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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #65

This is the sixty-fifth 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-four.

Let’s begin!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Nazi Germany once took it upon itself to rebut a Superman comic story.

STATUS: True

In a February 1940 issue of Look magazine, almost two years before Pearl Harbor, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were asked to solve the puzzle, “How would Superman end the war?”

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Here is their reply:

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Thanks to the amazing Superman Through the Ages website (an invaluable resource) for the scans from the comic in question. Check the full scans here.

As one might imagine, the Nazis did not look kindly upon this story. Luckily, thanks to the tireless efforts of historian Randall Bytwerk, we know HOW they responded. Bytwerk has a website where he examines Nazi and East German Propaganda.

He translates the response that appeared in Das Schwarze Korps, the weekly newspaper of the SS, in their April 25, 1940 edition. Click here for the full article, but I’ll show you some choice snippets.

Jerry Siegel, an intellectually and physically circumcised chap who has his headquarters in New York, is the inventor of a colorful figure with an impressive appearance, a powerful body, and a red swim suit who enjoys the ability to fly through the ether.The inventive Israelite named this pleasant guy with an overdeveloped body and underdeveloped mind “Superman.” He advertised widely Superman’s sense of justice, well-suited for imitation by the American youth.

As you can see, there is nothing the Sadducees won’t do for money!

and, after a brief (mocking) description of the comic in question,

A triumphant final frame shows Superman, the conqueror of death, dropping in at the headquarters of the chatterboxes at the League of Nations in Geneva. Although the rules of the establishment probably prohibit people in bathing suits from participating in their deliberations, Superman ignores them as well as the other laws of physics, logic, and life in general. He brings with him the evil German enemy along with Soviet Russia.Well, we really ought to ignore these fantasies of Jerry Israel Siegel, but there is a catch. The daring deeds of Superman are those of a Colorado beetle. He works in the dark, in incomprehensible ways. He cries “Strength! Courage! Justice!” to the noble yearnings of American children. Instead of using the chance to encourage really useful virtues, he sows hate, suspicion, evil, laziness, and criminality in their young hearts.

Jerry Siegellack stinks. Woe to the American youth, who must live in such a poisoned atmosphere and don’t even notice the poison they swallow daily.

How awesome is that?

Much thanks to Randall Bytwerk for helping us see this little piece of not only comic history, but world history.

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Neal Adams redrew a significant portion of Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man.

STATUS: True

I thought this one would work pretty well here, what with Tuesday’s “Top Five DC/Marvel crossovers,” and all.

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Daniel Best of Adelaide’s Comics and Books did an interview with Dick Giordano, the inker of Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man, so Best asked him about the project, and the claim that Neal Adams redrew the Superman figures inside the issue. Giordano replies,

Yes. That’s true.

No one asked Neal to re-draw the Superman figures but the pages were sent to me at Continuity and were mostly left on my desk or thereabouts when I went home at night or on weekends and Neal took it upon himself to re-draw the Superman figures without telling me that he was going to do it. I didn’t complain but I also never mentioned it to anyone at the time and really never spoke of it until now…mostly out of respect for Ross and his work.

Ross was one of the very best storytellers in the business as well as great at composition, layouts and design. But his drawing was a bit quirky and somewhat distorted as a result of an eye problem that affected his perception. He often drew on one side of the paper, then, on a lightbox, turned it over and re-drew it on the other side, correcting the distortion, then reversed the page again and traced the corrected version from the back side of the art board onto the copy side. This took a great deal of time and slowed him down greatly toward the end of his career. But…

I loved the distortions! It gave his work a charm and distinction that I always believed was appealing. I learned how to ink his work to minimize the distortion without losing the charm! That became moot, as Neal changed/corrected all the Superman figures to his own frame of reference. I tried in the inking not to lose too much of the Ross Andru look ( and to his credit, Neal tried, as well, to retain the “look” mostly correcting anatomy errors in his re-drawing ) . You really couldn’t lose his storytelling or compositions, so in my mind, the result was still Ross Andru at his best!!

Pretty interesting, eh? According to Best (not in the interview), John Romita did similar (although not as extensive) work on the Marvel characters.

Here is a link to all of Best’s interviews for Adelaide’s Comics and Books. There a lot of fun ones! Good work by Best.

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Kurt Busiek was going to call Carol Danvers Nemesis during his Avengers run, but the X-Men office would not let him.

STATUS: False

In a discussion awhile ago on USENET, when Avengers #4 was still recent, and there was much “to do” over Carol Danvers’ decision to name herself Warbird, a poster (Andy Sheets) commented,

If I remember correctly, the name Busiek actually wanted was Nemesis but the X-office is apparently in control of that name right now and wouldn’t let him have it.

Busiek replied with a very informative response,

You remember incorrectly.Nemesis was a name we picked that I was never comfortable with, largely because it took so much set-up to justify (Nemesis was a goddess who was raped, so to justify the name we’d first have to give Carol a retributionary attitude and then root it in her rape, all of which was way too complicated to get into in the space I thought we’d had), so when it turned out the name wasn’t available it didn’t bother me in the least. I don’t know if the X-office ever even knew we were thinking of it — Tom Brevoort simply mentioned to me that the name was in use elsewhere, so we stopped thinking about it.

Warbird I like much better (sorry, all you Warbird-detractors!) because it’s simple, clear, and easily tagged to Carol’s USAF background and her powers, which don’t require a lot of explanation. She flies, she used to be in the Air Force, so she names herself after a fighter plane. No big song and dance.

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My reservations about the name center on the fact that even though it’s a real word, a vernacular term for fighter plane, it _sounds_ like one of those made-up and formulaic names involving prefixes and suffixes like war, star, bird, wolf, night, death and blood. “Hey, I know! Have Warbird fight Deathbird and Warstar on the Death Star!” However, I figured the positives the name had outweighed the illusory negative, and besides, most people I ran it by liked it (including editor Tom and penciler George), so I figured we could get around the inevitable aasumption that we’d just slapped a couple of name-bits together by pointing out that it’s a real word with a real meaning (as we did by implication in #4). For a lot of readers, that apparently wasn’t enough. Well, all I can say is, I hope it grows on you. The more I use it, the more I like it …

So while yes, the name was being considered, it was never to the point where the X-Office had to tell Busiek no. For the record, the X-Office was using the name at the time because I guess they thought that their Age of Apocalypse character Holocaust had a poor name, so were going back to calling him Nemesis (his name before being called Holocaust).

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That name change, like Warbird, did not last too long, as he’s called Holocaust again, and Carol is back to Ms. Marvel.

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!!

50 Comments

I think Holocaust’s name change was toy-related: they just weren’t going to put a children’s figure named “Holocaust” on the shelves, so they called the figure Nemesis. The same thing happened to Orphan Maker (who became ‘The Protector’) and a few others, though to my knowledge only Nemecaust got his name changed in the comics to go with the toy.

I could swear I’ve seen that “Superman Ends the War” comic in full color somewhere, but I just can’t think of where.

Also, wasn’t there an Alpha Flight character named Nemesis? She wore red and black and had a sword that could carve up atoms or something? Anyone else recall this?

Yep.

She was on Lobdell’s Alpha Flight team!

There was also a classic DC character named Nemesis.

And a not-so-classic one who was in a JSA annual.

I’m pretty sure “Superman Ends WWII” was reprinted in color in the “Greatest Superman Stories Ever Told” trade, because that’s where I first read it, and I’m pretty sure it was in color.

-Steve!

I’ve never seen the first page of “Superman Ends the War” before. Neat.

The Holocaust action figure was given the name Dark Nemesis, not just Nemesis.

Wow, show that Look story to Grant Morrison. It’s right up there with “Holy Terror, Batman!”

Prior to her appearance in Lobdell’s AF run, Nemesis was a villain during Byrne’s run on the original series (sometime within his first year or so…

Dave Z.

Speaking of Byrne, over here, John Byrne wrote:

Yesterday I “leaked” that I have been writing a DC title under a pen name for a year. Less that 24 hours later, we have three “prongs” growing from this handle:

1) That I am inking under a pen name…

2) That I am ghostwriting — which is using someone else’s name…

3) That I’m doing it for someone other than DC.

Clearly, the best way to keep a secret is to announce it on the internet!

_________________

So, has the pen name ever been revealed?

No, Michael.

And I’ve been looking into it!

Ah Warbird..

I remember being on the Avengers mailing list with Tom and Kurt when Avengers was being relauched. Kurt asked us all for new name suggestion and the group of us probably spit out hundreds. I must have come up with 10 – 20 names myself.

I forget if Warbird was a name Kurt came up with or if somebody else did. I know it wasn’t mine! I was one of those that didn’t care for it.

Byrnes pen name has been rumored to be AJ Lieberman hasnt it?

Concerning Kelson’s certainty that he saw “Superman Ends the War” in “full color” somewhere: DC presented the last two tiers in four-color to illustrate a text piece on the story somewhere, probably in the 1970s, and if that’s right, then probably in a 100 Page Super-Spectacular. Unable to do any better than this myself (as mentioned on boards for earlier CBUL editions, much of my collection was liquidated for a cross–country move in 1994), I hope to jar someone else’s memory enough for them to find it and specify just where it was.

Just in case anybody’s wondering why Supes picked up Josef Stalin along with Hitler, Nazi Germany and the U.S.S.R. did have a treaty, but Adolf turned on the Soviets, putting them in the Allies’ camp for the duration. Why there’s no mention of Tojo (or Emperor Hirohito, who was faulted for much of his government’s actions—at least by the Western press—until Imperial Japan fell, at which point he was declared to have been only a figurehead) or Fascist Italy’s Mussolini, I couldn’t tell you, however.

Byrnes pen name has been rumored to be AJ Lieberman hasnt it?

That was the name people seemed to narrow things down to – but that was it, just a matter of eliminating other people, rather than any specific clues that Lieberman WAS, in fact, Byrne.

You can rearrange the letters in AJ Lieberman to spell “I real name JB”
Just saying…

Is it true that a well known comic artist went on the run for ten years, having mistakenly believed he’d killed a policeman and was wanted for murder?

I agree with the rabbit, it’s going to ake a lot of work (or one really lame retcon) to rehabilitate Iron Man’s rep after Civil War. I didn’t buy the idea that the other side would be presented well, but I didn’t expect it to be presented so POORLY. Deep inside I really thought they were going to push the futurist angle, and make it more tragic, that Tony was doing what he honestly thought was going to save more lives in the long run. But more and more the end result looks like it’s going to be that he engineered the entire event.

Anyway, I know that seems off-topic, but it leads me to this: I thought I’d re-read clasic Shellhead, for old time’s sake. Right now I’m around the mid-70′s and I just wrapped up the “War of the Super-Villains.” I don’t know if this qualifies as a Comic Book Urban Legend… but when this storyline started (first with Mike Friedrich and George Tuska, and then later Arvell Jones) it was hinted in the book that the storyline was going to be a major Marvel-wide story. But then, after a couple of issues of the storyline just starting up, they mention in a letters page that it’s taking some time to get approval for some villains, or imply it anyway, and so they aren’t sure who’s going to be involved. Then suddenly the story seems to veer off-course for a couple of issues. When it finally returns to this supposed “War…” we get a very quick recap of all the major (read: the ones anyone would care about) villains TURNING DOWN the fight, and we’re left with a rather sad conflict consisting of Modok, the Yellow Claw and the Mad Thinker (with the Mandarin already having been dispatched). Not exactly the major storyline we were promised. Even Iron Man actually refers to it as a “mini” War of Super Villains near the very end and it reads, frankly, as an editorial remark from the writer.

And EVEN THEN… just as the storyline is about to wrap up the book suffers no less than three fill-in issues having nothing to do with the storyline.

So, what gives? Were there a lot of politics behind the story and everything fell apart, jobs lost, friendships ruined and just a horrible ugly story behind it all? Or were the people putting this series out just really high all the time?

I gotta tell you, having read the last 70 or so issues, I’d say it’s a 50/50 chance either way.

Wow. Two months ago, I wrote about Ross Andru on a forum, posted a picture from Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man as an example, and described his style as a cross between John Romita’s and Neal Adams’s. That’s… a bit ironic. :)

Here’s one that might make an interesting article: Is it true that Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch were originally going to be the children of Golden Age Marvel Heroes, and that Magneto was retconned in later? I know that the only familial relation that’s mentioned at all in their early appearances as part of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants is that of brother and sister, not children and parent…

as i recall quicksilver and scarlet witch were the children of the golden age Whizzer– unless my memory is faulty.

As far as the whole name thing. I personaly felt that “Warbird” was a good choice at that point in time. But eventualy I realised I prefered “Ms. Marvel” because it gives it an aditional spunk or spirit. And it`s more prestigious. The thing is, as much as Warbird as good it wasn`t defining enough that we could forget about Ms. Marvel. Had she being given the name “Nemesis” though, I think it would have stuck. I think the whole godess rape thing links her to Wonder Woman(and more than a few people want that Carol to be promoted as Marvel`s Wonder Woman. Because they don`t have one). And for whatever reasons, Godesses or not godesses, something about that name gives her a purpose. It would have been interesting if Kurt or later writers use than name to add other elements to the character. Nemesis basically means Adversary. Why is she call that…This gives an interesting angle to creat other stories. Maybe she`s this huntress that when she has a prey she won`t let go.

About Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch: they were indeed revealed in an Avengers story as being the children of the Whizzer and his wife, Marvel’s Miss America, both actual Golden Age heroes. Apparently someone had decided that, since they were originally introduced as parentless gypsies, and they sort of resembled the two heroes, it would be cool to connect them.

And then, in the Vision and Scarlet Witch miniseries, someone decided to reveal that their true father was Magneto. This forced Marvel writers to then have to come up with one of those second-thought explanations that don’t make much sense: in simple terms, it just HAPPENED that both Magda (Magneto’s stranged wife) and Miss America gave birth at almost the same and place (on Wundagore Mountain, of all places) but both Magda and MA’s baby died, so they offered Whizzer Magda’s babies but he rejected them out of grief and ran away, leading to the confusion later on. The babies were then given to gypsies to raise.

I still find the whole change of origins unreasonable, and the subsequent explanation weak. I guess someone at Marvel with more pull than the Avengers’ writer had come up with his own origin and insisted it be used. This is especially confusing when you note that at one time, Polaris, a magnetic mutant, was believed to be Magneto’s daughter but was later revealed not to be. Not to mention that, when the siblings were in Magneto’s Brotherhood (before they knew they were related) Mags had a ‘thing’ for Wanda. Eeww…

Of course Polaris has come full circle and is Magneto’s daughter again.

Steve McSheffrey

August 28, 2006 at 8:40 am

When Wonder Woman returned to costume and full power, if I’m not mistaken the previous issue with her as mod crimefighter Diana Prince had left off on a cliffhanger. What was up with that?

And could you detail the story about Iron Man’s here? I’ve heard it before but it’s one of the funniest stories in the history of comic books and the young ‘uns deserve to hear it too!

Here’s three Urban Legends to investigate:

1. During 1990-1991 in Iron Man, I remember an editor writing that Tony Stark would be injured and wheelchair bound. He’d only be mobile in his armor, which would make for some interesting story lines. The editor even stated that Tony would be crippled permanantely, or for as long as he was in charge of the book. This event never occurred? What happened?

2. After The Death of Superman, a Marvel editor (Tom DeFalco, I think) wrote that it was no big deal because there was a plan to “kill” Spider-Man too. Sometime late we were all “treated” to the Clone Saga. I’ve always wondered if this was Marvels “Death of Spider-Man” that was alluded to earlier. If it wasn’t, then what was?

Thanks.

I enjoyed both. Thanks.

*waves at Kelson*

Keith: uh… it did. In issue #242 of the second Layton/Michelinie run, Stark was shot by a psycho ex, and was paralyzed from the waist down. By issue #248, he put a chip in his spine that made him walk again… but Layton had planned to mess that up considerably, starting with what turned out to be his last issue on the book as writer, #256. The chip starts acting strangely.

When John Byrne took over as writer with issue #258, the chip was screwed with by a failed businessman named Kearson Dewitt, who felt he had been ruined by Stark (The reason why he’s so angry at Tony has never been made quite clear, actually). Tony became trapped inside the armor as was dying from spine degeneration (I think) by the time Byrne left the title with #277, leaving incoming scribe Len Kaminski with a HUGE knot to untie (which he didn’t do very well IMO).

Also, Magda’s death has never been confirmed or seen on panel, has it? Brubaker retcon sense… TINGLING!

John Byrne was joking about writing a title under a pen name. He owned up to the joke later. He isn’t AJ Lieberman. Byrne wouldn’t have written that ending to Gotham Knights for one.

“3. I remember DC’s Marv Wolfman, not offering an explination for the name of Teen Titan – Jericho. He said the reason for the name was too complex to explain in the comic. Why was that character named Jericho?”

Basically, Marv Wolfman and Len Wein had a storyline for the original Teen Titans series that would have introduced a black hero named Jericho. That storyline was rejected (since DC wasn’t ready for a teen black hero at the time) and then heavily rewritten and redrawn by Neal Adams to feature a white hero named Joshua.

So naming a new Titan Jericho was Wolfman’s way of homaging that story that he never got see in print.

Interesting thing that Wanda and Pietro’s parentage got re–retconned in her and the Vision’s miniseries (one of them, anyway), as he has suffered similar treatment. Shortly after Roy Thomas connected Whizzer & Miss America to Q & SW in Giant–Size Avengers #1, in the regular Avs title, which by that time was letting its storyline run through the next few issues of its G–S format rather than letting those stories stand alone as Fantastic Four and Spider–Man did, Steve Englehart “established” that Viz’s “daddy,” Ultron (did I spell that right?), did NOT build him from scratch, but adapted the body of the original, android Human Torch for his purposes, yet somewhere later—in West Coast Avengers as part of the storyline in which he got bleached, I think—THAT got undone somehow. Don’t know any more about THAT myself as I dropped that title at #50. I only heard about that re–retconning job, never read it. Sorry.

In the recent “X-Statix Presents: Dead Girl” miniseries, Miss America, currently residing in the land of the dead, admitted to having a deep terrible secret! Could she really be the mother of Q+SW????
Kidding, sort of..

When did Magneto first remove his helmet? His look is very similar to Quicksilver. But was it after the results revealed in the big Avengers Paternity Test Prime-Time Special Event that his white hair started to get wings?

Ted Watson: “Why there’s no mention of Tojo (or Emperor Hirohito, who was faulted for much of his government’s actions—at least by the Western press—until Imperial Japan fell, at which point he was declared to have been only a figurehead) or Fascist Italy’s Mussolini, I couldn’t tell you, however.”

It’s probably because at the time the story was done, Stalin and Hitler had split Poland and the Baltic states between them, and as Siegel’s family were Lithuanian, he saw this as the worst thing going on. Mussolini wouldn’t declare war on Britain and France until mid-1940, so would just be another European dictator, like Franco or Salazar. Siegel may just have not thought about the Japanese occupation of China.

I had a page of original art from Superman/Spider-Man and not only was it smaller than most art (it was drawn at print size) but it was loaded with white out. It looked like a lot of people worked over these pages to make them look good. Peter Parker had a real John Romita vibe going on.

If you have the reprint–I’d strongly suggest hunting down the original treasury edition. It looks much more spectacular full-sized.

Anastasios Pelekanos

August 28, 2006 at 6:36 pm

I believe it was revealed at the end of Uncanny X-Men #62 , back in 1969, that the man that Angel was talking to was, unbeknownst to Angel, in fact Magneto.

Basically, Marv Wolfman and Len Wein had a storyline for the original Teen Titans series that would have introduced a black hero named Jericho. That storyline was rejected (since DC wasn’t ready for a teen black hero at the time) and then heavily rewritten and redrawn by Neal Adams to feature a white hero named Joshua.

But wait, wasn’t there already a black teen hero in the old Teen Titans series–Mal Duncan? Is race the real reason the original Jericho was nixed?

to be honest, I already knew the story about the original intention for Pietro/Wanda’s parents: that’s why I said it would make an intersting article, rather than just asking the question.

personally, I think the first idea makes much more sense than Magneto. But the question about when he first removed his helmet is a good one. Is it like Wolverine, and the character changed drastically the first time he was unmasked?

Shining Knight:

It occurred to me sometime after I submitted my post that Siegel was Jewish and therefore might very well be focused on the Eurpoean situation and understandably so, but I did not know he was Lithuanian. And I certainly was unaware that Italy was not in the war from the first. Thanks for both bits.

Hello allI will continue to visit enjoyed the reading thanks

There was another Nemesis, from American Comics Group (best known for HERBIE), in the 60′s. A “ghostly-avenger” type. Here’s a link to a fuller description:

http://sacomics.blogspot.com/2006/06/coming-of-nemesis.html

Keith –

For God’s sake man! The suspense is killing me! What’s your third Urban Legend? Don’t leave us hanging, man.

On a different topic, isn’t the original Human Torch still “alive” and well in the Marvel universe? Going by the name of Jim Hammond or something like that?

I once heard a rumor (circa 1982) that John Byrne hated the Iceman character and had plans to kill him off that were rejected by the X-Men editors. True or false?

“How would Superman end the war?” is also reprinted in full color in “Superman in the forties.”

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I was fascinated by the test of the German rebuttal, and specifically how it mirrors some of the speech patterns and arguments found on talk radio today.

In particular, conservative talk jock Mark Levin because of the creation of insulting nicknames (he does it with almost every liberal politician) and just the general shrillness of the text samples; I could mentally hear his voice reading the stuff. But he’s just the most immediate one to me in our market in Seattle, and there are some jocks on Air America who can be just as intense.

Screaming rhetoric never changes, I guess!

Talk radio? That German “rebuke” sounded EXACTLY like some of the trolls you run into on the internet. Figures. Nazis: Trolling the World.

Don’t forget that the Superman piece was printed in the February 1940 issue of that magazine. The U.S. hadn’t entered the war yet. The Pearl Harbor attack didn’t occur until late 1941, so it’s perfectly reasonable that most Americans weren’t even thinking of the Japanese.

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