As longtime readers of this blog know, I am a big fan of Brian Cronin’s excellent Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed column. In last week’s entry (#146 March 13), Cronin explored an urban legend involving Ray Bradbury, revealing a story I had never heard.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Ray Bradbury had a rather interesting response to finding out his stories were being adapted into comic form without his permission.
We tend to have pretty lofty ideas of famous personalities – there is an almost unspoken expectation that writers and actors are constantly “on,” and that they are as clever in their personal lives as they are in their professional ones.
That is not often the case, but in the case of the legendary Ray Bradbury, his letter exchange with William Gaines certainly lives up to our expectations of the man.
The situation began in 1951, when William Gaines and Al Feldstein, in a rush to come up with an original story for one of their numerous magazines, decided to simply swipe a Ray Bradbury story.
The story, “A Strange Undertaking…,” a swipe of Bradbury’s “The Handler,” appeared in Haunt of Fear #6.
Feldstein did a couple more swipes after that, but it was one he did in 1952’s Weird Fantasy #13 that caught Ray Bradbury’s eye (and, presumably, a bit of his ire).
The story, titled “Home To Stay!,” was cobbled together between two Bradbury stories, “Kaleidoscope” and “The Rocket Man.”
Now, some writers would react to their work being swiped by getting angry. Bradbury, however, decided to play it a different way, by sending the following brilliant letter to Gaines in 1952:
Just a note to remind you of an oversight. You have not as yet sent on the check for $50.00 to cover the use of secondary rights on my two stories THE ROCKET MAN and KALEIDOSCOPE…I feel this was probably overlooked in the general confusion of office work, and look forward to your payment in the near future.
Gaines was no fool – he quickly sent the money, along with a cordial response, and pretty soon, Bradbury was authorizing EC Comics to do OFFICIAL adaptations of his stories, and that became a draw for their science fiction titles, so long as they lasted.
That is how to handle a potentially ugly situation.