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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Legends Revealed #189

This is the one-hundred and eighty-ninth 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 eighty-eight.

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: Jack Kirby based the face of Etrigan the Demon on a mask from an old Prince Valiant story by Hal Foster.

STATUS: True

Faithful reader John McDonagh is always good for some neat-o comic book legends, and this week is no different!

John wrote in about the amazing origins of the visual look for Etrigan the Demon.

Let’s refresh everyone on our particulars here.

First off, we have The Demon, a neat book Jack Kirby did for DC during the 1970s about a demon (hence the name) named Etrigan who was summoned by Merlin to help out in the last days of Camelot. When that didn’t work out so well, Merlin turned Etrigan into a human named Jason Blood and Etrigan was trapped as Blood for centuries until Blood came across a poem that allowed him to change into Etrigan.

The poem was:

Change! Change, O form of man!
Release the might from fleshy mire!
Boil the blood in heart of fire!
Gone! Gone! — the form of man —
Rise, the Demon Etrigan!!

So that’s the Demon.

Here he is, in all his splendor, from his (fairly short-lived – 16 issues) 1972 DC series.

Okay, now Hal Foster was one of the most popular comic strip artists of the 20th Century.

He first came into prominence in the world of comics with his work on the 1929 Tarzan comic strip. Hal Foster was such a fresh visionary artist that soon he (well, he or Alex Raymond) was the most copied artist in comics, as artists would swipe from him constantly.

From a previous installment of Comic Book Legends Revealed, here is a famous (infamous?) Hal Foster swipe by Bob Kane…

In the late 30s, Foster wanted to work on his own comics, so he created Prince Valiant, an extremely popular epic historical adventure that still remains in newspapers today (Foster retired from the strip in 1971 and passed away a decade later).

In one storyline fairly early on in the series run, Prince Valiant had to come up with a disguise. So he killed a goose and skinned it, using its skin and its various body parts to create a mask that looks like, well, a demon!

What KIND of demon, you ask?

Well, let’s take a look!

From a helpful poster on the DrawingBoard forums named Cobblepot (here is his post), here are some of the drawings from the storyline (from the later paperback collected editions of Prince Valiant that were done in the 1950s with writer Max Krell simplifying the text)…

Pretty funny, huh?

Kirby never hid the fact that he took the look from Foster – he was quite open about it. It was basically an homage from one comic book great to another, possibly as a tribute to the fact that Foster was just ending his run on Prince Valiant when Kirby began the Demon.

Thanks to John for the suggestion and thanks to Cobblepot for the scans!!

COMIC LEGEND: Outside of guest appearances in comics, Silver Surfer was once reserved for only Stan Lee to write.

STATUS: True

Reader Arthur asked:

I’ve heard before that, for many years, it was at least a tradition or unwritten rule at Marvel that only Stan Lee could write a Silver Surfer series. Obviously, that eventually changed, but was it ever true?

Although a creation of his co-writer, Jack Kirby, Stan Lee quickly took a liking to the Silver Surfer, the noble former herald of Galactus who lost his ability to fly through space as a result of defying the mighty Galactus on behalf of the people of Earth.

So, in a rather odd turn of events, although it was Kirby who created the Surfer, it was Lee who became the main voice when it came to the Surfer, which, as you might imagine, was not exactly a WELCOME turn of events by Kirby.

To wit, Kirby had his own ideas about the Surfer (including the Surfer’s origins) and these did not necessarily match those of Stan Lee’s. In fact, the two were polar opposites when it came to the genesis of Surfer, as Kirby felt that the Surfer was completely alien (I believe Kirby figured that Galactus just created Surfer out of thin air) and that it was the goodness of Alicia Masters that CREATED humanity in a being devoid of it. Lee, on the other hand, felt that the Surfer was only RE-DISCOVERING the humanity already within his soul.

In any event, the point became moot when it was announced that there was going to be a new Silver Surfer series in the great Marvel expansion of 1968. The kicker? Lee would write it and JOHN BUSCEMA would draw it!

Kirby found out about this after it had already been decided. As you might very well imagine, he was displeased. Especially as the first issue contained Surfer’s origin, as told by Stan Lee, in which Surfer was specifically a human (or human-looking) who gave up his humanity to save his planet (and the love of his life) from Galactus.

The Lee series was not an extremely successful series, and in one last piece of silliness, Lee actually had Kirby come back and draw the last issue of the series (with Herb Trimpe doing the cover!), which was intended to be a revamp for the book, but instead was the last issue (the possible revamp was cover in this past installment of Comic Book Legends Revealed).

This was right about the time that Kirby left Marvel for DC Comics.

Although the book was canceled, Lee still had a great affinity for the character, and wanted him used sparsely.

Roy Thomas used the Surfer to great effect in a two-part storyline in Sub-Mariner in 1971 where the Surfer, Namor and the Hulk team up (the Titans Three, as it were).

The reader response to the issue was great enough that Thomas decided to launch a new ongoing team series about these heroes, however, Lee nixed the idea, because he did not want Surfer appearing in an ongoing series written by someone other than Lee.

So Dr. Strange was put in place of the Surfer, and the rest of that title is, as they say, history.

Although, when Steve Englehart took over the Defenders from Thomas, he was given permission to have the Surfer guest-star, at least, and the Surfer appeared in a number of early Defenders issues (I’d say about 4-5 of the first dozen issues).

For the next decade plus, the only Surfer comics were whenever Stan Lee could find the time to do one-off tales, like the 1978 Graphic Novel re-uniting Lee and Kirby on the character for a re-telling of the Surfer’s first story (sans the FF)…

And a 1982 one-shot with art by John Byrne (this issue tied in with a recent Comic Book Legends Revealed installment here).

The 1990 graphic novel, Silver Surfer: The Enslavers (by Lee and Keith Pollard), was originally meant also to be an early 1980s story, but was delayed a goodly amount of years.

Finally, though, in 1987, the higher-ups at Marvel determined that a Silver Surfer ongoing could be a success now, and since Stan Lee was not going to be writing an ongoing title in 1987 (and perhaps Marvel would not WANT him to), the Lee rule was broken, and Steve Englehart became the first writer other than Stan Lee to write the Silver Surfer on a regular basis (Englehart’s run got off to an odd start itself, as well, as seen in this previous installment of Comic Book Legends Revealed).

So there you go, Arthur!

Thanks to Arthur (who has a great comic book name “Arthur Adams”) for the question and thanks to Roy Thomas and Steve Englehart for explaining the “Stan Lee Silver Surfer Rule” a number of times in past interviews!

COMIC LEGEND: There was never an explanation in the comics as to why Jughead had an “S” on his sweater.

STATUS: False

Okay, so first I do a Comic Book Legends Revealed on Jughead’s beanie where I casually mention that the “S” on his sweater has not been explained.

Next, I do a Comic Book Legends Revealed about how it is false that there was never an explanation for Jughead’s “S” on his sweater, as Bob Montana’s widow maintained.

Well, now, for the third week in a row, we’re going to take a look at Jughead and specifically that statement, as while Archie Comics might not currently feel as though there is an “official” explanation for the “S” on Jughead’s sweater (a ret-con, if you would), there HAVE been actual explanations in the comics themselves!

Reader Bill wrote in to tell me about one such story, from the most recent Jughead series:

[O]ne of the issues focused on Jughead having a session with a therapist/hypnotist who was helping him discover the secret of the “S” which even he had forgotten long ago. They delved deeper and deeper into Jughead’s past until just before the end of the story, Jughead gives her the throwaway line, “It stands for “Stan” or “Smitty” or some long-lost relative” who was the first member of Jughead’s family who was obsessed with food, and passed the obsession on down through Jughead’s family. Still no real explanation as to why he would continue to immortalize the hereditary proclivity on his outerwear, however.

In the comments section, commenter zundian wrote:

The “S” on Jughead’s shirt stands for Sweater. Someone asked him during one of those “future Jughead” stories back in the late ’80s. Apparently it’s not that well known of a story, because later writers have tried to make it more of a mystery.

The best post on the topic, though, was from the nifty comic blog, I Was Ben, where Steven wrote about an old Jughead story drawn by Samm Schwartz where Jughead explains why he wears an “S”:

I like “S!” It’s a warm friendly letter! We suit each other! We’re like, y’know….compatible! “S” stands for sandwich, steak, shrimp…all kinds of goodies!

Check out the link above to see the actual page where the line came from!

So there you go – while you can certainly understand why Archie Comics would prefer “it’s a mystery!” to either one of these three explanations, they do exist!

Thanks to Bill, zundian and Steven for the information! If anyone else has seen an Archie Comic story where they ALSO explain the “S”, let me know and I’ll add it in!

Okay, that’s it for this week!

Thanks to the Grand Comic Book Database for this week’s covers! I just noticed that I’ve been leaving their “thank you” out of the last few months’ worth of columns! There was one week where I used no covers so, well, with no covers it seemed silly to thank them for that week’s covers, but I must have forgotten to put them back in the next week! My sincerest apologies! The Grand Comic Book Database rules!

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!

69 Comments

Tom Fitzpatrick

January 9, 2009 at 5:40 am

That was an interesting bit about The Demon.
I’ve always liked the character, especially when it was written (and drawn) by Matt Wagner.

Even the series The Demon was nicely done by Alan Grant and Val Semekis, and topped off by Garth Ennis and John McCrea.

11 more Comic Book Legends to go.
Just 11 more to go.

Why, what happens 11 weeks from now?

It hits the big 200.

Wasn’t there a Silver Surfer story by Lee with Moebius?

Cheers,

B

Harry Tzvi Keusch

January 9, 2009 at 7:28 am

Nice one, as usual. I think the Silver Surfer bit should have included the 2 issue mini series Lee wrote and Moebius (aka Jean Giraud) drew in 1988.

So if Jack Kirby did base the Demon’s look on the Prince Valiant story, shouldn’t that status be true instead of false?

Yes, the graphic novel “Parable,” by Lee and Moebius. Beautiful, and IMO a very strong story. I don’t think Stan has written anything which comes close, since, but FWIW it hasn’t all been “Ravage” or “Striperella” since the end of the silver age.

Am I the only one grossed-out by the Goose-skin mask?

Jughead’s S: The question would be, are those explanations to be taken as ‘real’ or as throwaway comments? “Someone’s asking about my sweater…I’ll say something witty now.”

It is True, Rob.

I believe there was another 80’s- or early 90’s-era Jughead story in which it was strongly implied that the “S” stood for ‘soulmate’.

Blackjak, I was grossed out too. It must smell something awful.

Roquefort Raider

January 9, 2009 at 8:43 am

We don’t see it in the images here, but the color scheme for Etrigan was also inspired by Prince Valiant’s disguise. When I first saw it I thought it was a pretty cool nod from one master to another.

To be honest, I never paid much attention to the “S” on Jughead’s shirt. I just assumed it stood for his favorite sports team or something. You know, like most of the stuff people wear on their shirts? Really, why should we care? Maybe if he were a superhero, I’d wonder, but he’s not. It’s just part of his design, the way Archie’s lumpy hairstyle is his.

Regarding The Demon, I have a question to make: Was Kirby’s original concept for the character that he was a Demon who was good (and turned into human form) or was he the evil bastard (merged with a human being) that he was portrayed as in post-Crisis stories? Somehow, I don’t see Kirby going for the latter concept.

good gravy, I remember that Jughead story! It was in a double-digest I read in the 80’s sometime.

Kirby’s Demon was portrayed as more of an anti-hero (a la ioriginal Ghost Rider). Merlin was the evil one. Later series have cast him as anything from an out-and-out bastard of a demon to something close to a card carrying member of the Justice League.

I remember picking up the Demon’s original series as I was misinformed that it was part of Kirby’s Fourth World (along with Jimmy Olsen, The New Gods and The Forever People). I stuck with it (and Kamandi as well) becasue it was fresh and different,

Love the Demon bit. I had no idea.

On the Silver Surfer, don’t forget Stan wrote the 2 part “Parable” with Moebius in the Epic like too! :)

The Demon’s ears are goosefeet! That’s awesome!

They used the full Demon poem on his appearance on Brave and the Bold the other week, and I had never actually heard the whole thing before that, so I wondered why Morgaine’s incantation to transform Jason Blood was longer than I remembered! Neat.

Wraith –

“Parable” was a two-issue mini, wasn’t it? That’s how I read it, but that was at the time my town was just getting a dedicated comic shop. Love the story and agree that it’s one of Stan’s best.

This is the most I’ve ever thought about Jughead in my entire life.

I remember reading the Silver Surfer GN (Lee/Kirby) back around 1980. Did they ever reprint this book?

Bernard the Poet

January 9, 2009 at 12:42 pm

Okay, it’s there in the back of my brain, but I just can’t fish it out.

Who was it who use to say, “good gravy?”

Paul, Kirby’s Etrigan and Merlin were both “good” guys (Merlin summoned/created Etrigan to defend Camelot). Morgan le Fey was the villain.

As Camelot fell Merlin turned his demon into a human (the Jason Blood personality was created out of nothing, rather than being an already existing human that merged with the demon).

That Hal Foster art is gorgeous. Amazing for its time.

How come no one has commented on how weird it is that the Valiant demon is WEARING A DE-FEATHERED DEAD GOOSE ON HIS HEAD WITH THE FEET AS DEMON EARS!?!?

Beats the Batman Begins “I get my Bat Ears in bulk from China” exposition any day.

Here’s a question I had:

With all of the more recent gender-bending and legacy heroes in comics, did Marvel created Wonder Man as a way of beating DC to the trademark and preventing them from expanding on the Wonder Woman line???

And in constructing and proudly wearing his gooseskin mask, Prince Valiant unwittingly created the most nefarious foe he would yet battle: salmonella.

The bit about the Demon’s appearance being based off the Prince Valiant story is talked about in the preface to the new Jack Kirby’s Demon collected edition from DC. They did not however elaborate on the fact that it was a mask made from a skinned goose. That is true comic genius there.

Heh! Just thought… Is this the first time someone was “goosed” in a comic?

Sorry.. *cough* I didn’t say that, my sense of humour dial got stuck on “awful” ;-)

I was quite pleased when the Silver Surfer’s “bathing suit” lines were finally removed in the Englehart series…

The Lee/Moebius Silver Surfer book is indeed one of the best stories ever.
Too bad most people arent aware of it, has there been any reprints since the original collection?

The only other Surfer stories I can think of pre-’87 were guest appearances in Incredible Hulk 250 and Tomb of Dracula 50, neither written by Lee.

I’m pretty sure Moebius came up with the story for “Parable,” and Lee only scripted. It’s a gorgeous comic.

See you next week for the next episode of Jughead Legends Revealed :)

It did seem as though Stan had a deathgrip on Norrin for a while. I really enjoyed the 87 launch through Infinity Gauntlet time

Wasn’t the Jughead thing in a previous installment of Comic Book Legends Revealed?

The Buscema Surfer issues were the best- I am glad Stan made that change. No one before or since has drawn as emotive or classic a Surfer as Big John. Miss his work!

“Who was it who use to say, ‘good gravy?'”

I just finished the first collection of Kirby’s Jimmy Olsen, and Superman says it at least once or twice in there. Is that who you were thinking of?

The Lee-Moebius story was printed as a two-issue limited series and as a hardcover collected edition in 1988 and then again in a collected edition in 1998, according to the GCD.

The Demon and the Goose mask also seem to be the inspiration for the look of Marvel’s Gargoyle (of Defenders fame.)

Oh, and wasn’t there a similar rule that Stan had about the Impossible Man? That no one else could use him.

I recall an issue of Archie where there were plans to change the name of the school. can’t recall if it was going to be bought or something crazy like that. Everybody was upset that their assorted letter clothing would have to change. Jughead, of course, wore the “S” so theoretically wouldn’t be affected. When they asked him what he’d wear, he said “Probably a ‘B’.”

Thanks for the post about Kirby’s The Demon. I had read that the character design was based off a mask in Prince Valiant and always wondered what the inspiration looked like. Thanks again.

i’ve seen “the warrior in a foul mask” before.

Mark Evanier and Sergio Aragones had Groo the Wanderer skin a duck and disguise himself. It was the funniest thing I’d seen Groo do so far and I laughed out loud. It was the duck’s feet that did it for me. It was in the Epic run of Groo (cannot recall the issue of the top of my head).

So, with hindsight, Mark was paying homage to Kirby, Foster or both?

On the cover of Silver Silver #18 (featured above)- why is Black Bolt shooting energy blasts from his hands? I’ve only been reading comics since the 90’s, but I don’t remember him ever being able to do that.

Ham Gravy wrote:
—>
With all of the more recent gender-bending and legacy heroes in comics, did Marvel created Wonder Man as a way of beating DC to the trademark and preventing them from expanding on the Wonder Woman line???

Let’s see: DC Wonder Man: Superman # 163 (August 1963).
Marvel Wonder Man: Avengers #9 (Oct. 1964).

Strikes me as more to be one of those coincidences like the Vision/Red Tornado and Doom Patrol/X-Men.

I remember the Lee/Moebius Silver Surfer story was 2 issues from Epic and was about 75 cents each. So, naturally I didn’t pick it up and it went to hardcover and cost more.

Loved the Silver Surfer series with Ron Lim drawing. Good stuff.

Hm, part of my Wonder Man comment got cut off. What’s missing was my opinion both versions were one shot characters created to die in their first stories and not as trademark/copyright fodder (like say Ms. Marvel and Spiderwoman). Marvel’s Wonder Man stayed dead for many years, DC’s did permanently (though they DID have a Wonder Woman replacement, Hercules in disguise, use the name also a few years ago).

Jim Shooter featured the Surfer in a 1981 Avengers two-parter as well. (#215-216) By that time, he was also being featured in Defenders on a more regular basis, right up to the “New Defenders” era when the original group broke up.

There’s a bug in the system, methinks. Sorry for the double post, but I got the Avengers issues in for you Surferlites.

Legends 1 and 2 are both discussed in Ronin Ro’s book, Tales to Astonish. If you’re curious to hear Lee and Kirby discuss these things in their own words, pick up the book.

Nice one, as usual. I think the Silver Surfer bit should have included the 2 issue mini series Lee wrote and Moebius (aka Jean Giraud) drew in 1988.

While I liked that book, I didn’t count it because it didn’t illustrate the whole “only Stan Lee could write Surfer” point, as that came out after Englehart was doing the ongoing book (thereby breaking the “only Stan Lee could write Surfer” rule).

Nice one, as usual. I think the Silver Surfer bit should have included the 2 issue mini series Lee wrote and Moebius (aka Jean Giraud) drew in 1988.

Oh, and thanks for the compliment!

Jughead’s S: The question would be, are those explanations to be taken as ‘real’ or as throwaway comments? “Someone’s asking about my sweater…I’ll say something witty now.”

Fair question.

I’d say that the therapist one, at least, sounds like a “real” answer.

Wasn’t the Jughead thing in a previous installment of Comic Book Legends Revealed?

No, but I linked to the previous installments that led to this one!

Legends 1 and 2 are both discussed in Ronin Ro’s book, Tales to Astonish. If you’re curious to hear Lee and Kirby discuss these things in their own words, pick up the book.

I trusted Ronin Ro’s book once – won’t be doing that again any time soon. ;)

Mars Bonfire: Mark Evanier is a disciple of Jack Kirby and worked with him for a long time – in fact, he released a book about Kirby last year. I’m pretty sure then that it was a Kirby homage, albeit probably a Foster one too.

As for those who are icked out over the goose mask…it ain’t like you’re going to find a rubber mask back then!!

I loved Prince Valiant and my father bought that book with that story many years ago. Those scans don’t do the Foster work justice. If you ever watch the old Fox movie of Prince Valiant with Robert Wagner in the title role and James Mason as the baddie, the opening credits are all Foster’s work. I especially liked the one of two knights at the point of impact in a jousting match. When I was a wee girl, the Chicago Tribune ran Prince Valiant only in the Sunday comics (no daily back then as I recall) and it was gorgeous.

Foster has a very interesting bio as I recall… he was claim jumped on a gold mine up in Canada. To improve his skills in illustration , he rode a bicycle down from Canada to Chicago and studied his craft at the Chicago Art Institute. And we complain about pot holes in the street. That had to be a bone shaker back then. I’ve been to the Art Institute several times and I often wished they would have some kind of exhibit about him. But I guess you have to settle for the Monets, etc. :-)

Well, somebody else writed a silver Surfer story in 1979, in fact 2 stories. It was published in the french anthology Nova n°25-26, written by Navarro and pencilled by jean-Yves Miton, with the blessing of Marvel.

for more info, follow: http://www.twomorrows.com/alterego/articles/01surfer.html

Wow! That Prince Valiant is crazy, so he skins the goose and pulls it over his head, Holy Crap! it’s total Silence of the lambs, it’s absolutely the Demon, I’m floored I gotta get me some PV that art’s great, of course it’s great if the all time King is inspired by it! later!

P.S. I thought the “S” had something to do with the High school that the creator of Archie went to.

The “S” on Jughead’s sweater is actually the last “S” that you leave off when you call Dial-A-Mattress at 1-800-MATTRES. In their commercials Dial-A-Mattress says the last “S” is for Savings.

So the “S” on Jughead’s sweater really stands for SAVINGS.

Thank you and thank you very kindly.

I knew it, I knew there would be another Jughead sighting! But if we get down to Moose, Midge, or Ethel, the Comic Book Legends may be running dry! :)

Jughead > Silver Surfer > The Demon

Thanks for the Archie comics stuff lately, Brian. It’s a little more upbeat than some of the superhero-creator squabbles (which are fun to read on their own merit).

Also, Jughead may want to discuss some other items with his therapist rather than his clothing, ie his binging, and his fear of the female persuasion. But that’s just me… :)

I’d love it if there was a good comic book legend involving Midge! :)

OK, Brian, you have GOT to go into more detail regarding why you won’t trust Ro’s book again. Has the book come up in the column before? Make with the juicy details!

Brokenheadstuff

January 12, 2009 at 4:26 am

that Foster / Kane swipe really blew my mind. its like a 4 year old traced it. i consider myself a huge comics fan and I’ve never herd of him, and now i’m embarrassed -really opened my eyes as to how little i know, but i’m excited about how much more i can learn. Great Zeus i love these articles!!

for the record i dont mean to knock Kane, just simply amazed at Fosters work in comparison

[…]  I was trying to find out a little more of the Demon’s history I ran across this article on Comic Book Resources talking about how Jack Kirby  (creator of the Demon), considered to be the […]

FunkyGreenJerusalem

January 14, 2009 at 10:15 pm

So Lee took over surfer from his creator, couldn’t write a surfer people wanted to read, and wouldn’t let people who could write that book do it?

He comes across as a bit of a dick in this one.

[…] bunch of readers wrote in about this following the installment from two weeks ago about Marvel’s unwritten rule that only Stan Lee could write solo Silver Surfer stories, a […]

[…] on his shirt. Roger Stern left a book that he created for Marvel before the first issue! #189 – Jack Kirby based the face of Etrigan the Demon on a mask from an old Prince Valiant story by Hal Fo… Outside of guest appearances in comics, Silver Surfer was once reserved for only Stan Lee to […]

I’ve never been too into Prince Valiant (the current stuff). I’ve skipped over it on the comics page, ever since I was a kid. But that Hal Foster art is amazing! And now I know who’s responsible for me drawing those little ear-fins on every demon or sea creature I draw…

Hank Gillette

July 24, 2011 at 9:32 pm

So why is it that when Bob Kane copied another artist it was a swipe, but when Jack Kirby did it it was an homage?

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