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Comic Book Legends Revealed #360

Welcome to the three hundredth and sixtieth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Today, discover which Academy Award-winning screenwriter did an X-Men parody comic during the early 1980s! Plus, did legendary Superman writer Jerry Siegel write an issue of Thor? And what Teen Titan went through two new superhero identities…in two issues?!?

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

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: Academy Award-winning screenwriter Charlie Kaufman did an X-Men parody comic in the early 1980s.

STATUS: True

Charlie Kaufman is a three-time nominee for the Academy Award for Best Screenplay. He was nominated for Being John Malkovich (Best Original Screenplay)…

Adaptation (Best Adapted Screenplay)…

before finally winning for the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind…

Early in his career, though, Kaufman worked for National Lampoon magazine, and one of his earliest efforts was, amazingly enough, an X-Men parody in 1984!

The story was co-written with Paul Proch and drawn by Frank Springer. Here are the first few pages (be forewarned, this is early Charlie Kaufman, so he clearly has not yet found his voice)…

Check out the Charlie Kaufman website here to read even more pages!

Thanks to reader Chris W. for suggesting this one. Thanks to commenter Time Warp for the Springer credit for the X-Women story.

COMIC LEGEND: Jerry Siegel wrote Thor comics under the name R. Berns.

STATUS: False

Awhile back, I featured an issue of Journey into Mystery starring Thor where Thor, well…he essentially nukes the country of China.

At the time, commenter Dave El remarked on the story:

This almost seems like a Silver Age Superman story. Maybe because R. Berns was the alias used by Jerry Siegel during his stint scripting for Marvel.

Is that true?

Was the R. Berns who wrote that story actually Jerry Siegel using a pseudoynm?

Simply put, no.

R. Berns was a pseudonym, it was just a different alias. R. Berns was Robert Bernstein, longtime comic book writer for DC Comics, including the story which introduced Aquaman’s Atlantean origins. Like many DC employees at the time, Bernstein used a pseudonym to work for Marvel.

Jerry Siegel DID, in fact, do some work for Marvel at the time, but it was under the alias Joe Carter…

(then one story later on just under his own name).

COMIC LEGEND: A Teen Titan went through two new superhero identities…in two concurrent issues!

STATUS: True

In 1976, after a multi-year hiatus, the Teen Titans returned in their own title.

As you can see from the cover of the first issue….

one of the things the issue meant to do was to give Mal Duncan, the non-superhero member of the Titans, an actual superhero identity….

The VERY NEXT ISSUE, however, the identity was dropped…

and Mal got a new superpower, the use of the powerful “Gabriel’s Horn”. Check out how he won the weapon…

And here it is in action…

Why the sudden change? Well, Paul Levitz co-wrote the first issue with Bob Rozakis under editor Joe Orlando. Julie Schwartz took over with the second issue and he hated the Guardian idea, so just one issue into the reboot, they changed one of the first changes of the series (as revealed in this neat interview between Rozakis and our own Line it is Drawn artist Bill Walko at Bill’s great Titans site).

The funny thing is that while Mal now had Gabriel’s Horn, it would be awhile before they actually gave him a superhero name (the extremely clever “Hornblower”). So early on, his name was still just Mal.

So you’d see stuff like this cover…

Batman! Superman! Wonder Woman! Bill! Jeff! Green Lantern! Harry! Flash! Aquaman! Dirk!

Thanks to Bob Rozakis and Bill Walko for the information! Go check out Titans Tower!

NOTE: This is an all-1970s Teen Titans weekend at CBR! Today, this legend. Tomorrow, an Abandoned An’ Forsaked from that era and we finish it off with a Five Goofiest Moments from the first five issues of the reboot. Mal Duncan fighting DEATH ITSELF to get a magic horn is not even in the top five, I don’t think (okay, maybe it is).

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!

48 Comments

Wait! Speedy just criticized someone for borrowing someone else’s powers and costume?? He’s Green Arrow in Red and Yellow! Of course, later on the jerk calls Aqualad “fish face”, an Atlantean racial slur if I’ve ever heard one.

I actually meant to point out that Speedy seemingly had a secondary power back then to be a super-jerk. Seemingly every issue he is on someone’s case.

Ha! That issue #45 is the only “classic” Teen Titans issue I have. I always wondered who the hell Mal was supposed to be.

That Lampoon art suggests George Evans to me, although the date is a bit later than the period he’s usually credited as having worked for them.

It was the 70’s, Ethan. Roy had a bit of an issue at the time that made his name appropriate.

Not that he wasn’t always a bit of a jerk.

“Physically beat the crap out of Death itself and then got given a horn by an Angel who was all “dude, that was wicked sweet'” might be simultaneously the single dumbest and most awesome superhero origin ever.

Kaufman may not have found his voice yet, but he sure found Claremont’s voice pretty easily.

It’s funny, those Teen Titans issues came out around the time I got into comics (with JLA and DC Comics Presents as my early favorites), but I was hardly even aware of Teen Titans at the time. I did pick up a couple of back issues a few years later, featuring Titans West, but I’ve still basically never read this brief revival. Looking at these pages makes me think, man, that was a franchise that badly needed a complete revamp.

The artist on the National Lampoon story looks like it was penciled and inked by long time contributor Frank Springer.

Thanks, Time Warp! You’re totally spot on.

I bet that junkie speedy was really jealous when mal got that fancy crack pipe..

Frank Springer did a lot of work for NatLamp, as well as the stellar “Adventures of Phoebe Zeti-Geist” written by diseased maniac Michael O’Donohue, so it’s quite possible.

There is nothing…NOTHING funnier than reading dialogue of teenagers, or even better, black people, as written by 40 year old men who think they know how they talk. There’s a special corner of Heaven reserved for just reading such boos and laughing your wings off.

As I’m not reading the DC reboot stuff, I wonder if they’re doing any better now with teen dialogue. Somehow, I doubt it
I remember they followed up Mal finding the uniform in Superman Family a couple of years later, but I don’t remember if they got as far as an explanation of why it was in Titans HQ.

The sound that Mal’s horn makes (T-Keeeyor) is the sound the shofar (ram’s horn) is supposed to play on Yom Kippur (the Jewish High Holiday).

Wow, and I thought some of the comments on Kelly’s last column were reactionary and misogynistic.

So did Mal die the first time he lost a fight, or was that little plot point abandoned (if not forsaked)? I think he had a slightly different history post-Crisis, but I’m just curious if he literally never lost a fight ever again pre-Crisis.

The funny thing is, by the time I first encountered Mal later in this same series, he was back in the Guardian duds.

Which Marvel comic that Jerry wrote under his own name are you referring to? Because he did a three part story of The Angel (Warren Worthington III) that was really good but hard to track down. The story was hidden in unrelated reprint comics with pencils by George Tuska and inks by Dick Ayers.

The first part of the story was in Ka-Zar #2 (December 1970) sandwiched between reprints of Ka-Zar’s past adventures in Daredevil #12 & #13.
The second part was in Ka-Zar #3 (March 1971) with reprints of Daredevil #14 and Amazing Spider-Man #57.
The final part was in Marvel Tales #30 (April 1971) which also reprinted Amazing Spider-Man #41.

The story introduced The (first) Dazzler who murdered Warren Jr. and was revealed to be his brother, Burt Worthington. Warren III defeated his uncle who would later come back in X-Men: The Hidden Years (#13-16) to kill his mother as well.

It’s a good little story of Warren on his own. The X-Men comic had become a reprint series after #66 in March 1970 and this was the first attempt after that to do a solo story with an X-Man. Nothing followed for Warren after these stories but The Beast would eventually wind up as the lead in Amazing Adventures beginning with #11 in March 1972, with frequent appearances by the rest of the team.

Which Marvel comic that Jerry wrote under his own name are you referring to? Because he did a three part story of The Angel (Warren Worthington III) that was really good but hard to track down. The story was hidden in unrelated reprint comics with pencils by George Tuska and inks by Dick Ayers.

That’s the one!

They established that the Guardian costume was in Speedy’s locker because it belonged to his uncle, the original Jim Harper Guardian. Which I guess makes it more personal that Speedy would point out the ripoff.

I don’t think Mal ever lost the hypothetical fight. Near the end of the pre-Crisis period he had retired and gained weight. Then post-Crisis I believe his horn went from being a mystical device to a more straightforward technological device he had invented.

That’s it, Glenn, thanks.

I much prefer Mal as a replacement for The Guardian. I wonder if that had any influence on Morrison’s Seven Soldier’s Manhattan Guardian.

Thanks for confirming that Brian; just checking that I didn’t miss another!

@Steven Caplan

Yeah, I noticed that as well, although I was thinking more that it was a reference to part of the shofar call (tekiah–the other parts are sh’varim and truah) and not the actual sound of the horn, though for all I know the call is supposed to reflect the sound.

The strange thing is that the horn looks nothing like an actual shofar. Maybe Julie Schwartz was reluctant to actually portray a shofar, but the result is a really weird-looking pipe.

On further research I see some shofars that do kind of look like the one here (though they tend to have a smoother curve). But I still say they should have gone with a fancier version.

“Quiet, Boy Wonder, or I’ll…..” Man, post Identity Crisis, that line just finishes itself.

I love it that one of the criminals in the Titans fight scene is attacking Wonder Girl by hiding behind a mailbox — that shoots missiles!

Air mail, comin’ atcha!

The problem with all post-Bronze Age comics is the lack of missile-firing mailboxes.

Wow! I got name checked in Comic Book Legends Revealed! Granted, it was for being WRONG but hey! Seriously, I knew Siegel wrote for Marvel under another name and that Thor dialogue sounded it could be lifted from one of Siegel’s Superman stories he was writing for Mort. But he wrote for Marvel as Joe Carter the name derived from (IIRC and correct me if I’m wrong, Brian) his wife’s maiden name of Carter and Joe could have been a tip of the hat to Joe Shuster or (maybe) to his wife’s first name, Joanne. How am I doing this time, Brian? Or am I stumbling into a under Comics Book Legends Revealed?

Yeah, Kaufman nailed the Claremont voice. Unfortunately resulted in the parody being as boring as most Claremont comics, but what are you gonna do.

randypan the goatboy

March 30, 2012 at 9:49 pm

SWEEET JUICY JEESUS…i forgot all about how much the character mal blows…much better as vox. but why in the name of the precious baby jesus did they have the useless assclown fight the angel of death and the have the teen titans fighting a biker gang…were they the sharks or the jets? fuck i dunno know

The 70’s had some pretty god-awful artists working.Bad pencils and even worse inks.,I know…Kevin Nowlan is gonna rip me(private joke),but how could an editor allow such poor art on a book by DC. I am sure we had great ones also,but that TT book looked horrendous.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

March 30, 2012 at 10:36 pm

I think Julie Schwartz was wrong when it came to Mal.
I can’t even see why he thought that would be a good idea.

I guess I should read more Siegel, I have now been noticing the stories he wrote to Topolino for Italian Disney comics, and while the plotting movies in a similar non sequitur fashion as Silver Age superheroes were, they have a fine weird atmosphere…

I would’ve preferred Mal as Guardian as opposed to the whole Gabriel’s Horn thing but here (I’m guessing) is why Julie Schwartz may have had a problem with it: 1) The story of Mal becoming the Guardian wasn’t just Mal’s story; the exoskeleton came from someone else’s story and the Guardian name & costume came from another source. (It read like something fan boys would write; well, Levitz & Rozakis were fan boys made good so that made sense.) 2) Mal becoming the Guardian lacks drama. Yeah, fellow Titans need help and Mal saves the day by…pulling a super strength exo skeleton from a drawer? So these things are just lying around? 3) Mal has super strength now. Not a very original power and the team already has one person with super strength in Wonder Girl. (Of course, other teams have more than one person with super strength but the lack of originality in Guardian’s power set may have been a problem for Schwartz).

It may have been goofy as all hell but Mal with Gabriel’s horn answers points 1 thru 3:
1) This is Mal’s story and only Mal’s. It’s his fight and he earns his reward.
2) Mal fights the freakin’ Angel of Death for his life? Yeah, that’s drama!
3) Who else has a horn from an angel which can equal the odds when you blow it? No one, that’s who! And probably for a very good reason too. There’s no way an artist can make blowing on that horn look cool. It’s the ultimate deus ex machina plot device. And it does bring the unfortunate subtext of the depicting the black guy as unable to solve a problem and summoning a bunch of white people to help him.* But it was original and that’s why they called him Julius “B.O.” Schwartz.**

*Probably Rozakis and Schwartz recognized some or all of these problems too which is why Rozakis lost the horn in subsequent issues.
**”B.O.” stands for “Be Original”.

Buttler, they Abandoned & Forsaked the lose one fight thing & die thing in the very next issue.

Issue 46, Mal got the snot beat out of him by a mob.

Issue 47 he gets defeated by one of the Darklights.

Issue 48 he is beaten by Bumblebee.

That short-lived run of the Teen Titans was just one change after another — I’d get each issue when it came out and wonder if DC even knew what it was doing with the series! I thought it would have been better to have dropped Mal than give him that magic horn. That was just silly.

Hi, I really enjoy these legends revealed stories.

One that I really like followed up would be the John Romita Jr Iron Man run that you featured on another post. I believe you stated that he left the title because of personal reasons, maybe implying that he had a problem with the Tony Stark becoming an alcoholic storyline. Could you clarify the reasons for the ending of JRJ’s run on the Iron Man comic at some point?

Many thanks in any case for all of the interesting info and hours of research that must go into this!

Just how many X-Men parodies were created in the 80’s? When I was a kid I tracked down quite a few. My personal favorite was Mighty Mites by Eternity Comics. I’m guessing it was a (theoretically) profitable time for those that evoked images of Claremont’s X-Men.

I still love and cherish my old copy of “Obnoxio the Clown vs. The X-Men”!

When was Obnoxio’s latest appearance anyway?

Mal. Luke Cage. Can’t a brother get a costume and a code name?

While not exactly a code name “Hero for Hire” sounded really cool when Cage started out (much more so than Power Man) partly because it was such a novel idea back then.

I bought that issue of the Teen Titans when it came out and really enjoyed it, but for some reason I didn’t buy another one for months. When I did, Mal had switched powers and I remember thinking “WTF?” Well, since I was in elementary school, that might not have been my exact thought, but you get the point.

John D. Hooper

April 1, 2012 at 8:59 pm

So Mal didn’t have a super-hero name for a few issues. Since the end of X-Men 137, that’s been pretty much the norm for the X-Men with not one but TWO female characters! How is the cover blurb for Teen Titans 35 any different from the opening credits of the animated “X-Men” series from the 90s? Cyclops! Wolverine! Storm! Jean Grey! And as much as 95 % of her hero names have been lame (Ariel, Sprite), Kitty Pryde just sounds like a brand of cat litter.

Whoa, glad I’m not at work right now. Could we maybe get an “NSFW” tag on that first entry? There’s all kinds of topless “Mop N’ Glo” action on those pages.

A lot of that parody is sort of goofy and over-wrought but, I have to admit, I laughed at “I can’t quite express my feelings, but I gotta try: Fuck you, bitch!”

Ganky: I believe the last appearance of Obnoxio was, in fact, Obnoxio the Clown vs. the X-Men. He’d been the mascot for Crazy magazine (Marvel’s knockoff of Mad), which bit the dust the same month that one-shot came out.

Um… Mal, you already punched a cave wall with your bare hand *before* putting on the exoskeleton. Shouldn’t your hand *already* be hamburger?

Yeah, that was a really weird choice by the artist.

comicsmakenosense

April 2, 2012 at 8:46 am

What? No image of the “Hornblower” costume he was given just a few issues later? The one that still managed to have an “M” on his chest even though he now had the “secret identity” of “Hornblower”?

@comicsmakenosense: That wasn’t an M on Mal’s costume, it was the astrological symbol for Aries the ram, to represent the ram’s horn he carried. I always cite that outfit as the ugliest superhero costume design in history. Fortunately, it only appeared in one panel.

Trivia: I went to the same high school as Bob Rozakis, and in 1976 some friends and I started a comics club. We invited Bob to speak at one of our meetings, which he did (and also arranged a tour of the DC offices for us that summer). He said that he would write us into an upcoming story, and a few months later, a teenage gang called the Rocket Rollers fought the Titans in issue #49. Only one member of the club was mentioned by name, but there were enough subtle winks for us to recognize ourselves.

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