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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #93

This is the ninety-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 ninety-two. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.

This week, in honor of Captain America #25, we have a special themed edition, with all Captain America urban legends! The second time we have done this (click here for the previous time).

Let’s begin!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Fiorello LaGuardia personally promised protection to Jack Kirby and Joe Simon from death threats.

STATUS: True

When Captain America #1 came out in 1941, America was not yet at war with Nazi Germany.

The time period was an awkward one in American history, as there were many who felt that America should not get involved in the European conflict.

But Captain America #1 certainly showed a different side, with the new hero, created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, punching out Hitler on the cover.

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The success of #1 was followed up with a similar anti-Hitler cover for #2…

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The book was a massive sales success, but it certainly rankled Nazi sympathizers, and resulted in the Captain America creative team getting into a bit of trouble.

Captain America co-creator, Joe Simon, detailed a particularly rough period in his great memoir, . The Comic Book Makers, which he wrote with his son, Jim Simon:

Hitler was a marvelous foil; a ranting maniac. It was difficult to place him in the standard story line of the cunning, reasoning villains who invariably outfoxed the heroes throughout the entire story before being ultimately defeated at the very end. No matter how hard we tried to make him a threatening force, Adolph invariably wound up as a buffoon – a clown. Evidently, this infuriated a lot of Nazi sympathizers.

There was a substantial population of anti-war activists in the country. “American Firsters” and other non-interventionist groups were well-organized. Then there was the German American Bund. They were all over the place, heavily financed and effective in spewing their propaganda of hate; a fifth column of Americans following the Third Reich party line. They organized pseudo-military training camps such as ‘Camp Siegried’ in Yaphank, Long Island and held huge rallies in such places as Madison Square Garden in New York. Our irreverent treatment of their Feuhrer infuriated them. We were inundated with a torrent of raging hate mail and vicious, obscene telephone calls. The theme was “death to the Jews.” At first we were inclined to laugh off their threats, but then, people in the office reported seeing menacing-looking groups of strange men in front of the building on Forty Second Street and some of the employees were fearful of leaving the office for lunch. Finally, we reported the threats to the police department. The result was a police guard on regular shifts patrolling the halls and office.

No sooner than the men in blue arrived than the woman at the telephone switchboard signaled me excitedly. ‘There’s a man on the phone says he’s Mayor LaGuardia,’ she stammered, ‘He wants to speak to the editor of Captain America Comics.’

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I was incredulous as I picked up the phone, but there was no mistaking the shrill voice. ‘You boys over there are doing a good job, ‘ the voice squeaked, ‘The City of New York will see that no harm will come to you.’

I thanked him. Fiorello LaGuardia, ‘The Little Flower,’ was known as an avid reader of comics who dramatized the comic strips on radio during the newspaper strikes so that the kids could keep up-to-date on their favorite characters.

That’s a pretty darn neat story, no?

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Captain America #249 was not approved by the Comics Code Authority because it featured a suicide.

STATUS: False

Marvel Comics have had a number of different cover designs over the years, but one of their wonkiest was for books cover-dated September 1980, as they were running a promotion that month that resulted in taking over the entire top end of the comic book, as seen on this Fantastic Four cover from that month.

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What more than a few fans were intrigued by, though, was by something that appeared on the Fantastic Four cover above, but NOT on the cover of Captain America #249 – an “Approved by the Comics Code Authority” stamp!

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Captain America #249 was not the only book to lack a stamp that month, as also X-Men #137 went stampless.

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Well, a number of comic fans noticed that those two comics (Captain America #249 and X-Men #137) both had something in common. Both issues featured a suicide. In Captain America, the evil Machinesmith tricks Captain America into destroying the computer that held its consciousness, and in X-Men #137, some member of the X-Men sacrifices herself – I dunno, you might not have heard about her before – the Jean something or other.

Reader Aaraon Kashtan brought this urban legend up on the Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed Suggestion Thread on the Comics Should Be Good forum here at CBR.

I asked Roger Stern (who wrote the issue of Captain America in question) about it awhile back, and here is what he had to say:

I’ve heard that conspiracy-minded fans claim it was because the story deal with euthanasia.

But it was purely an accident. That month, Marvel started running a contest with a big honkin’ banner across the tops of all the covers…which necessitated some special paste-ups…and the code seal either fell off or was never added.

That explains that nicely, no?

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Captain America once had a metal-laced skeleton.

STATUS: In a Manner of Speaking, True

In the late 60s, Marvel came out with their first prose books featuring their comic book characters.

The first one featured the Avengers, and was written by Otto Binder.

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The second book, though, starred Captain America, and was written by Ted White.

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Captain America: The Great Gold Steal featured a truly unique take on the character who, at the time, in 1968, had only been back in comics for about four years.

The excellent web resource, The Unofficial Appendix to the Handbook of the Marvel Universe, explains the changes in the character, including the bizarre forebear to Wolverine’s adamantium skeleton…

As Europe warred against Hitler, Steve [Rogers] went to the draft board to enlist, but was laughed away. However, his determination and intellect impressed the recruiters, and a few months later Steve was one of 20 men approached by FBI agents Richard W. Brown and Michael McInerney to participate in Operation: Rebirth. After a rigorous testing process, he met with Brigadier General Anderson who discussed Dr. Anton Erskine’s experiments and their risks, then took him to a secret laboratory in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Steve’s bones were strengthened via stainless steel-slotted tubes inserted into the marrow; his diet was heavily weighted with calcium as a series of chemical treatments made the bones themselves stronger and more durable; he gained three inches in height; for days he was fed large, high-protein meals while engaging in rigorous exercise; and over-time his physique became that of a veritable Greek god. He next received an injection that caused him to enter into a trance-like state while his body taught itself to increase its metabolism and reflexes; he also gained awareness and control over his autonomic nervous system and over the function of every part of his body.

At the conclusion of the experiments–a resounding success, Steve’s former trainer, Max, revealed himself to be a Nazi agent who slew Erskine before being stopped by Rogers. Having taken three gunshots in the process, Rogers swiftly stopped the bleeding, prevented any infection, and sped up the healing.

Okay, that’s it for this week!

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

61 Comments

I never realized that Cap only had the golden age costume for one issue.

Didn’t Joe Simon create Cap WITHOUT Jack Kirby? I didn’t think Kirby entered the picture until Cap #7 or #8?
I think there was a lawsuit going on about this a few years back.

hey, is that an early cover by tim bradstreet on the golden seal?

“hey, is that an early cover by tim bradstreet on the golden seal? ”

Considering that Bradstreet is only 40 years old and that the book came out in 68, I find it highly unlikely that he costructed that cover.

Jacob — psssst. Joke.

Bill = The cover to Captain America # 1 is definitely a Kirby, although I’ve heard that Simon did the lion’s share of actually conceptualizing the character. Simon ‘n Kirby had been together for a year-or-so pre Cap #1.

The America’s First people were led by none other than America’s greatest celebrity… Charles Lindburgh.
Their big moment was the world’s largest anti-war rally to be held at Soldier Field in Chicago… on December 8th 1941. A funny thing happened on the way to the protest… war broke out and Nazi Germany declared war (then took it back) on the US. The anti-war rally never happened.
Proof that celebrities have been very active against wars and VERY wrong before.

People have been wrong about things before? I never would have believed it without proof!

“Having taken three gunshots in the process, Rogers swiftly stopped the bleeding, prevented any infection, and sped up the healing.”

That would have been a nice talent to have, oh I dunno, yesterday, maybe?

Charles Lindburgh was well-known as a Nazi sympathizer, a racist, and an anti-semite. There is no comparison between his deplorable, hateful, reactionary stance and that of people who oppose the illegal, unjustifiable, and genocidal war today.

Cap switched shields starting with issue #2. The folks at MLJ (now Archie) complained that his triangular shield was too derivative of their star, PEP COMICS’ “The Shield.”

The other evolution in Cap’s uniform was his “scullcap/mask” getting connected to his unitard, forming a cowl. The main difference in the Golden Age Cap outfit and the Silver Age revival was that the SA Cap’s stripes were wraparound. In the GA version, they are on the front of the costume only. Of course, Roy Thomas once used this as a plot point.

i like pie

I love this type of stuff. Keep it coming.

Just think of the conspiracy theories when The Punisher takes over as Captain America.

Richard
http://1rightopinion-comics.blogspot.com/

Michael Hoskin

March 8, 2007 at 1:33 pm

If Rory Miller’s intent is to hold up Lindbergh’s beliefs to parallel modern-day events, then he’s a pretty poor example. First, the USA was not at war at the time Lindbergh was planning that rally; second, when his country did go to war, he repented his ways, joined the USAF and fought in the Pacific.

But if Rory’s actual point is that Americans have been very wrong before, I could get behind that.

Wow- that snippet of Steve’s Wolverine like origin was almost word for word the original and now defunct description for Wolverine’s Adamantium-Laced Skeleton waaay back in the original Marvel Universe Handbook #15: Weapons and Paraphanelia (sp?).

Evidently, there was a time prior to John Byrne drawing Wolverine’s skeleton as completely coated in Adamantium (Days of Future Past- a wound that wouldn’t do much more than give Logan a painful itch these boring days of unbeatable-healing-factorism), where the handbook (using Byrne’s art if I remember correctly) did a cross-section of him showing that the bones had grooves cut in them where adamantium pins and rods were inserted- reinforcing the bone and “lacing” the skeletal structure entire- almost exactly the same genesis as the above Captain America novel segment- hmmm… wonder if anyone saw that book before writing that handbook…

I love this column- keep up the good work and thank you for entertaining my rather long post!

Robert Eddleman

March 8, 2007 at 2:46 pm

Man, that guy sending robots after Cap on the cover of #249 looks like Professor X.

“Having taken three gunshots in the process, Rogers swiftly stopped the bleeding, prevented any infection, and sped up the healing.”

That would have been a nice talent to have, oh I dunno, yesterday, maybe?

Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!!!!! Funny because it is oh so true :)

That quoted text for the skeleton myth, is that actual copy from the book?

How terrible.

Aaron “The Mad Whitaker” Bourque

“Charles Lindburgh was well-known as a Nazi sympathizer, a racist, and an anti-semite. There is no comparison between his deplorable, hateful, reactionary stance and that of people who oppose the illegal, unjustifiable, and genocidal war today.”

QFT

Dear Brian,

I really enjoyed last week’s CBULR #92 piece about TM Maple, although tinged with sadness that Jim has been dead for over a decade. I was a regular in the letters pages too in the 1980s and 90s, although I stuck to one or two titles for years on end rather than sending letters to a variety of comics. I had long runs of letters in THE WARLORD, AVENGERS and Alan Moore’s SWAMP THING, among others.

The ephemeral nature of much online commentary turned me off continuing to write about new comics almost as much as the rise of the insult, which today is often seen (mistakenly) as a valid replacement for a well-argued critique. Thank goodness for David Mack’s KABUKI, with its 4 or 5 pages per issue of letters.

Another regular letter writer I remember was Elizabeth Holden (Mrs.), from the 1970s or early 80s. Does anyone know her background or fate?

Keep up the great work, Brian!

Sincerely, MARK DITO

Funny, I have both that issue of Fantastic Four and Captain America with that stupid banner at the top, but not the X-Men. That banner was totally retarded.

This post made Google News.

“Charles Lindburgh was well-known as a Nazi sympathizer, a racist, and an anti-semite. There is no comparison between his deplorable, hateful, reactionary stance and that of people who oppose the illegal, unjustifiable, and genocidal war today.”

Hehehe… Suppose that proves that celebrities were wrong then too.

John McDonagh

March 8, 2007 at 8:22 pm

By the way, this novel was the first time that the Red Skull was depicted in a story set after Avengers I#4.

“Hehehe… Suppose that proves that celebrities were wrong then too.”

What? You mean not everybody’s right about everything all the time?

What a revelation!

When did “Erskine” become the standard name, anyway? Wasn’t he originally called “Professor Reinstein,” in a shining example of the subtlety and wit of the age?

The stuff about LaGuardia was particularly interesting. He read the comics over the radio? That’s awesomeness in a tube, right there…

I think I remember a comic that stated that “Reinstein” was a code name for “Erskine,” for all the good that did.

It was probably a Roy Thomas story.

I wonder if the Comics Code symbol got left off those two issues simply because they couldn’t find a place to physically put it? The size and shape of the X-Men and Captain America logos seem to make that unusually difficult.

I cannot recall where I saw this, but I remember that the end of DeMatteis’ long run on Captain America was supposed to wind up with Steve Rogers dead and a new character taking up the Red-White-and-Blue. An urban legend?

It struck me as I read the non–Code/suicide item that it was quite a coincidence that the code seal was left off an X–MEN issue whose events Jim Shooter mandated because, according to him, under the Code Dark Phoenix’s actions had to be paid for with her life, but then I took a look at the scan. The diamond shape for the date/number/price display means that it is a direct–distribution rather than newsstand copy (note also the Spidey head instead of the UPC grid), and, as I recall, those didn’t bear the Code seal on ANY issue! Its absence there proves absolutely nothing.

“Suppose that proves that celebrities were wrong then too.”

And funded by anti-American interests, much like the World Workers Party organizes and funds almost all of the “anti-war” rallies today.

“Man, that guy sending robots after Cap on the cover of #249 looks like Professor X.”

The other thing the two covers have in common are that they were drawn by John Byrne.

“The diamond shape for the date/number/price display means that it is a direct–distribution rather than newsstand copy (note also the Spidey head instead of the UPC grid), and, as I recall, those didn’t bear the Code seal on ANY issue! Its absence there proves absolutely nothing.”

Here’s a newsstand copy, with UPC code and sans Comics Code: http://www.milehighcomics.com/cgi-bin/backissue.cgi?action=fullsize&issue=97792366288%20137

The first comic I ever remember buying without a comics code was Daredevil, circa the Miller/Mazzucchelli run. There’s no code on the issue that ends with fake Daredevil lying naked in the snow. The image used in the place of the comics code on the cover? A picture of Captain America’s face.

“And funded by anti-American interests, much like the World Workers Party organizes and funds almost all of the “anti-war” rallies today.”

Wow, what a flashback to 2002! No mention of “Not In Our Name”? Are antiwar demonstrators mounting a “fifth column”? Get thee back to your warblog, fightin’ keyboarder!

The interests of the current occupier of the White House are not synonymous with those of America, no matter how much he wish it were so.

“The interests of the current occupier of the White House are not synonymous with those of America, no matter how much he wish it were so.”

Well, duh. He’s a capitalist globalist. The lone saving grace where 43′s concerned is that his opponents are Marxist globalists, which manages to be far, far worse.

Is it the definition of “damning with faint praise” to say the best thing about someone is that they at least have the right enemies? :)

Capitalist? Steel tariffs, biggest deficits in U.S. history, doubling the national debt, sweetheart deals in Iraq to industry cronies–he’s a plutocrat.

Globalist? Backing out of the Geneva Conventions, starting a civil war in another country, kidnapping foreign nationals to classified “black sites” in authoritarian nations where they’re tortured for years–he’s a war criminal.

I won’t even go into the “Marxist globalist” nonsense (seizing the means of production and spurring a communist revolution aren’t goals of either the Democratic Party or al Qaeda). However, two-thirds of the U.S. population, as of the latest polls, are opposed to the job he’s doing. Are those the “right enemies” you mentioned?

Julius Anderson

March 10, 2007 at 6:37 am

My God, i cant believe someone still thinks Marxist are a big threat (like they ever were)… Wich century are living on?

And why is it that America always gotta have an “enemy”?

Bryan beat me to actually posting the other cover, proving your point incorrect, but I just wanted to note how amusing it is at how often, Ted, you post things not just straight out of your ass, but also with the smugness that comes with absolute certainty in your position – even if your position is based on no real fact at all.

It is quite amusing (in an annoying way).

America always needs an enemy for obvious reasons. If there’s no enemy the military industrial complex that is America would cease to exist. Do you really think the political and rich elite really want that? Of course they don’t they want to continue to line their pockets with the profits of killing innocent people in the name of American imperialism.

John Hall: “…with the smugness that comes with absolute certainty….”

Take a second look at my posting and you will see that I said that the direct-distribution edition’s cover proved nothing because those did not carry the Code seal; I still think that they didn’t and it doesn’t. The other scan corrects GREG’s mistake (posting the wrong cover), not proves that I made one. I never at all said that Greg was wrong to say that the issue did not carry the Code seal. NEVER! Furthermore, I also included “…as I recall….” No absolute certainty there whatsoever, and for that alone you owe me an apology, if not for the rest (but you do). If you want to claim I’m wrong about something here, show that direct-distribution copies DID carry the seal. The you can state that I’m posting “straight out of [my] ass….” But you’ll still owe me an apology for “absolute certainty.”

Uh, sorry, not Greg but Brian. And I don’t know why the first word in my sentence came out as “The” instead of “Then.”

Sure he’s a capitalist. Steel tariffs? Helps Big Steel. Biggest deficits in U.S. history and doubling the national debt? Nothing to do with capitalism. “Sweetheart deals in Iraq to industry cronies”? Capitalist. 43 believes in Big Government in the employ of Big Business.

Globalist? Yep. Doesn’t believe in borders, believes in nonsensical multilateral negotiations, and so on. The only difference is that, again, he believes that globalist power should ultimately lie in the hands of Big Business.

The globalist Marxists aren’t as sure where they want the power to be. It’s usually some weasel phrase like “international community” that can mean completely different things to different people. In every case, though, it’s basically some oligarchy.

Sorry, nuke187, but I don’t know where to begin finding a common point of reference between us when you believe that steel tariffs are “capitalist” and that Bush is a multilateral negotiator. I can’t even imagine your definition of “Marxist,” except possibly “someone I don’t like.”

Regarding Captain America’s creation, Joe Simon made a sketch of Captain America character and showed it to Martin Goodman and got approval on it. Simon was also the writer of the series. So as the guy that came up with the costume and origin/character he is considered to be the characters sole creator. A lot of this is in Les Daniels book Five Fabulous Decades of Marvel.

Jack Kirby did pencil the first 10 issues, with Simon helping out here and there and inking. Some people think Kirby should be considered co-creator.
IIRC Simon sued Marvel for Captain America while Kirby was working there in the late 60s, Marvel pitted the two against each other.

Yeah, way I saw it, if Joe Simon was okay with Kirby being considered co-creator of Captain America (which he certainly seemed to be in his book), then it was good enough for me.

Interesting. John Hall hasn’t had a thing to say. No apology for his gross misreading of my first post here and/or his rude and unjustifiable comments about me, nor any attempt at a defense of either/refutation of my response to him. I’d say the latter is impossible and he’s too arrogant to do the former, so he just drops it. Much more lacking in civility and fairness than anything I’ve done that has been so characterized. (I continue to find further more–or–less technical errors in my earlier posts here, and apologize for THEM. I especially again apologize for losing track of which feature I was on and saying “Greg” instead of “Brian.” Forgot I had moved from “Fridays…” to CBUL, you see.)

You may want to give him more than 24 hours to respond.

I think the focus was on the Captain America comic, not the Uncanny X-Men issue. I think the latter just served as a piece of secondary evidence, so pointing out that the inclusion of the direct distribution version fo the issue and saying it proved absolutely nothing was just nit picking.

The legend wasn’t focused on issue 137 of Uncanny, it’s just an interesting tidbit, so you pointing out the problems of the direct distribution version (in your words), “proves absolutely nothing”.

Dude!!! The Avengers Battle The Earth Wrecker!!! My 2nd grade teacher had that book on the shelves, and I remember reading it for a book report! I wasn’t sure if it was real, but there it is… That cover is burned into my memory. Now where in the world can I dig up a copy of that?

Mark: “You may want to give him more than 24 hours to respond.”

Absolutely right. That very thing occurred to me after I had gotten off the computer yesterday, and I apologize to John for my impatience. I probably won’t be able to check at all tomorrow, just for the record.

Maybe someone just knows the answer to this outright or myabe it’s been covered. I don’t even think there’s a myth in here…

In Paul Smith’s second issue of X-Men/Alpha Flight, I swear that’s Barry Windsor Smith inking on a hanful of pages (pages 35-39), even though only Bob Wiacek is in the credits. Let me know if anyone has any thoughts or knowledge on this. Thanks.

I love that they included a high-tech “TELE-VISION” screen in the German bunker. For 1941, that was far out.

Sorry, Ted. I usually just stop by when the new Urban Legends go up, so I didn’t see your reply. Anyway, guy, I am sorry, not for being wrong (because whatever, being wrong isn’t a big deal) – but I was way too mean to you, even had I been right. My sincerest apologies.

John,

Apology accepted (although I deny that being wrong when you’re telling somebody else that THEY are wrong is not something to apologize for; why is it when somebody is “Pure D”—and conclusively proven to be—wrong TO me, being wrong is nothing to care about, but when I’m wrong—or merely can’t provide the proof that I’m right—I’m supposed to shout my supposed error to the hills? It’s been that way all my life and I hate it!). And I again make my apology for not giving you a decent time to respond. The actual points I meant to make were that it was quite ironic that the Code seal was inadvertently left off an issue that had a Code–oriented controversy about its content, and that it was funny that Brian had posted a scan of the wrong cover, given that his intent was to demonstrate the missing Code seal—that’s irrefutable—and in that era, Marvel’s direct distribution copies didn’t carry it at all (THAT, I admit, is an error that was no big deal in the sense that Brian didn’t need to apologize for it).

Blah blah blah, rhetoric, indignant, BLAH!

Robert McKinney

March 16, 2007 at 8:47 am

Back on a non-political track here …

Anybody think the two Cap books look a lot like those Doc Savage novels from the same time?

I had no idea otto binder wrote a avengers prose novel. I bet that is the only marvel related thing he wrote since he mostly worked for dc and before that at fawcet. I definitly want to check out that avengers book if i can find it (probabbly out of print).

well i heard the otto binder story sucked but the cap.america one was pretty good.

Also Charles Lindberg was right!!! being against war is always good.

One thing about Binder’s Avengers novel: the villain was called Karzz the Conqueror, and the similarities to Marvel’s Kang were unmistakable to anyone familiar with one character when they first read the other.

Michael Powers

May 1, 2011 at 8:48 am

“….stainless steel slotted tubes were inserted into the marrow [of his bones]….” Jesus Christ!!!

I didn’t know they had any Marvel prose novels in the 60′s. The earliest ones I knew about were the Marvel Novel Series from the late 70′s, which I though were pretty good.

I had no idea otto binder wrote a avengers prose novel. I bet that is the only marvel related thing he wrote since he mostly worked for dc and before that at fawcet.

Not quite true. Binder did some work for Timely/Marvel in the ’40s, where he cocreated Miss America and Captain Wonder (recently revived in The Twelve) and wrote the occasional story for Cap, Subby, the All-Winners Squad, et al. In fact he worked for pretty much every company around back then: Quality Comics (where he cocreated Kid Eternity), MLJ/Archie, Gold Key, etc. Having created Fawcett’s Mary Marvel, DC’s Supergirl and Marvel’s Miss America is definitely nothing to sneeze at.

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