Welcome to the three hundredth and tenth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. This week, we discuss how DC forced the Superman creators to make Lois Lane a “tasty dish,” how Daredevil #1 being late led to the Avengers being born and learning whether Howard the Duck made a dent in the 1976 United States Preisdential Election!
Click here for an archive of the previous three hundred and nine.
COMIC LEGEND: DC forced Siegel and Shuster to “prettify” Lois Lane in the early 1940s.
I have spoken in the past about how much more involved editorial got with the Superman books as time went by (and the character became more and more popular).
An interesting (and somewhat embarrassing) example of this is the following letter that Whitney Ellsworth wrote to Jerry Siegel in February of 1941 in reference to Lois Lane.
Murray and I have gone over the magazine stuff, and we find that a great deal hasn’t been done to make Lois look better. The roly-poly hair-do is still the same way we complained about, and why is it necessary to shade Lois’ breasts and the underside of her hair with vertical pen-lines we can’t understand. She looks pregnant. Murray [presumably Murray Boltinoff, longtime DC staffer – BC] suggests that you arrange for her to have an abortion or the baby and get it over with so that her figure can return to something a little more like the tasty dish she is supposed to be. She is much too stocky and much, MUCH too unpleasantly sexy. Please call it to the attention of Joe and his lads that the better artists in this field draw their heroines more or less by a certain formula that makes them look desirable and cute. This they do by having the hair prettily done instead of making it look like a rat’s nest. On top of this they make the face pretty – and they try to draw it in the same way every time. Then, by drawing the shoulders wider than the hips they give the girl a lisesome quality that is absent when the accent is on hips. Also, the waistline is drawn higher thant it would be in real life, and the legs are longer and slimmer. There is usually no attempt to prove pictorially that the female tummy has a certain roundness if not confinded within a girdle, nor that bosoms cast teriffic shadows by virtue of their outstanding quality. While the dames in SMILIN’ JACK may be very tasty and exciting, I certainly do not approve of them for exploitation in publications like ours. You know as well as I do what sort of censure we are always up against, and how careful we must be.
Since writing the first page of this, Mr. Jack Liebowitz has seen the artwork in question, and is extremely dissatisfied with Lois. He says that in addition to making Lois look like a witch, you have apparently dressed her out of a Montgomery Ward catalogue. He suggests Vogue, Vanity Fair and Harper’s Bazaar as likelier spots for dress-research.
Here are some samples of Lois Lane from the time period (from Superman #6)…
Ellsworth actually attached in his letter a depiction of what he thought Lois should look like (he notes that he is a better critic than he is an artist in the letter)…
And soon enough, here is what Lois began looking like (from Superman #19)…
Thanks to the Uncivil Society for hosting these intriguing historical documents (which came out during the case between DC and the Siegels).
Check out the latest Baseball Legends Revealed to learn the strange tale of how Cy Young and Amos Rusie changed the life of Zane Grey, whether Deion Sanders played professional football and baseball on the same day and discover the time Rick Honeycutt oddly hurt his forehead in a game (thereby revealing that he was cheating).
COMIC LEGEND: The Avengers came about because of a delay in getting Daredevil #1 ready for publication.
STATUS: Apparently True
Reader Greg Orzech wrote in with a very interesting piece Tom Brevoort wrote about on Brevoort’s Formspring account.
According to Brevoort (and honestly, that’s good enough for me), when X-Men #1 and Avengers #1 debuted together in 1963…
it was not initially going to be THOSE two books debuting together, but rather, Daredevil #1 and X-Men #1. You see, Marvel publisher Martin Goodman had tasked Lee with introducing “another Spider-Man” and “another Fantastic Four.”
X-Men was to be the “new Fantastic Four,” and as Tom notes, the cover of X-Men #1 even notes “in the sensational Fantastic Four style!” while Daredevil, naturally, was to be the “new Spider-Man” (and you might recall how much early Daredevil issues evoked Spider-Man stories). In fact, again, on the cover of Daredevil #1, it makes a point of bringing up Spider-Man…
That was all well and good, but Daredevil co-creator Bill Everett was way behind on his deadlines. So much so that it was not going to be ready for that September 1963 cover date. With this being clear, Lee quickly threw together the plot for Avengers #1 and had Jack Kirby pencil it and Dick Ayers ink it. The logic being that a book like the Avengers (where all the characters, including the villain, already exist) was pretty quick to put together.
When you think of the time constraints, it certainly does make this seem more understandable…
Six months later, Daredevil #1 finally came out, but Everett needed help to finish the artwork and by #2, Everett was off of the book.
Fascinating stuff. Thanks to Greg for the head’s up and thanks to Tom for providing such interesting information!
Check out the latest Football Legends Revealed, which, in honor of the two teams that faced each other in Super Bowl XLV, involves us examining one legend from the Pittsburgh Steelers and two legends from the champion Green Bay Packers, including whether Mike Holmgren actually impersonated God to get Reggie White to sign with the Packers!
COMIC LEGEND: Howard the Duck got enough write-in votes in the 1976 Presidential Election to appear on the national charts.
STATUS: I’m Going With False
Reader Matthew wrote in recently to ask:
I read a long time ago about Howard the Duck receiving a significant amount of write-in votes in the 1976 Presidential election. Significant to the point of national percentage points. True?
Matthew, of course, is referring to the time that Steve Gerber had his famed character, Howard the Duck, run for President in Howard the Duck #7 (cover-dated December 1976, so let’s say it came out in…I dunno…August 1976? September, maybe?).
It was a very cool storyline. But is the legend true?
This sort of legend is quite common. In fact, in the past, I’ve featured variations on it involving Dick Gregory (which you can find here) and Gracie Allen (which you can find here). Sometimes these legends are true but most often they are not.
I do not doubt at all that Howard the Duck did, in fact, receive write-in votes (as Superman and Mickey Mouse, to name two, get write-in votes pretty much every Presidential election) but I’ve looked pretty closely at the election results for the 1976 United States Presidential Election (thanks to Dave Leip’s excellent Presidential Results Atlas), and I just don’t see any way that Howard the Duck got more than 1,000 write-in votes total (if that much). There were 33,795 total write-in votes cast that year (0.04% of the Popular Vote), and the vast majority of those votes are accounted for (mostly by candidates that ran for parties that were not on the ballot in every state – most notably Margaret Wright for the People’s Party and Thomas Anderson for the American Party).
In any event, even if I’m somehow off and Howard got more than 1,000 write-in votes, I think we can agree that it was not “[s]ignificant to the point of national percentage points,” right?
Here’s a Howard campaign button…
Thanks to Matthew for the suggestion and thanks to Dave Leip for the awesome website!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
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See you all next week!