny. I also seem to remember the bit about it being between Cain and Sorbo.
That Terry strip gets me, in my patriotic bone. Salute! And I definitely agree with T and Rene. Just because it’s wordy, doesn’t automatically make it bad comics. Like T said, the silent panel is even more effective due to the wordiness of the rest.
That said, there are some comics that ARE too wordy, and don’t take advantage of what comics can do.
I definitely remember that Wizard article about the Silver Age. I may have come across it recently when I was looking something else up. Chaykin definitely would have been a good one for it.
Robinson sure likes Jim Harper, huh?
October 22, 2011 at 5:12 am
I remember a Superboy scene where they had Bizarro Lana and Bizarro having breakfast and it was very reminiscent of the old Bizarro tales.
And yes, Stacy Haiduk. And yes again.
Plus Sherman Howard, who played Lex from second season, had the raw hate that was so characteristic of Silver Age Luthor.