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Comic Book Legends Revealed #380

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.

Let’s begin!

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.

Story continues below

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!

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!


I’m pretty sure Namor is nude throughout Marvels. I don’t think you ever see his classic green fish-scale trunks, anyway.

*I* noticed.

Thanks to vulgarity now coming full circle, both the names “Vibrator” and “Shocker” are considered dirty now.

“You see, at one point in Marvels #1, Ross drew Namor…naked!”

Um … Namor is naked THROUGHOUT Marvels #1, censored with shadows and objects. I don’t think there’s a single panel in which he’s supposed to be wearing clothes.

Oorp, looks like Taylor Porter already said this. (Actually, it’s eerily close to being the same post … I swear, it wasn’t there when I typed that!)

In one of the Kingdom Come crowd shots there’s a character who looks an awful lot like The Ray having sex. It’s in te superhero nightclub.

Cyke is bisexual.

I’ve always liked Shocker’s costume design.

I never did understand why Namor was nude in Marvels. It never did make sense to me.

I remember reading about the Cyclops/Marvel Girl hand shadow on the crotch reference a while back. Its all I see now whenever I look at that panel!

I would imagine Namor is naked because, erm, it’s in the script. Right there, in the caption box.

Knut Robert Knutsen

August 17, 2012 at 10:48 am

In the scandinavian Beetle Bailey comics, they’ve been publishing “censored” gags for years. Mort Walker used to have gag meetings with people on other strips he worked on and such, and they’d discuss gags, dump some, fix some and occasionally have fun drawing a couple of racy sketches that never went beyond that stage, A lot of funny non-PC gags, off-colour gags and sexual gags.

A few scratched off belly-buttons, that’s nothing compared to the full frontal nudity they’ve served up in censored gags,

Oh, you don’t have those in English editions, you say? Ooops.

(The scandinavian “Uncensored” Beetle Bailey usually comes in comics inserts and the strips are in the original english, with the text explained underneath, obviously there’s a lot of punning in these strips. So I’m sure if there’s an interest they’re possible to get hold of.)

In the scandinavian Beetle Bailey comics, they’ve been publishing “censored” gags for years. Mort Walker used to have gag meetings with people on other strips he worked on and such, and they’d discuss gags, dump some, fix some and occasionally have fun drawing a couple of racy sketches that never went beyond that stage, A lot of funny non-PC gags, off-colour gags and sexual gags.

Right, that’s what last week’s column was about!

I believe Namor was nude in his first appearance back in the 40’s, that’s why Alex had him nude as well- but I could be wrong.

Actually in a Greek version of Spider-man, the publisher at that time was really persistant to translate everything….. even names!!!! So on a cover of an Amazing Spider-man one day we saw the name of Shocker translated in Greek, the bad thing is that his name in Greek can also be translated back as Vibrator.
Imagine our surprise when we all read (in Greek) “The Amazing Spider-man against the sinister Vibrator”!!!!!!

Back in the 1960s/70s Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In used to write gags specifically to be censored. According to Dan Rowan in an old interview, the censors rarely found anything intended for the show had to be cut (despite it’s reputation) so they’d throw in something extra suggestive to give the censor something to do).

That would be a fine reason if true, Fremgen, but nope, he wore swimming briefs in his first appearance.

I’ve been waiting for this day. At long last, Cyclops and Iceman’s secret love affair is revealed. :)

Re: Shocker/Vibrator – thanks to me being your run of the mill stupid, destructive, hardheaded kid, I can confirm that electrical shocks (say, the kind you’d get from sticking something metal into a wall plug, or trying to power your “coffee can robot” with a car battery) do indeed feel like super intense vibrations. So there’s at least some suitability to the name.

Namor’s naked because I asked my mother whether a guy wearing just abbreviated swim trunks in 1939 would be described as “half-naked,” “naked” or something else, given the dress codes of the day.

She said “half-naked” probably wasn’t strong enough. “Practically naked,” maybe, but “naked” wasn’t out of the question.

So I wrote it that way and Alex decided to paint Namor in such a way that you could never actually tell whether he was wearing anything.


So we’re supposed to believe the syndicate kept a box full of cut-out belly buttons? A whole box? Of all the belly buttons they censored throughout the years? I don’t believe it. I mean, what bizarre reason could they have for keeping them?

If you ever get really, really desperate for urban legends, there’s one you can tackle! ;-)

Mel’s right, it does feel very vibratish to get shocked.
Besides, Shocker’s just a punchier name than Vibrator.

“Although, doesn’t it look like it is also in Iceman’s crotch?”

The light is emanating from Cyclops’s face, so it would naturally cast the shadows from his hands in both directions.

I totally remember that last bit about Rembrandt from a letter writer in Wizard back in the day. Probably why I went for a degree in Art History ;) No, not really.

Knowing how much Bendis seems to love the Shocker in Ultimate Spidey (that is where he features him all the time, right?), I’m amazed if there wasn’t some sort of reference to the Vibrator thing in there.

In Beetle Bailey, Rocky is sort of the guy who can get stuff for you, so it’s not surprising that in civilian life he was…less than honest. Probably if it didn’t come right out saying he stole them, it might have passed. I almost thing the junkyard punchline works better, because it’s shady but not (necessarily) outright criminal.

Namor should totally be nekkid all the time now. Screw your surface morality!!!

Thanks for clearing that up, Kurt! I wondered if it had something to do with the time.

I read that Wizard! Good times. I also didn’t even think about looking at Ice Man. It’s funny how a directed mind will travel.

Tom Fitzpatrick

August 17, 2012 at 2:56 pm

I “feel” so dirty now for having read MARVELS in the past. ;-)

A few months later someone pointed the Iceman thing in the letters column. Isn’t there some theories that say that the guy casting the shadow is a self-portrait of Rembrant? And the other guy was some very close friend of him?… I believe the guy that wrote to Wizard said this himself.
And in the Namor shot you can see some shape dangling right there.

Wow. “sean” really missed the point, didn’t he?

TBH, I think the censored version of that Beetle Bailey strip is better, the uncensored is a bit too blunt. But yeah, Rocky’s character would be involved with something a bit shady…
I have heard also the bellybutton box comment, but I think Walker just wondered or liked to think there was a box full of censored dots somewhere, not that he actually knew there was such a thing.

Relating to censorship in newspaper strips, I have enjoyed the extensive commentaries Stephan Pastis provides in Pearls Before Swine collections, giving behind-the-scenes info and pointing out stuff that has upset editors, newspapers or readers…

Yeah, sorry, I meant to be clear that it was just Walker telling tall tales about the box, not that it was actually true.

I really think he was supposed to be named Vibrator even if Romita doesn’t want to admit it. It was the 60s, it’s not like society knew that much about the sexual device. He got the V belt, it fits his powers. When I was a kid I always wondered what Shocker meant. I mean it’s not like the guy is electric. His powers is about vibration, that’s what he does so Vibrator it should be and it was intended. They could have named him Vibro though.

Or how about … Vibe! And then they could flesh him out by coming up with a distinctive trait like hmm … I know, break dancing!
I think we’ve got a winning idea here, people.

I am surprised no one has yet pointed out that ‘the vibrator’ is a weapon in the Spider-Man cartoon universe.

They wouldn’t have scraped the belly buttons off. They’d have painted them out,

>> It was the 60s, it’s not like society knew that much about the sexual device.>>

It was in the 60s that vibrators got really popular, and by that time they’d been around since the early 1900s.

Every generation thinks they invented sex, but really, the 1960s? The free love generation?


Argh! kdu2814 beat me to it, that was the first thing I thought of when I read this column!

I recall an old back issue of Wizard where Alex Ross cops to the Cyclops hand shadow on Iceman being a mistake on his part. I think he said he arranged everything so that the shadow could fall across Jean, foreshadowing their relationship, but by the time he realized the lighting demanded a shadow across Iceman too, it was too late to change it.

The one thing that I really noticed in the Spidey segment was the incomparable art by John Romita.Those pages put most everything I see nowadays to shame.Thats a super-hero/villian battle if I have ever seen one.

Cyclops was bisexual?

Everybody knew that.

Gotta love those ASM sound effects. Who got the job deciding that Shocker’s right fist makes a BTAMMM sound but his left makes a FPOK? And I choose to believe that BTROCK is not a sound effect but Spidey crying out for ze Lepair.

What always bugged me about that Ross X-Men panel is that he obviously spent some time and forethought on getting Cyke’s fantasy-optic-beam-lighting correct, but then totally flew the coop on Angel’s real-bird-wing-physics. There’s no way Angel can be that close overhead without his wings battering down on Hank’s or Bobby’s head or at least mussing Jean’s hair up a little. Sure, Scott has his hand-shadow over Jean’s Cable-box, but he’s about to have his head dry-humped from behind by Captain Pigeon. Ah, the innocence of the Silver Age!

There was, if I remember correctly, a villain in an issue of West Coast Avengers called Vibro….

Any day where Brian Cronin and Kurt Busiek both help set people straight about the history of vibrators is a great day in comics history, from where I’m standing.

There is indeed a Vibro in the comics. He even has made a recent return as generic Mandarin stooge in Iron Man.


That Vibro from “Iron Man”? He looks like the Mole Man’s brother who became a butler.

Just to avoid any confusion, I’d like to clarify that I am not and have never been the Mole Man’s brother. Nor Vibro, for that matter.

I always figured that the fact that the Shocker doesn’t actually shock he was inspired by those hand shockers you could order at the back of comics. They also didn’t send out an electric current, but just a short intense vibration that “shocked” you. Also isn’t “The Shocker” a dirty enough name? You know The Shocker, as in ‘two in the ****, one in the *****’.

The use of “shock” to mean a physical jolt or sharp vibration is much older than its use in reference to the effects of electricity.

Shocker was originally supposed to be called Personal Massage Wand.

“Any day where Brian Cronin and Kurt Busiek both help set people straight about the history of vibrators is a great day in comics history, from where I’m standing.”

That’s one of the reasons why I love this site so much.

“Ross wanted to see if editorial would notice.”

How could anyone not notice? It says “naked man!” in bold right next to it in the actual text.

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