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Comic Book Legends Revealed #356

Welcome to the three hundredth and fifty-sixth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Today, what was so controversial about a Static issue that DC would not release the original cover? Speaking of obscene, was the first daily comic strip seriously canceled because William Randolph Hearst found it obscene? Finally, discover how comic books gave the world…Chess Boxing!

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

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: DC refused to publish the cover of an issue of Static because it showed sex.

STATUS: True

In Spring of 1995, Milestone Comics (through DC Comics) released Static #25, a frank look at teenage sex by Ivan Velez, Jr., penciler Wilfred and inkers John Stanisci and Steve Mitchell.

In it, Virgil “Static” Hawkins loses his virginity to his girlfriend, Daisy (not before talking about it with his dad first)…

Here is the original cover for the book…

However, Milestone Editor-in-Chief Dwayne McDuffie soon found out that the cover was not approved. He initially thought it might be because they show condoms on the cover. He offered to edit them out. DC said that no, the real issue was that it depicted sex.

In the end, the compromise was making the original cover appear as an interior cover, beneath the following cover…

McDuffie, though, was not pleased. He discussed the issue in the letter page of Static #25…

Here’s the sad part, if I had commissioned a cover where Daisy was wearing a thong and kicking one leg high in the air so everybody could get a really good look at her crotch, or if she had her back to the camera and her spine arched at an improbable angle to accentuate her ass, or if her enormous breasts, miraculously immune to the effects of gravity, were positioned so you couldn’t quite tell whether those shadows were her nipples, there would be no problem. Problem>? Heck, we’d probably have a “hot book” on our hands.

Later on, he specifically mentions this Legionnaires cover by Adam Hughes from the previous year as an example of such a cover as he described…

It is too bad that two teens kissing was seen as too much.

Thanks to reader David A. for suggesting I feature this one.

COMIC LEGEND: The sport of Chess Boxing was inspired by a comic book.

STATUS: True

You may or may not have heard of it, but Chess Boxing has become a rather hip sport, mostly in Europe.

The concept is simple – competitors begin with a four-minute chess round. Then they box for three minutes. They alternate rounds up to eleven rounds (with a minute break between rounds). You can win by either knocking your opponent out, achieving checkmate, having your opponent use up all of his/her time during chess (as there is a time limit to the match) or by judge’s decision based on the boxing if everything else is a tie.

While the idea of combining chess and boxing in fiction appears as though it might go back awhile (even to the 1970s), the inspiration for actually PLAYING the sport lies directly with a 1992 comic book by the great French comic book artist and filmmaker, Enki Bilal. In the third part of his acclaimed Nikopol Trilogy, Cold Equator, Bilal depicts Chess Boxing…

Dutch artist Iepe Rubingh began doing Chess Boxing in 2003 as a piece of performance art (he specifically cited Bilal as an inspiration, although he changed how the rules worked from Bilal’s book. In Bilal’s book, it was a full boxing match and then a full chess match, not alternating back and forth rounds like Chess Boxing is today). However, while it began as performance art, Rubingh soon found that the sport was actually quite fun. Over time, more and more matches began taking place. The first World Championship tournament in the sport was held in 2005. It has only grown in popularity ever since.

You can check the World Chess Boxing Organization’s website out here.

Thanks to reader Steve D. for recommending I feature this one!

COMIC LEGEND: The first daily comic strip was canceled because William Randolph Hearst found it too obscene and/or too vulgar.

STATUS: I’m Going With False

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the first successful daily comic strip, A. Mutt (which became better known as Mutt and Jeff).

A. Mutt was quite similar (although I’ve never seen anything to show that the similarities between the two strips were anything but coincidental) to a comic strip from December 1903-May 1904 by Claire Briggs in the Hearst newspaper the Chicago American called A Piker’s Clerk, which was about a man who would place bets (on actual horses) every day and then fans could tune in to see if he won his bets (and possibly take betting advice from him).

A. Piker’s Clerk is often credited as being the first daily newspaper comic strip.

A part of the legend of A. Piker’s Clerk (so much so that you can see it referenced in a dozen or so comic history books) is that it was canceled by publisher William Randolph Hearst because Hearst found it either too vulgar or too obscene. This part of the story, though, was only told by Briggs’ editor at the time, Moses Koenigsburg and he wrote about it way back in 1941. Since then, it has just been accepted as fact. However, slightly more recent work by comic historians such as the great Bill Blackbeard have cast much doubt on this story.

First of all, the notion that Hearst, king of sensationalist news, would have a problem with a comic strip about gambling? That just seems hard to believe. Especially because just three years later Hearst was falling over himself to hire Bud Fisher to do A. Mutt for Hearts’s papers (and again, A.Mutt had the same exact set-up – daily comic strip about a guy gambling on a different horse each day – although Fisher would keep a running tally of how well Mutt was doing, something Briggs didn’t do), so he sure didn’t find the idea too obscene or too vulgar THEN.

Most importantly, though, is the fact that after the initial three week daily run of the strip, it appeared sporadically in the Chicago American over the next five months. If the strip had been dropped because of its vulgarity, why did it keep appearing?

Here’s another strip from later in the strip’s run…

More likely it got dropped because it just wasn’t doing well, despite Koenigsburg claims to the contrary (Blackbeard posited a fascinating theory that the strip was hurt by the fact that when it was a daily strip, it would not appear in ALL the editions of the daily newspaper, which had twelve editions at the time, and the lack of consistency in where readers could find the strip hurt its popularity).

In any event, I think the evidence strongly leans against Koenisburg – Hearst seems unlikely to have a problem with a strip like this, but moreover, it DIDN’T stop right away – it kept going for months, so I’m going with a false here.

Thanks to Bill Blackbeard for the great research.

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, Urban Legends Revealed, where I look into urban legends about the worlds of entertainment and sports, which you can find here, at urbanlegendsrevealed.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!

44 Comments

That was a great issue of Static BTW and DC remains stupid to this day for their decision. By the time it was published, Static was a direct market comic only BTW, so I’m still not quite sure who they thought would be offended by that cover.

“Extra-Sized Anniversary Action?” I’d never noticed that about that issue before.

Im not sure about that chess boxing fact. I know wu-tang clan referenced that in there 1st album in 93. And they got that from a old kung-fu flick. Maybe the Wu-Tang chess boxin and this chess boxing are 2 different styles?

While the idea of combining chess and boxing in fiction appears as though it might go back awhile (even to the 1970s), the inspiration for actually PLAYING the sport lies directly with a 1992 comic book by the great French comic book artist and filmmaker, Enki Bilal.

As noted in the quoted passage, I’m not saying Bilal came up with the idea first, just that actually playing the sport was based on the comic. The guy who first played the sport specifically cites Bilal as his inspiration.

Thats true.

[...] Comic Book Legends Revealed #356- comicbookresources.com Welcome to the three hundredth and fifty-sixth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Today, what was so controversial about a Static issue that DC would not release the original cover? Speaking of obscene, was the first daily comic strip seriously canceled because William Randolph Hearst [… [...]

Hopefully real life chess boxing matches don’t end the way the one in Bilal’s comic does…

Was Paul Levitz working at DC when the Static Shock cover was pulled? (tongue firmly in cheek)

While I get what McDuffie was getting at, it’s not exactly the same thing; a pose SUGGESTING something is one thing, while a pic of an ACT is another entirely. No one would say Maxim is the same as Penthouse. But that said, the cover didn’t really depict “sex” at all, and a far more appropriate comparison would be any number of covers out there from that era that had a couple kissing passionately.

I thought the Static decision was silly at the time, more so now in light of McDuffie’s comparisons.

stupid cover decisions aside, I thought that ‘having the talk’ segment was excellent. From “How old were you?” “It’s not important.” to that “Oh boy” thought bubble, that’s how I picture a father having ‘The Talk’

Interesting piece on A. Piker’s Clerk. “When going to the track, there’s nothing like having good, reliable dope” undoubtedly has different connotations now than it did 100 years ago…

…or maybe not.

There’s a “can’t read an empty book” joke to be made here.

AverageJoeEveryman

March 2, 2012 at 1:51 pm

Im pretty sure “having good, reliable dope” is saying that he has good info or inside info on how the race should go. Seems like a saying my grandfather may have said.

Wow, any argument over who inspired what aside, that “Nikopol” comic looks amazing! I need to find a collection of Bilal’s stuff somewhere.

The Nikopol trilogy is certainly worth tracking out, Bilal’s writing in it is as good as his art, which of course is gorgeous. The three books are poignant, satirical and funny, but also quite touching when they need to.

Im pretty sure “having good, reliable dope” is saying that he has good info or inside info on how the race should go. Seems like a saying my grandfather may have said.

I believe Alvis was noting that the term did have a different meaning back then.

An earlier, though of course unrelated, instance of chessboxing in comics comes from Mad’s “Lesser Known Halls of Fame”. Broadly paraphrased, one the members of the chess hall of fame is credited as having ‘invented the Andropov opening, which leads the Queen’s Bishop’s Pawn followed by a quick right cross to the opponent’s chin.’

Thanks, Brian, for helping us solve the mystery of chess boxing.

random surfer

March 2, 2012 at 5:18 pm

“dope” meaning intelligence, or inside scoop, is still referenced today in the alternative newspaper column/website The Straight Dope. http://straightdope.com

I do indeed understand what the older meaning of “dope” was as used in the strip (the context makes it pretty clear, if nothing else), but was nonetheless tickled by how a more modern meaning for the word gave the line an unintended meaning. I don’t watch Benny Hill episodes anymore, so I do need something to occasionally amuse my inner 13-year-old…

The higher ups at DC do know what sex is, right? Because that’s not “sex” on the cover of Static, it’s kissing, maybe “petting” (as the kids call it).

Actually, to me, the cover cheapens the interior work a bit, as it’s a bit…hm, not sure how to put it. It’s deliberately titilating, whereas the interior isn’t anywhere near as explicit (not that the cover is graphically explicit, or anything…). I assume that the “sex scene” ends where you ended it, Brian, and we’re just led to the point where they’re going to have sex, but we’re not actually shown anything. The cover kind of puts it right out there without the context that the conversation with his dad provides. It’s like they wanted the controversy, but once they got some from DC, they cried foul. I dunno, maybe I’m wrong.

As to the rest of the column, I only watch Foxy Chess Boxing, as I like some highbrow with my cheesecake.

Glad to see so many supporting McDuffie. It really is weird (to my European, even Dutch, mind) that his logic wasn’t, and isn’t, followed.

Well, one has to wonder if that Static cover had gone through if there had not been those condoms and Sex Manual on the floor, without those it is indeed just a passionate kiss on a couch.

Oh, and Nikopol trilogy is great.

Brian doesn’t mention this explicitly, but the most painful part of this story is that the condoms, the manual, the nerves and the father-son-talk comprise a very human depiction of teenage sex, which apparently is less acceptable than an over the top, soft-pornographic depiction of, if not sex, at least lust. I’m not against over the top depictions of lust, but I am against hypocrisy.

sandwich eater

March 4, 2012 at 12:13 pm

LOL at chess boxing. I imagine the best strategy is to disorient your opponent with repeated blows to the head and then beat them at chess. This is one of the more ridiculous sports that I’ve ever heard of. Keep in mind that I think regular boxing is a pretty ridiculous sport because you win by giving your opponent a traumatic brain injury.

Adam Weissman

March 4, 2012 at 9:51 pm

“Im pretty sure “having good, reliable dope” is saying that he has good info or inside info on how the race should go. Seems like a saying my grandfather may have said.

I believe Alvis was noting that the term did have a different meaning back then.”

It’s not that archaic — if I say “give me the straight dope”, no one thinks I’m saying i don’t want my heroin cut with baking soda.

I’m gonna back up Adamd here that using ‘dope’ to mean ‘information’ is still common as Cecil Adams’ books and websites will attest.

Well, Travis Pelkie stole my thunder a little, but is this a case of being right for the wrong reasons? I can see the problem with the very real hypocrisy of it all, and DC reasons were probably garbage, but I think they did the story a hidden service by having the cover changed. The story is done in a respectful and serious manner, and the cover is basically the selling sex angle of butt/thong shots, and does a disservice to the serious tone of the story. It’d hard to make a point “be respectful to the woman because she’s giving you a lot” when your cover has the guy with full body coverage, but she’s in a state of undress. I’m not sure the fixed cover is much better, but a whole different cover with a mature look at it would have been better than a scene advertising “HEY, THERE’S SEX IN HERE!!”

It’s funny, bu the cover was changed before it was shown to DC. It was a little more… in the moment, as Daisy looked a little more scared. The women in the office and me (honorary women in gay man form) thought that she looked way too scared, and Virgil was too aggressive, which is what happens with most teen girl’s first time… and we wanted to soften it a bit and make it look more mutual and less ‘pushy’. I do wish the sex manual was out of the picture. It cheapens it a little.

Cool, Mr Velez himself chimes in to comment. The Static story is a nice piece of writing from what I read of it above, sir, and I also checked out your site and the GCD so I could say nice things about your work :) I’ve got more of it than just What If 100 and the Dead High Yearbook you edited, but I did like those 2 in particular.

This post reminds me of how chastity has largely faded away, especially in film adaptations. Oddly, Christopher Reeve seems to have started this trend, of even prominent children’s icons having often not stayed chaste in recent film adaptations: even Superman had pre-marital sex** in 1981?s Superman II, and the child of that union appeared in a belated sequel 25 years later. Nor has his Caped Crusader compatriot stayed chaste (he beded Vicki Vale in the 1989 film), nor have Iron Man, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) or Daredevil.

**In the Fortress of Solitude, which he copied from Doc Savage-who stayed chaste in his G-rated 1975 film. Perhaps if Doc had his Fortress of Solitude in place of the backseat of a chevy, he would have had a sequel.

thanks for the kind words. it suprises the heck out of my how often i appear on this ‘legends revealed’ list, considering how less l than legendary my career was. ;).

Ha! Hey, if you e-mail me those Archie pages they wouldn’t let you use during Worlds Collide then you’d appear in the legends feature again! ;)

Yay! Brian used my suggestion. I actually sat down one week and read practically every issue of Milestone, which is where I got the idea to e-mail Brian. God I miss Milestone, Its so weird for me now that I actually have a friend working in DC so I get to hear a lot of the behind the scenes reasons, why some books get censored or characters go down story arcs that make no sense. Re-reading the Milestone books just made me wish for the old days when stories tended to develop more organically. Ivan that issue of Static is definitely one of my top favorite issues ever. Its a shame there isn’t more truth in comics these days, Milestone was way ahead of its time and its a shame that it was shunned by the retailers and comic press at the time because they were so freaking good. By the way Ivan something that always bugged me, was there ever a origin for Dusk, it seemed like you guys where building to some big reveal but then she was abruptly written out of the book.

Yeah, there was a great origin for Dusk coming, but when I left the book (asked to leave), I couldn’t finish it. Dusk and Ducky are twins. Ducky does have super strength… and we would have found out that her grandfather is John Tower from the Holocaust mini-series.

Oh, Brian. I scanned those forbidden Blood Syndicate pages you wanted. Where do I send them?

bcronin at comicbookresources dot com

[...] And I don’t just mean the obviously weird ones like chessboxing, which, incidentally, was inspired by a comic book. And which the RZA is a big fan of, despite his song, “Da Mystery of [...]

What was McDuffie offended about? There’s a fine difference between showing characters in suggestive positions and showing them outrightly having sex.

What was McDuffie offended about? There’s a fine difference between showing characters in suggestive positions and showing them outrightly having sex.

Whatever that line is, though, that cover didn’t cross it and yet DC still censored the cover.

[...] In it, millionaire fighter John-Elvis Johnelvisson slugs away with the enigmatic Loopkin. Bilal’s vision of chessboxing is dark, dystopian; by the end of the bout, both men are battered and beaten, their eyes white [...]

[...] it, millionaire fighter John-Elvis Johnelvisson slugs away with the enigmatic Loopkin. Bilal's vision of chessboxing is dark, dystopian; by the end of the bout, both men are battered and beaten, their eyes white [...]

[...] it, millionaire fighter John-Elvis Johnelvisson slugs away with the enigmatic Loopkin. Bilal's vision of chessboxing is dark, dystopian; by the end of the bout, both men are battered and beaten, their eyes white [...]

[...] In it, millionaire fighter John-Elvis Johnelvisson slugs away with the enigmatic Loopkin. Bilal’s vision of chessboxing is dark, dystopian; by the end of the bout, both men are battered and beaten, their eyes white [...]

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