Welcome to the four hundred and thirty-ninth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous four hundred and thirty-eight. This week, were Magneto and Professor X nearly brothers? What Rugrats character was banned from the Rugrats comic strip? And finally, did Doctor Doom’s mask predate Doctor Doom?!
NOTE: The column is on three pages, a page for each legend. There’s a little “next” button on the top of the page and the bottom of the page to take you to the next page (and you can navigate between each page by just clicking on the little 1, 2 and 3 on the top and the bottom, as well).
COMIC LEGEND: At one point, Stan Lee was going to have Magneto and Professor X be brothers.
STATUS: I’m Going With True
Memory, obviously, is always a tricky thing. It is not just something that comes up when discussing Stan Lee’s statements about the past. Heck, Michael K. Williams was only discussing events of a few years when he spread the urban legend about Omar originally being killed off in the first season of The Wire. However, admittedly it is more of an issue with Stan Lee than most. And a lot of this is not just the fact that Lee has a faulty memory, but also the fact that what we’re expecting Lee to remember often is minutiae from work from fifty years ago that Lee at the time had no idea anyone would be asking him about fifty years later. I don’t care how good your memory is, if it is something that you didn’t think was worth remembering, you’re going to be hard-pressed being precise about it years later.
However we get there, though, it still remains that Lee’s memory is more than a bit iffy on a few matters. Therefore, when he said to Tom DeFalco in DeFalco’s seminal Comic Creators On X-Men…
I always wanted Magneto to turn out to be Professor X’s brother. If I had stayed with the book, that’s what I would have done.
I figured that I could come up with an explanation when I needed it: I always did. But I thought it would be fun if Professor Xavier and Magneto were brothers.
Right off the bat, I think it is unlikely that Lee actually would have made such a revelation, as he left the book with issue #19 and just seven issues earlier, he had introduced the Juggernaut who was, of course, Professor X’s brother…
However, that doesn’t mean that Lee is not incorrect that he did WANT to make that revelation at one point. In fact, the very fact that he eventually DID reveal that Professor X had a super-villain for a brother makes me think that it is likely that Lee DID have that idea in his mind. He just chose to use it for Juggernaut rather than Magneto.
Clearly, Lee’s approach to the X-Men was one of “throwing ideas at the wall and see if they stick.” Take this famous (or infamous) moment from X-Men #3…
Lee later explained it to Roy Thomas by essentially shrugging his shoulders and saying, “I don’t know, it just seemed like something that made sense. I tossed it in to complicate things.” And then subsequently never brought it up again.
Similarly, Magneto and Xavier had some early conversations that would work fairly well if they knew each other from the past, like their psychic plane confrontation in #4…
So I think it is reasonable to believe Lee here when he says that at one point that he intended to make Magneto and Xavier brothers. It fits in with his storytelling style, it is a normal enough type of a revelation and I don’t see any reason why he’d misremember something like that. So I’m willing to go with Stan this time around. I could be wrong and he could just be mistaken, but I’m willing to go with a true here.
Check out some Entertainment Urban Legends Revealed!
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On the next page, what Rugrats character was banned from the Rugrats comic strip by Nickelodeon’s president?
COMIC LEGEND: A Rugrats character was banned from the Rugrats comic strip because of complaints by the Jewish Anti-Defamation League.
Rugrats, a long-running Nickelodeon show about a group of precocious young kids, was notable for its time for how much the show embraced the Jewish heritage of the main characters, the Pickles (their young son, Tommy, is the star of the series).
There was even a special Rugrats Chanukah episode in 1996…
So for the most part, Jewish organizations were quite pleased with Rugrats. However, one exception happened with regards to the characters of Boris, Tommy’s grandfather…
For a while in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Rugrats had its own comic strip. One of the strips in 1998 had Boris and Tommy at a synagogue with Boris reciting the Mourner’s Kaddish.
Here was the problem. If you knew the show in question, you would know that EVERYbody on the show was drawn in exaggerated fashion. But people reading their local Sunday funnies would not necessarily be people who knew the show, so to some people, Boris looked like a grotesque parody of what a Jewish person looked like.
To that extent, the Jewish Anti-Defamation League issued a statement saying as much and that they were offended that he was, in effect, ruining the solemnity of the prayer by having this grotesque parody recite it.
Herb Scannell, president of Nickelodeon (who produced the strip), apologized and banned the character of Grandpa Boris from ever appearing in the strip again, although he continued to appear on the TV series (and its sequel, where the kids grow up a bit) until it ended.
This is an interesting story of how context is key for a whole lot of things, including whether something is offensive. Former Nickelodeon president Albie Hecht was shocked and dismayed at how anyone could take offense to the character, but I think it is fair to note that if you know the character just from the cartoon it is a whole other context.
Check out some classic Comic Book Legends Revealed ALSO involving controversial comic strips!
Was the very first daily comic strip really canceled because William Randolph Hearst found it obscene?
COMIC LEGEND: Doctor Doom’s mask appeared in a Marvel comic before Doctor Doom did!
Reader Frank W. wrote in to ask:
I am fascinated by comic book prototypes. Like how DC had a Supergirl show up in a Superman story before they introduced the real Supergirl. Things of that nature. Marvel had a bunch of them as well and I was hoping that you could write about them. Like before the Fantastic Four, there was a comic with a bad guy who had a mask exactly like Doctor Doom’s. Perhaps you could spotlight that?
Comic book prototypes ARE a cool thing, Frank, I agree, but I think that you’re falling for something that I think too many fans…if not “fall” for, at least misinterpret.
There certainly ARE real life examples of comic book prototypes, such as Frank’s example of DC featuring a Supergirl in 1958…
before debuting the REAL Supergirl in 1959…
However, it seems with Marvel Comics in particular that a lot of these prototypes are basically just examples of Marvel artists drawing similar characters. We’ve dealt with a few of these in past Comic Book Legends Revealed, like supposed prototypes for Uncle Ben and Aunt May and a prototype for the Thing.
The example that Frank writes about is very much in the same vein.
In Tales of Suspense #31, the bad guy had a very familiar looking mask…
Sure looks like Doctor Doom’s mask from Fantastic Four #5, right?
However, those comics came out THE SAME MONTH in 1962!!
Granted, it appears as though Kirby DID draw the Iron Mask comic first, looking at the production codes…
but we’re talking basically at the same exact time, so did he take the drawing he did on Monday and copy it on Wednesday? Possibly, but that’s a far cry from being a “prototype” and, again, the comics came out the SAME month, so it wasn’t like the Iron Mask creature was around on the scene before Doctor Doom. I think it’s just the case of Kirby drawing similar masks.
Thanks to Frank for the suggestion!
Check out the latest edition of my weekly Movie/TV Legends Revealed Column at Spinoff Online: Does Nintendo really own the rights to a porn parody of Super Mario Brothers?
Okay, that’s it for this week!
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