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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #64

This is the sixty-fourth 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 sixty-three.

Let’s begin!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Neal Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys used to be an editor for Marvel Comics.

STATUS: True

You may have heard of the Pet Shop Boys, who had a few hit songs, most notably “West End Girls.”

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Well, the lead singer of the duo, Neil Tennant (Chris Lowe was the other half of the team) had a different career before the pair hit it big in the early 80s – comic book editor!

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Tennant worked as an editor for Marvel UK during the late 70s.

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If you visit the official website of the duo, there is a section on the group’s history, and it details the situation as thus:

[In 1975,] After completing a degree in history at the Polytechnic of North London, Neil takes a job at Marvel Comics, anglicizing spelling and indicating where over-risque women needed to be redrawn decently. While there he interviews comic fan Marc Bolan, who politely informs him that his tape record wasn’t working.

Here’s a neat picture of Neil, while working at Marvel UK…

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Tennant moved on to work for Smash Hits, a British teen pop magazine, and it was while working for Smash Hits that the duo began performing together and eventually becoming the Pet Shop Boys.

Now, two decades or so later, the band is still recording together.

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As someone who was high up at the company Tennant edited for once said, “Nuff’ said.”

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: DC had an unpublished Green Lantern Annual that they sat on for almost forty years before publishing.

STATUS: False

Commenter Ted Watson asks,

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, DC published quality format reprints of some of their old comics of varying giant sizes, and made up some actually new collections in those old formats. Most of these-called faux replica editions by some-had a new inside-cover text piece that admitted they were newly assembled. and in fact generally gave the game away by including at least one item that had actually been reprinted in the era of that format, or in some cases had been ORIGINALLY published at that time. One neither made any such admission nor included any such tell-tale content, the Green Lantern giant. It in fact reeked of being a replica of a genuine old issue, but there never was one. Was it prepared and, at the last minute, scrapped, leaving the stats or whatever on a shelf at DC until the recent practice of replica and faux replica editions was begun?

This speaks to the good job DC did with this project, as the Green Lantern Annual #1, 1963 issue, while certainly looking like it actually was put together in 1963, really was put together in 1998.

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In Bob Rozakis’ super-cool Answer Man column, the great John Wells stepped up with information about the project:

As part of the promotional efforts for GREEN LANTERN [third series] #100 in June of 1998, DC released GREEN LANTERN ANNUAL [1963] #1. It was a wonderful example of what an Annual from that year might have looked like and they even got Julius Schwartz to edit the book.

So, no, while it looked quite realistic, it was, indeed, only pretend.

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: DC Comics’ Earth X was originally going to be called Earth [Swastika].

STATUS: True

In 1973, Len Wein added a new group of heroes to the annual JLA/JSA team-up, the heroes DC purchased (and did nothing with) from Quality Comics. The conceit was that these heroes lived on an Earth where the Nazis won World War II, and now, the heroes (calling themselves the Freedom Fighters) were constantly fighting against the Nazis.

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The Freedom Fighters were popular enough to get their own series in a couple of years, which last for about two years.

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The world that these heroes lived on was called Earth-X. However, that was not what Len Wein WANTED to call it. According to a Newsarama piece by Troy Brownfield,

Wein, in keeping with most of the team-ups having “Crisis” as part of their name, originally forwarded the idea of calling the story “Crisis on Earth-[Swastika]”. Schwartz flatly rejected having the Nazi symbol in the title, but counter-proposed that the new world be simply called “Earth-X”, joining the previously established Earths 1, 2,3 and S.

Too bad, as I think that would look pretty freaky looking for the name of an Earth!

Thanks to my pal Loren (of Suspension of Disbelief fame) for passing this one along to me!

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!!

35 Comments

It would’ve been worth the highly questionable taste just to see “Earth-[swastika]” inside a speech balloon. I mean, how would that even sound? What would Superman be “actually” pronouncing?

Derek, I don’t even know where to begin with that one.

Remember the Brotherhood of Dada from Grant Morrison’s DOOM PATROL?

Agent “!”
How do you pronounce that?
Just like it’s spelled.
“!” by name, “!” by nature.

SanctumSanctorumComix

August 18, 2006 at 5:51 am

The Earth-[swastika] thing reminds me a bit of the whole Luke Skywalker’s clone “Luuke”, bit (from the SW novels).

It’s one of those “nifty ideas” that ONLY work as a visual.

Oh. I feel it oddly necessary to say I’m not a Star Wars fan, (Trek’s my bag) and with the exception of the early novles (Splinter of the Mind’s Eye and the Han Solo trilogy – which WERE great) that I have never read another S.W. related book since.
My “Luuke” knowledge came from a funny bit in Twisted Toyfare Theatre.

Yes, I know…Wizard is pap, but T.T.T. breaks me up EVERY damn time.

~P~
P-TOR

Exactly. The beauty of print is that you don’t really have to worry about how things “sound” (unless you’re reading some sort of fancy comics-on-tape for the visually-impaired, a notion of which I was previously unaware.

I mean, how does it “sound” when Charlie Brown has a thought bubble with a question mark inside? Or a dark squiggle? Or a light bulb?

How does it “sound” when Ogami Itto’s word balloon reads ” . . . “?

For that matter, how exactly does #$!& “sound”

How does Poog “sound” in AKIKO? In the Akiko prose novels, Mark Crilley has to spend paragraphs describing the sound of Poog’s voice, while still remaining necessarily vague about the specifics of it. In the comics, it’s done entirely through visuals, and the reader’s understanding is more-or-less instantaneous.

It’s like music. It just is what it is—you can’t translate it.

The question of good taste, however, is a valid point.

Since the Freedom Fighters, JSA, and JLA have beaten the Nazis by the end of the story, wouldn’t they have just had to change the name three issues later anyway?

There was also the Kilg%re (I think from The Flash but don’t hold me to that). When they were asked how it was pronounced they said “With a silent ‘e'”

I found reading Booster Gold irritating when the 1,000 were in it just because I didn’t know whether they were “The Thousand” or “The One Thousand”

Dan

I always pronounce “?” as a gutteral “Huh?”

I’d imagine if it had been called “Earth-Swastika,” it probably would have been destroyed in the Crisis, with the Freedom Fighters escaping at the last minute, as opposed to folded into the new earth.

Or, conversely, Geoff Johns could have used its presence in the amalgamated Earth to explain what went “wrong” with that Earth.

It always bothers me when characters say a line and, mid-line, say something in parentheses. (Bendis is particularly notable with this.) How can speech indicate parentheses? A double-dash always seems much more natural, to me, as an aside. Even just commas. But how can parentheses be spoken?

My favorite “How did they say that?” moment, though, is somewhere in the Infinity Crusade (or possibly the Infinity War). At a certain point, Professor X is transported away to somewhere, and Bishop sees it happen, and he shouts “PROF. X?!?!?!?!”

I know, I know, they call him “the prof” sometimes, but come on… Shouting Prof X?

Brian:

Thanks for dealing with my question about the GL giant. I still wonder why, given that it was a relatively early entry in this series (if that’s the right word), that it was the only one of the faux that was even close to being truly convincing, and was in fact perfect. You had to already KNOW there hadn’t been a ’60s GL giant to not be fooled. I did know, hence my theory. In any event, congrats to the people involved for a job well done.

As for Earth—(swastika), Roy Thomas had this out just a few years ago in the interview with Len W. in his book, “All–Star Companion.” Or is there a widely held doubt about the validity and trustworthiness of the tome, and therefore a dismissal of anything more or less revelatory in it? Certainly, Roy himself admitted to a great many mistakes in it in the pages of the very next published issue of his fanzine “Alter Ego.” He included therein a full page of errata and addenda to the book, implying that it was going to be a regular feature for a while. I myself never bought another issue, so don’t know just what was and wasn’t further admitted to there, but several acknowledgements in that first one were obscure stuff that I had no way of suspecting, while a number of problems that jumped out at me as I read the book were not mentioned, and Roy botched one admission, concerning the fact that Simon and Kirby were NOT responsible for taking Sandman out of his business suit and gas mask and putting him in tights and trunks, but took over the series very shortly after somebody else did it. Thomas referenced a passage that had stumbled and failed to make that distinction clear, ignoring the fact that the bios of both men had flatly attributed the changes to them, and was apparently unaware that, while the same bios said Joe and Jack created Manhunter (Paul Kirk version), the reality, as demonstrated in a Millenium Edition replica reprint of the issue of Adventure Comics that debuted Starman, is that they merely did a similar revamp of him (he had apparently been no more than an amateur sleuth or criminologist previously, credited to one Paul Norris). What really impressed me negatively about the book was the interview with Mike Friedrich about the JLA/JSA crossover he wrote for 1971, with Earth–One’s Robin wearing a new costume designed by Neal Adams. Mike said the the Earth–Two version wore it and it was never seen again. Thomas presents elsewhere in the book information proving not only that both of these statements were wrong—E–2’s Robin wore it from the first issue of a revived All–Star Comics/JSA series in the mid–70s until his “death” in the Crisis—but also that at least by the time Roy put the book together he knew so, yet, presumably putting his friendship with Friedrich ahead of being truly informative to his readers, makes no mention of the real facts there, not even in footnotes. Thomas’ book is littered with such garbage, most not so blatant, but still bad. So is there a widely held dismissal of it, explaining the Earth–(swastika) report there not being mentioned here?

Another Green Lantern question:

Was there really a connection between the origin of the Green Lantern Corps and E.E. Smith’s Lensman novels? For some time, I remember it being taken as a given that the latter had influenced the former (in fact, I remember reading that the GLC and Guardians had been “lifted” from Lensman), but in the recently published John Broome panel transcript, there’s no mention of it.

So, what’s the real story?

Interesting that once Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters were set on Earth X and fought a repressive Nazi government, yet now they’re set in the regular DCU and fight a repressive American government…

Why, that scamp Grant Morrison. He sure knows his DC history.

The Skrull had a “Plan Delta” that they pronounced with the Greek character (the speech bubbles had a little triangle after ‘plan’) but the Avengers said “Plan Delta.” Well, usually “Plan Delta?!” Anyway, I figure that was all just Roy Thomas screwing with me. Because that’s how he rolls. With trickery.

And, uh, that’s how I roll. With words in bold for no reason.

I remember in the Milestone book Blood Syndicate, they had a woman who introduced herself to everyone else by saying (speech-ballooning) the Chinese or Japanese character that was her name, and then everyone else tried pronouncing it in in Western characters.

“Who are you?”
“(symbol)”
“Kuhigh?”
“No, (symbol)”
“Kwai?”
“(symbol, bold)”

I have some of those Freedom Fighters Comics–not that great–but not too bad either–they had entertainment value.

I like what Roy Thomas did with them in the ALL STAR Squadron–that was a great book, that CRISIS ruined–but although CRISIS ruined that book & Infinity Inc–the DC universe as a whole got better overall.

I read parenthesized dialogue as under-the-breath or sotto voce speech.

I think calling Earth X Earth swastika would not have been the best idea but going with Earth Nazi might have added some interest.

But again, at the end of the original story the Nazis are defeated. How can it be “Earth-Nazi” if it’s no longer, y’know, a Nazi-controlled Earth? Wouldn’t it be Earth-formerly-Nazi or Earth-Nazi-until-recently-now-under-new-management?

Of course, the Nazis portrayed were Comic Book Nazis, indistinguishable in behavior from the hordes of HYDRA or the legions of Kobra, and with none of the racist ideology or systematic genocide on display. Playing with an Earth that had only just gotten out from under something closer to real Nazism might be an interesting, if dark story.

I agree with the contention that “All Star Squadron” was a great book. I remember it from my DC reading days of my youth. My brother would buy them and I would read Marvel, but they put a smile on my face anytime I remember them

Doggie Doo Hop-Skip-And-Jump

August 20, 2006 at 3:11 pm

Hee! And here I was a-thinkin’ that trying to pronounce Prince’s symbolic alias was a bee-yotch and a half!

“Kilg%re” is pronounced like “Kilgore”, but with a modem screech over the “o”.

Robert McKinney

August 25, 2006 at 1:47 am

I think the whole ‘unpronouncable symbol as name’ bit is really silly. A cutesy-pie joke that’s not really that funny.

I disagree!

Dangit. Less than three.

Yeah thats pretty wild….Crisis on Infinite Swastika would have been crazy to see. But yeah…nice column. The GL Annual one was also good as in Wizard I believe at the time they too spoiled that the Annual was from 1998.

http://www.captaincomics.us/forums/index.php?showtopic=14385&hl=Zemo&st=30

I have some urban legends I have accumulated as Scathach80.

Talking about DC’s real and phony giant replica/reprints has made me think of something. The last two—that *I* know of, anyway—were “Weird Secret Origins” (phony) and “DC One–Hundred Page Super–Spectacular” #6 (real; the first comic in that series/format to focus on super–hero material). The latter is the center of a mystery, as it is only the THIRD issue. Not even any Overstreet edition I’ve examined gives any explanation for it starting at #4, and they are generally pretty good about reporting where the numbering of a series starting at something other than 1 (or 0) came from. They said that Charlton’s Western/super–hero hybrid “Gunmaster” had its numbering picked up by their war/super-hero/martial arts hybrid “Judomaster” and when THAT was cancelled, by “Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt,” as one example. As the practice was reportedly based on saving money for new mailing permits (i.e., no new #1, no new permit, no new fee paid for it), logic demands that DC used those numbers SOMEWHERE! Does anybody here know ANYTHING about those first three (non–)issues?

““Kilg%re” is pronounced like “Kilgore”, but with a modem screech over the “o”. ”

Thank you!! I needed an answer on that.

“Kilg%re” is pronounced like “Kilgore”

I always pronounced it Kilgolore… taking the % and tilting it a bit to get the “olo”. Worked for me when I was a kid, I guess.

Gah! Don’t start that again. The Kilg%re debate raged through the FLASH lettercols for about a year. There was no consensus. Six or seven different versions were proposed, and editor Brian Augustyn left it up to the reader which one was correct. He and the writers had always just said “Kilgore.” (By the way, Brian’s original joke was slightly misquoted above — he said it was pronounced with a long %.)

The timing of that debate was particularly interesting. The Kilg%re first appeared in issues 3 and 4 and wasn’t seen again for a long time. Eventually someone wrote the letter that ignited the debate, saying “You never did tell us how to pronounce Kilg%re.” That letter was printed in issue 42 — which just happened to be the same one where the villain himself returned.

One of my favourite letters made the clever suggestion of reading the percent sign as 0/0… and then blew it by saying zero over zero is zero and should be ignored. If you’ve ever tried it on a calculator, you know you can’t divide by zero. (Well, you can sort of divide zero by zero, but the answer can be whatever you want. In math, we call it an indeterminate form.)

Finally, the debate really heated up when people read issue 43. For a few issues before the Kilg%re story, Wally’s friend Linda (the same Linda he’d end up marrying) had apparently been channeling the spirit of an Irish bard named Seamus O’Relkig. In 43, Wally realized that the one possessing Linda had actually been the Kilg%re — what tipped him off was the fact that “O’Relkig” was an anagram of Kilg%re. But wait, said the readers! Can you do that? It’s not an O, it’s a percent sign — and what about the apostrophe?

The internet didn’t invent fanwank. It just fed it.

– Z

[PS: Saying “Prof. X” aloud is dumb, I agree. But not as dumb as the systematic mispronunciation of “Xavier” in the shows and movies.]

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I take it I’m the only one who read the Urban Legend, was intrigued why Alex Ross wanted to call his series Earth Swastika, then had no idea what was being talked about until the mention of Earths 1, 2, and 3?

Imagine: first the Nazis take over the Earth, then the Universe (swastika)…

Jeff –
On the “Earth X” bit (NOT the Alex Ross ones!) I had the same thought. What’s after this, “Paradise [Swastika]”? “Earth [Tilde]”? “Universe [Schwa]”?

Oh, oh, oh! The OTHER company’s Earth-X.

Gotcha.

Hehe…I guess I SHOULD add “DC’s” to the legend. :)

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