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This is the one-hundred and forty-eighth 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 one-hundred and forty-seven. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.
Through sheer happenstance, this week’s legends all have a theme! Let’s call it – “influences”!
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Siegel and Shuster based Superman on a colorful bodybuilder named Mayo Kaan.
STATUS: Sure Seems to be False
As the story goes, bodybuilder and gym owner, Mayo Kaan first claimed that he was the inspiration for Superman in the 70s. As proof, Kaan produced a series of old photographs of himself in a Superman suit.
Both men denied ever knowing Kaan, and in fact, both men denied ever being IN Massachusetts before Superman hit it big, which certainly fits with their profile prior to Superman. These were not two wealthy guys, so it seems highly unlikely that they would travel from Cleveland to Massachusetts to hire a guy to dress up as Superman for them (and, do note, that was Kaan’s story – that they traveled to Massachusetts and hired him to model for them).
DC Comics’ attorney, Lillian Laserson, stated in 1997 (when Kaan repeated the claim, rather publicly, in a series of ads in Boston magazines) that “Kaan played no role in creating the superhero’s image. Kaan’s billing himself as something he is not.” Defenders of Kaan might point out that while DC sent cease and desist letters to Kaan to tell him to stop billing himself as the original model for Superman, they never actually sued him. However, there really wasn’t much reason for DC to do so, as Kaan was not claiming any sort of ownership interest, just that he was the original model for Superman. That’s not exactly worth suing over.
The biggest hole in Kaan’s story was that, in the background of one of the photos, you could see a building in Boston that was not built until 1940, four years after Kaan said the photos were taken.
Couple this with the fact that Kaan was charging people to see the photos, and it seems like a fairly clean cut case of Kaan making the claim up, although Kaan’s daughter maintained the claim even after Kaan’s death in 2002.
Thanks to Mark Evanier and Neil Cole for the information!!
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: The Guardians of the Universe were modeled after David Ben-Gurion.
One of Julie Schwartz’s conceits for the Green Lantern Corps was the idea that there was no reason aliens necessarily had to look SO different from the people of Earth.
Following that train of thought, the visual inspiration for the Guardians of the Universe was none other than the first Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben-Gurion!!
Check it out…
I would have ran this one a long time ago, but I was searching for a direct quote on the topic. You’d be amazed at how poorly the sourcing is on this bit of info. No offense to Alan Oirich, as I’m sure he’s a fine fellow, but “According to Alan Oirich, the Guardians were based on David Ben-Gurion” is not a good source, and yet that is the source in a number of different places, including some magazine articles (Wikipedia, too)! Weird.
Anyhow, luckily, I came across a few Julie Schwartz interviews where he verifies the story. Here‘s an online one, where Mark Evanier (first the Superman stuff, and now this! He sure is helpful!) transcribed a panel Schwartz was on, and Schwartz relates that the Guardians were based on Ben-Gurion. Amusingly, Schwartz accidentally says Abin Sur instead of Ben-Gurion, but luckily, Mark Waid was there to correct him.
A few people have mentioned this over the years (included John McDonagh). So thanks to them! And thanks again to Mark Evanier!
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Chris Claremont named a group of supporting characters after the original owners of Forbidden Planet.
Reader Frank Butler sent in a request over a year ago, and I was unable to find a source stating the answer, when it occurred to me today, “Res ipsa loquitur,” which is a legal term that is roughly translated from Latin as “The thing speaks for itself.” To wit, in this instance, the homage is so blatant, it occurred to me that I really do not have to PROVE it, because it really speaks for itself (although I will add the one thing Frank did not have when he asked me the question – and do note that Frank was 99% sure himself – a motivation for Claremont to do this seemingly random homage).
Anyhow, on to the specifics!
In Wolverine #5, Claremont introduced an intergalactic/interdimensional holding company that ran a number of businesses (like law firms, private detective firms, etc.) that employed Wolverine over the years.
The name of the firm was Landau, Luckman & Lake. They also later played a major role in the pages of Joe Kelly’s Deadpool.
Well, the original owners of England’s esteemed fantasy and comic book store, Forbidden Planet, were none other than Mike Lake, Nick Landau and Mike Luckman.
So, yeah, the homage speaks for itself, doesn’t it?
As to why Claremont did this – I couldn’t give you a specific reason, but I know Claremont is both originally from England, and has done a number of signings for Forbidden Planet in London, so he’s certainly well acquainted with the store, making it fairly reasonable that he would work a tribute to the original owners into a comic.
Thanks so much to Frank Butler for the suggestion!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Thanks to the Grand Comic Book Database for this week’s, well, one cover! But still, thanks!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oh, and go vote for your Top 100 Comic Book Runs! You have until March 31st!
See you next week!
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