It’s true, according to former Marvel Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter. Speedball was originally created for the New Universe. Plus, Roger Stern: almost the second New Warriors writer.
This was reported last November, but I think it’s worth passing along. The blog Comics Should Be Good has a recurring column called Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed, which is pretty self-explanatory. One of the columns adressed, among other things, the urban legend that Speedball was invented for the New Universe. And it turns out to be true.
It quotes an interview with Shooter about the origins of the New Universe imprint. He says, “About 18 months before Marvel’s 25th Anniversary, I was called to an executive staff meeting (the President, all the VPs and Directors) to discuss the Anniversary. It was decided we should have a “publishing event” to celebrate. I suggested several things, including introducing a second “new” universe. Everyone liked that idea. I was given a development budget of $120,000. Later, Tom DeFalco asked me if he could be in charge of the project. I agreed. Months passed. Tom made little progress. The only idea I can remember that he developed in that time was Speedball, the less said of which, the better. Time got short, so I took over. I came up with the concept of a science fiction super-hero universe, as opposed to the original science fantasy super-hero Marvel Universe. By this time, Marvel Comics was being shopped for sale. Suddenly, the owners (essentially the Board of Directors) were as one might expect, loathe to make any investment in the future. Nothing “useless” that took dollars off the bottom line (such as developing characters that may pay off in the future, when presumably new owners would be in place) was tolerated. My budget was cut from $120,000 to $80,000 to $40,000 to “stop all spending” in the space of a week. We had spent only about $12,000 point, much of it on Speedball, I believe. We were committed to publication. No way to back out. So with volunteer labor, mostly assistant editors who were willing to stay after work and pitch in, we developed the New Universe. All-time great Archie Goodwin, editor of the EPIC line pitched in and was heroic. Without money to guarantee royalties, we could only get new or second string creators to execute the books. The exception there was Star Brand, which J.R. Jr. and Al Williamson did as a favor to me. Most of the books weren’t very good. A few of the new creators, however, later grew up to be stars. Mark Texiera comes to mind.”
The New Universe debuted in 1986. A few years later, Tom DeFalco was promoted to the position of editor-in-chief, and apparently decided to recoup development costs on Speedball. In 1988, Speedball’s series was born.
In another edition of the column, writer Roger Stern nearly followed Fabian Nicieza as writer of the original New Warriors series instead of Evan Skolnik. According to an interview with Stern, editors Tom Brevoort and Glenn Greenberg “were after me for months to write a book for them. They first approached me when they needed a new writer for the New Warriors, but the book had been around for over four years at that point, and I’d never read it.”