Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the six hundred and eighth week where we examine comic book legends and whether they are true or false.
Just like the last few weeks, one legend today, one tomorrow and one Sunday.
Stan Lee’s job classification in the United States Army during World War II was “playwright.”
I’m Going With True
Recently, I did a list to celebrate Stan Lee’s 94th birthday about some amazing facts that a lot of people don’t know about Stan “The Man” Lee. If you’re a longtime Comic Book Legends Revealed fan, you’ll recognize a lot of them from old legends. In any event, reader Bill F. wrote in about the list and he wanted to know about a “fact” that he always keeps seeing about Lee that he wanted to know if it was real or just something that Lee made up over the years. Namely, was Lee’s United States Army job classification seriously “playwright”?
This is a bit difficult to prove, since I have never seen and am likely to never see Stan Lee’s honorable discharge papers. Heck, even Lee noted that he did not know that he WAS classified as a “playwright” until he received his papers. So it wasn’t like a situation where he was told that he was a playwright while in the Army.
Lee worked for the Signal Corps during World War II.
He did, in fact, get transferred to the Army Training Division in Astoria, Queens.
It’s clear that he did work on making signs for the Army during this time, especially dispensing information about venereal disease (Lee claims that he coined the phrase, “VD? Not Me!” which is certainly possible).
The Army during World War II did have a job classification called “playwright.” Here it is…
Lee mentioned a few other people who worked in the same field, and sure enough, all of them, novelist William Saroyan and TV writers Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts (who met WHILE working at the Training Division) tell the same story of their jobs during World War II. None of them have ever said specifically the word “playwright,” but again, as Lee notes, he didn’t know he was classified as such until he was discharged. So it likely just wasn’t as big of a deal as it sounds like to us, looking back on it seventy years later.
So all told, I’m willing to go with Lee on this one, Bill, so I think it’s fair to give this a true. Thanks for the suggestion! And happy belated birthday, Stan!
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Check back tomorrow for part 2 of this week’s legends!
And remember, if you have a legend that you’re curious about, drop me a line at either email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org!