This is the eighty-fifth 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-four. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Superman battled the real life Ku Klux Klan on his radio show.
The Superman radio show was a great success during the 1940s.
The show lasted into the 1950s, with actor Bud Collyer portraying Superman (and Clark Kent) for all but the very last season.
The storyline we’re interested in today, though, took place in the late 1940s, where the Superman radio show took Superman’s fight for truth, justice and the American way to, of all people, the Ku Klux Klan.
Author and activist Stetson Kennedy is well known for his work undercover in the Ku Klux Klan during the 1940s.
Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner wrote about his work in their recent best-seller, Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (which I actually saw a fellow reading on the subway earlier tonight, talk about funny coincidences!). It appears now that Kennedy exaggerated a few of his exploits working undercover with the KKK, specifically taking credit for some things other people did, but what is not disputed is that at one point, Kennedy sent along to the Superman radio show some codewords he learned while with the Klan in Georgia, where the Klan was headed by former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, Dr. Samuel Green.
This info was featured in a sixteen-part series on the Superman radio show called “The Clan of the Fiery Cross,” which featured the codewords of the Klan in the story as Superman confronts the Klan.
This storyline reportedly greatly outraged the Klan in Georgia, even supposedly moving them to attempt a boycott of the show’s sponsors, which did not work, as the show remained on the air (that is, if the threatened boycott ever actually happened at all).
The Adventures in Radio Podcast contains some excerpts of the series. Check them out here.
Pretty cool, huh?
Readers Michael E. and Mark Seddon suggested that I feature this urban legend. Thanks for the idea, guys!
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: John Romita Sr. helped design the Transformers for the American cartoon show and comic book.
Reader Duck asked, “I one time read that John Romita Sr had a hand in designing Transformers into their cartoon forms for the show & the Marvel comic. Does anyone know if it’s true?”
As pointed out in an earlier installment of Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed, Marvel was heavily involved in the repackaging of Japanese toys that became known as “Transformers” in America.
However, Marvel’s involvement was solely on the writing side of the project. Marvel did no art design for the Transformers toys or the cartoon tie-in, they just provided the back-story and came up with new names (Denny O’Neil came up with Optimus Prime, and Bob Budiansky came up with Megatron, among many others).
And yet, John Romita, Sr. is often credited for the cartoon visuals.
One theory as to why that presents itself is that, in the Marvel Guide to the Transformers Universe, John Romita is listed as “Art Director.”
Couple that with the fact that Romita has a storied history for designing characters at Marvel, and then couple THAT with the fact that, for years, no one knew who exactly did the design work for the Transformers cartoon, and it is really no surprise that Romita, a prominent name, became the default presumption for who designed the Transformers cartoon.
Of course, though, the “Art Director” credit was just to point out that Romita was Art Director of Marvel Comics, not the Transformers. Romita had no connection to the Transformers.
Eventually, it was discovered that the the designs for the cartoon were done by artist Floro Dery. You can check out his website here.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Roy Thomas used a pseudonym to retcon a 90s Conan storyline before it even finished!!
In the early 90s, perhaps in an attempt to have their own “Year One” style story, Conan the Barbarian began a long (NINE parts!) storyline detailing the life of the Young Conan the Barbarian.
It began with issue #232. It was written by Michael Higgins. The editor on the project was Don Daley.
The story repeatedly messed with established Conan continuity. The story was built around a framing sequence that had Conan addressing his son Conn with tales of his youth.
Well, by the last part of the story, the title had changed editors. Mike Rockwitz was now the editor, and for the last issue, Higgins was no longer the writer. Instead it was a writer named Justin Arthur.
In the last issue, Arthur ended the issue by having Conan, after finishing his tale to his son, admitting to his wife Zenobia that he just made most of the story up.
In case the name sounds a bit familiar, Justin Arthur was the alias for the Golden Age DC hero, The Shining Knight.
As it turned out (and was confirmed in a later issue of Conan Saga), “Justin Arthur” was, in fact, noted Conan comic writer Roy Thomas, who presumably had his concerns with the drastic changes to Conan’s backstory, and the change in editors presumably gave him a perfect opportunity to resolve the inconsistencies.
But isn’t that amazing? A story retconned BEFORE IT ENDED!!
Let’s see Superboy’s punch beat THAT!
Reader John McDonagh suggested this one, and supplied most of the info. Thanks, John!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free to drop off any urban legends you’d like to see featured!