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Comic Book Legends Revealed #329

by  in Comic News Comment
Comic Book Legends Revealed #329

Welcome to the three hundredth and twenty-ninth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. This week, learn about the Donald Duck comic book story that Disney wouldn’t let you see! Discover what would have been the ending of the 1990s Spider-Man cartoon series! And marvel at what comic book creator coined the famous Lone Ranger/Tonto joke, “what you mean…we?”

Click here for an archive of the previous three hundred and twenty-seven.

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: E. Nelson Bridwell coined the famous Lone Ranger/Tonto joke “what you mean…we”?

STATUS: Apparently True

A very popular joke during the 1960s involved the Lone Ranger and Tonto. The joke goes as follows (this is a quote):

The Lone Ranger and Tonto are watching a horde of Indian braves bear down on them in full battle fury. “Looks like we’re in trouble, Tonto,” says the Lone Ranger to his pal. “What you mean ‘we,’ white man?,” Tonto responds.

It has become very popular in recent years as a rhetorical device for essay writers who wish to write about situations where someone takes for granted that someone is his/her ally.

And amazingly enough, this joke appears to have been coined by a classic Silver Age comic book creator.

However, you’d be hard pressed to imagine WHICH one, as it was written by E. Nelson Bridwell, longtime assistant editor to Mort Weisinger at DC Comics! Before Bridwell went to work for DC (where he helped introduce a number of innovations when it came to the world of comic book continuity), he wrote gags for Mad Magazine. And the Lone Ranger joke was one of them.

Reader Matt L. wrote in to ask me if this story was true. I’ve seen it before (our own Greg Hatcher mentioned it in a piece a few years back), but I’ve never looked into it.

As it turns out, in 1958’s Mad #38, Bridwell did a bit on things you’ll never see on various popular TV series. Joe Orlando did the artwork.

Here is the one for the Lone Ranger…

I’ve examined this pretty heavily (and I’ve seen other people at etymology sites do so, as well) and I have yet to find any other published version of this joke anywhere else that predate 1958. Mad certainly was a very popular magazine at the time, so the notion of the joke becoming so prolific from the pages of Mad is not so hard to believe. That said, I would not be shocked at all if the joke predated Bridwell’s usage. Still, since I can’t find any other published reference to it that predates Bridwell’s, I think it is fair to give him the credit. I also asked Mark Waid (who knew Bridwell late in Bridwell’s life when Waid was just starting in comics) what he thought about it, and he said he believed that it was Bridwell’s gag, noting that Bridwell was a gifted gag writer. So if it is good enough for Mark Waid, who am I to disagree?

Thanks to Matt L. for the suggestion! Thanks to Mark Waid for his thoughts and a big shout out to Greg Hatcher for his previous mention of this fact!

COMIC LEGEND: Disney had another artist change the ending of a Carl Barks story because the story ended with Donald as an arsonist.


In 1945’s Four Color Comics #108, Carl Barks wrote and drew an enjoyable tale called “The Firebug.”

After Donald becomes an arsonist, someone else starts stealing his unique fires (Donald can make t-shaped fires, square fires, etc.). A fire cop keeps running into Donald until Donald and his nephews discover that the arson cop is an impostor who has been stealing Donald’s fire ideas!

As you can see, the story ends as a dream. The last two panels, however, were produced by another comic book artist, Carl Buettner. As Barks explains it, “The editors objected to the last couple of panels of that story because I had Donald set fire to the judge’s wastebasket. [It] accidently burned down the courthouse, and he wound up in jail. Western couldn’t have a Disney character looking out from behind bars in the final panel of the story, so they changed the ending. They didn’t usually redraw my art like that; the editors would often suggest that the artist do the changing himself. But these two panels would have been done by one of the staff artists, either Carl Buettner or Tom McKimson.” Later research shows that it was almost certainly Bruettner.

Sadly, Barks’ original panels appear to be lost for good.

What is so strange about Disney’s decision is that just a year earlier, in Walt Disney Comics and Stories #50, Bruettner had a comic that ended like this…

Weird, no?

Thanks to Anthony Durrant for the suggestion for this piece! Thanks to the great Daniël van Eijmeren for the Barks quote!

COMIC LEGEND: Had the 1990s Spider-Man Animated Series continued, Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson would have gotten married.


Reader Andy K. wrote in with this one, and I’m afraid to say, Andy, that it was a bit of a case of the telephone game, or in other words, two different stories got mixed together.

The Spider-Man animated series during the 1990s was popular, despite all the seemingly silly rules that story editor John Semper had to deal with (like “no blood,” “no vampires,” etc.). The series had a bit of a premature ending, though, as it finished while Peter Parker’s girlfriend, Mary Jane Watson, was still trapped in limbo (she ended up there because the show could not have characters die, so in their version of the death of Gwen Stacy, Mary Jane was knocked into “limbo”).

Peter’s friend Madame Web promised him that he would eventually find her, but we never see it resolved (the show was still doing well in the ratings, but the economics of animated series have always been strange – producers are typically more willing to end earlier than expected and try to launch a new series). When a sequel series came out a little while later called Spider-Man Unlimited, Peter and Mary Jane are reunited and are married. Well, Andy told me they were married – if you look at the actual scene in the episode it is not clear, and honestly, I think I would tend towards “not married.”

However, Andy’s take (that they are married in Unlimited) matches the popular belief, and that led to a rumor that had Semper been able to do another season of Spider-Man, he would have had Peter rescue Mary Jane and they would have gotten married (just like Peter planned to do in a fifth season episode where it is revealed that the Mary Jane Peter was marrying was a clone).

However, Semper set the record straight in a great interview with DRG4 where he explained his actual plans for the next season of the show (a season that never came). It would involve Spider-Man entering limbo to go find Mary Jane:

I wanted to do a mini-series in which he would end up chasing Mary Jane through the past, trying to find her. Not a big thing, just four or five episodes. I thought it’d be interesting to see Spidey deal with certain historic moments in time {one place would be Victorian England during the time of Jack the Ripper, being portrayed by the real Carnage}, not just the nation’s history, but his own personal life, too. And somehow, this would lead back to the present. I had more specific ideas, but that’s where it was headed. But then again, I really didn’t want to go any further. Everything had been wrapped up neatly. All the important stuff…Spidey now liked himself, he’d met his creator and said, “You know what, I beyond you now…I’ve grown.” That’s really the end of Peter Parker’s story. He’d saved all reality. You can’t really top that. If we had continued, I’d just have been doing it for the money. My real saga was done.

In a separate interview with Marvel Animation Age, Semper’s views on the idea of the characters marrying was made clear:

Marvel Animation Age: Why was the decision made to make Mary Jane a water clone towards the end of the series? When Turning Point was originally conceived, did you actually intend to bring her back?

Semper: It was a way for us to do the marriage of Peter and M.J. without having it actually stick. I mean, Peter can’t ever get the girl for real, now, can he? And, yes, I always intended to bring the real M.J. back.

So no, the events of Spider-Man Unlimited had no ties to Semper’s original plans, Andy! Thanks for the question!

Okay, that’s it for this week!

Thanks to the Grand Comics Database for this week’s covers! And thanks to Brandon Hanvey for the Comic Book Legends Revealed logo!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is And my Twitter feed is, so you can ask me legends there, as well!

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Also, be sure to check out my website, Legends Revealed, where I look into legends about the worlds of entertainment and sports, which you can find here, at

Here’s my book of Comic Book Legends (130 legends – half of them are re-worked classic legends I’ve featured on the blog and half of them are legends never published on the blog!).

The cover is by artist Mickey Duzyj. He did a great job on it…(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…

Was Superman a Spy?: And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed

See you all next week!

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