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Comic Book Legends Revealed #374

Welcome to the three hundredth and seventy-fourth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. This week, was Rorschach originally going to appear in DC’s Countdown: Arena mini-series? Plus, discover one of the most mind-blowingly complicated easter eggs you’ll see from the pages of Superman! Finally, did a cartoonist coin the term “McCarthyism”?

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

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: Rorschach was originally going to be part of Countdown: Arena.

STATUS: False

Nearly five years ago, DC Comics did a mini-series called Countdown: Arena, where alternate versions of DC characters were force to fight against each other.

In the lead-up to the mini-series, there were rumors that DC was going to go all out with the alternate versions, and have their most famous alternate versions of their characters (like Batman: The Dark Knight Returns) compete in the mini-series, but when the actual book came out, it was quite toned down, with many of the characters invented for just that story.

However, one of the rumors at the time was that the WATCHMEN characters were even going to be involved!

Similarly, a couple of years ago, there were rumors again about a sequel to Watchmen where the characters would interact with DC characters. Just like the 2007 rumors, the centerpiece of the rumors was this image by the legendary comic book artist, Art Adams…

This, though, was not an official DC image. No, as Sean T. Collins (formerly of Wizard Magazine) noted in 2010:

The art and article in question, by Art Adams and Matt Powell respectively, were generated to cover DC’s then-forthcoming Countdown: Arena miniseries, in which characters from around DC’s recently reborn Multiverse, which consisted in large part of Elseworlds-derived worlds, were forced into gladitorial combat against one another. The piece didn’t reflect any inside information of any kind, about the desire to introduce Watchmen’s world into continuity, creating new projects involving it or anything else.

That, as they say, is that.

Thanks to Sean T. Collins for the definitive word and thanks to Travis Pelkie for suggesting that I feature this legend.

COMIC LEGEND: In an early issue of his Superman run, John Byrne had a panel that featured a word balloon from over a dozen other titles released that month!

STATUS: True

In issue #10 of John Byrne’s Superman run (released with a cover date of October 1987), Superman’s powers are acting weird. They are increasing in power at seemingly random intervals. Check it out…

What’s fascinating, though, is that the panel where Superman is hearing all sorts of things is not just a random panel of word balloons, as you would typically expect. No sir, that panel features ACTUAL dialogue taken from THIRTEEN other DC comic books released that same month!

Check it out:

Batman #412, page 20

Booster Gold #21, page 8

Captain Atom #8, page 3

Flash #5, page 8

Fury of Firestorm #64, page 16

Infinity Inc. #43, page 3

Spectre #7, page 9

Suicide Squad #6, page 19

Swamp Thing #65, page 6

Teen Titans Spotlight #15, page 1

Vigilante #46, page 7

Wild Dog #2, page 11

Wonder Woman #9, page 6

Amazing, huh?

Thanks so much to John Thorpe, who not only told me about this amazing feat by John Byrne, but he actually sent me every single page in question to me! Above and beyond the call of duty, John!

COMIC LEGEND: Herbert “Herblock” Block coined the term “McCarthyism.”

STATUS: True

It always fascinates me how comic books and comic strips and editorial cartoons can resonate so much with people that new words, phrases and traditions can pop up from their pages. For instance, Captain Marvel gave us “Holy Moley!” (as shown in this Comic Book Legends Revealed), Lil’ Abner gave us Sadie Hawkins Day (as shown in this Comic Book Legends Revealed) and C.K. Berryman eventually gave us the teddy bear (as shown in this Comic Book Legends Revealed). Today, then, we will take a look at how Herb “Herblock” Block gave us the term “McCarthyism.”

Herb Block was born in Chicago in 1909 and was working in the newspaper business right out of high school and was a working political cartoonist before he finished college (in fact, he dropped out BECAUSE he was already working as a cartoonist). Early on he decided to use the pen name “Herblock,” which is how he would be credited in his cartoons for the rest of his life.

After working in Chicago for awhile, Herblock was hired by the Newspaper Enterprise Association (which is part of the large United Media corporation – syndicators of such popular comic strips as Dilbert and Peanuts).

Herblock was a strong supporter of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and he joined NEA just as Roosevelt was taking office. His strips took a strong liberal stance at the situations of the day, like poverty. But that does not mean that he was an FDR apologist – he took the President to task when they differed, with a notable example being the 1937 move by Roosevelt to stack the Supreme Court to force the Court to agree with FDR’s New Deal moves.

Leading up to the United States getting into World War II, Herblock was highly critical of the Isolationist position, while at the same time warning of the dangers of Hitler and his ilk.

Here’s one of Herblock’s most famous cartoons, denouncing the rise of the Nazi party by quoting Goethe…

“Light! More light!” – Goethe’s last words

At the same time, Herblock made light of the whole idea of the US being isolated when it was deeply involved with the rest of the world otherwise. Herblock kept pointing out the absurdity of the United States’ isolationist streak all through 1941. In fact, his attitudes were considered so extreme that in early 1942, he was called to New York by the head of the NEA with a request to tone down the extremism of his comics. That very same day, the news was released that Block had just won the Pulitizer Prize for his 1941 comic work, the very work his editor had a problem with!

Here is the cartoon he won for, a subtle piece of work showing the hope of foreign intervention in World War II…

It is not that surprising to note that he quickly sought out employment elsewhere now that he was famous enough to go wherever he wanted. He chose the Washington Post in 1943, and it would be the next century before he stopped working there.

After the war, Herblock was critical of the Communists, winning a second Pulitzer Prize for his cartoon marking Stalin’s passing…

but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t also critical of the United States’ attitude towards Communism, whether it be MacArthur, the House Committe on Un-American Activitie or a certain Senator from Wisconsin…

That cartoon was the first use of the term “McCarthyism,” which quickly caught on.

Here are a couple more McCarthy cartoons…

Herblock’s McCarthy cartoons proved to be so popular that McCarthy soon took to shaving twice a day so that he would not have the heavy stubble look that Herblock showed in the cartoons.

Interestingly enough, although Herblock spent a lot of time and was quite known for his anti-McCarthy cartoons, he did not win a Pulitizer for any of them. His third and final Pulitzer came for his attacks on Nixon, where he basically did to Nixon what he did to McCarthy, as Nixon, like McCarthy, would credit Herblock’s cartoons as creating a public image for Nixon that Nixon had to combat.

Herblock worked into 2000s, with his final cartoon being a satire of George W. Bush. He died at the age of 91, leaving behind an amazing legacy of work. Click here to see Herblock’s drawings of every President from Herbert Hoover to George W. Bush!

Thanks to the Library of Congress for the images used in this piece. Be sure to check them out to see even more great Herblock comics

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!

Here’s my new book, Why Does Batman Carry Shark Repellent? It came out this week! The cover is by Kevin Hopgood (the fellow who designed War Machine’s armor).

If you want to order a copy, ordering it here gives me a referral fee.

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!

38 Comments

Why is Wonder Woman asking to see another woman’s girdle?

I have that John Byrne issue. I had no idea he jammed in actual word balloons from actual other comics that month. Wow.

Why is Wonder Woman asking to see another woman’s girdle?

The woman claimed it was a magic girdle from Ancient Greece. She was really BSing to get close to Wonder Woman to get her help on something else.

I remember that issue, and I remember at least suspecting that those were actual quotes from other comics (I think the specificity of the Swamp Thing one was a bit of a tip-off, and a specific reference to Mime who was featured in Batman around that time).

Thanks for showing all the panels, I now see I didn’t actually have any of the comics (I got Swamp Thing after the fact).

Cool, fun decision by Byrne.

Michael Sacal

July 6, 2012 at 9:41 am

The Superman story is awesome.

The alternate Wonder Woman in Adams’s piece looks magnificent.
What story is she from?

Don’t forget that for a VERY brief period of time, “Earth-Watchmen” was listed as one of the worlds of the 52, at least suggesting that there were some small rumblings of revisiting the characters in some fashion.

one of the Earths was suppose to be a Earth with the Charleton characters and would have been featured in that Grant Morrisoon mini that never came out Alternity something like that

one of the Earths was suppose to be a Earth with the Charleton characters and would have been featured in that Grant Morrison mini that never came out Alternity something like that

So, is there a reason Eisenhower’s sword sheath looks like a penis?

Charles J. Baserap

July 6, 2012 at 10:19 am

On a smaller scale, the first issue of the new Supergirl series did something similar; when Kara’s super hearing kicks in, some of the things she hears are quotes from the first issues of Birds of Prey and Nightwing, showing at least that those issues happen at the exact same time.

That was a really informative piece on Herbert “Herblock” Block. I was completely unfamiliar with him before now.

Shouldn’t that be “fourth Pulitzer” in 1979?

Sorry, I was unclear there. The “body of work” one was the Nixon one (as they were awarding him for all of his cartoons about Nixon). I’ll fix that.

The Crazed Spruce

July 6, 2012 at 11:09 am

That was actually the first post-reboot issue of “Superman” that I bought, and I even had about a quarter of the comics he took the captions from. Nice to finally see where the rest of ‘em came from.

Bicycle-Repairman

July 6, 2012 at 11:27 am

“The alternate Wonder Woman in Adams’s piece looks magnificent.
What story is she from?”

“Wonder Woman: Amazonia”, an Elseworlds story in which Wonder Woman lives in an alternate version of early 20th century Britain ruled by Jack the Ripper.

Willy, when I read that, I thought of the word “Shazam” and thought that came from Captain Marvel as well. Was there any use of that word before then?

SoggyHydrox – ‘Mutiversity’ is supposedly finally coming out next year.

The “Countdown: Arena”/Watchmen rumor has some basis on fact, since writer Keith Champagne did want to include one of the Watchmen characters in it. Here’s what he said back in 2007:

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&old=1&id=12191

“I would have liked The Watchmen, too or at least one of them. I wanted Night Owl [sic] for the Blue Beetle battle. Again, it was deemed sacrilegious to play around with those characters, which I completely understand.”

I have made my position clear on many occasions that I think “Watchmen” should be left on its own, not sequelized, remixed, or used in conjunction with other characters, but man… that Art Adams piece is so awesome it almost changes my mind!

“So, is there a reason Eisenhower’s sword sheath looks like a penis?”

Yes. Ask Sigmund Freud.

Travis Pelkie

July 6, 2012 at 4:37 pm

Credit also due to our pal Buttler, who featured that Adams art in a blog piece on Before Watchmen, which led to me commenting on his site about it, which led me to email you about it.

I’ll have to read the rest later, but that piece on Herblock looks good.

And damn, Byrne has some cool ideas sometimes!

As our pal Chad has been saying lately, editors now can’t seem to coordinate having the same EVENTS that are taking place in different books match up, let alone getting people in production to paste up word balloons from that many different comics.

That Art Adams piece is amazing! He manages to draw a Dark Knight reminicent of Frank Miller’s style and a Rorschach reminicent of Dave Gibbons’ and yet it’s still recognizably his work. That is TOUGH to do.

I knew that John Byrne issue featured word balloons from other DC Comics that month (I even have a few, like the Batman, Wonder Woman and Suicide Squad issues), but it’s neat to finally see them all in context. It’s also cool to see the sheer variety of lettering styles we saw back in the hand-lettering days.

That Superman issue was hilarious. I need to fin.d that issue for cheap at my next convention.

Captain Comet

July 6, 2012 at 8:57 pm

Aw yeah, Wild Dog!

Further to Rodrigo Baeza’s comment, I swear i remember reading that Champagne did some commentary on the countdown:arena where every single alternate of captain atom teams up. one of them was supposed to be a dr manhattan analogue called doctor metropolis.

actually just found it:
http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=12229

and here he is, far left, middle. hydrogen symbol on his head!

http://www.comicbookresources.com/images/news/commentarytrack/champagne/arena4_page25.jpg

That Herblock stuff is amazing. Thanks Brian!

I’m surprised no one else noticed how in DC’s recent Supergirl #1. Supergirl had the same experience as Superman in this article where she overheard exact dialogue from some of the then current month’s comics. So maybe the writer’s of Supergirl were looking back to that moment here when writing that scene.

Fun stuff on the Superman legend, but how the heck are all of those events happening at the same time for him to be able to hear all of them at once? Some of them are clearly happening at night, while others in the middle of the day.

You know, the Quantum Superman in final Crisis was an obvious nod to Dr. Manhattan, but I’ve always wondered if they hadn’t actually debated putting Dr. M in that series, since well, it seemed like they really wanted to since they put his pastiche in there.

Unstable molecules? :\

Thanks for clearing that up about the Countdown: Arena image. And yeah, this came up because I’d mentioned and included that image in the first Before Watchmen writeup on my blog, having been under the impression all this time that it was DC promotional art. I had no idea it was something Wizard commissioned until Travis mentioned it.

The Dark Knight Returns rumor wasn’t all that far-fetched, as it turned out, because while DKR Batman didn’t compete in Countdown: Arena, DKR Superman did. So did many of the other people in that Wizard image, like Red Son Superman, Red Rain Batman, Gotham by Gaslight Batman, In Darkest Knight Batman/Green Lantern, and Amazonia Wonder Woman. And I’ve said this before, lord knows, but man, that was a terrible miniseries.

It is a pity that the execution of Byrne’s idea was flawed. I just realized that even if Matt Duarte’s point above can be proven wrong, there is still the matter of the Swamp Thing ballon. Are we to believe that the parliament of trees emits sounds to speak? I doubt it.

Travis Pelkie

July 7, 2012 at 12:16 pm

@buttler: It could have been worse. I think Arena was originally supposed to be 8 issues, not just 4.

@ Matt Duarte: Sound travels at about 720 mph. So there would be a significant delay in when/what Superman is hearing, based on where it is and how far the sound has to travel. So if we use Chicago as an approximation of Metropolis, a sound from the Louisiana swamps would take about an hour and twenty minutes to cover the 930 miles separating them. If we use New York, it would take about two hours (1490 miles from Louisiana swamps). Superman’s hearing becomes vastly more sensitive, but sound doesn’t travel any faster.

And before anybody says anything, Byrne is well acquainted with the speed of sound and, in fact, used it in other stories (Superman once warned Jimmy that if he was too far from Metropolis, Jimmy’s signal watch wouldn’t do much good because it would take too long for Supes to hear it). I don’t know if Byrne actually approximated when/where the conversations took place, but the fact that they’re not all occurring simultaneously isn’t really an issue.

Sorry to be so pedantic, but writers ignoring common physics really drives me nuts. And Byrne, whatever his faults may be, was always particularly careful to incorporate and explain things like that. I like that better than the hand-waving that’s become common now — “He’s SUPERMAN, that’s how he can hear things on the other side of the world instantly.”

The Superman word bubble thing is really cool. :-)

It’s been said, but I’ll say it again: That Superman word bubble panel was awesome. It was a brilliant slice of synchronicity of the DC Universe at that moment in time. I knew the “Flag is a part-time idiot” line because I’ve practically memorized the first run of Suicide Squad.

[…] that same month — including Firestorm! This information was featured recently over on CBR’s “Comic Book Legends Revealed.”  The issue was Superman #10 (Oct. 1987) by John Byrne and Karl Kesel. In the story, Superman’s […]

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