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Comic Book Legends Revealed #237

Welcome to the two-hundred and thirty-seventh 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 thirty-six.

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. I’d especially recommend you check out this installment of Music Legends Revealed to read a story about whether Henry Kissinger winning the Nobel Peace Prize caused Tom Lehrer to quit doing satirical songs.

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: All American comics were banned in Fascist Italy…except Mickey Mouse!

STATUS: True

As you might imagine, what with the government of a country coming up with reasons why it was okay to exterminate millions of people (lots of whom were its own citizens), things were kind of messed up in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s. There were some strange arguments being made to justify whatever the heck the government wanted to do.

That was true in Nazi Germany (where they felt the need to counter a Superman comic strip, for crying out loud) and it was true in Fascist Italy.

One of the major aspects of fascism was that the state, the nation, was effectively part of your being. Benito Mussolini, the fascist leader of Italy from 1922 until 1943, said in 1922, “For us the nation is not just territory but something spiritual… A nation is great when it translates into reality the force of its spirit.”

This sense of nationalism grew as time went by, and you’d be amazed at the things that the Italian government would get themselves involved in. For instance, they actually sought to keep non-Italian TOYS from Italian children! Yes, they felt that foreign TOYS were a bad influence upon Italian children!

So it is of little surprise to note that eventually, the government turned their eyes to comics.

By the late 1930s, imported American comics were quite popular in Italy. Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Popeye – all the big names were brought over (initially by Italian comic creators just using the characters without permission, but eventually with official comics).

But in 1938, the fear of foreign influences messing with their children led to a pronouncement by the Ministry of Popular Culture that all foreign comic strips were hereby banned from Italy. Italy’s popular comics (which were in newspaper form, similar to, say, Wednesday Comics) were to be only Italian-made comics!

What most publishers did was simply change the name of the characters and the creators of the comic and pretended that the comic was Italian.

Here is a 1940 Popeye comic strip under its Italian name, “Il Monarca di Roccaverza” (Monarch of Roccaverza) – while often they would come up with a fake name for the creator, here they just dropped EC Segar’s byline…

(Click on the page to enlarge)

While that was the case for every other comic strip, Mickey Mouse had a powerful fan in Italy who made things easier for him – Benito Mussolini himself!

Mussolini and his family were big fans of the Mouse, so after the edict, Mussolini allowed an exception for the Disney character, and Mickey continued to star in his own strips (the magazine was actually named after Mickey – Topolino, meaning “little mouse”) along with the same Walt Disney credit that appeared in America (the strip though, of course, was being done by the great Floyd Gottfredson).

(Click on the page to enlarge)

This was the case right up until February of 1942, when even Mussolini could not justify publishing an American cartoon when Italy was officially at war with the United States, so the strip was replaced by Tuffolino, an Italian Mickey knock-off.

The magazine (which had already shrunk in size from 20 pages all the way down to 6 pages by 1943) ceased publication in 1943 and picked back up in 1945.

That version of the magazine ended in 1949, and the series was relaunched in comic book format.

This Topolino series was exceptionally popular in Italy for decades.

Thanks to Ron Harris and his neat site, Words and Pictures, for the Topolino scans!

COMIC LEGEND: Walt Simonson and Chris Claremont re-worked an unpublished Carmine Infantino issue of John Carter of Mars into an issue of Star Wars.

STATUS: True

In 1977, Marvel tried to re-create their Conan licensing success by licensing Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars character.

Even though the series had a lot of strong talent working on it (Marv Wolfman and Gil Kane launched the title, and Chris Claremont, Walt Simonson and others worked on the series), it was over by late 1979. The last issue published was the third Annual.

However, when it was canceled, Marvel still had some fill-in work by Carmine Infantino in their files.

So a year or so later, Walt Simonson and Chris Claremont were given an odd task – take a fill-in Infantino did for John Carter and turn it into a Star Wars story!

And really, they did a marvelous job, with Simonson drawing a few pages as a framing sequence (aping Infantino wonderfully) and then adapting Infantino’s art where need be.

Check it out (the first two pages are just Leia thinking back upon her home planet of Alderaan’s destruction)….

Pretty darn impressive, no?

Thanks to Roger Ash and Eric Nolen-Weathington for their great book, Modern Masters: Walt Simonson, for getting the information from Simonson, and thanks, of course, to Walt for being so forthcoming!

COMIC LEGEND: Joe Devlin created Millie the Model.

STATUS: False

While the internet is a great resource for spreading misinformation, it’s also a great source for FIXING misinformation, and we can thank Don Markstein, of the always amazing Toonopedia, for correcting a long-standing error due to two similar names.

We honestly do not know who created Mille the Model, which was Marvel’s longest-running humor magazine.

Launched in 1945, with art by Ruth Atkinson and a script by Stan Lee, it is unclear if either of those two were the actual creators of the character.

Originally a more sedate humor book (a young Mike Sekowsky drew the first year or so of the title)…

it became a more Archie-style book when the great Dan DeCarlo joined forces with Stan Lee in the late 1940s. The two would do the book for the next ten years!!!

DeCarlo was followed by Stan Goldberg…

As you can tell, both DeCarlo and Goldberg ended up at Archie Comics, where DeCarlo’s art became effectively the house style for Archie Comics (and where Goldberg still works!).

Goldberg stayed on the book through the late 1960s, including a mid-60s attempt to turn the title into a romance comic…

He also returned to the book in the early 1970s, when it turned back to a humor book, before its cancellation in 1973.

In any event, for years, writer/artist Joe Devlin was credited with the creation of Millie the Model.

However, that was due to a simple misunderstanding between two similar characters!

Devlin introduced, in the pages of Quality Comics’ Crack Comics #1 (in 1940)…

(the same comic that the original Black Condor and The Spider made their debuts)…

MOLLY the Model!

And Don figured out the mistake, and he now has us all informed!

So thanks, Don, for the sleuthing!

Okay, that’s it for this week!

Thanks to the Grand Comic Book Database for this week’s covers! And thanks to Brandon Hanvey for the Comic Book Legends Revealed logo!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is cronb01@aol.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…

Was Superman a Spy?: And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed

See you next week!

46 Comments

Holy Death Stars, Batman!

I actually own that Star Wars comic, and never, ever knew that about it!

Thank you for shedding another bit of light on my old collection, Brian!

Fascism is for assholes. Has anyone from Disney ever commented on the situation, either at the time or after the fact?

(While I’m thinking of it, is the Southern Baptist Convention still holding on to its Disney boycott due to their supposed ‘pro-homosexual’ policies? I’m implying nothing, but I figure the farther away from the blackshirts anyone is, the better.)

Aron’s boots are hilarious–he’s not wearing pants but he still has those giant cuffs!

Are Infantino’s original pages floating around anywhere? It would be neat to compare and contrast them with the published version.

How great was Dan DeCarlo. Did Marvel ever reprint those old Millies?

I’ve always suspected that Mickey Mouse was a “facist” in disguise, after all, Walt Disney was rumoured to be a tyrant among his employees.

Dan,

The SBC withdrew their boycott a couple of years ago. I don’t remember the exact wording they used when they announced it, but the gist of it seemed to be, “Screw it, nobody’s taking part in it anyway.”

Thanks, Mike!

Really no surprise regarding Mickey Mouse.

Walt was a high ranking free mason and used Disney and its characters to promote their Luciferian philosophy.

The symbolism of the illumined/perfected man – 666 – is present all throughout Mickey and Walt Disney. The nazis were occultists and most likely knew of this.

The stormtrooper on that Simonson cover is an absolute GIANT. Is that consistent with the story, or is it just a really poorly executed cover?

Man am I hooked on Crack comics.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

December 11, 2009 at 1:31 pm

Matt’s bizarre conspiracy theories aside, Hitler was indeed a fan of the Disney mascot — Goebbels once gifted him reels with some three dozen Mickey Mouse cartoons for Christmas — the Nazis as a party hated Mickey Mouse. There’s an infamous editorial sent out by Goebbels’ office from the early 1940s that goes on and on about how mice are “vermin” just like Jews, ergo Mickey Mouse is a Jewish plot of some kind. Really.

Hey Brian, I read a book called The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana by Umberto Eco a year or two ago. It is about an older Italian gentleman who has a stroke or something in the ’90s and forgets pretty much everything about his life, so he goes back to his childhood home and looks through all his old childhood crap, such as old Topolino and Buck Rogers comics. Anyway, the main character was a kid during the Fascist era of Italy, and Umberto does a pretty awesome job of examining Italy of that era and afterwards through pop culture, including musics, magazines and comic books. It is pretty fascinating to learn old pop culture and how it reflects our values as a society (one of my main reasons for loving comic books in general), and it was doubling fascinating learning about a foreign culture’s old pop culture.

It also helps that Umberto Eco is a master storyteller. Anyway, your first legend of this post made me think about that novel, which I haven’t thought about in a while, so I thought I would mention it.

I love those Star Wars issues…always knew they were a “John Carter homage” didn’t know they were directly John Carter.

Paul, it’s been a LOOOOOOOONG time since I read them, but it’s a story thing, iirc.

IMO, Disney must be doing something right if the Religious Right thinks they are too leftist, while Leftist groups to the opposite extreme consider the company to be right-wing Fascists.

And that’s not even bringing Walt himself into the matter…

Hold on, hold on, Millie the Model ran for 28 years?

“Kind of messed up…whatever the heck”

That has to be the most asinine description of the Fascist dictatorships I’ve ever read.

I read that same Umberto Eco book not too long ago and absolutely loved it! A wonderful look at how pop culture eventually becomes our “real” lives.

As for Mickey and facism, all I can think of is the recent “Family Guy” where Stewey and Brian are hopping among different dimensions. They arrive at the Walt Disney Planet that appears at first to be perfect–happiness and talking animals everywhere. And then all the planet’s denizens band together to attack “Family Guy’s” one Jewish character (whose name I’m forgetting at the moment), and Stewey and Brian realize that every utopia has its downside.

“That has to be the most asinine description of the Fascist dictatorships I’ve ever read.”

And that has to be the most asinine description of a description of the Fascist dictatorships I’ve ever read.

Now that’s a fun little piece of Star Wars history I’d never heard before. Very cool.

It’s a shame Marvel hasn’t reprinted much Millie the Model (to my knowledge). I’d think some of it would make for a fun read as an Essential or some inexpensive trades.

IIRC, there was also a Tarzan story reworked into a Battlestar Galactica tale. Apollo crash-landed on a planet and his uniform was shredded…I remember Apollo swinging thru the trees, Tarzan style…originally Sal Buscema art, also reworked by Simonson…
Marvel in the old days didn’t let ANYTHING go to waste. If they paid for it, they used it!

I’m surprised nobody’s commented on the racist Micky Mouse strip, but I guess we’ve all seen stuff like that before.

Pringles made pretzals?? I didn’t even think Pringles was around back then.

I wrote a political comment on another (somewhat) comics-related site recently, and everybody jumped all over me for it. But my political views are more normal (I hope) than what I see above here.

I love that ‘Crack Comics’ title.

About the Southern Baptist Convention and their stupid boycotts (not to mention various stupid statements they’ve made over the years)– Many people from outside the Bible Belt don’t seem to understand the nature of the Baptist religion. The SBC has no authority whatsoever, and never has. The Baptist religion is based largely on the idea of reading the Bible yourself and coming to your own opinions. Each Baptist church has a congregation which agrees on a few basics, but little else. And if someone disagrees too much, he simply switches to the Baptist church across the street, or the one down the road. The SBC is made up of people who don’t like this system and want to form a more organised church (like the Presbyterians or something). But no other Baptists have ever paid much attention to anything they have to say.
I’m not a Baptist, by the way, but I live in Oklahoma and am surrounded by them, so I have a pretty good grasp of their views.

I remember those early Marvel Star Wars comics, and I found them pretty weird, mostly because of Infantino’s artwork (which had declined in quality since his Silver Age days) and the kind of stories they did (Am I misremembering or was there a humanoid, green RABBIT character at one point??)

As for Disney being (like a) fascist, there was an episode of My Life As A Teenage Robot ( a series known for homaging early cartoons and strips such as Little Nemo in Slumberland) where the menace fought was “Mortimer the Mouse” a mutant lab mouse with definite Stalinist trappings! It was a Mickey Mouse parody, of course, but now I realize it may have mocked Disney himself as well!

-”they felt the need to counter a Superman comic strip”
Wait, what? Was there an actual “Nazi Superman” comic strip?

-”they felt the need to counter a Superman comic strip”
Wait, what? Was there an actual “Nazi Superman” comic strip?

No, an official Nazi counter-response (in the form of an editorial in the Nazi newspaper) to a Superman comic strip.

Just a little addendum from Italy: the small version of “Topolino” is still edited today, after 60 years and 2820 weekly issues, and still stands as the best-selling comic book in Italy. Actually, the new material on “Walt Disney Comics and Stories” (Wizards of Mickey, Doubleduck etc.) is from that very same weekly: over the years, a lot of great Italian artists and writers (such as Romano Scarpa, Giovan Battista Carpi, Giorgio Cavazzano and many others) have been creating great Disney comics, turning Italy into the biggest producer of Disney comics worldwide. My work as a Disney comic writer appears on “Topolino” as well… hope someday to see it in the States too!

Oh yeah, sorry, Roberto, re-reading it, it does seem as though I’m saying it eventually ended. Not my intention! Thanks for the head’s up. Hope to see some of your work in the States, as well (and you’re right, the Disney work that Boom! is reprinting IS strong!).

I always thought the aliens on that planet in the SW comic looked like sword-and-sorcery types…

And yea, there was a story arc that had a giant rabbit. Around issues 9-13 or so?

Allegedly Lucas said that would be one thing to see vanish from SW history. I wonder what he hates more-the big rabbit (Jaxxon, IIRC) or the Holiday Special?

Dave

Re: Star Wars, yes, the issue in question did indeed feature giant Stormtroopers. I can’t recall if a reason was given; they were probably supposed to be some sort of special forces. In truth, they probably had to be supersized to cover whatever Infantino drew originally.

And yes, there was a tall, green humanoid rabbit in some of the first issues to feature original material. Jaxxon was a Roy Thomas/Howard Chaykin creation who first appeared in issue #8. He was last seen briefly in #16. Roy was apparently fond of the character, but legend has it George Lucas was not and asked that the character never be used again. I believe I have spotted other members of the same species in the background of more recent comics, however. Sounds like this could be fodder for another column.

“Just a little addendum from Italy: the small version of “Topolino” is still edited today, ”

Not to mention it has a huge following in FennoScandinavia, where they also produce their own Disney comics. In Finland the translated material is published in pocketbook form called “Aku Ankan taskukirja” or Donald Duck’s pocketbook” because Donald’s much more popular in FennoScandinavia than Mickey.

“(such as Romano Scarpa, Giovan Battista Carpi, Giorgio Cavazzano and many others)”
And Flemming Andersen, Lara Molinari, Andrea Feccero and Silvia Ziche to name but few of the modern artists too. I’ve recently also enjoyed the Mickey Mouse-stories by Laura & Marc Shawn.

“Pringles made pretzals?? I didn’t even think Pringles was around back then.”

A Wikipedia search says Pringles started making chips in 1968, which surprised me, considering their mascot looks like he’s from 1920s silent movie. I dont know what the pretzels on that 40s comic are about then, maybe just a coincidence with the Pringles name.

That wiki page also mentions, amongst the Pringles flavors, one named “Prawn Cocktail”, which after seeing District 9 implies someone decided to go Soylent Green on that movie’s aliens! Maybe the dvd will have that as a deleted scene hahaha

I always thought the Prawn cocktail of choice was a brandy crusta.

The links to the larger versions of the Mickey Mouse and Popeye strips are messed up…

Dictators are humans after all. For example, in Chile, Pinochet banned almost everything, one of the only things he didn’t, was a humor illustrated magazine “Condorito” (something like lil’ condor, but it’s hard to translate), because he was a fan of that character. It’s weird, but true.

Peace.

Jaxxon was from a species called Lepus Carnivorous. For some reason Thomas found it necessary to say that, not only was he a six-foot-tall green rabbit, but he also enjoyed eating steak. As goofy as the premise, I’d watch a trilogy featuring him as the main protagonist rather than one more episode featuring Jar Jar Binks.

Well… I think you others said about everything about Topolino… But I can still throw in my 50 cents about the Popeye…

You wrote:
Here is a 1940 Popeye comic strip under its Italian name, “Il Monarca di Roccaverza” (Monarch of Roccaverza) – while often they would come up with a fake name for the creator, here they just dropped EC Segar’s byline…

I’ve seen Popeye strips (and others) published in Sweden where they dropped the byline and made a lof of editing in all kinds of ways. But, this particular page is from the story or storyline where Swee’Pea is made king (or Monarch) of Demonia. I’m not shure and I don’t speak italian, but couldn’t it be that “Il Monarca di Roccaverza” is just the title for “Monarch of Demonia” rather than the title of the strip itself?

Otherwise, Popeye The Sailor are known in Italy as “Braccio di Ferro”. .. and the strip wasn’t even called “Popeye The Sailor” from the beginning in the U.S. either since Popeye appeared in the strips tenth year run.

As I recall, another unused John Carter story was also reworked into an issue of Battlestar Galactica.

Are we sure those SW pages are Simonson ? Infantino had worked on SW relatively recently to this issue being published…. Compare them with the pages that round out the story in the following issue which Simonson did draw.

Are we sure those SW pages are Simonson ?

Yes.

He did intentionally try to draw like Infantino, though (so that his framing sequence would match Infantino’s story) so that might be throwing you off.

Funny thing is that Disney left its longtime italian publisher Mondadori just when the infamous italian politician (well, he is more like Italy’s OWNER currently) Silvio Berlusconi acquired it.

So Disney actually preferred Mussolini to Berlusconi!

Best,
Hunter (Pedro Bouça)

“Allegedly Lucas said that would be one thing to see vanish from SW history. I wonder what he hates more-the big rabbit (Jaxxon, IIRC) or the Holiday Special?”

This from the guy that gave us Jar Jar Binks?

Brian, we Leia inserted into the story, or was there a female in the story edited to be Leia?

And yeah, Dan DeCarlo was (is?) awesome. A very underrated artist.

i’m quite sure i read in a Roy Thomas interview that Lucas himself wanted him off the Star Wars comics after reading the post-movie adaptation issues.

those are the ones with Han Solo in a Seven Samurai-type story with the green rabbit and a bunch of horribly cliched adventurers, including a Don-Wan Kihotay …

That wasn’t the only time Marvel recycled a leftover ERB comic. There’s also a leftover issue of Tarzan that Marvel transformed into a Battlestar Galactica story!

Il Monarca di Roccaverza is actually only the title of the story.
Like Steamboat Willie said, in Italy Popeye is known also as Braccio di Ferro.

Topolino is not exactly in a comic book format, but more similar to a pocket.
Mondadori printed the comic using the same machine used for Reader’s Digest, and the format is the same.

…Holy frack! Now we know who inspired Michael Turner to draw all his chicks totally anorexic. Once again, the blame for bad art can be laid on the shoulders *and* at the feet of Mike Sekowsky!

..As for the Italimaus, is it “Topolino” or Toffolino”? I’ve heard it pronounced both ways, and by people who are *real* Italians.

“i’m quite sure i read in a Roy Thomas interview that Lucas himself wanted him off the Star Wars comics after reading the post-movie adaptation issues. Those are the ones with Han Solo in a Seven Samurai-type story with the green rabbit and a bunch of horribly cliched adventurers, including a Don-Wan Kihotay …”

…Roy’s told that tale numerous times over the years, and Lucas reportedly denies it every time, claiming it was Stan Lee who made the decision. Then again, according to Lucas, there were never any plans for as many as a dozen total films, nor did he ever brag about this being the plan in dozens of interviews between Star Wars, no bleedin’ “Special Edition” or “A New Hope” added, and The Empire Strikes Back. If I had to choose which one was telling the truth, I’d cast my lot with Roy Thomas, simply because the only time he failed to come through on a promise to the fans was when he left Marvel for DC and his “Thor vs The Aenead” sequel to his “Thor & The Siege of Troy” never came to pass.

…Oh, and while Jaxxon may have pissed Lucas off, word has it he did appreciate Sergi-X Arrogantus as the antagonist pirate scum in that story. Thinking about that story still had me wishing that Sergio and Mark would accidentally drop Groo in the middle of the Battle for Endor, thus explaining why the Empire *really* lost the War:

“GROO!? Groo was on board the Death Star?”

“Yes, Commander Ahax. Now we know why it sank.”

I read that Millie cover where she’s talking about Mr Hanover and the last time she’ll model for Mr. Hanover and how could he do this to all the Models coming through” as something completely different.

OM, the italian mouse is Topolino. Tuffolino, as Brian points out, is a sort of Mickey’s knock off, a human boy used in a few stories before the comic was cancelled. A couple of comics were Floyd Gottfredson’s adventures remakes with human characters, and a couple of others were brand-new tales.
Bye

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