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Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #81

by  in Comic News Comment
Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #81

This is the eighty-first 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 eighty. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.

Let’s begin!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Batman had a brother!

STATUS: True

Reader Carlos Tron asked me the other day about something he heard about Bruce Wayne having an older brother who was in an asylum.

As odd as that sounds, that is exactly what happened in 1974’s World’s Finest #223!!


Written by Bob Haney, the issue featured the first appearance of Thomas Wayne, Jr.!!!

And thanks to reader John McDonagh, who remembered Thomas’ OTHER appearance, in World’s Finest #227.

Here is the biography of Thomas, handled much more succinct than I could write it, via DCU Guide:

The second son of Thomas and Martha Wayne, and the younger brother of Batman. As an infant, Thomas Jr. had suffered head injuries in a car accident, and had been confined to Willowood Asylum for life. Upon his escape, he was manipulated into becoming the assassin known as the “Boomerang Killer” until Batman learned of his existence and exposed the mastermind behind the killings. Later, Deadman took possession of Thomas’ body to resume his career as an acrobat. Batman tracked down the ghost and demanded that he relinquish his hold on the demented man. When Deadman temporarily left the body, Thomas, Jr. saved his brother’s life by taking a bullet for him. He died a hero.

Trippy, huh?

It is likely that Thomas no longer exists in the current DC continuity, but who knows? Superboy punches are tricky.

Grant Morrison, always one to enjoy the wackiness of older Batman stories, made the Owlman in his JLA: Earth 2 be Thomas Wayne, Jr.


COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Blue Beetle gained weight as an homage to Nite-Owl from Watchmen.

STATUS: False

As most folks know, the heroes in Watchmen were mostly based upon the characters DC had recently purchased from Charlton, like Captain Atom, The Question, Nightshade and the Blue Beetle.

The character of Nite-Owl was based upon Blue Beetle.


Dan Dreiberg was a fairly flabby fellow who was a lot more confident when he was dressed up as Nite-Owl (the second Nite-Owl).


Therefore, when the inspiration for Dan, Ted Kord (the second man to be known as Blue Beetle), began to deal with a weight problem of his own during the Keith Giffen/J.M. DeMatteis Justice League, fans thought that it was a sort of homage to an homage.


In fact, Ted Kord’s wikipedia page specifically states:

* Ted gained weight during his time in the Justice League. This was a homage to the Watchmen’s Nite-Owl who was based on Blue Beetle.

That sounded wrong to me, but it also sounded quite interesting IF true, so I checked with J.M. DeMatteis, and he was kind enough to debunk it for me:

The Beetle story came about because I started a little character riff in the scripting, with Beetle complaining about eating too many Twinkies, how hard it was to chase the bad guys because he’d put on a few pounds, etc. It’s something I built up over a period of time: just more of the usual idiocy I’d throw into the scripts. I was always layering in character bits and new story elements over Keith’s brilliant and hilarious plots.

When Keith saw the finished issues, he must’ve liked the idea of a tubby Ted, because one day a plot arrived and there was Beetle: massively fat, spilling out of his spandex. (Back in the Justice League days, I often had no idea what the story was going to be until the plot arrived. Keith and I rarely discussed the plotlines. He’d do his bit, I’d do mine, and, somehow, we’d have something coherent in the end. These days, with Hero Squared and Planetary Brigade, we actually discuss the stories: a revolutionary idea!)

And that’s the Shocking True Story of how Blue Beetle became a fatty. No Watchmen connection whatsoever!

Thanks to J.M. DeMatteis, a scholar and a gentleman!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Archie cancelled a series after two issues because of a threat of a DC Comics lawsuit.

STATUS: True

This was on my to-do list, but I wasn’t planning on running it any time soon, but Harry Mendryk moved my time table up a bit when he mentioned it in his excellent guest piece today, so I figured I ought to mention it now!

As mentioned in a previous Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed, the makers of the Shield comic told Timely that they would have to change the shape of Captain America’s shield, as it was too similar to the shield of, well, the Shield.

So it’s interesting to note that Archie (then known as MLJ) would end up on the OTHER side of a threatened lawsuit, about twenty years later!

In the late 50s, soon after DC began revamping their Golden Age superheroes, Archie Comics decided to try the same, and enlisted Joe Simon and Jack Kirby for the task.

One of the titles, The Double Life of Private Strong, was an updated version of the character, The Shield.


Private Strong was a boy whose father’s experiments resulted in Strong gaining super powers, which he used secretly as The Shield!!!

The only problem was, DC felt that the character was too similar to Superman. This was soon after Fawcett gave up their characters after a long lawsuit with DC over Captain Marvel’s similarity to Superman, and Archie likely did not feel that a lawsuit would be worth it, so they dropped the character after only two issues.

Talk about throwing one’s weight around – getting a series canceled just on the threat of a lawsuit!

Okay, that’s it for this week!

Feel free to drop off any urban legends you’d like to see featured!