This is the fifty-sixth in a series of examinations of comic book urban legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous fifty-five.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: The creator of Crime Does Not Pay went to jail for killing a woman
In the early days of comic books, pretty much any idea was always close to being the next big “thing.” Lev Gleason Comics stumbled upon the next big thing when his editors Charlie Biro and Bob Wood came up with an idea – why not do a comic book about real-life criminals?
Gleason quickly allowed them to turn Silver Streak Comics (a standard superhero title) into Crime Does Not Pay with issue #22.
As you might have expected, the comic was a hit, and led to many imitators.
Years later, though, sales in the crime genre were slowing (as most fads are wont to do), and due to the strict new Comics Code installed by the comic publishers, the gore of the standard crime comics were toned down and in fact, even the word CRIME could not be bigger than the other words in the title!! So look at the title of the last issue of Crime Does Not Pay, #147, which limped into oblivion in 1955.
It is a real shame, too, that the comic folded, because soon after, in 1958, one of the creators of the comic himself was involved in a true crime story!
Comic writer/artist Bob Wood was always involved in the somewhat seedier side of New York City, with gambling debts constantly coming up. However, in summer of 1958 (years after the successful Crime franchise he helped created was over), Bob Wood was arrested for killing a woman in a drunken argument.
In his excellent book, The Comic Book Makers (pgs 167-68), Joe Simon describes the events, as laid out in the August 27, 1985 New York Daily News,
A cab driver had picked up Wood in the highly fashionable area of New York’s Grammercy Park, near the Irving Hotel. Grammercy Park was known as a bastion of primness where the rich and well-to-do lived among the Victorian archictecure and private gardens of a world shielded off from the rest of the city by tall iron fences.
The disheveled Wood rambled nerbously in the back of the cab, at one point telling the driver, “I’m in terrible troub;. I’m going to get a couple of hours sleep and jump in the river.”
“What happened? Did you kill somebody?” the driver asked, jokingly.
“Yes, I killed a woman who was giving me a bad time in Room 91 of the Irving Hotel. Why don’t you call someone at a newspaper and make yourself a few dollars?”
There are all kinds of characters in New York City and most cabbies get to meet their share. But Wood’s words, cut with urgent anxiety, seemed real, and after the cabbie dropped Wood at the Regina Residence Hotel in Greenwich Villege he drove the cab around the city streets until he found a police officer. The cabbie recounted Wood’s story to the officer who in turned reported the cabbie’s story to his superior at the East 22nd Street Station.
Police soon entered the Regina hotel where they questioned the manager. The manager told the police that the guy they were looking for had signed in under the name Roger Turner. The guy was shaking so much, said the manager, that he had to hold his hand to steady the pen on the registration card. The officers went upstairs. Wood was found on the bed, stripped to his shorts, the blood-stained suit rumpled on the floor. Wood’s clothes were so bloodied, police borrowed a pair of pants from the hotel manager to take Wood in for questioning.
At the same time as Wood was being taken into custody, another team of police had arrived at the Irving Hotel where they used a pass key to enter Room 91. Inside, they discovered empty whisky bottles and the woman’s battered body clad in a blood-splattered negligee.
Wood pled guilty to first degree manslaughter and served three years in prison. A year after his release, he was murdered by some former prison acquaintances over unpaid loans.
Pretty amazing, eh?
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Jim Shooter and Dave Cockrum once shared an apartment.
As seen from this earlier installment of Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed, Dave Cockrum was not exactly a big fan of Jim Shooter’s by the time Cockrum left his staff assignment at Marvel Comics.
Therefore, it is amazing to know that only a few years earlier, the two men shared an apartment!!
The interesting fact was discussed in a 2002 interview for TwoMorrow’s Legion Companion (Page 73)…
Q. True or False: you and Jim Shooter used to be roommates.
Dave Cockrum: Yes. True.
Q: I find that hard to believe.
Dave Cockrum: (laughs) So do I. My first wife and I broke up, and I had this nice three-bedroom apartment in Queens. Shooter was looking for an apartment, and I said, “Well, I’ve got one.” And he wound up moving in. We lived together for a year, and actually got along pretty good together, most of the time.
Some odd couple THAT was!
Thanks, again, to H from the awesome comic blog Comic Treadmill, for sending me this bit!
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Jack Kirby wrote comics under the pseudonym of Martin Burtsein during the 40s.
In the early days of comics (and even later), the big money was in freelance work. However, freelance work was also very risky, so artists were reasonably worried about losing their salaried staff positions. So when they did freelance work, they often used pseudonyms. This is where the very name Jack Kirby originated.
The sheer amount of pseudonyms ended up with artists and writers who did not do a lot of work to be considered to be pseudonyms.
One such creator was Martin Burnstein, who folks thought was a Jack Kirby pseudonym for years (In his History of Comics, Jim Steranko even credited Burnstein as a Kirby pseudonym!).
Burnstein was, in fact, a friend of Joe Simon’s from growing up, who made contact with Simon in the early 40s and did some work for Timely (including a story in the comic below).
Burnstein went on to work in public relations and politics, working alongside the Republican Party as they attempted to woo the Jewish vote in the 60s. In fact, years later, Burnstein would return the favor from Simon giving him some work by hiring Simon to work on a number of comics for the Republican party!
(Info courtesy of the aforementioned awesome Joe Simon book, The Comic Book Makers).
Well, that’s it for this week, thanks for stopping by!
Feel free to drop off any urban legends you’d like to see featured!!