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Comic Book Legends Revealed #259

Welcome to the two-hundred and fifty-ninth 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-eight.

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 Sports Legends Revealed to learn which Chicago Hall of Fame player routinely vomited before every game!

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: Penciler Sid Greene worked depictions of Julie Schwartz into a large amount of his Mystery in Space and Strange Adventures comics.

STATUS: True

Like many of the people who worked for DC Comics Editor Julie Schwartz, Sid Greene was a big fan of Schwartz. By the time Greene came to work for Schwartz at DC, Greene was almost 50 years old, so you know he appreciated the steady work that Schwartz gave him, and Schwartz, likewise, appreciated Greene’s great speed as both a penciler and as an inker.

Greene was so pleased with Schwartz that, as a token of his appreciation for his editor, he would try to work a depiction of Schwartz into as many of his comics as possible (I’ve heard this story told as “Sid Greene never failed to work a drawing of Schwartz into a comic, and I almost went for a “false” for this one on that “never failed” line – but that just seemed a slight bit too pedantic).

Here is Julie Schwartz in the 1970s (Cary Bates is the fellow on the left talking to Schwartz)…

Now that you know what Schwartz looks like…

Here are a sampling of some of his Schwartz “cameos” from ten different issues…

Pretty cool, huh?

Sadly, Greene passed away in 1972, but he left a great legacy of comic artwork behind!

Thanks to Dial B for Blog for the nice Schwartz picture!

COMIC LEGEND: Sergio Aragones got his “margin drawing” gig by doodling in the margins of some issues before they were sent to the printers.

STATUS: False

Reader Jesse wrote in to ask:

Did MAD’s comics around the borders of strips really start because Sergio Aragones was left alone in a room for a few minutes and started drawing on original pages before they were set for the printer and the editors enjoyed them so much they just kept them in?

Simply put, no.

Next legend!

Oh, okay, I can go into more detail!

Aragones started working at Mad Magazine in the early 1960s, with #76.

He has worked there ever since, missing only one issue, I believe.

And right from the start, he was doing the margin drawings that he is famous for today.

Here’s some from a random issue of Mad from the early 90s…

However, he did not do anything outlandish to get the gig – he suggested the idea and demonstrated on some pages and the folks at Mad loved it, because before his drawings, they were doing text jokes in the margins – this made it a lot easier for them!

Here are some of their old text bits…

And here is Aragones’ first margin drawings from his FIRST issue of Mad Magazine, 1962′s #76…

Associate Editor Jerry DeFuccio said, “Writing the ‘Marginal Thinking’ marginals had always been a pain in the butt. Sergio made the pain go away.” Amusingly enough, while they liked his idea, the folks at Mad never thought he would actually keep up with it and that they’d soon have to go back to coming up with text gags every issue. Instead, over forty-five years later, he’s still doing them!

Thanks for the question, Jesse! And thanks to Mark Evanier (whose site you should always check out) for the quote!

COMIC LEGEND: Whitney Ellsworth re-named a brand new Simon/Kirby character so that it was an extension of a previous character.

STATUS: True (although maybe it was a different editor).

When Joe Simon and Jack Kirby left Timely Comics and their star creation, Captain America, for DC Comics in the early 1940s, DC was hankering for them to create something new for them.

They complied quickly with Adventure Comics #73, where they took a private investigator character in Adventure Comics called Paul Kirk, Manhunter (he did not call himself manhunter, that’s just what he was – he hunted down bad guys) and used the name to come up with a brand-new superhero called Manhunter!

This hero was a former big-game hunter pulled into the world of crimefighting. He was named Rick Nelson.

However, an editor (presumably Whitney Ellsworth, who edited Adventure Comics, and who we know from past Comic Book Legends Revealeds was plenty fine with changing things around if he felt it necessary) changed Nelson the next issue to Paul Kirk!

So now, instead of a NEW character, it was an extension of the previous series, only the two series had nothing in common (this certainly could not be Paul Kirk, as the origin of Rick Nelson had nothing in common with Kirk, who was a detective, not a big game hunter!!).

Another interesting thing to note about the first issue is the appearance. You’ll notice that Manhunter has a half-cowl, like Batman and Captain America.

However, soon he would take a full blue face mask, which is the now famous Manhunter “look.”

If you look at his first apppearance, though, it’s clear that he was ALWAYS meant to have the blue mask – the colorist just made a mistake.

Check out this page – it’s clear that that is a colored in half-mask!

Thanks to Harry Mendryk for the pick-up of the blue face mix-up! Check out his piece on Manhunter here at his great Simon/Kirby History blog (on second thought, maybe you shouldn’t, his site just went down – I certainly hope we didn’t overload it – in case we did, DON’T click on his site for awhile)!

Okay, that’s it for this week!

Thanks to the Grand Comics 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, last 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 all next week!

31 Comments

Simon and Kirby did NOT revamp Sandman. The change in costume and m.o., and the addition of Robin-clone Sandy, occured three issues before S&K took over the strip. The changes, which were presumably mandated to salvage a character whose popularity had plummeted, were the work of writer Mort Weisinger and artist Paul Norris. S&K did tinker further with the strip, notably adding the twin themes of sleep and dreams, but they were not the driving force behind the revamp.

Fair enough – it probably was more “tweak” than revamp! I’ll just cut it out entirely! Thanks, Kurt!

In that second Sid Greene panel, the soldier next to Juluis Schwartz looks an awful lot like Lyndon Johnson. And in the third one, the father looks lilke it might be Jack Kirby.

I loved Argones doodles on the page margins…and I used to love the way Marvel would have text ads for their other magazines running on the bottom of their pages. I discovered characters like Black Panther thru those little one-line text ads. Why don’t magazine do that (anymore)? Does it make the printing process harder/more expensive?

Nice assortment this week! I’ve always loved the Aragones margin doodles, and I always really enjoy reading about the golden age legends.

I gotta throw it out there as well: I too love Aragones’ work, especially the doodles. It’s sad how far MAD magazine has fallen in the past 15 years.

I don’t get it, but clearly on the cover of Manhunter’s first appearance in Adventure Comics #73, he is wearing a half mask…

Sergio Aragones is a treasure. That’s all I have to say.

The best Julie Schwartz appearances though were in the various Ambush Bug mini-series and specials. Take heed of his wisdom and don’t eat where truckers eat.

That Manhunter legend reminds me of how Dominic Fortune ended up a Marvel character. Howard Chaykin started the character at Atlas/Seaboard as The Scorpion and brought it to Marvel after he left following the second issue. In issue #3, Atlas/Seaboard introduced a completely new character named The Scorpion.

A further sign of Julie Schwartz’s greatness: He was H.P. Lovecraft’s literary agent. If memory serves, he sold AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS and THE SHADOW OUT OF TIME to ASTOUNDING.

Hey, Brian, completely self-serving on my part, but I just posted a series of quick reviews for Steve Engelhart’s complete CAPTAIN AMERICA run on the REsults posting for the GREATEST STEVE ENGELHART STORIES (I somehow failed to notice the results until today).

Sergio Aragones? More like Sergio Ara-Greatness!

As you can probably tell, I’m a fan.

Don Martin could draw a concrete underpass in Banbury on a rainy day and the resultant picture would be dangerously funny.

Sometimes I miss MAD Magazine. I’ll have to dig through a few boxes of books to see if I still have some of those paperback reprints from the 60s, I believe.

It seems unthinkable that there was never a story by Roy Thomas explaining why a hunter named Rick Nelson assumed the name of detective Paul Kirk…or that “Rick Nelson” was a pseudonym adopted by Kirk for the events of one story for reasons unrevealed before now…or some other retcon along similar lines. (Or in fact, could there be one and I just never saw it?)

John Trumbull

May 7, 2010 at 5:19 pm

It seems unthinkable that there was never a story by Roy Thomas explaining why a hunter named Rick Nelson assumed the name of detective Paul Kirk…or that “Rick Nelson” was a pseudonym adopted by Kirk for the events of one story for reasons unrevealed before now…or some other retcon along similar lines. (Or in fact, could there be one and I just never saw it?)

I bet if All-Star Squadron had stuck around a bit longer, RT would’ve gotten to it eventually. He did tie the Quality & DC Manhunters together in his Millennium crossover issues.

Wow! Julie Schwartz looked exactly the same during the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s!

Jeremy Henderson

May 7, 2010 at 7:47 pm

How do you pronounce Aragones?

(Please tell me someone else remembers the Groo the Wanderer letters pages…)

I used to love the way Marvel would have text ads for their other magazines running on the bottom of their pages. I discovered characters like Black Panther thru those little one-line text ads. Why don’t magazine do that (anymore)? Does it make the printing process harder/more expensive?

Educated guess: because a lot of people found them distracting.

Mulching is a process of inbred fertilization which employs certain decomposed organic materials– including, but not limited to animal sediment– to blanket an area in which vegetation is desired. The procedure enriches the soil for stimulated plant development while, at the same time, preventing erosion and decreasing the evaporation of moisture from the ground.

Well played, Sage, well played.

For the Don Martin fan….Barnes and Noble a month ago had his $150 complete book marked down to $22. And they were also offering it as a “buy two get one free” promotion. I swooped in on 6 copies of it (two sets of buy two…) and they ended up costing me about $16 apiece. There will be a lot of Don Martin Christmas/Birthdays this year….but what a buy…..

I enjoy this column more than I can adequately express in words on a Saturday afternoon.

Even when the material is about a title or even genre within comics that I’ve never cared for, I still find myself fascinated by what i learn here. Please keep ‘em coming, Brian!

@Jerry Henderson: Exactly as it’s spelled.

Okay, that’s a bit of a joke. Since the name’s Spanish, it actually is pronounced as it’s spelled, but for the less linguistically-gifted, the proper pronunciation is ah-rah-goh-NESS. But, I’d guess that most English speakers would pronounce the name as uh-ROG-uh-ness and Sergio would probably excuse them.

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JosephW, that comment by Jerry was a reference to the old letters column jokes how do you pronounce Groo, etc, which should have been obvious from the post. Thanks for the linguistics lesson though ;-)

CHEESE DIP!!!!!!

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I am a cartoonist myself and Sergio Aragones is a big reason why I love to do little throw-away jokes and doodles in my margins. I also picked up doing background jokes in the panels themselves from “What The..?” when I was a kid, and Jhonen Vasquez’s work when I was a teenager.

I especially love it when people work them into more “serious” comics, notably Chris Bachalo and Travis Charest (two more of my favorites).

“Air-Ah-Go-Nuhs”

The Manhunter mask thing caused some confusion for Walt Simonson, later on. This is from memory, so I may have this a little backward. In the original Detective Comics stories, there is a flashback sequence (DC # 439), showing Paul Kirk in the 40s costume, but drawn as the half cowl. However, the colorist made the full facial area blue. In the Baxter reprint and the later trade edition (which included the silent story completed after Archie Goodwin’s death), the mouth and chin area are colored flesh tone, while there is a blue outer ring around eye and jaw area. So, in the original, Simonson makes the mistake, probably based on reference material from that first isse, but it is caught and color corrected before the issue went to print. In the reprint, DC must have assumed the colorist made a mistake and “fixed” the problem, or just decided that it made more sense to adhere to the way Simonson drew it.

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