Let’s do the drugs first. Whoo-hoo!
I think I wrote the first drug use story in the Comics Code era. It appeared in this issue of Action Comics:
It was the second feature, a Legion of Super-Heroes story entitled “Forbidden Fruit.” Comic Book Database, www.comicbookdb.com, while often useful, gives credit for writing this story jointly to Mort Weisinger and me. Why do they do that? Mort never co-wrote anything with me, or even made a significant edit on any of my scripts. Sigh. No, I wrote it, just me.
The story was published in April of 1969.
The story, MY story:
A very rare fruit from Planet Oomar in the Tenth Galaxy called the lotus fruit contains a highly addictive, psychotropic chemical. A nefarious miscreant, referred to only as the “Doctor,” controls the only source of the fruit in this galaxy. Through some ambitious machinations the Doctor manages to manipulate a Legionnaire—Timber Wolf, as it happens, but anyone would do—into drinking the distilled nectar of the lotus fruit. One shot of the concentrated nectar is enough to get Timber Wolf thoroughly hooked.
The Doctor’s plan is to get Timber Wolf to get other Legionnaires hooked, and then…? Who knows what evil lurks….
Timber Wolf is driven by his addiction to cooperate. He’ll do anything the Doctor asks in order to earn his next piece of fruit.
Timber Wolf offers his girlfriend, Light Lass, a lotus fruit, but something odd in his manner makes her suspicious. She refuses.
Light Lass clandestinely follows Timber Wolf, sees him eat the lotus fruit he offered her and witnesses its effects. Later, she follows him on his way to meet the Doctor, desperately seeking more fruit.
The Doctor offers Timber Wolf a big basket of lotus fruit if he will promise to share it with other Legionnaires. Timber Wolf would agree to anything at this point.
Light Lass uses her gravity manipulation powers to levitate the basket out of the Doctor’s hands and grabs it. She has come prepared. She places a sensor in the basket wired to a small explosive device on her belt. If it goes off, the blast will surely kill her, though the collateral damage will be slight. If one of the fruits in the basket is but touched, she dies. No one else will be harmed.
Timber Wolf almost takes a piece of the fruit he wants so badly, but cannot. Not if it means his beloved will die.
Timber Wolf summons enough willpower to resist his addiction long enough to strike down the Doctor.
Light Lass calls the police. Disarms the bomb. Yes, it was for real. And she allows Timber Wolf to eat a lotus fruit to end his suffering. She holds him, comforts him. Her faith in his love led her to risk all. His love for her saved her, and now her love for him will see him through the dark time ahead. He’ll have to go through a difficult rehab, but he’ll be okay, she knows it.
But that’s not how the story saw print. The Comics Code Authority rejected the story.
There was nothing specific about drug use in the 1954 Comics Code, still in effect in 1969, but there was a catch-all provision:
“All elements or techniques not specifically mentioned herein, but which are contrary to the spirit and intent of the Code, and are considered to be violations of good taste and decency, shall be prohibited.”
Drug use fell under that dictum, apparently. If you are not familiar with the 1954 Comics Code, it’s available in many places. Here’s one:
So, Mort Weisinger and DC caved in. I had to rewrite the ending so that Timber Wolf was cured the second his love for Light Lass broke the spell of the lotus fruit. Here’s the last scene:
To this day, I don’t know why that ending is supposedly better, or why it satisfied the Code.
So, why did I try a drug story?
In the late 1960’s, drugs were all around. I suppose they always had been, but suddenly the world was on a binge and it wasn’t confined to the shadows. Even in my seemingly innocent and idyllic suburban high school. A guy named Mike sat behind me in Physics II high as a weather balloon on the substance du jour every day. And he’d tell me all about it in rambling whispers. Even if I wanted to listen to the lecture on atomic orbitals instead.
He financed his stationary trips by selling nickel bags of marijuana ($5, yes, I’m that old) and did a brisk business. Another guy whose dad owned a pharmacy illegally sold legal drugs—mother’s little helpers, go-pills, any prescription upper or downer you wanted. Cough syrup with codeine was a big commodity. NyQuil, when it came along, was too. Some idiots even sniffed glue. Butyrate Dope was the Cadillac of sniffables, maybe because of the name. I never saw any evidence of heroin use, but I wouldn’t dismiss the possibility.
A girl named Sue, a beautiful, brilliant girl, and one of the top ten in my class, saw me at the mall one day and asked me if I’d give her a ride home. Sure. She invited me in. We were sitting in her family’s kitchen, drinking coffee with her parents ten feet away in the living room. Oblivious to danger (high, I guess) she chirpily recited to me the list of drugs she’d done: “I ate this, then I ate that….” I kept trying to tell her ixnay. No luck. I don’t know what happened after I left….
I didn’t go to college, but I spent a lot of time on college campuses while in high school and thereafter. I took art classes at Carnegie-Mellon University. (It was still called Carnegie Tech when I first started the classes.) Think there were drugs to be found in the College of Fine Arts building? I believe smoking weed was a course requirement, at least in the theater department.
Because I took classes at Carnegie Tech/Carnegie-Mellon, I was entitled to use the Hunt Library. I practically lived there. That’s where I first got my hands on a copy of Seduction of the Innocent, by the way.
I also occasionally spent time at the University of Pittsburgh. I was in a special program that provided science geeks like me the opportunity to perform lab assistant grunt work for science professors doing research. Actual experience (however grunty) in an actual lab, plus being coached, advised and taught by a real scientist…wow, groovy.
I was told that people there cooked LSD for themselves and their friends. I saw the darkroom. Were they kidding? Pranking the doofus high school kid? I don’t know, but there sure was a lot of LSD around. It wasn’t even illegal back then. Several people offered me some. Free. I turned it down.
I didn’t do any drugs at all back then. Not even alcohol. No money, no time. And since I wasn’t likely to succeed because of my looks or athletic abilities, I didn’t want to muddle my mind any more than it already was.
I have had two drug experiences in my life. In high school, I often had to stay up all night working to make deadlines for Mort. It was hard. Coffee and No-Doze didn’t cut it. A guy I knew gave me some spansules he said would help. Ritalin, he said, a mild stimulant. I looked it up. Yep. A mild stimulant.
Late one night, as I was fading out with a drop-dead deadline looming, I took two, as advised. Suddenly wide awake, I did two days’ worth of work, eight pages of script and layouts, in a few hours. Then I drove at 4 AM to the main Post Office in downtown Pittsburgh in my beat-up junkyard-ready 1963 TR4 (bought for $400) flat out in fourth gear on winding, follow-the-creek roads (like McLaughlin’s Run, for you ‘Burgh people). Thank God there was no one else on the road. I mailed the work air mail special delivery—the stamp cost an outrageous $.55!—which would get the package to DC Comics the next day, saving my job.
Then I drove around like a mad loon at 110 MPH. If there had been a squirrel I could have caught I would have eaten it raw. If my girlfriend had been around, well…let’s just say I was extremely motivated. Sometime before normal people were on the roads (it was Saturday), I started to wind down. I went home and slept all day, all night and woke up Sunday morning.
A friend had a Physician’s Desk Reference. I paged through it until I found a pill that looked like the ones I’d taken. Dexedrine. The highest dosage.
Got rid of the rest of those pills in a hurry….
Many years later, a girlfriend made pot brownies. She insisted I eat one. We were in a safe place, no obvious risk factors. Okay.
It put me to sleep fast. No tolerance for the stuff, I guess.
I was doing commercial, advertising comics for U.S. Steel and others when Stan’s Spider-Man drug story and Denny’s Green Lantern/Green Arrow/Speedy (Speedy…! Heehee!) drug story came out. I never read them. Were they good?
However, I have seen a lot of stories involving drugs since. Generally, it seems to me that they are dorkier and more comic-booky than “Forbidden Fruit” as published, in my opinion. The addicts are caricatures, the pushers are caricatures, the effects of the drugs are either cartoony-bad or cartoony-beneficial, giving the user unbelievable stamina, strength or imperviousness to pain. Sorry Frank.
The portrayal of drug use in comics is one of our great failings. One of the reasons that Big Entertainment Media laugh at us. Not that they often get it right.
NEXT: Sex and Drugs Part 2 – Sex
It's a pity your story got censored. It sounds like it would have really been something. As you know a few years later Stan Lee fought a battle against the comic code with ASM 96. But he was in control of Marvel. Too bad you weren't running DC in 1969. LOL. You were about 18 at the time, right? Was there a minimum age to be Editor-in-Chief at DC like there is to be President of the US?
Sounds reasonable. Thanks.
For a project I was working on under the auspices of the State Department I did extensive research on Arab and Muslim comics. I also had several discussions with State Department experts for whatever that's worth. Here's the situation, it seems: The Arab/Muslim comics that exist now are devoid of super heroes because the first and only mission that would be acceptable to a vast majority of Arab/Muslim readers would be the liberation of Palestine, followed by war upon Zionists. Any hero who was merely fighting crime or some such wouldn't do. And if the hero couldn't free Palestine and drive the Zionists into the sea, what good would he or she be?
This is pure speculation on my part but from reading your post I have a theory why the Comics Code had a problem with the ending. In your original ending she gave me a lotus flower to eat after Timber punched out the Doctor. They might have thought that by her allowing him to take the illegal drug that it sent the wrong message. True, that would not make sense in the context of the rest of the story itself. However perhaps they thought kids would misinterpret it that way.
Just speculation. Is this a possibility?
Kev From Atl
Wow-I hate waiting this long for sex.
I think it's a mistake to address 9/11 in a superhero story. One of the conceits of the superhero genre is that superheroes don't solve the huge problems of the real world like war, disease, and famine. We all know the real reason they don't is because superheroes work best in what is basically a fictionalized version of the real world. But there's no way to realistically explain their failure to solve these problems in story. Any attempt to do so (from Maggin's "Must There be a Superman" to the more recent Justice miniseries) makes the heroes look foolish or like assholes. There really is no credible reason why superheroes wouldn't work to solve the problems of the world if they really existed. Since there's no credible way to explain their failure to act, I think the best course is to not draw attention to it.
To me it was a decent story also (even the infamous Dr. Doom scene). But as I said, the characters seem frustrated and incapable of dealing with the problems of the real world (you’re talking of superheroes that stopped the extermination of half the Universe, among other cosmic threats).
Still I feel that addressing 9/11 was something that Marvel just had to do, with all its characters living in N.Y. and not fictional cities. Personally, I feel that “A moment of Silence” is a better homage to the real-life heroes and people.
Sorry, '.. as being a step into 'mature' subject matter that I hadn't seen before.'
Jim, 'A Very Personal Hell'?? I was a big Hulk fan at the time, and that story struck me as being (Pus the Simonson cover was too much in a good way!) Seem to recall it was controversial at the time for the drugs and the attempted rape scene, any thoughts 30 years on?
Nuke was not heavy-handed.
Yes….yes he was. Nuke was and is a heavy-handed character; not an ounce of subtlety, depth or humor. In other words, a typical Frank Miller character.
Oh but I'm not speaking your language, am I "anonymous?" After all, it's "just comics," and if only all us eggheads would quit trying to make it about more than just that, everything would be alright, wouldn't it?
You're right, of course….Nuke wasn't Frank making any kind of statement about drugs and I never said he was. Frank wasn't making any kind of statement about drugs, or anything, for that matter. Frank was just doing comics which, apparently, defy any kind of thoughtful analysis or introspection and shame on us for bringing all of that pseudo-intellectual claptrap to the table.
Sorry about that, "anonymous…" it won't happen again, sir….just gimme another red. Jesus…
Andy E. Nystrom
My only problem with JMS' Spider-Man 9-11 story is it doesn't jibe well with Marvel's sliding time scale. Right now for that story to have happened, the towers had to have fallen at least a decade later than in the real world or Spider-Man is travelling througb time for whatever reason or this is Spider-Man's reaction at the very beginning of his career (and even that unlikely scenario will be impossible pretty soon). Stories like that work better in worlds where characters more or less age in real time.
That Timber Wolf/Light Lass story was and still is one of my favorite Legion stories ever. The Matter-Eater Lad/Shrinking Violet date story from Action Comics is another.
Stan Lee's stroke of genius in the drugs story is shown in that it's Peter Parker, not Spider-Man, who confronts the pushers.
I enjoyed JMS's Spidey 9/11 (ASM v2 #36) story as well. Recommended reading! JMS and J.R. Jr. did a killer job.
"What kind of solution can Captain America or Spider-man bring to 9/11? What kind of relief?"
JMS did do a Spider-man story several years ago about 9/11. Spidey reflected for the entire issue about the attack and what it did to him and Americans, etc. It was actually a decent story overall if I remember correctly.
Nuke was not heavy-handed. And it was barely any kind of statement about drugs – other than a government-sponsored type of steroid
Sometimes folks, you gotta realize it's just comics. Yes, O'Neil was trying to address social issues in Hard Traveling Heroes, but Frank was writing comics
In my opinion Stan Lee's Spider-man story is a good story, because it can stand on its own legs too, without the drug theme, yet on the other hand it delivers the message Stan wanted to send about drugs too.
Since you are going to be discussing sex in comics, I wonder if you might take a look at Avengers Academy #23 (it came out last week). I discussed it on the AICN comics podcast, and while I think it's a great series overall, I had a quibble with its rather frank and detailed discussion of sexuality, particularly a part whether they debate whether people are bi-sexual or "just gay people who haven't come all the way out." The book is rated for teens, but this is the sort of comic I was reading and enjoying at 8 years old, so I think it ought to be something you could give to a kid that age. The vast majority of Marvel comics under your reign were suitable for all-ages, and while they certainly tackled adult issues, it was always in a manner that was suitable for all-ages. I wonder if comics haven't lost sight of that goal, and if that might not be counter-productive to growing the audience. Anyway, I'm curious to get your thoughts on this issue if you get a chance to pick it up.
When Jim made the above-reference to Frank Miller, I thought, perhaps as you did, he was talking about the 2-issue Punisher/Drug-War "arc" from Daredevil #s 183 and 184. The first part of that story was supposed to appear in #167, but the Comics Code rejected it; it was re-worked by Frank and appeared in #183. You can tell that most of #183 was drawn earlier by Frank because by the time it saw print, Frank's art-style had changed. Yes, indeed, it was then and is now one of the clunkier, heavy-handed, anti-drug stories to appear in comic books. Too, Frank's use of Nuke in the later #233 is very heavy-handed to the point of comedic as well.
Cloak and Dagger is in the queue. Thanks.
Damian T. Lloyd, Esq.
I vaguely recall a Frank Miller story in "Daredevil" where a dealer (I want to call him "Hogman"?) was selling PCP to school-kids. I remember it being as deep as the average "ABC After-School Special", and that "The Comics Journal" negatively reviewed its depiction of the "drug underworld".
I did an interview with Carmine Infantino and he mentioned that what Stan did was crazy (the guy jumping off the roof). During that CCA meeting he got yelled at for doing the story.
It's been said elsewhere Stan was also made to promise that he wouldn't do another story outside of the CCA again.
I agree with El Doc. It comes off being silly. I don't mind drugs being in the story (Gandalf and the Hobbit's weed) but I don't like it to be the main focus of the story. The social commentary stories have about as much impact as a "Very Special Episode" of Home Improvement. A creative allegorical tale is fine, but a ham-fisted straight forward social comment does not work.
I feel that the world of superheroes will always fail to address the problems of the real world especially the really hard ones, such as politics, religion, drugs, etc. Superheroes live in an imaginary fantasy bubble were you can easily differentiate the good guys from the bad guys, the comic relief from the bad-ass guy. Everybody is an archetype and the shadows of grey usually are easy to see.
When you try to get serious enough, the fantasy-bubble becomes evident and the superheroe just looks silly. Peter David has addressed several topics trough the years (AIDS, religion, politics) and his characters always prove unable to solve the problem at any scale (how can we ask the Hulk to donate his blood to a dying person?, what kind of moral issue is that if the Hulk doesn’t exists, but the problem is very real ?). Usually his characters seem frustrated to not been able to solve the problem, to not having the answers. I feel this is more of a projection of the author “I do not have the answers” and that is OK enough for me. Still I wonder why does he do that kind of stories: to force the reader to reflection, maybe?
What kind of solution can Captain America or Spider-man bring to 9/11? What kind of relief? The answer to me is none. I don’t think the superheroes world is a good place to preach over hard topics, because for those, the answer usually does not come in black and white.
A former friend of mine used to claim that he'd been smoking pot for 15 years but that it wasn't an addiction.
Even though you can do good stories about drug use, every time they come up with some kind of public service announcement, the story is complete crap.
I remember that a few years ago, Marvel came up with Fast Lane, a story about a Daily Bugle intern who was smoked pot. Now, the character was obviously a stupid person, even more stupid than Shaggy from Scooby Doo.
So, the intern idolizes an actor who walks around with a "Legalize" t-shirt and his making a film about pot, and does every thing the actor does because it's cool. So the guy drives under the influence and his van falls off a bridge. He's saved by Spider-Man and promises never to take a puff again.
This is the type of story that makes kids want to try marijuana, because the character used as an example is such a complete idiot that nobody would ever identify with him.
This ran as an insert in every single Marvel comic for four months (it was a mini-series), and people online complained that they couldn't rip that excrement out without damaging the staples.
Even people at Marvel poked fun at this, like this Bullpen Bits entry by Chris Giarrusso.
I read the speedy story when I was about 10 (incidentally around the same time that I first read Starlin's the life of Captain Marvel story arc), it was very, very good stuff. It kept me in the same place I read comics to be in, sorry it didn't really break off too much in that department. In hindsight, I'd lay it next to the Starlin stuff as pretty much some of the best post-silver age comics I've read. As far as drug stories in general… I believe they should have been more prevalent in general. I love stories that poach from reality as a rule, but volcanoes, crazy boat-people, giant sharks and such can only be interesting in so many ways before they're completely static and just become part of the setting or the intro or an outright excuse for mindless exposition. Speedy high as a kite and Ollie shitting himself is entertaining, Speedy kicks; blammo. There's your story. Add a little human concern and that's a dramatic little scenario that should make you smile. I didn't read it until much later, but Robert E. Howard's "Skull-face" story (pulp) about an opium addicted adventurer drafted into service by the being who would become his arch-nemesis (via an even heavier drug, WOW), was fucking fantastic. I don't recall if it was made into a comic story, but I imagine it would have translated pretty well in one of the Conan mags.
As an aside, I AM a drug/alcohol user (I smoke cigarettes too, and that's probably the worst, because between that and alcohol, there's a proportionate loss of lung and liver to tax dollars donated to my own death). All in all, I'd say it's NEVER done ANYTHING for me except aid and abet my ability to do nothing in the worst way possible. I believe the simple explanation of people being creative when they're tore-up-from-the-floor up is a simple one: If they were worth their weight in shit before they imbibed mind altering substances, then they were still creative enough to be pertinent afterwards. I will not be going to a junky's house to chat and pump him for a creator's pov on his most excellent collection of shit-that-he's-painted-while-high. Most Junky's are artist's in some medium or other, or at least the one's I know. Marijuana on the other hand, if I could just put down the Twinkies and keep my eyes open long enough, I just KNOW I could do something GREAT, like build my brother a spice rack; I'd even do research and switch the most popularly accepted positioning of specific spices and herbs to be the best damned little drug using artisimo EVER! (sarcasm. I don't smoke weed.) My point is, enhancement is a possibility, but one must needs have been talented and worked at his craft to BE enhanced (if he should choose to imbibe in the first place).
Getting ready for the SEX post, I'd read a few years back, that one of the Legion artists would draw the characters nude or having sex just for fun and the inker would have to clothe all the characters. Any truth to this story?
I liked DC's "relevance" stuff, but it just creates too many problems for the superhero genre.
One, it takes me out of my fantasy world and throws me back into the world I'm trying to escape. (Not that I do drugs, but drugs aren't an entertaining real-world topic.)
Two, it raises questions about what a superhero should be concerned about. When you weigh the social damage that drugs do against the damage that the Riddler does (burglary), then it suggests Batman should be taking out the drug trade–which is, again, not very entertaining.
I wouldn't stick with a title long if it dwelt on such things. That's why I can't read much Punisher. I don't mind the violence, it's just that the menace he fights isn't very interesting–and it seems to be the same stuff over and over again.
So, I'm not saying comics shouldn't deal with the drug issue, I'm just saying I won't want to buy those comics.
I remember that Scourge of the Underworld was created by Mark Gruenwald. I didn't object to the idea of weeding out superfluous or third-rate bad guys, but I demanded that it be done in the context of good stories. I didn't want a cipher who was a device more than a character performing meaningless executions of non-entities. As I recall, Mark gave a sincere effort to do it well. I know that he checked with me and the editors of the titles to which the victims were related, if any, before dispatching them. I believe Mark had a target list of many characters and I believe various other editors suggested additions, but I don't remember the specifics. I don't remember any vetoes.
Can you give us any insight into Marvel's Cloak & Dagger? I recall them from when I started reading comics in the 80s – there was 4-issue limited series and some Dr. Strange appearances. Some nice art by Rick Leonardi, I think.
While it seems in hindsight that these characters might have been created as part of a public health campaign (was this the case?) they nonetheless were interesting characters with interesting abilities in an interesting part of the MU.
I wonder if you have any background you can share on Cloak & Dagger?
Prof: What do we do now, Batman?
NA: What do we do now? So I go back to DC, you know, and now that word had gotten out, oh shit. Now try to imagine DC, they've got this cover, right? Could have scooped Stan with something real and solid. They screwed up. So within a day or two they call a meeting of the Comics Code Authority. Remember the Comics Code Authority is bought for and paid for by the comic book companies. It doesn't exist independently. It's a self-regulating organization. So DC Comics calls Marvel, they call Archie, they go and have this emergency meeting. "We're going to revise the Comics Code!" Okay, within a week they revised the code and within a week and a half they tell me and Denny to go ahead with the story. (Laughter.)
Prof: Just that easy.
NA: Just that easy.
Prof: Oh, too funny.
NA: Well, it took the cooperation of quite a few people, but there you go. That's how it happened.
NA: So Stan is responsible for us being able to do that drug story, when you get right down to it. Thank you, Stan. I'm popping a pill, walking off a roof.
Prof: About as unrealistic as possible, but nonetheless…broke down the door.
NA: Incredible. Stan was always kind of like innocently naïve. "I wonder what would happen if we just threw this out." Not, "Oh, the shit hit the fan and we're in trouble now." Just, "Oh." Stan in his own way is just wonderful. He's like the world's innocent.
Prof: Just go for forgiveness rather than permission and see what happens?
NA: I guess. I don't even understand it, but still he won the day. He won the day for us. Incredible. Stan, thank you. How do you say thank you? Thank you, Stan, for having a guy popping pills and walking off a roof.
Neal Adams on the drug Story:
"We've got to do something on drug addiction," but of course it's against the Comic Code, so I went home and I did that first cover [Green Lantern #85]. You know, with Speedy?
NA: In the foreground? I penciled it and I inked it and I put the lettering in and I brought it in and I gave it to Julie Schwartz and his hand grabbed it very briefly and then he dropped it on the desk as if it were on fire. He said, "We can't do this." I said, "Well, we ought to." He said, "You know we can't do this. It's against everything." I said, "Well, this is where we're going. This is what we ought to be doing." So he said, "You're out of your mind. Once again, you're being a pain in the ass." So I took it into Carmine. Carmine didn't know what to make of it. I took it into the Kinney people, who were now running DC Comics and were sort of used to this and of course they dropped it like a hot potato. I said, "You know guys this is where we ought to be going with this." "Oh, no, Neal, please, just go and work. Leave us alone. You can't do this." And of course Julie had a twinkle in his eye, but still he knew it was bullshit, it wasn't going to happen. He said, "Why did you finish the cover?" I said, "Well, because it's going to get printed." "No, this will never get printed."
Anyway, I make a visit over to Marvel Comics a week or so later and somebody comes over to me, probably Roy [Thomas] or somebody, I don't know and says, "You know what Stan's [Lee] doing?" I said, "What?" He says, "He had this guy, this drug addict popping pills and he like walks off a roof." I said, "Stan had a guy popping pills and he walks off a roof? That's kind of a unique situation." (Laughter.) "I don't exactly know where you're going to find that, you know I don't know who's going to be walking off a roof." "Well, you know Stan read some kind of article about a guy who went off a roof." "Oh, okay. Sure. All right. Whatever." And he said, "So we did it and we sent it over to the Comics Code and the Comics Code rejected it, they said he has to change it." So I said, "Well, what's Stan gonna do?" "He's not gonna change it." "You're kidding." He says, "No. Not gonna change it. We're just gonna send it out, it's ready to go out. We're sending it out. It's going to be on the stands next week. Week after next." "Really? No shit. What about the Comics Code seal?" "Not gonna put the Comics Code seal on it." "Really?" [Amazing Spider-Man #97 & #98. Cover dates: June-July, 1971]
Prof: You can do that?
NA: So sure enough, he sends it out and I go over to Marvel Comics since I heard it was out and I go over and I say, "What happened?" He said, "Nobody said anything." "Nobody said anything?" "Nobody even noticed that the seal wasn't on there." "No shit. Nobody even noticed?"
The original demon in a bottle story doesn't hold up well. I havent' read the later relapse.
I actually like the Stan Lee story a lot. Its a good story, though the depiction of drug use wasn't researched or anything and that part is somewhat melodramatic but it fits Harry osborn and the melodrama of Spider-Man of the time. it's not out of place in other words. so i dont find it laughable.
The Speedy stuff was maybe more real in terms of its depiction than Stan's but to me, its less readable. Its very of its time in lingo, etc. and thus more laughable to me. YMMV
By the way, I loved the Tony stark "fall from alcohol" story. I tuned in more for that story than for the Ironman adventure each issue.
Drug abuse is usually done by people that are trying to run from something. Either in their past or their present. I always thought alcohol and weed fit in as something to enhance an experience . It should be part of an event , not THE event. Many years ago , I went .on vacation with my then wife to Jamaica. We smoked weed there and just enjoyed kicking back. Don't touch the stuff now.
Speaking of addiction stories, of course, there is the whole "Demon In A Bottle" storyline in Iron Man, and the character's relapse to become homeless and dependent on alcohol (leaving Jim Rhodes to take over the armour for a while).
I was parroting what I had heard from reports some years back from CNN and the like, and it stuck in my memory because it sounded so significant. So it doesn't really surprise me those reports were wrong, considering that every other study either says something different, or that more and more you just can't trust what's reported on the news.
Apologies: I didn't mean to give misinformation.
I'm fully on board with the notion that MJ shouldn't be in a more restricted category than alcohol. Our society is so fucked up.
Been doing some more reading and it seems that the wide opinion is that, yes, smoking is carcinogenic but the research is incomplete. Very interesting.
Ja and vangoghx,
Here's the thing, most studies show that mj has little to no relation to cancer or heart disease.
VanGoghX, please show me some research that backs the claim that most pot smokers smoke cigarettes. In my personal experience, there is no correlation between the two. maybe I am missing something.
Ja, seriously 10 times the carcinogens of tobacco? where can I find this information? I have googled it and no luck on my part.
I'm a casual pot smoker, drinker, small press guy (nope, nobody you'd know), and long time comic book fan. To anyone who thinks drugs don't play at least a small role in the comic culture; I suggest you hang out at a the hotel bar after any major comic book convention, and watch creators and fans blow off steam downing massive amounts of liquid intoxicants. It's a wonder half of them make it back to the table the following morning. Of course, not everyone drinks at shows, and even fewer partake in smoking weed, but it's not that uncommon.
Tony Isabella did a really good anti-drug issue of Justice Machine back in the 80's dealing with the character Demon, and his addiction. Although he does get a bit preachy in the letter column (more of a disclaimer printed on the inside cover warning readers of the issues mature content), he's honest in his portrayal, and it's a very good story. Probably the best drug related story I've read in comics to date.
Andy E. Nystrom
Both the Spider-Man and the GL/GA stories are decent if you factor in the era they were made. I don't think Stan Lee really researched the effects of any one drug for his story and there was a bit of melodrama as usual in the GL/GA story, but neither story felt like an abrupt departure from the overall tone of the series at the time.
It's hard not to read about the Doctor manipulating the LSH without thinking of the Doctor from the series Doctor Who, who's also good at manipulating people, though generally only the bad guys.
Relevant to the topic of sex and drugs interestingly Marvel's announced a collection of their public service announcement giveaway/premium books (just the Spider-Man ones if memory serves; Spider-Man vs the Prodigy and the like)
Unrelated note: do you have any stories related to the Scourge of the Underworld? I'd be curious for example to learn if there were any villains that people wanted Scourge to kill that got vetoed or conversely if there were villains whose deaths were approved but never carried out.
RE: Allowing room for 1/3 page ads: that story was originally the full ten pages. Per Mort, the revised ending was two panels shorter. I was occasionally asked to leave room for an ad or statement of ownership, but more often, Mort would just shrink a couple of big panels earlier in the story to make room.
RE: The Devil's Partner": I didn't think I wrote it, but after reading it carefully, I don't know. Some of it sounds like me. Some of it doesn't. If I did write it, it was story suggested by Mort — the telltale there is the final caption. Mort had plans for "Rol-Nac." I sure didn't. I suspect Rol-Nac is an anagram for something. The best I have been able to guess so far are "Alcorn," "Lorca N" and "Carol N." I was fond of the name Lorca (a Spanish poet), Carol N was a classmate, Alcorn? I don't know. But I know of no significance to that.
Funny, I remember stories I wrote in 1966-68 panel by panel. Stories I wrote in 1969, not so much. I've been shown stories from that period that I totally didn't recognize until I came across a name of an incidental character that only I could have contributed — a name based on a classmate's, for instance. 1969 was a bad year for me.
RE: Big Entertainment Media, i.e., movies and TV's good and bad depictions of addiction is too big a topic for here. Later.
I didn't design the cover for Action Comics #378 because I didn't write the cover story. The great Neal Adams has been very charitable about my cover designs. Yes, he followed them — sort of. He would look at my crude drawings and see the intent. Then he would draw the image that was in my mind, that I wasn't skilled enough to scribble-sketch well, and render it with uncanny accuracy. When I saw the finished cover, usually in print, I'd say, "Yeah! That's what I meant!"
Win Mortimer and I always got along well. I never had any complaints from him. I think he liked working from my layouts, though he often didn't follow them. He'd get the drift of the required image then do it his way. His wife was always very sweet to me. Nice people.
I used to have an Opal GT. Jim would not have fit in that either, I think. The area where the pedals were got very narrow toward the bottom. I'm not tall (or short), but I remember thinking how tight the space was. They don't really seem to design most sports cars with a variety of sizes in mind. Well, they didn't. I wouldn't know now… living in NYC for 30 years, I haven't driven a sports car in a long, long time. Or any car, much.
There's lots of room in a TR4. I could stretch my legs out straight, and there was plenty of headroom. I also had a Spitfire Mk III. Not quite as roomy, but adequate. I could not drive an MG Midget, an Austin Healy Sprite or a Jaguar XKE. Not enough room under the dash for my long legs to work the pedals.
I've gotten pretty good at research. Whatever the job, I figure it out.
Alas, the Wikipedia article on the Comics Code Authority doesn't mention your story, though it refers to an earlier post-Code DC story involving drugs: Deadman's debut in Strange Adventures #205. I haven't read that issue, but I found key panels here. It looks like drugs only played an incidental role in that story — the villain could have been involved in some other criminal activity — so your story might still be the first post-Code story with an anti-drug theme.
Thanks for revealing the original ending of your LSH drug story and the broader context in which you wrote it. The published ending bugged me because it was too pat. As Light Lass said, "It's all over." Boom, instant cure. Unlikely. The "difficult rehab" you initially intended is far more credible.
I wonder if the CCA objected to this part: "And she allows Timber Wolf to eat a lotus fruit to end his suffering." I can imagine someone at the CCA saying, "Heroines can't be doing what the villain just did!" Not even if she was stuck in a tight spot. On the one hand, she obviously didn't want Timber Wolf to become an addict … but on the other hand, he was suffering so much and she wanted to do something to reduce his pain.
(I just realized it's a bit odd to describe 30th century events in the past tense when I'm writing this in the 21st century.)
The scene in which Timber Wolf declares, "I could stand here all night!" reminds me of your description of being "wide awake" late at night.
I hardly read new comics anymore, but I doubt they'll tell me what the "New 'Matchbox' Models of the Month" are. How will I survive? Oh wait, I'll just Google "Matchbox." Never mind …
Was there a sigh of relief in the business once ads no longer appeared on story pages? Were you told that you needed to script page totals with fractions like 9 2/3 pages (the length of "The Forbidden Fruit!")?
The GCD credits you with the Superman cover story as well as the LSH backup. Did you write "The Devil's Partner!"? If you did, do you remember the story behind that story?
I did read Stan Lee's Spider-Man drug story years ago, but can't remember anything about it.
I've had the infamous Speedy story lying around for years unread. What I've read of the O'Neil/Adams run worked for me as a kid. Not so much when I was older and wanted more subtlety.
Like JC, I got the The New Teen Titans anti-drug comic in elementary school. The best thing about it was the George Pérez. The substitution of the Protector for Robin was puzzling until I learned later that, in the words of the GCD,
Because DC didn't realize it couldn't use the character of Robin until after the material for this issue was completed, since Robin was licensed by Keebler's rival Nabisco, Dick Giordano had to re-do all the Robin figures as the Protector, though the character is still directing the team and acting as if he were Robin.
The portrayal of drug use in comics is one of our great failings. One of the reasons that Big Entertainment Media laugh at us. Not that they often get it right.
Do Big Entertainment Media even know about "[t]he portrayal of drug use in comics"? I ignore BEM*, so I don't know how they handle the issue. If I've seen Very Special Episodes on the topic, they fell out of my memory long ago. What are good and bad examples of fictional depictions of addiction?
*Looks like "Bug-Eyed Monster" or this long-forgotten DC character.
"… one for each of ya!"?
Now you're seeing double!
LOL, you got me there. Let the record show that I had double posted. Rather…
I had two posts; one for each of ya!
Was this Action Comics cover one that you designed? I remember Neal Adams stating that when he drew a lot of the covers you designed, he would usually stick to your compositions, because he would usually liked your design skills.
Salamandyr, I know what you mean.
Sometimes the drugs just make you repeat things over and over.
Most of the people I have known who smoke weed also smoke tobacco. So, if someone who smokes both gets lung cancer, which is to blame? And the legality factor tends to mess with the gathering of statistics.
The fact remains, breathing toxic chemicals into your lungs is not a healthy activity. Marijuana has some healthy side effects, as does tobacco, but it's also got a lot of drawbacks.
My problem with nearly every drug storyline I've ever seen is how drugs are somehow supposed to be immediately addictive.
I told a waitress once that I couldn't justify the cost of cigarettes because it ate into my heroin budget. The waitress was completely horrified until my friend burst out laughing. I can't trust my friends to go along with a good entertaining story.
Though there's no real deaths attributable to marijuana smokers, there are studies that smoking pot gets you 10 times the carcinogenics than actual cigarettes. So on the level of lung cancer and other respiratory diseases cigarettes contribute to, you can lump smoking weed into that.
But beyond that, it is interesting that there are no significant amount of deaths attributable to smoking the Ganj.
@Dylan: Lots of weed smokers also smoke cigarettes, so (the story goes) that makes it harder to separate the data regarding the potential harmful effects of marijuana.
Of course there's always vaporizers and edibles, just to be on the safe side. 🙂
Now all I can do is picture you in dresses. Oddly enough, the beard compliments the look… hehe
I tried smoking weed several times. Ripped hell out of my throat each time. No more of that.
I let a friend of a friend stay at my place for several weeks, and I was the most productive person. I thought having a roommate that I could regularly commiserate with was turning out to be a good influence on me. Turns out he was putting 'Crank' into my coffee every morning. No wonder he was up earlier than me every day. It wasn't until I had stomach cramps one day, that he packed his things up and that's when he admitted to me that's what he did, in case I needed to go to the hospital, I could give the doctors a clue on what was wrong.
But it was getting really drunk with a girl one night that convinced me that I wasn't into getting bent/high/drunk/wasted/whatever. First time I got drunk as an adult (in NYC where I didn't have to drive), the girl got really friendly with me. Paraphrasing Jim's post, talk about being motivated! I was just weirded out that though all the body parts were working fine, I couldn't feel a damned thing. And by the time that my body parts were regaining their feelings, the girl then announced she was going to sleep, leaving me incredibly frustrated.
See how delicate I was in the way I recounted that?
After that, I basically decided that getting high/drunk/whatever just wasn't for me.
HOWEVER, I do have addictions! My 'drugs' have drive-thrus, extra cheese and mayonnaise! My dealers wear clown suits or crowns, and one of my dealers' heads IS an actual clown's HEAD! They're on every street corner, too. I can't get away from them.
I think Jim's right. Rarely has any drug story in comics been done very well. I'm all for good melodrama, but when it comes to drug use, we need more relate-able (or believable) stories.
According to the CDC, there are over 400,000 annual deaths attributable to cigarettes. Marijuana? None attributable. To use a cliche, that's less than peanuts. (Seriously, peanuts kill about 100 people a year). There is a lot of bad information about drugs floating in the ether.
Jim, I see that Win Mortimer drew this story. Did he have any reaction to it? Since he was older than you (50 years old), was he able to relate or did he think you were just some upstart hippie?
I don't drink, smoke, or take drugs – and I make all my own dresses. (Only the last part is a joke.)
I won't live forever, but it'll sure seem like it.
How did you fit into a TR4?
Patrick Daniel O'Neill
FTR, the Grand Comics Database (www.comics.org) has the writing credit for the story correct–just you. OTOH, since Weisinger asked for the rewrite, perhaps that is why the other site considers it a co-plotting situation.
Alcohol is obviously very destructive on society but part of that it is far more widely used. if the use level of many other drugs was higher, their impact would be greater. and mj seems to have most of the same negative attributes as cigarettes. cancer and what not.
I never cut my hand off either but i'd advise against it. Im sure we are all pretty aware of millions of people having an awful hard time with drugs to the point of ruining their lives. of course not every drug or person is the same but erring on the side of caution is a good thing i think considering the high downside and low upside. There's lots of people who think they can handle them that can't and you can't really know before you start.
and while i have no way of knowing how many creative geniuses have used mind altering substances, much less how many of them's use of the substance actually caused the creativity as opposed to simple correlation, the list of creative geniuses who die or otherwise ruin their lives because of these substances is nearly as long. and while there may be a brief period where they can handle it, it usually doesn't last too long.
I find it more than a bit disingenious that folks with little to no experience with drugs feel like they need to preach to others about the dangers, when they themselves have no real knowledge.
I grew up in the 70's with hippie parents, and I was taught the right and wrong way to do certain drugs. There is a place and time for experimentation with mind-altering substances (it's called "College") but there's also methods of using dangerous substances to minimize the risk.
I've read every comic I can think of that deals with drugs. Most of the time the depictions are pretty lame. I am and know several habitual Marijuana users who are contributing members of society and are not criminals, and yet marijuana is still treated as if it kills more people than traffic accidents, when cigarettes and alcohol are both more dangerous to your body and to the public.
Besides without drugs we would not have half of the amazing art, literature, film and music that we have today. A good majority of the creative geniuses throughout history have used one substance or another in order to facilitate their internal genius.
Would it be difficult to write a series set in the Marvel Universe for you today considering all the changes to the status quo? or is it easy to get up to speed between editors and the internet?
Wolverine would not come out as gay but Wolverine's son Daken is bisexual.
T-wolf is hetero.
Light Lass and Shrinking Violet are a couple now.
Timber Wolf gay? I don't know. He wasn't in 1969.
RE: Frank Miller. I was actually referring to his character "Nuke." David Mazzuchelli drew it, I think.
RE: Timber Wolf. I picked him for the drug story because he had sort of a brooding loner personality, which played well in my head, and an established serious love interest in Light Lass.
I've never read Stan's drug story or Denny’s Green Lantern/Green Arrow story. I do have a Shock Suspenstories #12 with a cool Heroin addiction story.
Nice article Jim. Personally, I never got into drugs at all myself. Don't even drink (mostly because I don't like the taste of alcohol). But I've had a lot friends (and relatives) who have smoked plenty of weed and other such things, so I know what kind of affect it can have on your life. I've seen very smart and outgoing people basically become losers and pretty much trash their lives, all for the sake of a temporary high.
To address your parting question – Yes, the drug issues of Spider-Man, at least, were definitely worth reading. Not just because of the drug theme, but because they contained a really good, classic Green Goblin story as well. The GL/GA/ Speedy issues I have never read.
On another matter, after looking at those Legion pages with Timber Wolf, I think that no super hero should ever be designed with "white" outer trunks. Superman can get away with "red" ones, but the white really makes it look like there is no doubt as to weather TW wears "boxers" or "briefs". (If you know what I mean?)
No, but Light/Lightning Lass might be. But if Timber Wolf does come out, expect Wolverine to do so a few years later.
Isn't TimberWolf gay these days?
I remember getting the Teen Titans anti drug comic in 4th grade handed out by the teacher. I don't think DC attracted any new readers with that issue. From what I recall, the message seemed forced and at the time I thought the Titans were lame. I wanted to see Batman, not some brats preaching about drugs. This was the only time it was ok to read comics in class, I think we took turns with each student reading a page aloud.
Blok 4 Prez
I never made the Speedy connection before. Very punny, O'Neil!
Is the Frank reference a reference to Miller's "Born Again" and the portrayal of Karen Page? I haven't read it in years, but remember it being on target at least as far as how incredibly destructive heroin can be. That said, it might play a bit over the top and melodramatic these days. Have to go back and see…
Love the old Legion stories. Any idea why you picked Timber Wolf? He did become more of a bad-boy rebel character in later years (an early Logan, in many ways.) This story probably helped push him there.