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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Legends Revealed #180

This is the one-hundred and eightieth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous one-hundred and seventy-nine.

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: An apparent murder in Belgium involved the popular manga series Death Note.

STATUS: True

Death Note is an extremely popular manga series that appeared weekly in the popular manga anthology, Shōnen Jump, from 2003 until the series ended in 2006.

Like every other super popular manga, Death Note has been turned into basically any and all other media outlet that you can think of – an anime series, a live-action movie, a novel, a video game (and of course, American translations of the trade collections of the manga).

Suffice to say, Death Note is a big deal.

It was created by writer Tsugumi Ohba, who collaborated on the series with artist Takeshi Obata.

The concept of the series is that this teenager in high school, Light Yagami, is given a magical notebook from a “death god” that allows Light to kill anyone whose name he writes down in the notebook (provided he – or whoever writes the name – can visualize the person, or else it might kill the wrong person who happens to share the same name – heck, try searching for “Brian Cronin” – there are a bunch of me’s out there!).

The catch phrase of the series (particularly the anime series) is that Light will refer to himself, basically as, “Killer” (“Kira” in Japanese). He will cry, “I am killer!”

Well, late last year in Belgium, someone ELSE decided that THEY were, in fact, “the Kira.”

In September of 2007 (just shy of October), in Belgium’s Duden Park, body parts of an unidentified Caucasian males were found. The lower abdomen and two thighs, to be precise.

Next to the body parts were two almost identical paper notes (the only difference was that each note had different colored lettering), both saying “Watashi wa Kira dess,” which is almost certainly a misspelling of the Japanese phrase “Watashi wa Kira desu,” which means, of course, “I am Killer!”

So yeah, some sick person left ACTUAL Death Notes with human body parts.

Pretty twisted, no?

The body has not been identified as of yet, and no one has reported anything worth noting about the identity of the victim or the identity of the killers.

One possible (not AS sick) theory involved the situation being a prank by local medical students, who would have had access to human body parts.

But it’s just as likely that there is a twisted killer out there leaving actual Death Notes.

And that royally creeps me out.

Thanks to Paul Blanshard, once again, for this suggestion! Back-to-back weeks for Paul!

COMIC LEGEND: Neil Gaiman based Sandman: Dream Hunters on some specific older folk stories.

STATUS: False

Something that I think is worth noting is that no matter what the joke is that you make, someone is likely to take is seriously.

And if you make your joke as slyly as Neil Gaiman did with Sandman: The Dream Hunters, you are guaranteed that someone will take it seriously.

If you have ever read William Goldman’s novel, The Princess Bride, Goldman presented the work as an “abridged version” of “S. Morgenstern’s” classic novel.

S. Morgenstern, of course, was fictitious, although Goldman would use the gag many times more in the future.

Neil Gaiman made a similar joke with the afterward to his 1999 illustrated novel, Sandman: The Dream Hunters (illustrations by Yoshitaka Amano), where he credited the story of the Dream Hunters (about a fox spirit who falls in love with a Buddhist monk) to an old fairy tale he had read in Y. T. Ozaki’s Old Japanese Fairy Tales.

Of course, no such work existed, Gaiman had made up the story himself.

This did not stop fans and scholars from searching for the work (granted, unlike Goldman, Gaiman DID pick a real life person), and eventually, some fans felt that Gaiman was actually referring to Pu Songling’s Strange Stories From A Chinese Studio, which was a collection of a lot of wonderful fairy tales with a metaphysical bent to most of them.

Gaiman retorted to this claim this awhile back with a humorous statement that he really ought to get around to reading this book that he apparently based Dream Hunters on.

I was reminded of this story when the Dream Hunters adaptation was released this week, and Gaiman referenced the joke in his afterward for the first issue.

Do note that yes, my refutation here does rest solely upon Gaiman telling the truth, but I think that’s perfectly reasonable in this situation, as Gaiman has done plenty of works in the past that worked off of stories from the past (heck, one of his most famous stories ever was a riff on A Midsummer Night’s Dream!), so there’s really no motive to lie here, especially since it’s not like it would affect either his wallet OR his well-deserved reputation.

So yeah, Dream Hunters is all Neil Gaiman.

COMIC LEGEND: Chuck Dixon had a proposal for a series using Marvel’s “horror” characters together prior to Midnight Sons basically doing the same thing.

STATUS: True

Many moons ago, in what historians refer to as the “early 1990s,” Chuck Dixon and artist Gary Kwapisz got together on a few proposals at Marvel. Dixon and Kwapisz had worked together on Conan and worked together in the future on Moon Knight and various Punisher titles.

They tried a Ka-Zar pitch that did not go anywhere, but they got a lot more traction on an idea for a series that would put together a bunch of Marvel’s horror characters together on a team led by the Shroud. The team would be put together by none other than Doctor Doom, who would determine that it would be prudent to have a group that would protect the planet from excursions from otherwordly demon dimensions (sorta like a Hellmouth, I guess).

Here are a couple of Kwapisz’s pages from the proposal…

It progressed far enough that titles for the project were being bounced around.

Ultimately, though, Marvel decided to not use the proposal, but a year or so later, they decided to go with the idea of bringing their horror characters together, and the Midnight Sons line of comics was launched!

Check out Dixon’s cool website here for two MORE Kwapisz pages from the project (and a page from the Ka-Zar one)!!

Thanks to Jonathan Nathan for the suggestion!

Okay, that’s it for this week!

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!

49 Comments

Damn – I never knew that the Princess Bride wasn’t really a reworking of an older story!

For serious?

Darn – wish there was a way that could be a comic book legend. ;)

I loved the entire Midnight Sons line. Did Marvel ever put them together in TB tormat?

Brian,

Just do an extra special version and don’t number it. No one would fault you. If the blog can have storytelling engines for TV shows, you can do an urban legends for a book.

Anyway, I never heard about that Dixon pitch before but it sounds great. It’s too bad it never got off the ground.

Wow. Gotta say, even with Chuck Dixon behind it, the Midnight Sons probably would have been way cooler and more memorable if they were Dr. Doom’s team. Sweet Christmas, is it too late to revive this idea? At least give us an annual, a What If, somethin’?

I was at Comicon the year that Dream Hunters came out, went to the Neil Gaiman Panel and he admitted there (after swearing the entire room to secrecy) that the whole thing was made up. It was really funny to watch my friends talk about it as if it were an adaptation, rather than a Gaiman tale.

In the most recent paperback version of The Princess Bride, Goldman adds on an afterword where he bitches about getting beaten out by Stephen King for the job of adapting the sequel.

Kwapisz’s artwork really suits those characters…

@Michael… Steven King?? Please tell me you mean the adaptation of “Morgenstern’s” sequel and NOT the real sequel that has been mooted about…

Tom Fitzpatrick

November 7, 2008 at 7:58 am

To think that DEATH NOTE could be a inspiration for people to “kill” is not only creepy but disturbing as well.
There appears to be no limit to the evil that people will perform on people just to get turned on.

I’ve just finished P. Craig Russell’s adapation of Sandman: Dream Hunters # 1. Terrific work.

20 more to go.

Just 20 more to go.

Dr. Doom organizing his own team for a seemingly benevolent purpose? That is comics gold. I’m frankly surprised no ones done it before.

There is no “real” sequel, Blackjak. That’s part of the joke.

Teebore: Hey, maybe that’ll be the premise of Dark Avengers.

[…] Comics Should Be Good, Brian Cronin goes all Snopes on the story about Death Note inspiring actual murders in Belgium. And he gives it the green […]

Michael, In Empire, a couple of months ago, there WAS talk of a sequel… Rob Reinier had talked with goldman about doing a follow-up (without Vezzik, though his death would be referred to)… hence the confusion…

I thought you meant that somehow the studio felt that Stephen King would be a better writer for it…

Gaiman’s introduction to Sandman: Endless Nights describes The Dream Hunters as “an illustrated book which contained a retelling of an old Japanese folktale I completely made up.” Up to that point I did think that Dream Hunters was based on an old folktale, though.

A family friend once joked, “You know how The Princess Bride claims to be the “good parts” version of a much longer, awfully boring book? I think I just read the original.”

Update on an old Urban Legend: http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=lukas/081105

Ends up Legion of Super-Heroes artist James Sherman didn’t create the Major League Baseball logo, and has wrongly been taking credit for it for years.

Also, have we ever found out where the “Urban” went? I miss it.

-Steve!

Near the end of my “Geeks With Books” column run, I wrote a piece about three books that don’t exist but most fans believe are real: S. Morgenstern’s The Princess Bride, The Necronomicon, and The Book of Counted Sorrows. Thought y’all might be interested in a little more background.

http://www.sfsite.com/columns/geeks190.htm

Stephen Morelock

November 7, 2008 at 10:07 am

Wasn’t there already a team featuring the non-Doom characters I’m able to make out from that art (The Shroud, Werewolf By Night, Digger, and is that Tatterdemalion in the back?) called the Night Shift introduced in Captain America?

Dixon and Kwapisz did work on a Ka-Zar Grpahic Novel, called Guns of the Savage Land. Did that pre-date their pitch for a series, or were they asked to retool the pitch for a graphic novel?

Stephen:

Night Shift actually got their start (without the name) in the original Spider-Woman series. You can add The Brothers Grimm, Danse Macabre, Gypsy Moth, The Hangman, Misfit, The Needle and Tick-Tock to the list as well. Cat and Mouse (two operatives woriking for The Shroud) may have been on board as well, but I don’t really remember.

Anyway, the premise of this team was that they were Super-Villains working for The Shroud, Their “goal” was to fight other criminals, thus eliminating the competition. I don’t believe it was ever explained how they felt about never committing any crimes themselves. perhaps behind the scenes, the group committed their crimes individually, thus the team as an entity existed solely to remove the competition.

Maybe it’s just me, but if the Sandman claim was published without any indication that it wasn’t true, with the only way to disprove it being to do serious research…. doesn’t that make it less a joke and more a hoax? Was there an expectation from Gaiman that some people would “get it”?

Rick,

Just to confuse the easily-led, Gollancz (sp.?) just released a “Centenary edition” of H.P. Lovecraft’s work and titled it “The Necronomicon”… Which my wife then bought for my birthday…

When I mentioned it at work, someone piped up with “Oooh! Did you try any of the spells over the weekend?” !?!?!?! Seriously… Hoo-boy! :-(

It is a beautiful embossed hardcover that sits really well next to their previous “Complete Chonicles of Conan” Centenary Edition…

Stanley – I read an explanation from Gaiman where he says that, after writing, it was discovered that they needed an extra page or two. So Gaiman wrote a tongue-in-cheek page about the original work, intended it to be very obvious that it was a joke with all the flourishes in the art and everything. But then they didn’t need the extra page, so it got shrunk down to a small one-panel thing, and when he saw it, he said, “Oh, now it looks serious.”

He also says that he didn’t expect anybody to believe that there was an old Japanese folk legend which featured numerous characters from ‘Sandman’.

Not having seen the original claim, I don’t know how exactly he worded it, but I would of assumed he meant it was “based on” the folk tale, much like what Mignola says about his Hellboy stories.

Paul – If I remember correctly, Tick Tock and Werewolf by Night were aware of the Shroud’s deception and onside. I think the rest of the team basically were happy to be causing havoc, even if criminals tended to be their target, or they ended up getting busted by Hawkeye.

So…
If I go around and start yelling, “I AM KIRROK!!!”, does that mean I get to wear a vest without a shirt, talk as if every word is it’s own sentence, and have crazy sex with green-skinned slave girls from the Orion nebula?

“Fear Force” is a bad name, compared to “The Midnight Sons”.

Other than that, it looked pretty cool.

Yeah, I remember reading about Night Shift. I sometimes mistook them for Night Force during the Eighties. Thank you again for a fun installment.

Mad Monkey:
Yes.
If you can FIND any green-skinned slave girls from Orion.
The Vest and speech patterns are doable, though. Have fun.

Rich:

For some reason, I seem to remember Gypsy Moth being aware of Shroud’s secret as well. I don’t think even Cat & Mouse were aware that Shroud was not a gangster. I believe they were a couple of small-time crooks whom The Shroud chose as personal henchmen (and hench-woman), helping him lead his gang, more for the fact that they were fairly harmless than anything else, although one of them was technically sound and the other, a mediocre cat burgler.

Is is true that T erra and Geo-Force were created at the exact same time: by Marv Wolfman and Mike W. Barr totally independant of each other and that there was a fued as to which “earth based” hero would see the light of day??

Kira isn’t Japanese for killer, it just sounds sort of like someone with a thick Japanese accent saying killer. Kira actually means light, and is a fairly common Japanese name. It might be a purposeful double entendre, but it isn’t him calling himself “killer”.

And actually, the name of the main character is Light Yagami ;)

By the way, it’s an awesome manga. I fully recommend it.

I loved the entire Midnight Sons line. Did Marvel ever put them together in TB tormat?
Paul,

Marvel only released ONE tpb of the Midnight Sons material.
That was for the whole “RISE of the Midnight Sons” crossover story-arc wherein the “team” is formed.
The cover for which is exactly what Cronin used in his scan.

It is but ONE of the many items that I’ll be writing about (all in due time) in my blog, which is dedicated to:
“ALL things Doctor Strange”.
(or as I call the practice; “6-dimensions of Doctor Strange”. An obvious riff on the “6-degrees of separation/Kevin Bacon” thingee.)

Feel free to stop on by.

MAJOR posts weekly, incidental posts whenever I can get to them.

~P~

Actually, even though Kira is a popular name in Japan, if you use the kana syllabary to write
“killer”, you will get “kira”. since there is no “L” in the Japanese “50 sounds”. The punning
between that and the name Light certainly seems intentional, however.

Japanese borrow many words from other languages, but most words they borrow are from English. They study it from junior high (or independently, from an earlier age) because it was one of the sections they will be tested on for their college entrance exams.

The “kira” used in the Death Note manga, if done correctly, would be ‘kira-” , meaning the final a has to be extended (kiraa). That is because, not only do the Japanese not have an “L” that corresponds to the use of “L” in English, they don’t have an “R” that corresponds to the use of “R” in English either. So, the Japanese cannot pronounce the “r” at the end of “killer” using their phonetic characters, and extend the final vowel as a ‘cover’. In transcribing the English word into Japanese phonetics, the extension of the “vowel” would be indicated by a bar that would appear as a hyphen.

It’s rather ironic that the word “desu” at the end of the sentence is phonetically the same as the English word “Death”… because, you know the Japanese language doesn’t have a “TH” sound either. So if you want to know why Japanese speak ‘with a thick accent’, it’s because they’re doing their best to mimic English words that contain sounds that don’t exist in their native tongue….

So ends today’s Japanese lesson.

“Neil Gaiman made a similar joke with the afterward to his 1999 illustrated novel, Sandman: The Dream Hunters”
“Gaiman referenced the joke in his afterward for the first issue.”

Just to be nitpicky, the proper spelling is AFTERWORD. An “afterword” is generally an explanatory note or commentary that most commonly follows the main text of a work of fiction. (Unlike a foreword–which precedes the main text of a work of fiction–the afterword is normally written by the main work’s author. Also, the foreword is usually written by someone else.)
When spelled with a second “a”, that refers to an event that comes after another. (It’s also an adverb.)

Maybe you should do a CBULR about the fake history Alan Moore provided for Promethea? With P. Craig Russell supposedly drawing Promethea stories back in the 1970s and all that.

I agree with Frank Krulick’s suggestion of using Terra & Geo-Force’s creation for a future Urban Legend.

And, BTW, why ARE they no longer “Urban” Legends, Brian?

I noticed something else about the “Death Note” story…. The killer in Belgium left some notes, right? Well, that shows that the killer was probably not a reader or the manga, because, in the manga, it was sufficient to write the victim’s name in a notebook. That is what “Note” means in Japanese– not note, but notebook, or binder where you keep your tablet. That’s why, when translating ‘laptop’ into Japanese, the expression is ‘no-to pasocon”, or literally, ‘notebook personal computer” because it folds/unfolds like a binder.

Anyway, back to the impact of “Death Note”. If you do any research, you’ll find several instances where students in the U.S. have been suspended for having death wishes against fellow students or teachers in their school notebooks. I am sure the same could be said of students in Japan, because the education system is such a pressure cooker.

Also, let me clear something up– ‘Kira’ does NOT mean “light”, so there is no pun with the character’s name. On the Wikipedia page, the character they show for “Light” is probably wrong, as it is the character for “moon’, but then, I haven’t read the manga. However, I do know there are no Japanese natives who have an “L” in their name. Kira is NOT a common name in Japan– Akira is. Nobody in Japan forces the reading of “Akira” as “kira,” except, perhaps, in manga. .

I don’t believe a comic book can inspire murder. Movies on the other hand.
YOu see some so bad that you want ot kill somebody.

“there was a fued as to which “earth based” hero would see the light of day??”–There wasn’t a feud. I think maybe the editors were talking about nixing one of them, so the writers just made them siblings and removed the problem that way.

I can see Doom putting a team like that together out of self-interest: He knows enough magic to understand the potential threats, but not enough to take them down, so recruiting a team to do the job makes sense.

As for the Night Shift, almost none of them were criminals for the money–the Hangman and Needle were nutso vigilantes, Dansen Macabre was a Siva cultist, the Brothers Grimm were as much loonie chaoticists as anything. So as someone said, kicking butt without fear of drawing major police attention probably appealed to them.

Hmm, I suddenly have the urge to do a retcon fanfic where they meet the Pride.

The Sandman also inspired a strange murder, did it not? The first Shakespeare issue was found at a crime scene and the suspect tried, unsuccessfully to link it to the crime.

Or such is my recollection.

cream cheese alchemist

November 14, 2008 at 1:01 pm

yen4zen> Light’s girlfriend references his name as being written as ‘moon’ in the series.

I would say that Death Note is concerned about issues of life, death and punishment. So if the bodies were of criminals, I would see a connection.

[…] Comics Should Be Good, Brian Cronin goes all Snopes on the story about Death Note inspiring actual murders in Belgium. And he gives it the green […]

Goldman’s joke cost him at least one sale; as a kid I was going to buy the book until I saw that it was “abridged,” and I hated abridged books, so I decided to wait until I could find the “original.”

Chuck Dixon, in the pages of Eclipse Comics’ Strike, created both a fake Golden Age version of the comic character and a fake cereal company who sponsored the publishing line. In the back pages, he mentioned that the character was based on an obscure Golden Age comic line that was put out by a cereal manufacturer, which was also gone. He even created fake reprint strips of the Golden Age characters. Eventually (well, in a couple of issues because the series didn’t last that long) he admitted it was fake. He had been getting all kinds of requests for info on tracking down the comics and started to get uncomfortable. The ridiculous part of the story was that the cereal company was notorious for its cereals getting soggy almost immediately after milk was poured on it, yet no one had ever heard of it.

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