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Comic Book Legends Revealed #323

Welcome to the three hundredth and twenty-third in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. This week, did a member of a best-selling and critically acclaimed rap group produce a rap song for…the Human Torch? Plus, discover the most subtle comic book crossover of all-time and learn which comic book hero was the first fictional private detective to be a Vietnam veteran!

Click here for an archive of the previous three hundred and twenty-two.

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: SlimKid3, of the rap group The Pharcyde, produced a rap song that the Human Torch performed in an episode of the 1990s Fantastic Four cartoon.

STATUS: I’m Going With False

SlimKid3 is a member of the critically acclaimed rap group, The Pharcyde. I actually don’t know the current status of the group in terms of being a group (they broke up but recently toured together), but for the sake of ease, I’ll refer to him as a member of the group.

Pharcyde’s 1992 debut album, Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde, was a gold record selling smash, with the most popular single being “Passin’ Me By.”

The album was not only a sales success, but a critical one as well. Highly influential, the album was cited a few months ago by Kanye West as his favorite album of all-time.

In 1996, SlimKid3 produced Brian Austin Green’s debut rap album, One Stop Carnival.

It was not as well received (although I find it extremely hard to believe that the album had any chance at getting a fair shake, critically. Also, did you know that a young Will.I.Am produced one of the tracks? That’s nuts).

Okay, so here’s where things get interesting.

You see, in 1994, Green was the voice of Johnny “the Human Torch” Storm on the Fantastic Four animated series of that year.

In one of the episodes, Johnny gets to perform a song. Even though the animation seems like it was originally intended as a traditional rock/pop song, the actual song performed is a hip hop number titled “Flame On.”

Check it out in all of its bizarre awesomeness…

It really is pretty catchy.

So anyhow, reader Nick M. was wondering – since SlimKid3 produced Green’s record not long after this episode, could he actually have produced this song? Could such an acclaimed rapper actually have done the music for a Human Torch rap song?

So I went straight to the source and asked SlimKid3 (AKA Trevant Hardson) and he was gracious enough to let me know that he did not recall doing so but wished to hear the song. After I sent him the song to listen to, he knew that it was not his production. He felt that it sounded like it was Green’s own production. SlimKid3 did mention that he remembers the beat itself from the time that he and Green were working together. He went on to note that he felt that Green was good, production-wise, particularly on remixes. He also complimented Green’s drum-playing.

So sorry, Nick, it was SO close to being true!

Thanks to Nick for the suggestion and, of course, MAJOR thinks to SlimKid3 for being willing to share the information about this song.

COMIC LEGEND: Marvel had an almost imperceptible crossover between one of their “main” comic books and an issue of What If…?

STATUS: True

In case you are not familiar with the concept of Marvel’s What If..? comics (which, by the way, we just recently did a take-off on for The Line It Is Drawn – check out what our artists drew here), they are narrated by the Watcher, the cosmic being whose job is, well, to watch. In this case, it is alternate worlds. Here is the set-up from What If…? #1…

In X-Men #137, we see that access to these worlds are housed on The Watcher’s base on the moon (I’m sure we’ve seen that actually established earlier, I just like this usage – the idea of Wolverine just stumbling into the Watcher’s house amuses me)…

So that is the set-up for January 1990′s Quasar #6, where Quasar follows the Living Laser to the moon (in an Acts of Vengeance crossover, so Quasar fights villains he wouldn’t normally fight, including Venom), we see where the Laser heads…

Quasar catches up with him…

Well, that very same month, in What If…? (Volume 2) #9, in a story about “What If…the All-New, All-Different X-Men had died on their first mission?” the new group of X-Men are caught up in the Nefaria storyline from X-Men #94-95. And…well, just look what happens…

Isn’t that amazing?

If you didn’t know that it was the Living Laser, you’d have no idea!

What was particularly interesting about this crossover is that the two comics did not even share editors or writers. It was just a cool little Marvel Bullpen crossover between Roy Thomas and Mark Gruenwald. Very neat.

Thanks to yo go re for the suggestion and a shout out to Jeff Ryan – don’t say I never gave you anything!

Since this could be considered an “easter egg,” this is a good time to remind you all to check out our Month-long examination of Comic Book Easter Eggs! Check the list of all the ones we’ve featured so far here!

COMIC LEGEND: The first fictional private detective to be a Vietnam veteran was the comic book hero, Sarge Steel.

STATUS: I’m Going With True

My main man, John McDonagh, who has suggested more legends than any other person, sent me this suggestion over four years ago, but I could never confirm it until recently (well, at least confirm it to my satisfaction, at least).

Sarge Steel is a familiar character to many DC Comics fans out there, but the character originated at another company, Charlton Comics. He was created by Pat Masulli and his stories were written by Joe Gill and drawn by Dick Giordano, who grew deeply attached to the character (I believe he later recalled the character as being the character he was most attached to – or words to that effect).

John told me about something the great mystery writer Max Allan Collins noted in the book, The Fine Art of Murder: The Mystery Reader’s Indispensable Companion. It was about Sarge Steel. Collins contends that Steel is the first private detective in fiction to be a Vietnam veteran.

As many private eye readers know, the private eye who is a Vietnam veteran is a longstanding tradition in the genre (including novels, movies and television shows, like Thomas Magnum from Magnum P.I.). So I was a bit dubious that a Charlton character would have been the first.

But then I saw the dates…Sarge Steel is from December…1964!!

So yeah, I believe Collins. But is Steel a veteran? Let’s check out issue #1…

Later, there’s a flashback…

And even later, we see how he lost the hand…

Very cool.

So yeah, I’m willing to totally buy into the notion that a fictional private eye at the end of 1964 is, indeed, the first private eye to be a Vietnam veteran.

Thanks to John for the suggestion (one of many) and thanks to Max Allan Collins for the neat 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!

Follow Comics Should Be Good on Twitter and on Facebook (also, feel free to share Comic Book Legends Revealed on our Facebook page!). If we hit 3,000 likes on Facebook you’ll get a bonus edition of Comic Book Legends the week after we hit 3,000 likes! So go like us on Facebook 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!

Also, be sure to check out my website, Legends Revealed, where I look into legends about the worlds of entertainment and sports, which you can find here, at legendsrevealed.com.

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!

62 Comments

That Human Torch song is incredible. Usually pop music in cartoons suck big time, a la Lobo appearances in Superman Animated, compared to that, this is the White Album.

Chris McFeely

July 15, 2011 at 9:19 am

For God’s sake, if you value your sense of decency, don’t watch the Human Torch song video! You will never be able to forget!

Wow, that What If / Quasar crossover is awesome.

It kinda reminds me of one of my absolute favorite adventures adventures of all time for the old TSR Marvel Super Heroes RPG… MH-9 Gates of What If? I haven’t read through it in probably twenty years or so, but I vaguely remember the story in that module being really awesome and creative.

The bizarre juxtaposition of that song and the animation just about blew my mind. Somehow I think Johnny missed his calling as a white tuxedoed rapper.

Travis Pelkie

July 15, 2011 at 9:42 am

You did that first one just because it’s BAG’s birthday this week, didn’t you? I saw that in print somewhere this week. It’s not like I have pics of him from Tiger Beat or something.

It’s not a SHRINE, dammit!

So, how’d the Living Laser get out of that one? I’d say that’s a super obscure crossover, man.

The What if issue where Wolverine and Conan fight (v2 16, I think) has Wolvey get to Conan’s time (or vice versa) via some portal in the Watcher’s place, as shown in that issue you feature above.

That Sarge Steel one is neat. (btw, is it Max AllAn Collins? I’m honestly not sure, but I thought it might be)

Remind me to email you with the first Vietnam reference in comics. I’ll have to find the reference I have, but it’s pretty neat.

btw, is it Max AllAn Collins?

Yep, thanks!

Honestly, I remember catching that What If?! crossover at the time.

Strangely enough, I just saw an episode of the “Daily Show” last night on which the guest was an Afghanistan war vet who lost his hand in almost the exact same way as Sarge Steel. He grabbed a grenade thrown at him and tried to throw it back, but it exploded and took his hand off. He even sported a robot hand on the show!

I’m honored, Brian! There are an insane number of What If crossovers with Quasar, everyone of them a legend (in my mind, at least), so you better not start down this path…there may be no return!

Love this column. Also a big fan of SlimKid3 and the Pharcyde, so needless to say you made my day with today’s edition!

That Human Torch song is just wrong where its being used. It’s like no one was paying attention and let it slide at the last minute. It just looks like a re-edited Youtube video. Um, we’re sure that’s not what it is, RIGHT?

“So I went straight to the source and asked SlimKid3 (AKA Trevant Hardson)”

Umm, wouldn’t going “straight to the source” indicate you asked BAG? I mean, since SlimKid3 didn’t know, why not just shoot a communique to the BAG-man himself?

I ignore the first season of the ’90s FF cartoon. :) Like most Marvel cartoons (oddly), it was horrible, with pathetic acting. Season 2 (without Green, though I’m not implying he’s the reason the entire show was bad) was very, very good.

The original What If? #4 also tied in to proper Marvel continuity. It did not cross over directly with another series, but was actually a story that Roy Thomas couldn’t do in the regular Invaders comic because the story was set at the end of WWII. Conceptually the Invaders would never have gotten to the end of WWII, hence Roy’s untold tale/continuity implant explaining Captain America stories in the mid-late ’40 (as Steve Rogers was retconned by Stan & Jack to have been frozen in ice in 1945).

This completed the explanations of later Captain Americas that Steve Englehart began when he introduced the ’50s Cap & Bucky earlier in the decade In Captain America (& the Falcon) #153-156. I’ve got one of Sal Buscema’s beautiful originals from the climax in #156. :)

This was put in What If?, as I recall, because he had nowhere else to put it, not because there was a possibility that it would not become part of the canonical Invaders/Captain America continuity. This was after the “Giant Size” line of specials were canceled (Invaders, as well as the new X-Men, both began at the end of that little publishing experiment) but before the addition of an “Annual” to Invaders (and ultimately there was only one Annual for them).

I wish Marvel would continue their Classic Invaders tpb reprints. I just ordered Volumes 3 & 4! I have the originals, but it’s so nice to have them collected!

Please explain the Living Laser item? Perhaps I am too slow and tired for this discussion. I do see it is the same jet from Watcher’s pane. Where is the LL in the What If panels? Is that him crashing into the jet? If that is true how would the reader understand what was happening? Read alone, it would seem that the jet exploded for no reason. I don’t know what happen next.

Huh, I’d always thought What If?#4 only became canon afterward, when Marvel decided that actually thhe story was awesome and would solve more problems than it would cause in regular continuity.

Sort of like how What If?#9 wasn’t precisely brought into continuity as a whole, but Marvel later decided to do pretty much the same thing with Agents of Atlas.

Where is the LL in the What If panels?

He doesn’t appear on screen because he’s blasting right through the jet, so he’s hidden by the explosion.

If that is true how would the reader understand what was happening? Read alone, it would seem that the jet exploded for no reason. I don’t know what happen next.

Read alone it would appear as though Banshee (she took her father’s name in the story)’s screams caused the explosion, which is how Thomas planned it – if you didn’t know about the Quasar story, then you could enjoy the What If..? without a problem.

Honestly, I remember catching that What If?! crossover at the time.

I’m sincerely impressed. I own both those issues and it totally flew over my head.

I’ve seen reference to that Living Laser/What If? crossover before, but can’t think of where. I would have guessed it was in this column itself. Have you ever done a piece showing those 2 panels before, Brian?

Fun stuff, Brian. Some comments:

1. So, Sarge Steel’s rank was “captain sergeant?” Was that a real rank?

2. Keith Bowden is completely correct about the FF cartoon. Season 1 is really terrible, but season 2 is quite good. If you have NETFLIX, it’s available for streaming as part of the IRON MAN cartoon (Interestingly, the same advice holds true for the IM cartoon; season 1 is awful while season 2 is top notch).

3. And I just found out that THE AVENGERS: EARTH’S MIGHTIEST HEROES is also streaming on NETFLIX! If you haven’t seen it, do so now. It’s the best MARVEL animated series since the much lamented SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN.

Heh, I was just about to say, “Wow, really, did Iron Man get good? That’s good to know, because I only watched the first episode and it was just dreadful.” But then I realized you were talking about the ’90s cartoon, which I wasn’t even aware of. The one I watched was the much more recent “Armored Adventures” toon.

Power-2 most-the-Peoples

July 15, 2011 at 11:42 am

That Human Torch video is so badly animated, that I can’t think anyone associated with it would admit it.
At gun point!
But the rhymes aight though.

+1 on the recent Avengers Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. The entire season (or two seasons?) is up there and they do everything from pre-team solo, to Hydra, Masters of Evil, Ultron, Asgard, and a bunch of other fun stuff.

And the entire series so far ends on an extremely anticipated and quite expected note.

buttler: “Heh, I was just about to say, “Wow, really, did Iron Man get good? That’s good to know, because I only watched the first episode and it was just dreadful.” But then I realized you were talking about the ’90s cartoon, which I wasn’t even aware of. The one I watched was the much more recent “Armored Adventures” toon.”

Yeah, I should have specified that I was talking about the 90s MARVEL ACTION HOUR IRON MAN AND FF show, not the more recent ARMORED ADVENTURES series.

Syon, I believe “Sergeant” is Sarge Steel’s first name. Like Sargeant Shriver. Only spelled differently. I think.

he thinks that it was Green’s own production

Don’t ever stop, David Silver. Ever.

Also, that What If?/Quasar crossover is pretty awesome. I had no idea.

Yeah, I’ve definitely seen reference to that crossover before too – maybe Gruenwald mentioned it in one of his Marvel Age columns?

blubeetle3: “Syon, I believe “Sergeant” is Sarge Steel’s first name. Like Sargeant Shriver. Only spelled differently. I think.”

Yeah, I was just re-reading the panels, and you are quite correct. Sergeant was his first name and captain was his rank.

I wonder how they resisted having him be Sergeant Sergeant Steel, a la Major Major in CATCH-22?

According to http://www.marvunapp.com:

In Quasar #30, in a flash back, “The Laser quickly realized he was in an alternate reality when he found his own dimensional counterpart. Panicking, he rushed back to the moon and through the extradimensional portal again, returning home. However, he created a temporal counterpart who continued splitting through other realities. Quasar later apprehended these counterparts.”

Pretty cool.

When I read the What if…. the first time, I thought what was that Orange Streak? Then thought wait was that the Living Laser? Had I not known about the other story, I would have thought, huh what’s that orange streak, like there was something I was supposed to get from it, that I was missing. That’s why I say read by itself, it seems odd.

Remember figuring out that What If? crossover as a 12-year-old and loving it. Both that issue and the Quasar issue were some of earliest comic purchases. See modern comic writers – shared continuity and a tight universe don’t intimidate new readers.

Are you sure it wasn’t called “What If…the All-New, All-Different X-Men had died on their first mission, and it was totally the Watcher’s fault for watching them in the first place?”

That What If? one has got to be the coolest CBLR I’ve read so far! Fantastic stuff!

Pharcyde played the Halifax Jazz Festival last weekend. Don’t know if Slimkid the third was with them, but i heard it was a great show.

Wow, that was weird. I remember how bad that FF show was. Ghost Rider defeated Galactus by giving him the Penenance Stare.

I also remember the flack Brian Austin Green got for being the ‘white kid’ from 90210 who rapped. I guess he had some real fans, though.

It’s sad when Marvel’s main events seem like ‘What ifs?’ like What if Captain America and Iron Man fought each other, but rather than fleshing it out or leading up to it, it just starts and 10 months and seven issues later it’s over and it seems like barely anything happened.

John Trumbull

July 15, 2011 at 5:22 pm

When you were talking about the hidden crossover in What If?, I thought for sure that you were featuring Spider-Man getting punched out by a certain blue-sleeved alien. Might be a good future legend.

Mike Loughlin

July 15, 2011 at 5:26 pm

I remember the crossover being referenced in the letter column of a later What If…?, but have never seen the Quasar half of the story. Pretty cool!

Quasar was a very underrated book! I am shocked it was blasted by people. Grudwald mixed a lot of subplots that other writers never mixed, it shows the Marvel Universe as a whole and explained things like how beings like Eternity get their “bodies” among other things. I wish Marvel would collect it. In its very short 60 issues, it was a classic series!

SlimKid3 is being most charitable by describing Green’s production as “good”.

Jon, Quasar was a far better book than people expected, but I wouldn’t call it a classic.

It’s a nice touch, having The Living Laser say “What if–?” right before he goes through the portal.

Lex wrote:
It’s sad when Marvel’s main events seem like ‘What ifs?’ like What if Captain America and Iron Man fought each other, but rather than fleshing it out or leading up to it, it just starts and 10 months and seven issues later it’s over and it seems like barely anything happened.

The sad part is, I read one of the What If…Civil War? stories, and it sounded exactly like how it should have really played out in the 616. Iron Man approaches Cap with honesty and sincerity, the two of them work it out peacefully, and then there’s no superhero throwdown as a result. The End.

I own both the What If and the Quasar issue and never realized the link. Very cool.

buttler, the new X-Men were already dead by the point of the story where Living Laser popped up. This is a new new X-Men team and the Thunderstar that almost dies is the second character to carry that name, later known as Warpath.

Thunderstar = Thunderbird. Trying to do too many things at once here….

So you give “MAJOR thinks to SlimKid3″? Bwahahaha!

The “Flame On” Song isn’t that bad for an animated series.

Keep up the good work,

Jay (who actually did a show with The Pharcyde a few years back .)

I remember being about 12 or so when that FF cartoon was on the air. I remember seeing that episode and I remember being very embarrassed. Even at 12 I thought that was total garbage. I felt silly, and uncool for having watched it.

Ehh, that What if/Quasar thing barely counts as a crossover in my book, since very little in Quasar (and NOTHING in the What If) proves a connection of events. At best it’s a continuity nod.

I will say one thing, though: I was quite surprised to learn that yes, those What If? stories are ALL within continuity, when it was revealed that the Watcher wasn’t talking to us (the readers) but rather recording what he saw in other realities for the people of the next universe that will exist (I don’t know why, but there you have it.) Also, apparently Uatu is the only Watcher who does this, the rest being busy enough with watching the ‘real’ universe. But he’s unusual for his kind.

And I know that the last What If story (“What If The Watcher Saved The Universe?”) involved a conflict with Immortus, which was very similar to something that happened in the pages of West Coast Avengers. Was an actual crossover there?

SO CLOSE!!! Thx for getting to the bottom of it, Brian! And for the record, I like that beat.

[...] CBR’s Comic Book Legends Revealed) Email, Print, or [...]

Wow. The animation and the ..ahem… “song” suck in unison!

Andrew Perron

July 16, 2011 at 4:19 pm

Quasar is most definitely a classic. Underrated and wonderful.

Andrew Perron: “Quasar is most definitely a classic. Underrated and wonderful.”

I agree, I bought the complete run off of ebay for $16 about ten years ago and love it. One of the best series from that time.

Brian from Canada

July 16, 2011 at 7:25 pm

Correct me if I’m not wrong, but doesn’t Quasar also deal with the Starbrand? If so, that may be one reason Marvel’s holding off from reprinting it: they don’t want to reference the New Universe.

Which is sad, really. New Universe isn’t an embarrassment in my opinion — until the end when they had to just kill it off. Of course, if newer readers seek it out and wonder how some of those decent concepts aren’t being relaunched again, Marvel might end up with another CrossGen on their hands. :-/

Brian form Canada, I must respectfully disagree with you. The New Universe was indeed an embarrassment on every level ;-)

I point to Justice #15 as exhibit A. The “EVERYTHING YOU KNOW IS WRONG!” issue —-
Let’s retcon what to me was one of the more interesting characters into a purple costume Punisher knockoff so its more “realistic”.
http://media.comicvine.com/uploads/5/52010/998770-justice15_super.jpg

To Mr. Cronin – I would love to see columns on this topic – A chronology of the major historic retcons – not just character revamps like golden age to silver age, but where a prior body of work is largely invalidated. And maybe a When We First mMt style column of the “Everything you know is wrong!” phrase.

I’m too old to give a damn about the 90′s and later cartoons, but when I was a kid in the 60′s , we had The Merry Marvel Marching Society. Goofy, right, but still in the Stan Lee mode of “Facing Front”. I was too young to check the credits, but I suppose I could Google it. Excelsior!

Pure coincidence perhaps, but Living Laser got THREE stories in a later issue of What If. . . ?

So the Living Laser was that orange line going through the plane?

The animation on that 1990s Fantastic Four cartoon was so bad it made me completely forget the mediocre rapping. It had a terrible theme song too.

Quasar was a comic with great writing under Mark Gruenwald, but great art only under Paul Ryan (at his peak) and Greg Capullo (also at his peak, pre-MacFarlanification). Also, sometime around 1992 it started crossing over with every other title in the Infinity Gauntlet and other event crossovers, and became impossible to follow on its own. That’s instant death for a comic.

“Correct me if I’m not wrong, but doesn’t Quasar also deal with the Starbrand?”

Yeah, at one point he visits the New Universe (or what was left of it) and brings the Starbrand back with him. IIRC, he thinks it’s burned out but later on in other storylines that I didn’t read it turns out it wasn’t.

[...] Fantastic Four and Brian Austin Green musical interludes, Kelly Thompson, Ross Campbell, and Nick Marino do the unthinkable… talk [...]

[...] Fantastic Four and Brian Austin Green musical interludes, Kelly Thompson, Ross Campbell, and Nick Marino do the unthinkable… talk about [...]

The What If…? segment reminded me of an episode of Ultimate Spider-Man, the Living Laser is sent through a variety of alternate universes at the episode’s climax, ending with him in the Super Hero Squad universe, about to get a kicking from Thor. Looks like it was inspired by this particular “easter egg”, great stuff.

Why/how would we correct you if you’re not wrong?

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