Welcome to the three hundredth and seventy-fourth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. This week, was Rorschach originally going to appear in DC’s Countdown: Arena mini-series? Plus, discover one of the most mind-blowingly complicated easter eggs you’ll see from the pages of Superman! Finally, did a cartoonist coin the term “McCarthyism”?
Click here for an archive of the previous three hundred and seventy-three.
COMIC LEGEND: Rorschach was originally going to be part of Countdown: Arena.
Nearly five years ago, DC Comics did a mini-series called Countdown: Arena, where alternate versions of DC characters were force to fight against each other.
In the lead-up to the mini-series, there were rumors that DC was going to go all out with the alternate versions, and have their most famous alternate versions of their characters (like Batman: The Dark Knight Returns) compete in the mini-series, but when the actual book came out, it was quite toned down, with many of the characters invented for just that story.
However, one of the rumors at the time was that the WATCHMEN characters were even going to be involved!
Similarly, a couple of years ago, there were rumors again about a sequel to Watchmen where the characters would interact with DC characters. Just like the 2007 rumors, the centerpiece of the rumors was this image by the legendary comic book artist, Art Adams…
This, though, was not an official DC image. No, as Sean T. Collins (formerly of Wizard Magazine) noted in 2010:
The art and article in question, by Art Adams and Matt Powell respectively, were generated to cover DC’s then-forthcoming Countdown: Arena miniseries, in which characters from around DC’s recently reborn Multiverse, which consisted in large part of Elseworlds-derived worlds, were forced into gladitorial combat against one another. The piece didn’t reflect any inside information of any kind, about the desire to introduce Watchmen’s world into continuity, creating new projects involving it or anything else.
That, as they say, is that.
Thanks to Sean T. Collins for the definitive word and thanks to Travis Pelkie for suggesting that I feature this legend.
COMIC LEGEND: In an early issue of his Superman run, John Byrne had a panel that featured a word balloon from over a dozen other titles released that month!
In issue #10 of John Byrne’s Superman run (released with a cover date of October 1987), Superman’s powers are acting weird. They are increasing in power at seemingly random intervals. Check it out…
What’s fascinating, though, is that the panel where Superman is hearing all sorts of things is not just a random panel of word balloons, as you would typically expect. No sir, that panel features ACTUAL dialogue taken from THIRTEEN other DC comic books released that same month!
Check it out:
Batman #412, page 20
Booster Gold #21, page 8
Captain Atom #8, page 3
Flash #5, page 8
Fury of Firestorm #64, page 16
Infinity Inc. #43, page 3
Spectre #7, page 9
Suicide Squad #6, page 19
Swamp Thing #65, page 6
Teen Titans Spotlight #15, page 1
Vigilante #46, page 7
Wild Dog #2, page 11
Wonder Woman #9, page 6
Thanks so much to John Thorpe, who not only told me about this amazing feat by John Byrne, but he actually sent me every single page in question to me! Above and beyond the call of duty, John!
COMIC LEGEND: Herbert “Herblock” Block coined the term “McCarthyism.”
It always fascinates me how comic books and comic strips and editorial cartoons can resonate so much with people that new words, phrases and traditions can pop up from their pages. For instance, Captain Marvel gave us “Holy Moley!” (as shown in this Comic Book Legends Revealed), Lil’ Abner gave us Sadie Hawkins Day (as shown in this Comic Book Legends Revealed) and C.K. Berryman eventually gave us the teddy bear (as shown in this Comic Book Legends Revealed). Today, then, we will take a look at how Herb “Herblock” Block gave us the term “McCarthyism.”
Herb Block was born in Chicago in 1909 and was working in the newspaper business right out of high school and was a working political cartoonist before he finished college (in fact, he dropped out BECAUSE he was already working as a cartoonist). Early on he decided to use the pen name “Herblock,” which is how he would be credited in his cartoons for the rest of his life.
After working in Chicago for awhile, Herblock was hired by the Newspaper Enterprise Association (which is part of the large United Media corporation – syndicators of such popular comic strips as Dilbert and Peanuts).
Herblock was a strong supporter of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and he joined NEA just as Roosevelt was taking office. His strips took a strong liberal stance at the situations of the day, like poverty. But that does not mean that he was an FDR apologist – he took the President to task when they differed, with a notable example being the 1937 move by Roosevelt to stack the Supreme Court to force the Court to agree with FDR’s New Deal moves.
Leading up to the United States getting into World War II, Herblock was highly critical of the Isolationist position, while at the same time warning of the dangers of Hitler and his ilk.
Here’s one of Herblock’s most famous cartoons, denouncing the rise of the Nazi party by quoting Goethe…
“Light! More light!” – Goethe’s last words
At the same time, Herblock made light of the whole idea of the US being isolated when it was deeply involved with the rest of the world otherwise. Herblock kept pointing out the absurdity of the United States’ isolationist streak all through 1941. In fact, his attitudes were considered so extreme that in early 1942, he was called to New York by the head of the NEA with a request to tone down the extremism of his comics. That very same day, the news was released that Block had just won the Pulitizer Prize for his 1941 comic work, the very work his editor had a problem with!
Here is the cartoon he won for, a subtle piece of work showing the hope of foreign intervention in World War II…
It is not that surprising to note that he quickly sought out employment elsewhere now that he was famous enough to go wherever he wanted. He chose the Washington Post in 1943, and it would be the next century before he stopped working there.
After the war, Herblock was critical of the Communists, winning a second Pulitzer Prize for his cartoon marking Stalin’s passing…
but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t also critical of the United States’ attitude towards Communism, whether it be MacArthur, the House Committe on Un-American Activitie or a certain Senator from Wisconsin…
That cartoon was the first use of the term “McCarthyism,” which quickly caught on.
Here are a couple more McCarthy cartoons…
Herblock’s McCarthy cartoons proved to be so popular that McCarthy soon took to shaving twice a day so that he would not have the heavy stubble look that Herblock showed in the cartoons.
Interestingly enough, although Herblock spent a lot of time and was quite known for his anti-McCarthy cartoons, he did not win a Pulitizer for any of them. His third and final Pulitzer came for his attacks on Nixon, where he basically did to Nixon what he did to McCarthy, as Nixon, like McCarthy, would credit Herblock’s cartoons as creating a public image for Nixon that Nixon had to combat.
Herblock worked into 2000s, with his final cartoon being a satire of George W. Bush. He died at the age of 91, leaving behind an amazing legacy of work. Click here to see Herblock’s drawings of every President from Herbert Hoover to George W. Bush!
Thanks to the Library of Congress for the images used in this piece. Be sure to check them out to see even more great Herblock comics
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!
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See you all next week!