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Comic Book Legends Revealed #339

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Welcome to the three hundredth and thirty-ninth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. This week, did Superman inspire the Vulcan nerve pinch? Was Mister Mind always intended to be a worm? And what’s the story of the almost crossover between Quantum and Woody and Black Panther?

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

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: When he was first created, Mister Mind was not yet a worm.


In 1943’s Captain Marvel Adventure #22, the Monster Society of Evil serial began…

In an unusually ambitious storyline, this serial went on for TWENTY-FIVE parts, spanning two years!

In the first story, the mysterious Mister Mind debuts, but he is only a voice…

It is not until Captain Marvel Adventures #26 that we meet Mister Mind, and he is a WORM!

Mister Mind went on to become one of the top Captain Marvel adversaries of all-time and has remained a popular villain to this day (he was a major bad guy in 52, for instance).

However. when he was introduced, Otto Binder and the folks at Fawcett had no idea WHAT he was going to be!

In a demonstration that he was a great comic book historian even before he was a great comic book writer, in 1964’s Alter Ego #7, Roy Thomas had the following fascinating piece of information from Otto Binder himself…

Mr. Mind wasn’t a worm, at least not for the first half dozen chapters [Binder is off by a couple of issues, but what’s a couple of issues between friends? -BC}. The CMA (Captain Marvel Adventures) brain-trust composed of Wendell Crowley as editor, Charles Clarence Beck as artist, and myself as scripter, got our heads together to figure out just WHO or WHAT Mr. Mind should be, after I invented him as a diembodied voice.

We undoubtedly went thru a hundred concepts, until somebody (and, frankly, in those skull sessions, I have no idea who first thought of any particular gimmick)..somebody said, “Why not take the most unusual thing we can think of? Not the traditional human or galactic villain, nor robot, nor this this nor that of the routine masterminds, but just the goofiest of all things—maybe a worm!”

I vaguely recall that this was enthusiastically endorsed by us with much laughter and a tongue-in-cheek attitude, we had not idea that thing would become POPULAR!!?? We truly were amazed at the electrifying response…letters pouring in…and believe me, with a readership of over one million as we had in those days, the mail can become pretty imposing. A rousing consensus simply loved Mr. Mind! Why? We never figured it out. You figure it out, you researchers today into the mysterious hypnotic power that comic characters had on readers.

It reminds me of an old legend I did about how Scott Lobdell came up with the idea of Onslaught before he knew exactly WHAT Onslaught was!

Oh, those comic book writers, always living on the edge!

Thanks so much to Roy Thomas and the late, great Otto Binder, for the awesome info! Thanks, also, to Walt Grogan of the awesome Marvel Family site for the scans!

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Stan Lee famously tell the tale of when he and Ditko created the Green Goblin, he had NO idea who he would be. Ditko wanted it to be an absolutel no one, totally unconnected to the other characters; Stan explains it as “Steve said, ‘There’s a guy in a crowd scene in the last issue – that’s HIM!’!”) Stan (rightly?) countered that it would be far more dramatic for it to be someone Peter knew.

And of course that’s been the pattern for no end of mystery villains since – Hobgoblin and Hush come to mind.

Doc Savage also often used applying pressure to various pressure points to quickly render opponents unconscious or paralyzed as opposed to battering them senseless. The pulp version of the Green Lama, through the ingestion of radioactive salts, had a charged body that allowed him to knock people out just by touching them. So, it’s not like the Vulcan Nerve Pinch was all that new, just a variation of an old idea.

I wonder, is The Mass is where Remender got the idea for Orange Hulk in his Uncanny X-force run?

The sad thing for me is..I have both the Quantum and Woody and Black Panther runs…love them to death and NEVER caught on to Priest’s meta-cross-promotion. Good one Brian….

O Priest was sooo good. I miss his writing. I know he has the semi-humorous / dubious rep of killing off books, but what a smart funny writer. Black Panther has never been better than under his writing.

And to expand on Vinnie’s post – iirc I remember reading that that disagreement about GG’s secret ID was what led to Ditko breaking with Marvel: he was particularly pissed that Stan made Osborne the Goblin, since Ditko and his philosophy had Norman being a much more positive influence on Peter. Others cover this much better than I could do here, so search it out, it’s really interesting (almost everything about Ditko is, actually)

I don’t think you adequately disproved the idea that the Vulcan Nerve Pinch comes from Superman. You say that Leonard Nimoy came up with the idea, but how do you know he wasn’t inspired by that Superman comic? Has Nimoy mentioned where he got the idea from, or has he explicitly stated it was an original idea by him?

@Deco: I’ve seen that telling (notably in Jonathan Ross’s excellent In Search of Steve Ditko doc); I’ve also heard that Ditko’s disputed it and said that he and Stan didn’t have any arguments because they weren’t speaking at all by that point in the book, and Stan was just adding dialogue to Ditko’s pages after they were drawn. I haven’t seen a source for that claim, so grain of salt; I’ve been meaning to pick up Ditko’s run of essays about the creation of Spider-Man in Robin Snyder’s The Comics; maybe it’s in there.

Anyhow, I do love Priest; I miss his work, and Quantum and Woody and Black Panther in particular.

Jim Shooter, in his somewhat new (and totally awesome) blog, just wrote about the Ditko/Lee split in one of the comments sections…

“I know both Lee and Ditko reasonably well. I wasn’t there at the time when they weren’t speaking to each other and I don’t know for sure the particulars of that situation. But I do know that they have vastly different philosophical points of view — I’m talking about on life, the universe and all that’s in it, not just comics. I know that they had differences on the way Spider-Man should be handled. I’ve talked with each of them about it. I know that Steve is adamant about what he thinks, and that includes judgments about the work. I know Stan is pretty sure he knows what he’s doing and wouldn’t be inclined to go a direction that didn’t make sense to him. I suspect that’s what it came down to. I have never seen or sensed any malice in Steve. I think Stan is fundamentally a good guy.

Stan, by the way, is a clever and skilled enough writer that he can take almost any art you give him and write copy that makes it into a story. A good story. His story. I have been given to believe from speaking with each of them and others on the scene at the time that as Stan’s copy varied more and more from Ditko’s intent, Steve became more and more unhappy. Ask Romita.”

Check it out yourself at… jimshooter.com

Hulk referring to Panther as “Black-Man” is pretty funny.

“protectDtion” ? Deliberate typo? (Quantum and Woody first page, 4th panel)

Ditko has issued statements that he did indeed intend Osborn to be the Goblin. Ditko also thought JJJ was a heel with no redeeming qualities, after all. Remember, Rand’s works have plenty of rich businessmen who are actually just thieves and moochers.

Didn’t Nimoy also develop the Vulcan Nerve Pinch b/c he didn’t want to be in fisticuff-type fights like Kirk always had?

That’s pretty much a big part of the reason Jack eventually left, too – Stan changed Jack’s intentions when he wrote the text. (There’s a fascinating essay tracking Jack’s notes on the edges of the artwork to Stan’s changes in scenes with Sue that drastically changed the narrative for her, and of course Stan’s Surfer is radically different from Jack’s original intent.)

I read an excerpt from the relevant Ditko essay (reprinted in Ditkomania) and yeah, he’s quite emphatic that the Goblin’s identity was clear from the first. Plus, they’d already pulled the same Unmasking As Nobody You Know trick with the Crime-Master–I’d always doubted the story for that reason.
Jonah’s big speech in one early issue about how he has to destroy Spider-Man because Spidey is Great and Jonah’s mediocre is straight out of The Fountainhead–not necessarily verbatim, but it’s the spirit (based on the movie, which Rand wrote the script for–I haven’t read the book).
On Mr. Mind, I recall Binder saying in an interview that the worm was just a minor detail and they hadn’t identified it as Mind until a couple of issues later. Though the shot of the worm wearing a speaker does make me question whether he’s remembering it right.

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The Hobgoblin WAS intended to be Kingsley from the beginning- the problem is that after Stern left, they decided that Kingsley was a bad idea, but couldn’t agree on who he should be.

Forget all of that – I want to know WTF a child was doing, just sleeping in the street! “Oh, I’m so tired…! I think I’ll just take a nap here. The macadam is SO COZY…!”

People rightly think the Silver Age was weird, but every once in awhile the Golden Age slips one in that’s just way out there.

How clever of Christopher Priest. He’s certainly one of my Top Ten comic book writers.

Doc Orlando– Clark and Lois are wearing gas masks, and the two cops suddenly fell asleep while driving, so I’m pretty sure there is some sort of knock-out gas in the area, so it makes sense for a kid to fall asleep while crossing the street.

The Improbable Unwieldy Mass is a fantastic name.

Tom Fitzpatrick

November 4, 2011 at 6:38 pm

I’m wondering if the Quantum & Woody will come back when the Valiant/Acclaim company relaunches itself.

The funny thing about “The Mass” is that it reminds me of the Spanish translation of Hulk’s name: “La Masa”.

Re Hobgoblin, actually the problem was that only Stern (and I *think* Peter David) knew the identity of Hobgoblin. After he was removed from the title, the editors (Christopher Priest, under is original name James Owsley) not knowing who Stern had intended to be the Hobgoblin just decided to make it Ned Leeds.

In the 90s Stern mentioned on a usenet newsgroup that it wasn’t intended to be Leeds, that he’s kept up with Spider-Man continuity and could still easily write a story that makes the Hobgoblin who it was originally supposed to be.

Then the mini came out doing just that.

d’oh! I really should know better…

Okay, so we have Mr. Mind, a telepathic worm. In “Amazing Spider-Man” #138, fought a telepathic mutant called “Mindworm”. Wonder if there’s any sort of connection there or am I reading too much into it?

I think that was based on CM Kornbluth’s telepathic mutant story “The Mind Worm.” On the other hand, I’m sure Dr. Mynd from Marvel’s Captain Marvel was a Mr. Mind hat-tip.

“Doc Orlando– Clark and Lois are wearing gas masks…”

You know, I saw that, but glanced right past it. I think I’ve become so inured to weirdness with those two that it was just like, “Huh. Gas masks. Those crazy kids, what will they do next?”

Why is Mr. Mind always referred to as a worm when practically every piece of artwork I’ve ever seen of the character depicts him as a either a caterpillar or a centipede?

Tales of the Boojum

November 7, 2011 at 8:28 am

The Black Panther/Quantum & Woody thing reminds me of a bit of Teen Titans/DNAgents meta-crossoverage back in the day. Anyone else remember that?

Why is Mr. Mind always referred to as a worm when practically every piece of artwork I’ve ever seen of the character depicts him as a either a caterpillar or a centipede?

His creator calling him a worm certainly helps.

Also, Mr. Mind is technically an alien (at least in all the stories I’ve read), and doesn’t appear to be a larval form, so any resemblance to to terrestrial lifeforms is at best convergent evolution.

So, “worm” is just as accurate (or inaccurate) as anything else.

@Basara you must have missed him taking refuge within Skeets (of Booster Gold) and emerging as Hyperfly. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mister_Mind%27s_Imago.jpg

The fact worms don’t “evolve” and caterpillars do….

[…] Comic Book Legends Revealed #339 […]

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