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Comic Book Legends Revealed #287

Welcome to the two-hundred and eighty-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 eighty-six.

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 Ballroom Dancing Legends Revealed to learn if it is really true that Fred Astaire’s will says that he can never be portrayed in a film!

Follow Comics Should Be Good on Twitter and on Facebook (also, feel free to share Comic Book Legends Revealed on our Facebook page!). As I’ve promised, at 2,000 Twitter followers I’ll do a BONUS edition of Comic Book Legends Revealed during the week we hit 2,000. So go follow us (here‘s the link to our Twitter page again)! Not only will you get updates when new blog posts show up on both Twitter and Facebook, but you’ll get original content from me, as well!

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: An ethnic slur accidentally made its way into an issue of Wolverine.

STATUS: True

I really couldn’t believe it when it occurred to me the other day that I am all the way up to installment #287 and I never featured this one. This is something I should have featured on installment, like, I dunno, #14.

In any event, the year was 1998. Chris Claremont had just finished a short, but memorable, run on Wolverine and Marvel was mostly looking for people to tread water until they figured out the next direction for the book (it eventually ended up being Erik Larsen taking over). Writer Todd DeZago was brought in to write a few issues. He signed up for three issues. He plotted all three and had scripted the first two, but he took issue with some notable changes to his last plot by editorial, so he decided not to script his third issue, Wolverine #131.

So a young Brian K. Vaughan was brought in to script the issue. Naturally, as you might imagine, things were getting quite rushed at this point. In any event, at one point in the comic, Vaughan scripts a sequence where Viper (then married to Wolverine) is recapping recent events in the title. Vaughan refers to Sabretooth as “the assassin Sabretooth.”

However, the editor crossed out assassin and chose to use the word “killer” instead. So here is how the page was intended to look…

The problem was that when the editor crossed out assassin and wrote killer in the margin, it was not exactly clear what he had written. So when the letterer came to that point in the script, he wrote down what he thought he saw, not even knowing what he was writing, so it came out as…

And, again, the book was being done in a hurry, so no one caught the slur until the book has already been sent out to retailers as preview copies. Marvel quickly recalled the book and fixed the mistake.

No one got into any noticeable trouble and everyone went on with their business, just adding one more book the annals of “rare recalled comics” for collectors out there.

Todd DeZago made an interesting point about perhaps the saddest part of the story…

[M]any people told me that they didn’t even know what the word meant–we may have inadvertently re-introduced a hateful word back into a culture that had forgotten it…

Thanks to RecalledComics.com and Todd DeZago for the quote!

COMIC LEGEND: Otto Binder and C.C. Beck teamed up to create a new hero called Captain Shazam for a new comic book company in the late 1960s.

STATUS: True

Last week I wrote about Myron Fass’ Captain Marvel series, which, after it went out of business, was soon met by Marvel introducing their OWN Captain Marvel, so as to secure the trademark for themselves.

1967 nearly met ANOTHER notable addition to the Captain Marvel discussion, with the introduction of…Captain Shazam!

You see, a small book publishing company, Milson Publishing, decided to try their hand at making comic books, so they launched their own comic book line called Lightning Comics. They hired comic book legends Otto Binder and C.C. Beck be the stars behind their new line.

Beck, as you know, was the co-creator of Captain Marvel for Fawcett, and Otto Binder was probably the most famous Captain Marvel writer.

The pair got together for a new outlandish and offbeat character known as Fatman…

Binder also wrote a Captain Marvel knock-off known as Super Green Beret (little kid turns into Super Green Beret to go over to Vietnam to kill the bad guys in a comic with more than a little racist overtones)….

However, the most anticipated part of Lightning Comics (hell, their slogan was a Captain Marvel-esque lightning bolt, for crying out loud!) was a brand new hero by Binder and Beck called, of all things, Captain Shazam!!

Here is the absolutely insane house ad announcing the new hero…

How insane of an ad is that?!?

Sadly, Lightning Comics went out of business before the comic ever came out. In fact, I don’t know if they ever actually got past the basic plotting stages. They DID have a premise, though. I bet you want to hear it, don’t you?

Here goes – six agents are killed. The agents’ names are Simmons, Harvey, Anderson, etc. until you spell out SHAZAM. They are then all combined into Steve Thomas, Agent Six…also known as…CAPTAIN SHAZAM!!!

I dunno about you, but that sure does sound like a turned-on super swinger to me!!

Sadly, the comic will only ever appear in our dreams and/or nightmares.

Also, what the heck is “tuff,” anyways?!?!?

Thanks to commenter Atomic Kommie Comics (whose website is here) for telling me the story behind Captain Shazam!

COMIC LEGEND: After losing their distributor and being forced to cut their line of comics dramatically to stay in business, Atlas/Marvel Comics worked almost entirely off of inventory for about a year.

STATUS: False

Way back in Comic Book Legends Revealed #10 (which is right around when I should have done that Wolverine story), I told you folks about how Marvel Comics (then Atlas Comics) decided to stop distributing their comics by themselves and instead signed with American News Company, who then almost immediately went out of business.

In order to keep his company from being driven out of business, Atlas President Martin Goodman was forced to take a deal with Independent News, which was part of the same company that owned DC Comics!

The deal with Independent (which began in June 1957) was fairly onerous, leaving Atlas/Marvel with only eight monthly titles (Goodman quickly re-worked that to allowing roughly sixteen bi-monthly titles), causing the cancellation of a great number of titles, and keeping Atlas/Marvel from expanding into new genres for years.

A side effect of the instant stoppage of all of these comics was that Atlas/Marvel Editor-in-Chief Stan Lee now had over 1,500 pages of comic pages and roughly 20% of the titles he was going to use those pages for.

So, as the story goes, Lee just used up this inventory until late 1958, causing pretty much all of Marvel’s artists to lose their jobs. Heck, Jack Kirby basically told a variation of this story to explain the state of Atlas/Marvel when he began working there in late 1958.

Now, it is certainly true that many artists lost work due to this change. Of course they did, how could they not?

However, what’s important to note is the following two things:

1. If you just suddenly stop, those 1,500 or so pages are not all going to be FINISHED stories, many of them will be UNfinished stories, so right there, you need artists TO finish them and

2. Those 1,500 or so pages were split amongst Marvel’s many different genres. The problem is that, after the cancellation of so many of their titles, they no longer HAD as many titles in every genre. So the pages were not distributed equally between the genres.

As a result, Marvel has a surplus of science fiction inventory (because they had fewer science fiction titles), so it is true that science fiction stories were still being used from that inventory of pages all the way up until 1959!!!

However, other genres were more plentiful, and as a result, needed new stories sooner.

We can tell when new stories were produced due to the job numbers (the little codes on the front pages of comics of the time – check it out on this late-50s issue of Strange Tales…


)

Job numbers were assigned in chronological order, not by when they were published but by when the jobs were assigned (this would lead to amusing situations where occasionally an artist would finish a years-old inventory story that was still in its script stages, so the artist would get credit for a story assigned before he was even WORKING at the company!). The job numbers for the inventory stories began with the letter prefaces of L, M and O (N skipped because it looks too similar to M). The first job numbers assigned after the change in distributors were P.

The first P’s showed up as soon as September 1957, with Patsy and Hedy #56.

And if it was being published in September, then that means that they were most likely assigning the stories in July of 1957, barely a month after their new distribution deal began.

Two Gun Kid #40 followed later that month…

and Kid Colt Outlaw #77 and Gunsmoke Western #45 followed soon after….

then Wyatt Earp #16…

Then slowly the other lines (first the humor comics, then the romance and military comics and then finally, the science fiction comics). Roughly 100 new job numbers were assigned in 1957 going into 1958, and then 20 or so job numbers using the preface S. There was not a LOT of work available, but there WAS new work being done (and all by the same small group of artists – Dick Ayers, Dan DeCarlo, Al Hartley, Joe Maneely, Jack Keller and sometimes Morris Weiss).

So while yes, on a number of Atlas/Marvel titles, it was quite awhile until the inventory was used up, it was FAR from the case at Atlas/Marvel as a whole (the T-series of job numbers, by the way, is when Marvel finally got all caught up, so they dramatically expanded the job numbers, and the artists who worked on them – this is when guys like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko got involved).

Thanks to Thomas G. Lammers’ brilliantly researched piece on the subject in Alter Ego #49 for the exact dates and issues that marked the end of the inventory. You rock, Thomas!

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. And my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/brian_cronin, so you can ask me legends there, as well!

Here’s my book of Comic Book Legends (130 legends – half of them are re-worked classic legends I’ve featured on the blog and half of them are BRAND NEW legends never published on the blog!).

The cover is by artist Mickey Duzyj. He did a great job on it…(click to enlarge)…

If you’d like to order it (Christmas is coming soon – good time to buy my book as a present!), 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!

82 Comments

I remember that Wolverine thing from back in the day. Honestly, though, how does the letterer not read the script even as they’re doing their work? Even if they didn’t know it was a slur surely they would have double checked with the editor about an unfamiliar word to be used in place of “assassin,” or at the very least used common sense to figure out what word to use.

Todd DeZago made an interesting point about perhaps the saddest part of the story…

[M]any people told me that they didn’t even know what the word meant–we may have inadvertently re-introduced a hateful word back into a culture that had forgotten it…

Err, I’d think the fact that no one any longer even knows what the word means is actually the most optimistic part of the story, not the oddest…

I remember that Wolverine thing from back in the day. Honestly, though, how does the letterer not read the script even as they’re doing their work? Even if they didn’t know it was a slur surely they would have double checked with the editor about an unfamiliar word to be used in place of “assassin,” or at the very least used common sense to figure out what word to use.

Obviously, I can’t speak to the inner workings of the letterer’s mind, but the story (and this came from the letterer’s boss, Richard Starkings, as well) is that he was a young guy, I guess a bit naive, but most importantly, pressed by a deadline. I guess he figured someone else would tell them later what word they MEANT to have there if that word was not what they wanted.

*goes to google what the word means* Oh.

Tuff=Tough.

Could you go into a little more detail on the job numbers thing? How they worked, and how they proved when the stories came out? (And possibly whether they were publishing new stories while still burning off the existing inventory.)

Could you go into a little more detail on the job numbers thing? How they worked, and how they proved when the stories came out? (And possibly whether they were publishing new stories while still burning off the existing inventory.)

Sure, I’ll edit it in for ya. ETA: Done! Let me know if that clears things up for you.

“Err, I’d think the fact that no one any longer even knows what the word means is actually the most optimistic part of the story, not the oddest…”

Actually, he’s not off the mark. I was fourteen when that story came out and that story is actually how I learned about that word. I’d never heard it before that point and there was this big drama on the old AOL comics boards and chats (Which I frequented at the time) about how Marvel editorial let a racial slur slip through. The general rumor, at the time, was that it was a vindictive printer who was promptly canned. I’d never even heard the word, much less knew what it meant, before that comic, and I went to public school where you hear just about every rotten word under the sun.

I think T is saying that if that is true (that no one knows the word anymore), then that is something to be happy about.

Yes, that’s what I meant. I had no idea idea modern kids didn’t know that word. There’s something nice about that to me. I don’t think a single out of context usage is going to significantly undo that. I’m sure it’ll go right back into obscurity.

I remember all the hubbub about that Wolverine issue. Wasn’t that around the time that a lot of those type of slipups (whether intentional or not) were occurring, like the Earth X Spider-Man one shot with the dig at Bob Harras?

I’d never heard of the third legend before, but I’ve always been endlessly fascinated by Marvel around that time and their strange deal with DC’s distributor (and the limitations therein), so I quite enjoyed reading about it.

Typo alert: “Marvel was mostly looking for people to tread water until they figured out the next direction [of or] the book (it eventually ended up being Erik Larsen).”

Probably meant either “of” or “for”

— MrJM
The Pedantic Kid

Thanks, MrJM, it’s fixed!

IIRC, doesn’t The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton have like an entire page explaining the difference between “Tuff” and “Tough” ?

I mean, the one and only time I read that book was back in like 1989 or something, so I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure it does.

Brian,
Thanks for the report on the Wolverine issue. I actually own a copy of it that my comic shop knowingly sold to me. I was in high school and they told me that I could keep it or wait for the new version. They said they couldn’t find the “bad word” but that it may be worth something. I wonder how many others have this book and what is it worth?

BTW: This was the first time I heard the word Kike and it was because of this issue I was aware of it.

Brian – thanks, that helps, just the kind of detail I was hoping for.

I think I still have my copy of that issue. I didn’t know what “kike” meant when I got it, but I suspected it was (a) bad, and (b) not what the writer had intended.

I believe you are absolutely correct, Joe. And The Outsiders would have just recently come out at this time, so I guess that’s it (that is, that the definition in the Outsiders was the then-current definition, not that S.E. Hinton coined the term).

Heck, Jon Stewart and co used it in a bit about the N-Word vs the R-Word a while ago….actually part of the punchline was that no one knew it was a slur.

Geez!

Super swingers and Awesome Foursomes – sounds like maybe old Fred Wertham was right to be worried about what comics would instill in impressionable young minds.

Mind you, one look at that (far from)Awesome Foursome, and the idea of an actual foursome would flee from a person’s mind like the crew must have from the Mary Celeste.

Yep, “Outsiders.” Urban Dictionary gives a shorter definition:

Cool, in a rugged wrong-side-of-the-tracks way. Comes from the S.E. Hinton novel The Outsiders. Oppose preppie, and differs significantly from tough.

“You ain’t tuff, and you never will be, ya preppie!”

I guess I was 21 when that issue of Wolverine came out, and I absolutely knew what the K-word meant. Granted, that was a slur for maybe my grandparent’s generation, but still, I think you’d have to be pretty sheltered to not know what it meant.
Think of the number of eyes that saw that issue before it hit the presses, yet no one did anything.

“A turned on super swinger” is how Captain Marvel (Shazam) should forever more be introduced in any comic/story he is in. You know it would be awesome!

Can’t speak on the inner workings of the letterer’s mind either but having done publication design work before, I am not surprised the letterer didn’t bother to ask about/look up the meaning of certain words. I trusted the writers and editor to make sure the content was fine while I focused on the visual presentation. During busy times, I might scan over text for glaring typos but I never really read it for semantic content. For all we know, the letterer isn’t really into Wolverine so didn’t care about the story. Also, it’s not uncommon for a comic book story to have a bunch of made-up words or jargon… for all he cared, the offensive word might have been the name of a group of supervillains, the class of mutants that Wolverine, Romulus, Feral, etc. belonged to (e.g. X-Men comics have used made up words like “flatscan”, “omegas”, “spikes”, etc.).

Had that Wolverine issue. Being a completist, i also bought the corrected copy. Wasn’t there a Golden Age Captain America Hardcover that had Bucky with a penis drawn in?

This was the captain america book….http://comics.ebabble.net/captain-america-the-classic-years

Hard to see the penis as it is in yellow.

I’m over forty and I never heard the word ‘Kike’ until high school, when I saw Porky’s. I’ve still never heard the word in real life, only books and movies. So I would imagine there are a lot of people who don’t know what it means.

My memory from back in the day is that “Tuff” meant cool, as Random Surfer states–though I half suspected it was slang the comics made up in an effort to sound er, groovy.
It’s possible the letterer assumed that Viper was the sort who’d use an anti-semitic slur like that. Not that Sabertooth is Jewish, but it would be an easy conclusion to reach.

I remember joking about that Wolverine issue w/my LCS guy. “Who knew Sabretooth was Jewish?” What a boneheaded error.

Especially, that it if had been intended, there was actually a Jewish person mentioned in the continuation of the sentence in the next pox, same frame, without an ethnic slur.

Then you have that one of the rival gangs she was fighting are, in effect, Nazis by another name….

On the Wolverine typo – the most obvious reason for that occurrence that typo would seem to be: the staffer whose job it was to first change the wording from ‘assassin’ to ‘killer’ most likely accidentally moved his typing finger by one key and instead typed ‘kikker’ by mistake. Believe it or not, spellcheck (as on many computers) probably suggested that ‘the word you might want’ could have been ‘kike’ and the staffer simply automatically chose the first offered ‘correction’.

I am not sure what the job numbers thing is all about. Perhaps I am daft but I cannot see the numbers on those covers. Am I looking for something similar to the v-628 from ‘I Dream of Doom’? Are they very apparent on those covers?

How is it that no one’s hired Garth Ennis to write a revival of Super Green Beret yet?

I remember that about Sabretooth, I did not know there was a recall and thought it meant that he was Jewish and Viper was using a slur against him. I hope it is cannon that Sabretooth is Jewish.

every now and then I wonder why I enjoy comics so much. Then along comes something like that Lighting Comics stuff – “the human flying saucer?” “Super Green Beret?” Goddamn, where else do you find such unhinged lunacy? (yeah, and I like Seth and Clowes and Mazzuchelli, too, but really, it’s like there’s no just no filter sometimes, and it’s so interesting).

The only time I ever heard ‘kike’ was in movies. I think that they use it in ‘School Ties’, though I’m not sure.

DaveOMac
November 19, 2010 at 12:59 pm

Brian,
Thanks for the report on the Wolverine issue. I actually own a copy of it that my comic shop knowingly sold to me. I was in high school and they told me that I could keep it or wait for the new version. They said they couldn’t find the “bad word” but that it may be worth something. I wonder how many others have this book and what is it worth?

BTW: This was the first time I heard the word Kike and it was because of this issue I was aware of it.
***************
I also own this issue, my comic store knew what was printed and had the order to return it and he sold most of the issues at a mark-up telling Marvel or the distributer that some were damaged and thats why only a handful were returned.
I myself have looked over the issue and couldn’t find the word…until now…

“a Captain Marvel knock-off known as Super Green Beret” – from the context, I’m guessing this should be ‘Captain America knock-off’, though I suppose it has elements of both…

Actually, Flypaper, from what I’ve read, Brian describes Super Green Beret accurately as a Captain Marvel knockoff in that the young boy says a magic word and becomes SGB.

Someone like Dark Horse needs to reprint Fatman and SGB. They did Herbie, and this stuff’s gotta be almost as cool.

I can’t remember what artist from that Marvel era I read about (probably Kirby), but I know they suggested that Marvel/Atlas “shut down”. From the way you’re describing, it seems that the little new work there was went to the guys who’d been there a while. Ditko and Kirby weren’t at Marvel quite yet, iirc.

I know my LCS sold at least 1 copy of the “slur” Wolverine copy, and I thought it was (relatively) recently.

There was a big to-do whenever Michael Jackson’s song “They Don’t Really Care About Us” came out, because it used that same word. I think there might have been an edited version released later because of that.

re: “How is it that no one’s hired Garth Ennis to write a revival of Super Green Beret yet?”

Oh yes, this!

And I find it both optimistic (that very few people recognized the word) and yet disturbing that since it’s so out use that that word would be less likely to be censored than a non-offensive use of a word (I’ve seen the word “Jew” censored so many times that I’ve quit correcting people who assume that it’s meant to be offensive when it’s no different than “Christian” or “Muslim” or “atheist” or whatever you want to substitute for a desciption of someone who has certain religious beliefs). I’d rather nothing be censored so I can tell who the idiots that I don’t want to associate with are more easily, thanks.

The first time I ever heard that particular racial slur was in that Michael Jackson song and the ensuing media kerfuffle. I guess I was just blissfully unaware of it since I didn’t have a lot of exposure to Jews or Jewish culture.

I am not sure what the job numbers thing is all about. Perhaps I am daft but I cannot see the numbers on those covers. Am I looking for something similar to the v-628 from ‘I Dream of Doom’? Are they very apparent on those covers?

Yeah, it’s on the front page of the comic, not the cover. Sorry if that wasn’t clear.

I love this column Brian and I have to say that this is my new favourite “Legend”. Wolverine #131 is now top of my list of Need to Get comics thanks to the presence of my all time favorite racist slur, which I find personally hilarious.

My curiosity is piqued — have any of the Fatman stories been reprinted?

So if Sabretooth is jewish, given his healing factor, did the circumsicion take or did he heal his forskin back?

“Kike” basically fell out of fashion as an anti-Semitic slur back in the 1970s, by that time overt expressions of bigotry where generally viewed as vulgar. These days, most anti-Semites favor using euphemisms and conspiracy theories because they believe it makes them sound more sophisticated.

As a tribute to the Sabertooth’s jewish roots, hopefully one day we’ll see his performance of the dreidel song.

I remember the Wolverine issue, but what I don’t remember is this bit: “no one caught the slur until the book has already been sent out to retailers as preview copies.” The book was shipped as normal but Marvel and/or Diamond contacted retailers about it to let the retailers decide if they wanted to sell the copy. As I recall, Diamond and Marvel only gave credit for copies that were actually returned but the retailers got their full orders of the corrected copies regardless of returns (I think Marvel and Diamond allowed the stores to adjust their orders. (I’ve got both copies in my collection.)

True, Joseph, I’m just saying that that is when the mistake was noticed. It was just already too late for them to stop the delivery of the comic the next week.

I bought the unaltered version of that Wolverine comic at a Safeway. Didn’t hear about the slur thing until later, then dug it out to double check. At the time I assumed “kike” was one of the random Japanese words Claremont liked to throw in there. Then I gave it away in a box of comics to the local library. Haha, oops, I hope nobody else read that and got offended. That’s actually really funny now that I think about it.

I noticed that Milson Publishing was based on Madison Avenue as was Marvel in the 60s. So why hasn’t a Stan Lee analogue (or even Stan Lee!) ever featured on an episode of Mad Men? (A show that they’ve probably used ‘kike’ on)

At the time that Wolverine issue was published, “Richard Starkings and ComicCraft” were credited with lettering a large number of Marvel’s books. At the time, I was of the opinion that he/they did a horrible job. I’d find lots of typos and incorrectly spelled or missing words and when I’d check the credits it was always RS&CC. I wasn’t surprised who the letterer was when this story broke.

A couple of years ago, baseball Prospectus had to change the url to its Kevin Youkilis player page because their automatic process takes the first five letters of the player’s last name and the first two letters of his first name, so the link ended with youkike.

You know, I read the slur and was wondering what ethnicity it was – Polish? Italian? German? Hispanic? Portuguese? Scandinavian? – until halfway through the comments.

an interesting fact about the slur used in the Wolverine comic is that derives from prejudices in the different Jewish communities in the U.S. in the early 20th century.

On the subject of comics and insults is there any truth to the story that the “marvel douche” ad in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen #1 helped greatly popularise that insult ( i.e “douche” or “douche-bag”). It seems like a bit of a stretch but I at least had never heard that insult before the Loeg #1 controversy, whereas after that comic it seemed to become ubiquitous.

I don’t know if was the offhandedness of the way it was said, its total inapplicability too the character it was used against or just the way it turned up slap-dab in the middle of a giant expository monologue, what, but reading that “kike” page sent me into fits of teary-eyed, lying on the floor laughter.

How awesome would it be if EVERY meeting between Sabretooth and Viper was characterized by her use of wildly nonsensical ethnic slurs?

hey what happenned to my previous comment?

oh..nevermind :)

I never thought anything of the racial slur in Wolverine for one reason. Viper said it. I mean, she is a known serial murderer, terrorist and sometimes leader of a terrorist organization called Hydra who has worked closely with the freaking Red Skull. Is a Jewish racial slur really a surprise? Being married to Wolverine didn’t make her a hero she was still the villain of the piece working some kind of blackmail/hostage terrorist thing if I remember correctly. And kind of as a rule aren’t villains supposed to be despicable? Shouldn’t they do and say despicable things? Otherwise she’s just a chick with a green fetish who’s a bad guy because they told us so. ‘It went through X number of hands and no one caught it.’ There is your reason. It was a villain being vile.

I agree it wouldn’t be out of line for a villain to use the word, but in this particular case it assumes that a)Sabertooth is Jewish (not that I’m aware of) b)Viper actually dislikes Jews more than non-Jews. She pretty much despises everyone.

You know who I’m really surprised DC has never (to my knowledge) brought back? Captain Thunder, the obvious Captain Marvel knockoff featured in Superman #276. I would think he would have popped up at least in all that Infinite/Final Crisis/Countdown stuff..

Note to all the people who were sold this issue as an investment possibility: I looked it up, and the current value for Wolverine #131, with the racial slur… $6. Don’t spend it all in one place!

Didn’t a Micheal Jackson have the line “Kike me” in it? That’s where I had first heard the word. Great column as usual Brian.

I think the blame should go to the editor for changing Assassin to Killer in the first place. What was the point other than to dumb it down unless the editor was taking the stand that Sabretooth just killed for pleasure and was never paid for his work.

I remember the Wolverine flap being the first time I ever heard that particular slur as well. You can kind of forgive the letterer; they can’t possibly keep track of all the bizarre slang and comic book terms that get thrown around in comics–particularly X-Men. To someone who hasn’t been paying attention, what apparent difference is there between “kike” and “canuck” and “tovarisch” and “Shi’ar”?

“I Dream of Doom!”

There’s a Jeannie/Dr. Doom crossover waiting to happen!

From now on I want to be called ” A turned on Super Swinger” every time I go to the ring to do a rap battle.

The word ‘kike’ was used intentionally (as an ethnic slur) in “Web of Spider-Man” #8 (November 1985), when a couple of thugs are beating up a Jewish kid. They’ve also put a sign on him that says “Jewboy” and are about to tar & feather him when interrupted by a local do-gooder. So it would be pretty obvious in the context what ‘kike’ meant. The issue was written by David Michelinie. So at any rate, the ‘Wolverine’ instance wasn’t the first time that slur had appeared in a Marvel comic.

Oddly enough, “Kike” seems to have been replaced by… “Jew”. “Jew” is actually used as a general epithet (like “gay” – and it’s used venomously rather than dismissively). The height of surreal absurdity: I once observed a kid playing a WWII FPS videogame (from the Medal of Honor series, I think) screaming “Jew” at the Nazis as he killed them.

I pulled out my Time-Life volume on the concentration camps and the Holocaust and pointed out that the guys he was “killing” were the ones killing Jews. (I don’t know if the lesson took root, but I don’t recall him calling the Nazis “Jews” after that…)

@Tony – exactly – any term when used with enough venom can sound hateful, but we then as a society tend to lump that word in with “bad” words and move on to the next one, just to see it happen again. “Caucasian” and “African American” and “atheist” will also go that way too, until well-meaning but somewhat ignorant censors learn better. Just like how Germany outlaws all Nazi symbolism (unless that’s changed) – I understand the point, but really that’s exactly the kind of thing the evil people who corrupted/created those symbols would do (it’s essentially a fascist action). Let the idiots wear there stupid stuff, and I can point at them and tell people why they’re likely not someone worth knowing or interacting with.

(Also – there actually were some Jewish Nazis, though obviously not many. Heck, there was a pretty good movie about a Jewish skinhead that I can’t recall the title of, and there really are people like that. It takes all kinds I guess.

Ed Z., the reason Germany still outlaws Nazi symbolism is because Naziism was so all-encompassing for a dozen years that there were very few people not implicated in the regime– outlawing the symbolism and rhetoric was the only way of keeping Nazis (and later neo-Nazis) from regrouping and destroying what many still view as a fragile democracy. This is also one of the main reasons Holocaust denial is illegal in many countries that had previously been allied with Germany: it’s a roadblock to prevent certain people from returning to power.

Also note that the few “Jewish Nazis” that did exist were such statistical outliers to not really be relevant to the conversation: These would mostly be party members who may have been initially unaware that they had a grandparent or a great-grandparent who was a convert to Christianity and had subsequently hidden their Jewish roots. Any right wing Jews of the Weimar Republic would have belonged to a different party entirely.

@Ian – oh, I get their reasoning, it’s not like they’re doing it to be evil, it’s just they’re sorta missing the greater point. Nazis stole their swastika from Eastern culture where it had much different meaning. It’s not the speech/imagery that matters or should be illegal – it’s actions. I know they don’t have the same rights as some people in other nations, but it’d be scary if such a thing were to be done in the U.S. (and similarly scary censorship happens all the time).

And yes, I’m aware of the Jewish Nazi references – I just thought of it as an odd bit of trivia. People forget that the Nazi party was, well, a party with all kinds of political beliefs, most not based at all on bigotry and hatred. Nor did most of the people in it care for those things – heck, Germany tried to kill of the heads of the party more often than the rest of the world did. It’s just that, being a place where trivia is discussed, I thought “hey, trivia that I found interestingly weird once, maybe someone else will too.” There’s all kinds of crazy out there.

I just thought of it as an odd bit of trivia. People forget that the Nazi party was, well, a party with all kinds of political beliefs, most not based at all on bigotry and hatred. Nor did most of the people in it care for those things – heck, Germany tried to kill of the heads of the party more often than the rest of the world did.

The defining characteristics of Nazi ideology were nationalism and anti-liberalism, By anti-liberalism I mean a contempt for the sort of checks-and-balances created by multiparty elections and the sort of civil liberties that we take for granted in modern democratic societies. Furthermore, “nationalism” in a European context means something very different than we in North America understand the term; it’s not merely a (potentially excessive) pride in one’s country, but a certain ethno-centrism– and in Europe that still means an antipathy to ethnic minorities within one’s own midst. During the modern era, Europeans often measured their own patriotism by how much they hated Jews and Gypsies– who were outsiders in every European nation.

Ed, it’s true many Nazi party members didn’t really care much about the Final Solution–but they were still perfectly willing to send Jews, gypsies and gays to the gas chamber, just to protect their careers or avoid being sent to the Russian front. Lack of fanaticism doesn’t make them any less evil.

Uhm Fraser, most of the exterminations were on the Eastern front. In addition, most killings were not done in gas chambers: more common were killings through deliberate starvation in ghettos, or massacres by mobile killing units.

No one was ever punished for stating a preference to not participate in acts of genocide. There was little problem finding people willing to participate: by the time the mobile killing units were in the field, antisemitism and racism had been official government policy for 6-7 years. By the time the extermination camps were established, mobile killing units had bee in the field for at least two years.

I don’t disagree – and appreciate the info being posted – people should know more about WWII and thereabouts than just “Nazis vs. Good Guys” – knowing all the causes helps avoid them again someday, hopefully (I have European gypsy roots myself – the only “race” the Nazis hated even more than the others.

I know the German laws against displaying Nazi stuff have sometimes stopped actual historical discussion in print before (and I’m not talking about the holocaust-denying whack-jobs, but stuff like the info you’re talking about). which is ultimately defeating the purpose (ostensibly to prevent making the same mistakes ever again). I’ve seen info like the poster above stating above that attempted-genocide-via-gas was done a lot less often than depicted in most popular media censored, which is odd because it makes the genocidal campaign look even more inhuman, since the other methods used would likely be considered far more horrible (on a “ways to die” scale – I’m sure none of it was anything less than monstrous).

And there were “good guy heroes” in the German military after the Nazis assumed control who did their best to fight the Nazis from inside and save innocent lives (popularized by Liam Neeson and Tom Cruise movies, for instance), though there weren’t nearly enough of those. Just making sure we all know that being a German during the 30’s and 40s didn’t automatically make you an evil Nazi genocidal bigot (and no, nobody in my background was, in case you’re wondering, just Polish and Gypsy and Irish and American Indian ancestry here…)

I don’t think this comic was responsible by re-introducing the “k-word” since American History X was released around the same time and it used the term once too. I’d say due to AHX’s widespread use of racial slurs and the fact that it was quite the box-office hit, it was probably the one that re-introduced it.

Buttler posted:

[quote] You know who I’m really surprised DC has never (to my knowledge) brought back? Captain Thunder, the obvious Captain Marvel knockoff featured in Superman #276. I would think he would have popped up at least in all that Infinite/Final Crisis/Countdown stuff..[/quote]

Funnily enough, at the time DC did the Captain Thunder story they could have actually used Captain Marvel.

As for why DC never brought Captain Thunder back, part of the reason is that I believe Roy Thomas actually owns the name. I’m not sure which comic it was now, but I remember seeing a panel that showed different variations on Captain Marvel that included a homage to MF Ent. tradmark grab character and Captain Thunder. I think it was a Captain Marvel comic, probably in POWER OF SHAZAM but it could have been a story where Captain Marvel was a central character.

I had that Captain Thunder issue when I was a kid. I was confused as to why they had a Captain Marvel imitation instead of the real Captain Marvel in the story.

Oh my God, I want to read comics about that “Captain Shazam” character so bad! In fact, screw that, I wanna WRITE comics about that guy. Whoever has the rights, I’m right here!

By this time, comics were being computer-lettered (I recognize the font above), so it wouldn’t even take a conscious misreading of the word “killer,” just a really unlucky typo, by the letterist.

If this issue of Wolverine shocked people at the time, a Chaykin-written bad guy would have blown their minds!

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