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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Legends Revealed #398

Welcome to the three hundredth and ninety-eighth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. This week, how did a Mickey Mouse strip lead to a reporter being exiled from Yugoslavia? How did the Three Stooges end up as regular characters in the pages of the Flash? And did John Romita really not consider himself a co-plotter of his Spider-Man stories with Stan Lee?

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

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: A reporter was exiled from Yugoslavia for reporting on the censorship of a Mickey Mouse comic strip.

STATUS: True

An interesting aspect of how Floyd Gottfredson worked when he was doing his classic run on the Mickey Mouse comic strip during the 1930s is that he did not follow any prescribed path when he began doing a story. He just basically wrote for however long he felt like writing a strip. Never was this more evident than with his riff on the popular 1937 film The Prisoner of Zenda (which was based on the 1894 novel of the same name) which tells the tale of an Englishman who turns out to be the exact double of the soon-to-be-King of Zenda. Roles are switched and hilarity and drama ensues.

Well, Gottfredson did the same thing with Mickey, switching him with the Prince of Medioka for a classic tale now known as “The Monarch of Medioka,” which ran for an amazing 135 strips from August 1937 to February 1938.

Here’s Mickey as Monarch trying to figure out how to bail the country out of financial distress…

The strip has been reprinted in various collections MANY times over the years in many different countries. Here’s one…

Anyhow, eventually the strip got to the point where the prince’s uncle (who was serving as the regent) began to get jealous of the increased popularity of the suddenly competent young prince. So he began to work against the young prince.

This caused a bit of a problem in Yugoslavia, which at the time was ruled by the Regent Prince Paul, who was the uncle of the under-age Prince Peter. Prince Paul was an ally of the Nazis while Peter leaned towards the West. Yugoslavia, shockingly, was divided in its political views at the time (obviously, as the country ended up splitting years ago) and Regent Prince Paul’s views were criticized by many. So when a comic strip shows up with a similar sounding premise, well, the Yugoslavian government was not pleased. So they censored the strip, which was running in the Politika.

Reporter Hubert D. Harrison was working as a reporter in Belgrade for twelve years when he filed the following report in December of 1937:

Belgrade, Yugoslavia, December 1. – Mickey Mouse has falled under the censor’s ban here. The daily comic strip appearing in Politka is now forbidden.

It told the story of how the uncle of a reigning prince became alarmed at the popularity of Mickey – the reigning Prince’s double – who was substituting for the absent prince. The uncle, seeing that Mickey’s popularity was steadily increasing, decideed to halt this.

The story had just reached the point where the uncle was organizing a military conspiracy when the censor intervened, forbidding its continuation.

Innocuous enough report, no?

Well, the problem was that Harrison’s reports went to a variety of papers, including the New York Times. Well, one of the British papers that ran Harrison’s report added a bit of their own editorializing to the story and specifically called out Regent Prince Paul.

Thus, Harrison was exiled by the Yugoslav government!

As you might imagine, plenty of people in the country saw this as an outrage and the Serb-Croat opposition to the government asked for Harrison’s departure to go through Zagreb (their stronghold in the country) so that he could be celebrated. Harrison wished not to cause any larger incident, so declined their offer.

Pretty amazing how much influence Mickey Mouse had at the time, huh?

I would be remiss (and I am sure David Gerstein would be less than happy with me) if I did not mention that the entire storyline is reprinted in the recent Fantagraphics release of Volume 4 of the Complete Floyd Gottfredson! Go pick it up!


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Check out some Christmas-related Entertainment Urban Legends Revealed!

Did Montgomery Ward Give the Rights to “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” Back to the Story’s Author for Free?

Did Vera-Ellen’s Neck Have to be Covered During the Filming of White Christmas Because it was Ravaged by the Effects of Anorexia?

Was Jon Bon Jovi’s First Professional Recording a Star Wars Christmas Song?

Did the FBI Believe That It’s a Wonderful Life Was Communist Propaganda?

Was Sondheim’s “Marry Me a Little” First Recorded Only as a Christmas Present?
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COMIC LEGEND: Gardner Fox just added the Three Stooges to the pages of the Flash.

STATUS: True

During the Golden Age of comic books, superhero comics in particular were highly influenced by popular films, with many a notable comic book character being based on the visual appearance of celebrities. However, rarely did you find characters as odd as Winky, Blinky, and Noddy, who Gardner Fox had show up in an issue of the Flash’s comic in 1942. Originally just one-off villains based on the Three Stooges (while using the names from the popular children’s poem, “Wynken, Blynken, and Nod”), the characters grew popular enough that they became recurring sidekicks for Jay Garrick and turned up frequently throughout the 1940s and even drove stories on their own.

And, of course, they were just the Three Stooges! Flash even referred to them as “The Three ____” (fill in the blank with insults, most common was “The Three Dimwits”).

It is hilarious, really, just how blatant the whole thing was.

Here’s a Christmas story from 1945 by Fox featuring the trio…

And after they go back in time, they meet the original Santa Claus!!!

Isn’t it amazing how Fox doesn’t try to hide it at all?

In James Robinson’s Cry for Justice, the Three Dimwits are murdered by Prometheus’ gang.
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Check out some classic mutant-related Comic Book Legends Revealed!

Was Chris Claremont really prepared to kill Professor X off and make Wolverine a villain if he had stayed as the writer of the X-Books in the 1990s?

What government official was Uncanny X-Men #401 ORIGINALLY going to make fun of?

Did Bob Layton and Jackson Guice re-write and re-draw X-Factor #1 from scratch in two weeks…in the midst of a Hurricane!?!?
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COMIC LEGEND: John Romita Sr. did not consider himself to be a co-plotter on Amazing Spider-Man with Stan Lee.

STATUS: I’m Going With False

Earlier this year, I did a feature on the Top Spider-Man Writers, based on your votes. One of the problems was how to split up Stan Lee, as obviously his work when Steve Ditko was co-plotting (and then solely plotting) the stories had to be treated differently from Lee’s other work on the character. However, as a result of this split, it is fair to say that John Romita Sr.’s co-plotting skills were not given as much attention as they could have.

A reader wrote in to note, though, that Romita never considered himself a plotter of the book (sorry to said reader for missing his name – I will try to see if I can find it later).

This reader is referring to a great interview Romita gave to Tom Spurgeon ten years ago, but it is missing the context in which Romita gave his answer.

Here’s the question and Romita’s answer:

Tom Spurgeon: You mentioned that you and even your family did some of the plotting on the Spider-Man issues. Did you ever pursue plotting credit?

John Romita: I didn’t ask for it. Jack Kirby did. Kirby demanded it, and Ditko demanded it. I didn’t demand it because I didn’t feel the need for that kind of stuff. I felt like a contributor, but I didn’t plot the story from scratch. Stan would always come up with a thought. There were times when I got very little, and then built on it. There were times when we would have a fifteen minute conference, and we would be interrupted, and I would never get back to Stan and I would be stuck with a very skimpy concept that I would have to flesh out. Those are the ones the family did when we were in the car traveling, because I would have a beginning and an end but nothing in the middle. When Stan started to give Jack Kirby plotting credit — the ultimate was when it became a Stan Lee and Jack Kirby production. When you were saying it was produced, that was the ultimate comment. “Produced by Stan Lee and John Romita,” that said I was the co-producer of this story and these characters and this product. It was a very, very good feeling.

But I never demanded it. I never demanded anything. I was sort of a sap. [Spurgeon laughs] Frankly. I was always a good solider. I never made waves, even though a lot of times I would grumble. I used to have a line I would grumble when I was inking, that I’m doing this work at three in the morning and somebody else cashed the check already. Whether it was Stan Lee or Gil Kane or whoever I was inking, or whoever I was correcting, I used to grumble like everybody else. But I would never go in and say to Stan, “I’m tired of this,” or “If I don’t get this, I’m not going to stay.” I was never that kind of guy. I needed comfort and peaceful surroundings. I traded a lot of income and a lot of… I didn’t promote myself. In exchange I got peace and quiet and easy-going surroundings I was comfortable in. If I had been a squeaky wheel, I could’ve gotten more oil.

See? There’s no way that that is Romita saying “I did not deserve plotting credit.” He obviously DID deserve the credit and he acknowledges as much, simply noting that he did not pursue the issue because he did not want to cause trouble.

So no, Romita did not think that he was not a plotter.

Thanks for the suggestion, though, reader whose name I can’t recall!
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Check out the latest edition of my weekly Movie/TV Legends Revealed Column at Spinoff Online: Was the last thing Walt Disney ever wrote before he died really “Kurt Russell”?!?
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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.

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!

36 Comments

Because of the volume of titles he wrote and edited I thought all of Stan’s stories had a co-plotter.

Because of the volume of titles he wrote and edited I thought all of Stan’s stories had a co-plotter.

You could easily make the argument for that, Ray. The difference, of course, with Ditko and Kirby was that they both eventually were just plotting the book on their own and Lee was “only” coming in after the story was plotted and penciled to script the stories. The argument with Lee and other artists was that while Lee used the “Marvel Method,” he was still coming up with the plot on his own. He just told the artist the plot and the artist had great freedom in how said plot was told. With a storyteller as talented as Romita, though, he would give him less and less plot to work with as time went by.

Well, it certainly comes as no surprise that Jazzy John preferred a non-hostile work environment over credit for co-plotting. He seemed to just really enjoy what he was doing so he didn’t care as much for the credit and money. But if it weren’t for him, we wouldn’t have a dozen of watershed Spider-Man moments like “Face it, tiger!”, “Spider-Man No More!” and the rich Spidey supporting cast. And if it weren’t for him sticking on with Marvel into the 70s, Gerry Conway may have never received the permission to write the “Death of Gwen Stacy” story.

I have that Gladstone Giant album. Or rather, my parents have it, in my room at their house.

I would have thought Fantagraphics would name the volume where they reprinted “Medokia” after the story, but I guess not.

Yeah, I was a bit surprised by that myself, Michael. I imagine that there is some system that they use to figure out the titles and they were just sticking with it.

It’s a shame that Floyd Gottfredson’s name isn’t as well-known as Carl Barks. (Admittedly, Mickey Mouse comics aren’t as popular as Duck comics.)

One of the weirdest things about the Three Dimwits was the way they figured into otherwise serious stories, like the first appearance of The Thinker. (Serious drama about a criminal genius interwoven with a slapstick comedy about the trio trying to run a restaurant and serving alien salads that turn people invisible. I kid you not.)

Somewhere around 1945 or 1946, the Three Dimwits got a slight visual redesign so that Winky looked less like Larry. I have to wonder whether DC or All-American Comics got a nasty letter from someone.

Example: http://www.comics.org/issue/4964/cover/4/

In James Robinson’s Cry for Justice, the Three Dimwits are murdered by Prometheus’ gang.

Sigh. Of course they were. Not that it matters now because that whole continuity is dead, but I always prayed Robinson and Johns never found out about, say, the Honor Team of Thronn or Hoppy the Marvel Bunny.

In James Robinson’s Cry for Justice, the Three Dimwits are murdered by Prometheus’ gang.

This is modern comics making at DC and Marvel, and everything wrong with it, in a sentence.

“In James Robinson’s Cry for Justice, the Three Dimwits are murdered by Prometheus’ gang.”

Yeah, heaven forbid comic books are fun anymore. This is one of the reasons why I don’t read new comics anymore. I can’t stand the fanboy-driven continuity. I can’t stand the grim, dark feeling creators feel that they need to inject in their stories to make them feel more real. It was better when comics were aimed at kids–they were more creative and fun.

It was better when comics were aimed at kids–they were more creative and fun.

And, not surprisingly, a lot of the comics aimed at kids (Johnny DC, Marvel Adventures) have been the most creative and fun stuff put out by the Big Two in recent years.

Oh, nice, Gottfredson library has come to the period when he was hitting one classic story after another (no idea about the logic how those volumes are titles but Seven Ghosts is a great story too, and that volume has also Island in the Sky and…)

I thought Brians comment on “Cry for Justice” was just a gag? Surely??

Why would Robinson want to kill off such little known comedy reliefs? Geez!

But man, Soft Hearted Sam Snark was WAY ahead of the times. He understood the worth of snagging rare toys through time travel much like today’s collector market loves to fantasize about the concept. Gardner Fox nailed it in the foreshadowing department.

I think I may have been the reader in question on the Spider-Man topic, Brian. I recall I explicitly voted for Stan Lee and Steve Ditko as one unit and “Stan Lee solo” as another. I do recognize the article you are citing here, and it’s probably true I misinterpreted it. Which, if that’s the case, glad I could contribute to a column! (But aside from that, probably another reason I always considered issues 39-111 of “Amazing Spider-Man” to be solely plotted by Stan was that after a certain point, Romita and Gil Kane would switch off for a few issues here and there. I probably misunderstood the nature of Stan’s later co-plotters!)

Great insight on the Mickey anecdote, as well. Now I’ll have to hunt down those Fantagraphics collections!

I’m not entirely surprised that so many people here beat me to highlighting that sentence about James Robinson. This one line truly is the most concise statement you could ever want of what’s happened to superhero comics in modern times.

The Silver Age flash actually gave us an Earth One version (in Flash 117) of the Three Dimwits, but it didn’t catch on.
Joining in on the James Robinson thing–it’s not only Grim, it seems fairly pointless, as Clutch says.
It was interesting to read the Romita article, as I’d wondered how much input he had. Is it definite that Ditko and Kirby plotted entire issues? Certainly the story quality dropped off a lot after Ditko left Dr. Strange (more so than on Spider-Man).

Disney himself even sent a telegram to the publisher expressing regret with mild irony for the trouble the strip caused.

Anyway the Mickey strip was later published again in 1953. And it got censored AGAIN. This time due to self-censorship:
http://www.zaslike.com/files/npwuav9zkrx8osgfx8nk.jpg

Here’s rough translation of it:
1. To the general surprise and shock of Medioka and Cedioka, Mickey has announced to the people that he’s going to abdicate.

2. Mickey:
“Like I’ve said, in favor of you all… I will abdicate…”

Crowd:
“Hourah! Hourah!”
“Long live ex-King!”
“Bravo!”
“Bless you, Mihailo!”

3. Mickey:
“…and you alone decide your government in Medioka!”

4.
Character on the left:
“But Mickey, that’s impossible!”

Character on the right:
“You shouldn’t have promised them something you can’t fulfill!”

Mickey:
“You’re wrong, gentlemen!”

5. Mickey:
“I really do play to leave this country! And right away! I have promised what I CAN fulfill…”

6. Mickey:
“…therefore I go. And you watch your back! Mihailo got what he well deserved!”

7. Miney:
“Mickey, aren’t you afraid that they’ll send a patrol after you? They’re still in charge!”

Mickey:
“They got more pressing concerns!”

8.
“Near the border…”

9. Mickey:
“Takes us to the train station! And fast!”

Mustache character:
“Train departs in about an hour!”

10. Mickey:
“I’m so glad I’m no longer a “king”!”

Miney:
“Do you suppose Mihailo will abdicate or…?”

11. Mickey:
“It’s not about abdication at all, as I’ve already done that and people believed that I was him!”

12. Mickey:
“So he can either leave Medioka on his own or wait for his people to chase him out! Anyway, I’ll send him a telegram…!”

13.
“TELEGRAM

For “King” Mihailo of Medioka

I’m going away STOP You do whatever you want STOP If you need to execute someone execute one of your ministers STOP

Mickey

BTW, when they chase you out, don’t be surprised because no king has ever done any good…”

In 1980 it was published yet again, but this time uncensored. 1992 was the last time it was reprinted, also uncensored.

Floyd Gottfredson!!!! Floyd Gottfredson!!!!! Where did he rank on CBR’s Favorie Artists List?!? Did he even make the list?!? Probably not. ’cause, you know, he didn’t do anything remotely CLASSIC! No Morrison, Bruebaker, Bendis tales under his belt. Keep telling yourselves “Sandman” is the best run in comics: “Watchmen” the best story. Pompous, blow-dried, frat punks, go read some WEB comics, or DOWNLOAD the latest “new 52″……. sorry…..it’s Christmas time….. peace…good-will towards men….God Bless Us All (even the A$$#@LE$).

P.S. seriously, did he even rank? and Charles Christopher is very nicely rendered.

You can’t seriously expect a not very well known writer/artist from a newspaper strip 70 years ago to place higher in a Favorite artist list then the current hot writers and artists. It has nothing to do with people being assholes, it’s simply a matter of visibility and accessibility. If you were to walk into a comic shop or book store, which is going to be easier to find – a Bendis comic, or a Gottfredson comic? Unless you think voters should be required to be familiar with every possible nominee in order to vote, of course the bigger names are going to rate higher, regardless of talent.

And for the record, I own all 4 volumes of the Gottfredson books that Fantagraphics has released so far, and they’re great. But despite being an avid comic fan for over 25 years, I just heard about him for the first time when volume 1 came out a year or so ago. He ain’t exactly a household name.

Y’know, I’ve read Cry For Justice more than once (I know! I dunno what I was thinking either!) and I don’t remember those characters getting killed. Must have been because the body count was so high. James Robinson, we hardly knew ye!

But, am I missing something, because to me, those 3 guys look more like Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy. Laurel and Hardy might be a bit of a stretch, admittedly, but the one looks a lot like Chaplin to me. Sort of a joke within a joke, maybe?

That Mickey legend is neat. But was 135 strips for a sequence that long of a sequence for the era? I think there were Lil Abner sequences that were quite long. Admittedly, I’m not real familiar with a lot of the strips of that era, but it just seemed that that number wasn’t so extraordinary for the era.

Ah, the Marvel Method. It’s got a kind of magic to it, because Stan, Jack, and Steve all created very different things on their own and never quite got the love for the stuff without the others (probably the Fourth World stuff is the most beloved out of the solo stuff). As far as I know, JRSR never wrote anything on his own, so we can’t really compare.

I’ve always found Mickey Mouse an incredibly bland and uninteresting character, but I always enjoy the old strips when I see them. I need to get ahold of some of the Fantagraphics reprints. Maybe after I finish working my way through the Segar Popeye books… there’s just too damn much I wanna read, and not enough time.

A Horde of Evil Hipsters

December 22, 2012 at 3:25 am

Floyd Gotfriedson was, in fact, rather great. Still doesn’t excuse the typical CBR dickery of using him as an excuse to launch yet another hysterical anti-Morrison/Moore rant.

So yeah, “Az Johnson”: “merry christmas, @sshole” indeed. Grow up.

I’ve know about Floyd Gottfredson all my life and he is certainly no favorite of mine.

I do think it’s interesting that when John Romita did a couple of Cap stories in the early sixties, Cap sounded a lot more like Spidey moping over his lonely life than he did in the Stan/Jack issues.
Jazzbo agreed 100 percent. I love EC Segar (and Travis, IIRC he did have some very long story arcs) but I can’t blame people for not seeing someone now found only in Fantagraphic bound books (which my library has most of, yay!).

I think its great that Fantagraphics are publishing the bejezus out of these old strips keeping them out there. Doing their bit to introduce new generations to a happy little mouse who is far more than just a mascot for a theme park.

If only Disney could buy their own comic publishing company to keep all this classic material in print…

Hmmmm??

thesnappysneezer

December 23, 2012 at 3:50 pm

I get them mixed up but the one with Larry’s hair seems like Curly’s face, the one with red Moe hair seems like Curly’s face and the other bald one seems like Moe to me.

Robinson has fallen so much in my eyes, never read Cry for Justice, never will. I can’t stand him anymore, he doesn’t seem to actually respect the Golden Age, he just likes to terrorize it for plot devices.

thesnappysneezer

December 23, 2012 at 3:50 pm

I meant the one with Red Moe’s hair seems like Larry’s face.

Minor nitpick: the country in Prisoner of Zenda is Ruritania, not Zenda. Zenda is the hunting lodge where the Prince is kidnapped.

Keep up the great work!

In Doom Patrol’s Crawling from Wreckage arc, Grant Morrison presents 3 masked characters riding tricycles named Winky, Blinky and Noddy, in a very Stephen Kings’ The Shining scene.

They could have been influenced by the poem or the golden characters, dunno, but it was creepy!!

I don’t think James Robinson weote Cry for Justice or JT Krul wrote that Arsenal issue. It was like John Rozum’s recent Static credit or Brad Meltzer being blamed for rapemurder. Editorial meddling.

Hey, that’s a nice myth.

[…] the MM newspaper strip, “The Monarch of Medioka” circa 1937, which was censored in Yugoslavia. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like […]

I’ve loved Gottfredson’s stories ever since 1973 Walt Disney Comics Digest #40 (though I believe those reprinted comic book versions redrawn by Paul Murray). I never thought we’d ever see a complete run, especially of the early stories (I even have the Uncensored Mouse issues from the ’80s), but I also doubted complete Peanuts or Pogo sets, either. The Mickey volumes are especially wonderful!

The Three Dimwits are great. I first encountered then in an All-Flash reprint in DC 100-Page Super-Spectacular #22 (circa ’73). I also have a copy All-Flash #10 and more issues on microfiche. Ah, what fun. I love E E Hibbard’s art. They aren’t quite the Stooges (no violence) in action, which makes sense for me as I can’t stand the actual Three Stooges. :P

[…] Book Legends Revealed brings us a Christmas story with the Three Dimwits — who were basically the Three Stooges, inserted wholesale into the Golden Age Flash comics […]

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