Welcome to the three hundredth and thirty-ninth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. This week, did Superman inspire the Vulcan nerve pinch? Was Mister Mind always intended to be a worm? And what’s the story of the almost crossover between Quantum and Woody and Black Panther?
Click here for an archive of the previous three hundred and thirty-eight.
COMIC LEGEND: When he was first created, Mister Mind was not yet a worm.
In 1943’s Captain Marvel Adventure #22, the Monster Society of Evil serial began…
In an unusually ambitious storyline, this serial went on for TWENTY-FIVE parts, spanning two years!
In the first story, the mysterious Mister Mind debuts, but he is only a voice…
It is not until Captain Marvel Adventures #26 that we meet Mister Mind, and he is a WORM!
Mister Mind went on to become one of the top Captain Marvel adversaries of all-time and has remained a popular villain to this day (he was a major bad guy in 52, for instance).
However. when he was introduced, Otto Binder and the folks at Fawcett had no idea WHAT he was going to be!
In a demonstration that he was a great comic book historian even before he was a great comic book writer, in 1964’s Alter Ego #7, Roy Thomas had the following fascinating piece of information from Otto Binder himself…
Mr. Mind wasn’t a worm, at least not for the first half dozen chapters [Binder is off by a couple of issues, but what’s a couple of issues between friends? -BC}. The CMA (Captain Marvel Adventures) brain-trust composed of Wendell Crowley as editor, Charles Clarence Beck as artist, and myself as scripter, got our heads together to figure out just WHO or WHAT Mr. Mind should be, after I invented him as a diembodied voice.
We undoubtedly went thru a hundred concepts, until somebody (and, frankly, in those skull sessions, I have no idea who first thought of any particular gimmick)..somebody said, “Why not take the most unusual thing we can think of? Not the traditional human or galactic villain, nor robot, nor this this nor that of the routine masterminds, but just the goofiest of all things—maybe a worm!”
I vaguely recall that this was enthusiastically endorsed by us with much laughter and a tongue-in-cheek attitude, we had not idea that thing would become POPULAR!!?? We truly were amazed at the electrifying response…letters pouring in…and believe me, with a readership of over one million as we had in those days, the mail can become pretty imposing. A rousing consensus simply loved Mr. Mind! Why? We never figured it out. You figure it out, you researchers today into the mysterious hypnotic power that comic characters had on readers.
It reminds me of an old legend I did about how Scott Lobdell came up with the idea of Onslaught before he knew exactly WHAT Onslaught was!
Oh, those comic book writers, always living on the edge!
Thanks so much to Roy Thomas and the late, great Otto Binder, for the awesome info! Thanks, also, to Walt Grogan of the awesome Marvel Family site for the scans!
COMIC LEGEND: Superman was the inspiration for the Vulcan nerve pinch.
Reader Nate S. wrote in to ask about 1940’s Action Comics #31, in which Superman uses a familiar looking nerve pinch to knock Lois Lane unconscious…
Nate was curious if this could have been the inspiration for the Famous Vulcan Nerve Pinch from Star Trek.
Normally, this would be something that I wouldn’t really feel right saying definitely one way or the other, as who am I to say that Gene Roddenberry never read this issue of Action Comics or did not have it in his mind, ya know?
However, luckily for us, Leonard Nimoy was the one who came up with the idea for the Famous Vulcan Nerve Pinch on the Star Trek television series, and his recollections have been quite thorough on the subject, leaving me to conclude that it is certain that he did not get the idea from the above Superman story.
You see, in an early episode of the series (Season 1’s “The Enemy Within”), Captain Kirk is split into two beings, one good and one evil. At one point in the story, Spock has to take out Kirk. The script originally called for Spock kayoing Kirk from behind. Nimoy, though, felt such use of force to be out of character for Spock, so he developed a new idea.
He later recalled pitching the idea to the episode’s director “that Spock was a graduate of the Vulcan Institute of Technology where he took a number of courses on the human anatomy and that Vulcans have a kind of energy that comes off their fingertips, which when applied to certain points on the human neck, it renders the human unconscious. ”
The director wasn’t sure about it, but when Nimoy explained it to William Shatner, Shatner got what he was saying, and Nimoy has credited Shatner’s reaction to the Famous Vulcan Nerve Pinch (which is how it came to be referred to in Star Trek scripts) as selling the idea and making it work.
That’s pretty darn detailed and I think it is pretty much a lock that Nimoy did not get it from the Action Comics issue.
With Meta-Messages Month just wrapped up, it occurred to me that I should feature an interesting story of a cool piece of comic book synchronicity that juuuuuuuust managed to not work out, timing-wise.
Christopher Priest was writing Black Panther for Marvel when his acclaimed title from Acclaim (pun not intended) Quantum and Woody was saved from cancellation (sadly, the return was short-lived).
Priest came up with a neat idea to do a piece of cross-promotion between the titles. So in the pages of Quantum and Woody #20 (art by M.D. Bright and inkers Greg Adams and Romeo Tanghal), Woody comes across a comic book that he finds quite familiar…
Here are the respective pages from Black Panther #15 (by Priest, Sal Velluto and Bob Almond)…
Sadly, due to a delay, the issues did NOT come out the same month! And Quantum and Woody was canceled again an issue later (well, they were not so much canceled as the company as a whole went out of business). So the whole “cross-promotion” angle did not go so well.
Still, it was a cool idea by Priest and well executed!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
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