Welcome to the four hundred and seventy-third 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 seventy-two. This week, in one of the odder comic legends of all-time, is Nightcrawler’s anatomy more plentiful than normal? Next, did the British really keep a comic writer abreast of their battle plans during World War II so he could match his comic to the facts of the war? Finally, did EC Comics adapt their otherwise rigid writing rules for Bernard Krigstein on his art for Al Feldstein’s classic “Master Race”?
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: Nightcrawler has two penises.
I have a whole folder where I keep comic book legend suggestions that are just too weird to feature, mostly people’s odd conspiracy theories that are plainly false (like “Is Marvel killing off Wolverine to force Fox to give up the movie rights to the X-Men?”) but occasionally I will be surprised to learn that a weird suggestion is actually a legitimately believed legend. Hence, the tale of Nightcrawler’s multiple penises.
One of the more notable sequences in the last decade plus of superhero movies was the scene in 2003’s X2, the sequel to Fox’s hit X-Men film, where Nightcrawler makes his debut, teleporting into the White House to attack the President of the United States.
Alan Cumming’s Nightcrawler was a highlight of the film.
So when the DVD came out for the film, one of the extra features was an interview devoted just to Nightcrawler dubbed “Nightcrawler Reborn.” The interview was with Uncanny X-Men writer Chuck Austen.
Austen had taken over writing Uncanny X-Men in mid-2002, so he was currently the writer “in charge” of Nightcrawler…
And more specifically, Austen wrote the official comic book prequel to X2 featuring Nightcrawler…
Later in 2003, Austen would famously (infamously?) reveal Nightcrawler’s origin for the first time, as we meet Nightcrawler’s father, Azazel…
However, at the time of the interview, The Draco (the story with Nightcrawler’s father) was still in the future.
The interview was a pretty straightforward affair, except for a bit at the end when Austen reflected on a question that he had been asked by Wizard Magazine about a secret about Nightcrawler that only he (Austen) knew. Austen noted that since Nightcrawler had two fingers and two toes…
then he also had two, well, you know. Penises.
It was CLEARLY meant as a joke, but for whatever reason, it has been picked up over the years here and there as if it was something Austen was actually planning to do during his Uncanny X-Men run. Now Austen’s Uncanny X-Men run WAS filled with some outlandish ideas, like “Mutants cannot get AIDS” and “Exploding Communion Wafers,” so I suppose I can SORT Of see how some people might think that it was just another odd plot point from Austen’s run on the book, but that is not the case.
It was just a joke.
Thanks to a commenter for suggesting this one!
On the next page, did the British government keep a comic artist informed of their battle plans so that he could match his comic to the actual war?
Check out the latest TV Legends Revealed at Spinoff Online: Was the famous Star Trek interracial kiss originally going to be between SPOCK and Uhura and not Kirk and Uhura?
COMIC LEGEND: The British Ministry of Information kept Ham Fisher abreast of General Montgomery’s progress during the Battle of Tunisia so Fisher could keep up in his Joe Palooka comic.
Ham Fisher’s Joe Palooka was one of the most popular comic strips in the world for a time during the 1930s and 1940s.
It was particularly popular in the United Kingdom. The London Star carried the strip in England but due to a newsprint shortage because of the War, the paper dropped the strip in 1939. The reaction was dramatic. They quickly changed their mind, sending the following classic message to the comic syndicates:
“War or no war, space or no space, London demands Joe Palooka,” it read. “Please ship by Clipper immediately.”
Eventually, when the United States joined World War II, so, too, did Joe Palooka.
He eventually fought in North Africa as part of the Tunisia Campaign where famed British General Montgomery successfully led Allied troops (primarily British) in the region.
Once again, Palooka’s popularity led to an interesting reaction from the British.
The British Ministry of Information would actually directly keep Fisher informed about General Montgomery’s progress in Tunisia so that Fisher could try to keep the Palooka strip current, so that he would have time to try to plan the end of the campaign in the strip to coincide with the actual end of the campaign in real life.
The strip was considered to be a major morale booster among the military (The Stars and Stripes referred to Palooka as “a soldier’s best friend.”), so I suppose they felt that it wouldn’t look right to see Palooka still fighting in the comics after the campaign was finished. I guess it WOULD affect the verisimilitude of the strip, which was something that the troops really seemed to respond to.
On the next page, learn the story of how the comic book classic tale “Master Race” came about…
COMIC LEGEND: EC Comics made an exception to their standard strict script rules for the classic story “Master Race.”
Last month, we lost one of the all-time comic book greats with the death of EC Comics writer and editor Al Feldstein.
Feldstein has been featured a number of times over the years in Comic Book Legends Revealed, particularly related to his classic tale about racial discrimination, “Judgement Day,” which the Comics Code famously tried to keep from being published.
Reader DonM435 at the Classic Horror Film Board suggested that I feature a legend about Feldstein in honor of him, so here you go!
In 1955, EC Comics published another one of Felstein’s most famous stories in Impact #1. The story is about a Concentration Camp Commandant who managed to escape to the United States but lived constantly in fear over being discovered, especially by his former Jewish prisoners.
Here’s the ending of the story…
It’s a great story in and of itself, but it was ESPECIALLY powerful back in 1955 when very few stories were being written about the Holocaust PERIOD, let alone in a comic book.
However, as DonM435 wrote in to suggest, this story was also particularly different because it was a unique writing arrangement. EC Comics worked under a strict scripting standard, where the writer (in this case Feldstein) would lay the story out precisely, to the point where the stories would actually be lettered BEFORE the artists began drawing the page – that’s how precise the stories were laid out. So the artist (in this case Bernard Krigstein) would have a very specific panel arrangement to use (as opposed to Stan Lee’s “Marvel Method,” where he would come up with a plot with the artist, the artist would draw it and then Lee would add dialogue).
For this story, though, Krigstein felt that he needed to try something different, so he just decided to break the story down as he pleased. Feldstein was quite irritated, because he would have to have the whole thing adjusted to fit Krigstein’s new layout (as Krigstein had just expanded the story from six pages to eight! He wanted to cut the story up even FURTHER, but eight was as far as he figured he could reasonably be allowed to go).
In particular, this striking wordless sequence was something you’d never see in an EC Comic normally…
Feldstein was irked enough that he actually held the story back for a full year before finally putting it into Impact #1.
Feldstein’s displeasure, though, led to it being a one-time experiment and Krigstein eventually left comics entirely, but for one moment, at least, the combination of artist and writer led to one of the greatest comic stories of all-time.
Thanks to DonM435 for the suggestion!