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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #38!

This is the thirty-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 thirty-seven.

Let’s begin!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Electronic ankle bracelet monitors were created based on a Spider-Man comic strip.

STATUS: True

We are all familiar with electronic ankle bracelets for criminals, especially during the coverage of Marth Stewart’s home arrest.

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Electronic ankle bracelets essentially monitor the movements of criminals and/or people arrested and waiting for trial.

However, the idea behind the devices originated in an unlikely spot – a Spider-Man comic strip!

A New Mexico district court judge, Jack Love, read a late 70s Spider-Man comic strip in the newspaper, where the villain Kingpin was tracking Spider-Man via an electronic tracking bracelet on Spider-Man’s wrist. Love theorized that such a device would work in real life, as well.

He struck an arrangement with a computer salesman to develop the devices, which were introduced in New Mexico in 1983. They proved to work well, and a similar device was then developed in Florida a year or two later.

Both tests were successful, and the product then went national, leading to the current arrangement today.

Thanks to Jody Klein-Saffran’s piece here for the information (warning! It is a link to a pdf file).

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Frank Miller coined the term “The Dark Knight”

STATUS: False

This statement is not as odd as one might think. It is clear that Miller popularized the phrase “Dark Knight.”

Ocassionally, Batman would be referred to as a Darknight Detective, but until Miller’s landmark 1986 series, Dark Knight Returns, the term Dark Knight was not popular.

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After Dark Knight, well, you all know how big the term has become.

A monthly ongoing title (Legends of the Dark Knight), a number of mini-series and plenty of captions over the 20 years since Dark Knight Returns.

The question remains, though, did Miller INVENT the term?

And to that, the answer is no.

According to a question raised in Bob Rozakis’ “Answer Man” column, Shawn Kehoe replied,

In DETECTIVE COMICS #40 (page 159 of BATMAN ARCHIVES Volume 1), a caption in panel four reads, “A moment later – Batman, the Dark Knight, and Robin, the Boy Wonder…”

Thereby, the term “Dark Knight” predated Frank Miller by a good forty years.

Still, he gets to take credit for it being a POPULAR term…hehe.

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Green Lantern lost the cover of his own comic book to his dog.

STATUS: True

In the late 1940s, comic book superheroes became less popular, sales-wise.

As I have mentioned in previous urban legends, this led to companies changing titles from superhero to crime stories (and later to westerns or science fiction).

One hero struck by the changing times was Alan Scott, the Green Lantern.

Written by Robert Kanigher, sales were already beginning to slump a bit earlier than most other titles, so, always looking to see what might be popular, and perhaps inspired by the success of the recent 1947 film, The Return of Rin Tin Tin (starring a young Robert Blake), in Green Lantern #30, Kanigher introduced Green Lantern’s DOG, Streak the Wonder Dog (drawn by Alex Toth)!

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Streak proved to be popular.

So popular, in fact, that he would take the cover from Green Lantern only FOUR issues later!

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Even with the success of Streak, the title wasn’t selling, so the comic was cancelled with issue #38 (Streak having two of the last three covers, including the very last one).

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DC did not blame Streak, though, as while Green Lantern’s run came to an end, Streak continued to appear in Sensation Comics without a break.

A couple of years later, Robert Kanigher and Alex Toth re-developed Streak, and launched him into his OWN title as REX The Wonder Dog!

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The title ran from 1952 until the end of the decade. Green Lantern, meanwhile, made his last comic appearance in 1951. So, by the time the Wonder Dog’s comic ended, there had already been a NEW Green Lantern around for THREE years!

Not a bad run, eh?

And whenever Aquaman feels bad about his cover history, he can always lord THAT over Green Lantern.

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!!

One Comment

I’ve been enjoying reading through the entries on this site. It may be five years too late, but I have an interesting footnote to add to the “Dark Knight” legend.

In Batman #1, dated Spring 1940, in the first story, which is the very first appearance of the Joker, the Joker pushes Batman off a bridge. In the next panel: “The shock of cold water quickly revives the Dark Knight!”

That’s reprinted on page 18 of The Dark Knight Archives Volume 1.

Detective Comics #40 was cover dated June 1940, so I don’t know which story came first.

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