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Comic Book Legends Revealed #298

Welcome to the two-hundred and ninety-eighth 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 ninety-seven.

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. In honor of the Steelers making the Super Bowl this weekend, I’d especially recommend you check out this installment of Football Legends Revealed to discover three separate legends involving the famous “Immaculate Reception.”

Follow Comics Should Be Good on Twitter and on Facebook (also, feel free to share Comic Book Legends Revealed on our Facebook page!). We’ve hit the 2,000 follower mark, so as promised, this is the BONUS edition of Comic Book Legends Revealed for you all! In addition, if we hit 3,000, you’ll also have the option to get another bonus edition of Comic Book Legends the week after we hit 3,000. So go follow us (here‘s the link to our Twitter page again) to get that extra Comic Book Legends Revealed! 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!

For this bonus edition, there was an unintended sort of theme between the legends – people based on/being confused for other people!

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: The Green Lantern villain Black Hand was based on Batman co-creator Bill Finger.

STATUS: True

The villain Black Hand became a major part of the Green Lantern mythos under writer Geoff Johns, as Black Hand was a key component of the smash hit Blackest Night.

Johns created a new origin for the character.

What’s amazing is that the ORIGINAL origin for the character was basically that he was Bill Finger, co-creator of Batman (as well as the original Green Lantern)!

People have long known that Black Hand’s real name was a reference to Finger (Black Hand’s real name was William Hand…get it, William Hand…Bill Finger…), but I always just thought that that was a fairly inconsequential in-joke. You know, like naming a background character after your next door neighbor or coming up with a joke name for a villain (like naming the Rainbow Raider “Roy G. Bivolo”).

However, the connection was much deeper than that. You see, the Black Hand, as introduced, was basically meant to be “What if Bill Finger was a super-villain?”

Finger, you see, was a well-known idea man. He would always carry around “gimmick books,” little notebooks that he would jot down interesting ideas. When he later went to write a story, he would consult his notebooks for ideas he could use for the story. He was famous among creators for his gimmick books.

Well, check out Black Hand’s introduction, in 1964′s Green Lantern #29, by John Broome, Gil Kane and Sid Greene…

Julius Schwartz confirmed the connection at a San Diego Comic Con panel with John Broome (moderated by Mark Evanier) in 1998, stating:

I’ll tell you who Black Hand really was! Black Hand was Bill Finger, who created Batman. Literally created him – and the Green Lantern. Bill Finger would always carry around a notebook and make notes, and Black Hand is really Bill Finger.

So there ya go!

Thanks to Don Ensign, who transcribed the panel for Alter Ego #60.

It is not really tied to this legend, but I would be remiss in mentioning Bill Finger and NOT telling you about the upcoming biography of Bill Finger by Marc Tyler Nobleman (illustrated by Ty Templeton). You can read more about it at Marc’s site here.

COMIC LEGEND: An issue of Sgt. Fury was furiously re-drawn and re-written to get it away from being too close to the film Casablanca.

STATUS: True

Reader Steve K. asked me a few weeks back, “Is is true that Marvel had a whole issue of Nick Fury star the actual characters of Casablanca?”

The answer is “almost”!

You see, in Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos #72, Gary Friedrich did, indeed, decide to come up with the rather novel idea of having Captain “Happy Sam” Snyder, the gruff captain of Nick Fury’s commandos, star in an adventure set essentially “between scenes” in the film Casablanca.

The issue was penciled by Dick Ayers and inked by John Severin, who, of course, is a brilliant artist when it comes to drawing likenesses of famous people, so the idea was that Ayers would draw the characters like their Casablanca counterparts (Humphrey Bogart’s Rick, Ingrid Bergman’s Ilsa, Paul Henreid’s Victor Laszlo,
Claude Rains’ Captain Renault, Conrad Veidt’s Major Strasser, Sydney Greenstreet’s Signor Ferrari, Peter Lorre’s Signor Ugarte and Dooley Wilson’s Sam).

The issue was penciled by Ayers and inked by Severin when Stan Lee stepped in and basically squelched the whole deal. He was worried that Warner Brothers might sue Marvel, so he had the script hastily re-written and had the characters all re-drawn to no longer look just like their Casablanca counterparts.

In an article by Roy Thomas in his always-brilliant Alter Ego (#6, to be precise), he featured a few of the changes. I’ll show you some here – for the rest you should go buy that back issue of Alter Ego!

From Claude Rains to not Claude Rains…

From Peter Lorre to not Peter Lorre…

From Sydney Greenstreet to not Sydney Greenstreet (note Stan Lee suggests that they give him a thick mustache, but they decided to go a different direction)…

Heck, check out the change in the credits!!

Here are the Rick and Ilsa characters in their climactic scene in the published version…

Pretty funny stuff.

Thanks to Roy Thomas, Gary Friedrich and Dick Ayers for the information and thanks to Steve K. for the question! Also, thanks to Mark Evanier for correcting a timeline error I had.

COMIC LEGEND: The comic book writer Joe Kelly also writes for the television sitcom How I Met Your Mother.

STATUS: False

Commenter “Shamrock Jack” asked a few months back:

I have a Legend for you. I know this isn’t as flashy as many of your other ones, but it is one i have been wondering for some time now:

On the credits for the show “How I Met Your Mother” there is listed “Supervising Story Editor” named Joe Kelly. Is this the same Joe Kelly of Superman comics fame? It is something like his sense of humour.

One of the main writers on How I Met Your Mother is, indeed, Joe Kelly.

Is this the same Joe Kelly who has written a number of humorous comic books?

Simply put, nope.

They have different IMDB listings, but most importantly…here is Joe Kelly who writes comics…

Here is Joe Kelly who writes for How I Met Your Mother…

It definitely is weird how close in age they are.

(By the way, be sure to check out the TV Joe Kelly’s nifty web-series, Joe and Kate, very cute stuff).

Thanks for the question, Jack!

Okay, that’s it for this BONUS edition! The regular edition will be up Friday!

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 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, 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!

59 Comments

One thing I never liked about John Broome stories when I was a kid, but that I totally see the fun in now as an adult, is how anyone can randomly invent anything a John Broome story calls for, without the need of any actual background or reasonable grasps at the illusion of scientific plausibility.

Like how William Hand isn’t mentioned to be a scientist in an aspect, just a petty crook, yet he can invent all those crazy things, including interdimensional transport, so casually! I mean with smarts like that, why is he a petty crook at all? Or why not use those inventions to commit crimes rather than challenge Green Lantern? There are at least 3 major scientific breakthroughs in that sequence alone!

In the Flash I read how James Jesse is a circus acrobat who somehow invented shoes that allowed him to walk on air. I read a Captain Boomerang story where Boomerang, who so far as I know isn’t a scientist, in his free time while in prison invents a time-traveling boomerang using supplies found in prison! And it was done so casually and matter-of-factly. The other funny thing about Broome stories is that these regular joes, after randomly inventing these new technologies at will, never attempt to use them or improve upon them again once they fail the first time.

It was definitely something that always sucked me out of Broome stories, but I can see the charm in that quirk now.

I think you mean Black Hand every time you say Black Mask.

Is it also part of the unintended theme that Black Hand is repeatedly referred to here as “Black Mask?”

I think you mean Black Hand every time you say Black Mask.

Thanks! It would have been particularly hilarious if I had transcribed the panel and still changed the Hands to Masks. :)

Is it also part of the unintended theme that Black Hand is repeatedly referred to here as “Black Mask?”

Exactly! ;)

Thanks for the kind mention, Brian! Great post, as always.

Jeez. It’s sad to see Ayers’ and Severin’s art butchered like that. I realize Severin probably made the changes himself, but it’s nowhere near as nice.

Does the alternate “Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos #72″ still exist? Any chance it might see print?

You don’t have to play it again, Stan — you have to actually play it in the first place!!

In the interest of balancing out the snide comment I made before, the bit about Black Hand was pretty interesting, Brian. I might have to get that Bill Finger bio!

THIS ISN’T FRIDAY WHAT ARE YOU DOING

THROWING MY WHOLE F’N WEEK OFF, CRONIN!

Interestingly, the villain Black Death in JLA Classified #1-3 was a last-minute substitute for Black Hand, since Geoff Johns was about to revamp him. (JLAC #1-3 were, you may recall, the prologue to Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers project.)

Note that Black Death — he’s the guy who lures the JLA into the “real world” while other villains attack the DC Universe — spends most of his time writing about how great it is to be in a world without superheroes in his little notebook. Considering Black Hand’s first two John Broome stories had him speaking directly to the reader (as did a later Flash story with the villain by Cary Bates) , he was also a pretty good pick given writer Grant Morrison’s predilections for breaking the fourth wall and Morrison’s well-known admiration of Broome’s work.

“Okay, that’s it for this BONUS edition! ”

Yeah, at the bottom. SACRILEGE!

There’s a Bill Finger bio? I didn’t know, I’d love to read that also.

Small correction. You say, of the SGT. FURY story, “The issue was penciled by Ayers and ready to go to Severin when Stan Lee stepped in and basically squelched the whole deal.”

Nope. The story went to John Severin for inking BEFORE Stan Lee stepped in and had it altered. That’s why the “before” samples you featured were inked by John Severin. The changes were made in the Marvel Bullpen (by Marie Severin, among other people) AFTER John inked.

Thanks, Mark!

Yeah, at the bottom. SACRILEGE!

Hehe, hey, I noted it on the top, too!

There’s a Bill Finger bio? I didn’t know, I’d love to read that also.

Coming in 2012!

That reminds me Brian, let me know if you’ve ever covered this legend: is DC legally prohibited from ever publicly crediting Finger as Batman’s co-creator? And if it exists, does this legal prohibition still stand even after both Finger and Kane are dead? (For example could Kane’s heirs sue?)

If anyone deserves a villain inspired by him, it’s Bob Kane, not Bill Finger.

I still think it is the same Joe Kelly…

I would love to read that Casablanca story as it was originally intended.

I wonder whats planned for #300 thats soooo great he threw in an extra legends to get there a week earlier?

I wonder whats planned for #300 thats soooo great he threw in an extra legends to get there a week earlier?

I didn’t throw it in – it is thanks to our followers on Twitter! It would have been funny, though, if they had reached 2,000 after #299! :)

I also have a “Gimmick book!” Only, it’s a Word file. Because I’ve forgotten how to write anything by hand. *sob*

There’s an episode of “Deep Space Nine” that was originally written as a “Casablanca” pastiche, and had to be heavily re-written late in the game for the same reason as that “Sgt. Fury” issue.

The Joe Kelly one amuses me. For that matter, Hitman and The Boys artist John McCrea is not the lead singer for the band Cake.

That Claude Rains in the first panel looks like Tom Cruise with a fake goatee.

Now someone just needs to create a new GL villain based on Johns, if he hasn’t already done it himself.

“No one who knew Geoffrey Restrooms would have pegged him as the kind of guy to try to take over the world…”

I’ve actually noticed the Joe Kelly thing before but never bothered to look it up. Pretty cool story (and now I don’t have to look it up, so bonus!).

I guess the movie Barbwire based on the comic book was also a Casablanca rip off. It was promoted by the studio instead of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 movie and the Barbwire bombed, to which I say ‘good’!.

I used to watch a lot of MST3K during it’s glory years.

I’m surprised they didn’t retcon Sargeant Fury to be the one that looks like Samuel L. Jackson yet. For a while they were making the Marvel Universe so much like the Ultimate verse, you think they would. Hey, you think they wouldn’t do that? Look at what they did to their most famous character. Old readers like me can’t read it anymore.

funkygreenjerusalem

February 2, 2011 at 4:27 pm

It is not really tied to this legend, but I would be remiss in mentioning Bill Finger and NOT telling you about the upcoming biography of Bill Finger by Marc Tyler Nobleman (illustrated by Ty Templeton). You can read more about it at Marc’s site here.

I’m glad you told us!

Sounds great.

@Buttler: “For that matter, Hitman and The Boys artist John McCrea is not the lead singer for the band Cake.”

My favourite is always musician Warren Ellis, always easily mistaken for an overly-Transmetropolitained version of (surely) everybody’s fave writer:
http://thequietus.com/articles/02150-nick-cave-the-bad-seeds-warren-ellis-on-smartening-up

Black Hand was an old favorite of mine. I was amused by how he broke the fourth wall and directly addressed the reader (something Broome did more than once — there’s a Elongated Man story where he breaks into the story to talk directly to the reader himself).

But I didn’t know about the Finger/Hand connection. That kind of makes his DC alliterative nickname, the Cliche Criminal, almost vaguely insulting.

The gimmick book is nothing new, they used to be called “commonplace books.” Although originally something Black Hand would have liked, a collection of sayings, they evolved into a writer’s notebook of miscellany. This was what HP Lovecraft called his own notes for ideas and tidbits he found fascinating.

That “Flash Comic Logo” entry is spam, btw.

Meant to include an example of what HPL’s gimmick book was like:

http://www.lapetiteclaudine.com/archives/011196.html

Brian from Canada

February 2, 2011 at 5:28 pm

Regarding that issue of Sgt. Fury, I remember reading the entire run recently (thank you Internet!) and being shocked by the resemblance to one of my favourite films. You couldn’t miss the Casablana riff, nor that they were trying to alter the plot enough to make it not seem like a direct copy.

Look at what they did to their most famous character. Old readers like me can’t read it anymore.

Macular degeneration? Sorry to hear that.

just a quick one also, i saw that on the last Rickey Gervais show that someone named Dan Fraga worked on it. Is that the same former Liefeld Extreme Studios artist?

Is that a Lichtenstein reference in that Rick and Ilsa page of that Howling Commandos? A wondrous work of art, indeed

Nick Fury actually did show up in an issue of Avengers disguised as Ultimate Universe Nick Fury. I think either Jessica Drew or the Contessa told him it was the dumbest disguise ever. I think that sums up Marvel’s feelings on that, or at least Brian Michael Bendis’.

I think that was more a gentlemanly jape than a take that, arsehole, considering Bendis is one of the prime architects of the Ultimate Universe and Millar’s buddy. Similarly, Warren Ellis once put “Mark Millar blows goats” on a Nextwave cover, which is near-impossibly aggressive for a mainstream book if we’re going to take everything as deadly serious.

Well, no, I meant it was more along the lines of “yeah, that would never work in the real Marvel Universe.”

“The Joe Kelly one amuses me. For that matter, Hitman and The Boys artist John McCrea is not the lead singer for the band Cake.” And of course editor Ralph Macchio isn’t the Karate Kid.

Off the topic of movies, actor Graham Greene mentioned in an interview I read that he’s annoyed about people assuming he’s the novelist, particularly since the novelist died in 1991.

I meant, off the topic of comics, sorry

You stopped saying we’ll get another month of Greatest Stories Ever Told once you hit 3000 followers. Is that perhaps a hint you might do one as one of your monthly features this year?

I never mention the Greatest Stories Ever Told “incentive” on the Comic Book Legends Revealed intros, just the Legends incentive. I still mention the Greatest Stories Ever Told incentive every Line It Is Drawn, though!

But if the incentive is hit before the year is up, then yep, it’ll be a monthly feature. ;)

Boy, if only the comics today had the same amount of exposition in them as those of years gone by. There are probably as many words on those Black Hand pages as there are in most entire issues nowadays. Makes me feel I am not getting near the value for my reading dollar :)

The Story of Bill Finger has got to be one of the saddest ones in comic book history.

* also really glad Ty Templeton is drawing it, his work on Batman Gotham Adventures was quite strong, and just never got it’s due because it was proud to be a kids book, as was Tim Levins run on the series.

“I guess the movie Barbwire based on the comic book was also a Casablanca rip off. It was promoted by the studio instead of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 movie and the Barbwire bombed, to which I say ‘good’!.

I used to watch a lot of MST3K during it’s glory years.”

Don’t forget that the movie they watch in one episode, “Overdrawn at the Memory Bank,” draws heavily from “Casablanca.”

“just a quick one also, i saw that on the last Rickey Gervais show that someone named Dan Fraga worked on it. Is that the same former Liefeld Extreme Studios artist?”

According to IMDB, they are one and the same:

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1683464/

Dan Fraga, like Dan Panosian, is a 90s guy who improved considerably after working in commercial art. Check his Sgt Rock out here:

http://danfraga.com/?p=189

I’m really hoping he does a return to mainstream comics like Panosian did.

So Geoff Johns reimagined Bill Finger as a necrophiliac?

Ick.

[...] In an amusing entry of Comic Book Legends Revealed, Brian Cronin looks at the legend that an issue of Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos was set during the action of and with the characters of the film Casablanca. It’s true; weird stuff. [...]

“Dan Fraga, like Dan Panosian, is a 90s guy who improved considerably after working in commercial art.”

Panosian’s current stuff is unbelievable. He may have come back to his first love (comics), but the experience he gained working in commercial art improved him tenfold. His early work and his stuff now don’t even look like the same person.

I think you can also put down Art Thibert as another guy whose work improved considerably once he started doing commercial work. He actually has his own style now, as opposed to the blatant Jim Lee-ripoff he was at Marvel and Image.

Which makes a lot of sense. After all, whoever your client is probably doesn’t care that you can draw an awesome Wolverine (unless that’s what they’re looking for) so much as they want to know that you can draw WHATEVER their assignment is, on time, to their specifications. So these guys pretty much had to unlearn everything they had done up to that point and reinvent themselves.

Too bad Rob Liefeld, poster boy of the 90′s, the one guy who probably could have benefited the most from doing commercial art work, never went that route. He might have learned some valuable lessons. Eh, probably not.

[...] Comic Book Legends Revealed from Comic Book Resources [...]

I think comic book Joe Kelly was reading this, check out this Bleeding Cool post:

http://www.bleedingcool.com/2011/02/08/tuesday-runaround-desperately-seeking-joe-kelly/

[...] (Directed, as nearly always for HIMYM by Pamela Fryman and written by Joe Kelly (who it turns out, has no relation to the reasonably prominent comic book writer and ‘Ben 10′ [...]

[...] Krotzer but I really like the work he's done on How I Met Your Mother. Different Joe Kelly. Comic Book Legends Revealed #298 | Comics Should Be Good! @ Comic Book Resources And I can't say I miss him in mainstream comics. I miss little gems such as "I kill [...]

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