Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #39!
This is the thirty-ninth 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-eight.Let’s begin!
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: An artist who wrote and drew a comic book adventure of fighter pilots became an actual flying ace himself during World War II.
Like many of the creators of the Golden Age, Bert Christman’s name has become almost unknown, which is a shame, for not only his creative contributions to comics, but also for the work he did in real life.
Christman is probably best known today as being the co-creator, with Gardner Fox, of the original Sandman in 1939.
His other claim to fame were the stories he did backing up Superman in Action Comics starring “The Three Aces,” Whistler Will” Saunders, “Gunner” Bill and the British “Fog” Fortune.
The three men were initially soldiers of fortune, and Christman actually drew the serial WHILE flying for the Navy! He would presumably send them in while on leave.
With the advent of World War II, the Three Aces went to China to fight against Japan, and so did Christman as well. In 1941, Christman ceased his work on the Three Aces strip, as he was now in China, fighting on behalf of the “American Volunteer Group” of pilots made famous in the films of the time.
Christman was shot down in early 1942, and was wounded in his escape from the plane. However, he recovered and was back in the cockpit by the end of the month.
Tragically, on January 23rd, 1942, Christman was part of a squadron sent to cut off an attack on Rangoon in Burma. Christman was shot down and killed in the battle.
Let us do our best to keep Christman in our minds.
Thanks to Andrew Glaess for the info.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: A change in postal laws led to the elimination of letters pages in DC comic books.
In the early days of comic books, one of the more intriguing aspects of comics was the presence of text pages in the midst of comics. People used to have a number of theories as to why they were there, some figured that perhaps the publishers wanted to add a bit of culture to their readers.
The truth of the matter is, to qualify for the second class bulk mailing rate (the same rate given to newspapers and magazines), periodicals were forced to include at least two pages of text.
Therefore, an amusing side effect occured. Desperate for text strips, the publishers would often print whatever was given them, which has led to some DREADFUL fiction over the years (this was Stan Lee’s first work in comics, churning out text pages for Timely when still in his teens).
However, as time went on, and fans became more involved in comics, publishers realized that letters pages could just as easily serve this purpose, so that is why comic books all went to include letters pages – so to achieve their mailing rate.
In 1996, the United States changed their postal laws, eliminating the “Second Class” mailing rate. Now there is just a single “Periodical” rate. A company can qualify for this rate by being just comic books.
DC Comics does not have letters pages anymore.
However, by 1996 (thanks to Steven Rowe), DC had already switched over to a different mailing rate, thereby negating any impact the change would have upon their decision.
In addition, DC did not eliminate their letters pages for another four years, and their stated reasons (The internet has become the easiest way to interact with fans and they figure they could save some money on having no letters pages) are quite reasonable (especially as DC fired two design workers at the same time they eliminated letters pages).
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: The Comics Code Authority once banned not the content of a comic, but the art style of the artist.
Like many of his peers, in the 1980s, artist Kevin O’Neill tried to make his way in the higher-paying world of American comic books, where his fellow countryman, Alan Moore, was making a nice go of it.
O’Neill’s first work appeared in 1986’s Tales of the Green Lantern Corps Annual #2, in a tale written by Moore.
However, the issue was not without its problems.
Says O’Neill (in a SubMedia interview with Tom Coates in July 1999),
“I was working on an Alan Moore story,” he says, suddenly serious. “The CCA objected – not to the actual story but to the style that it was drawn in. I had aliens being crucified and stuff like that. My editor asked if we could run it with a code sticker if we toned down the crucifixion. They said there was NOTHING they could do to the artwork that would help. I loved that! I loved the idea that these old grannies were sitting in an office in New York poring over every comic page. It was 1950s.
Eventually, DC decided that, as it was an Annual, to just print the issue without Comic Code approval.
Please note that, since then, O’Neill has never even attempted to draw a Code-approved comic.
Makes sense, eh?
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!!