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This is the seventy-third 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 seventy-two. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.
Today’s installment is a special themed installment – ALL-DUCK COMIC BOOK URBAN LEGENDS!!!
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: An inventor was denied a Dutch patent due to a Carl Barks’ Donald Duck story.
STATUS: Appears to be True
Karl KrÃ¸yer was a prominent Danish inventor, whose probably greatest invention was creating the continuous glucose process, which resulted in Total Sugar.
However, another noteworthy invention was a system KrÃ¸yer developed to raise sunken ships through the insertion of 27 million plastic balls made of expandable polystyrene foam, or, essentially, ping-pong balls.
KrÃ¸yer used this method to famously raise the freighter Al Kuwait in 1964. Here is a copy of KrÃ¸yer’s plan:
Even at the time, magazines that covered the event drew parallels to a Carl Barks Duck story from 1949, where Donald Duck and his nephews raised a sunken ship by filling it with ping pong balls through a tube.
KrÃ¸yer applied for, and was approved, a patent for his ship-raising process from the United Kingdom and Germany.
However, he was denied a Dutch patent.
The story was that the Dutch office took note of the comic (which came out, by the by, when KrÃ¸yer was 45 years old) and decided to refuse the patent, because one of the requirements for a patent is that it has to be a novel idea, and since the idea had been used 15 years earlier, it was not novel.
This is NOT to say that KrÃ¸yer took the idea from the comic book story. He denied doing so, and there’s nothing to say he did. However, if they denied it because the invention had been explained earlier (in the comic book), then it would not matter if he HAD read the comic book, all that matters is that the comic book came before his invention.
The only problem with this story is that there are no official documents on the point. We know he was turned down for the patent, but we do not have papers saying why. All the documents from that era have been destroyed, and the lawyer who reperesented KrÃ¸yer passed away years ago (as did KrÃ¸yer, himself).
However, just a few months ago, the Dutch Patent Office issued a statement confirming the story, so, while there is a real possibility that it is not true, I think a confirmation from the Dutch Patent Office (combined with the fairly reasonable nature of the claim) is enough to at least give this a tentative “True.”
Here’s a great article on the controversy. Thanks to reader LtMarvel for suggesting I do this one.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: An extortionist calling himself Uncle Scrooge baffled German police for years.
Arno Funke was born in 1950. By his late 30s, he had worked as an automotive and sign painter for a number years, and tests later indicated that the fumes from the paint did a significant amount of damage to his brain, which would perhaps explain his later actions (it certainly explains why he is a free man today).
Funke took advantage of the separate entitites of East and West Berlin in the late 80s, to make sure he would not get caught. He would set up bombs in stores in West Berlin and call in the threat from East Berlin, asking for money in exchange for not setting the bomb off.
One time, a bomb did go off, causing a good deal of damage to a department store (no one was hurt, though, as Funke was extremely careful not to hurt anybody).
Funke soon began calling himself “Dagobert,” after the German term for Uncle Scrooge.
For the next six years, Funke engaged in a game of cat and mouse, using his brilliance to foil any attempts at his capture. He would design machines that would ride along the railroad tracks where he would request they drop the money – the machines would have false bottoms that would drop the money at drop points along the tracks.
Dagobert became a pop culture phenomenon, leading to T-Shirts and songs about him. It was getting to the point where the police were literally combing thousands of pages of Carl Barks comics, hoping that there would be some clue in the comics.
Eventually, Funke was caught in 1994. He was sentenced to nine years in prison (the short term was mainly due to the evidence of his brain damage), but only served six years.
When released, he wrote a book about his crime spree:
He has worked as a cartoonist for a book publisher since, while also giving numerous lectures and appearing on TV occasionally.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: There was a fourth nephew named Phooey.
When you have three nephews who look exactly alike, it sometimes is difficult to keep them apart, so every once in awhile (and I mean every once in awhile, it really wasn’t a regular thing), an artist in a Duck comic accidentally drew a fourth duck.
Over the years, Duck fans have come to call this duck “The Fourth Nephew, Phooey.”
However, when you hear something repeated, even a joke amongst fans, enough times, it tends to take on an official air to it, so let’s just get it straight.
There is no fourth nephew named Phooey.
It is just a joke among fans regarding occasional slip-ups by Duck artists who included a fourth nephew, like this panel:
Thanks to reader razor wasp for this link of the four times Carl Barks himself made the mistake of drawing a fourth nephew.
I will admit, though, that enterprising Duck fans sure can come up with clever stuff, like the fan who uncovered what s/he felt was Phooey’s “first appearance”:
Pretty clever, 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!
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