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Comic Book Legends Revealed #364

Welcome to the three hundredth and sixty-fourth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Today, learn whether Luke Cage was nearly an Avenger almost 15 years before he actually joined the team, find out if Jemm was originally not the Son of Saturn but the Son of a much closer planet and discover the real life war hero who was fighting in a war and appearing in a comic strip at the same time!

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

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: Larry Hama invented Rage as a substitute when he was denied the use of Luke Cage in the Avengers.

STATUS: False

Reader Frank W. wrote in to ask about Larry Hama’s early 1990s short run on the Avengers (issues #325-333). Frank wanted to know if it was true that Hama planned to add Luke Cage to the team but was turned down because Marvel had something else in the works for Cage (which ultimately became his short-lived ongoing series)…

so Hama then invented Rage as a replacement…

I asked Hama about it, and he explained the situation like this:

Not true. I just always liked the whole Billy Batson thing, where the character is actually a little kid who somehow transforms into a powerful hero. I also liked the whole Aunt May thing, so that that got grafted on as the kindly grandmother. Making the character African-American was third down on the list, but it fit very well, and I changed the rest to make it all fit.

Here is Rage’s origin. It is fascinating to read it with those inspirations in mind…

Thanks to Frank W. for the question and thanks to Larry Hama for the answer!

COMIC LEGEND: Jemm, Son of Saturn was originally supposed to be from Mars.

STATUS: True

Jemm, Son of Saturn was a really neat maxi-series from DC from 1984-1985 by writer Greg Potter and artists Gene Colan and Klaus Janson.

Here is Jemm’s introduction to Earth…

here is where we learn his name…

and here is where we learn that he is from Saturn.

Interestingly enough, though, Potter initially intended Jemm to be from MARS!

As he revealed in Amazing Heroes #50, Potter wrote the first six issues of Jemm with the idea in mind that Jemm was a cousin to J’onn J’onnz, the Manhunter from Mars!

As Potter stated then, “”I originally wrote the first six issues on the basis that he was from Mars, and that he was going to be a cousin of J’Onn J’Onzz. Then Janice calls me one day and says he can’t be from Mars any more because [J’Onn J’Onzz is] coming back in the Justice League.”

You see, the Martian Manhunter had JUST returned as a regular character to the ongoing Justice League title for the first time in over a decade…

I dunno why that necessarily precluded Jemm from being J’onn’s cousin, but whatever the reason, that’s what happened.

Years later, John Ostrander would officially establish a Mars/Saturn connection in the pages of Martian Manhunter…

So alls well that ends well!

Thanks to Greg Potter and Alf Nossiter for the information!

COMIC LEGEND: Milton Caniff wrote a real life war hero into Terry and the Pirates as a regular character while World War II was ongoing.

STATUS: True

Milton Caniff was always a strong supporter of the American military in all facets of his life (he was so supportive he even agreed to questionable ideas like the “How to Spot a Jap” comic), but perhaps his most notable tributes came in the pages of his comic strip.

I’ve already featured the classic comic strip where Terry (the lead of Terry and the Pirates, natch) is given a speech from his flight instructor, Flip Corkin, about the joys of serving your country, a strip so moving that it was read into the Congressional Record.

However, what is especially fascinating to me is Flip Corkin himself. You see, Flip essentially WAS Philip Cochran, an actual real-life war hero whose life Caniff used as the basis for Flip Corkin, including sending him on the same missions and everything (after the fact, of course).

Here is Caniff speaking of how this arrangement came about…

Early in 1941 Lieut. Philip Cochran, an old friend from Ohio State University, came to my house for a weekend. He mentioned that he had a squadron under his command that looked like a “hot” outfit, and asked me to design an insigne for the group. His idea was a fighting cock with a chip on his shoulder and a shamrock (Cochran’s own good luck piece) around its neck. I put the design together and made up the necessary three colored drawings to be submitted to the Air Forces for approval.

Here is that insignia….

Caniff continues….

Some months later Cochran invited me to Groton, Conn., to watch the (then) 65th Fighter Squadron ‘fly a review.’

It was while watching these men lead their squadron in practice bombing, strafing and other fighter airplane maneuvers that I began to realize what potential material they were for Terry Characters. The reader reaction to Dude Hennick, who I had patterned after another Ohio State classmate (Capt Frank L. Higgs of China National Aviation Corp.) had convinced me that comic strip people inspired by real persons carried much more conviction than purely fictional heroes and heroines.

Since we do not use real names in a strip, I introduced Cochran on 3 August 3, 1942, as Capt. Flip Corkin. Cochran has since received the Soldiers’ Medal for heroism in circumstances not directly connected with enemy action. In addition, he has been promoted to the rank of Major. Flip has not yet caught up in rating with his real life counterpart, but will soon do so.

As I had hoped, the reaction to Flip Corkin was immediate. Not only did the general readers begin accepting him as a very real person (not knowing of the actual Flip) but all his old friends in the Air Force pounced upon the opportunity to send me anecdote abut Cochran covering the years he was in training, during which I had no contact with him.

Since publication of the story of his being awarded the Soldiers’ Medal (which mentioned his connection with the Terry characters) and the Croix de Guerre, Cochran now gets fan mail direct. Some of it simply addressed to’ Major Philip C. Cochran, Army Air Forces, Washington, D.C.

These scrappy American make better copy and are better models than can be hired from an agency. The only trouble is that their real life adventure are so spectular I must turn out fast continuity to keep up with what I read about them in the papers.

How awesome is that?

Cochran retired from the Air Force in 1946 and became a consultant in films and various other endeavors. He passed away in 1979. One more crazy fact about Cochran – he dated Betty White! He even proposed to her! She turned him down, but the two continued dating. In fact, she was dating Cochran and Allen Ludden simultaneously there for awhile until she began to get serious with Ludden so she broke it off with Cochran (she eventually married Ludden). As if Betty White’s life wasn’t already awesome enough?

Thanks to Eugene D. Rossel of the Air Commando Association for the wonderful Caniff quote.

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

Problem: you posted the same page three times in the Jemm story.

Looks like all the same Martian Manhunter page were posted instead of consecutive pages…

Those 3 Martian Manhunter pages are identical. Other than that, good show!

I have to pick up those Larry Hama Avengers issues sometime. Fun stuff. And I haven’t read much by him outside of G.I.Joe

and Wolverine, of course

I just kind of skimmed the images, admittedly I didn’t notice that the same image was duped three times. I did find myself wondering when it was that someone was going to develop a second facial expression for Martian Manhunter, though.

I was under the impression that the J’emm mini was a reboot of J’onn J’onzz at the start. But this makes sense too.

looking back it seems another inspiration for Rage’s origin is the Toxic Avenger

I didn’t read all of it, but was Rage a sickly old-looking child ? Because holy crap those first two panels of him are like kids beating on an old man.

Jemm, Son of Saturn #1 was one of the first five or so comics I ever read.

Phil Cochran also was the basis for the character “General Philerie” (Phil from Erie) in “Steve Canyon”

Of course, you could probably fill much of a “Legends Revealed” with the easter eggs tying Miltion Caniff”s strips to the Green Lantern Mythos, and any space remaining with the characters of his (and others in the same Genre) that were used in “The Shadow Strikes” during the china storyline.

Whenever someone complains about Bendis on the Avengers, I direct them to the late 80s-90s issues. God, those were some terrible comics.

Avengers was a great comic all through the 1980s. It didn’t start hitting the skids until, well, the entire decade of the 1990s.

Hunh. I always thought that alien guy from Rock of Ages was just someone Morrison made up.

I’m with Squashua, if it wasn’t for the presence of Granny I’d swear an old chap turned into a kid.

For a minute I forgot which page I was on, and was like, which alien guy from Rock of Ages? Darkseid?

But no, I definitely remembered Jemm awfully well from the first time around. Really, any Gene Colan project was something that I followed pretty closely.

Interesting juxtaposition of the Colan pages with Mandrake’s stuff…

That Martian Manhunter series was pretty great, by the way.

Jemm was truly outrageous. (sorry, couldn’t help myself)

You omitted the part where it turns out that Rage is actually still a kid because he only recently got his powers, and when the Avengers find out they basically fire him for being underage and he ends up joining the New Warriors.

“..And then I found that I was pretty near impervious! …while attempting to stab myself in the heart!”

Lucky.

Also: “Click here for an archive of the previous three hundred and sixty-two.”

Brian, wasn’t Roger Stern planning to add Luke to the Avengers before he left the book?

I knew Jemm’s background from the original comics (I have the first few issues). I knew something was wrong when they showed Saturn with a solid surface (!) Even elementary school kids at the time knew that Saturn was supposed to be a gaseous world. I think a letter column or something also explained that the series was supposed to be about the Martian Manhunter’s race. I didn’t know *why* they forced the last-minute change however. And it sounds like a poor reason to me too.

(Btw, H’ronmerca”ndra is a heck of a mouthful to say.)

The rest of the stuff (Rage, Milton Caniff) was new to me however, so thanks Brian.

I don’t believe I read that Avengers comic. Even if it seems a bit old-fashioned for the 1990s, that’s still some really good stuff. Man, Hama is one hell of an underrated writer. Aside from his Batman run (which just seemed like not the best fit), everything he’s ever done is golden. (Especially those G.I. Joe comics drawn by Michael Golden. See what I did there?)

I want to go hunt down his Avengers run now.

Actualy, that first answer is not quite correct. Yes, Larry Hama didn’t intend for Rage to have been Cage. but some time before that, Roger Stern, I believe, had intended to bring Luke Cage into Avengers, to clear him of the murder charges he was being hunted for (the death of his partner Iron Fist) and to eventually put him on the team. But he and editor Mark Gruenwald parted ways before this could transpire.

No doubt Roger could give you better details about this than I could–this happened just before I showed up at Marvel.

Tom B

Wasn’t Hama also planning on having a brand new Russian character called (I think) Surge (who was introduced in the last 2 issues of his run) also join the Avengers during his run on the book? IIRC, Hama was planning on making the Avengers a more racially and internationally diverse superhero team, which is why he had the Avengers gain a UN charter. Hama (I think) was also the writer who had both Spidey and Sandman join the Avengers as reserve members.

Hey, it’s Tom Brevoort!
Anyway, in response to something said above, I don’t think the Avengers was a great comic all through the ’80s, and the entirety of the ’90s didn’t suck. Some of the early ’80s, pre-Stern issues were solid, but not great and some were mediocre at best (although I do have a great deal of nostalgia from reading them through my older brother’s collection) and then the very late ’80s post-Stern stuff was pretty so-so, as much as I love Walt Simonson.
With the ’90s, most of decade was pretty awful, with the exception of some decent issues here and there. But with the Busiek and Perez issues finishing up the last couple of years of the decade, we got a pretty consistently awesome run. Even if one thinks that run is generally overrated (I loved it), I don’t think it can honestly be characterized as “hitting the skids.”

And no amount of terrible ’90s Avengers comics diminishes complaints about Bendis’ run. Yes, the Avengers pretty well sucked for the better part of a decade. A lot of people think Bendis’s run sucks, too. It just sucks in a different way.

Larry Hama has to have known a black guy that used to say “Dag!” Rage uses it here, and in G.I. Joe, Stalker said it on a few different occasions.

Larry Hama has to have known a black guy that used to say “Dag!” Rage uses it here, and in G.I. Joe, Stalker said it on a few different occasions.

_______________________________

First of all, Hama has a whole lot of black friends. Heck, based on reading Priest’s blog entry about racism where he talked about how Hama (who is a Japanese American and had his own experience with racism) encouraged him tonot let the white man push him around, Hama hanged with and was (and might still be) good friends with most of the black creators working at Marvel during that time.

Second of all, the word “dag” was a common slang word used by black kids/teens during the 80’s. Me and my friends often used that word back then.

All I know is, it appears that when he picks a book to write, whether they’re figurative or literal:

Larry Hama don’t want none unless it’s got guns, hon (whipcrack!)

Considering that it took me WAYYYY too long to come up with that one, I hope everyone knows their Sir Mix-A-Lot.

But was Jemm spelled with 2 m’s because of the tie to J’onn? What about that Jem (dunno if it’s 1 or 2 m’s) and the Holograms cartoon? Wasn’t that around that time?

@Roman: the Colan/Mandrake juxtaposition goes further now, as Mandrake is drawing the new version of Night Force that Colan co-created. It’s ok so far, 2 issues in.

Cool bit on the Caniff story, too. Betty White is everywhere!!!

I always assumed the switch to Saturnians was because the JLA plotline involving a Martian invasion wouldn’t have meshed with the plot of JEMM (there’s also a Saturnian leader who’d clearly have been J’Onn, but I imagine they could have recast that if they’d kept the Martians). A shame, as I think Jemm would have been even more fun if it had used J’Onn and Mars (and the JLA plotline was feeble–I enjoyed Conway’s JLA run, but we were entering the dreadful Detroit-League era at this point).

If I was Jemm, I would be miffed. Imagine recuperating onder J’onn J’onzz’s care and founding out that you could have instead been getting better with the Amazonians?! :D

I’m with the others in thinking that the first two panels of Rage’s origin made him look like an old man…and while the circumstances are a little different the source of his power is awfully close to Cage’s. Both got dunked into some chemicals …

Jemm was one of the 1st series i read when I got back to comics in the early 80’s.It was well written,fun series wit exceptional art by Gene C.(R.I.P.).Go back and find the back issues,not sure if there was a trade made.

Yeah, I don’t know how anyone can compare the everyone talks the same and has the same characterization as I throw the kitchen sink into the team and make Luke Cage the most important Avenger ever Bendis Avengers to classic Stern or Busiek great run. A lot of the 90’s was a wasteland for all comics…but a lot resemble those shocking for the sake of sales issues than truly tremendous runs.

And while I think Hama’s run on GI Joe is truly classic stuff that stretches beyond it’s toy origin, I can’t say I’ve loved any of his other work. His Wolverine was pretty bad. That was pretty much the start of the descent of Wolverine as a character, and not just a bad ass; and I still blame him for killing Mariko.

Probably the real reason for Mars being off-limits for Jemm because of J’onn’s return is that J’onn was coming back because he was trying to warn Earth, as MARS WAS INVADING EARTH (in fact, the Hawks’ Thanagarian ship got trashed in the attack, not just the JLA Satellite, if I remember correctly – almost the entire JLA infrastructure got wasted, which is one of the reasons the Detroit League came about in the wake – everyone was busy rebuilding or getting back to their roots, followed by COIE not long afterward). Those were the first comics I bought that weren’t tie-ins to some TV or game property.

So how is J’onn J’onzz pronounced? Are the apostrophies there for looks or do they change the pronunciation?

I always “J’onn J’onzz” was supposed to be pronounced “John Jones”. Or something similar to that.

I meant to say, “I always figured…”

In JL cartoons the J got sort of…frankified…so, he was Zhahn Zhonz (approximate phonetic spelling… ??n ?onz in IPA.)

I always read it as sounding similiar to John Jones too, but with more emphasis on the hard J sound first. As though you are pronouncing the J (or Je) sound before pronouncing the rest. Kind of J-ohn J-ones.

… ok, so the font here doesn’t have IPA…I hope the description got it across. >_>

Also…Luther’s grampa takes ‘Jemm’ as ‘Jim’…so…if he’d still been J’onn’s cousin, would he have been Jim Jones? ‘Cuz that would have been slightly unfortunate…. D:

I always pronounced it “John Johns” as it seemed like the “o” in both names should be pronounced the same–but yeah, John Jones is what it probably should be.

Now that I actually know who Jemm is, I think I’ll bust out my copy of “Rock of Ages”. I do remember thinking, no matter who he was, it kind of sucked that the Injustice Gang was using him like that. Though it does appear from those pages that Saturnians may have been a little more simple mentally than Martians in the first place (not saying it’s okay to torture the mentally disabled or anything, just saying that maybe they didn’t have to push him too far to get him to that vegetative state).

I loved Larry Hama’s Wolverine. He pretty much just wrote him as ‘The Man with No Name’ from Leone, except with claws instead of guns. Which pretty much explained to me why Hugh Jackman played him as almost straight up Clint Eastwood in the movies.

Michael Mayket

May 5, 2012 at 9:09 am

Whereas I did not care for Larry Hama’s Wolverine… mainly due to Logan constantly referring to himself as “Caknuckle head”.

Probably just a typo, but I think you mean “canuckle head”. Caknuckle head sounds a lot worse and has some odd implications other than just a silly name for “canadian”.

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