web stats

CSBG Archive

Comic Book Legends Revealed #255

1 2 3
Next »

Welcome to the two-hundred and fifty-fifth 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 fifty-four.

Comic Book Legends Revealed is 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 learn what tragedy inspired the song “Hey Man, Nice Shot” and just what sort of twisted band name Stone Temple Pilots tried to use before they went with their current name.

Also, starting this past Tuesday, you can read Sports Legends from me at the LA Times’ website! Check out the first one here.

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: The teddy bear was inspired by a famous CK Berryman cartoon that appeared in the Washington Post on November 16, 1902.

STATUS: False Enough for a False, for an interesting reason

In November of 1902, the President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, an avid hunter, went on a bear-hunting trip while he was in Mississippi to give an opinion over a border dispute. The trip was covered with much interest by the nation (well, at least by the nation’s newspapers, as he had a large amount of reporters following him).

The trip was nearing its close and most of the hunters had managed to bag a bear, but not the President.

Figuring that it would look good for the President to kill a bear, Roosevelt’s aides found a young black bear and after a long, hard pursuit of the bear with hounds, and after clubbing the bear nearly to death, Roosevelt’s aides managed to tie the bear to a tree and then informed the President that here, here was a bear that you can kill!

Roosevelt was disgusted at the unsportsmanlike nature of the notion, and refused to shoot the bear (although he did tell his men to put the animal out of its misery).

The news of Roosevelt’s decision made its way back to Washington DC, and Clifford “CK” Berryman (who I featured in the Stars of Political Cartooning here) produced a cartoon that would become famous all throughout the United States, being reprinted in many newspapers.

Titled “Drawing the line in Mississippi” (a play of words on the border dispute Roosevelt was there for), the November 16, 1902 cartoon depicts Roosevelt choosing not to shoot a cute little bear…

That cute little bear would be come to be a trademark of Berryman’s, and he would work it into most of his cartoons about Roosevelt for the rest of Roosevelt’s presidency (and even after Roosevelt finished his time as President)….

The cartoon apparently inspired a candy shop owned by Morris Michtom (who would often make little stuffed animals with his wife to sell in the store) to begin selling a stuffed bear toy (after receiving permission from Roosevelt) as “Teddy’s Bear,” which, of course, became known as a Teddy Bear and soon become one of the most popular toys in the world. This led Michtom to form Ideal Novelty and Toy Company, a company that still exists today (here is a “Teddy Bear” from 1903)…

(there’s debate over whether the popularity of these bears necessarily came from Roosevelt, or if there was just a bit of a zeitgeist with stuffed animals during the early 20th Century, as a German stuffed animal company ALSO began to push stuffed bear toys at around the same time, without being influenced by Roosevelt – but that’s really neither here nor there)

But here’s the twist in the whole endeavor.

That cartoon by Berryman?

NOT actually the cartoon he drew in the Washington Post originally!

Despite it being referred to as such by many different sources, here is the ACTUAL cartoon Berryman originally drew…

As you can see, it is the same basic concept, but it was a quick, very rough drawing, NOT the detailed piece that is shown all the time.

Clearly, when there appeared to be interest in his original from other newspapers, Berryman decided to completely re-draw the entire cartoon, including coming up with an entirely different look for the bear, going from a normal looking bear to a cute, cuddly bear. And it is that re-drawn cartoon that became syndicated all over the country. And it was that re-drawn cartoon that inspired the “teddy bear.”

So if you ever see the “cute little bear” cartoon passed off as the original (and you’ll see it often if you look for it), you now know better!

1 2 3
Next »


some stupid japanese name

April 9, 2010 at 11:25 am

I read that Moby based his life on Teddy and his infamous beat hunts.

The best thing about that joke is that it works even after I edit out the typo!

The Modesty Blaise movie is an amazingly bad piece of camp, so bad it’s almost good. And it has little to do in tone or story matter with the strip. And Modesty had an Italian accent!

Nice added piece of trivia about Stamp being Caine’s flatmate as well. That’s like the icing on the cake

Edgar Kinishnish

April 9, 2010 at 11:51 am

Dutch and Danish are not the same thing . . .

Is it Dutch or Danish? I mean, they’re so totally different – it’s not like they’re both Germanic-speaking Northern Europeans, right? (I’m sure the Dutch is wrong, because that certainly looks like Danish!)

D’oh! Edgar beat me to it!

A typo I suppose.. You mean “Sir Gerald” and not “Sir Gabriel”.

.. and that Star Wars adaption is clearly danish and not dutch.

Edgar Kinishnish

April 9, 2010 at 11:59 am

Yes, the text is Danish.

Eh, it doesn’t seem all that suggestive… unless such a remark is more suggestive in its native Danish.

It does tickle me to think of Alfred and General Zod living together…

You were all confusing me for a sec there – until I realized I had accidentally written “Dutch” at one point. :) Phew, that makes more sense! Thanks for the pick-up!

At the risk of picking nits, I really don’t see the Teddy Bear legend as being false. Redrawn or not, it’s essentially the same cartoon both conceptually and in layout. I’d call it “True, but with a technicality”.

Look at the first cartoon and see what they say for the date – November 16, 1902.

That’s not the cartoon that appeared on November 16, 1902, but it is routinely presented as though it was.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand your point that because the actual one inspired the re-make, then by syllogism, it also inspired the teddy bear, but what I think is the most important thing to get out of this is that the wrong cartoon is being referred to constantly. If you look up the cartoon, easily 9 out of 10 references will show you the re-make (that came out a week or so after the original) and not the original, but cite it as though it were the original.

[…] Comics Should be Good: Comic Book legends Revealed #255 […]

The Crazed Spruce

April 9, 2010 at 12:49 pm

Y’know, there’s only two things I can’t stand in the world. People who are intolerant of other people’s cultures, and the Dutch.

@The Crazed Spruce: possibly the single best line to come out of an Austin Powers movie.

Jan Robert Andersen

April 9, 2010 at 1:15 pm

Eh, it doesn’t seem all that suggestive… unless such a remark is more suggestive in its native Danish.

I’m Danish and I read these translations as a kid. If you want to as an adult then this scene would imply something other and then this line could be cheecky.

As could the original line: “Gee, are you little fellows any fun?” … in bed… But as this is referring to a little cute animal this would mean something like kids bringing a stuffed teddybear to bed to cuddle…

“Må jeg ikke nok få dig med i seng” doesn’t really translate to “Can I please take you to bed with me?” unless you want to be understood like that.

You wouldn’t say say this line if you want to have sex and I’m fairly sure the translator didn’t do this overly on purpose.

Phrasing of the Teddy Bear legend could be a bit clearer, since obviously no one relating the legend is really that fixated on the date. The point is the origin of the toy and the phrase.

Great stuff, Brian. A few random comments:

1. Celebrity visual models: This is always a fun game to play. A few examples:

Captain (Shazam) Marvel: Fred MacMurray (CC Beck version)

The Joker: Conrad Veidt (as seen in THE MAN WHO LAUGHS, Bob Kane version)

The Kingpin: Sydney Greenstreet (John Romita version)

The FRank Miller Daredevil: Robert Redford

Norman Osborn: Joseph Cotten (my personal theory)

Doctor Strange: Vincent Price (Steve Ditko version)

Tony Stark: Errol Flynn (Don Heck version)

2. MODESTY BLAISE: What is truly odd about the wretched 60s version is that the film makers seemed to go out of their way to make Monica Vitti not look like Modesty. This curious choice is driven home by the one sequence in the film where she does look like Modesty (Wearing a dark wig styled a la Modesty and wearing her black catsuit). In that scene, Vitti bears an almost astonishing resemblance to Modesty.

Jan Robert Andersen

April 9, 2010 at 1:20 pm

Danish and Dutch actually sounds pretty close to each other. Both languages is Latin and German mixed with French. However Dutch can’t really understand Danish but for others it sounds quite similar and also have somewhat similar cultures. Danes are known for releasing pornography and Dutch for more or less legalizing canabis.

I don’t really see Joseph Cotten as Ditko Norman Osborn.

Aaron, when I speak of the Teddy bear, I always reference 16 Nov 1902.


April 9, 2010 at 1:32 pm

“Can you imagine how trippy it must be to use some unknown actor as the basis for a character and then see that actor become one of the most famous actors in the world?”

Actually, I can. Well, sort of.

While my characters have certainly never reached a level of awareness as, say, Modesty Blaise, I’ve definitely had it happen multiple times where I deliberately go out of my way to choose a moderately unknown actor or actress to represent one of my role-playing game characters, only to have that actor or actress get a job shortly afterwards that radically boosts their awareness to the general public. It’s happened at least three times in the last decade or so that I can remember.

Ironically, I’ve never seen it as being a neat thing to happen, or a happy sort of coincidence. More along the lines of, “Drat, I picked an obscure actor because I didn’t want people to realize what my inspiration was, and now it’s obvious!”

I wonder if Peter O’Donnell felt the same way when Michael Caine became a star?

Though, incidentally, was it actually Peter O’Donnell (the writer) who based Garvin on Caine, or would that have been more Jim Holdaway (the artist)’s idea? If we’re just talking physical appearance, I’d be more inclined to think the artist would be the one who chose it (just like John Constantine looking like Sting was originally the influence of the artists wanting to draw someone who looked like Sting…), but I suppose it’s entirely possible that O’Donnell wrote the character with Caine in mind, and then just showed a picture of Caine to the writer and said “make him look like this…”

T: “I don’t really see Joseph Cotten as Ditko Osborn.”

Take a look at the IMDB gallery for Cotten. In particular, look closely at Cotten’s hair. Then mentally render that hair a la Ditko.

A few more celebrity models:

Mary Jane Watson: Ann-Margret (John Romita version)

Hal Jordan: Paul Newman (Gil Kane version)

Guardians of the Universe: David ben Gurion (Gil Kane version)

Reed Richards: The professor from GILLIGAN’S ISLAND (Alex Ross MARVELS version)

Charles Xavier: Patrick Stewart (Alex Ross MARVELS version; this one is uncanily prescient)

Frank Miller Kingpin: Donald Pleasence

Gene Colan Dracula: Jack Palance

Michael Caine starred in Alfie. He also played Alfred in the latest Batman films. Dick Grayson calls Alfred “Alfie” in the Batman & Robin comics.

Just saying.

Speaking of lazy artists using people’s faces, I remember a Who’s Who entry where it seemed the artist used Patrick Stewart (who had already appeared in Dune) for the face of Tharok (in a picture of him before his cyborg surgery) and another one where Syrene resembled Jennifer Connelly.

These people better start using an Identikit to avoid lawsuit. Just construct someone’s face that way.

BTW, if you’ve never seen Zulu, you really need to. One of the greatest war movies ever, with one of the most mind-blowing endings in film history.

Though, incidentally, was it actually Peter O’Donnell (the writer) who based Garvin on Caine, or would that have been more Jim Holdaway (the artist)’s idea?

Oh, sorry, did I not include that line? My apologies – O’Donnell did, indeed, send Holdaway a picture of Caine (from a newspaper clipping – I believe O’Donnell said of a theater performance) and said something along the lines of “base Willie Garvin on this guy.”

I have to agree with Mutt…no one to this day has had made a last 20 mins of a war movie like Zulu…twists and turns galore

That’s totally amazing, the links involving Modesty Blaise…but that’s why I love reading these type of columns. You never know the historical connections that you’ll discover….

@Trajan23 — actually, I’d say the model for Dr. Strange is more David Niven than Vincent Price.

David Niven was also the model for the original version of Sinestro, per John Broome.

Oscar Røhling

April 9, 2010 at 3:51 pm

Actually the Danish translation dialed it down quite a bit. In our language and common usage “at sove sammen” (to sleep together) merely means sleeping in the same bed/room/house. On the other hand a more direct translation of the original line – “Er der noget sjov ved dig?” – from a woman, served with a smile, would be perceived as a rather strong indication of sexual interest, if not an open invitation.

BTW, if you’ve never seen Zulu, you really need to. One of the greatest war movies ever, with one of the most mind-blowing endings in film history.

I hate hate HATE when people tell you a movie has a mind-blowing ending or a great twist. That counts as a spoiler even if you don’t get speciific because now the whole time watching the movie, you’ll be waiting for something mind-blowing to come at the end and trying to predict it.

Steven E McDonald: You are dead on, I would say, for Sinestro. However, I strongly disagree with the idea that David Niven influenced Ditko’s take on Strange. For that matter, Price as Strange seems to be the common consensus, not merely my own opinion (Strange’s official middle name is even Vincent).

Some more artistic models:

Frank Miller’s Elektra: Lisa Lyon (a late 70s to early 80s female bodybuilder; mostly used as a model for Elektra’s physique).

The Alex Ross young Nick Fury in MARVELS: Don Johnson

Brian from Canada

April 9, 2010 at 6:17 pm

Alex Ross is known for copying human actors. IIRC, he told Wizard that his Wonder Woman is Lucy Lawless.

But another fun one is Jessica Drew is the Alias comic. You can’t help but notice the distinct connection to Jennifer Connoly (who, when you think of it, might make a good Jessica Drew on film).

More comic book characters modeled after real people:

Uncle Marvel: W.C. Fields
Jonah Hex: Clint Eastwood
Tony Stark in “Marvels”: Timothy Dalton
Jesse Bravo: Errol Flynn
Blueberry: Jean-Paul Belmondo
The Rocketeer’s girlfriend Betty: Bettie Page
John Constantine: Sting
His Name is… Savage: Lee Marvin
Vartox: Sean Connery

Has it been confirmed that Kevin Maguire modeled Maxwell Lord after Sam Neill?

Oh wow, yeah – Joseph Cotten’s hair is definitely Osborn-esque. Whether or not Ditko used it as a model is another matter entirely, but as someone who has never been able to make much sense out of exactly what the hell Osborn’s hair is meant to resemble in a real world sense, that’s an eye opener. ‘Specially in this picture:


Sucks that guy ruined that 45 year old movie for that other guy.

The image of a bunch of presidential aides furiously chasing a bear through the woods chasing, clubbing it, and tying it to a tree for the President to execute is oddly amusing to me.

I don’t know if Joseph Cotten was an inspiration for the appearance of Norman Osborn. He looked more like Lon Chaney to me.

I’ve read that when DC created the Golden Age Green Lantern, based on the legend of Aladdin’s lamp, someone suggested that Alan Ladd would be a name sort of like Aladdin … when This Gun For Hire made Ladd a star a couple of years later they were kicking themselves for going with Alan Scott.

There was a very good pilot from the eighties for a Modesty Blaize TV series in the US. Ann Turkel as Modesty and the guy who later played Sable, IIRC, as Willie.

In his autobiography, Caine has some great stories about the responsibilities of rooming with Terrance Stamp–mostly making sure that when his second date of the night showed up, she was kept busy until date number one left Stamp’s bedroom.

Hey, anyone remember those Wizard Casting Call articles? They would often suggest people to play various roles, but I only recall Patrick Stewart as Xavier coming true. Anyone think of any others?

The reasons I’m not convinced Joseph Cotton is a model for Normal Osborn is that cotton’s hair, while slightly wavy with a widow’s peak, is not as extreme as the tight, small waves and extreme widow’s peak of Ditko’s Norman Osborn. And the actual face of Cotten doesn’t seem as ruggedly large and blocky as Ditko’s Norman Osborn’s facial features like the chin and jaw. Also, Ditko reused that hairstyle on several insignificant background characters and two other major characters, Harry Osborn and Sandman. That hair just seemed to be something he liked to draw. Also, Cotten didn’t have that part in the middle:


All those other guys are fine — just don’t tell me that Goody Rickles is based on anybody.

All those other guys are fine — just don’t tell me that Goody Rickles is based on anybody.

Don and Goody Rickles were based on Don Knotts.

Zulu is one of my all time favorite Michael Caine movies but Stanley Baker was pretty good in it too. I could swear they sampled parts of the Zula war chant though in the beginning of “Gladiator”

Doh! that should read “Zulu war chant”

Peter Woodhouse

April 10, 2010 at 2:42 pm

Anonymous – I always thought Maxwell Lord was based on Sam Neill.

Fraser – the Golden Age Green Lantern/Alan Ladd /Alan Scott story was I’m sure covered in a past Legends Revealed.

I sure hope that female alien meant she wanted to take LUKE to bed and not the talking hairless chihuahua. :D

For the younger readers on here, the dude (Terence Stamp) in the last pic is General Zod from Superman II.

Count me in as another huge fan of Zulu. If you haven’t seen it yet, do so. Timeless stuff.

And yeah, the JLI creative team have mentioned how they based Max Lord on Sam Neill, if memory serves after seeing him in the third Omen movie. He’s practically Max’s current, evil version right there. Check it out.

As soon as I saw Silk Spectre in the Watchmen movie, my friend and I both looked at each other and said something like “My god, wouldn’t she have made an AWESOME Mary Jane Watson?” instead of that horribly uninteresting lump of banality Kirsten Dumpst.. Mary Jane’s got more pizzazz in an old hangnail than Dumpst brought to that role, Malin Ackerman could have nailed it. She was good as Laurie too, though.

“Count me in as another huge fan of Zulu. If you haven’t seen it yet, do so. Timeless stuff.”

Oh great! Another spoiler for this movie. Just stop already!

Oh great! Another spoiler for this movie. Just stop already!

Uh…that’s not a spoiler, genius.

Well i didnt see one of the most obvious and recent actors used as models for characters, Tommy Lee Jones for Norman Osborn!

“Uh…that’s not a spoiler, genius.”

No kidding…genius.

As you probably know by now since millions of readers have told you:

Tarrant´s first name is Gerald. NOT Gabriel. Gabriel is Modesty´s archenemy.

These things happen.

Best regards

Jan Elvsén, Sweden

To those couple of posters who asked – yes, it was confirmed in a JLI letters page at the time that Kevin Maguire based Max on Sam Neil (specifically on his performance as Damien in Omen III)


T, A few comments regarding the Joseph Cotten as a model for Norman Osborn controversy:

1. The Ditko style: Unlike , say, Alex Ross, Steve Ditko is not a photographic realist. When Ross uses someone as model for a character, the similarity between the model and the character is readily apparent (e.g., his use of Patrick Stewart for Charles Xavier). Ditko, in contrast, is a cartoonist. He is presenting us with a stylized depiction of reality. One must “translate” the Ditko images into their real world equivalents.

2. “is that Cotten’s hair, while slightly wavy with a widow’s peak, is not as extreme as the tight, small waves and extreme widow’s peak of Ditko’s Norman Osborn”: As noted above, one must view Joseph Cotten through the Ditko lens, so to speak. Ditko’s visual shorthand style takes Cotten’s natural characteristics and exaggerates them. To use your language, Ditko is presenting us with an “extreme” version of Cotten. Secondly, a close study of individual panels indicates that Osborn’s hair is not as tight as you suggest . In Amazing Spider-Man #37, page 15, panel 1, a long, straight strand of Osborn’s hair waves in the air as he moves. Again, on page 16, panel 6 of the same issue, Osborn’s hair moves in a similar fashion as he strikes Spider-Man from behind.

3. “the actual face of Cotten doesn’t seem as ruggedly large as Ditko’s Norman…”: Again, as mentioned above, Ditko’s style exaggerates reality. Hence, rendered a la Ditko, Cotten’s moderately craggy features become more robust.

4. “Ditko reused that hairstyle on several insignificant background characters and two other major characters, Harry Osborn and Sandman. That hair just seemed to be something that he liked to draw”: I am not quite sure what your point is in this passage. Are you implying that Ditko’s fondness for drawing this hairstyle is proof that it is not based on Cotten’s? If so, I could just as easily argue that Ditko liked the hairstyle because he liked Cotten. Furthermore, the reference to Harry’s hair does nothing to advance your argument, as Ditko plainly intended a father-son resemblance.

5. “Cotten didn’t have that part in the middle”: This seems to be true. At least, I have not been able to find a photo of Cotten with a center part. I would argue that that is a flourish on Ditko’s part.

For me, even the idea that the “teddy bear” came from Roosevelt not killing a bear was a legend, so for you to provide so much detail on that as an incidental thing in the process of disproving something else was surprising!

Hey, that Dannish reprint has more graphic quality and colors than the original one!

Pretty sure it was just a common hairstyle at the time (or within memory at the time). It’s just any wavy-haired guy using Bryll Creem to style.

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