Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #177
This is the one-hundred and seventy-seventh 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 seventy-six. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Siegel and Shuster had a character named Jor-L in comic books…in 1936!!
Last week, I spoke about how long it took for Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster to actually get around to naming Superman’s father in the comic books, despite having already named him in the Superman comic strip soon into the comic strip’s run (and when they DID introduce him, they called him Jor-L, while later on, he would be known as Jor-El).
Well, in a fascinating turn of events, as it turns out, this was not even the first time Siegel and Shuster used the name Jor-L!!
In late 1936, more than a YEAR before Action Comics #1, National Allied Publications (Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson’s comic book company, which would later form the foundation of the company that became DC Comics) came out with New Adventure Comics #12.
New Adventure Comics #12 was the first issue in a re-branding of Wheeler-Nicholson’s second comic book series, following More Fun Comics. The second series was called New Comics, and, like More Fun Comics, was a humor comic book. However, Wheeler-Nicholson decided to change it with #12 to an adventure anthology.
The issue was about 72 pages long, mostly made up of short four-page stories, starring characters like Captain Jim of the Texas Rangers and Maginnis of the Mounties.
One of those stories, written by Jerry Siegel with art by Joe Shuster, was titled The Federal Men of Tomorrow.
The story was really a pretty dumb one, as these men go to visit a scientist, and ask him for his learned predictions on what crime-fighting will be like in the future. The scientist then predicts what it will be like for Federal Men in the Year 3000, only his predictions are, well, waaaay too specific.
And his specific story of a crime-fighting Fed in the Year 3000 stars a federal officer by the name of Jor-L!
Yep, more than a year before Superman debuted in Action Comics #1, Siegel and Shuster were using the name Jor-L for a character!
Jor-L was a federal agent who fights against the evil Nira-Q.
Here are more panels from the story…
The future angle was dropped, and next issue, Siegel and Shuster told a standard Federal Man story, but for that one month, Jor-L was the name of the game!
Pretty darn trippy, no?
Thanks so much to reader Keith Morgan, who laid this knowledge upon me last week!
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: DC took Marv Wolfman’s character, The Monitor, and moved him from his original purpose into being a major character in Crisis.
STATUS: Basically False
Reader Jonathan Nathan, who has been giving me quite a few suggestions as of late, sent me the following:
The Monitor’s early appearances around the DCU suggest that he is a villain. It’s not until Justice League of America 232 that we see hints of the Monitor as any other kind of character, or hints of his upcoming story as one relating to the multiverse. I’ve heard it said more than once that the original intention with him was to be the villain for DC’s first major company-wide crossover, which would have nothing to do with collapsing the multiverse. Instead, sometime in mid- to late 1984, DC decided to use the event to accomplish some housekeeping chores, changed the Monitor from a villain to a savior, and the rest is history.
There is a lot of truth to Jonathan’s statement here, but I think the main drive of his statement is that DC Comics made some sort of change to Marv Wolfman’s original story and turned it into what we now know as Crisis on Infinite Earths, which was greatly about the Monitor versus the Anti-Monitor…
So I asked Marv Wolfman, creator of The Monitor and writer of Crisis on Infinite Earths, about it, and here is what he had to say:
Yes and no.
I had come up with the idea of the Monitor when I was a kid. I called him the Librarian then.
Hey, I was young.
He was a villain in a satellite selling info to villains with the idea of doing some huge story with every DC character in it (never assumed I’d sell it; just this kid idea of a super crossover bigger than the JLA/JSA meetings). In 1980 or 81 I was a professional and had come up with the Crisis idea in which we’d get rid of the multiverse and make huge changes but had no plot yet or villain.
Separately, I decided to use my Monitor idea as a villain just in Titans doing the same idea I had come up with as a kid; selling info.
Later, the idea of taking the Monitor and putting him into the Crisis (his other original purpose) came about and I threw in a line somewhere to explain it. From there he became the villain.
DC didn’t decide to do any housecleaning or originate the idea in any way. The entire concept came from my proposal to do Crisis. And I was the one who decided to take my old character, meant for a crossover, and to change him into what you saw. Fortunately, DC liked my idea and decided to go with it but they did not come up with it nor have they ever claimed they had.
I think it’s just fan assumptions that it was a company concept.
Based on Wolfman’s reply, I think that what Jonathan was suggesting is BASICALLY false, although, of course, the gist of what he is saying (The Monitor was meant to be a villain before he was changed, he was meant for a story other than Crisis at first) is mostly correct, but the connotation of it all is off, as Wolfman notes in his reply.
Thanks to Jonathan Nathan for the suggestion and thanks a gazillion to Marv Wolfman for the reply! Check out Marvl’s website at marvwolfman.com!
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: The 1938 Academy Award for Best Actor was awarded to Dick Tracy.
STATUS: In a Manner of Speaking, True
On March 10, 1938, the Academy Awards were handed out.
Frank Capra’s You Can’t Take It With You took home two major awards – Best Director for Capra and Best Picture overall!
The film Jezebel brought home two major acting awards, Best Supporting Actress for Fay Bainter and Best Actress for Bette Davis, the second Oscar won by Davis!
Notably, Walt Disney was given a special Oscar (presented by Shirley Temple) for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, one normal sized Oscar surrounded by seven smaller ones…
But most notably of all would be the Best Actor Oscar for 1938, which went to…
Yep, that’s right, in the first, and as far as I know, ONLY instance of the Academy Awards botching a winner’s name, Spencer Tracy, who won Best Actor for the second year in a row (the previous year he won for 1936’s Captains Courageous) for his portrayal of the real-life Father Flanagan of Boys Town (in the picture of the same name)
received an Oscar with the comic strip character Dick Tracy’s name on it instead of his own.
The Academy, of course, took the award and promised to give Tracy a new one.
Amusingly enough, that wasn’t the end of the controversy.
MGM studio publicists said that, in honor of Father Flanagan, the corrected Oscar would be inscribed to Flanagan instead of Tracy and presented to Flanagan and Boys Town.
That was all well and good, except that they did not check with Spencer Tracy before making that announcement, and he was not hearing it. He wanted the Oscar himself.
They argued, “But you already have an Oscar!” to which he replied, “I won it. I want to keep it.”
So MGM petitioned the Academy for an extra Oscar – one to give to Boys Town and one for Tracy.
They acquiesced, and the situation was settled.
But for a short period of time there, the Best Actor Oscar was the property of a plainclothes detective with a jaw you could use to slice bread.
Thanks to reader Edda for the heads up on the Oscar snafu! And thanks to Mason Wiley and Damien Bona for their brilliant and extensive research on Oscar history!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
See you next week!