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Film, Comic Books
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.
COMIC LEGEND: A reporter was exiled from Yugoslavia for reporting on the censorship of a Mickey Mouse comic strip.
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!
Check out some Christmas-related Entertainment Urban Legends Revealed!
Was Sondheim’s “Marry Me a Little” First Recorded Only as a Christmas Present?
COMIC LEGEND: Gardner Fox just added the Three Stooges to the pages of the Flash.
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.
Check out some classic mutant-related Comic Book Legends Revealed!
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!?!?
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!
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”?!?
Okay, that’s it for this week!
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