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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.
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!
COMIC LEGEND: A toy released to tie-in with the Batman: The Mask of the Phantasm movie revealed the ending of the film.
When it comes to the plot of movies, books and television series, big companies tend to care more about SELLING the product than actually taking care of the story, which I suppose is fair enough, as they only produced the movie/book/TV series to make money.
If they think coming up with two endings (one happy and one sad) for Anna Karenina will make more money, they’ll do it.
Robert Zemeckis complained about the trailer for his film What Lies Beneath, feeling it gave away the central twist in the movie. He was informed that movies sold better when the audience knew exactly what a film was about, so even if the first 45 minutes or so of the film is spent trying to convince the audience that (SPOILERS!) there is NOT a supernatural element to the story it was still worth it to tell the audience before they saw the movie that it WAS a supernatural story.
So when you keep this in mind ($ > Integrity of story, except for the rare times when you’re “selling” the twist in the movie, like The Crying Game, in which case $ = Integrity of story), what happened with the toys for Batman: Mask of the Phantasm makes almost perfect sense.
Naturally, be forewarned, spoilers for a fourteen year old movie ARE up ahead!
The big mystery in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is “Who is the mysterious vigilante known as the Phantasm?”, who has shown up in Gotham City and has begun murdering Gotham’s crime bosses.
As it turns out, it is Bruce Wayne’s old girlfriend, Andrea Beaumont, whose father was murdered by these crime bosses.
It’s a nice enough twist, and it’s one that Warner Brothers was willing to risk spoiling when they struck a deal with Kenner toys to release figures that tied-in with the movie.
As you may notice, the Phantasm toy is a bit…revealing…
Clearly, protecting the ending of the movie was not a high priority, although I find it amazing that Kenner did not even ATTEMPT to hide her identity! I mean, you could have just had her WEARING THE MASK, right?
Thanks to Paul Blanshard for suggesting this one!
COMIC LEGEND: Gary Larson has a type of louse named after him.
People often get called “louse”s, but rarely is the term biographically accurate!
Yet in the case of Gary Larson, it is, for there is a “breed” of louse named after him!
Strigiphilus garylarsoni is a biting louse found only on owls.
Biologist Dale H. Clayton is the man who got to name the creature, and he chose to name it after the Far Side cartoonist. He explained that it was because of “the enormous contribution that my colleagues and I feel you have made to biology through your cartoons,”
Larson is not the only person to get this honor!
There are trilobites named Aegrotocatellus jaggeri and Perirehaedulus richardsi.
But the best one might just be the wasp named Polemistus chewbacca.
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 email@example.com.
As you likely know by now, at the end of April, my book finally came out!
Here is the cover by artist Mickey Duzyj. I think he did a very nice job (click to enlarge)…
If you’d like to order it, you can use the following code if you’d like to send me a bit of a referral fee…
See you next week!
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