Welcome to the two-hundred and eighty-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 eighty.
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. In honor of the Major League Baseball Playoffs, I’d especially recommend you check out these three special editions of Baseball Legends Revealed spotlighting legends about the New York Yankees, the Philadelphia Phillies and the Minnesota Twins!
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Special theme week this week! All the legends involve animation in some way, shape or form!
COMIC LEGEND: One of the reasons the Marvel G.I. Joe comic book was made was to get around advertising restrictions involving animation.
When it comes to misleading advertising, the government is concerned about the typical consumer. Do note that they are not worried about REASONABLE consumers, but rather, a typical consumer, so when a product is aimed at children, typically kids will surprise you with how much they are willing to believe.
As a result, the government has certain restrictions about the use of animation in commercials for kid’s toys. Animation makes the toys seem a lot cooler, because, you know, they’re animated! Since kids will be more swayed by commercials featuring animation, companies would love to use more and the government wants them to use as little as possible (and when they DO use it, they also make sure to throw in stuff like “Note: toy does not actually shoot lasers,” stuff like that). This is why so many toy companies want to have animated series featuring their toys – they know that this will sell their toys.
How does this affect the Marvel G.I. Joe comic book?
Well, the odds were pretty decent that Hasbro would have done a G.I. Joe comic book for their re-launched 1980s G.I. Joe toy line ANYways, as doing comic book tie-ins for toys were pretty normal (Micronauts being a notable example).
However, doing a comic book had an added benefit for Hasbro.
You see, while there is a limit to how much animation you can use in a TOY commercial, there are NO such limits for how much you can use animation in a COMIC BOOK commercial.
A sample G.I. Joe commercial from the mid-80s features five seconds of animation…
followed by 25 seconds of live action shots of kids playing with the actual toys…
But a comic book advertisement could have MUCH more animation. Larry Hama credits a Hasbro executive named Bob Pruprish for coming up with concept based on that notion.
So Hasbro’s deal with Marvel was that Marvel would come up with the backgrounds of the characters and do the actual comics, and in exchange, Hasbro would advertise the comic books on television. It was the proverbial win-win situation. Marvel got unheard of advertising and Hasbro got 30-second commercials that were 90% animation. It was like having a 30-second episode of G.I. Joe snuck into other show’s programming.
Since the toy line and the comic book were big hits, it’s pretty evident that the idea worked.
Here’s a sample G.I. Joe comic book commercial.
First, a series of cartoon action shots…
then a cartoon shot…
that turns into a comic book panel…
and we pull back to see the comic book as a whole…
Pretty cool commercial, huh?
Here’s the first issue of the series…
Hasbro did these for a few years (the best parts about them were the songs – the same fellow who sang the “Fighting for freedom wherever there’s trouble, G.I. Joe is there” line just sang new lyrics written to the same tune. It’s hilarious.
COMIC LEGEND: The Archies were created for Filmation’s The Archie Show.
STATUS: I’m Going with False
The Archie Show debuted in 1968. It is most famous for their usage of music, most importantly, the band The Archies…
who, naturally enough, had a hit single “Sugar, Sugar” (still one of the best bubblegum pop songs ever)…
The TV series certainly POPULARIZED the Archies as a band, and the show was the first time that we saw Betty and Veronica performing in the group. So yeah, the TV show definitely created the famous version of the group (the version that you see get their own trade paperbacks today)…
but did the show CREATE the band?
The Archies first appeared, as a trio, in the pages of Life With Archie #60, which was April 1967 (although likely, with the cover-dating of the day, it came out in February or even January of 1967).
and again, a few months later…
According to the Archie Comics’ website:
Back in the 1960s, renowned record producer Don Kirschner was one of the driving forces behind the band, The Monkees. The Monkees were put together as a response to the popularity of The Beatles, and were given a TV show whose style was a combination of Beatles movies like “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Help,” with the madcap lunacy of such Marx Brothers’ classics like “Duck Soup” and “A Night At The Opera.” The Monkees TV show was a big hit, and they naturally spun off a successful recording career as well, placing many songs into the Top 10. Originally, Kirschner gave The Monkees songs written by other writers to record. Little by little, they started to write and record their own songs, and eventually wanted to do original material altogether. When Kirschner asked them to record a song from one of writers called “Sugar, Sugar.” The Monkees refused, and parted ways with Kirschner. Soon thereafter, Kirschner noticed his kid reading a comic book featuring “The Archie’s” band. The Archie’s band began in the comic books, in “Life With Archie #60 (April, 1967) in a story called, “Once Upon A Tune.” Kirschner realized that comic book characters couldn’t give him a hard time by refusing to record songs, so he made a deal with the publishers of Archie Comics and put together a band of studio musicians and dubbed them, “The Archies.” Simultaneously, Archie Comics was in negotiations with Filmation animation studios to start a series of Saturday morning Archie cartoons. It was decided to have the Archie’s band in the cartoons as well.
Thanks to reader Peter for giving the link to the Archie Comics’ website. And thanks, of course, to the Archie Comics website for the information!
COMIC LEGEND: The Doom Patrol character Mister Nobody was based on an old Betty Boop cartoon.
STATUS: I’m Going with True
This one is tricky, in that I’ve never heard Grant Morrison actually speak on this particular point, but I dunno, it just seems so blatant that I just have to go with a true here.
Reader Chris T. asked me about it last week, and here it is!
In November 1932, Fleischer Studios had a really cool Betty Boop cartoon where Betty runs for President. Her opponent? Mister Nobody!
Basically, his whole bit is a nice healthy piece of cynicism as he sings:
Who will make your taxes light?… Mr. Nobody!
Who’ll protect the voters’ right?… Mr. Nobody!
Should you come home some early dawn,
See a new milkman is on:
Who cares if your wife is gone?… Mr. Nobody
Well, decades later, Grant Morrison introduced a reworked character (who had appeared in one single issue of the old Doom Patrol) into Mr. Nobody, leader of the Brotherhood of Dada.
Come on, that’s the same guy, right? Same visual look and the same name!
To make it even MORE evident, in Doom Patrol #52, we see Mr. Nobody run for President!
So while yeah, I haven’t specifically seen Morrison SAY that that is where the character came from, I think it is evident enough that I can safely say “true,” followed by “neat idea!”
Thanks to Chris T. for the suggestion!
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!