web stats

CSBG Archive

Comic Book Legends Revealed #333

Welcome to the three hundredth and thirty-third in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. This week, discover the amazing story of the #1 Women’s Tennis Player in the World who became a writer and editor for Wonder Woman! And that’s not even close to the craziest job she had in the 1940s! Plus, legends about Deadpool and the artistic excellence of Jimmy Cheung!

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

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: The number one women’s tennis player in the world retired from amateur competition and then became a writer and editor on Wonder Woman’s comic book.

STATUS: True

Between 1936 and 1940, Alice Marble was one of the world’s greatest female tennis players.

The California native (who overcame a sickness early in her amateur career that was originally mis-diagnosed as tuberculosis!!) won a whopping EIGHTEEN different Grand Slam championships during her amateur career. In 1939, she was the #1 women’s tennis player in the world.

She retired from amateur competition in 1940 and became a professional tennis player. Playing tennis professionally back then was a lot different than it is now and it was a whole lot less lucrative. Plus, with World War II raging on in Europe, there were no international competitions, so Marble had to find other work.

Meanwhile, in 1941, Max Gaines and his All American Comics comic book company (which was at the time not an official part of DC Comics/National Publications) debuted a brand-new comic book character created by William Moulton Marston called Wonder Woman. Marston’s hook with the character was always that she was different from your standard superhero – she was meant to be a bit of a symbol for female readers.

Gaines took an unusual approach for the promotion of this new character – he gained testimonials from famous athletes of the day.

Here are endorsements of Wonder Woman from boxing champions Gene Tunney and Jack Dempsey…

Almost certainly while pursuing Marble for an endorsement, Gaines and Marble decided to come to a different arrangement. Marble would come WORK for Gaines on the comic book!! She became an associate editor on the comic.

Here is Marble in a promotional photo for the book…

Marble then decided to take Gaines’ idea and go even further by sending letters to notable women in the United States for endorsements of the character. Here is a sample letter (written to a high-ranking women in the Internal Revenue Service)…

Marble took this inspired approach of celebrating strong women into the pages of the comic itself. For the first 20 issues of Wonder Woman, Marble would write four-page stories about notable women in history…

Pretty awesome, right?

Marble’s tenure as associate editor was a lot shorter, though. She had married a U.S. pilot who was killed in World War II in 1944. Around the same time, Marble miscarried what would have been their only child. She was so despondent that she attempted to take her own life. She had stopped editing for Wonder Woman at the end of 1943. I presume she stopped writing, as well, and they just used stories she had already written to keep the feature going until Wonder Woman #20 in 1946, but I could be mistaken. The feature was continued by other writers for another six years or so before being discontinued.

Things get even crazier for Marble, though!

Once she recovered from her suicide attempt, she claimed that she SPIED for the United States government, through the Office of Strategic Services (OSS)! As a famous celebrity, Marble could go places others could not. She was sent to Switzerland to do some celebrity tournaments. Her real mission, though, was to come into contact with a Swiss banker that she had been involved with in the past that the U.S. thought was doing business with the Nazis. Marble’s job was to acquire Nazi financial data. She claimed that she did but was SHOT IN THE BACK by an enemy agent in the process!!! Luckily, she recovered, and went on to live a long life.

She passed away in 1990.

Again, that’s pretty damned awesome, no? Admittedly, the spy stuff seems a bit fishy and I don’t believe it has ever been confirmed by the government, but hey, it is interesting either way – if it happened, wow. If it didn’t, it is interesting that she would be bold enough to make up a story that crazy!

Thanks to Diamond International Galleries for the Marble letter.

COMIC LEGEND: Joe Kelly’s last issue of Deadpool was originally the last issue of the series period.

STATUS: True

Reader Leonel wrote in awhile back:

At the end of Joe Kelly´s run on Deadpool (Deadpool #33, 1997 series) the last page has Deadpool walking into the sunset hand i hand with Death. The image suggests that it was going to be the last issue of the series, instead the dialogue states that Deadpool is only “99%” dead and that he will be back to life in 30 days, just in time for the next issue. So was this a cop out due to Marvel not canceling the series as planned?

Here are the pages in question from Deadpool #33, Joe Kelly’s last issue on the series…

And yes, what Leonel wrote is basically what happened.

You see, as soon as Joe Kelly began writing Deadpool, he expected the book to be canceled quickly. Surprisingly, though, it held on for quite awhile (it lasted three more years even after Kelly left!). However, the word came down that #25 was going to be the last issue. Kelly then crafted that issue to be a final issue. However, due to fan outcry, Marvel decided to keep the book going.

Fair enough. That’s good, so Kelly was certainly okay with it.

A few months pass and then word comes down again, now #33 would be the last issue of the series. Once again, Kelly crafted a farewell issue (only this time, he figured it had to be for good, as you don’t uncancel a book TWICE, right?). However, once again, the book WAS un-canceled.

This time, though, Kelly decided not to return with the comic. Between him already preparing to move on and the fact that, again, he had come up with AN ENDING (so he’d have to quickly come up with new plots, etc.) he just decided he had had enough.

So yes, the issue WAS originally written as a final issue.

Thanks to Leonel for the question!

COMIC LEGEND: Jimmy Cheung did collages of old artwork for the backgrounds of his Young Avengers Presents covers.

STATUS: False

Just the other day, in our DC/Marvel Comic Book Character Countdown, I posted a Jimmy Cheung cover of Hawkeye (Kate Bishop).

It reminded me of a story that was going around when those Young Avengers Presents covers originally came out a few years ago. As you can see from the Hawkeye cover, the background is a collage of moments of the Avenger who inspired the Young Avenger. In this case, it is Hawkeye. Here are all of the covers (click on each cover to enlarge them).

Well, the presumption at the time was that Jimmy Cheung naturally enough used Photoshop or something like that to create a collage of panels from old comics. I had some healthy debate with a number of commenters over the topic (with me suggesting that he did them himself)

Well, amazingly enough, those WEREN’T panels from old comics, those were BRAND-NEW drawings by Jimmy Cheung just drawn in the style of the old panels!

I confirmed it the other day with Marvel Executive Editor Tom Brevoort. Tom recalled:

Yes, in his mania, Jim didn’t merely use clip art for all of those assorted background images on those covers, he meticulously recreated each one by hand, matching the style of the original artist. A great deal of work for very little return save personal artistic satisfaction.

How cool is that? Jimmy Cheung, you rule!!

Thanks for the confirmation, Tom!

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!

50 Comments

I am so impressed, I had always thought the images on the covers were just taken from the original sources. I dare anyone to compare them to the original drawings and see if you can tell the difference. Most impressed with the Gil Kane Captain Marvel, Jack Kirby Captain America, Don Heck Hawkeye and Neal Adams Antman!

The spy side of Marble’s story sounds a lot like the Hitchcock movie “Notorious” with Clark Gable and Ingrid Bergman.

some stupid japanese name

September 23, 2011 at 9:30 am

Your column header is from last week’s legends… you had me all excited to read about broken tiger teeth again!

Thanks!

Alice Marble is awesome!!

Notorious was Cary Grant not Clark Gable.

My respect for the talents of Jim Cheung, already high, just soared even higher.

Excellent batch of Legends this week, truly highlighting some great unsung moments in comic book history. Only knew about Alice Marble’s WW connections… had no idea that was just one interesting point in a distinctive life. Interesting to hear about Kelly’s challenges of writing a character and a good departure point… only to have to do that again a few months later… and maybe being asked to do it again in the future. Reminds me of the true Spider-Girl’s 100+ issues and the multiple ending and re-starting points due to fan support. Hadn’t really thought of how that can be a creative challenge that, after awhile, might be a drain on the writer’s personal investment. And OMG. Had no clue that Cheung was that talented of an artist. My already healthy respect for his abilities jumped a few notches finding out he could emulate other styles so convincingly.

Alice Marble seems awesome. Her life would make for a great biography (in fact I’m going to check Amazon to see if she has one) or feature movie. Also, the art in her feature is really great. I wonder who that artist is.

That Deadpool dialogue seems like its trying too hard and is cringeworthy. Maybe I’d find it funnier if I knew the songs he was parodying.

Jimmy Cheung is a great artist, but not only that he has a great work ethic. Compare that to Brett Booth, he can’t even be bothered to take 2 minutes to do a Google image search and pull up an image of how to use a bow and arrow:
http://www.bleedingcool.com/2011/08/25/brett-booth-is-our-hero/

She does have an autobiography (which is where the spying story first showed up).

So when do we get the Alice Marble biopic, and who will star? I imagine Clint Eastwood will direct.

Long Live Alice Marble’s Legacy!

So when do we get the Alice Marble biopic, and who will star? I imagine Clint Eastwood will direct.

I want a rousing montage of her typing out hundreds of different letters and filling out the envelopes and mailing them! :)

Great piece on Alice Marble, Brian!! Marble was last credited for writing “Wonder Women of History” in Wonder Woman #16 from Winter 1945, but the feature continued for almost a decade after that. However, it got shorter and more sporadic over the years, especially once Kanigher took over as editor of Wonder Woman, and it ended in 1954 after profiling over 50 women. It was, somewhat ironically, replaced by “Marriage a la Mode”. And yeah, a biopic would be fantastic… especially the letter writing montage :)

God, Kelly’s run on Deadpool was so good.

That’s pretty damn impressive work on those YA covers, even if I enjoy his mimickry a bit more than I do his own style.

T, I can understand not recognizing the Loveboat theme, but “I Will Survive?” Do you just not get out much?

I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to call BS on the Young Avengers one. It looks to me like they cooked up the idea that Cheung drew those montages so that they could avoid paying royalties for the artwork.

I sure did enjoy Christopher Priest’s run on Deadpool.

And, really, on everything.

@G: Marvel doesn’t pay royalties to artists from that time period anyway.

Thank you for using my question Brian!

Schnitzey Pretzelpants

September 23, 2011 at 1:41 pm

“The spy side of Marble’s story sounds a lot like the Hitchcock movie “Notorious” with Clark Gable and Ingrid Bergman.”

Just being me here, but it was Cary Grant – NOT Clark Gable, that was in Notorious.

Michael P, I know the Love Boat theme. I just didn’t realize that’s what that was supposed to be. I guess the clue was the name Gavin McLeod. I looked him up and recognized him as the Captain. By the time I got down to I Will Survive I reached the point where I was skimming with my eyes glazed over, so that’s how I missed that one.

“So when do we get the Alice Marble biopic, and who will star?”

That sounds like the kind of thing that Cate Blanchett would be all over. I think she would do an aweosme job, too.

Did anyone else tear up a little bit at that Nightingale story? I’ve heard the story of Florence Nightingale before, but never in so much detail and with such reverence. That last panel, where she imagines her soul being carried to heaven by the spirit of an Amazon, is a killer.

I can’t get into golden age Wonder Woman. She seems like such a fetish character. I have a reprint of a golden age story where WW travels to a planet named “Eros” ruled by women, where the inhabitants all want to be sentenced to prison. The story is filled with bondage and there is even some whipping going on in the prison once the planet’s men take over.

Marble might be telling the truth- crazier things happened during World War 2. Moe Berg was sent to kill Heisenberg.

“That Deadpool dialogue seems like its trying too hard and is cringeworthy. Maybe I’d find it funnier if I knew the songs he was parodying.”

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that characters singing in comic books never ever works. This especially includes parody bits like this, but the other examples I can think of — the Thing rap that Waid wrote, the multiple attempts by Alan Moore — are also really bad. It’s just a bad idea.

Are there any counter-arguments? I’d love to hear a good example.

Marble might be telling the truth- crazier things happened during World War 2. Moe Berg was sent to kill Heisenberg.

It’s not that it is too outrageous, it is that I have never seen confirmation from the government about it (which we DO have for Moe Berg and pretty much everyone else during the war due to their missions eventually becoming declassified after X amount of years).

Sean,

The only time I think music parody worked for me in a comic was the all-singing issue of The Demon from the nineties. Though I have to admit it didn’t work for me on first read but when I tracked down the songs and refamiliarized myself with them I thought it worked really well. Probably too much extra work though.

Compare that early WW stuff with how female characters are treated by DC now!

Sean sez: “I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that characters singing in comic books never ever works. … It’s just a bad idea.”

Why, though? Not trying to start an argument, just asking, as you were asking for a counter-argument but you didn’t really lay out your own argument against the idea of using songs in comic books!

I’d say singing doesn’t really work in comics since singing/music is mostly a sound medium (the lyrics, if written out, can be visual, as can the notes for the music in sheet music), where comics are all visual. For the Deadpool example above, you need to “hear” the original song in your head, which you can’t do until you know what the original is (and this takes a few seconds until you pick up the “tune”) — but once you “hear” the original, you’ve also got the parody lyrics competing within your head. Same kind of deal with, say, Mad Magazine song parodies.

With regards to that Thing rap, or Alan Moore’s stuff, if there’s not music there, or you can’t sight read the music and follow along, it’s just poetry. IIRC, the Thing rap is just kind of a simple beat to rap over, so it’s not hard to come up with “something” in your head. Terry Moore did music in Strangers in Paradise, not only piano type sheet music, but also guitar tabs. And Alan Moore did several things, like his Songbook that Caliber published many a year ago, the intro to the one part of V for Vendetta (“This Vicious Cabaret”), and that one Greyshirt story in Tomorrow Stories that was a musical extravaganza. The Songbook I assume Moore’s written music for those songs, but I don’t think any was included with the book, so it’s hard to know even what style of music each song is supposed to be. From what I can read of music, the music I hear in my head for “This Vicious Cabaret” isn’t EXACTLY what Moore’s written for it, but I like my version well enough… And the Greyshirt story…well, it’s amusing, but I don’t know if it “works”.

Possibly the issue is that you can READ the lyrics and absorb the page faster than the song should “play” out — that is, music is a defined amount of time, whereas with comics, you can spend as long (or as short) as you want to absorb a page, a panel, a word balloon. The music takes you out of the flow of reading the comic, and switches you to another gear by having you “play” music in your head.

One thing Dave Sim talked about regarding his penchant for large blocks of texts integrated within the story of Cerebus was that not everyone reads comics the same way. Some go through and read all the word balloons and then absorb the page as a whole, some look through the pictures first and then go back and read the balloons, some read the comics and then the text, or vice versa. He suggested that some of the resistance to anyone using large portions of text within a comic is due to the fact that it “tickles” (probably not the word Dave used) different parts of the brain — one part that likes comics/fusing of words and pictures/etc, and one part that likes reading blocks of texts and absorbing that, and they’re not the same part, and the switching between the two types of thing is difficult for the brain to process.

Similarly, the parts of our brains that like comics and the parts that like music are probably different, and using music within a comic does that same “gearshift”, and the rapid switch between 2 different aesthetic practices translates into us not liking it, or thinking it doesn’t “work”.

CAN anyone think of any music within comics that “works”?

Trivia buffs…the Deadpool splash page has 17th pairs of teeth.

I’m inclined to take the Nightingale biography with a grain of salt. Most of what I’ve read about her says she was inspired by her Christian faith and desire to serve rather than Amazon statues–that part of the story has a George Washington chopping down the cherry tree feel for me. Though even so, it does a great job dramatizing her heroic service.

I don’t think I’d ever take a 1940s-era comic book biography of a historical figure seriously, facts-wise.

The only time I saw singing work in comics was when Spider-man was taunting Speed Demon in Amazing 222. He was singing “Slip Slidin’ Away” as he squirted oil in the path of his adversary casing SD to keister-fall hard. It was funny at the time (when I was 10).

Brian, may I ask why you phrased the Cheung question the way you did? Seems to me that “Jim Cheung drew all the background images on the “Young Avengers Presents” covers” with a “true” status would be a better, more interesting description.

Brian, may I ask why you phrased the Cheung question the way you did?

Like I mentioned, a bunch of folks insisted that it was a collage. Had no one argued the point, I probably would not have thought about it as a legend.

adam – honestly, I wasn’t too interested in sparking an argument about whether hypothetically could work, or why it doesn’t work. It was something I’ve thought any time it comes up, and I took T’s post as a cue to ask the group if there were any good counter-examples. Travis covered what I would’ve said was why it doesn’t work, though.

Travis – It’s true, the Thing rap doesn’t work but not for the same reasons the other stuff doesn’t work; in that case, it’s just a bad rap. With Alan Moore, the “Songbook” really is just poetry, so far as I understand, or at least it reads as such. If he has music, it doesn’t need it — it’s not really the same thing because it’s not interrupting a story with musical interludes that you can’t actually hear, it’s just lyrics. To add to your list of examples (I had forgotten the specific Greyshirt story but was sure there was at least one in Tomorrow Stories somewhere), there’s a really bad one in the Bojeffries Saga too. I guess ‘Vicious Cabaret’ is the best example — I’m not sure how well it works, but it works better; I was thinking it could work if it was captions, rather than characters actually singing, and that’s sort of how that plays. Still, to be honest, I tend to skip or at least skim that chapter.

johnathan – I definitely remember Spider-Man doing that sort of thing from time to time [amazing that you remember the exact issue of an example, though!], and it’s true that works, but I’m thinking more about either writing new lyrics to existing songs (whether parody, like the Deadpool image, or not-really-parody, like ‘Extraordinary Gentlemen’ did), or just writing new songs (the Thing rap came to mind, but I think it also happened early in ‘Young Liars’ before the series moved away from singing).

Steve – given Etrigan’s rhyming, that actually makes sense. [I looked it up, the GCD entry for “The Demon” #6 says that Alan Grant also did this in ‘Sam Slade’.]

Vasco da Gama Lider

September 25, 2011 at 5:52 pm

Wow, my respect for Jimmy Cheung increasede a 1000 times!!

[…] of Wonder Woman, I thought this article verifying the comics legend that “The number one women’s tennis player in the world retired […]

I am not someone who is too interested in art-based legends, but that Jim Cheung thing is impressive.

Man, the art on that Florence Nightingale story looks like Mark Buckingham’s Fables work!

“Meanwhile, in 1941, Max Gaines and his All American Comics comic book company (which was at the time not an official part of DC Comics/National Publications)”

…A story which ICSTR there ever being a version which explained all the details about how All-American (AA) split off and then reunited with National (DC).

@OM — that one is a fascinating topic. My best guess for anywhere that might have delved into AA/National/DC is Gerard Jones’s book (Men of Tomorrow, I think?), which I haven’t actually read myself. It certainly is an intriguing bit that the early JSA and related stuff was technically an inter-company crossover.

What I learned this week – Brett Booth is kinda an asshole.

Kevin J. Maroney, the artwork is by Sheldon Modloff, early in his career at DC. He drew the first six Wonder Women of History feature that Marble wrote.

Another source said it was a puppy Florence rescued. The Crimean War had no purpose. One exampl of her humor was “Go ahead and put your nice clean” clothes on that hook. The point probably was the nurse had to scrub the room down befor putting her uniform on a hook.

[…] Brian Cronin lays out in this installment of Comic Book Legends Revealed, Wonder Woman‘s 1940s series, by what was then All-American Publications, was graced with the […]

Leave a Comment

 

Categories

Review Copies

Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.

Browse the Archives