Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #155

This is the one-hundred and fifty-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 one-hundred and fifty-four. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.

Let's begin!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Google's name is not derived at all from the comic strip Barney Google.

STATUS: Likely False, in an Extremely Roundabout Way

Barney Google was a comic strip begun by Billy DeBeck in 1919, under the overly wordy original title Takes Barney Google, F'rinstance. It was soon changed to Barney Google, and in 1922, Barney, who was a short hard on his luck fellow, was gifted an inept race horse named Spark Plug.

With the addition of Spark Plug, the strip became a huge smash, leading even to a popular song of the period by Billy Rose, called Barney Google.

Here is a sampling of the lyrics of the 1923 smash hit:

Barney Google, with the goo-goo-goo-ga-ly eyes.Barney Google bet his horse would win the prize.When the horses ran that day, Spark Plug ran the other way.Barney Google, with the goo-goo-goo-ga-ly eyes.

Barney Google, with the goo-goo-goo-ga-ly eyes.Barney Google had a wife three times his sizeShe sued Barney for divorceNow he's living with his horse.Barney Google, with the goo-goo-goo-ga-ly eyes.

In 1924, the strip went to even greater heights when Barney and Spark Plug found themselves in the mountains of North Carolina, where they met up with the equally tiny hillbilly, Snuffy Smith. Americans sure loved them their hillbillies (see L'il Abner for proof of that), so Snuffy was a great addition to the strip, and soon it was retitled Barney Google and Snuffy Smith.

In fact, during the 1950s, Barney and Snuffy parted company, but Snuffy got to keep the strip!!! It continues to this day as Barney Google and Snuffy Smith, but Barney only occasionally shows up to visit.

Anyhow, on to the Google fellows. Did Larry Page and Sergey Brin, co-founders of Google, get the name of their company from Barney Google?

Yes and no - it is tricky.

First off, they specifically took the name of the company from the word googol, which is a very large number (1 with one hundred zeros after it), after first thinking of the word googolplex, which is 1 followed by a googol of zeros, as a symbol of the immense amount of data their search engine would search through. Through an accidental misspelling, it became "google" and that name stuck.

And that would be it, the answer would be no, the name Google did not come from Barney Google.

However, where did the word googol come from?

And that's where it gets tricky.

The word was developed in the late 1930s by mathematician Edward Kasner, based off the suggestion of his young nephew, Milton Sirotta. Kasner popularized the term with his book, Mathematics and the Imagination (1940).

Kasner asked Sirotta to come up with a word that could describe a massive figure, and Sirotta came up with "googol."

Now the question is - how likely is it that Sirotta came up with the world "googol" on his own, and was not influenced by the massively successful comic strip of the same name, which was EVERYwhere (comics, cartoons, toys, you name it)?

I say the odds are extremely unlikely, to the point where I think it's safe enough to say that he DID get the term from the comic strip, suggested it to his uncle, who made it into the number which, half a century later, inspired the name of the company Google.

So while not intending to do so, the founders of Google did choose a name that was derived from Barney Google, the one with the goo-goo-goo-ga-ly eyes.

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Savage Dragon appeared in an issue of Marvel Comics Presents before he appeared in Savage Dragon #1

STATUS: Kinda True

Erik Larsen is an extremely creative guy.

Massively creative.

He has been creating new characters since he was a little kid, and even created a whole superhero "line" of comics built around these characters (sadly, I believe most of these comics were lost in a fire in the early 90s).

He introduced his star character, The Dragon, in the pages of Megaton in 1983.

When Larsen began working for Marvel in the late 1980s, he could not help but let some of his established characters sort of seep into his Marvel Comics work.

Rapture was reworked as Powerhouse...

Superpatriot was reworked as Cyborg-X, who, in turn, was part of a rejected pitch Larsen had made with Fabian Nicieza for the title X-Factor before Marvel went with Peter David.

Cyborg X was written as though he was Crimson Commando, the former member of Freedom Force who had been critically injured in a recent storyline in the X-Men annuals - Larsen had Cyborg X use actual dialogue from that storyline, showing the post-traumatic stress he felt about those events (later on, Crimson Commando would show up in X-Factor explicitly a cyborg).

And yes, in the pages of Marvel Comics Presents #48-50, which I believe was the first time Larsen wrote a comic for either Marvel or DC, Larsen featured as a guest villain, The Savage Fin, who was a reworked Dragon...

That same story had some amusing take-offs on the Marvel Family and Spider-Man's origins, including this amusing Ditko homage...

So yep, Savage Dragon (and other Larsen creations) made a Marvel Comics sidetrack on their way to finally appearing in Larsen's own comic, Savage Dragon.

Reader Fig Logan asked me about this one, but I know some other people that I have forgotten have also asked me about this over the years.

Thanks to the Appendix to the Handbook to the Marvel Universe for the scans!! That site is amazing! You all should check it out!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Erik Larsen wanted to reveal Elektra to be a Skrull years ago


Since I'm on the subject of Erik Larsen's Marvel days, it reminds me of a topic that I think deserves some clarity, because there seems to be a bit of confusion over what Erik Larsen is stating re: Elektra as a Skrull.

Back when Larsen was having a bit of a renaissance at Marvel in the late 1990s (drawing some Spider-Man issues and writing Wolverine), he was given a title he had wanted to do for years - Nova the Human Rocket.

In his Comic Book Resources column a few weeks back, Larsen explained that in Nova #3, he wanted to have it revealed that the Elektra Marvel was using at the time was a Skrull, as a sort of show of creator good faith to Frank Miller, who Marvel had promised that they would not bring Elektra back. Larsen figured that if the Elektra who they had been using since her return was a Skrull, then Marvel's promise would still have sort of been kept.

His editors caught his sly attempt to sneak it into the issue, and told him to remove it.

Instead, he had the Skrull be a familiar face to Larsen fans...

Now what is causing some confusion some places is the assertion that Larsen is claiming that the idea of Secret Invasion was his - that is not the case.

Larsen is not even necessarily saying that Brian Michael Bendis (or whoever) took the "Elektra is a Skrull" plot directly from his unused plot.

All he is saying is that he wanted to have it revealed that Elektra was a Skrull in 1999, but Marvel would not let him, and now they're doing that same plot eight years later. He is not taking credit for the story, just the fact that he tried to do the "Elektra was a Skrull" plot eight years before Marvel ended up doing it (and eight years after they rejected his idea). He may think that Marvel remembered his Elektra idea and used it as part of Secret Invasion (whether that's true or not), but he is not claiming that Secret Invasion was his idea, which I have seen suggested at a a few different places.

Okay, that's it for this week!

Thanks to the Grand Comic Book Database for this week's covers!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is cronb01@aol.com.

See you next week!

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