O Say Can You See: The Greatest Patriotic Super Heroes of All-Time
Welcome to the three hundredth and ninth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. This week, we discover a hidden secret about Hank Pym’s domestic abuse incident, learn about the comic book writer who discussed radiation creating “Homo Superior” ten years before X-Men #1 and figure out whether Jack Kirby invented the double-page comic book spread!
Click here for an archive of the previous three hundred and eight.
COMIC LEGEND: Jim Shooter did not intend for Hank Pym to punch Janet Van Dyne in Avengers #213.
STATUS: Apparently True
In Avengers #213, Yellowjacket (Hank Pym) is under court martial by his fellow Avengers for actions in the previous issue (where he blasted a villain from behind while she was getting ready to surrender).
Pym spends the issue dreading the decision of his teammates, and he comes up with a bizarre plan to build a robot to attack his teammates (he, of course, would know how to stop it so he would look good in front of them all). His wife and fellow Avenger the Wasp (Janet Van Dyne) tried to convince him of the folly of his ways but this led to the following page, which still reverberates in Marvel Comics to this day…
Interestingly enough, on his blog (which is a really fun read), Jim Shooter revealed a secret about that page (in a piece titled “Hank Pym Was Not a Wife-Beater”):
In that story (issue 213, I think), there is a scene in which Hank is supposed to have accidentally struck Jan while throwing his hands up in despair and frustration—making a sort of “get away from me” gesture while not looking at her. Bob Hall, who had been taught by John Buscema to always go for the most extreme action, turned that into a right cross! There was no time to have it redrawn, which, to this day has caused the tragic story of Hank Pym to be known as the “wife-beater” story.
When that issue came out, Bill Sienkiewicz came to me upset that I hadn’t asked him to draw it! He saw the intent right through Hall’s mistake, and was moved enough by the story to wish he’d had the chance to do it properly
Isn’t that amazing?
One SLIGHT change in the art and that story would have been seen so differently over the years. Imagine what that would have meant to the character of Hank Pym!!
Bob Hall posted on Bleeding Cool about the story and effectively states that he can’t say that Shooter is wrong (be sure to check out the link to see Hall’s well-written response to the topic).
Thanks to Andy E Nystrom for letting me know that Shooter had written this, and thanks to Jim Shooter for the information! And thanks to Rich Johnston and Bob Hall for Hall’s take on the topic!
Check out the latest Music Legends Revealed to learn whether a missing “D” led to the name of a famous rock band, whether 50 Cent’s “In Da Club” infringed on a bizarre 2 Live Crew copyright and discover what famous rock song was named after an insurance company!
COMIC LEGEND: Otto Binder wrote a “scholarly” article about nuclear radiation creating “Homo Superior” in 1953, ten years before X-Men #1!
In 1963, X-Men #1 was released, which was about a group of super-powered mutants. Here, let’s see them discuss their powers…
Amazingly enough, this stuff had been written about a decade earlier, in the pages of Mechanix Illustrated, by a famous comic book writer!
Mechanix Illustrated was created by Fawcett Publications in 1928 as an answer to Popular Science and Popular Mechanics. It went by a few different names, graduating from Home Mechanix to Modern Mechanics (in this 1931 issue)….
to Modern Mechanix (later in the 1930s)…
to finally settling on Mechanix Illustrated…
It went by Mechanix Illustrated for the rest of its time at Fawcett, which was 1977. It was purchased by CBS who went back to the original name Home Mechanix in 1984. It was given another name in 1996, Today’s Homeowner, before going out of business in 2001.
In any event, the issue at hand came out in 1953, in this tale of the possible effects of nuclear radiation…
Yes, that O.O. Binder is, in fact, the same Otto Binder who was a legendary comic book writer for Fawcett’s comic book line and later for DC Comics (he recently appeared on our Top 250 Comic Book Writers and Artists countdown here). And the artwork is done by Kurt Schaffenberger, who also worked for Fawcett for years before going to work for DC for even longer (becoming THE Lois Lane artist).
Thanks to my pal, Loren, who alerted me to this story. You can find the full article here.
Check out the latest Football Legends Revealed to learn the story of how a future U.S. President essentially saved the game of football, reveal whether the creator of basketball also invented the football helmet and discover what future Hall of Fame quarterback was given away by a league commissioner because his current team was too good!
COMIC LEGEND: Jack Kirby drew the first double-page spread in a comic book story.
Awhile back, I addressed the idea that Jack Kirby was the first comic book artist to draw splash pages. He was not, but that led to discussions about the first artist to do an interior splash page within a comic. And the general consensus is that while it is unclear if Kirby was the first to do an interior splash page, Kirby was definitely the first to use a two-page spread.
The two-page spread that gets referred to as “the first” is the following, from Captain America Comics #6, from September 1941…
It’s really a remarkably well done image. I got the image courtesy of Harry Mendryk, who runs the brilliant Joe Simon/Jack Kirby website, titled (appropriately enough), Simon and Kirby (be sure to check it out here – it’s excellent). Harry believed that he recalled an earlier example of a double-page spread, and upon looking into it, I did, indeed, find an earlier example (by the way, I, of course, mean a double-page spread in the middle of a story – there had been plenty of examples of two-page spreads in the comic strip comics where there were two pages that was the entire story, much like a pin-up – we’re not talking about those here, we’re talking about a two-page spread that is within a larger story, like the Captain America spread above).
Ka-Zar the Great was a pulp character created and written by Bob Byrd. His stories were released by Martin Goodman’s line of pulp magazines.
When Goodman began a line of superhero comics, writer/artist Ben Thompson adapted Byrd’s character into the pages of Marvel Comics and then Marvel Mystery Comics.
Thompson was a fine artist, but his work was pretty much par for the course at the time. He was not doing things that were too different than anyone else was doing at the time. Here’s a sample page from Marvel Mystery Comics #10.
However, in Marvel Mystery Comics #11, rather than being the LAST story in the issue, which it typically was, Ka-Zar the Great was in the MIDDLE of the book. This meant that Thompson would have the center of the comic to play with, and quite surprisingly, he burst out what was, as far as I can tell, the first double-page spread in a comic book story ever…
This was September 1940, a full YEAR before Captain America Comics #6!
Pretty cool, huh?
Thanks to Harry Mendryk for putting me on the right trail to find the Ka-Zar story in question!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
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