6 Comic Book Easter Eggs That Stuck It to The Man
All of us should have jobs where we can slip passive-aggressive "screw yous" to our enemies or our bosses right there in the work we produce. It must be very satisfying.
Or at least you'd think so, considering how many of these "screw you" Easter eggs have been hidden in comics over the years.
Marvel Writer Encodes an Insult to His Boss
Al Milgrom was an artist, writer and editor who worked at Marvel for almost 25 years before he quit and started working freelance. At the time there wasn't a lot known about why he left, but later it became abundantly clear that one of the reasons was that Milgrom really, really hated his old boss, Bob Harras.
In 2000, Milgrom was hired as a freelance artist to work on Universe X Spidey #1, a comic with a title as bad as Milgrom's prank was awesome. Harras no longer worked for Marvel at the time and had been replaced, but that didn't stop Milgrom from seeking sweet, subtle revenge on his previous editor in one of Marvel's own comics. One of the panels he drew ended up looking like this:
Doesn't seem to be a whole lot going on other than the tripped-out girl in the background who is high as a kite, right? But flip it sideways, look a little closer and ...
Unlike most of the other Easter eggs on this list, the insult was caught by censors before the issue went on sale, but not before it was printed, which meant that they had to do a full recall on the issue and destroy every copy, which is a pretty rare occurrence in the comic book world (known to have happened fewer than a dozen times, ever).
Milgrom was fired over it, and his contract was terminated. But a few weeks later, the people at Marvel seemed to realize, "Yeah, Harras was an asshole. Nice! Come on back here." And they hired Milgrom back.
Writer Creates Jedi Master Baytes
We don't have to tell you about the rather ridiculous amount of merchandise and extended universe material that exists as part of the Star Wars universe, so it won't be a surprise to find out that there was a prequel comic book to Phantom Menace titled Star Wars: Jedi Council.
It was actually pretty awesome, as it was filled with tons of bloody Jedi fights and exactly zero annoying kid-Vaders and Jar Jar Binkses.
Why is this motherfucking lightsaber not motherfucking purple?
The author of the miniseries, Randy Stradley, needed to create a few fill-in characters for the comics and added in Master Soon Baytes as an official Jedi in the Star Wars canon.
Stradley later admitted that he had added the character as a kind of dig at his editor, Sue Rostini, who would always go through his scripts and add the word "Master" in front of every Jedi's name, whether he wanted them to be called that or not. Assuming Rostini would do the same thing this time around, he threw in Jedi Soon Baytes as a joke that he figured they would laugh at later and then make up a new name for.
The only problem was that Rostini didn't edit that particular issue, so the name went through unchanged and got published as a "not-so-witty time bomb waiting to be triggered." A few years later, Stradley was editing a different Star Wars comic, Star Wars: Obsession, and decided to finish what he had started.
He brought the character back in what was basically a cameo, set off the bomb and then just as abruptly killed off Master Baytes to never be spoken of again, but to always be remembered as a great man who could really handle his sword.
New Mutants Hides Filthy Conversations in Demon Text
Let's face it, drawing comic books is a dream job that a lot of nerds out there fantasize about, but we can only imagine that once you actually get the job, it can get a little boring, laboriously drawing each freaking strand of Jean Grey's freaking hair over and over again. So when a chance comes to have a little fun with a story, a guy's going to take it. This is what we imagine happened in New Mutants #17 with hilarious results.
In the story, the New Mutants (who are young X-Men in training) go to hell and meet some demons. The demons speak a different language, which is portrayed with a completely foreign set of symbols that they don't bother translating, figuring the reader can get the gist most of the time.
The words in demon language weren't vital to the plot, but never underestimate a comic book fan's determination to know everything about comic books. After one demon conversation is translated later in the story, it is obvious that there is a basic substitution cipher with English letters for fake demon letters. Comic book readers jumped all over that shit.
When you do a straight translation of the letters in the above conversation, you get a cipher like this to translate the rest of the dialogue, meaning all those delicious secrets are now ripe for the nerd picking.
But actually translating the demon language revealed less plot-relevant info and was instead pure, nonsensical awesomeness. Take the panel below, where the Queen of Hell is talking to her guards. Probably some important stuff going on there, right? Not so much.
Translation: "Did you see that guy's balls?" "Yeah ... they were weird."
No one has claimed credit for the dialogue -- it could have been the writer or the penciller -- but it remains a wonderful "fuck you" to a boring job nonetheless, as not a single untranslated conversation has anything to do with the plot. That first panel we showed, of a girl charging into battle? Yeah, she's saying "pork chop." And then there's this gem, which translates to, "Hey, dick-breath":
Also, being told that you're in charge of walking and picking up after demon toads kind of sucks, so we imagine the final word balloon might actually have been part of the script.
Artist Calls Out Another Artist for Stealing
In the comic book world, there is a common practice known as swiping, which is taking a completed panel from a released comic, changing some details and claiming it as your own. It's like how all the dumb kids would copy the nerd's homework in school and then intentionally make one answer wrong just to throw off the teacher.
It looks a little something like this:
So yeah, those aren't the same images, but the artist on the right clearly used the picture of Storm as a basis and just deleted like, what, eight feet of hair? Nine?
Most of the time, swipes are taken from classic artists who have a lot of panels, are highly regarded and just don't care because they're already at the top of the game. But in 1994, Roger Cruz stole the above panel from Joe Madureira, the artist for X-Men. Madureira was only in his 20s and therefore had only about half a dozen finished comics to swipe from, making it pretty obvious when something of his got stolen.
Here are a few more to show how blatant the whole thing can really be:
Madureira wasn't too pleased about it, and since he knew Cruz was obviously reading everything he drew, he called him out on it in an issue of X-Men. Note the newspaper headline:
Oddly enough, Cruz never tried to swipe this page, or many others afterward by all accounts, so apparently Madureira got the message across that he was going to start ratting him out if he didn't quit stealing his shit, a technique that has been masterfully employed by big sisters throughout time.
Iron Man Prints a Former Staff Member's Resignation Letter
An issue in the Iron Man comic books that is not touched on very heavily in the movies is Tony Stark's raging alcoholism. Seriously, in the comics, the suit basically functions off the smell of whiskey that comes off Tony. This functioning alcoholism was the basis of one of Iron Man's most famous stories, "Demon In A Bottle."
In the story, Tony stumbles into Avengers Mansion blind drunk one night, showing a random hooker-like female companion all the top-secret shit that the Avengers use to fight crime, like fucking Iron Man needs to do anything at all to impress a chick other than exist. Anyway, after Tony's butler, Jarvis (who is a human in the comics, not a robot), tries to tell him how whores shouldn't play with the laser beams, Tony verbally bitch-slaps Jarvis back into his place for speaking out.
The next day Jarvis, hands a hung-over Tony his resignation letter, a perfectly normal thing for a disgruntled butler to do after having to clean up Iron Man's vomit of self-destruction every night. But it was the text of the letter that left quite a few sharp-eyed readers wondering what the fuck Jarvis was talking about.
The letter read as follows:
This is to notify you that I am tendering my resignation from my position. This resignation is to take effect immediately.
I am leaving because this is no longer the team-spirited "one big happy family" I once loved working for. Over the past year or so I have watched Avengers' morale disintegrate to the point that, rather than being a team or a family, it is now a large collection of unhappy individuals simmering in their own personal stew of repressed anger, resentment and frustration. I have seen a lot of my friends silently enduring unfair, malicious or vindictive treatment.
My personal grievances are relatively slight by comparison to some, but I don't intend to silently endure. I've watched the Avengers be disbanded, uprooted and shuffled around. I've become firmly convinced that this was done with the idea of 'showing the hired help who's Boss.'
So what the hell is going on at Avengers Mansion that Jarvis is quitting on behalf of his repressed friends and not Tony freaking out at him? And why do the world's mightiest superheroes feel the need to make a point of "showing the hired help who's boss" -- especially considering that the hired help consisted entirely of just Jarvis? Well, the answer lies in the fact that this was not Jarvis' resignation letter, but the actual resignation letter of long time Marvel artist and staff member Dave Cockrum, who had resigned a few months before this.
Cockrum left his position for the reasons stated above in his letter and started doing freelance work for both Marvel and DC, which is like sleeping with the enemy, for money, and then charging you the same price.
Obviously, someone working on Iron Man was bitter about Cockrum's resignation and printed the letter as a not-too-subtle "screw you," making it as insulting as possible by making it the resignation of a butler, the lowest of the low in terms of characters in the Marvel, or any other, universe.
So the writer obviously got a chuckle printing the letter, and the reader was left thinking that the Avengers abused the shit out of their staff, and that should have been the end of it. If the incident was never pointed out again, it might have remained as a simple prank that only the writer, and Cockrum, would ever know about, leaving the rest of the world ignorant of the sweet burn that had been inflicted on Cockrum.
But apparently the writer realized that sweet insults are no good if no one knows about them, so three issues later in the letter section, the writers printed the following. Though framed as a kind of retraction, it's really more of a "just so you all know how awesome we are."
The Word "Sex" Is Hidden on Every Page of an Issue of X-Men
Now, when we say the word "sex" is on every page, we don't mean the word "sex" was mentioned in the dialogue of an issue entirely about a mutant sex orgy. No, we're talking about New X-Men #118 where artist Ethan Van Sciver subtly hid the word "sex" in the images instead.
He also managed to make Cyclops even more douchy than usual.
Once he got the idea, Sciver wasn't about to hide the word in the issue a measly one time, like The Lion King did. No, instead Sciver included it on every single page, hidden everywhere. Maybe you were innocently checking out Jean's awesomely tousled hair? Bam: sex.
Perhaps admiring that bush behind Emma Frost, as we all tend to do? Well, you probably like it because of the sex.
Thinking that bottle of whiskey looks delicious and you could sure go for some of that yourself? Oops. Sex.
Enjoying that image of a glowing, needle-filled brain? Hope you like it with ... sex!
So, what the hell was with all the sex? Theories abounded that it was done on purpose, as the villain of the issue was named Sublime, a form of the word "subliminal," so sneaking in the word "sex" on every page made sense in a deep, meta sort of way.
Some thought it was a clue to the blossoming romance between Emma Frost and Cyclops. And some logical people out there not living on X-Men message boards thought it meant nothing at all, and not surprisingly, those people were right. Sciver admitted that he had been irked with Marvel at the time for some reason that he can't remember and "wanted to pull some shit." He mustn't have been too upset, since he just hid the word "sex" instead of something like "DESTROY THE JEWS." Probably would have been too many letters anyway.
Research for this article would not have been possible with out the awesome and exhaustive Brian Cronin's Comic Book Legends Revealed. Check it out.
The secrets don't stop here, learn more in the brand new Cracked.com book, now a New York Times Bestseller (really).
For more Easter eggs, check out 10 Mind-Blowing Easter Eggs Hidden in Famous Albums and 7 Mind-Blowing Easter Eggs Hidden in Famous Works of Art.
And stop by Linkstorm to discover the secret we hid on the Internet.
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