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Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #49!

This is the forty-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 forty-eight. Only the THIRD Theme Week! This week’s Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed is “Golden Age Week!”

Let’s begin!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: In the comic books, Superman was declared 4-F because he accidentally read the eye chart in another room with his X-Ray vision.

STATUS: False

Awhile back, reader TV’s Grady asked,

I once read a piece in one edition of Irving Wallace’s “Book of Lists” that addressed the lingering issue of whythe Golden Age Superman didn’t just singlehandedly end WWII. According to Wallace and his collaborators, there was a comic story in which Clark Kent was called up by the draft board, but during the eye exam portion of his physical he “accidentally” (huh?) used his X-ray vision to read a different eye chart in the next room over, and was declared 4-F as a consequence. I have my doubts about that, too, considering that the Books of Lists have been known to slip up and present urban legend-y stuff as facts before.

The reference for this occurance has always been Superman #25, from late 1943.

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Here’s the interesting thing, though.

The scene NEVER APPEARED in the comic books!

Instead, all #25 gives us is a citation referencing that it happened in the PAST.

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I checked with Barry Freiman, from the great resource, The Superman Homepage (check it out here), as if anyone will know it, he will, and he replied,

According to my research, that happened in the February 15-19, 1942 installments of the “Superman” newspaper strip. Clark decides to enlist. The guy in front of him is turned down and Clark pities the guy. The doctor then turns Clark down because he erroneously reads the eye chart in the next room — he is engrossed in thought and not focused on what he’s doing which is how he pulls that boner.

Isn’t that amazing? The comic books were working on the same continuity plane as the comic strips!

However, the X-Ray scene NEVER appeared in the comics themselves, even though it occasionally gets referenced as occuring in Superman #25.

Luckily, for us, the nifty website Barnacle Press recently posted the comic strips in question!

Here, courtesy of scans by Thrillmer, are the three strips from February 16-18, 1942 (SO close, Barry!), showing how Clark Kent was declared 4-F!

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Here’s a close-up look at the x-ray vision problem…

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Thanks, Thrillmer!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: The Spectre had a comic relief sidekick.

STATUS: True

Spectre was introduced in More Fun Comics #52, written by Jerry Siegel and drawn by Bernard Bailey.

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The Spectre was about Jim Corrigan, a murdered cop who was sent back to Earth to gain vengeance upon criminals as the Spectre.

After a few years of wreaking vengeance, the strip was losing a bit of steam. By issue #68, fellow supernatural hero, Dr. Fate, had taken over the cover spot on More Fun, leaving Siegel to figure out a new angle for the title. In More Fun #74, the comic relief character Percival Popp was introduced. Popp was a dorky wannabe cop who kept trying to get involved in Corrigan’s cases.

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However, it was not until More Fun #90 that the WEIRDEST stage in the Spectre’s career occured (yes, weirder even than having a goatee). It was in the midst of World War II, and while Corrigan had been turned down for war duty, he finally was able to go due to some mystic finagling.

While Corrigan was at war, though, he was actually withOUT the Spectre!!!!!

Yes, as strange as it may sound, while Corrigan was at war, the Spectre him/itself stayed behind, and eventually became a sort of ghostly bodyguard for Percival, who continue to have misadventures.

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This was how the series continued until More Fun #101, where the Spectre series ended, and the Spectre was not seen again for over TWO decades!!

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Ostrander even managed to bring Popp back for a bit in his Spectre run.

Thanks to Bob Hughes’ amazing “Who’s whose in the DC Universe” site for the page from More Fun #78.

Thanks to the awesome Annotated Justice Society of America (whose website appears to be down at the moment) for the other pics of Popp and Spectre together.

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Wildcat was inspired to become a superhero by the comic book character Green Lantern.

STATUS: True

We are all familiar with how Barry Allen named himself the Flash based upon the Flash comics he read as a kid, starring Jay Garrick. But did you know that Barry was not the first hero to be inspired by the comic book exploits of a fellow DC hero?

In Sensation Comics #1, in 1942, a certain wonderful woman got her own series. However, in the same issue, ANOTHER long-running superhero also made his FIRST appearance – Ted Grant, the Wildcat!

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What’s interesting, though, is exactly HOW Ted got his start!

Created by writer Bill Finger and artist Irwin Hasen, Ted was a prizefighter framed for the murder of another fighter.

Looking for a way to clear his name, Grant was inspired by a local child, who was a fan of the comic book hero, Green Lantern. Grant figured that, just like how Green Lantern wore a disguise to fight crime, so would Ted! And so Wildcat was born!

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Just to make things things even FREAKIER, later in the SAME issue, Little Boy Blue is inspired to become a hero by reading the comic adventures of….WILDCAT (Finger wrote both Wildcat, Little Boy Blue AND Green Lantern at the time)!!!

Thanks to Bob Hughes’ amazing “Who’s whose in the DC Universe” site for the page from Sensation #1.

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!!

15 Comments

You know, I could *swear* that I read the an entire WWII era, Superman-reads-the-wrong-eye-chart story as one of the reprints in that awesome Superman: From The 30s To The 70s book that came out in, like, 1978. Maybe it was just a reprint of the comic strip? Does anyone have a copy of that to confirm/deny?

I have found memories of the Fleischer “Spectre” -there was lots of violence and death in the stories, despite having the “comics code” stamp. The Neal Adams “SpectrE” was alo excellent.

The link to the Annotated JSA site isn’t working.

Change about Annotated JSA link noted. Thanks, Brian.

The entire Superman/eye test sequence was reproduced in a trade paperback entitled “America At War”, published during the late 1970′s. The book was mostly a collection of DC’s war stories, but it had a couple of more superhero-oriented tales thrown in, including Clark Kent being declared 4-F.

An obscure book, but an interesting one.

I’m pretty sure that the “Superman dailies” collections of recent years have covered the sequence as well.

Thanks, Robert!

I don’t understand, you say that the rumor about Superman being rejected for the army is false, yet you go on to prove that it *did* happen after all ?
Shouldn’t it then say “True” in the status field ?

Nightraven:

The urban legend Brian claims is untrue contains the proviso, “in the comic books,” and he then points out that it actually happened in the newspaper comic strip. Yeah, big difference! He has done that a few too many times, most significantly in suggesting that there was a belief that Dr. Henry Pym appeared in comics “before the Fantastic Four.” While there is no question that Hank appeared in a one-shot weird story before becoming the costumed Ant-Man, I had never heard a suggestion that it predated FF #1. Frankly, a number of his refutations are based on similarly dubious (deliberately inserted?) technicalities. Conversely, there are equally dubious confirmations. For one, the presence of “Percival Popp, the Super Cop” in, and his effect on, the 1940s Spectre series is so notorious that it is difficult to believe that anyone who had heard also harbored any doubts of its truth. Nevertheless, I do in general enjoy this feature. No offense intended, Brian. While I’ve got YOUR attention, Brian, how about doing a piece about one of those Hank Pym-like situations where in reality Marvel had altered the old weird story when they reprinted it to retroactively tie it to a subsequently created character?

Ok, on the Superman eye chart thing, a 1993 collection of short stories called “The Further Adventures of Superman” contains a story by Mike Resnick called “Excerpts From The Diary of Dr. Morris Finkelstein” is another example of the eye chart story. It’s only five pages long, but basically has Clark look like an ass who can’t control or disguise his powers, and fails his fitness test. The story takes place in June 1942.

On Percival Popp, he is still a character in DC, or at least, was. He showed up in Ostrander’s Spectre run.

Nemesis wrote: “Percival Popp….showed up in Ostrander’s Spectre run.”

In name and comical tone only. JO’s version was a uniformed patrolman, a virtual dead ringer for one of Henry Boltinoff’s old DC cartoon filler characters, Casey the Cop, rather than the would–be independent sleuth–in–business–suit as seen in the old comics pages reproduced above. To be fair to John, at that point this longtime Spectre fan didn’t know it wasn’t consistent with the original depiction. On the other hand, I SHOULD have, as Popp was well–described in a text piece in the last issue of Spec’s first self–titled comic in the 1960s, a copy of which I had obtained in the 80s.

I swear that the original Red Tornado was also inspired by Green Lantern to become a crime fighter. Did I just mix her up with Wild Cat.. Or did Alan Scott have a pretty big fan base with in the comics.. o.O

Haha!

I dunno. I guess that’s something I should look into!

Yup…Green Lantern DID (sorta) inspire Ma Hunkle to become the original Red Tornado.

All-American #20, opens with Ma Hunkle and Scribbly Jibbet (along with a bunch of other characters) in a police station, trying to the get the police to do something to rescue two kids (Dinky and Sisty) who were kidnapped (in the previous issue) by racketeers. The police can’t (or won’t) do anything as the head racketeer is too powerful and too well-connected.

Ma Hunkle, storms out of the police station. On the ride home, one of the characters says “I’ll betcha that if th’ Green Lantern wus on the job, we’d have those kids back in a minute.”

Ma Hunkle asks who Green Lantern is and is told “He’s this guy who waits for something like this to happen. Then he puts on his mysterious costume so nobody’ll recognize him and ZINGO!He comes to the rescue.”

Ma says “Hmmm…izzat so?”. The next page reiterates the previous dialogue stressing that since GL wears a costume, he can “go to town” and no one’ll know who he is. About 2 pages later (after much mayhem is inflicted on the bad-guys by Dinky and Sisty), Red Tornado makes her first appearance.

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