Welcome to the four hundred and sixty-second 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 sixty-one. This week, did Bruce Lee refuse to lose to Burt Ward when Kato fought Robin in an episode of the Batman TV series? Did Dave Cockrum have a racy protest about Ms. Marvel’s costume? And did a Donald Duck cartoon get nominated for an Academy Award…for Best Documentary?!
WARNING: As noted by me saying “racy,” there is a NSFW image in this piece.
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: Bruce Lee refused to film a scene where Kato lost a fight to Robin.
STATUS: I’m Going With False
Bruce Lee was a legendary martial artist and action star who sadly did not become a major sensation in the United States until after his tragic death at the age of 32 in 1973.
Lee’s first big acting break, though, came in 1966 when he was cast as Kato in the Green Hornet TV series (with Van Williams as the Green Hornet) that was designed to cash in on the success of the ultra-popular Batman TV series of the same year.
The difference between the two series, though, was that Green Hornet was handled a good deal more seriously than the campy Batman series (of course, as some commentators
might will note, that might have been due to the source material for each show – Batman comics of the 1960s tended to be a good deal more campy than a typical Green Hornet radio drama).
In any event, the ratings on the series were not particularly great and towards the end of the first season of the Green Hornet, Williams and Lee made a guest appearance on two episodes of Batman during the second season of the Batman TV series, “A Piece of the Action” and “Batman’s Satisfaction” (they also made a quick cameo in another episode).
In it, the Dynamic Duo tangles with the Green Hornet and Kato…
Check it out (it starts at about the four and a half minute mark in the video)…
The legend is that Kato was originally written as losing to Robin in the initial fight but Bruce Lee threatened to not film the episode at all unless it was changed. They then changed it to a draw.
I have a couple of problems with the story right off of the bat (pun not intended)…
First, it just doesn’t make any sense that the writers of the Batman TV series (the episode was specifically written by Charles Hoffman) would have a guest star LOSE a fight to Robin. The whole point of promoting another TV series is to promote that other series, not show them losing to your characters. The intent is to prop them up, not knock them down.
Secondly, while Bruce Lee was not really a fan of the Green Hornet TV series (he kept trying to pitch his own scripts since he felt what they were doing was not particularly good), he was extremely respectful about his criticisms. I’ve seen some of his letters to William Dozier, the creator of the show, and he’s very courteous to Dozier. Lee was thrilled to be acting professionally and making such a good income. It was just not in his character to pull a move like threatening to walk off because he didn’t like a script. This isn’t to say that Lee didn’t have a temper, as he did. But he was a professional.
Lee and Burt Ward, who played Robin, were acquaintances before the show (they lived in the same condominium complex). Lee, in fact, had even given Ward at least one Kung Fu lesson in 1966. Ward, though, had sort of put it out there that he was a black belt in karate and it likely was true that Lee was a bit irked that Ward was misrepresenting his level of martial arts skill (In a 1968 interview with Black Belt magazine, Ward acknowledged that he began taking actual karate lessons in part because he was shamed by the fact that he pretended to be really good at karate because that’s what the producers of Batman wanted from him).
So what certainly seems to be agreed upon is that right before the filming of the close-ups in the fight scene (that’s another problem with the whole “Bruce Lee refuses to lose to Burt Ward” idea – the actual fight scenes, as you can see from the video above, didn’t feature Ward but his stunt double), Lee began acting really seriously as if he was really going to attack Ward. Ward began to freak out a bit, telling him to cut it out.
Lee later recalled (and since Lee died in 1973, his recollections are a lot more contemporary than other tellings of this story):
“I started to crowd Burt and he started to flap his elbows, jumping around me. I was really scaring him until I heard someone in the back whisper ‘the black panther and the yellow chicken.’ At that instant, I burst out laughing. I couldn’t keep a straight face anymore.”
Lee also commented on the fact that the fight was a draw. He laughed about it, noting:
“Lucky for Robin that it was not for real; otherwise, he would have been one dead bird.”
Adam West recalled the story the same way in his auto-biography. The only person I’ve seen to actually posit the “Bruce Lee was going to walk off” story was Van Williams, in a 1993 interview, twenty-seven years after the fact. Williams also told the “Bruce Lee tried to scare Burt Ward” story, as well. I think Williams is just mistaken.
I’ve never seen anything conclusive showing that the script was changed and in fact, pretty much every other account of the episode just says that it was always a draw. Lee didn’t mention it back in the day. West didn’t mention it in his auto-biography. Bruce Lee biographers don’t mention it. Plus, as I noted, it doesn’t make sense for them to have the guest-stars lose.
So I’m willing to go with a false here.
Thanks to M. Uyehara for the Bruce Lee quotes!
Check out my latest Movie Legends Revealed at Spinoff Online: Did Pretty in Pink originally end with Andie and Duckie together?
On the next page, did Dave Cockrum have a racy protest over his complaints about Ms. Marvel’s costume? Again, note the term “racy” and remember what I said before about a NSFW image. In fact, you can just click on 3 and skip the Cockrum legend all together!
COMIC LEGEND: Dave Cockrum had a rather racy protest to Ms. Marvel’s original costume.
When she first debuted, Ms. Marvel had a bit of an odd costume, as it was a female version of the classic Captain Marvel outfit….
only with an exposed midriff for some reason…
Since we’re celebrating March MODOK Madness today, I figured I might as well show a MODOK cover…
Chris Claremont had taken over Ms. Marvel soon after the book had launched and he was trying his best to make it more of an appealing book from a feminist perspective. He wanted to bring over his X-Men collaborator, Dave Cockrum, on to the title, but it was a slow going.
Cockrum, with issue #9, made the first change to the costume and at least got rid of the exposed midriff…
But Cockrum was unable to take over the art duties on the title until #20. And when he did, he gave her a new costume…
The always informative Sean Howe, author of Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, has a drawing Cockrum did for Jim Shooter’s birthday (presumably in 1977) on his cool Marvel Tumblr where Cockrum expressed his displeasure with Ms. Marvel’s costume in a…unique fashion.
In an interview in 1999’s Comic Book Artist #6 by Jon B. Cooke, Cockrum explained how hard it was for him to get a new costume for Ms. Marvel and his experiences with Stan Lee on the project…
We [Cockrum and Stan Lee] went round and round about Ms. Marvel’s costume, too. Remember she started with a female version of Captain Marvel’s costume only with an open belly, and we all bitched about that because none of us could figure a rationale for it. So they closed the belly opening, but we said, ‘No, she needs another costume.’ We hassled Stan about it for so long that he said, ‘All right! If you think you’re so smart, design a new one.’ And I must have gone through 50 designs! Some of ’em I would xerox and try out in different colors, and Stan would go, ‘No, no, no, no! Get that out of here.” Finally I did the one with the lightning bolt and sash, and I took it to Stan who said, ‘That’s what you should have done from the start! That’s what I like: Shiny leather and tits & ass!”
That’s certainly something!
1942 was the first year that the Academy Awards awarded an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. That first year there was no distinction between long and short form documentaries and a total of twenty-five documentaries were nominated and four of them won.
Here are the nominees…
Africa, Prelude to Victory
Conquer by the Clock
The Grain That Built a Hemisphere
Henry Browne, Farmer
High Over the Borders
High Stakes in the East
Inside Fighting China
It’s Everybody’s War
Listen to Britain
Little Isles of Freedom
Mister Gardenia Jones
The New Spirit
The Price of Victory
A Ship Is Born
We Refuse to Die
The White Eagle
Winning Your Wings
and here are the four winners:
The Battle of Midway
Kokoda Front Line!
Moscow Strikes Back
Prelude to War
Here’s the fascinating thing, one of those nominees, The New Spirit, was a Donald Duck cartoon!
You see, based on The Revenue Act of 1942, 15 million Americans were about to pay Income Tax for the first time. The U.S. Government worried that this would freak out the populace and so the Treasury Department asked Walt Disney, who had just begun a propaganda wing of his film company, to help them out and so Disney created A New Spirit, a short cartoon starring Donald Duck where Donald is convinced to pay his income taxes as it would help the war effort and Donald, of course, was a patriotic duck.
I don’t believe a cartoon has since been nominated, so Donald has a rare honor!
You can watch the cartoon right here:
Thanks to my pal Jeff Ryan for suggesting this one!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
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