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Comic Book Legends Revealed #305

Welcome to the three hundredth and 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 three hundred and 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 new installment of Football Legends Revealed for the story of how the manager of a football team turned a $1 investment into 10% of the Minnesota Vikings!

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Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: An artist amusingly misunderstood a script direction by Peter David regarding the term “helicopter shot.”

STATUS: True

Peter David wrote a six-issue Dreadstar mini-series for Malibu Comics in the 1990s, with artwork by the great Ernie Colon.

Here are the first few pages from issue #1…

Well, those are the first few pages as PRINTED, but amusingly enough, that was not what the first page originally looked like. Reader Jeb wrote in a few months back to tell me a story Peter David had told at a convention about that issue.

I asked Peter about it, and he was kind enough to go way past just confirming the story, and instead told me the whole thing:

It was the first page of the first issue of the “Dreadstar” limited series published by Malibu (Bravura). The artist was Ernie Colon. I had written the plot for the first issue (I wasn’t writing full script in those days but instead in the form that’s known as “Marvel style”) and I got back the pencil pages for dialoguing. The first page was intended to be a series of establishing shots of an alien world. And there, smack in the middle, was a Bell UH-1 Iroquois attack helicopter, commonly referred to as a Huey, with guns blazing. I stared at this thing and said, “What the hell is a Huey doing on my alien world?”

And I went back to my plot, read the first line and kicked myself. What I had called for on the first page was a series of steadily closer angles of the surface of the world, a jungle setting. I had wanted to convey that the “camera” should start from a high altitude and then, over a series of panels, get closer and closer. It’s the kind of shot that was used in the openings of such films as “Lethal Weapon” and “The Birdcage.” But what I said specifically was: “Helicopter shot of the surface of an alien world,” which is the movie making term used to describe such visuals since they’re accomplished by mounting the camera in a helicopter and moving quickly through the air. Ernie, apparently having never heard the term, drew in an actual helicopter, shooting (hence “shot”) at the panel borders.. I went back to the folks at Malibu and said, “Please get this helicopter out of my alien world.” The art correction was made, either by Ernie or someone else, and the page saw print without it.

Now: Several things in Ernie’s defense.

First of all, it was an exquisitely drawn helicopter, hyperaccurate. This was before the days of Google images, so you have to appreciate that he did the research.

Second, I have worked with artists in my time who regularly ignored what I put in the stories. They’ve left out crowds when called for or put in crowds when they weren’t supposed to be there. They’ve left out entire scenes because they didn’t see the point of them, which on occasion has been catastrophic since the scenes were there to lay plot groundwork for future issues. They’ve totally changed sequences because they felt like it. They’ve changed what was intended to be multi-panel pages into splash pages because splash pages fetch higher prices in the art resale market. So although in the case of “Dreadstar” it was a spectacular miscommunication, as a writer I really appreciate that Ernie was so dedicated to respecting the writer that he went ahead and drew in this Huey in meticulous detail even though it made absolutely no sense at all. Ernie must have figured, “It’s what the writer wants, he must know what he’s doing, and it’s not my job to question it but simply give him what he asked for.”

I don’t tell that helicopter anecdote at conventions to say that artists are big dummies. I tell it to underscore how important it is to the writer to convey exactly what he wants in terms so clear and precise that the artist cannot possibly misinterpret it.

Great story, Peter, thanks so much! And thanks to Jeb for the suggestion!

COMIC LEGEND: The depiction of Aquaman’s telepathic powers as concentric circles emanating from his forehead came from the Filmation Aquaman cartoon from 1967.

STATUS: False

Reader Graeme Burk asked me the other day about whether the depiction of Aquaman’s telepathy as concentric circles emanating from his forehead was as a result of the 1967 Filmation Aquaman series.

I thought it must have been, since for decades, Aquaman’s power was not depicted that way.

Aquaman began talking to fish in his third appearance in More Fun Comics #76…

but back then it was more of a “hey, guys, thanks a lot” rather than Aquaman COMMANDING them or anything like that…

But even as it evolved into Aquaman commanding his fishy friends, it continued to be depicted with no visual cues as to the telepathy being used. This continued even when Aquaman became popular enough for his own comic. Here he is in the first issue of his solo book, from 1962…

That issue was drawn by Nick Cardy, who drew the first 39 issues of Aquaman. I would have totally bet that when Cardy changed to start drawing the circles that it was due to the show. In fact, even though I knew that the circles appeared in the comic before the show came out, I still figured that it was because they knew the show WAS coming out (as after all, the writer of Aquaman, Bob Haney, also wrote for the cartoon show – as did the editor of the comic, George Kashdan).

However, surprisingly to me, in mid-1965, after years of drawing it one way, Nick Cardy began drawing it the way the cartoon eventually used it.

If it was closer to 1967, I would say that the show still influenced it, but early 1965? There’s no way that that was being influences by the show.

The changeover actually occurred in late 1964.

In late 1964′s Aquaman #19, Aquaman uses his powers as he had for some time…

Then the next issue, the circles begin…

I guess Cardy just liked the new effect, as he began using it regularly after that.

Thanks to Graeme for the great suggestion! I was quite surprised by the answer myself!

COMIC LEGEND: A Charles Addams cartoon was used to test the intelligence level of mentally challenged adults.

STATUS: I’m Going With True

Charles Addams! The gift that keeps on giving! In recent Comic Book Legends Revealed installments, I’ve discussed the false legends that Charles Addams’ New Yorker cartoons were used to test lunacy (in the sense that if you understand them, you must be crazy) and that Addams himself was driven insane by one of his cartoons (including a cartoon that he never actually drew, but people insist they remember seeing).

However, today there is a true Addams-related legend, suggested to me by commenter Da Fug.

It once again involves “The Skier,” one of Addams’ most famous (and most homaged) cartoons. Here is the cartoon again…

Linda Davis, in her great Charles Addams biography, Charles Addams: A Cartoonist’s Life, detailed the story of Linda Ray, a psychologist at the Lincoln, Illinois state school for the feebleminded, who wrote to Addams a few months after “The Skier” was published.

You see, as one part of the famed Stanford-Binet test for intelligence (created by French psychologist Alfred Binet and modified by Stanford University psychologist Lewis Terman), you would show people humorous images and ask them to explain to you why the images are funny. Well, Ray wrote to Addams that she felt that “The Skier” would be perfect for this sort of thing (due to its simple construction and lack of caption). And she added that it was, as it worked wonderfully for the test.

Pretty cool, huh?

Thanks to Da Fug for the suggestion and Linda Davis for the information!

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 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!

53 Comments

The Crazed Spruce

March 18, 2011 at 9:42 am

Here’s a legend for you. The estate of Charles Addams paid Brian Corwin huge gobs of money to feature his cartoons not once, not twice, but three weeks in a row! True or false? :)

False! They weren’t in a row. ;)

So I guess #307 will have to have an Addams legend!

Will Marvel/DC perish? I hope so….

The Aquaman “Bombs Away!” panel is used twice in rapid succession?

Brian Corwin? Isn’t that the secret identity of Suicide Squid?

Wow, that is some real subtle religious imagery with the, um, “Zon.” Spear to the side and everything.

I love the old Filmation DC characters. It’s interesting that Aquaman had the most cartoons created save for Superman. Superman is a no brainer, but why Aquaman? I assume Batman was under “contract” elsewhere, perhaps even the Batman TV show? I also always wondered why Aquaman wasn’t included in the Justice League adventures.

Great stuff, Brian.

I know there’s been a lot of cartoons, particularly Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies toons, that have used the Skier gag. Were they doing it before or after the Charles Addams illustration?

The Black Racer used to do it as a party trick if he got drunk enough.

I know there’s been a lot of cartoons, particularly Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies toons, that have used the Skier gag. Were they doing it before or after the Charles Addams illustration?

Addams originated the bit. It was copied a ton after it came out.

PAD has a similar story from Atlantis Chronicles. English wasn’t his artist’s native language, and PAD referred to the “face” of the approaching asteroid that would destroy Atlantis. PAD meant the “side towards the earth,” but the guy drew a skull on the asteroid. When asked if he wanted it fixed, he said (paraphrasing): “Nah. Screw it. I like it. If it’s just an asteroid, you can tell yourself it’ll be OK. But when it’s a massive death’s-head coming right at you, you know you’re boned.” (Or words to that effect.)

J.

Peter David seems to have had a few of these situations with his artists. Didn’t Esteban Maroto draw the meteorite in Atlantis Chronicles as a Skull because he misunderstood what Peter David described?

The Peter David “helicopter shot” story was pretty funny, particularly since he praised the work ethic of the artist in doing such a good image of a helicopter without complaint or alteration. It certainly beats the more obvious examples of writer/artist confusion that actually make it into comics. (Like an issue of X-Treme X-Men where Claremont presumably wrote for Rogue to be in a night gown as she was just getting out of bed, but Larocca drew her in an evening/ball gown. From what I recall, people online speculated that it was most likely a translation error.)

“First of all, it was an exquisitely drawn helicopter, hyperaccurate.”

This made me laugh out loud.

Was it really called the school for the ‘feebleminded’? o_O

Sadly, yes.

Brian, did you look at how Aquaman was shown in the Justice league at the same time? I could swear that Mike Sekowsky drew him with the circles indicating the telepathy from the start. . .

I ‘m trying to remember how Ramona Fradon drew Aquaman in Adventure Comics, but I’m not recalling any concentric circles there.

Anyway, great job, as always.

Tom Fitzpatrick

March 18, 2011 at 11:22 am

This is what I like about PAD, is that he tells it as it is, with no BS involved.

PAD stepped on up and took the blame (or mistake) rather than blame it on anyone else.
“The buck stops here!”. a truly classy writer.

Brian, did you look at how Aquaman was shown in the Justice league at the same time? I could swear that Mike Sekowsky drew him with the circles indicating the telepathy from the start. . .

Yeah, I checked JLA – Sekowsky drew him sans-circles. I honestly dunno about Fradon. Since Cardy didn’t use circles the first 19 issues, my guess is that they weren’t there and Cardy just came up with the idea himself in issue #20 and just stuck with it (and the cartoons, which were effectively adapting the Cardy issues, followed suit).

I think I like Aquaman verbally giving fish commands better than the concentric rings, actually.

I did a double take on the school name, too. (Maybe you should capitalize it, just to ensure people don’t think that’s your description.)

Looooove Nick Cardy. :)

And here we have yet another reason to respect the hell out of Peter David.

I’ve been recently reading the DC Archives: Aquaman collection and Fradon didn’t use the cricles to depict his telepathy. He would just talk to the fish.

schnitzy pretzelpants

March 18, 2011 at 12:20 pm

Was it really called the school for the ‘feebleminded’? o_O

I am (just) old enough to remember an institution in my home town called, The Society for Retards.

It changed names sometime between 1970 and 1976, when specifically, I don’t recall (I was 6 in 1976), but it gives you an idea of how recently much of our labeling on these issues has changed.

Unless, you think being 40 makes me old – then I suppose you think of 1970 as way back when.

How dare you think of me as old! How dare you, sir! How dare you!

I say good day to you and your ageist views!

Good day, sir!

I’ve been recently reading the DC Archives: Aquaman collection and Fradon didn’t use the cricles to depict his telepathy. He would just talk to the fish.

Thanks. That’s what I figured, but it’s nice to get confirmation!

I remember reading once that Aquaman got picked because Mort Weisinger was involved in his creation and was also the person who worked with the Hollywood folks, going back to the Superman TV show at least. There was also a HUGE interest in the oceans at that time, due to Jacques Cousteau – Flipper, Sea Hunt, etc. That’s where the whole Sea Devils concept came from, that interest in the ocean. Heck even Tower Comics had U.N.D.E.R.S.E.A. Agent as one of their very few books that they published.

Related to the school, there’s one book that has gone by two names. The more PC title in the URL and a ruder title which comes up in the image in the link (judging from Amazon.co.uk the ruder name still gets used): http://www.amazon.com/Toilet-Training-Persons-Developmental-Disabilities/dp/0878220259

About a century ago, idiot, imbecile, moron, and cretin were all acceptable clinical terms. No matter what terminology you use, it will become a popular insult sooner or later.

“Feeble-minded”, “Idiot”, and “moron” were used as psychiatric diagnoses (and actually had precise meanings) back in the 19th and early 20th centuries, each representing different degrees of mental functioning. The terms fell into disuse precisely because they started being used as insults, just as “retarded”, another technical term is used less often because it started being used as a derogatory term.

“About a century ago, idiot, imbecile, moron, and cretin were all acceptable clinical terms. No matter what terminology you use, it will become a popular insult sooner or later.”

True in a lot of cases, but somehow I imagine “persons with developmental disabilities” being too much of a mouthful for most bullies to bother with.

I have sample scripts from Bendis for New Avengers. You can tell it was written pretty fast because he’ll use some words twice or say something that doesn’t quite add up and you have to think about it before you draw it.

Plus, he’ll use things like ‘Spx:ewack” I don’t know what ‘ewack’ means, I think it’s a sound effect.

3 Cheers for Brian Corwin!!!

What I wouldn’t give to see the original art for that exquisitely drawn Apache lol

Mary Warner and Ian Thal are right. At the time those terms weren’t insults. Once they started being used as insults the meanings changed, and they had to search out new words. So there’s not anything insulting about the name of the school when you view it in context.

So, how long, exactly til we can hurl the epithet “you Blog-Moderator”????

I dimly recall an Elongated Man story revolving around the Charles Addams cartoon. The mystery involved a set of ski tracks left around the tree. At the end, Ralph demonstrated how it could be done. First he did it Elongated Man style by expanding his legs around and over the tree. Then he did it as a normal person might, by skiing up to the tree, getting out of the skis and climbing the tree on one side, coming down on the other, re-attaching the skis and continuing on.

As I recall, the earliest JLA tales showed Aquaman talking with sealife with those jagged-edge speech-balloons often used to convey telepathy. Who could forget “My friend Peter the Pufferfish is telling me an incredible story!” before the battle against Starro in the JLA debut in Brave and the Bold #28?

Of course, the circle method avoids questions like fish can think? They have names? They can initiate telepathic conversations?

On the other matter, I saw a banner on a web page just last week that was part of a crusade to ban using “retard” in that manner.

When I was a kid, the word we used was just “mental.”

Great edition! But who’s Brian Corwin? I’ve looked at three whole pages of Google!

So, why didn’t Colon phone his editor and ask “Say, is an Earth helicopter supposed to be in there?” On the other hand, why would a comic book artist be familiar with movie-shooting terms? Still, props to Colon for being a pro and PAD for being honest about it.

I never liked the whole “Aquaman can talk to fish” idea because that implies that our seafood could be sentient. Not to mention that they eat EACH OTHER as well. Commanding them via telepathy is better, because it implies that their brains are too puny to resist (and therefore, not sentient.)

Btw why was that Addams picture used to test adult intelligence? Even a kid could tell you why it’s wrong. If your mind is so bad you can’t tell why, your problems would be plenty obvious…

Actually I think that fish *are* sentient. Even watching fish tanks I’ve seen fish pick fights with other fish. They might make persons with developmental disabilities seem like geniuses in comparison, but that doesn’t mean they’re not sentient.

Ah, yes, very good: nary a reference to the “quaintness” of Addams’ cartoons.

Holy crap! I had an inadvertent legend featured! Thanks, Brian.

it’s real hard not to read those captions in the aquaman pages without using the narrators voice from superfriends…..

David Unlikely

March 19, 2011 at 7:10 pm

Charles Addams’ “The Skier” was swiped for the cover of Casper, the Friendly Ghost #8, February, 1953, currently on eBay:

http://cgi.ebay.com/CASPER-FRIENDLY-GHOST-8-1953-PGX-9-2-NO-RESERVE-/280643488628?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item4157a7cb74#ht_2260wt_1141

“Actually I think that fish *are* sentient. Even watching fish tanks I’ve seen fish pick fights with other fish. They might make persons with developmental disabilities seem like geniuses in comparison, but that doesn’t mean they’re not sentient.”

The idea that fish are unintelligent is a scientifically discredited myth:

“The scientists added: “Although it may seem extraordinary to those comfortably used to pre-judging animal intelligence on the basis of brain volume, in some cognitive domains, fishes can even be favourably compared to non-human primates.” ”

“Scientists highlight fish ‘intelligence’: Fish are socially intelligent creatures who do not deserve their reputation as the dim-wits of the animal kingdom, according to a group of leading scientists. ”
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/west_yorkshire/3189941.stm

Also read:

http://www.suite101.com/content/how-intelligent-are-fish-a181348

http://www.aquahobby.com/articles/e_intelligence.php

After reading stuff like this, it becomes pretty clear that people who say things like “I’m a vegetarian — I just eat fish” don’t make a whole lot of sense.

You mean besides the fact that eating any kind of meat already makes it impossible to be a vegetarian by definition?!

I’ve never heard anyone claim “I’m a vegetarian – I just eat fish”, but I’m pretty sureI don’t need to read any of those articles to realize it’s a ridiculous phrase. Fish are animals, period, everyone knows that. True vegetarians won’t even eat eggs. If anyone is “feeble-minded” enough to utter such phrase, you can rest assured they’ll be also eating Big Macs and hot dogs and still claim to be vegetarians because they don’t eat steaks.

Uh, make that “sure” and not “surel”.

As to Sackett’s question about Aquaman was not included in the Justice League cartoons of the ’60s (though he did appear in the introductions): He was, of the six characters involved, the most inconvenient to use. The others consisted of three who could fly (Superman, Green Lantern, Hawkman), one who could run very fast (Flash), and one small enough for one of the others to easily carry (Atom). In other words, they were a bunch who could quickly get from one place to another, as the plot required. Aquaman could not be moved along so easily–and these were, after all, only seven-minute cartoons.

But surely Green Lantern could carry him from place to place in an energy bubble, as happened in many a JLA comic? Would it not be more a matter of a watery scenario being tough to fit in?

I actually have known vegetarians that occasionally eat fish and chicken. From what they’ve told me, it is how a lot of vegetarians begin. If they went cold turkey(pardon the pun), they might miss meat too much and go back to it, so they continue to have fish or chicken once or twice a month, until they are weaned off. One girl I know, that is a vegetarian, did this for a couple of years with fish, and finally gave that up too last year.

Jim Shooter mentions on his blog that the infamous Hank Pym as wife beater incident also was the result of a miscommunication with the artist. He meant for Hank to make a “get away gesture”, not realizing that Janet was too close: http://www.jimshooter.com/2011/03/hank-pym-was-not-wife-beater.html

“True in a lot of cases, but somehow I imagine “persons with developmental disabilities” being too much of a mouthful for most bullies to bother with.”

And probably for a lot of persons w/developmental disabilities, too…

“True vegetarians won’t even eat eggs.”

You’re thinking of vegans. Vegetarians just don’t eat meat. Unfertilized chicken eggs are a-ok.

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