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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #19!

This is the nineteenth 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 eighteen.

Let’s begin!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Dave Cockrum once sold the same character to both DC and Marvel…at the same time!!!


It can be quite useful to be able to work for two companies at once, but beware, because there are always pitfalls involved, including this one that befell Dave Cockrum (Thanks to Paul Newell for sending me this tale):

I had tried selling Manphibian at both companies and I sold it to Marvel, finally. Marv Wolfman and I were working on a Manphibian strip, so I was really kind of horrified to get my next Legion plot and discover that Manphibian was in that, too. I scrambled over to DC and got Cary [Bates] and told him, “Listen, you can’t use that! I just sold it to Marvel!” So we changed the name and I changed the visual and Devilfish made out better. I mean, he got a sequel, which Manphibian never did.

Here is Manphibian’s debut, in the first issue of Legion of Monsters in 1975.

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Meanwhile, here is Devilfish’s debut in Superboy #202, which came out a little bit earlier, in 1974.

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It is like the plot to a sitcom!!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston invented the polygraph test!


It has long been a funny sort of dramatic irony that William Moulton Marston, creator of Wonder Woman and her golden lariat, which forces people to tell the truth, was also the inventor of the polygraph test, which (purportedly) detects whether people are lying.

However, this is not the case.

Marston WAS, however, an early innovator in the field of lie detection, and his contributions to the polygraph test should not be overlooked, for Martson DID, in fact, invent the first lie detector of any sorts, in 1917. In 1921, Martson published his doctoral thesis for Harvard University. The title was “Systolic blood pressure symptoms of deception and constituent mental states.” That was Marston’s innovation – the idea that, by testing a subject’s systolic blood pressure, one would be able to determine whether the subject was lying.

The polygraph test, however, uses three OTHER methods, not just blood pressure. It is only when using the four methods combined that the results of the polygraph test are achieved. The other three tests are for heart rate, respiration and skin conductivity.

Still, one out of four is very impressive!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: John Byrne wrote TWO separate first issues of Blood of the Demon!


Yes, the first issue of the Blood of the Demon has a very interesting pedigree.

On his forum, John Byrne described the situation like this (for the original quote, click here and scroll down about halfway):

I have been pitching a Demon series every couple of years or so since I first went to work for DC “full time” in the days of MAN OF STEEL. With a “new regime” in the form of Dan DiDio, I decided it was time to try again, but this time, knowing Dan comes from a Hollywood background, I decided to take a slightly different approach. To this end, I sat down and “shot the pilot”, drawing, completely on spec, the whole 22 pages of my “first issue”. This I turned in to Dan, along with a script. He liked it — but there was a problem. DC has a new policy (DC seems to be in love with new policies, just at the nonce) which requires that all work done with existing characters be vouchered before the work is done. (Smart, I suppose — prevents people popping up later and trying to say work-made-for-hire was not, in fact, work-made-for-hire.) This meant they could not use the “pilot” — but they did want a Demon series from me.

So, with echoes of STAR TREK in my brain, I wrote up vouchers for the first six issues, and sat down to salvage as many pages from the original job as I could. (Imagine if “The Menagerie” had been ST:TOS’s second pilot.) This turned out to be quite a few, luckily for me. Altho some got left out, and some got chopped up (literally) to make new pages, I ended up with a new story that was just as satisfying, to me, as the first one had been.

I have been enjoying Blood of the Demon. I hope it sticks around.

Well, that’s it for me this week!

Feel free to tell me some urban legends you have heard, and I will try to confirm or deny them (always better to have someone give me a good one, like Paul did this week, than to scrounge up my own…hehe)!


RE, Wm. M. Marston and the polygraph:

I had the following placed on the old site’s message board for this Urban Legends edition, and have finally decided to repost it here (greatly revised to amplify and clarify the point), though I have no idea if anybody, other than Brian, checks in on these old ones (*I* haven’t been here since well before the move). I feel that this idea just needs to be covered.

There is only one difference between saying that Marston did not (co–)invent (he had a partner) the polygraph and Alexander Graham Bell did not invent the telephone, and that is the fact that the current technical name for the lie detector comes from developments/improvements made subsequently by other people while the other is still called the same thing. Today’s telephones actually bear less of a resemblance to Bell’s invention than today’s polygraphs do to Marston’s. If cell phones eventually become the only kind of telephone in existence, the situation would be completely analogous. Just as Bell invented the telephone but not the cell phone, Marston did (co–)invent the lie detector but not the polygraph. Therefore, this is NOT a false urban legend.

How exactly is

Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston invented the polygraph test!

NOT a false statement?

“How exactly is ‘…Marston did not invent the polygraph…’ NOT a false statement?”

Apparently, you read nothing of my first posting–which makes the point irrefutably clear, IMHO–but the bottom line. If you did read more, explain what there is about it that you feel doesn’t work or that you didn’t follow, but don’t just ignore it.

I just noticed that I inadvertently reversed the meaning in the quote. My apologies. Is THAT why you haven’t responded?

“The polygraph test, however, uses three OTHER methods, not just blood pressure. It is only when using the four methods combined that the results of the polygraph test are achieved. The other three tests are for heart rate, respiration and skin conductivity.

Still, one out of four is very impressive!”

Seems really, VERY clear to me. A polygraph test HAS to test for all four changes in biological feedback in order to be a polygraph test.

Marston invented a lie detector. That lie detector was not a polygraph test.

I’ll try again: Marston invented the lie detector, which was further developed/improved/perfected by other hands, and in the process a different name was given to the current version. What is in use today is no more or less recognizable as the original invention than is the case with Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone. If, as I expect, the day arrives when the only telephones in existence are cell phones, then they will even have the name change in common with Marston’s invention and that semantic technicality of a distinction will cease to exist. Marston invented the basis of the polygraph just as Bell invented the basis of the cell phone. But at this point, other telephones DO exist and nobody is trying to call a cell phone a distinctly separate invention and say flatly that Bell did NOT invent it at all, but just a particular type of telephone. So it is not really a false urban legend, just a semantic technicality.

Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone.

Martin Cooper invented the cellular telephone.

Two different things.

Just like the polygraph test and Marston’s lie detector.

and yet if you held up a cell phone and said “who invented this,” most people would respond with “Alexander Graham Bell.” Because the person who invented phones is important, and the person who came up with an improvement for them isn’t.

This, like the Black Canary/Longbow Hunters legend, is more a matter of semantics leading to true or false. The usual legend is that WMM invented the lie detector, which he did. That detector is now used as part of a larger test, which he did not invent…

That the general public may ignore the inventor of the cellular phone does not mean that Bell invented the cellular phone, as he did not.

Just as Marston did not invent the polygraph test.

Giving credit to Marston for the polygraph would be akin to crediting the invention of the car to the fellow who invented the wheel.

It’s merely one aspect of the polygraph test, and yet, do a simple google search on Marston and the polygraph test, and you will find dozens of citations of Marston as “inventor of the polygraph test,” which is just as incorrect as denying Otto Binder the creation of Supergirl, because the idea “came from Superman.”

It’s no more semantics as calling anyone the inventor of anything.

Which is only because people don’t know what the polygraph test is. For my part, I never heard him connected to the polygraph test until this legend. What I heard was that he invented the lie detector. Maybe I’ve just been lucky to hear a more specific calbier of gossip?

Of course, since most people use the two terms interchangably, it’s easy to see where the “he invented the polygraph” crowd gets confused. Heck, I didn’t even know the modern lie detector was a combination of four tests (though, really, the “poly” should have given that away).

However, semantics come in not in the facts of the case, but the way you choose to phrase the legend in question. You chose “polygraph test” over “lie detector,” so it’s false. Or at least three-fourths false, which constitutes a majority. Doing this Snopes-style, the legend would have a yellow circle next to it, splitting the difference. Have you got a header for “False-ish?”

Oh, sure, no doubt – I’m cool with “You said ‘polygraph test’ so that it would be false.” Yeah, that’s clearly what I did here. I could just as well have done “Marston invented the lie detector” and had it be a true urban legend. I just chose to go the other route to have the false urban legend. And I don’t see that choice as all that interesting – especially not interesting enough to be still discussing it, what, a year after the fact?

I initially posted to this effect when I first found this site, or rather the previous one, which was well after the fact. All the postings there were lost in the transfer, of course. After thinking about it a while (as opposed to immediately reposting that Kurt Busiek was only slightly off the beam instead of real wrong about Marvel’s mid–70s launching of two titles as giant–sizers which were then reduced to standard format with their second issues under the “two titles in one lunch” item) I decided it should be said. That I took as long as I did to come to that conclusion should indicate that I wasn’t THAT certain about how much it needed to be restated, myself. So, yeah, I’d say we have reached an understanding here all the way around.

Alexander Graham Bell did NOT invented the telephone.

Priceless ending to this debate, especially with the bad grammar.

Interestingly, part of the polygraph (but not the part that Marston invented) consists of a rubber hose that goes around the subject’s lower chest (to measure diaphragm/lung movement) much like a lariat …

The interesting thing about the technology that Marston invented is that tis particular part of a polygraph set-up consists of a rubber hose which is buckled around the subject’s body. In other words, it is a real-world version of Wonder Woman’s lasso of truth …

Yikes! Someone want to lock this page down and maybe make sure everything is okay at Pearl Harbor?

Well, they do make some salient points.


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