web stats

CSBG Archive

Comic Book Legends Revealed #210

1 2 3
Next »

Welcome to the two-hundred and tenth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous two hundred and nine.

Comic Book Legends Revealed is now part of the larger Legends Revealed series, where I look into legends about the worlds of entertainment and sports, which you can check out here, at legendsrevealed.com.

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: Jerry Siegel’s father was shot and killed in a robbery of his store.


Jerry Siegel was born in 1914 as one of six children of Lithuanian immigrants. His father Mitchell painted signs and eventually opened up his own haberdashery.

Sadly, Mitchell (Mitchell, by the way, was his “American” name) died when Jerry was 18 years old, six years before Action Comics #1 came out.

The following story appears in Gerard Jones’ great look at the history of comics, Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book….

Jerry was home with his mother when it happened. Mitchell was downtown, closing the haberdashery alone. A neighboring merchant saw the door ajar and the light on after closing time but saw no sign of Mitchell among the shelves. He poked in, called Mitchell’s name, and then saw the blood on the floor. He followed it behind the counter, and there was Mitchell on the floor, already dead, with two bullet holes in him. The money was gone from the cash register. The police never found the thief who shot him.

I am pretty sure that Jones was the first person (or rather, the first comics historian) to learn that Mitchell Siegel died in a robbery. That’s a momentous find, and Jones should get a TON of credit for his work here.

However, it does not appear to be the entire story.

My pal Marc Tyler Nobleman, writer of the great kid’s book about Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Boys of Steel,

along with Siegel and Shuster historian Brad Ricca, discovered a great deal of evidence to suggest that Mitchell died not of a gunshot wound, but of a heart attack, and not over a robbery of cash, but of clothes.

I don’t mean to step on Marc and Brad’s toes, so I’ll just link you to Marc’s site here, where he has most of his evidence, including the police report listing cause of death as “heart failure” and describing the incident (via a rough transcription on Marc’s part)…

“when Michael Siegel became excited when three unknown Negroes entered his store at 3530 Central Ave and one of them walked out with a suit of clothes ? the events ? Michael Siegel fainted and fell down on the floor causing his death”

I think that really should just about cover it, no? But you can check out Marc’s site if you need even more convincing (you shouldn’t).

Still, whether his father was shot or not, the fact that the creator of one of the world’s most famous crimefighters lost his father to crime? That’s amazing.

Thanks, again, to Marc and Brad, for the work they put into this research!

1 2 3
Next »


I think you mean, “when Jerry was 8 years old, six years before Action Comics #1 came out.”

Jerry was 23 (turning 24) when Action Comics #1 came out, so the ages match up, no?

sorry about that, brian. i just double checked, and you are correct. I was thinking of how old Jerry was when he CREATED superman, not when he first appeared. A good article, as always.

No problema. I will admit that you had me staring at the screen trying to figure out if I was somehow wrong with my dates. ;)

I love this feature, but… why is it always dated Thursday? I don’t remember the last time it was posted before Friday. You aren’t fooling anyone, Cronin. :D

The Blank action figure with the Dick Tracy line also had a pretty big spoiler for that movie. I think Playmates held off on releasing it other than in Canada or something.

As a kid I went nuts trying to find The Blank.

The Phantasm figures also might’ve been a timing thing – if memory serves, the movie got bumped to theatrical release relatively late in the process, and as a result was delayed for some period of time.

Fun fact: Andrea Beaumont was voiced by Dana Delaney, who of course voiced Lois in the Superman cartoon a few years later. And, sure enough, when Batman and Superman teamed up for a three-part episode, Lois developed a fling with Bruce Wayne.

@Stephen — you’re right. Mask of the Phantasm was originally meant as a direct-to-video, and got moved to a theatrical release at the last moment. I don’t know what effect that had on action figures getting released, though.

I do remember watching a few trailers for the movie and some clips I ran into on QVC where Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill were hawking BTAS and MotP goods, and guessed who the Phantasm was well before the movie came out. Was rather disappointed to find out I was right.

There is also a great story about who Andrea Beaumont is named for and why, which I managed to confirm with the source (scroll all the way down to the end to read and/or hear the story.

That louse one feels like it’s been sitting in a drawer waiting to act as filler for awhile.

You know, I was quite impressed that the merchandising for Batman Begins didn’t give away the “twist” in the movie. I was actually completely surprised by the reveal, which was nice. I don’t even think they *made* an action figure of Liam Neeson, did they?

Terry Pratchett has an extint tortaise named after him (Psephophorus terrypratchetti).

What I would not give for the ability to edit these posts for spelling…

As a kid I went nuts trying to find The Blank.

Me too! I looked EVERYWHERE for that figure back in the day. It was my childhood Holy Grail for a while there. Never did find the thing; if I ever come across it at a con or something, I’d definitely pick it up (I’m sure I could find it on ebay or something, but where’s the fun in that?).

i do believe that they made an action figure of Liam Neeson, and they called it ‘Henri Ducard’. At least i remember that from the ads, as i would never buy anything like that. ;-]. i don’t actually know if it ever came out, but i do remember that Herni Ducard figure right next to the Ra’s a Ghul figure that looked like Ken W [i don’t want to totally embarass myself by trying to spell his last name by memory!]

The Batman spoilers weren’t too bad, however, since Kenner was operating under the standard “girls don’t sell” mindset that’s always made action figures with boobs super hard to find. Yes, even when that female action figure is the main villain of the piece. So Phantasm, big bad or not, was incredibly shortpacked, and thus not many people would have ever seen it before the movie came out (or even AFTER the movie came out, for that matter).

Phantasm certainly isn’t the only offender, either. A set of Wolverine movie toys revealed the finale of the film even before the famous online leak, and Mattel’s first series of Harry Potter toys had a figure revealing who was working for Voldemort. Take that, mystery and suspense!

Justin – they did, and it was spoileriffic. Although it appears to be from a later wave of figures – possibly after the multiple non-spoilery figs of the same character. (Yar, this post was hard to write without spoiling it…it’s almost 5 years old, but…)

The plural of louse is lice, not louses. Same as with mouse and mice.

I didn’t read the Harry Potter books, but I knew the big scary monster in one of the movies was a basilisk, because MONTHS before the movie came out, Lego sold the Harry Potter and the Basilisk set.

We fans need to remember that, to the owners, making money is the most important thing.

I wish I’d read this before a talk I gave on the origin of Superman a few months ago.

oh, and since it’s been posted since I started typing, there was an exclusive Ra’s with the Liam Neeson head, but it was only released about the time the movie was coming out on dvd, so it was fairly well-known by then…

In fairness, that Phantasm figure was IMPOSSIBLE to find. I remember constantly checking Toys R Us for it.. At one point, I’d just gotten there when I heard a little kid shriek, “I thought I’d NEVER find Phantasm!” Gah! Took me another few years to find one at a toy show. Still have it.

In fairness, that Phantasm figure was IMPOSSIBLE to find.

And the reason it was so hard to find was probably because the figure was of a female character, and thus automatically short-packed (cuz boys don’t want to play with toys of girls, of course…).

So if Kenner HAD packaged the figure with the mask on, they probably could have sold more figures because it wouldn’t APPEAR as a girl toy, so they could have sent out more in each assortment.

And then, with the characters identity secret to all but those who purchased the toy and removed the mask, both commercial and aesthetic sensibilities would have been honored. :)

Citizen Scribbler

June 5, 2009 at 10:37 am

Count me as another fruitless hunter of The Blank action figure. I had every figure except that one and I scoured the Hudson Valley looking all over for it. It must have existed because my spoiled cousin Phil got one, like, the day they were released. Never found out where he got it from, though; or, if I did, they were gone by the time I checked. And he never even really played with his action figures! So unfair!

I’m glad I’m not the only one who experienced that madness. And at least I was able to get a Steve The Tramp action figure before they took him off the market because somebody said it was offensive to homeless people. He was so awesome- he came with a trash can lid and a board with a nail in it!

-Citizen Scribbler

The Tramp figure was pretty awesome. I managed to get that one too, before he was pulled. I think I still have him in a box somewhere…

Citizen Scribbler

June 5, 2009 at 10:41 am

Oh, and Aaron Poehler? You can start complaining about “filler” when you start supplying us with original content even half as fascinating as this column typically is. How dare you!?!

I mean, really! If you don’t like it, don’t read it and keep your mouth shut. It’s free and I’m grateful for it, myself.

-Citizen Scribbler

Citizen Scribbler

June 5, 2009 at 10:42 am

You have The Tramp in a box somewhere, Teebore? How appropriate! :)

-Citizen Scribbler

Ha! Yes indeed. Totally missed that. :)

while I’m waiting for the moderation queue, I actually have a suggestion:

Chuck Dixon is currently writing GI Joe comics. Chuck Dixon used to write Catwoman. A recent issue of GI Joe (Movie Prequel #3) involved art theft, an exotic large cat, and a woman in a black bodysuit using a whip. Sounds familiar, right? I’ve seen at least one site suggest it was a an old unused Catwoman script he pulled out of the drawer (snarkily, but you know someone out there is going to read it and think the suggestion was serous), so it might as well get taken care of early. Was the script really a recycled Catwoman plot, a conscious decision to have a similar style, or just a big coincidence?

That Phantasm story reminds me of Return of the Jedi, where Boussh the bounty hunter’s figure was handled completely differently. Considering that it wasn’t that much of a spoiler and was revealed within the first 30 minutes of the film.
The toy was packaged as Boussh, advertised everywhere as Boussh, had the mask on in the packaging and had no indication as to the real identity, until you took the helmet off.
To be honest I can’t remember whether I bought the toy, saw the film or read the comic first, but it was still 99p well spent.

COMIC LEGEND: Jerry Siegel’s father was shot and killed in a robbery of his store.


Not sure how definitive this is. Last year when Brad Meltzer was doing interviews about Book of Lies, USA Today had an article that stated:

“Although they never went public, the father’s side of the family was told for decades that the elder Siegel had been shot in the robbery. That’s the dramatic angle Meltzer takes in his conspiracy novel. Siegel was shot twice in the chest at his store, he writes, and “a puddle of blood seeped toward the door.”

In an afterword to his work of fiction, Meltzer concedes that the facts remain murky. In an interview, Meltzer said that some in the family were told “since they were little kids” that Siegel died by gunfire. Others were told he had a heart attack. “It was probably a heart attack,” Meltzer said.

And yet Meltzer is not ready to embrace either answer as final.”

Link here: http://www.usatoday.com/life/books/news/2008-08-25-superman-creators_N.htm

I also seem to remember reading somewhere that the Siegel family believed the mob was involved and that the robbery was just a cover up. Can’t seem to find that where I saw that, though.

So Gary Larson had a louse named after him. Pfff…

German humorist Loriot CREATED a louse that even managed to get a fictitious entry in an actual medical encyclopedic dictionary:


Speaking of Liam Neeson, there was a similar product tie-in spoiler gaffe when Star Wars: The Phantom Menace came out…or rather when the soundtrack came out before the movie did. There I was, innocently scanning the tracklist weeks before the movie came out when I noticed one of the song titles: “Qui Gon’s Noble End.” D’oh!

Good thing that Phantasm action figure was extremely hard to fine. I think they made 1 for ever 1,000 Batman movie tie-in figure, which had nothing to do with the movie. At least the Joker came with his movie jet pack.

This summer suffered from a similar action figure oriented spoiler when fans saw a maskless Deadpool/Weapon XI on the pegs weeks before X-Men Origins: Wolverine was released. Speculation on-line was the name was a typo, that a Deadpool with his mouth sewn shut could never inspire his OWN franchise . . .

“Polemistus chewbacca” should be a band name. Because it’s an awesome name.

Bert Duckwall

June 5, 2009 at 3:06 pm

The Terminator Salvation toy of Marcus Wright also reveal a spoiler for the movie before it was released.

Not sure how definitive this is. Last year when Brad Meltzer was doing interviews about Book of Lies, USA Today had an article that stated:

I believe Meltzer did his book BEFORE the police report was discovered, so Meltzer was doing the best he could with the information he had available to him, but to believe that Siegel WAS shot dead you’d have to believe that the coroner, the police and the newspapers all conspired to say that Siegel died during a robbery, but not by gunfire.

It’s certainly POSSIBLE, but it sure doesn’t seem likely at all.

And again, I’m pretty sure Nobleman and Ricca found the police report AFTER Meltzer began his project, so Meltzer did not have the same information available to him when he was doing his project, so Meltzer was being extremely fair and even-handed with his sources, and even then, Meltzer came to the conclusion that “It was probably a heart attack.” So withOUT the same info as Nobleman and Ricca, he came to the same conclusion, he just left it up for grabs a bit while Nobleman and Ricca believe it is more definitive, and I tend to agree with them. However, perhaps I could change the “False” to “Most Likely False,” if you think it’s an issue!

Annoyed Grunt

June 5, 2009 at 3:50 pm

“The Blank action figure with the Dick Tracy line also had a pretty big spoiler for that movie. I think Playmates held off on releasing it other than in Canada or something.

As a kid I went nuts trying to find The Blank.”

Don’t feel bad, I live in Canada and could never find it either. I even remember begging my aunt to look for it when she took a trip to New York to no avail.

Pass on my compliments to your pal Marc Tyler Nobleman; Boys of Steel is a great (if too short) book. (Guess I should also note it’s a children’s book for folks who haven’t seen it, if that’s not obvious from the cover.)

Love the Phantasm box. “With Chopping Arm Action” indeed!

RE: What Lies Beneath – I remember going to watch this film and being BORED stiff for the first 45 mins to an hour for the exact reasons Zemeckis states, the whole first half of the film is spent building tension and mystery as to whether or not there’s a ghost and what exactly is happening… However, I had seen the trailer and knew *exactly* what was going to happen, so the probably quite well made tense buildup became an hour of dull waiting for the spooky stuff to kick in…

It really, really annoyed me at the time and reading this brought it all back up.

Luckily I didn’t see the figure back in the day until after I saw the film (on December 26th — my Mom wouldn’t let me see it on Christmas because of family stuff. Bah. Family. What’ve they ever done for you) but I find the timing of that legend amusing since I finally got a Phantasm figure at this great vintage toy store I just stumbled across (Kool Stuff in Hamilton, Ont., by the way). For some reason I never got one as a kid, and since I’ve been on a real DCAU kick since they started putting the shows on DVD it’s nice to have one.

Have a good day.
John Cage

Another excellent article.

Another good example about how merchandise spoils the mystery of a movie is all of the Star Wars stuff:
Back in 1999, the soundtrack to Star Wars: Episode I, which was released at least a month before the movie came out, had a track called something like “The Final Fate of Qui-Gon”. Gee, do you think something’s going to happen to him?
Of course, the novelization, illustrated screenplay, comics, toys, audio books, and all kinds of other goodies came out before. The comic adaption even revealed what the spaceships and alien creatures looked like!

As for Gary Larson, this story about having an insect named after him is told in the book “The Pre-History of The Far Side”. So, not only is this legend true, it was published by Gary Larson himself years ago. :)

Figuring out who The Phantasm was is not hard- it’s almost always the least likely suspect, especially if it’s a newly introduced character. Still, the toys did not need to show the character’s face at all, so that was a blunder.

I always felt that The Phantasm was based on the Rea[per, from the Batman comics. There was a certain similarity. Any truth to that?

Also, what are Larson’s “contributions to biology” that got a louse named after him? (And how’d he react at the fact? I would’ve made a strip about that If I were him: “Years of writing The Far Side and all I get is a louse named after me.” (said sarcastically, of course.) :D

That bit about Gary Larson and the louse isn’t really that hard to track down as he only included it in The Prehistory of The Far Side, plus it is in the wiki articles on both him and the book. Anything that easy to track down isn’t really something that I’d consider to be that obscure.

@Justin: Ya, that was actually a twist ending that made me feel like an idiot. I was so pissed when Liam Neeson was there looking and talking just like Ras al’Ghul but not being Ras al’Ghul. Then the rest of the movie won me back grudgingly up until that big reveal, which made me love the movie. And feel dumb for not seeing it coming.
The Phantasm toy thing reminds me of the Dr. Claw action figure. His face was obscured in the bubble to keep the mystery. Never did get one.


Kenner DID NOT spoil the Phantasm reveal. The movie was released in Dec 1993, the toys in April 1994 in advance of the may 1994 video release.

I was working at Toys R Us at the time and was already part of the rec.toys,misc USENET community, so I’m sure of this. I can’t find a specific first sighting to back this up, but I came close:


The Dick Tracy Blank figure mentioned above WAS delayed for spoiler reasons, but the line tanked so it was never released in the US (only Canada and maybe some overseas markets).

And finally, Liam Neeson’s figure was released as Henri Ducard along with a Ra Al Ghul /Ken Watanabe figure…but a few months after the movie was released Mattel issued a Neeson figure repainted in black and labeled Ra’s al Ghul (I think it was a TRU exclusive).


I got that phantasm figure for christmas one year. I was a lot younger then so I don’t think it spoiled the movie for me. Besides, I lived in Australia back then and mask of the phantasm didn’t get a theatrical release, it was straight to video.

Hey Brian, I also have a question about your book. I just finished it by the way and really enjoyed it, but I was wondering why you didn’t include the title each myth as you addressed it in the book? It read more like an interesting history book rather than the myth column.

Kenner DID NOT spoil the Phantasm reveal. The movie was released in Dec 1993, the toys in April 1994 in advance of the may 1994 video release.

Jason, I honestly don’t know when they were released. I didn’t say when they were released in the piece, right? If you say April 94, I believe ya!

I’m just saying that they gave away the ending of the movie, that’s all, whenEVER they were released.

Oh, who didn’t figure out the ending to Mask of the Phantasm while they were watching it?



Collins’s novel was released to bookstores several weeks before the film was released to theatres, and the film’s producers did not want the “surprise” ending ruined for moviegoers. Consequently, they decreed that the last chapter of Collins’s novelization had to be rewritten so that the Blank’s identity was not actually revealed. Only the final edition of the book (which went through several printings) included Collins’s original chapter, in which the character who had been masquerading as the Blank was specifically identified, and, as that final edition never made it into bookstores, having been, instead, sold en masse to a school book club, relatively few people read it.

Brian, I have to back up James comment. I read the book this week and although i absolutely loved it it did feel strange without a title for each legend.

Great column as always

“Michael Siegel became excited when three unknown Negroes walked into his store…” Why the heck promote the idea that black men were involved with his death? I understand that the police reports state that, but those same reports can’t even verify the number of blacks allegedly in the store. According to the accounts given to the Siegel family, a neighboring merchant found the body after normal business hours. So who was in the store to tell the police that black men were there at the supposed time of death? And how did they know that Mr. Siegel didn’t know them? (Mr. Siegel was dead and couldn’t be asked.) A quick review of the reports shows inconsistencies that would make any armchair detective raise a flag or two, and I don’t think repeating the least verifiable section of the story is pertinent to determining whether he died by gunshot or heart attack..

Agent of Chaos

June 6, 2009 at 11:40 am

Just to buttress a few points about the BATMAN: TAS line, distribution for all figures that were NOT Batman was outright terrible. You’d go to a toy store and find layer after layer of Batman and… no villains.
They got better, but I’m pretty sure MOTP wasn’t spoiled by the figure since the availability of the figure was pretty sketchy. These were days before the internet, too.

Great first legend, Brian–that’s probably the most surprising thing I’ve seen in this feature!

Why did Gerard Jones get it wrong? Were his sources for that only the Siegel family, who might have repeated the family lore, as KentL intimates?

That’s what I imagine, Dan, that he was repeating what he was told by the family. And remember, he was the first one to discover the story, so he had less info to go on!

Larson also had another bit of nature named after him, sort of. The Thagomizer is the spikey thing on the end of a dinosaur’s tail… no one ever thought to name it until 1993 when someone noticed Larson had named it quite nicely in his cartoon. One of my favorites, by the way. And, actually, it’s not named after Larson, but rather the late, unfortunate Thag Simmons. May he rest in peace.

“Jason, I honestly don’t know when they were released. I didn’t say when they were released in the piece, right? If you say April 94, I believe ya!

I’m just saying that they gave away the ending of the movie, that’s all, whenEVER they were released.”

Brian, good point! ;)

It was indeed a spoiler. I wonder of Kenner wanted to make a concrete point that they were featuring the “Mask of Phantasm” in the easiest way possible?

The Terminator Salvation toy of Marcus Wright also reveal a spoiler for the movie before it was released.

But only after (way after) that same “spoiler” had been revealed by every trailer for the film, starting with the Super Bowl commercial on up. if it was meant to be a surprise, they really didn’t do a very good job of it. It’s just like in T2, where the film obviously wants you to think Arnie is the bad guy and Robert Patrick is the hero, but the entire ad campaign is based around the exact opposite.

And Brian, I’m with Sijo: “Phantasm was based on the Year Two character Reaper” would make for a good legend…


It was spoiled in Australia, due to us getting animated features way after America does (back in 1994) the toys came out before hand, and I already knew who phantasm was. I probably found out through the comic book adaptation too!

i love comics

I’m loving the discussion in this week’s column almost as much as the article itself. I never really thought about how many toy tie-ins should have had “SPOILER ALERT!” plastered on the bubble.

On a completely unrelated note, I have a legend suggestion. A buddy and I were talking about comic-based cartoons from the 90s, and he mentioned Savage Dragon. I said that Erik Larsen was so upset at the quality and children-targeted tone of the show that he refuses to allow it to be syndicated after the original broadcast run or released on DVD.

As we discussed it further, I realized that while it was plausible, I had no source or proof for the statement, and was just parroting something I’d heard years ago, probably in a similar conversation with someone else. So is there any truth to this one?

Star Wars: The Phantom Menace was not the first time that a Star Wars spoiler blew a major plot point. I remember back in 1980, I picked up the Marvel Graphic Novelization of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi and found out that Vader was Luke’s father before the movie was released. I remember hearing at the time that George Lucas was very unhappy with Marvel for letting that get out before the movie revealed it.

I remember seeing the Phantom Menace s/t CD for the first time. My best friend and I were geeking on the movie’s imminent release like nobody’s business, so when we saw the soundtrack was available, we ran over to take a look.
We’re both silently looking the CD over, when- at the same moment, in unison- we read out loud “‘Qui-Gon’s Noble End’?! Awwwwww!!!”

Not really a plot spoiler, but they really should have worked harder to keep elements of Darth Maul under wraps. Particularly his lightsabre. In the movie, it’s clearly meant to be a surprise to US as WELL as the Jedi when at the end of the movie his lightsabre suddenly spits out a second blade.
It’s meant to be one of those “Woah, cool!” moments, but he was so ubiquitous in the marketing build-up that a double-bladed lightsabre had lost most of its initial shock novelty.

Also, I’ve always wondered why someone would even buy and read a novelization/comic adaptation before seeing the movie?
Can you really complain about having the plot revealed in a novel of the movie’s script?

And in 1980, it was probably a graphic novelization of The Empire Strikes Back….

“Qui-Gon’s Noble End” could have meant the end as a Jedi Knight or something, you know, maybe he leaves the Jedi Order… But then the tracking listing right underneath said “The High Council Meeting and Qui-Gon’s Funeral” so that pretty much spoiled it. I remember being pretty bummed out because except for the teaser and the trailer, I had been 100% spoiler free for Episode I…

That Yellow Kid cartoon is a window into a terrifying world.

Yeah, I probably should have picked a later one, when the strip toned down a bit.

Leave a Comment



Review Copies

Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.

Browse the Archives