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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #156

This is the one-hundred and fifty-sixth 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 fifty-five. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.

Let’s begin!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Actor Bill Hader got his breakout film role due to his interest in Sandman comics.

STATUS: True

Bill Hader was not exactly plucked from obscurity for his minor role in the film You, Me and Dupree in 2006.

Hader was already a cast member on Saturday Night Live (when he got the call that he made the show, Hader was reading a Sandman trade paperback). However, while he was not totally obscure, he was not nearly a big name in the acting game, which is reflected in the size of his role in the film (which I watched the other day On Demand to see just how much of the film he was in – boy, that film was bad).

He is basically in one scene in the film. However, in that one scene (a bunch of guys are sitting around watching a football game) he met the actor Seth Rogan. While not filming, the two began talking, and after about ten minutes of discussing comic books (their mutual love for Sandman and Neil Gaiman, specifically), Rogan offered him a role in the film he was writing with his writing partner, Evan Goldberg, Superbad.

While doing Superbad, he also had a bit part in Rogan’s Knocked Up film.

Both films were produced by Judd Apatow, and Hader soon had a part in the next Apatow film, Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

And he’s going to be appearing in the NEXT Apatow film, Pineapple Express.

And all because of his love for Sandman.

Here’s Seth Rogan about it, from a New York Times article on the topic:

”If you watch ‘You, Me and Dupree,’ he barely does anything,” said Mr. Rogen, who played Mr. Hader’s police partner in ”Superbad.” ”There was almost nothing to imply that he was a good actor at all. We just liked the same movies, and the same comic books, and that was basically it.”

Interestingly enough, when Neil Gaiman did a reading for charity at this year’s New York Comic Con, guess who introduced him?

Yep, Hader!

Pretty cool, huh?

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Alice the Goon was the inspiration for the word “goon”

STATUS: False, but with a slight caveat

Alice the Goon has one of the oddest progressions out of any comic character you can think of.

When she debuted on December 10, 1933 in Thimble Theatre (the strip that starred Popeye), we knew nothing about her (including that it WAS a “her”) except that she was a big monster who worked for the Sea Hag (click on the image to enlarge).

A month later, in a great gag that involved Wimpy changing clothes in front of Alice, we learned that this big ol’ monster was a FEMALE monster! Whether Thimble Theatre creator, E.C. Segar originally meant for Alice to be, well, Alice or not has never been determined, but it’s likely that he just came up with the idea later on.

At the end of the “Plunder Island” storyline, Popeye is fighting Alice and is about to throw her off of a cliff when Alice’s child screams, “Mama!” Popeye stops fighting her, of course, and we learn that Alice was forced to work for the Sea Hag involuntarily.

A couple of years later, Alice shows up again, saving Popeye’s son from the Sea Hag, and she was a recurring cast member from that point on.

Alice the Goon was the basis for the title of Spike Milligan’s popular BBC radio show, The Goon Show.

However, Alice the Goon did NOT originate the word “goon.” It has been appearing in dictionaries as early as the early 1920s, meaning “a stupid, foolish, or awkward person.”

That said, it is EXTREMELY likely that the secondary meaning of the term (which has since become the primary meaning of the term), that of “a hired hoodlum or thug” WAS based upon Alice the Goon, as, well, that’s what she was! Also, this secondary meaning originated in the late 1930s.

So it is extremely likely that Alice the Goon did influence the now standard meaning of the word goon, but E.C. Segar did not coin the word itself, as it was around for more than a decade before Alice the Goon came into the picture.

Thanks to Bard Ermentrout’s Popeye website for the picture! Check out this history of Alice, courtesy of the Popeye’s Poopdeck!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Marvel put out a somewhat racy comic magazine in the 1960s.

STATUS: Basically True

Marvel Comics was founded by Martin Goodman, who got his start in the pulp magazine business, which was not the most delicate of business arenas. Right up until he sold his company, Martin Goodman produced men’s magazines alongside the comic books of the Marvel line. There would occasionally be some off-color magazines being published by Goodman’s men’s magazine company. Marvel, though, was kept relatively untouched by such influences, or so most readers thought. However, they most likely did not know about the Adventures of Pussycat.

The Adventures of Pussycat was a men’s magazine one-shot in 1968 made up out of a collection of somewhat racy comic strips (and an uncovered, but not nude, centerfold) about a sexy secret agent, in the same fashion as Playboy’s popular Little Annie Fanny by Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder (who sadly just recently passed away). The strip ran through many of Goodman’s men’s magazines. The black and white one-shot was launched the same time as the black and white Spectacular Spider-Man magazine was launched.

What is notable about the strip is that it was produced by many of the same workers who were part of Marvel Comics at the time, including Stan Lee himself doing some of the scripting!

Lee’s brother Larry Lieber wrote some of the strips, as well. The series’ opening strip was drawn by the legendary Wally Wood. The comic detailed the adventures of Pussycat, a secretary for S.C.O.R.E. (Secret Council of Ruthless Extroverts) who is then recruited to fight against S.C.O.R.E.’s arch-nemesis, L.U.S.T.

It is a hilarious juxtaposition to see names like Jim Mooney and Bill Everett working on a comic like this, but especially seeing Stan Lee himself writing the strip!

Thanks to Fred Hembeck for turning me on to this comic! Here‘s Fred’s take on his first encounter with the comic (that’s where the above scans came from – thanks, again, Fred! Check out his website, while you’re at it at hembeck.com. And also, get ready to buy his book in two weeks! Preorder it here!)

Okay, that’s it for this week!

Thanks to the Grand Comic Book Database for this week’s covers!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is cronb01@aol.com.

See you next week!

50 Comments

It’s Spike Milligan, not Spike Mulligan. If you want to go back and edit it, I’ll give you a Milligan on that one.

So, I guess it’s OK to SCORE as long as you do it without LUST? :-P

Beloved and I both enjoyed You, Me & Dupree. It’s wild how subjective that sort of thing can be….

Not safe for work! Not safe for work!

it depends where you work, I guess

I saw the second half of You, Me and Dupree and found it funny. Funnier than any clip I’ve ever seen from an Apatow geek movie at least. Plus, with the exception of 40-year old virgin, Apatow casts his movies way too ugly for me to watch one its entirety.

Actually “goon” dates back much earlier than the 1920s.

It’s an obscure variation of “gun” going back to Middle English, and there may be some connection there a goon as a gunsel–an American underworld slang term for a hoodlum that may go back to the late 19th century.

The term “gunsel” was derived from a Yiddish word (“gantzel”) and/or a German word (“gansel” or “ganzel”) for a small bird. A related word is “gosling” for a baby goose, and the German word for goose is “gans”).

The Yiddish word became a derogatory slang term for a homosexual while the German word became slang for an odd-looking person (other variations in English have appeared as gonsel, gonsil, gonzel, guncel, et cetera).

“Goon” was also a shortened form of “gooney,” which was a variation of “gony.” The first use of “gony” in print in English with the meaning of “simpleton” is from 1580 (probably derived from the Scandinavian “gonyel” for “a stupid fellow”–which, of course, would also make it etymologically related to the Yiddish and German words. “Gony” and “gooney” then became quite prominent in British publications in the 19th century beginning in 1804.

Thus, while I can’t speak to how Spike Milligan came up with the title of “The Goon Show,” it’s clear that the term “gooney” (and probably the short form “goon”) was widely used in England going back to the early 19th century.

It also seems highly improbable that the term “goon” for a hoodlum was derived from E.C. Segar’s character.

That Middle pussycat page looks to be Bill Ward art.

This batch of “legends” seemed a little thin. Methinks the pile of viable legends is getting low.

Another fact about dear Alice was that when she spoke, no one but Wimpy could understand her. Even the readers saw only a scribble in her word balloons. I also vaguely remember an episode when Alice “fell” for Popeye as she was following him with “hearts in her eyes”. Popeye obviously spent the episode running away from her.

Alice being nude (at least at the beginning) was pretty odd as well. She had full frontal nudity, but the “fur” on her groin covered up the genatalia. Her full chest was exposed, but there were no breasts to speak of. I guess the fact that was was represented as a “monster” instead of a person made this OK. -

On the subject of Martin Goodman’s men’s magazines, I actually have a couple of these (not comics related) called Stag. One dates back to 1952 and the other from 1968 and they were pretty lurid (mostly very violent), including in the 1952 issue an article on “justice in the Arab world” showing photographs of recently decapitated perps (heads only). Pretty grim stuff.

Evan Goldberg also mentioned the Bill Hader thing on the commentary for Superbad. Yes, I have watched Superbad with the commentary on and I am that sad

thom Young – Spike Milligan was on record repeatly during his life giving credit for the use of the word Goon in The Goon Show coming from Popeye (The cartoon more than the comic strip I think) rather from being familiar with it has an English word.

I have some Popeye comics where later appearences of Alice depict her with a skirt, combat boots, blouse and “Minnie Pear” type bonnet, complete with exposed price tag. The arm & leg hair is still quite noticable, but she looks much more human – in fact could probably get by as an ugly, hairy, big nosed woman.

Alice eventually became Sweet Pea’s nanny. A bit of a reverse take on Felix the Cat, where The Professor would spend nearly every waking hour trying to capture Felix and his “Bag of Tricks” – unless he needed a baby sitter – the he’d call Felix and The Cat would come running.

That second Pussycat page is definitely by Bill Ward.

Was pussycat the influence for Blackcat? since theyre both marvel and seem very similar (white hair specifically), including both being “sexkitten” characters so to speak.

This batch of “legends” seemed a little thin. Methinks the pile of viable legends is getting low.

There is something almost soothing about the knowledge that each week’s column will bring at least one oddly belligerent reply.

Segar was a first in a lot of ways. Alice the Goon was one of the first examples of a face turn in comics. People liked her, so he brought her back as a good guy.

I’m assuming you already did the “Jeep” story a long time ago, yes?

And seeing Jim Mooney draw Good Girl is not as hard to believe as you think. One of MY favorite urban legends (which I ALSO heard from Fred Hembeck) is that Jim would regularly pencil Supergirl naked, and ink in the costume. Hey, you get your jollies where you can. That’s another one I assume has been addressed a long time ago, but hey, Liberty Valance Effect.

For Seth Rogen and friends at their best go download Freaks and Geeks!

Doug Atkinson

May 23, 2008 at 7:21 pm

“The term “gunsel” was derived from a Yiddish word (”gantzel”) and/or a German word (”gansel” or “ganzel”) for a small bird. A related word is “gosling” for a baby goose, and the German word for goose is “gans”).

The Yiddish word became a derogatory slang term for a homosexual while the German word became slang for an odd-looking person (other variations in English have appeared as gonsel, gonsil, gonzel, guncel, et cetera).”

It amuses me that “gunsel” is now used to mean “gun-wielding gangster” by people who clearly don’t know its linguistic roots. (This may be due to the use of the term in “The Maltese Falcon,” though it’s pretty clear from context that it’s not a flattering way to refer to someone.)

“This batch of “legends” seemed a little thin. Methinks the pile of viable legends is getting low.”

Seemed fine to me. Great as usual, in fact. Brian, some of us do appreciate the hard work that goes into getting this stuff together, and enjoy reading it ‘thin’ or otherwise.

And how many people went straight to ebay to check out Pussycat?

I look forward to these articles every friday. Even if some of the “legends” aren’t so legendary, they’re usually still pretty interesting.

It’s Spike Milligan, not Spike Mulligan. If you want to go back and edit it, I’ll give you a Milligan on that one.

Ha! Thanks, I’ll gladly take that mulligan!

Aw, poor Big Ethel lost a race to Pussycat and her tits.

This would be a good series for Pam Anderson. A bit too much like VIP, but it could work.

So, in that third page of Pussycat stuff… Why didn’t Gail Simone include that version of Agent X in her run on Agent X???

Pussycat reminds me of Codename: Knockout.

I found this DVD of the old Ben Stiller Show and Judd Apatow worked on it. He’ s not actually in the show much, but appears as ‘Foxy the Network Fox’ who mocks the very network the show is on… and it was cancelled.

Good Stuff.

I haven’t seen any of those films.

I’m sure this one has been asked and answered, but I cant find anything on it. Was the Lee/Kirby Black Panther responsible for the Black Panthers Party name? I know the symbol of a Black Panther was used by black activists prior to T’Challa’s appearance, but I dont know how widespread it was, and if L/K stole it from them, or what.

Has anyone ever picked Stan Lee’s brain about his memories of that, and Marvels attempt to change T’Challas name to The Black Leopard in FF #112 in order to distance themselves from the radicals?

It seems like it would be an interesting tidbit to ask Stan about.

“I’m sure this one has been asked and answered, but I cant find anything on it. Was the Lee/Kirby Black Panther responsible for the Black Panthers Party name? I know the symbol of a Black Panther was used by black activists prior to T’Challa’s appearance, but I dont know how widespread it was, and if L/K stole it from them, or what.”

It’s in #41.

I believe it’s Seth Rogen, not Seth Rogan.

All that tells me is that what I said was correct, not answer my questions.

Biggles wrote:
“Spike Milligan was on record repeatly during his life giving credit for the use of the word Goon in The Goon Show coming from Popeye (The cartoon more than the comic strip I think) rather from being familiar with it has an English word.”

I would think more from the comic strip more than the cartoon; can anybody remember (my old friend The FanTome, perhaps?) any Popeye cartoons with Alice the Goon in them?

–Mike Blake

FunkyGreenJerusalem

May 25, 2008 at 7:09 pm

Are you sure that the Goon’s took their name from Pop-eye?

I thought it was from a term they used in the war – first I’ve ever heard of a pop-eye connection.
(Granted, I’m not the most knowing on the Goons, but I have read a bit about them).

FGJ wondered:
> Are you sure that the Goon’s took their name from Pop-eye?
> I thought it was from a term they used in the war – first I’ve ever
> heard of a pop-eye connection.

Not denying the word existed beforehand, but Google and you find even the BBC goes with the Popeye connection, and that the term baffled the BBC execs:

“Their unique comedy style was first heard on the airwaves on 28 May 1951 on the programme Crazy People featuring The Goons.

“Within a year the title had changed to The Goon Show.

“Milligan is said to have picked the word goon out of a Popeye comic and started using it as derogatory term for people he saw as idiots.

“The word baffled the aging establishment at the BBC, with one executive memorably demanding to know about the ‘Go On Show’. ”

I knew reading comics would make you rich!

Hear that actors? Always read comics when you’re on set.

People still use the word “methinks”?

Bombarden,

No, the Black Panther party did not take it’s name from the comic book character. While the Black Panther Party with Huey Newton and Bobby Seale was not named the Black Panthers when the character was created, there were other Black Panther parties in the country at the time. Most people credit the name to Stokely Carmichael who used a Black Panther logo in a voter registration drive in Alabama.

Not everything originates with comic books, you know.

At the time of Pussycat, every men’s magazine had to have a comic to compete with Playboy. Pussycat was Goodman’s version. Goodman in the late 1960s had his men’s magazines and his men’s sweat magazines (men’s sweat were those with the violent covers, often with Nazis and brands, etc). It’s my understanding that all of the stories in Pussycat were reprints – and that there are many more out there. Al Hartely was working on a Pussycat story when he got his religious conversion – and while he didnt consider it obscene, he did consider it questionable.
when Goodman started his new line of comics in 1975, he also did men;’s magazines (dunno if it had a comic or not) – the comics (fandom calls them Atlas-seaboard) was gone fairly shortly, but the men’s magazine still remains!

Just when I thought T.’s posts couldn’t get any more ridiculous…

I get what you’re saying, Kenny, but whenever a term predates another use of the term, I don’t think it is unreasonable to wonder if the group got their name from the first popular usage of the term.

I mean, who would have thought that the Weathermen would have their name be based on a Dylan lyric? I think them using a comic character as their inspiration is believable – that is not to say that I think they DID, as I think they likely did NOT. But I wouldn’t be shocked if they did (surprised, yes – shocked, no).

Hey Mike. I can remember several of the later features starring Alice The Goon. The early episodes escape me:

Goon Hollywood
Goon Balloon
Goon Native
Here Today, Goon Tomorrow
Alice in Blunderland
Jeep Thrills
Tanks A Lot
Wreck Room
Basic Training
Troop Therapy
Snow Foolin’
Mission Improbably
Rocky Rolls
Private Secretaries

BTW, although fairly common knowledge, I didn’t read anyone here referencing how T’Challa once changed his name from “The Black Panther” to “The Black Leopard” in order to disavow any affiliation with the Black Panther organization. The name change was short-lived and terribly silly, considering The Black Panther is the cerimonial title for the leader of The Panther tribe, not simply a chosen superhero identity.

All this Black Panther name talk got me thinking about Iron Man’s affiliation with the Black Sabbath song of the same name. I once read an interview with Geezer Butler, who explained that Ozzy gave himself the nickname “Iron Man” when he was a boy. (Since he was born in 1948, this more than likely pre-dated Marvel’s Iron Man by several years). When Butler was saddled with the envious task of composing lyrics for Iron Man on the Paranoid album, he was informed that there could be no applied-reference to Marvel’s character. Thus “Iron Man” of Black Sabbath fame may have predated Tony Stark, but it appears the time-travelling hero “turned to steel” was a character specifically created by Butler so Marvel would have little legal fodder in the case of a lawsuit. Considering Butler’s Iron Man is a pretty cool concept of itself (a time-traveller who became a steel statue after an encounter with a great magnetic field, turning mad from being conscious during his immobile state and becoming a crazed serial killer after the paralysis “wore off”), wouldn’t it be cool to have both Iron Men meet in comics form?

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I jacked off to those pussycat pics.

Apatow/Rogen’s post-Freaks misogyny make sad now. Angry Sandman!

–The name change was short-lived and terribly silly, considering The Black Panther is the ceremonial title for the leader of The Panther tribe, not simply a chosen superhero identity.–

Isn’t a Panther and a Leopard the same thing? (or can be)

So unless T’Challa’s tribe speak english as their first language he can translate it either way, as he can the tribe’s name.

The Adventures Of Pussycat, were indeed reprints, from Martin Goodman’s Men’s Magazines. The strip was drawn by the likes of Wally Wood and Bill Ward, but Jim Mooney drew most of them. I’ve often thought that Codename; Knockout was based/Influenced by Pussycat.

BTW, you’ve spelled Rog?n as “Rogan” here. It’s “Rogen”.

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