Welcome to the five hundred and forty-seventh in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the first five hundred (I actually haven’t been able to update it in a while). This week, in honor of Halloween, all three legends involve Ben Cooper Inc. and its famous Halloween super hero costumes! Did a Ben Cooper costume inspire the creation of Spider-Man? Was Ben Cooper the first company to trademark the term “superhero”? And did Ben Cooper ever actually make a Spectre costume?
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: Marvel got the idea for Spider-Man from an old Ben Cooper costume.
STATUS: I’m Going with False
Ben Cooper Inc. was the most famous provider of super hero Halloween costumes for decades, owning the licenses to DC Comics and Marvel characters. Their Batman and Superman costumes are likely their most famous…
However, astonishingly enough, in 1963, they became the first company to license ANYthing from Marvel Comics when they made an official Spider-Man Halloween costume, when Spidey had only been around for seven months!
This has led to an interesting rumor that Spider-Man’s creation was actually based on a Ben Cooper Halloween costume that was ALSO called Spider-Man.
Ben Cooper stopped making their Spider-Man when Marvel came out with theirs (and trademarked the term “Spider-Man).
The costumes clearly are similar, but I don’t think that it goes beyond that.
First off, Ben Cooper Inc. was not afraid to litigate. The second legend today deals with that.
Secondly, in his AMAZING article on the topic, John Cimino posts a letter from Ditko on the subject. Cimino says that Ditko’s answer is unclear, but if you speak Ditko-ese, it is pretty clear Ditko is saying that he did not take the idea for Spider-Man’s costume from Ben Cooper Inc.
In addition, I don’t agree with the notion that people were BOUND to see the Spider-Man costume that Ben Cooper did. It wasn’t like people inherently see every costume out there. However, on the same token, I can’t say for sure that Ditko was not subconsciously inspired by the design. I just don’t think that it was anything intentional, and I don’t think Ben Cooper Inc. thought so, either, as why would they bother acquiring the licsence to Marvel’s Spider-Man if it was a rip-off of their own original product?
So I’m going to go with a false here as to Marvel being intentionally inspired by the Ben Cooper Inc. Spider-Man costume. Thanks to John Cimino for his great article on the subject!
Check out some entertainment and sports legends from this week at Legends Revealed:
On the next page, was Ben Cooper Inc. the first company to trademark the term “super hero”?
COMIC LEGEND: Ben Cooper was the first company to trademark the term “super hero.”
I wrote before about how Marvel and DC Comics were inspired to trademark the term “Super hero” because Mego tried to trademark it for the use with their superhero toys.
However, before Marvel and DC got involved, Mego was already having their trademark objected to – by the FIRST company to trademark the term “super hero,” Ben Cooper Inc.!
1966 saw a boom in superhero costumes and Ben Cooper Inc. felt that they needed to protect their greatest marketing tool, so in 1966 they applied for a trademark on the term “super hero” for use with costumes and received it in 1967.
So they used the term throughout the 1960s and 1970s…
In 1983, they gave the rights to the term to Marvel and DC (Marvel and DC already owned the mark for use with comics, toys and other printed material).
Check out my latest TV Legends Revealed at Spinoff Online: How did the United State Congress inspire the bloodiest and goriest Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror (at the time)? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
On the next page, was there ever a Ben Cooper Spectre costume?
COMIC LEGEND: There never was a Ben Cooper Spectre costume.
STATUS: I’m Tenatively Going With True
Reader Jim S. wrote in the other week with one of the rare comic book legends where he wants me to confirm a negative. Jim had been trying to find a Ben Cooper Inc. Spectre costume for years but he was beginning to believe that it just never existed and he wanted me to confirm or deny that.
And after searching for a number of weeks, I have to come to the same conclusion – that the costume does not exist.
Why would that even be an issue, you might be wondering. It is because in the mid-1960s, Ben Cooper put Spectre ON THEIR BOXES!!!
However, I’ve seen a ton of obscure Ben Cooper Super Hero costumes from around the superhero boom of 1966, including a Daredevil from 1966 that is just a repainted Batman…
but never have I seen a Spectre costume. Nor have I ever seen any record of such a costume ever being made.
I’m prepared to say that it never existed.
I’d love to be proven wrong, though! This would be a great one to be able to say false on!
Thanks for the fascinating suggestion, Jim, as this one really boggled my mind for a number of weeks.
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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