Welcome to the two-hundred and seventy-sixth 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 seventy-five.
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 Music Legends Revealed to learn what music legend told Buddy Holly that he hoped his plane would crash right before Holly’s fatal plane crash!
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COMIC LEGEND: An installment of Thimble Theatre was rejected by Elzie Crisler Segar’s syndicate because it was too gruesomely depicted a cow being slaughtered.
STATUS: False (but Lots of Truthiness Involved)
Reader Kelly wrote in a couple of years back to ask:
I remember seeing a Popeye/Thimble Theater comic strip from the old days that was rejected by EC Segar’s syndicate because it showed the gluttonous Wimpy butchering a cow (or maybe horse) and was therefore deemed too gory for readers. The strip was published in an book about Popeye, and the last time I saw the book it was in my junior high school library around 1982 if that gives you any help. I remember think the strip was weird at the time and I’d love to see is again.
The strip Kelly is thinking of was the October 1, 1933 edition of Thimble Theatre.
First off, quickly, let’s get the “false” part done with. The comic WAS accepted by Segar’s syndicate, King Features Syndicate. That said, a number of major newspapers censored it on their own. I don’t know which paper did what, so if you’re ever in your local library and wish to check to see what YOUR local paper did with the strip, feel free to check the archive out and let me know and I’ll post it here as an update!
The original art to the piece was in Bud Sagendorf’s collection. He was Segar’s assistant on the strip at the time and a number of years later (following Segar’s untimely death in 1938) Sagendorf began a nearly four-decade run on the strip himself, going right up until the end of the daily strip in 1994.
In any event, enough yapping – you all just want to see the strip, right? I know Kelly has been waiting 28 years to see it again! So here is the original art for the original strip (Heritage Auctions sold the original art for over $15,000 a few years back!)…
(click on the image to enlarge)
I can see how it would be seen as a bit controversial! It’s funny, though!
Thanks to the nifty Black and White art spotlight website, Black and White and Red All Over, who got the piece from the Lewis Wayne Gallery. And thanks to Heritage Auctions for the background on the strip. And thanks, of course, to Kelly for the suggestion!
COMIC LEGEND: Shadow Lass was created by a pair of Legion of Super-Heroes fans.
If you look up Shadow Lass’ creators, you will invariably find Jim Shooter and Curt Swan listed, as they were the creative team of Adventure Comics #365 (along with inker George Klein), which contains her first appearance. In fact, those creators were also the creative team of Adventure Comics #354, which features the adult Legionnaires, and shows a statue of a deceased Legionnaire named Shadow WOMAN…
who clearly is meant to be the same person when Shadow Lass shows up in #365 (wearing the same costume – although with different color skin. In #354, her skin is white, in #365, it is blue).
However, Shadow Lass was actually created by two fans!
You see, for a longtime in the 1960s, Legion of Super-Heroes Editor Mort Weisinger encouraged fans to write in to The Legion Outpost (the letter column of Adventure Comics) with their ideas for new Legionnaires. Occasionally these ideas would be used on background characters and even, notably, one Legion of Substitute Heroes member, Color Kid, who was created by fan Jeff Greenberg.
But for the most part, this was just a way to make the fans feel involved. Assistant Editor (and letter column head) E. Nelson Bridwell would occasionally post fan suggestions in a “Bits of Legion Business” section of the letter column.
Here’s a sample one from Adventure Comics #312…
And here’s the one from #342, crediting Greenberg…
But Shadow Lass’ creation was not mentioned in any issue (which is why Shooter and Swan still get credit for her creation).
What happened was that Legion fans and would-be comic book writers George Vincent and Mike Rickford came up with two characters that they thought would be good Legionnaires, Chemical King and Shadow Lass.
Both characters ended up being used in the Adult Legionnaire issue.
(Chemical King’s would later be shown in Adventure Comics #371).
However, Vincent and Rickford had a much different origin in mind for Shadow Lass. She was intended to be black, from an all-black planet colonized from black people from Earth who left Earth due to racial strife.
Weisinger thought that the idea was way too controversial, but he said he liked the character and would try to work her in in a different fashion.
And notably, in the letter column to Adventure Comics #363, two issues before Shadow Lass made her first appearance, a reader asks about “Negroes” in the comic, and the response sure seems to indicate that a blue-skinned alien was meant to be somewhat analogous (in her early appearances, Shadow Lass’ skin color was a notable plot point).
Shadow Lass has gone on to become a major member of the Legion, so congrats to Misters Vincent and Rickford (and heck, Color Kid has become somewhat notable over the years, too, so kudos to Mister Greenberg, as well!).
Thanks to George Vincent for the information (from the fanzine Legion Outpost) and thanks to Glen Cadigan’s Best of the Legion Outpost for reprinting George’s original article!
COMIC LEGEND: The famous Superman phrase “truth, justice and the American way” did not originally contain the part about “the American Way.”
There was a little bit of controversy over the seemingly pointed omission of the term “the American Way” in the phrase “Truth, Justice and the American Way” in the recent Superman film, Superman Returns.
The phrase has become ingrained in the world of popular culture through its use in the popular Adventures of Superman television series which ran from 1952-1958, where it was part of the opening of every episode:
Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound! (“Look! Up in the sky!” “It’s a bird!” “It’s a plane!” “It’s Superman!”)… Yes, it’s Superman … strange visitor from another planet, who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men! Superman … who can change the course of mighty rivers, bend steel in his bare hands, and who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way! And now, another exciting episode, in The Adventures of Superman!
However, when the “never-ending battle for…” phrase originally appeared, it was in the popular Adventures of Superman radio series that ran from 1940-1951
And there, the introduction went:
Yes, it’s Superman–strange visitor from another planet who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Superman–defender of law and order, champion of equal rights, valiant, courageous fighter against the forces of hate and prejudice, who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, fights a never-ending battle for truth and justice.
That basic opening (“a never-ending battle for truth and justice”) was later used in 1941 for the acclaimed Fleischer Studios Superman animated serials…
It was not until the middle of 1942, with the United States firmly entrenched in World War II that the term “the American Way” was added to the opening of the series. But later in the decade, by the time the war ended, it was dropped once again.
But the TV series picked it up, and that has become the way the phrase has been known ever since (Christopher Reeve even explicitly says it in the 1978 Superman film). Now you know, though, that omitting “the American Way” is only taking the phrase back to its origins!
Thanks to International Herald Tribune’s Erik Lundegaard and the great Mark Waid for the information!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. And my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/brian_cronin, so you can ask me legends there, as well!
As you likely know by now, in April of last year my book 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 all next week!