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Sample Pages from Was Superman a Spy?

The good folks at Penguin Books were kind enough to allow me to share a few sample pages from the book.


First, once again, here is the cover by Mickey Duzyj, who is great (click to enlarge)…

Here’s the introduction to the book (pages xi-xii) (do note that the book is in black and white)….


Amusingly enough, it all began with falling for an urban legend myself. A few years ago, I wrote on my comic blog, Comics Should Be Good! about comic book writer-artist Walter Simonson’s run on the comic book title Fantastic Four in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I made a comment regarding Simonson’s distaste for the ways some writers had handled the Fantastic Four’s most famous villain, Doctor Doom, over the years. Simonson had written a story that could explain away many of these appearances as having been made by imposters. I had read more than once that Simonson privately kept a list of the character’s appearances that he specifically felt should be ignored. Well, sometime after my comments were published, I received an e-mail from—who else?—Walter Simonson!

Simonson kindly pointed out that he had never made any such list but that he repeatedly had heard people refer to the supposed list! Simonson specifically noted how bemused he was at the fact that he himself was the subject of an “urban legend.” While chagrined over my error, it occurred to me that there were plenty of comic-book-related stories out there that have been passed around for years without being checked out, so I decided it would be a great idea to either confirm or debunk them. In June 2005 I began a weekly column on the topic.

Three years and over 500 urban legends later, here we are with a collection of 130 comic book stories—65 of my favorite legends from the column plus 65 brand-new legends! Some of them are false and some of them are true, but all of them demonstrate the fascinating history of comic books.

In an effort to make it easier to find the legend you’re looking for, I’ve split them into three parts: one for legends related to DC Comics, one for those related to Marvel Comics, and one for legends related to all the other great comic book companies out there.

I had a lot of fun compiling these stories, and I hope you have a lot of fun reading them!

Here’s one of the 130 legends in the book (pages 97-99)!

The Fantastic Four have appeared on television in a variety of animated forms, but probably the strangest take on the concept was their 1978 animated series, produced by DePatie-Freleng Enterprises for the NBC television network. The series starred Mr. Fantastic, The Thing, Invisible Girl and H.E.R.B.I.E. the robot?! Yes, this series did not feature the Human Torch, but instead placed a robot as the fourth member of the team (the robot was co-created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, at least – the last time the two men worked together on a project). H.E.R.B.I.E. stood for Humanoid Experimental Robot, B-Type, Integrated Electronics.

Most viewers guessed that the reason for the exclusion of the Human Torch was that the producers of the show feared children might attempt to emulate him by lighting themselves on fire.

And in the 1980s, in an issue of The Fantastic Four, writer John Byrne had a child do just that, as an homage to the rumors (it also made for a powerful issue, starring Johnny, as he deals with his guilt over the incident). A producer who had worked on a Fantastic Four cartoon series even cited this as the reason why the Human Torch was not used (which was odd because, while he was a producer for a Fantastic Four cartoon, he was not the producer for this Fantastic Four cartoon, and on his cartoon, the Human Torch did appear).

The truth was much simpler. After the success of The Incredible Hulk, Marvel licensed out a number of other heroes to Universal Studios for possible television series or made-for-television movies. One of these heroes was the Human Torch. The project went as far as to have a script written, but nothing was ever filmed (most likely due to the extreme difficulties of depicting a man on fire in the 1970s – it is difficult today, even with the aid of computer graphic effects, so it was incredibly difficult back then). Universal was not involved in the cartoon, and it would not make a deal to allow the Torch to be used, so he was omitted from the series.

As an interesting side note to the whole affair, a few years after the cartoon ended, the California studio where DePatie-Freleng Enterprises produced its shows was destroyed. How was it destroyed? The building burned to the ground.

Thanks for reading!

Be sure to check out Legends Revealed (legendsrevealed.com) for more legends written by me about the world of sports and entertainment!


I am really excited about this book!

Is there an index; a list of the names of all the legends in the book?

When is the book coming out?

Man, I love this book.
At first the format threw me for a second because I was expecting it to be just like the column, but I quickly adjusted. It was weird to NOT see the question or legend listed at the to with a paragraph or two explaining it, this book avoids that and actually tells the story, which in the long run, make for a much more pleasant read.
I also didn’t realize there was new information and legends that haven’t appeared on the website before. I was expecting it to be all ‘old’ info that I’ve already read, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. I originally just planned to stick it in the bathroom to read on occasion :p, but I’ve been burning it through it.

Great little book, and more than I expected as a fan of the weekly column.

Got it from Amazon! I love Trivia filled books and Almanacs…

Just realized the book was supposed to come out today. I don’t know why or how, but I was able to find a used copy at my local bookstore last Sunday. I planned to buy it new, but I couldn’t turn down the $8 price tag. So please everyone buy a second new copy to make up for me. Mr. Brian Cronin made one entertaining book, and now I feel kind of douchey for having picked up a used copy.

being a fan of the colume of the same name for so long looking forward to having the book as soon as i can get to the shop and pick up a copy

Waiting to get mine from Amazon. Congratz again on it!

My copy just came in from Amazon. I obviously haven’t read it yet, but it has a very attractive and attention-getting front and back cover. Congrats on the book, I’m very much looking forward to digging in.

My copy shipped today, meaning I should have it tomorrow. Can’t wait.

This has actually been one of the new releases I’ve been most hyped about.

I wasn’t sure this was already in amazon, going there right away!

Mine copy should be here by the end of the week. I can’t wait.

“And in the 1980s, in an issue of The Fantastic Four, writer John Byrne had a child do just that, as an homage to the rumors (it also made for a powerful issue, starring Johnny, as he deals with his guilt over the incident).”

…Of course, he should have had three other neighborhood kids dying from similar stunts. One kid smothering to death in orange plaster, another dying by jumping into a taffty pulling machine, while the third manages to actually figure out how to make himself vanish into thin air…only to get run over by a bus because the driver couldn’t see him and at least attempt to miss him :-)

Aw, bummer! I went to Border’s today — said they had them likely in store. None came in. Boo.

Hope to get it soon! Kudos, BC!

I hope there’s some Liefeld stuff in there. It wouldn’t be a comic urban legend book with Rob Liefeld. :)

[…] Bundled, Tossed, Untied and Stacked * Tom Devlin at Drawn and Quarterly talked a bit about their planned childrens’ book line on their blog. It’s to be called D+Q Enfant, and given their art direction standards and general, displayed line-wide quality in the realm of comics, should be something to keep an eye on. That’s going to be one of their offerings above. * everybody gets excited about new book lines, but Devlin dropped another bomb yesterday afternoon, at least one I wasn’t aware of. D&Q is doing a book with Imiri Sakabashira called The Box Man. Holy crap. I’ll put one of the images at the bottom of this post so you can go “Holy Crap,” too. I don’t follow manga closely enough to declare with authority this is the first Sakabashira comic published in North America since a short story popped up in Sake Jock, but that would be my hunch. * the comics business news and analysis site ICv2.com had a bunch of single-project publishing announcements on their site in the lat few days. The Del Rey and Cartoon Network alliance will result in comics featuring The Secret Saturdays. Last Gasp will be releasing a Junko Mizuno book with the awesome title of Little Fluffy Gigolo Pelu Vol. 1. IDW will be taking another stab at <a href=”http://icv2.com/articles/news/14833.html” title=”re-launching Fallen Angel”>re-launching Fallen Angel. * the emerging webcomics cartoonist Kate Beaton has a book now; there’s a photo of it and everything. I thought it interesting that she may not have been keeping files when she first started. Anyway, you should buy one. * the writer Katherine Dacey has launched a manga-focused review and criticism site, with one of those names that makes you wonder why no one’s used it yet. * I received a press release earlier today that said BrokenFrontier.com has relaunched with a new design and a focus on Web 2.0 capabilities. It didn’t give the URL, but it wasn’t tough to figure that out. The site looks nice. I don’t really understand what the web 2.0 stuff means, but I never do. I didn’t know that site was headquartered in Brussels, or I did know and forgot. * finally, Brian Cronin’s book from Penguin on various comics industry legends and rumors has reached the preview stage. […]

The planned Human Torch movie was eventually rejiggered into a 1979 TV-movie about a guy who generates electricity in his body. On first run, it was called “Power Man”, but when next rerun, it was retitled “The Power Within.” http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0081365/

Well, reading about the Human Torch exclusion issue left me with a doubt (which could be a suggestion for a fture column): what about the other fire-headed character who came from comic to cartoon, Firestorm?

His permanently set-on-fire head is his most known physical trait. However, when he whas written in the Superfriends cartoon (I believe about 1985), the flames were replaced by a fire-shaped ornament. One year later, the ornament was changed into a waving fire-like haircut.

Everybody who watched the mid-70s/80s’ cartoons know that the Superfriends writers (as well as other cartoons of the time, like Flash Gordon, He-Man, G.I. Joe, Spider-Man and Friends, Thundercats…) were very obssessed with non-violence (none of the cited cartoons ever featured a single punch on anyone’s face) and politically correct issues.

So, my doubt is: was Firestorm’s new hairstyle on the show designed because the producers feared the kids could set their heads on fire?

Thanks for the attention!

Everybody who watched the mid-70s/80s’ cartoons know that the Superfriends writers (as well as other cartoons of the time, like Flash Gordon, He-Man, G.I. Joe, Spider-Man and Friends, Thundercats…) were very obssessed with non-violence (none of the cited cartoons ever featured a single punch on anyone’s face) and politically correct issues.

Not so. The writers had no such concerns. The network’s Standards & Practices department imposed those restrictions. At the time, violence on TV was a big concern, with parent groups and educators getting their knickers twisted over it and network suits running for the hills.

Also, the changes to Firestorm’s fire head no doubt could be traced to budget issues. Animating fire takes time, and time is money.

Ahhhh I just found out the book – can’t wait to track a copy down and have a good ole read. Well done Brian!!

[…] Books | Brian Cronin excerpts his new book Was Superman A Spy?, based on his “Comic Book Legends … Revealed” feature at sibling blog Comics Should Be Good. [CSBG] […]

[…] I just recently discussed here, in sample pages from my book, Was Superman a Spy? and Other Comic Book Legends Revealed, in the […]

[…] Was Superman a Spy? demystifies all of the interesting stories, unbelievable anecdotes, wacky rumors, and persistent myths that have piled up like priceless back issues in the seventy-plus years of the comic book industry… barnesandnoble.com […]

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