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Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #80

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COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Uncle Ben tells Peter “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility.”

STATUS: False

It has been memorialized in the first Spider-Man film, and it has been bandied about many times over the years (and in fact, if someone could ever prove to me who came up with the phrase, I’d give them seven cool points and I’d run it as an Urban Legends pieces of its own!), and yet, “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility” was NOT said by Uncle Ben to Peter in Amazing Fantasy #15.

In fact, the phrase is not said to Peter by ANYone in the famous debut issue of Spider-Man!

Here is the only appearance of the phrase, at the very end of the issue…in a CAPTION box!!!

Amazing Fantasy 015-11_edited.jpg

Note that the phrase is not even the same as we now remember it – “With great power, there must also come great responsibility”!!

Weird, huh?

Thanks to reader John McDonagh for recommending this one.

Okay, that’s it for this week!

Feel free to drop off any urban legends you’d like to see featured!

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51 Comments

So when people say they want comics to be more like they were in the Olden Days, they mean they want more racism and abortions in them?

I saw on an A&E special on the history of comic books that Stan wrote the line as a “throwaway” because he needed to fill space in the caption box that was already there. Of course, you never know if you can trust everything Ol’ Stan the Man says, but still.

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Uncle Ben tells Peter “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility.”

Stracyznski has established in Amazing II#37-39 that Ben did say that phrase at some point while he was alive, though.

Yeah, I’d read that “Jap” thing before, and it still saddens me. So too does that Life mag.

That Junior one scared the crap out of me. Then I found the art and lettering on Abortion Eve to be trippy and fascinating, but that back cover is freaky.

All of Stan Lee’s stories are true! Especially the ones that aren’t! :)

The guy’s been spinning yarns for so long, I don’t hold it against him when he retcons his continuity.

How is How To Spot A Jap an Urban Legend? It’s well documented, was linked to by Spurgeon and some other people, and is a matter of historic record.

Maybe it’s time to rename this particular bit to “Comic Book Urban Legends And Things You Probably Didn’t Know About.”

I used to own a 1942 edition of the Chicago Tribune with a full-page section one rear Terry and the Pirates special “How to Spot a Jap” which used the above illustrations. I have it to a Japanese improv comic friend a few years ago.

“So when people say they want comics to be more like they were in the Olden Days, they mean they want more racism and abortions in them?”

I know that’s what I mean when I say it.

“How is How To Spot A Jap an Urban Legend? It’s well documented, was linked to by Spurgeon and some other people, and is a matter of historic record.

Maybe it’s time to rename this particular bit to “Comic Book Urban Legends And Things You Probably Didn’t Know About.””

Go back and read the column again. The whole focus on the write-up was not whether or not the comic existed but about Caniff’s involvement…

(And I certainly didn’t know the book existed…probably most people don’t…maybe I should have checked those links from “Spurgeon and other people”…whoever they are…)

As for the source of the “great responsibility” quote,
this source suggests that an extremely-close phrase appeared in an undelivered speech by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, from 1945:

“Today, we have learned in the agony of war that great power involves great responsibility.”

I have no idea if that’s the specific origin of the phrase, but it certainly seems to be the most similar.

The second half of Luke 12:48 reads “…For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.” This is a well known quote from the Bible and even when not specifically cited is one of those verses so often alluded to that it seeps into the public consciousness (would that it seeped into the public conscience).

re “How To Spot A Jap” while the title today may be insensitive, I don’t see anything in the illustrations that is necessarily wrong. ALL Japanese don’t share the same physically characteristics, neither do ALL Chinese, yet both groups have enough common and distinctive characteristics that a typical Asian can pretty accurately guess at a glance who is/isn’t Chinese/Japanese/Korean/Vietnamese/Thai.

It’s like looking at a group of Europeans and being able to distinguish the Irish from the Italians.

“Stracyznski has established in Amazing II#37-39 that Ben did say that phrase at some point while he was alive, though.”

And so have lots of writers who did flashbacks about Uncle Ben. But as we readily see in the many reprints of Amazing Fantasy #15, Ben doesn’t say it there – and since he’s kacked it well before the final page, he didn’t tell it to Peter…

“Chinese people are the same height as Americans”

that’s the nicest thing that I’ve seen said about Chinese people in comic books

All the talk about Uncle Ben’s quote has given me fond memories of Spider-Man 2099, where Miguel (the title character) is talking to his brother, who’s urging him to take a more pro-active role as Spidey. Miguel’s brother has been talking to his girlfriend, Kasey, who’s very socially conscious, and that’s made him try to get Miguel socially conscious as well.

“You know, Kasey once told me that with great power…comes great responsibility.”

“Kasey reads too many fortune cookies.”

Great book. Should be Essentialed. (I also loved, from possibly the same issue, “Mike, how can you nurse a grudge?” “I have tough nipples.”)

I think you’ll find a phrase very similar to “With Great Power Comes Great Responsiblity” in the very first episode of ‘The Adventures of Superman’, right around the time Reeves/Superman arrived in Metropolis. Seeing as how that aired nearly 10 years before AF#15, my mind was nearly blown when I noticed it on the DVD.
Of course, I’m probably remembering it wrong and should be ignored.

Andrew, just because you didn’t know about it doesn’t mean it’s an urban legend like, I dunno, Bigfoot molesting Stan Lee.

It was covered by Boing Boing, the most-read blog out there and Caniff was named specifically:
http://www.boingboing.net/2006/07/07/wwii_us_military_com.html

Also, re: Spurgeon – if you’re not visiting ComicsReporter.com as a daily read, you should start. Here’s the original blog post where it was linked:
http://www.comicsreporter.com/index.php/cr_sunday_magazine070906/

Just wanted to point something out about the Spidey legend…

…while it is technically true that Uncle Ben didn’t say it in AF #15, it was revealed later (I believe ASM Annual #1) that it was he that imparted the wisdom to Peter.

One of the very first retcons, maybe? I suppose so. Just wanted to throw that into the mix.

-M

“The second half of Luke 12:48 reads”

Yeah, yeah, yeah, Bible shmible. We’re talkin’ canon here.

There we go – is there an earlier instance of Uncle Ben saying (on panel) “With great power comes great responsibility?” Does anyone have that big CDROM that reprints the entire ASM run?

I have an Urban Legend suggestion: is it true Chris Claremont wanted to bring Colossus back to life (possibly in the pages of X-Treme X-Men), but was turned down? If so, what were his plans to do it?

Stan Lee is JEWISH. Highly doubtful that he heard that passage from LUKE.

Having worked closely with Stan, I can assure you he is well read and — dare I say it — well versed on the subject of religion and myth and legend. He may not be a Christian, but he is at least as familiar with the New Testament as he is with Nordic myth. Further, as I pointed out, the verse in question is one oft alluded to in speeches, essays, and editorials; scroll up to see FDR’s variant on it.

“COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Uncle Ben tells Peter “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility.”

Stracyznski has established in Amazing II#37-39 that Ben did say that phrase at some point while he was alive, though.”

And if the guy who says Gwen Stacy jumped in the sack with the Green Goblin wrote it, it must be true….

In my old vinyl album “The Amazing Spider-Man: A Rockomic!”, a dramatization of a Spider-Man story with songs, Uncle Ben says the line in flashback. That’s from 1972.

I don’t understand. Given that Uncle Ben died without knowing about Peter’s powers—or has that been retconned, too?—why WOULD he say that?

Buzz said:
I don’t see anything in the illustrations that is necessarily wrong. ALL Japanese don’t share the same physically characteristics, neither do ALL Chinese, yet both groups have enough common and distinctive characteristics that a typical Asian can pretty accurately guess at a glance who is/isn’t Chinese/Japanese/Korean/Vietnamese/Thai.

I’m gonnna have to call bullshit on that.
Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans are of the same ethnic stock. This is a well established, tho’ usually ignored fact.

Most Asians pride themselves on being able to tell each other apart, but they are almost always wrong.

The pamphlet is 100% imaginary. There is no way to tell Chinese from Japanese by sight. If you want to debate it, I will give you my anthropology professors number……

The Abortion Eve comic made me sick.

Is it always possible to tell Irish from Italians? No; there are tall, skinny, blond haired, blue-eyed Italians and there are swarthy Irish with dark curly hair.

Are the odds greater that a person with the first set of features is more likely to be non-Italian than a person with the latter features? Hugh Betcha.

Likewise there are blonde blue-eyed Mexicans (ancestors came from Germany when they couldn’t enter the U.S due to quota restrictions in the 19th century; that’s where all the good Mexican beer and cool banda music originated) and Mexicans who look like African-Americans.

The same applies with sub-groups within any other group. One can never judge with 100% accuracy, but one can say certain characteristics are more likely to crop up in one group than another.

Gimme your prof’s number when he can produce a green-eyed red haired Italian with freckles. Being half-Italian myself, that is something I would like to see! 9D

Oh man…I`m in Osaka right now. That`s just painful! Great articles though, keep it up!

“Stan Lee is JEWISH. Highly doubtful that he heard that passage from LUKE.”

Yes, because no Jewish person would ever read the Christian bible. *rolls eyes*

“Andrew, just because you didn’t know about it doesn’t mean it’s an urban legend like, I dunno, Bigfoot molesting Stan Lee.

It was covered by Boing Boing, the most-read blog out there and Caniff was named specifically:
http://www.boingboing.net/2006/07/07/wwii_us_military_com.html

Also, re: Spurgeon – if you’re not visiting ComicsReporter.com as a daily read, you should start. Here’s the original blog post where it was linked:
http://www.comicsreporter.com/index.php/cr_sunday_magazine070906/

Wow…it was on a blog. MUST be common knowledge then… :rollseyes:

My point was that you’re splitting hairs, and did it in a way where you just kind of came across like an ass.

The Caniff story addressed a story/rumor/”urban legend” regarding his involvement with a WWII comic. How many people had heard the story beforehand is irrelevant, as is whether or not some blog also discussed the story.

So, please just enjoy the column and save the snide remarks…

Steamboat Willie

December 11, 2006 at 4:55 am

Buzz said:
“It’s like looking at a group of Europeans and being able to distinguish the Irish from the Italians.”

I sure can’t. They all look alike to me.

“Gimme your prof’s number when he can produce a green-eyed red haired Italian with freckles. Being half-Italian myself, that is something I would like to see! 9D”

I have seen a few, but they are Disney Comic Book artists so they don’t count. I can produce quite a few blonde blue-eyed italians though if you like? .. and there is no shortage of red-headed green-eyed greeks.
Shucks, I can even produce black swedes if you like. Everything from brown haired fair skinned to bushy-eyed coal black all over.

Andrew Collins wrote: “The Caniff story addressed a story/rumor/”urban legend” regarding his involvement with a WWII comic. How many people had heard the story beforehand is irrelevant….”

You DID have a good point to begin with, that this did not qualify as an urban legend, but Kevin Church seems to think you said just the opposite, and you seem to have responded on THOSE terms, leaving me somewhat puzzled. But “how many people had heard the story” is CRUCIAL to the definition of urban legend; not the number itself, but the story must be widespread, and the people have to have heard it as an unconfirmed story rather than KNOW the facts. I sometimes doubt that Brian understands this, as my posting on the “Superman/eye–test” CBUL item’s thread (#49) indicates. Let me repeat my statement there that I nevertheless enjoy this feature, and mean no offense to him.

I remember a few years back John Byrne talking about he was able to draw the different Asian races and make them all distinct. He said he drew Chinese people with squintier eyes, large mouths and rounder heads than the Japanese and Koreans. He drew Japanese people with more pronounced portruding upper teeth, narrowers eyes, flat heads and flatter noses. He said the Koreans should be drawn shorter, stockier and with very flat, rounded faces and broad noses with more rounded eyes but not European type eyes.

Japanese people should also be drawn lankier than the other Asain races. He was very well-thought out when it came to drawing different races of people and it showed in his work.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

December 12, 2006 at 1:35 am

“I’m gonnna have to call bullshit on that.
Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans are of the same ethnic stock. This is a well established, tho’ usually ignored fact.”

Nah, you can.
YOU may not be able to do it, but Asian people can.

Europeans are from the same stock, but Germans all have distinctive features, as do the French.
In long established countries there’s a whole lot of inbreeding going on.
That’s why some characteristics common in certain countries people don’t appear in others.

Spreader of Urban Legends

December 12, 2006 at 5:59 pm

“Stracyznski has established in Amazing II#37-39 that Ben did say that phrase at some point while he was alive, though.”
– – – –
“And if the guy who says Gwen Stacy jumped in the sack with the Green Goblin wrote it, it must be true….”
– – –
“I don’t understand. Given that Uncle Ben died without knowing about Peter’s powers—or has that been retconned, too?—why WOULD he say that?”
– – –

It was originally a pickup line Ben used all the time. Uncle Ben actually said it to Gwen and Norman Osborn just before menage a trois. Gwen passed the message to Peter.

Really, you must have missed an issue….

It’s amazing how much the abortion debate has NOT changed over the years. The arguments are still pretty much the same…

As the the “How to Spot a Jap” comic I never have had much success in differientiating between the different Asian ‘races’. I’m reminded of a Bruce Lee movie (The Chinese Connection?) where there is a Japanese man working as a cook in the kitchen of a Chinese martial arts school. Bruce was somehow able to determine that the man was Japanese by his nipples???

Is it cultural insensitivity to state that there are general characteristics that can be determined for various groups and subgroups or is it willful self-ignorance to deny it? I honestly don’t know…

churchill, 1943– “the price of greatness is responsibility.” not exact but pretty close

The cultural insensitivity does not lie in recognizing the physical differences between the chinese and japanese ethnies. They´re there. You don´t even need to be a japanese or chinese to be able to see it. I come from european heritage, but I had extensive contact with japanese, chinese and koreans and I am able to differentiate them with a glance, and with a high degree of accuracy (just like you can tell apart germanic europeans and mediterranean europeans).

The cultural insensitivity lies, however, in the attribution of certain values to these differences… It´s not necessarily wrong to say “That´s how a japanese looks”. It is wrong to say “That´s how a japanese looks, and you need to know that to distinguish them from the good guys”. Things get even muddier when one remembers that phisiognomy, the study of ethnic traces and physical features, was once very closely tied to racial persecution… accordingly to the way your head was shaped, you could be a natural born criminal, or a member of an inferior race. Sadly, when Milton Caniff produced his pamphlet, these ideas were still pretty much disseminated.

Skipping to my point: knowledge per se is neither right nor wrong. It´s a tool, like a hammer. It could be used to build something good or to blunder someone to death. So, the problem does not lie in the hammer; it lies in the way it was used.

PS: If one thinks it´s “cultural insensitivity” to debate the physical traits of japanese and the chinese, consider this: chinese (and koreans) will get much, much more seriously offended if you accidently call them japanese. For most of them, the insensitivity is the inability to tell the difference; not the opposite.

Interesting article on the “One-drop rule:”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_drop_rule

cool website. I really like it a lot and the comics are great! I’ll be seeing you around!

the great power/great responsibilty thing is similar to Luke 12:48 from the Bible which read, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

“[Stan Lee] may not be a Christian, but he is at least as familiar with the New Testament as he is with Nordic myth.”

So… not at all?

ParanoidObsessive

November 10, 2008 at 11:32 pm

>>> Stan Lee is JEWISH. Highly doubtful that he heard that passage from LUKE.

I doubt Walt Simonson is Norse, but he always seemed to have a fairly strong grasp of a lot of their belief system.

For that matter, I was raised Methodist and have since become an Agnostic, but I’ve read the Qur’an and the Rg Veda, and taken classes on “Eastern Religion” in general, so it’s hardly impossible that someone could read text outside of their own personal belief set. ESPECIALLY when that person is a well-read writer who is basically looking into other cultures for story ideas that will resonate with readers on an archetypal level.

In the same sense, a lot of “Jesus-allegory Messiah” stories aren’t necessarily written by Christians, either.

>>> Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans are of the same ethnic stock. This is a well established, tho’ usually ignored fact.

Actually, there’s at least a fair amount of biology and linguistic studies involved that suggests the Japanese may not be the same racial stock as most other Asian cultures, or, at least, if they are, the divergence point was much farther back than others. Certainly enough to make the issue far more murky than you’re portraying it as.

>>> Most Asians pride themselves on being able to tell each other apart, but they are almost always wrong.

Oddly enough, I’ve got about an 85% success rate at telling whether or not any given person of Asian descent is Japanese, Chinese, Korean, or “other” (“other” generally being one of the many Southeast Asian cultures), and I’m of Irish/German stock. Considering I’ve long since attributed my own skill at such to be derived from extensive experience dealing with people from those backgrounds (and thus, knowing what features are more common in a given group), I have no question that Asians who are constantly interacting with other Asian cultures would easily be able to tell where someone is from by sight alone, at least with a better than even rate of success.

>>> I can produce quite a few blonde blue-eyed italians though if you like?

Even that says a great deal about heritage and location, though – if you meet a blonde blue-eyed Italian, there are SIGNIFICANTLY high odds that they either from northern Italy, are directly descended from northern Italians, or are of mixed stock in their recent family history.

>>> Shucks, I can even produce black swedes if you like.

Odds are you that would have been a much more difficult feat had you attempted to do so in 1940. And likely nearly impossible had you done so prior to 1800 or so. The modern ease of travel and lowering of socio-cultural barriers is currently making possible racial patterns that would have been unthinkable (if not seen as a complete abomination) only a few hundred years ago.

In the case of the pamphlet we’re referring to, Japanese cultural xenophobia prior to WWII would have seriously limited any real interbreeding, and thus limited the crossover of traits that would have resulted with other Asian cultures. In other words, it would have indeed been possible to identify Japanese attempting to disguise themselves as other Asian groups (like the Chinese), albeit with some degree of error (ie, some Japanese managing to pass as Chinese, and some Chinese being wrongfully accused of being Japanese). It would certainly have far better odds than a simple 50-50 coin flip, though.

>>> It is wrong to say “That´s how a japanese looks, and you need to know that to distinguish them from the good guys”.

Realistically, though, when you are at war with the Japanese, they are, by the very definition of the term, not the “good guys”. At least not from the perspective of the culture fighting them. And when they are in an occupied country (China), and you are attempting to fight them, there is a significant need to be able to tell whether or not that local peasant who brings food to your troops is a harmless Chinese peasant who hates the Japanese and welcomes you as their enemy, or a Japanese saboteur trying to poison you. One of the major disadvantages to US troops fighting in Vietnam was that both sides were literally identical in terms of language and appearance, making detecting enemy agents hiding among supposed allies far more difficult.

No matter how culturally advanced or sensitive people in the year 2008 may consider themselves to be, the fact remains that if you see someone who is clearly matching every single physical stereotype of a group of people you are currently fighting a war against, there is almost certainly a response to that appearance that generalizes behavior and creates suspicion. I suspect you’d be hard-pressed to find too many Americans who DON’T have a twinge of suspicion or fear (at the very least!) if they’re getting onto a plane with someone who is clearly Arabic and dressed in traditional Muslim garb. And if you’re a soldier in a warzone, on the alert against sabotage, you’re obviously going to be more wary when dealing with dedicated Muslim Tariq al-Nureddin than you are with Bob Smith from Wisconsin.

One can dispute whether the insulting presentation of the information was necessary, but the information itself was clearly utilitarian – and useful. And even the presentation itself was hardly all that different from the similar demonization of the enemy present in nearly every aspect of American war propaganda during WWII, including the presentation of Germans and Italians in the media.

ParanoidObsessive, very well put.

Hello, I just linked to your Spiderman image from my blog. I goes perfectly with my commentary of iconic figures in our culture and how they can be made into idols. Take a look when you have a chance!

I found this funny-

“I remember a few years back John Byrne talking about he was able to draw the different Asian races and make them all distinct. He said he drew Chinese people with squintier eyes, large mouths and rounder heads than the Japanese and Koreans. He drew Japanese people with more pronounced portruding upper teeth, narrowers eyes, flat heads and flatter noses. He said the Koreans should be drawn shorter, stockier and with very flat, rounded faces and broad noses with more rounded eyes but not European type eyes.

Japanese people should also be drawn lankier than the other Asain races. He was very well-thought out when it came to drawing different races of people and it showed in his work.”

Not so much from the poster, but from Byrne himself, because he wasn’t know (particularly early on) for having distinctive faces. Particularly his women, who all looked the same, just with different hair styles/color. Try and tell the difference between Steve Rogers and Clint Barton. He might have liked Asian faces because he obviously was exaggerating them more.

Hi guys. Being Asian I can tell you there is a “typical” look to each country. But most people aren’t typical. If I were to judge Germans by their leaders during WW2, I would say they were all short with black hair. The basoc problem is the comic assumes all Asians from one country look alike and we don’t. To paraphrase, when Bruce Lee died it was amazing how many of his look alike movie clones didn’t look like him at all!

Yikes. “Abortion Eve” was just the worst.

Mychael Darklighter

September 4, 2012 at 7:01 pm

‘abortion eve’ was pretty poor as a comic, but the scarier + more distressing story was certainly the better-drawn ‘who killed junior?’

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