Welcome to the four hundred and forty-sixth 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 forty-five. This week, did Mort Weisinger really use a Bizarro World comic to out John F. Kennedy’s affair with Marilyn Monroe? Was a major part of Wolverine’s history originally going to be revealed in an issue of Captain America? And was Jack Kirby’s Fourth World always going to be an ongoing series?
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: Mort Weisinger alluded to the alleged John F. Kennedy/Marilyn Monroe affair in a Superboy comic book story.
STATUS: I’m Tentatively Going With a True
Longtime Superman editor Mort Weisinger was a big supporter of the Democratic party in the United States. Here he is (courtesy of Jim Shooter’s blog, from a photo Weisinger gave to Shooter at some point) with two-time United States Presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson…
Weisinger was also quite plugged into political gossip (as well as gossip in general) of the time. During the 1950s, while not working at DC Comics (his DC Editorial position was a three days a week gig), he worked at the gossip magazine Inside Story, repackaging gossip stories from other magazines (At the always excellent Comics Detective website, Ken Quattro has an “obituary” that William Woolfolk wrote for Alter Ego when Mort Weisinger died that Roy Thomas and Jerry Bails ultimately decided was too harsh for publication – the obituary has more information about Weisinger’s time at Inside Story). By the time the 1960s rolled around, Weisinger was doing similar work for This Week magazine, a magazine that was inserted into newspapers around the country…
A very popular rumor for well over fifty years now is that President John F. Kennedy (who was assassinated fifty years ago today) and Marilyn Monroe had an affair beginning sometime in 1961 after her divorce from writer Arthur Miller. While the affair has been wildly accepted as being true by the public as a whole, we still do not seem to have much in the way of proof that there was an actual relationship between the pair. However, whether they were or were not romantically involved, it is fair to say that there were RUMORS about the two being involved in 1962, especially following Marilyn Monroe’s iconic performance of “Happy Birthday” to President Kennedy at a Democratic fundraiser in New York City in April of 1962 (Monroe passed away in August of 1962).
For someone who was…
A. Such a big Kennedy admirer (as others have noted, President Kennedy appeared enough in the Superman comics of the era that he was practically a supporting cast member!) and
B. So plugged into the gossip scene
there is little chance that Weisinger did not know of the Kennedy/Monroe rumors well before the rest of the world in the spring of 1962.
Therefore, it puts the following story from the March 1962 cover-dated issue of Adventure Comics #294 (a March cover date in those days likely meant the book was actually on sale in December of the previous year) into a fascinating context.
In the story (written by Jerry Siegel and drawn by John Forte), set on Bizarro World (a world made up of duplicates of Superman and Lois Lane, only they would do everything in reverse – so instead of saying “Hello” they’d say “Goodbye”), we see Bizarro Halloween, which involves Bizarros dressing up as humans and going around “pranking” their neighbors by doing good deeds for each other. The story eventually becomes a Bizarro Krypto story, as Bizarro Krypto gets so angry at the pranks that he tries to find a new owner, which is the gist of the story (Bizarro Krypto tries out alternate owners). But at the beginning, it involves Bizarros dressed as four famous figures of the time – John F. Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, Mickey Mantle and Jerry Lewis.
As you can see from above, the Kennedy Bizarro Superman and the Monroe Bizarro Lois were paired together often early in the story.
The great longtime comic book editor Mike Gold wrote about the story a couple of years ago at his neat column at ComicMix (the website he co-founded and is currently the editor-in-chief of).
Gold is fairly confident that Weisinger did intend for the story to be a sly reference to the Kennedy/Monroe affair and even had the chance to ask Weisinger about it in 1976 (Weisinger died two years later). Here’s Gold:
[W]e flash-forward to 1976. DC President Sol Harrison thought it would be cool if I met Mort Weisinger because of our mutual interest in politics. Mort and I had a fascinating conversation that ran about two-and-one-half hours. I asked him about the Bizarro Marilyn / Bizarro JFK story. At first I thought I made him angry, but his broad facial gesture turned into a huge laugh. “You know, you’re the only guy to ask me that!” And that was his only response.
I tend to believe the Gold is correct and the story WAS intended to be a sly reference to the rumored affair. However, obviously with Weisinger, Siegel and Forte all long since passed away, I don’t think this will ever be more than a “tentative true,” as clearly there is a chance that Siegel just picked four random famous people to use in the story. If it weren’t for today’s date, I likely wouldn’t have featured the story period (which was suggested to me some time ago by reader Tony N.), but I couldn’t help myself with the timing of this week’s CBLR being on November 22nd.
Thanks to Tony for the suggestion and thanks to Mike Gold for the fascinating story!
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On the next page, did we nearly learn a major part of Wolverine’s history in the pages of Captain America a DECADE before it was finally revealed in the pages of Uncanny X-Men?
Uncanny X-Men #268 is a famous story in X-Men history, not only for Jim Lee’s iconic drawing of Captain America that opened the issue…
but for the fact that amazingly enough, it was the very FIRST comic book to firmly establish that Logan (the X-Man known as Wolverine) was an adult during World War II, as we see him meet Captain America in 1941…
There slowly had been allusions to Wolverine being a lot older than he looked, but it had never been actually established as such until this comic. Once this comic came out, of course, it was like a dam broke and we got COUNTLESS stories about Wolverine in the past, but up until this point it was never actually made explicit.
Amazingly enough, this 1990 story was nearly beat to the punch by a DECADE!
During their classic (but sadly short-lived) run on Captain America in 1980 (here is an iconic double-page spread by Byrne…
), John Byrne and Roger Stern planned on revealing that Wolverine and Captain America had known each other in World War II!
Byrne explained the story idea to Comics Journal in 1980…
Most of the fans I’ve talked to–and most of the mail has agreed–say that they like picking up the facts in dribs and drabs. One of these days, Roger and I have a Captain America story we’d like to do, guest-starring the X-Men, where Cap will be talking ot a couple of them, and Wolverine is real quiet at first. And when he finally speaks, Cap will do a take and say, “Corporal Logan?” Because, you see, Cap met him during the war. Ant that might be the first time in one of the books we come out and say just how old this guy is.
of course, he also added…
Unless we change our minds.
As it turned out, the point was a moot one since Stern and Byrne left the book by the end of the year. Still, that’d be a fascinating place to learn such major information about Wolverine, no?
Check out some classic Comic Book Legends Revealed related to Wolverine!
Was Wolverine’s Classic Helmet Design the Result of a Mistake by Gil Kane?
On the next page, was Jack Kirby’s Fourth World always intended to be an ongoing series?
It is fascinating how expectations can change how we perceive something as a “success” or a “failure.”
From a critical standpoint, Jack Kirby’s Fourth World series of titles are very well-regarded (just last year it fell JUST outside the top 50 in our Top 100 Comic Book Runs of All-Time poll).
However, the titles are often thought of as a commercial failure at the time because they did not last that long (of the three titles that made up the Fourth World line of comics, Mister Miracle lasted the longest at “just” 18 issues).
Here’s the thing, though, the titles were originally INTENDED to be finite!
As I wrote a couple of weeks ago about Kirby’s development of the Fourth World, Kirby was looking to do something different with his New Gods characters. First of all, he intended to get better compensated for creating new characters, but that was not the only thing he wanted to do differently from his time at Marvel.
You see, Kirby believed that comics should try a different approach from just the concept of a monthly periodical. Kirby thought that a better idea would be to do FINITE stories that could then be collected into collections that would be sold in different markets than newsstands. He felt that comic books could be accepted into book stores as complete comic book novels.
As you might have noticed, Kirby’s theories have proven to be correct, as that is what a large chunk of the current comic book marketplace is about – collecting stories into collections that can be sold at book stores.
At the time, though, these ideas were still very daring and DC was not inclined to go along with them. Instead, they specifically told Kirby NOT to make his stories finite. They were paying him X amount of dollars for Y amount of work, so they wanted him to do as many ongoing comics as he could.
Mark Evanier explained the situation back in a 1983 Comic Interview interview with David Anthony Kraft:
Folks forget but the New Gods saga was intended to be a limited series … There was no intention that these characters would go on forever. However, after Jack’s books started getting good sales figures, DC demanded that we keep them going and use guest stars like Deadman, which we were very much against doing. So Kirby had this novel he was forever stuck in the middle of – he could never get to the last chapter. … You can spot the issues where Jack kind of gave up trying to advance the story of Darkseid and Orion and was marking time. If those books had been intended from the start to run indefinitely, they would have been done very differently.
Here’s the Deadman appearance in Forever People…
Of course, the irony of the situation was that then the sales went down and DC canceled the whole line, but by this point, Kirby had already moved away from his finite plans and instead had to quickly wrap up all of his plots and was clearly not able to do so.
Thankfully, DC at least gave Kirby the chance to give his story an ending later in the 1980s…
(Of course, the story behind THAT comic is a legend in and of itself. Another time!)
Thanks so much to Mark Evanier and David Anthony Kraft for the information!
Check out the latest edition of my weekly Movie/TV Legends Revealed Column at Spinoff Online: Did Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory originally have a typical sex drive?
Okay, that’s it for this week!
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