Welcome to the two-hundred and thirty-second in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous two hundred and thirty-first.
Comic Book Legends Revealed is now part of the larger Legends Revealed series, where I look into legends about the worlds of entertainment and sports, which you can check out here, at legendsrevealed.com. I’d especially recommend you check out this installment of Movie Legends Revealed, where we learn the secret motive behind Jamie Foxx’s name!
Speaking of Jamie Foxx (at least the singing part of his repertoire), this week is a special theme week! All comic legends involving MUSIC!!
COMIC LEGEND: Irving Berlin sued Mad Magazine for copyright infringement.
Today, the idea that one would be disallowed to do a parody of a famous song is almost absurd. And yet, at one point in time there was no clear law on the subject of parodies when it comes to songs.
Such was the state in 1961 when Mad Magazine released The Worst of Mad #4, the latest in their collection of pieces from the popular satire magazine.
They had a series of song parodies.
For simplicities sake, let’s pick one song, a parody of Irving Berlin’s “A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody,” done by Mad as “Louella Schwartz Describes Her Malady.”
Well, the songwriters of the world were fed up, so a group of famous songwriters got together, led by one of the most famous songwriters of all-time, Irving Berlin.
He was joined by two other legendary songwriters, Cole Porter…
and Richard Rodgers…
The case, Irving Berlin et al. v. E.C. Publications, Inc., went to District Court in New York.
Judge Irving Kaufman ruled that parody songs, especially those that only contained verbal parodies of the original song (as opposed to musical parodies, which would be a much dicier situation for years after this decision, all the way until the 1990s, really), were protected, provided that they were a limited borrowing of the original song (just enough to get the idea, really).
Of the 25 songs that were being contested (with the songwriters seeking about $1 million for each song – $1 per song per issue sold, for a total of $25 million), Kaufman ruled that 23 of them were fine, but he did hold that two of the song parodies (“Always,” a parody of Berlin’s “Always” and “There’s No Business Like No Business,” a parody of Berlin’s “There’s No Business Like Show Business”) WERE too close to the original/contained too much of the original material.
The case was appealed to the 2nd Circuit Court in New York where Judge Charles Metzner ruled that ALL of the songs were protected.
The songwriters then appealed to the Supreme Court, who denied hearing the case, thus ending the case with a victory for Mad Magazine and parody writers everywhere!!!
Thanks to the UCLA Law and Columbia Law copyright infringment web site for the above scan and thanks to reader SanctumSanctorumComix for recommending that I feature this one (way back in January of this year).
COMIC LEGEND: Ben Orr of the Cars was related to famed letterer Tom Orzechowski
The Cars were a popular New Wave band of the late 1970s and early 1980s, with hits like “Just What I Needed,” “My Best Friend’s Girl,” “Good Times Roll,” “Shake It Up,” “Since You’re Gone,” “You Might Think” and “Drive.”
The original lineup of the group was singer and guitarist Ric Ocasek, singer and bassist Benjamin Orr, guitarist Elliot Easton, keyboardist Greg Hawkes and drummer David Robinson.
Orr sang lead on “Just What I Needed” and “Drive”.
Orr tragically passed away in 2000 from pancreatic cancer.
Orr’s original name was Benjamin Orzechowski, and was born in 1947.
Well, legendary comic book letterer Tom Orzechowski was born in 1953.
About three years ago, reader gorjus asked:
Are longtime Uncanny X-Men letterer Tom Orzechowski and the sadly deceased bassist/singer of the Cars, Ben Orr, related?
It sure took me a long time to resolve this one (so fear not, those who wonder if I am ignoring their suggestion, I check them all out, sometimes it just takes awhile to prove one way or the other!), but I contacted Tom the other day, and he was kind enough to send me a quick reply.
You’re only the second person to ask about this!… and the first since the Cars were a new band, 30 years ago.
No, the late Benjamin Orr was not a relative, at least not close enough that our families had any knowledge of each other.
I’m also not aware of any relationship to Bob Orzechowski, who did some penciling and lettering for Gray Morrow while he was doing the Buck Rogers (I think) syndicated strip, also 30 years ago.
Orzechowski is a relatively common name, apparently. Imagine that.
Imagine that, indeed!
Well, there ya go!
Thanks to gorjus for the question, and thanks so much to Tom for the helpful and prompt reply! Very cool of him. Oh, and thanks to Lee Hester (of Lee’s Comics) for the picture of Tom!
COMIC LEGEND: A musician had to change his stage name and his album cover because of DC Comics.
In 2001, musician Bruce Gordon came out with a pop album called Hero and Villain in One Man.
Bruce Gordon, you say?
Say, isn’t that the secret identity for the comic book character Eclipso? The villain who good guy scientist Bruce Gordon transforms to whenever there is an eclipse?!?!
Why yes, it is, and Gordon realized this as well, so he titled his album Eclipso’s tagline (“Hero and Villain in One Man”).
Taking it one step further, Gordon decided to TAKE the name Eclipso and even put Eclipso on the cover of the album (using art from an old issue of House of Secrets – anyone know what issue in particular?)!!
(While I’m asking, anyone have a better copy of the album cover? This one is kinda tiny).
Well, SHOCKINGLY DC didn’t like this idea so much, so they sent him a cease and desist letter (it’s debatable if DC would have won any sort of lawsuit, but naturally, if you’re Gordon, why would you want to even push the issue?) and he quickly changed the cover of the album AND his “alter-ego,” now going by Mr. Encrypto, instead.
The comic book references continued with his latest album, Secret Identity Crisis (where he does a bunch of cover songs – clever).
Feel free to check out Bruce’s site here, where you can listen to tracks from each album. His cover of Ray Davies’ “Dreams” is good!
Thanks to Jim Kosmicki for recommending this one back in January!!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is email@example.com.
As you likely know by now, at the end of April, my book finally came out!
Here is the cover by artist Mickey Duzyj. I think he did a very nice job (click to enlarge)…
If you’d like to order it, you can use the following code if you’d like to send me a bit of a referral fee…
See you next week!