Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #58

This is the fifty-eighth 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-seven.

This is a special edition, as, for the first time since this thing started, it is coming out on a TUESDAY instead of a THURSDAY! And why is that? Because this is a special Fourth of July edition, and that wouldn't make sense on July 6th, now would it?

The theme?


Let's begin!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Jonathan Frakes used to dress up as Captain America for conventions.


Commander Will Riker turned down many an offer of being Captain to continue serving under Captain Jean-Luc Picard, but Riker actor Jonathan Frakes had already made Captain years earlier!

In the late 1970s, when the young Frakes had moved to New York to become an actor, jobs weren't plentiful, so one of his jobs was to work as Captain America for Marvel Comics at comic conventions!

My pal RAB told me about it awhile back,

Back in the Seventies, Jonathan Frakes was employed by Marvel to make appearances at conventions in costume as Captain America. I saw him at one of those conventions, and was impressed by how well he stayed in character, especially when fans were trying to trip him up with trivia questions. He did the job with aplomb under trying circumstances, and I remember thinking at the time that Marvel ought to cast him in a movie or TV version of Captain America. Of course, that was well before anyone could possibly have known he was destined to be anything more than one of the many thousands of struggling actors looking for work in New York City. But in light of his past experience, it's not surprising that he turns out to be a good guest at conventions today.

Pretty crazy, eh?

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: The shape of Captain America's shield was the result of another comic book company.


As World War II raged on in Europe, the idea of a patriotic superhero seemed like a good idea. In 1940, the first major patriotic superhero debuted in the pages of MLJ's Pep Comics.

The Shield, written by Harry Shorten with art from the great Irv Novick, became quite the sensation, and the next year, Joe Simon came up with the idea of a patriotic superhero to offer to Martin Goodman, head of Timely Comics, where Simon was working.

Developing the character with artist Jack Kirby, Captain America was a clear winner. Note that Goodman didn't even bother debuting him in an anthology! Nope, Cap started in his OWN comic book, and the first issue drew a lot of attention.

However, SOME of that attention came at the hands of MLJ, who noted that Captain America's shield bore far too great of a resemblance to the chestplate of, well, The Shield.

John Goldwater, head of MLJ (John Goldwater was the J part), objected to the similarity, so the next issue, the now quite familiar round shield made its debut, and it's been around (basically) ever since!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Martin Goodman was paid money for a Captain America movie that he never shared with Joe Simon or Jack Kirby.


In 1944, Republic Pictures did a Captain America movie serial.

Starring Dick Purcell, the story was drastically different from the comic book, but the name and the costume were definitely all Cap!

However, Simon and Kirby had a deal with Martin Goodman to receive royalties for money made off of Captain America. It was because of their disapproval over their paltry royalty payments (which, after they left, turned to zero royalty payments) that Simon and Kirby left Timely Comics and their massive comic hit, Captain America, to sign a lucrative (at that time) deal with DC Comics.

Interestingly enough, though, decades later, Joe Simon discovered something surprising about the Captain America movie deal.

Here's Simon (from his great The Comic Book Makers),

For years after that incident, I was obsessed with the thought of the money that should have been ours. Years later, in 1968, while attempting to secure the copyright renewal on Captain America, my attorney subpoenaed the records of Marvel COmics. The film company, it was revealed, had paid nothing for the rights. The publisher, Martin Goodman, had given them the rights, gratis, expecting to reap his rewards from publicity.

Now, theoretically, you could still make the argument that the PR benefit could be quantified financially, allowing Simon to still go after that money, but isn't it amazing that Goodman just GAVE the rights away for free?

Movie poster courtesy of Todd Gault's Serial Experience. Still from the movie courtesy of Once Upon a Dime.

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!!

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