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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Legends Revealed #348

Welcome to the three hundredth and forty-eighth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Today, be amazed at who was Alan Moore’s inspiration for Rorschach’s speech patterns! Also, was the Human Torch based on the Iron Skull? And did DC almost do an adaptation of Hamlet with BATMAN as Hamlet?

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

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: Rorschach’s speech patterns were based on Herbie, the Fat Fury.

STATUS: I’m Going With True

I’ve discussed the greatness of Herbie the Fat Fury in the past (including this spotlight I did on him for Silver Age September last year), but as a quick recap, Herbie the Fat Fury was a young super-powered boy created by artist Ogden Whitney (with scripts by Richard E. Hughes) for American Comics Group who was, well, let’s just say was one of the strangest “superheroes” that you’ll ever see. Each Herbie story was more outlandish than the previous one.

Here, from Forbidden Worlds #114, we see Herbie meet the President and the First Lady…

In #116, he sells his soul to the devil…

and then takes care of the ghouls that the devil sends when it is time to pay his debt…

If Herbie’s peculiar way of speaking (the cadence of it all) seems familiar to you, it might be because he basically talks the same way that Rorschach talks.

Here is Rorschach from Watchmen #1…

Alan Moore has been quite vocal with both his admiration for Herbie the Fat Fury (calling him his “favorite superhero”) and the fact that Herbie and Rorschach talk similarly.

However, I was having a problem with seeing Moore actually state that he specifically had Herbie in mind when he wrote Rorschach. Luckily, Vinnie Bartilucci, longtime contributor to Comic Book Legends Revealed, wrote in about the topic…

I interviewed Alan in the Warner Publishing offices in NYC when Watchmen was first released in trade paperback. When discussing Rorschach, he shared that the tone of his diary was inspired by the letters Son Of Sam David Berkowitz sent to the news papers, and (confirming my own theory) that his speech patterns were based on Herbie the Fat Fury.

I double-checked with Vinnie and he confirmed it, and I trust Vinnie enough to go with him on this one, so, well, there ya go!

Now don’t get me wrong, I am sure that Moore is influenced by a whole pile of different sources when it comes to his work, so this is not to say that some other work ALSO influenced Rorschach’s speech patterns. In a lot of ways, it is like an old Comic Book Legends Revealed that I did about how George Lucas and Stephen Spielberg were influenced by an old Carl Barks coming for the boulder sequence in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Clearly, there were plenty of OTHER influences, too. It is just that Carl Barks definitely WAS one of them. Same thing here.

Thanks, Vinnie!
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Check out the latest Movie Urban Legends Revealed to figure out whether Black Sabbath really inspired the Stonehenge scene in This is Spinal Tap, learn about Albert Finney’s turn in drag in Miller’s Crossing and discover the movie star whose own studio spread false rumors of her death!
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COMIC LEGEND: The Human Torch was based on Carl Burgos’ earlier android hero, the Iron Skull.

STATUS: False

Keith Alan Morgan wrote in about this one, as it is something that he wanted me to debunk because he had seen some erroneous information about the Iron Skull for years and he wanted to see the record set straight. My pleasure, Keith!

The gist of the story appears in many different forms (Keith sent me over five different citations from various comic book reference books) but suffice it to say that the most accepted form of the story is this:

Carl Burgos reused his idea of an android superhero from the Iron Skull and created a flaming artificial man called the Human Torch

The Iron Skull first appeared in 1939′s Amazing-Man Comics #5, from Centaur Publications (written and drawn by Carl Burgos)…

Do note that the Skull is not identified as an android in this story. This is especially notable since he spends the entire story fighting robots, but no mention of HIM being a robot pops up.

Two issues later, Burgos gives an origin to the Iron Skull…

As you can see, the Iron Skull is NOT an android. If anything, he is a cyborg. So that part of the story is false.

In addition, the Iron Skull debuted in September of 1939. The Human Torch? October of 1939…

Therefore, to say that he re-used the Iron Skull idea really doesn’t seem to be supported, both by the fact that the Iron Skull WASN’T an android and the fact that the Human Torch debuted at basically the same exact time.

So I’m confident with a false here.

Thanks to Keith for the suggestion and most of the info necessary to debunk this one!
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Check out the latest Amusement Park Urban Legends Revealed to marvel at the man who was mute…until he rode the Cyclone at Coney Island, plus learn if Walt Disney had a private apartment designed inside Cinderella’s Castle and what’s the deal with the Liberty Bell in Liberty Square?
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COMIC LEGEND: DC nearly did an adaptation of Hamlet…starring Batman!

STATUS: True

Reader GGA heard about this story and he asked me if I could find out more about it.

You see, back in 1996, when DC was still doing all of their Elseworlds comics, Steve Englehart did a pitch for a Elseworlds comic book where Batman would be Hamlet. As you can see from the pitch, it was to be titled The Tragedy of Batman, Prince of Denmark…

“To be the bat, or not to be”

Classic!

GGA was wondering if there was any interesting back story behind the project, so I asked Steve about it, and the truth was sadly a bit of a downer. Here is what Steve had to say about it:

The deal was, I had heard for years that no one could devise a coherent characterization for Hamlet because he changes his mind so often, and I thought “There’s a challenge.” So I read Hamlet carefully, making notes, and devised a characterization that I could follow. Only then did I think, well, the prince has to avenge the murder of his father, in a creepy old castle – I could put the Batman in that and throw in a court jester/joker. So I talked to Denny [O'Neil, editor of the Batman titles at the time - BC] about doing it, and he gave me the go-ahead, and I wrote a detailed synopsis with all my erudition – and then Denny didn’t like it, for whatever reason, and that was the end of it.

Except that I sell copies of my scripts, and it’s been one of my best sellers.

Hopefully that gives you a decent hint as to what Steve had in mind! And hey, if you ever get a chance to buy a script from him, try to buy this one!

Check out Steve’s website here.

Thanks to GGA for the suggestion and thanks to Steve Englehart for the response!

Reader Darth Shap reminded me of this great bit from Grant Morrison, Lee Garbett and Trevor Scott in Batman #682…


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Check out the latest Football Urban Legends Revealed to discover if the coach of Harvard really choked a bulldog to death to inspire his players before a game against Yale, marvel at how a panty raid played a role in Auburn’s first National Championship and learn which University saw its students choose “Robber Barons” as the school’s mascot.
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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!

37 Comments

Now that would be another neat Elseworlds tale…

I never heard about the Hamlet/Batman proposal, but years ago, I thought of one of my own, with characters from Batman’s universe “portraying” the roles in Hamlet. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that its working title was The Melancholy Wayne. Roles: Hamlet/Batman, Claudius/Joker, Gertrude/Catwoman, Robin/Horatio, Bane/Laertes, Scarface/Rosenkrantz, Ventriloquest/Guildenstern, Alfred/Gravedigger, Gordon/Marcellus, Bullock/Bernardo, Clayface/First Player, Thomas Wayne/Ghost, Superman/Fortinbras, etc. For Polonius, I couldn’t decide between Penguin, who seemed better a fit, or Ra’as al-Ghul, who could “loose” his daughter Ophelia/Talia in order to study and/or manipulate Hamlet/Batman.

Alas poor Joker! I knew him, Alfred.

Has Herbie the Fat Fury been collected anywhere? It seems like it would be a fun read.

@ANON, I believe dark horse has released it in three volumes or so.

“To die, to sleep, to kick crooks in the face”

I’m definitely going to try and get me a copy of that Hamlet treatment. Not only is it inspired, but it’s ENGLEHART. After reading some of the “Greatest Steve Engelhart Stories Ever Told,” I’m high on the man.

Interestingly enough, Grant Morrison did a one panel Hamlet adaptation with Batman in Batman 682, Last Rites part 1.
I am wondering if he knew about the previous attempt.

Ed (A Different One)

January 6, 2012 at 10:33 am

Just waltz up to the White House and demand, “The man of the house.”

That’s gold! An anachronistic, sexist kind of gold. But gold nonetheless!

A man in shackles is biting a snake…and are they falling through the air?

I think. if pressed, Englehart would also have admitted to being the major creative force behind the original Hamlet.

speaking of speech patterns and Grant Morrison – has anybody noticed the extreme similarity between the main bad-guy in GM’s Zenith Phase 3 (I think – the big “cross-over war” one) and that girl in the blind prophetess girl in the New Mutants? (sorry, the names escape me). Oblique, fragmented, full of polite-yet-creepy “please”s etc. So close it’s either a ripoff or homage by the New Mut’s writer (again, can’t remember who — heck, it might even be “Young Xmen” and not really the NMs). And it’s so strange it seems like it couldn’t be a coincidence…

Oh and that snake-biting cover – so bizarre: naked shackled he-man biting a snake? Ultra-cool and/or Wertham-fodder?

Herbie the Fat Fury’s droopy eyelids immediately reminded me of the eyes of Seymour, the last character on the final page of Watchmen. Maybe a stretch, but still…

ParanoidObsessive

January 6, 2012 at 4:33 pm

>>> and that girl in the blind prophetess girl in the New Mutants? (sorry, the names escape me).

Blindfold. aka Ruth Aldine. aka Destiny’s daughter (maybe). She was one of the Young X-Men.

Don’t know if I’d say it was a deliberate homage… that style of talking tends to be standard cliche when it comes to oracular-style characters.

Burgos thought World War II would happen only in 1950? Optimistic guy…

I took it to mean the war would LAST until 1950–actually longer, as we’re still in reconstruction in 1960 (which presumably explains those futuristic outfits on the women).

AverageJoeEveryman

January 6, 2012 at 9:20 pm

Are you retarded? I’m the goddamn Hamlet! Shakespeare could never have written such a line.

Alas, poor Jason. I knew him, Damian.

Not really convinced about Rorshach’s speech pattern being based on Herbie’s. If anything, Rorshach reads pretty typical of the old hard-boiled detectives of the 1940s.

I dunno, knowing how big a fan of Herbie that Moore is, it’s certainly logical that Rorschach’s speech patterns are at least partly based on Herbie. As JosephW says, it’s certainly as much hard boiled detective speech.

I think I have seen that Amazing-Man cover before, and it certainly is…Freudian.

Hamlet certainly fits in with Batman (and Andrew’s character matchups sound good), but perhaps what Denny O’Neil didn’t like was that he’d already read Hamlet himself, and from what can be read of the pitch here, Englehart didn’t add anything to it, just cast “Bruce Wayne” in the title role.

Brian – “Keith sent me over five different citations from various comic book reference books”
I’m a nitpicker, I can’t help but assemble as much info as I can.

“Thanks to Keith for the suggestion and most of the info necessary to debunk this one!”
You’re welcome!!

Dominic – “A man in shackles is biting a snake…and are they falling through the air?”
When I saw that cover I thought it was a guy biting an eel & that the blue was water, but in the story one of the tests John Aman (Amazing Man) went through was a test of speed against a cobra, while Aman was chained up, so the blue on the cover is supposed to be the floor.

This interview is further proof that Rorschach’s speech was based on Herbie
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9tsXK5Z29jk

To goddamn be or not to goddamn be…… ahhh that tis the goddamn question!
I might be glad that they didn’t take the stab at it. :)

Hrm… I’d always thought Rorschach’s speech patterns were a further meta-comment on Ditko’s Libertarian/Objectivist beliefs via the character. They’re identical to “Loonie-speak” from Heinlein’s “The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress,” one of the seminal fictional novels considered libertarian.

Bit of elaboration: Rorschach is based on The Question, created by Ditko. Moore gave him an exaggerated version of Ditko’s rather… strident views, which are Objectivist (Google for more info). Heinlein’s works are of the same libertarian school of writing as Rand’s, from which Objectivism comes.

Seemed too improbable that they were identical to me to be coincidence.

Actually Herbie/Rorschach also reminded me of Junior from Secret Six.

I’m missing something. How does the diary being based on letters by “Son Of Sam David Berkowitz” confirm any connection the Herbie the Fat Fury?

I’m missing something. How does the diary being based on letters by “Son Of Sam David Berkowitz” confirm any connection the Herbie the Fat Fury?

It doesn’t. Vinnie was just repeating the various things Moore revealed to him in the interview. The applicable one here is the Herbie bit.

D’oh!

Somehow I read that quote several times and every time missed the “that his speech patterns were based on Herbie the Fat Fury” bit.

Actually that’s not quite right. I missed the “and” right before it which makes the quote read as thought he diary thing confirms the speech patterns thing.

He is just sharing two things that Moore told him about Rorschach.

One, that the tone of his diary was inspired by the letters Son Of Sam David Berkowitz sent to the news papers, and two, (confirming Vinnie’s own theory) that his speech patterns were based on Herbie the Fat Fury.

And if Moore hadn’t mentioned the first one a number of other times over the years, I’d have featured that as a legend of its own. ;)

…You know, for all the praise Herbie gets for his powers and abilities, the fat little nothing *still* couldn’t save JFK from the 107 snipers placed all around Dealey Plaza.

That being said, DC needs to buy the rights to the Fat Fury so we can finally get that teamup with Bouncing Boy…:OM:

again with the englehart. do we have to keep featuring him just because he answers your questions? that proposal for a batman hamlet was idiotic. “for whatever reason he didn’t like it”. how about because it’s extremely stupid? that’s a good reason to not do it. another is because englehart is a horrifically bad writer, the absolute worst I’ve ever read in comics.

[...] here to read this week’s [...]

Love IRON SKULL! Completely bonkers stuff, particularly when they stuck him in trunks.

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