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Welcome to the three hundredth and eightieth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. This week, discover whether it is true that the Spider-Man villain the Shocker was originally named the Vibrator! Plus, what does it take to get a Beetle Bailey comic strip censored nowadays? And discover the somewhat racy stuff Alex Ross snuck into Marvels!
Click here for an archive of the previous three hundred and seventy-nine.
COMIC LEGEND: The Spider-Man villain the Shocker was originally named the Vibrator.
In Amazing Spider-Man #46, a brand-new Spider-Man villain made his debut…the Shocker!
A few things in his appearance have intrigued readers for years. Check out his debut…
So his name is the SHOCKER and yet he doesn’t really shock things, he vibrates them. Plus, he has a V pattern in his costume. This has led to a decades-long myth that John Romita and Stan Lee originally intended for the character to be called the Vibrator before realizing that, you know, his name would be the Vibrator.
The great Tom Spurgeon, though, posted an awesome conversation he had done with John Romita back in 2002 on Spurgeon’s always-interesting website, The Comics Reporter, and the myth was addressed:
When I did the Shocker, I did a Spider-Man-like v-shape in the front of his costume. The quilted part came to a point just about at the belt. What I did to try and make it clever is I put a v-shape belt on it to go around the shape of that v-shape cloth. From that moment on, everybody has accused me I originally intended it to be called The Vibrator instead of the Shocker. [laughter] I said, “No, what do you mean?” “There’s a v on his belt.” No, that was completely done for another reason. [laughs] But they didn’t buy it, they thought he was supposed to be The Vibrator.
That is about that.
Thanks to all the various people who’ve asked me the Shocker/Vibrator one over the years, most recently Rob L. and thanks to Tom Spurgeon and John Romita for the answer!
COMIC LEGEND: A 2006 Beetle Bailey comic strip was censored by the syndicate because it made one of the characters a car thief.
Last week, I told you about how Mort Walker has self-censored himself for years in Beetle Bailey, drawing strips he never intended to actually see print. However, he has actually dealt with ACTUAL censorship over the years.
The first major example came in 1954, when the following strip in January of that year…
led to the Tokyo Stars and Stripes newspaper pulling the strip from the Stars and Stripes, arguing that Walker was being too disrespectful to officers. The ban lasted a decade.
However, the ban actually HELPED Walker, as it led to a great deal of publicity (Look how his syndicate used the ban in this ad).
Over the years, various other little things were censored, most notably belly buttons (you couldn’t show belly buttons in strips). Walker would keep drawing them in there and they kept being cut out (Walker tells the story of how they would be scraped out by the syndicate, so he likes to believe that they had an actual box filled with little circles of all the belly buttons they’d scratched off Bailey strips over the years).
As time went by, though, standards relaxed a lot and there really have not been any notable examples of censorship in the Beetle Bailey strip…until just a few years back.
Check out the following 2006 strip.
Now see the original…
It strikes me as pretty amazing that this needed to be censored by the syndicate. Thanks to the great Mort Walker for the information about the early strip censorship/banning.
COMIC LEGEND: Alex Ross drew a character nude in Marvels to see if anyone would notice.
Recently, in our weekly Comic Book Easter Eggs column, I’ve been spotlighting Alex Ross and Kurt Busiek’s Marvels (here is the column for issue #1 and here is the column for #2). Reader Dave K. e-mailed me about this great Alex Ross website called The Alex Ross Collector. The fellow who runs the site, Andrew, has done a lot of great stuff with Alex Ross projects but what especially struck me was he did his own bit on “hidden art” in Marvels and there was one bit that I found particulary amusing.
You see, at one point in Marvels #1, Ross drew Namor…naked!
Check it out…
Ross wanted to see if editorial would notice. They did not seem to, as it made it into the comic.
In addition, commenter Annoyed Grunt wrote in about an interesting bit in Marvels #2. Rembrandt’s famous painting Night Watch is well known for its various “hidden” bits inside the painting, including the belief that Rembrandt intentionally had the shadow from one of the men’s hands appear on the crotch of the other member of the watch, in a clever and subtle allusion to homosexuality within the Night Watch.
Well, in Marvels #2, when the X-Men show up, Ross does the same with Cyclops and Jean Grey…
Although, doesn’t it look like it is also in Iceman’s crotch?
Thanks to Dave, Andrew and Annoyed Grunt for the interesting info!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is email@example.com. And my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/brian_cronin, so you can ask me legends there, as well!
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See you all next week!
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