Welcome to the two-hundred and forty-first 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 forty.
Comic Book Legends Revealed is 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 Musical Legends Revealed to see which world-famous musical composer also had a hit dance single based on the theme song to the video game Tetris!
As I mentioned in the last edition of Comic Book Legends Revealed, the “regular” edition of the column is running today because of the holiday. So you get TWO columns this week (this one and the normal one at the end of the week)!
COMIC LEGEND: The World War II slogan “Keep ’em flying!” was originated in a Wonder Woman comic.
Today’s legend is from a certain category of legends that originated from a misread sentence. I certainly can’t say that I have not come to the wrong conclusion sometimes from misread sentences (although, naturally, I personally always blame the sentence writer for poor writing rather than possibly suggest that I was the one who screwed up…hehe).
In this instance, reader David wrote in to tell me something he read in a book about comics that he bought for his nephew (what a great uncle, huh?):
I just ran into this one in an excellent book I got my nephew for his birthday, So You Wanna Be a Comic Book Artist. It’s a kid-friendly book mostly (natch) about drawing, writing, storytelling, etc., but it has lots of little sidebar factoids about comic book creators, characters, history, etc.
One that jumped out at me said “Wonder Woman’s battle cry, ‘Keep ’em flying,’ became a well-known wartime slogan, and in 1943, she was even shown leading Marines into battle.”
First off, as an aside, here is that 1943 Wonder Woman comic where she led Marines into battle (it’s one of those comics you probably don’t want to read if you have problems with war-driven racism):
And as an extra bonus, here’s Wonder Woman leading the cavalry from the first issue of her solo title (which inspired the classic cover to her first issue)…
In any event, no, “Keep ’em flying” was not coined in a Wonder Woman comic. The slogan was created by Lt. Col. Harold N. Gilbert, the chief recruiter for the Army. It debuted in May of 1941, months before Wonder Woman made her first appearance.
She did USE the phrase, though, in Sensation Comics #4…
But obviously, by that point, it was in REFERENCE to the phrase, which had become a very popular slogan…
Actually, as reader Rich Chapell noted, Steve Trevor himself used the phrase at the end of the lead story in Sensation Comics #1….
The phrase was so ubiquitous that, in late 1942/early 1943, after one issue where they used their own “Keep ’em flying” logo…
all of the All-American line of DC Comics (Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, etc.) began using the “Keep ’em flying” stamp (seen here)…
on their books, as you can see on these covers…
As reader Mike Blake noted, the earliest use of the logo by the All-American crowd was an adapted one where the All-American crew had THEIR aviator hero, Hop Harrigan, use the phrase on the logo for the self-titled All-American Comics (where Hop had a feature)…
On the National Comics side of DC Comics (publishers of Batman and Superman), they did not go with “Keep ’em flying,” but variations on war bond pleas (although Batman took the whole “keep ’em flying” bit in a different direction)…
Anyhow, getting back to the misread sentence I mentioned at the beginning of the piece, David theorized (And I totally agree) that the writer of So You Wanna Be a Comic Book Artist, simply misread a sentence that Les Daniels wrote in his book, Wonder Woman Masterpiece Edition: The Golden Age of the Amazon Princess.
In that book, Daniels wrote:
Her battle cry became the well-known wartime slogan “Keep ’em flying!” and in 1943 she was even shown leading marines into battle against Japanese troops.
Seems pretty clear where the “problem” came in, right (and I use quotes because it is far from a big deal)?
Anyhow, thanks to David for, well, basically doing all the legwork for this legend! And thanks to Les Daniels, just because he’s a great comic book historian!
COMIC LEGEND: John Byrne essentially “took” the character of Mariko from James Clavell’s novel, Shogun.
Reader Fritz wrote in to say that he was watching the DVD release of the classic 1980 TV mini-series, Shogun….
which is about an Englishman (played by Richard Chamberlain) living in Japan in the 1600s, and he was struck by how much actress Yoko Shimada’s character of Mariko reminded him of Wolverine’s girlfriend (and almost wife) Mariko, from the X-Men.
And he’s right, they’re quite similar (although not necessarily in appearance).
Here is Mariko…
And here is Mariko’s first appearance from X-Men #118 by Byrne and Chris Claremont (can you guess who did the guest-inks on this issue? And no fair if you just happen to recall offhand!)…
Well, Fritz realized that it couldn’t really work, time-wise, as the issue of X-Men came out over a year before the mini-series.
However, the NOVEL that the mini-series was BASED on, by James Clavell, had come out in 1975.
And sure enough, in an interview in Back Issue magazine (conducted by the great Peter Sanderson), Byrne says that yes, he basically just appropriated the character from Clavell’s novel and put her into the X-Men.
Claremont and Byrne were going to introduce a love interest for Wolverine who, right as they got married, would be attacked by Sabretooth (in a cavalier fashion, showing how much of a sociopath he is), leaving her brain dead. Wolverine would then be forced to pull the plug (SPOILER ALERT! That was basically how writer Larry Hama later DID kill off Mariko years later – she was poisoned and Wolverine is forced to kill her to save her a painful death).
Since she was created to die, the pair did not think it a big deal to base her her prominently on an established character (and I agree – she was just a throwaway character, so it’s a cute bit). Claremont had not yet read the novel when Byrne suggested they “take” the character, but he agreed that the “purity” of her character made her a really good match (in their minds) for Wolverine, as it would totally throw the readers for a loop to see who Wolverine falls for.
Of course, plans change, and by the time the wedding came around, Byrne had long been off the book, and Claremont went a different direction.
Thanks to Fritz for this legend! And thanks to Byrne, Claremont and Sanderson (and Back Issue magazine, of course) for the information!
COMIC LEGEND: There was almost a TV series starring Night Thrasher!
Reader Albert wrote in to see if there was, indeed, almost a TV series based on the New Warriors character, Night Thrasher.
And yep, sure enough, in October of 2002, Marvel struck up a deal with UPN to produce a script for a possible series.
CBR’s own Rob Worley had the details seven years ago…
The network has picked up Night Thrasher as a one hour drama. Michael Elliot (Brown Sugar) will pen the script for the pilot and also serve as executive producer on the show. Ben Silverman, chief of the Universal-based production house, Reville, is also executive producing as are Marvel’s Avi Arad and Rick Ungar. Reveille’s Matt Edelman is producing.
Elliot wrote Brown Sugar…
but he was also coming off of the hit kid’s film, Like Mike…
Worley cited Elliot’s reasons for taking on the project…
Elliot, an African-American writer, was drawn to the project by the hero’s ethnicity. He described Night Thrasher as “a hip-hop version of James Bond.” He went on to say that Night Thrasher is “an opportunity to create a superhero for today’s generation — one like looks like them, talks like them, likes the same kind of music.”
Interestingly enough, at the time, the most recent take on Night Thrasher was a martial artist take…
but it sounds like they basically were thinking “African-American Batman” with the show.
Sadly, the show never progressed past the initial script commitment, and UPN was gone less than four years later…
That would have been an interesting TV series, if only for the reaction from the media to the name (“He does… what exactly? Thrashes in the night?”).
Thanks to Albert for the question, and thanks to Rob Worley (and Nellie Andreeva, who first broke the story) for the information!
Okay, that’s it for this installment!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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…well…later this week!