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Comic Book Legends Revealed #395

Welcome to the three hundredth and ninety-fifth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. This week, learn whether Aunt May was going to be revealed as Peter Parker’s birth mother, discover who invented Batman’s grappling hook – the movies or the comic books? and finally, what can Pogo tell us about watching TV?

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

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: The comic book series Trouble WAS originally intended as the origin of Peter Parker’s birth (and therefore, Aunt May was going to be Peter Parker’s birth mother)


Back in 2003, Mark Millar, Terry Dodson and Rachel Dodson created a five-issue mini-series titled Trouble…

As you can tell by the covers, the book was designed to appeal to a more romance-oriented crowd. It was during a period in Marvel history where they were really trying some radically different things, including putting one of their top writers (Mark Millar) and one of their top art teams (the Dodsons) on a teen romance series, one that dealt with two teenage friends who go to work as a resort where they meet two handsome brothers. They each pair up, but one of the girls cheats on her brother with the other brother and ends up getting pregnant. Her affair is discovered when the brother she was dating informs her that he is sterile.

In the end, the couples get back together and each get married. The girl gives up her baby to her friend and her husband to raise as their own.

The kick, of course, is that the characters are named May, Mary, Ben and Richard. Yes, it is pretty clearly hinted through the comic that May gave birth to young Peter after having an affair with Richard Parker but then gave the baby up to be raised by Richard and Mary Parker.

While it was clearly HINTED in the comic, was that ever really the intent?

As it turns out, yes.

Here’s Bill Jemas on the issue back when a second printing for #1 was first announced:

Over a year ago, this project was called ‘Parents’, because at its inception, it was intended to tell the story of Peter Parker’s conception. But when the creative team got to work, the story took on a life of its own, with the focus changing from being on the baby to the four teenagers who are living the life of teenagers. Now the story revolves around two heroes named May and Mary, who make enormous sacrifices in doing what they consider to be the right thing to do. And we shifted the name of the book from ‘Parents’ to TROUBLE to reflect that.

This is a very good book, and I think it’s going to turn out to be a great series overall. It stands on its own, notwithstanding Spider-Man. Which still leaves the question: Is this the origin of Spider-Man? And I’ll give you the honest answer to that question – right now, we don’t know. I don’t think the answer to that question should be up to me or Joe [Quesada], or Mark [Millar], or [Marvel Comics Senior Editor] Axel [Alonso]. The final answer to that question ought to come from the comic book community itself.

As you might imagine, the final answer was, “no.”

In the end, Millar actually seemed to try to get it so that this was the origin of ULTIMATE Peter Parker, but even that seems like it has not been picked up by Brian Michael Bendis in Ultimate Spider-Man.

The series was pretty good, really. I enjoyed it. It gets made fun of a lot, and I think that’s a shame. It is not a bad comic. But as Peter Parker’s “origin,” it probably doesn’t work very well (the ages alone don’t really make sense, as Peter couldn’t have been born when Aunt May was so young).

Thanks to Bill Jemas for the info!

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COMIC LEGEND: Batman’s grappling hook debuted in the comics before the film


In the 1989 Batman film, Batman famously uses a grappling gun…

Awhile back, commenter Dale R. noted (after commenter Rollo Tomassi asked about its origins)

I’m pretty sure it was Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle that introduced the launching system for the swing line before the movie came out.

The Wikipedia entry for Batman’s grappling gun said so for quite some time, as well.

Is it true?

No, Breyfogle and Grant were after the film.

For most of their run, Breyfogle drew Batman swinging the same way most Batman artists do it, he is just mid-swing…

But on occasion, he’ll show Batman throwing his rope…

In fact, it was not until the pair were on Batman that the grappling hook debuted.

He was still throwing the rope in Batman #456…

but Batman #458 debuted the grappling gun…

That was well after the Tim Burton movie came out.

Before they gave BATMAN a grappling gun, though, they gave Catman one during their Detective Comics run….

This, though, was also after the Batman film.

Reader Matt Bird noted in the comments section that Breyfogle had been TRYING to get the grappling gun into the comics as soon as he began working for DC (a year or so before the film) but it was not until the film added it that they actually let him add it to the comics. Thanks for the info, Matt!

Thanks to Dale for the suggestion and thanks to John Trumbull and T who both pointed out that the movie did, in fact, come first. By the way, well done by Wikipedia. They updated a few weeks back correcting the mistake. I didn’t know they had updated until just now. Good job, Wikipedia!

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COMIC LEGEND: Walt Kelly did a Pogo comic as a Primer for Parents.


A few weeks back, I discussed a Blondie comic made for a Mental Health group. Reader Arthur replied to note:

MAD Magazine did a parody of these educational comics (like the BLONDIE one) sometime in the 60s, that I read when it was re-printed in a paperback (I think Wally Wood was the artist). They featured a number of reproductions of covers of the actual comics as a header, and I think one of them was a Walt Kelly Pogo comic on family planning!

Close, Arthur! Kelly’s Pogo Primer for Parents was a piece in 1961 that Kelly did helping parents deal with TV usage by children…

Fascinating stuff and a lot of it is still applicable today!

A few years later, Kelly also did a comic for the Youth Corps, urging teens to get jobs…

Very cool stuff from a very cool cartoonist.

Thanks to Arthur for the head’s up (his initial comment would have been a lot trippier, though. A Pogo comic on family planning?!)

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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? 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.

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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 really don’t think Aunt May would keep a secret like that from Peter. If she was his birth mother, I think she’d have told him at some point. The whole thing seems pretty far away from the core of her personality. Also if she was a teen when Peter was born she’d be in her 30s or 40s when he got his powers instead of in her 60s.

Thank you, Gail, for not using that Catman costume for Secret Six. Yikes.

My problem with Trouble was that it was (unintentionally, I imagine) insulting to adoptive families. The message seems to be “Aunt May loves Peter so much because she really is his mom,” as if she hadn’t been his mother in all but name for all those years.

So Walt Kelly thought TV would last? What a crazy pie in the sky dreamer!

I always thought May and Ben were supposed to be Peter Great Aunt and Uncle, meaning Ben was Peter’s grandfather’s brother.

I spoke to Breyfogle at a convention sometime around ’90 or ’91, and he told me that his greatest frustration as a Batman artist was the idea of swinging on the batarang, which made no sense to him.

He said that he asked editorial as soon as he came on the book if he could change it to a grappling gun, but they said no. Exasperated, he then asked if he could at least redesign it so that the line was connected to a pivot in the middle of the batarang, rather than to one end of it, which would make it impossible to throw (he even drew me the design he had worked up, but I don’t know if I still have it.) Again they said no. Then the movie came out with the grappling gun, and he said “NOW, can I do it??” They reluctantly and gradually allowed him to do so.

Great guy, great artist… so glad I got the chance to tell him what a fan I was.

Thanks for the insight, Matt! I’ll add that to the piece.

“So Walt Kelly thought TV would last? What a crazy pie in the sky dreamer!”

I’ll say! He actually thought people should work for a living. He must’ve been one of those evil greedy Republicans.

It would have contradicted a lot. Just like sandwich eater Aunt May is to old. The May presented in the series was 18 right? So she would have been 33 when Peter became Spider-Man. Plus Untold Tales of Spider-Man Minus 1 cleary showed Richard Parker finding out Mary was pregnant. Hell Logan was there to give congratulations to Richard. There was no real story reason to do it. It was to soap operish and they were doing it to be controversial for controversy’s sake. When the fan backlash over how stupid and contradictory to is and how it made no freaking sense Marvel pretty much chickened out and had Richard meet a middle aged Bucky Barnes to show the whole thing wasn’t in continuity.

3 of those covers look more like something you would on a website called sapphic teenies than something from Marvel. Yikes!

Tales of the Boojum

November 30, 2012 at 11:28 am

So Pogo and Albert were a gay interspecies couple raising an adopted child in 1961? That was amazingly forward thinking.

MattMBird and Brian – You might also like this interview, which may have been linked to here once IIRC:


Those two did some of my favorite Batman work ever. It was sad to see them so unceremoniously cast aside.

They refer to an editor whose name is blanked out, and I’ve always wondered who that might be.

Brian from Canada

November 30, 2012 at 11:58 am

Does Trouble actually state they are teens? I got the impression it was college aged — which, if May were 20 when she got pregnant, would put her in the late 30s when Peter gets his powers (since Peter’s high school career is pretty much a senior’s, making him realistically 17 or 18). In the Ultimate universe, this makes more sense than 616, since 616 insists on showing May to be an aged senior while Ultimate makes her a woman more approximate to her late 40s-mid 50s plus the white hair.

Either way, I agree with Brian: it was a good mini-series, coming from a time when Marvel was actually willing to take chances. The 616 fanboys didn’t like it, but it was aimed more at the girls’ market the way the Mary Jane novellettes were (and those were actually fun too!).

As for the Pogo book… thank you for posting it! I loved the lines “Do not be afraid of your child. He is not here to stay.” :-)

“[T]he story revolves around two heroes named Mary and May[…]”. What, she’s a hero because she cheated on her best friend and boyfriend with his brother and got knocked up? Oh, Bill Jemas, you were so full of it….

Always nice to see Norm Breyfogle’s Batman. What a great, distinctive artist.

Does Trouble actually state they are teens? I got the impression it was college aged — which, if May were 20 when she got pregnant, would put her in the late 30s when Peter gets his powers (since Peter’s high school career is pretty much a senior’s, making him realistically 17 or 18). In the Ultimate universe, this makes more sense than 616, since 616 insists on showing May to be an aged senior while Ultimate makes her a woman more approximate to her late 40s-mid 50s plus the white hair.

I think they were college-aged, as well, but I thought they were 18-19, but fair enough, they could have been 20-21.

Didn’t Batman have 2 grapple guns in The Dark Knight Returns?

He used a rifle as a sort of grapple gun, yes.

They look disturbingly like young teens on those covers, which combined with the poses makes those pics really not something I want to see. Yecch.

Well, if there’s one thing Batman really needed, it was a gun.

I believe that Rorschach used a grappling gun, like the one in the Batman Film, in the Watchmen comic years before Tim Burton’s movie. I always thought Rorschach’s was the inspiration for the one in the Batman Film.

Could be, Robert! I’ll see what I can find out!

Breyfogle drew the coolest Batmobiles’….

That might be a good topic for one of those catch-all columns, a history of grappling guns in comics.

Well, that would go at least back to the Sandman’s “wire-poon gun” back in the 1940s.

And James (Robert Conrad) used both a pistol and rifle on Wild, Wild West to fire grappling hooks. Also, I seem to recall on Auction Hunters the guys found a gun “used to fire hooks and ropes across water”, refering to pirates and sailors for boarding purposes.

Aargh. Meant to type James (Robert Conrad )West…

According to Wikipedia, Rorshach uses the Grappling Hook Gun in Issue 1, September, 1996. The Batman film started filming in October of 1988, according also to Wikipedia.

“As you can tell by the covers, the book was designed to appeal to a more romance-oriented crowd.” Uh, more like a pedophile/jailbait-oriented crowd. Yikes. Stay classy, Marvel.

“Trouble” or “Nobody puts Aunt May in a Corner.”

My mon was actually really good with me and television. I actually rented Robocop and she watched it with me. We both agreed that in real life Murphy would of died by all those gun shots.

Today, if I had kids, I wouldn’t let them watch television. Pretty simple really.

Also, I want to know who the models are on the Trouble covers. :)

Geez, Wolverine knew Richard Parker, too?

You could replace television with internet and it is probably applicable today. Is Pogo aimed at undereducated rural America? It seems to be written at an awfully low level.
…Also milk.

Pogo’s characters were all backwoods Southern swamp folk, but no, the comic wasn’t aimed at rural America any more than Li’l Abner.

The grappling hook gun makes way more sense, because how far would Batman be able to throw that batarang rope? 30, maybe 40 feet? Realistically, Batman’s not swinging anywhere with that!

Even Daredevil’s billy club is better because it basically works like a fishing line that he can cast far away.
That and flagpoles everywhere all over New York..

Tonebone, I think you got that Watchmen date off by a decade. Watchmen predates the 89 Batman movie.

Good series or not, those Trouble covers are truly… disturbing. If they were aimed at a romance-reading audience, they failed miserably.

Out of curiosity, which issue is that first Breyfogle Batman panel from? I don’t believe I’ve seen it before, and it looks very un-Breyfogle. Could be the inks, but the slightly awkward pose that works so well in the more abstract Breyfogle images of Batman looks a little strange when drawn more realistically here. (It’s not bad, just odd.)

Speaking of “Trouble”, wasn’t that one of 3 wacky “I made a bet with editorial” sort of comics that Marvel put out? The other two being a spin on Smallville called “Marville” and a very awesome “Ultimate Marvel Universe Batman & Robin the Animated Series”, which was pretty much the best book ever.

I certainly hope Tonebone got that date wrong, because I distinctly remember reading issues of Watchmen at my best friend’s house in grade school, so either that date’s wrong or I’m a good bit younger than I think I am.

I certainly hope Tonebone got that date right…

@Squashua, those bet with editorial books were Marville and Ultimate…Adventures, I think the name was, but the third book was PAD’s version of Captain Marvel. Which I believe was the whole reason for the bet, Jemas (the writer on Marville) wanted to oust PAD via this bet thing, and I believe it blew up in his face because CM outsold the others by a ton. I think Brian may have done a Legend about it before.

Trouble. Yeah, I’d always heard that the original intention was that it WAS the “origin” of Peter. Ugh. Glad it wasn’t taken seriously, although as some said, it probably would have worked for Ultimate Spidey. (btw, I think the Legend should read “The comic book series Trouble WAS…”. You left out the Trouble and it’s confusing without it.)

Is it just me, or do we not actually see a gun in those 458 panels? Interesting. Could it be like what Buttler says, about not wanting to have Batman with a gun, even one that’s not a bullet-y gun?

Pogo is an awesome series. I believe that Fantagraphics has put out 2 volumes (so far) of the complete series, and it’s a great strip. (And I won’t even go into the Moore Swamp Thing issue Pog, or else I’ll get teary.)

It is interesting that both Pogo and L’il Abner were popular strips with rural/Southern main characters. And Beverly Hillbillies was the biggest show for years as well. America loves the South! Or something.

Marville is an interesting look at the problems of satirizing current events. Judging from the first issue, they started writing this write after AOL had merged with Time/Warner (so in the book, AOL controls everything) but it came out after the merger had fallen apart and AOL was a joke.
Of course, even with better timing I think it would have stunk. Unfunny and heavy handed.

Batman used a rifle to fire his line in Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns. A couple of years prior to the Burton film.

BTW, according to Wikipedia, the Trouble cover photos were taken by a French photographer, so presumably they are French models. And yes, the first three are pretty disturbing. Can’t deny they are unique and eye-catching, though.

The earliest use of a grappling gun I can think of is the Golden Age Sandman and his infamous “Wirepoon” pistol!

Richard Parker? So May was in love with a tiger?

Also, that Wal Kelly art is simply wonderful.

I had never seen or heard of that Trouble series. If I had seen them, I would have assume the title trouble meant that if you bought them you would soon be getting a visit from Chris Hanson!

MonikerNV: Pogo written at a “low level”??? I doubt there’s ever been a comic strip (or book for that matter) that could be honestly considered more sophisticated than Pogo (equally sophisticated perhaps, but not more so).

OK, that was a ridiculous declaration about something purely subjective as though it was fact. I apologize. I just can’t help it, I loves me some Walt Kelly.

In fairness, this is a primer, which is something written at a deliberately simple level in order to better convey the information within.

Pogo the strip, however, IS very sophistomicated.

“The comic book series WAS originally intended as the origin of Peter Parker’s birth (and therefore, Aunt May was going to be Peter Parker’s birth mother)”
so I guess the word “Trouble” is meant to be before “WAS”? I read this line about six times trying to understand if there was some comic series called “Was” out there.

Nothing to do with comics, but US Rangers used real-life grappling guns during D-Day to storm cliffsides in Normandy. Maybe DC editorial thought this was too old-fashioned for Batman to use?

But I agree the idea of showing Batman with a gun (which presumably he’d have to keep holstered on his utlitiy belt at all times) would look too much like a bullet gun when not seen in use.

If I recall, Breyfogle’s “grappling gun” was rod-shaped, much like Daredevil’s billy club when separated. The grappling hook would shoot out and expand from one end when Bats hit a button on its surface. Though I’m glad he went with a non-pistol looking device, the best representation of this tool had to be the one designed for the animated series.


Is this the same Brian Cronin that posts on RLYW?

I remember when “Trouble” was coming out I saw it at Borders and thought it must be pure trash. I’m now very surprised to learn that it was good, and that it was kinda’ sorta’ about Spider-Man.

“so I guess the word “Trouble” is meant to be before “WAS”? I read this line about six times trying to understand if there was some comic series called “Was” out there.”

In that case it would need to say WAS was…..

“The comic series” refers to “Trouble”. The descriptor and the title don’t have to both be posted. “The car was going to hit me”. So does it need to say “The car, a buick, was going to hit me”? Or does it sound like there is a car called a “WAS”?

Even so, if it sounded like the title was “WAS” then replace “WAS” with the actual title and tell me that sounds right:
“The comic book series Trouble originally intended as the origin of Peter Parker’s birth”
Without a was there it would make no sense, so if you thought the title was WAS, then you must have seen an extra was.

While it isn’t exactly a grappling gun, Batman did fire a Batarang out of one of his utility belt compartments in Justice League of America v1 #196 (cover date Nov 1981). After being blinded by Signalmaster and starting to fall, Batman shoots out a Bat-line from what looks to be one of the little cartridges from his utility belt, detached from the belt itself. Art was be George Perez and Romeo Tanghal.

I’m a little confused as to why everyone seems so skeeved out by the “Trouble” covers. Yes, there are two teenage girls in bikinis on the cover. What sexuality is implied by that?

Aside from the fact that the storyline inside had to do with sexuality and romance, I don’t see what the fuss is. They’re not full-body centerfold-style photos or anything. Just two girls hanging out in swimsuits. Do you guys find teenagers hanging out at the beach creepy, too?

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I love how it’s Marvel’s fault that you’re turned on by the romance books.
The best comment was “Attractive young girls!? I don’t want to see that, Marvel!”

Oh, I hadn’t yet gotten to the one that claims the author was “disturbed” by the covers.
They are totally neutral pictures of young girls on a comic aimed at young girls! Young girls are a thing that exists, and have no inherent sexual connotation! You’re going to have to learn to deal with that fact, lest you be horribly disturbed every time you leave your house.

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