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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Legends Revealed #344

Welcome to the three hundredth and forty-fourth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. This week, discover whether Mickey Mouse was the code word for the Allied invasion of Normandy during World War II! Plus, learn about an amazing attempt by the late, great Jerry Robinson to help a political prisoner in South America. Also, check out some Mad Magazine covers that were too “offensive” to see print!

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

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: “Mickey Mouse” was the code word for the Allied invasion of Normandy on D-Day.

STATUS: False

Do a Google search for “Mickey Mouse D-Day password” and you will get countless hits. It is one of the most prolific Walt Disney urban legends, that the code word that the Allied forces used on D-Day was “Mickey Mouse.”

In our recent chat for Fred Van Lente Day, Fred discussed the story a bit and I realized that I never featured it as a comic legend and I really should have! So thanks, Fred!

In any event, no, “Mickey Mouse” was not a code word by the Allies for “D-Day.”

The great animation historian Michael Barrier finally found the cause of the legend in a piece on his awesome site here. You can read his site for the full details, but the bare bones of it is this – at one of the planning areas for D-Day, the Allied invasion of Normandy during World War II, the pass word to be allowed entrance to the rooms by the sentries was, you guessed it, “Mickey Mouse.”

And when the stories made it back to the United States in the weeks following D-Day, this is how it was relayed:

Mickey Mouse played a part in the invasion of northern France, it was revealed today.

Naval officers gathering for invasion briefing at a southern port approached the sentry at the door and furtively whispered into his ear the password of admission: “Mickey Mouse.”

That was transformed over the years into “Mickey Mouse was the password for D-Day.”

Thanks so much to Michael Barrier for finding out this important piece of comic history! And thanks to Fred Van Lente for reminding me to feature the legend. Come back tomorrow for the full transcript of our chat with Fred Van Lente!

COMIC LEGEND: Jerry Robinson helped secure the release of a Uruguayan political prisoner through a bogus art award.

STATUS: True Enough for a True

The great Jerry Robinson, who played such a major role in the creation of many of Batman’s most popular supporting cast members and Rogues, passed away this week at the age of 89.

In the various tributes to the great man, one story stood out that I thought I’d highlight here (thanks to commenter Julian for mentioning it).

Francisco Laurenzo Pons was a liberal cartoonist in Uruguay who went on the run when a military junta took control of Uruguay in 1973. He was eventually tracked down, branded a Communist and put into prison.
In the early 1980s, Amnesty International eventually got into contact with famed cartoonist and playwright Jules Feiffer. Feiffer took the situation to Robinson, who was a member (and former President) of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists.

Robinson had an idea. Here was what he came up with:

I invented a new cartooning award, The Distinguished Foreign Cartoonists Award. The idea was that we would award it to Pons and request that he come to America to receive it, pretending that we didn’t know he was in prison. To further the ruse, we made it a joint award, the other winner being the Polish cartoonist Eric Lipinski. We explained to the Uruguayan ambassador what a big honor it would be for Uruguay to have Laurenzo Pons win this award! Several months passed, and the Uruguayan government sent us word that they’d let Pons’ wide and and son come to accept the award, but not Pons himself. This was amazing, because normally even the family of a political prisoner wasn’t allowed out of the country. So Mrs. Pons came to accept the award, and when she went back to Uruguay and visited her husband in jail, he was amazed that American cartoonists were working on his behalf. This gave him hope!

Pons’ conditions improved in the prison. Some health issues he had were treated at a hospital, for fear that he would die in jail and make the government look bad. Eventually, the government released him about half a year shy of his original sentence (which was roughly seven years). Of course, “seven year sentence” when you are a political prisoner does not necessarily mean anything, as they could easily keep you past your initial sentence.

Pons gave Robinson and the attention of the award a lot of credit for his release.

I do wish to stress a couple of points, though. One, while it sounds like it was a bit of a hidden ruse and everyone was just pretending not to know about the situation with Pons in prison, contemporary accounts of the award make it pretty clear that that is not the case. There were prosters, people wearing shirts saying “Free Francisco Laurenzo Pons!” and stuff like that. Heck, in later accounts Robinson even discussed the hoopla. It was not some big secret. Initially they tried to play it that way, but the Uruguayan government did not buy it (as, come on, who would buy that? The guy we happen to have in custody just won an American award?).

In addition, while I certainly do not disagree that Robinson and the award played some part in Pons’ release, it was not like they released him right away. I have seen a few accounts yesterday and today that made it sound like Robinson gave him the award and the government was so ashamed that they released Pons right then and there. Pons served more than two more years in prison after the award was given out in 1981. He was released in 1984.

So don’t get me wrong, Robinson did a very good thing here. He was a very good guy, a tireless advocate. I just don’t think we should fictionalize what is, at its heart, already a very cool story.

Thanks to Arie Kaplan and his book, Masters of the comic book universe revealed!, for the great Robinson quote.

COMIC LEGEND: Mad Magazine has had to change their front cover a number of times in their history due to tragic coincidences.

STATUS: True

Mad Magazine has always tried to skirt the edges of what is “offensive” over the years, but there are times when the magazine knows it shouldn’t go somewhere.

The first time this happened was with the cover of Mad Magazine #122, featuring Alfred E. Neuman and the candidates for the 1968 United States Presidential election (drawn by Mort Drucker)…

Well, right before the cover went to print, Robert Kennedy was assassinated.

So they edited the cover…

This next happened in 1991, when Mad was all prepared to mock Preisdent George Bush…

and then the Gulf War broke out, so they replaced the cover…

Most recently, it happened again after the terrorist attacks on 9/11, 2001. Here, from the Mad Magazine blog, is a recap of what happened:

Like the rest of the nation, we were stunned by the 9-11 attacks and it just didn’t occur to us that a MAD cover showing a throng of runners racing through the canyons of downtown Manhattan, while an oblivious Alfred jumped over a dead body, could be interpreted as anything but a silly marathon gag.

Fortunately, the magazine’s printer at the time, Quad Graphics in Wisconsin, called and asked if we were absolutely sure that was the image we wanted on the cover of MAD given the recent events. We didn’t.

With only one day to conceive and deliver a new cover to the printer and still make our shipping schedule, Associate Art Director Nadina Simon disappeared into her office and soon returned with what became the cover of MAD #411.

The Alfred used is the classic Norman Mingo Alfred from issue #30, the very first time he appeared on the cover as Alfred E. Neuman. Not a traditional MAD cover by any stretch of the imagination, but given the time and mood of the country, it seemed right.

Thanks to the Mad Magazine blog for the info! And thanks to the Cartoonists Studio for the original cover images.

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!

40 Comments

That last MAD cover is awesome. Hard to believe it was whipped up so quickly.

J.

Sorry, I’ll add in that the last cover was a re-used image (just with the flag added).

Mad’s fix for the 9/11 cover dilemma was brilliant. Talk about making lemonade from lemons. Given that they only had one day to come up with something, what a brilliant and elegant solution. Understated, tasteful, elegant, and going neither to the extreme of melodramatic or pandering or the extreme of being insensitive and ignoring it altogether. They deserve major props for that cover.

Three great in-depth pieces today, Brian. Kudos.

On another note, what does the “ind” mean between the M and the A in the Mad logo? Is it a reference to something, or a legal thing, or some sort of continuation of the title, turning it into “Mad Mind”? I’ve always wondered this.

That last cover makes it look like he’s got the GOP elephant stuck in his teeth.

IND = Independent News Distributors

Awesome cover. … I wonder what it would have looked like if they knocked out a second tooth instead. Maybe too obscure of a reference to the towers.

Interesting question brought up in the comments for a possible future Legend. That’s why the question is temporarily invisible, in case folks are wondering.

I’m not sure, but I think that last cartoon is one of only two where Alfred E. Neumann has had his missing tooth replaced (the other being the one where E.T. fixed it. They once had readers mail in to guess the one time Alfred had his tooth fixed).

Considering the origin of Alfred E. Newman, and the violence against Arabs (and assumed Arabs alike) that followed 9/11, the cover they came up with seems almost more tasteless to me, though it is also much more biting commentary for the same reason.

And thanks for elaborating on the Pons story. I’m trying to remember my history if Rius was involved in that episode or not. I know Chris Couch related a story about either Rius or Vargas playing part in some award that had to do with helping a political prisoner get out of their country but I’m blanking on the details.

Considering the origin of Alfred E. Newman, and the violence against Arabs (and assumed Arabs alike) that followed 9/11, the cover they came up with seems almost more tasteless to me

I disagree. How does showing pride in America after a terrorist attack somehow imply support for violence against random Arabs and assumed Arabs? The simple act of showing a flag is somehow an encouragement of xenophobic violence? That’s as silly as saying someone displaying an Afghan flag after 9/11 meant support for Al Qaeda.

“That’s as silly as saying someone displaying an Afghan flag after 9/11 meant support for Al Qaeda.”
And you really think, if you HAD displayed such a flag, your house wouldn’t have been firebombed? The patriotic fervor of the time was understandable…but DID get a bit out of hand…and continues so to this day.

Now I am curious as to how FDR could factor into this, as well.

BBB:”And you really think, if you HAD displayed such a flag, your house wouldn’t have been firebombed? The patriotic fervor of the time was understandable…but DID get a bit out of hand…and continues so to this day.”

Well, I had a leftist neighbor who made a point of flying first an Afghan flag, then an Iraqi flag in the aftermath of 9/11. No one firebombed him. As a matter of fact, no one said or did anything in response.

As for the MAD patriotic cover, I agree with T. It was a very tastefully done cover, patriotic but not jingoistic.

On the 300th issue cover, was it Alfred E. Neuman or George W Bush on the cover? They look so much alike on that, so, to me, it could be either.

Dubya, the worst president ever!

The Silent One:”Dubya, the worst president ever!”

I always give the nod for worst president ever to James Buchanan. Doing nothing while states are seceding has got to take the cake.

I disagree. How does showing pride in America after a terrorist attack somehow imply support for violence against random Arabs and assumed Arabs? The simple act of showing a flag is somehow an encouragement of xenophobic violence? That’s as silly as saying someone displaying an Afghan flag after 9/11 meant support for Al Qaeda.

Alfred E. Newman is an unchanged anti-Irish caricature from the late nineteenth century. So, when yo tie that image into American patriotism, I think it creates an interesting satire. Certainly not culturally salient enough anymore to have been intended or make an impact if it had been, but to me that cover is saying that racism is all American.

FDR once had one of his teeth replaced by Alfred E. Newman. Oh god, he ties in!

While I agree that the replacement cover was great, I can’t help but feel a little disappointed by the cover that went unused, as I’ve always felt that it was a very clever gag.

FDR, 9/11, Alfred E. Neumann–it all makes sense!

Julian:”Alfred E. Newman is an unchanged anti-Irish caricature from the late nineteenth century. So, when yo tie that image into American patriotism, I think it creates an interesting satire. Certainly not culturally salient enough anymore to have been intended or make an impact if it had been, but to me that cover is saying that racism is all American.”

The actual origin of the face is more complicated than that, as Neumanesque faces have been identified in a host of European contexts; it seems to have been a generic, idiot’s face for quite some time.

As for the “Irish” reading, one could also interpret it as part of the interesting process in which Irish people and symbols (Bing Crosby, Spencer Tracy, St Patrick’s Day, the tough Irish priest,Irish street politicians, Jimmy Cagney, etc) have become synonymous with America.

“Considering the origin of Alfred E. Newman, and the violence against Arabs (and assumed Arabs alike) that followed 9/11, the cover they came up with seems almost more tasteless to me, though it is also much more biting commentary for the same reason.”

That may have been the single most absurd statement I’ve seen on this blog, and whenever politics comes up, the grass in left field is worn down in a hurry. Considering the action on 9/11, the relatively few incidents in America of violence against muslims is a testament to the people of the country; were you to reverse the incidents, the bloodshed would have been much, much greater. I’m sure, though, that there would be denouncements flooding in from the left and the moderate muslims, however. LOL Yeah, right.

My favorite appearance of Alfred E Newman is when Superman ran around wearing that face to trick Lois. Can’t recall the actual issue number on that, but it was just an odd little story, and sure taught lois a lesson

I agree with T. The MAD cover was an excellent choice. It manages the neat trick of being both affirmational and patriotic without displaying any unpleasent militaristic aspects.

In the Jerry Robinson portion, there’s this sentence: “…that they’d let Pons’ *wide* and and son come to accept the award, but not Pons himself.” Pons’ “wide” what, might I ask? ;)

The simple act of showing a flag is somehow an encouragement of xenophobic violence?

Bingo. Nationalism is a disease.

Luis Dantas;”Bingo. Nationalism is a disease.”

Except that the MAD cover was about patriotism, not nationalism. The two are very different.

Wow if you guys are offended by that MAD cover, please
PLEASE for your own sake NEVER look inside one, I fear for your safety after the complete shock you will have upon reading something that isnt totally Politically Correct.
Or you guys could lighten the F up.

What would the difference be, pray tell?

Luis Dantas:”What would the difference be, pray tell?”

Nationalism involves worship of the group (as defined in racial, religious, or ethnic terms) as the foundation of the state; it is an aggressive mode, arguing that all those who belong to the aforesaid group should belong to the state that has been formed to express their collective will.

Patriotism love for one’s country; it does not depend upon the blood and soil notions that underpin nationalism.

Luis Dantas:”What would the difference be, pray tell?”

Luis Dantas:”What would the difference be, pray tell?”

Nationalism presuposes the people as its ground for being. Hence, flags are irrelevant. The people (their blood, their language, their religion) are everything. Note how Hitler had no qualms about replacing the German flag with the Swastika. Germaness is a matter of blood and language. Note, too, the irredentist aspects of nationalism. Since the people are the state, all people of that ethnicity must belong to it, regardless of where they live. For example, Hitler incorporates the Sudetenland and Austria into Germany; Irish nationalists assert that Northern Ireland must merge with Ireland; Aztlan activists assert Mexican rule over parts of the USA based on readings of Aztec tribal wonderings.

Patriotism lacks these things. It is not an ideology. It makes no claims about uniting various groups of people because of myths of common blood or origin. It is simply love and attachment for one’s home.

@Trajan23

Do you have specific examples of the Newman face in European contexts? I’m genuinely curious if it has been seen outside of America or England, As far as I knew, it was an offshoot of Outcault’s Yellow Kid and Opper’s Happy Hooligan. I’d be interested to know if it showed up in media outside of Anglo society.

As to your second point: Yeah, Newman and the other examples are part of the process of Americanization for the Irish, and they fared better than darker skinned ethnicities, but that doesn’t really negate the racism that persisted throughout the process.

Ninjazilla: “Wow if you guys are offended by that MAD cover, please
PLEASE for your own sake NEVER look inside one, I fear for your safety after the complete shock you will have upon reading something that isnt totally Politically Correct.
Or you guys could lighten the F up.”

Finally the voice of reason. I am comforted somewhat in the fact that all of the dumbasses whining about the “offensive” cover could not even begin to decipher the goodness contained between Mad’s covers. I can only guess they were maybe denied such satirical stuff as a kid, and never learned to look at the world with a truly open mind. Gaines and his “usual gang of idiots” made it their duty to make fun of their world, and everyone in it, regardless of race, creed, or nationality.

If the internet has taught me anything, it’s taught me that an anonymous poster’s ability to craft intellectual sounding arguments can often hide a woefully ignorant person.

I just want to clarify that I’m not offended by either cover image, and I’m not arguing about the intentions of either one. I’m just saying that they both offer unintended readings by way of context. If anything I think the the second cover makes for much better satire.

I don’t have an opinion about those Mad covers one way or another, but I just like that there’s so much more whining about “whiners” than there is actual whining about anything else. It comes up here, in talk about Brand New Day or New 52–the response to criticism of anything veers so quickly toward ad hominem nonsense that it’s not even funny. But if you don’t have anything of sustance to say to refute what other people are saying, I can see how you’d lean on that easy crutch of just attacking them as whiners or idiots or whatever.

Not sure why they felt the need to pull that George Bush cover.

@The Silent One

Interesting interpretation considering you have identified the wrong Bush….

What on earth would possess someone or some group to bash MAD on the head concerning that cover of the 1968 Presidential election? That was one best satire’s of a Presidential election that anybody ever did.

buttler:– stop whining.

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