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Comic Book Legends Revealed #400 (Part 3)

Welcome to the four hundredth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. This week, in honor of the four hundredth edition of Comic Book Legends Revealed, you’ll get a TRIPLE-sized column this week, in three parts (Friday, yesterday and tomorrow). The special theme this week will be that I will feature one legend that was suggested to me in each of the nine years that I’ve been doing the column, so a legend someone suggested in 2005, a legend from 2006, etc. All the way up to 2013, which is less than a week old! Today, we learn how Jackie Onassis was briefly the world’s most famous comic book editor. Plus, how did a minor continuity gaffe lead to a classic Adam Strange story? And was Alan Moore’s Top 10: The Forty-Niners originally meant to be a mini-series?

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

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: Jackie Kennedy Onassis was a comic book editor.

STATUS: True

Following the assassination of her husband, John F. Kennedy, Jacqueline “Jackie” Kennedy eventually married Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. Following Ari Onassis’ death in 1975, Jackie decided to become a book editor. First she worked at Viking Press and then at Doubleday, which is where she worked for the rest of her life until her death in 1994.

While at Doubleday, Onassis worked on a variety of book projects, including, surprisingly enough, a comic book collection!

Larry Gonick had been doing his Cartoon History of the Universe comic books for years, first as comic books…

and then collected into a book in 1980 by the independent company, Rip Off Press…

Here is a sample of Gonick’s work…

In 1988, he was signed to Doubleday by Onassis. Here is how Gonick described the process to Greg Lawrence’s for Lawrence’s fine book, Jackie as Editor: The Literary Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis…

[The comics] circulated around, and someone approached me from the University of Southern California about doing an animation project…and he sent it around. Through him, the comic fell into the hands of a man named Karl Katz, who was the head of the film and TV office at the Metropolitan Museum, and Caroline Kennedy for him at one time. So he’s the one who passed the comics to Jackie. He thought that if they had overground publishing exposure that there might be a film in it.

One day I had a call from Karl Katz, and he said, ‘I never told you this, but I’m a good friend of Mrs. Onassis.’ He said, ‘I gave her your comics, and I didn’t want to call you until I thought she was actually going to do something with them. The publisher at Doubleday has revieved them, and I think they want to publish them. Why don’t you give her a call?’

I swallowed hard when I heard that…I called and they relayed the message to Jackie. And she called me when I was at dinner that night, about nine New York time. We had a discussion, and she was very supportive….It took quite a long time to actually finalize the deal. The sales department at Doubleday was very skeptical, and Jackie made them review it again. I don’t remember how much time went by…I had lapses in contact for months, and then finally, I was like jumping out of my chair. I took a walk in the neighborhood and ran into a neighbor, who told me, ‘Don’t get mad. Use humor. You’re a humorist.’ So I wrote a note, a little handwritten note with a cartoon on it that showed my grave, and on the headstone it said, ‘Jackie Onassis called him once.’ I basically said, ‘Mrs. Onassis, what’s going on? I’m dying out here.’ And after that, the deal was done within two weeks.

The book became a massive success and Doubleday put out a sequel four years later…

Gonick and Onassis became fairly close, with Gonick telling her at a time when it seemed like she might be pushed out at Doubleday that he’d leave with her (it did not happen and she passed away in 1994, the same year the second volume was released).

Thanks to Jeff Ryan for the suggestion a few months back (so this would be the 2012 contribution) and thanks to Greg Lawrence and Larry Gonick for the fascinating tale of Jackie Onassis, comic book editor.
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Check out some Entertainment and Sports Urban Legends Revealed!

Did Pedro Guerrero Defend Himself on Drug Charges By Arguing That His IQ Was Too Low to be a Drug Dealer?

Did a Chess Player Once Die From Complications From Playing Chess Blindfolded?

Did Rickey Henderson Really Tell John Olerud He Reminded Henderson of…John Olerud?

Was Caprica Not Initially Intended as a Battlestar Galactica Tie-In?
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COMIC LEGEND: Complaints about a minor continuity error in an early issue of Justice League of America led to a highly acclaimed Adam Strange story.

STATUS: True

In Justice League of America #4, the various members of the Justice League debate adding new members…

They end up adding Green Arrow. However, some fans wrote in to note that Flash had never actually MET Adam Strange, so how was he nominating him for membership in the Justice League?

Gardner Fox took the criticism to heart, so he then wrote an Adam Strange/Justice League team-up in Mystery in Space #75 that was set BEFORE Justice League of America #4.

In it, the Justice League and Adam Strange take on the villainous Kanjar Ro together.

Kanjar Ro has a Cosmic Gong that can freeze the entire population of Rann when struck. Adam Strange figures out a plan. He’ll strike it and then be transported to Earth where the effects of the Gong will wear off.

While on Earth, he meets the Justice League…

The problem is, Kanjar Ro recently went to a star system that gave him powers like Superman (but greater), so he the Gong cannot hold him…

Luckily, after Ro is tearing through the League, Adam has an idea. If he has the STRENGTHS of Superman, perhaps he has the weaknesses?

So there you have it, one of the first examples of a writer writing a story specifically to address a fan’s complaint about continuity. Amusingly enough, the issue was highly acclaimed. It won the 1962 Alley Award for “Best Book-Length Story.”

So let’s celebrate the 50th anniversary of comic book writers writing stories just to address continuity mistakes pointed out by fans!

Thanks to Steve B. for recommending this one back in 2010.
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Check out some Comic Book Legends Revealed about other famous people with surprising connections to comics!

Nicolas Cage took his last name from Luke Cage, Hero For Hire.

Academy Award-winning screenwriter Charlie Kaufman did an X-Men parody comic in the early 1980s.

Patricia Highsmith was a comic book writer.

The number one women’s tennis player in the world retired from amateur competition and then became a writer and editor on Wonder Woman’s comic book.

Actor Bill Hader got his breakout film role due to his interest in Sandman comics.

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COMIC LEGEND: Alan Moore’s Top 10: The Forty-Niners was originally planned as a mini-series but was changed to a graphic novel over fears regarding the gay relationship at the heart of the story.

STATUS: False

Alan Moore, Gene Ha and Zander Cannon’s Top 10 tells the story of the police force in Neopolis, a city where basically EVERYone is a superhero of some sorts. Who polices the super-police?

The excellent graphic novel, Top 10: The Forty-Niners (drawn by Gene Ha)…

shows the forming of the city (and its super police force) after World War II…

While the formation of the city’s super-police is a major part of the story, a major part of the story is the experience of a former World War II action hero as he falls in love with an older pilot (who was part of a Blackhawks-type group back in the War…

The two men are still together in the present day (as seen in the Top 10 regular series).

In any event, reader Phil asked me in the comments section of the THIRTIETH Comic Book Legends Revealed (back at the old blog, http://goodcomics.blogspot.com, in 2005):

Was Alan Moore’s The 49ers published as a one-off upmarket graphic novel rather than a mini-series because DC were concerned about the mass market’s response to the prominence of a gay relationship?

I asked Scott Dunbier, who edited the graphic novel, and he told me:

No truth at all. Alan intended this to be an OGN from day one.

So there you have it, Phil!

Thanks to Phil for the question and thanks to Scott Dunbier for the quick answer!
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Check out the latest edition of my weekly Movie/TV Legends Revealed Column at Spinoff Online: Was Roger Moore really Ian Fleming’s FIRST choice to play James Bond?!
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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!

42 Comments

That has got to be the lamest logic ever- he’s got powers like Superman so he’s also vulnerable to metal from his home planet.

True, Michael, but this is also one of my favorite JLA sequences because it actually shows a hero stopping to think! The Leaguers think he paralyzed with fear or feeling helpless with no powers, but no. Adam’s “power” was his ability to think and plan. Brian didn’t include that scene but you get the point from Adam’s explanation.

Nice legend about Larry Gonick!

I read the french translation of that Adam Strange story way back in 1975, I think, during a scout camp in the french Alps. Loved it.

Frankly, there aren’t enough Cosmic Gongs in comics these days….

Kudos to Gardner Fox for fixing a continuity snafu, and doing it in a simple, no nonsense way. Which no one seems to be able to do anymore.

Ah, the Cosmic Gong. It was used to such good effect in 1970s Superman comics. Those were _good_ comics.

When I read the Adam Strange story as a kid, it all made perfect sense, since everybody knew everyone else…

Perhaps the biggest (and best) example of a continuity-correcting storyline was the Steve Englehart/Sal Buscema “Cap of the 1950s” from Captain America V1N153-156, explaining how Cap’s post-war stories were linked into the expanding Marvel Universe, despite the fact Steve Rogers was frozen in ice from 1945 to 1964!
(Though I don’t think Englehart expected the retcon to take on a life of it’s own with a variety of Cap replacements eventually filling every hour of every day after Cap and Bucky tried to stop the robot plane until his defrosting by the Avengers…)

Congrats on 400 Legends columns, Brian! And thanks for the extra-sized one this week.

That has got to be the lamest logic ever- he’s got powers like Superman so he’s also vulnerable to metal from his home planet.

Yes, it is, but to be fair by Silver Age Julius Schwartz sci-fi standards, it’s hardly the worst. Really questionable “scientific” deduction was the norm, and as bad as this was much of John Broome’s stuff was considerably worse.

True, Michael, but this is also one of my favorite JLA sequences because it actually shows a hero stopping to think! The Leaguers think he paralyzed with fear or feeling helpless with no powers, but no. Adam’s “power” was his ability to think and plan. Brian didn’t include that scene but you get the point from Adam’s explanation.

Yes, but what’s the point of having him think if the end result is a conclusion that’s utterly nonsensical? It’s one of the big problems I have with people who always say that one way Silver Age DC was better than Silver Age Marvel is because DC was “smarter” and their heroes would think their way out of problems, even though the reasoning was almost always fallacious and nonsensical. I’d rather a story not be so ambitious than be so ambitious and utterly fail at what it set out to do.

Tom Fitzpatrick

January 6, 2013 at 12:43 pm

Mr. B.C.: There’s not many CBR blogs that has lasted as long as your “Comic Book Legends”. 400 columns is definitely a milestone to be proud of! I remember it used to have the copyrighted word “Urban” as part of the title.

That’s how long I’ve been reading this blog.

Congrats, Mr. B.C., here’s to another 400. ;-)

Congrats for the 400th column, that’s lotsa work.

BTW, you had an extra-sized column, but there is something missing, were are the variant covers? :D

Peace

Many congratulations Brian, I love this feature.

@Atomic Kommie Comics- the weird thing about Englehart’s story is that it explained how the Skull could have killed Spider-Man’s parents after the war but before he awoke for suspended animation (there was a Communist agent *masquerading* as the Skull) but it was years before it was made clear that the Skull that killed Peter’s parents was the impostor.

Congrats on 400 columns of Comic Book Legends Revealed! My favorite weekly reading besides the comics themselves.

Now, if a fan points out a continuity error, he is told to shut up or just accept it cuz it’s magic.

Congrats on 400 and here’s to 400 more.

I don’t think it’s that irrational at all. It’s not simply that he has powers “like” Superman’s–he’s specifically using Rann’s triple sun to duplicate the effect of Earth’s sun on Superman (thereby giving himself much greater powers, as noted). So given the premise, it’s not an unreasonable conclusion at all.
And joining in the congratulations Brian.

How was that even a continuity error to start with? Why does Flash have to have met Adam Strange to say “he’s achieved an excellent record.” I could say the same about countless philanthropists, politicians and sportspeople and nominate them for various positions without ever having met them.

“So given the premise, it’s not an unreasonable conclusion at all.”

As Professor Frink might say, “I concurulate!”

Gornick’s Cartoon History books are magnificent! There are three volumes of “Universe” and two of “Modern World”, and they are all gems.

As is Top Ten!

As is this column! Congratulations and thanks, Brian! May you never renumber it :)

Drancron, the problem was that Adam Strange was a hero on Rann. On Earth, he’s just an archeologist–nobody knew about his other life on Rann at the time.
And yes, Gonick’s work is awesome.

Ah, got it – thanks Fraser. :-)

Hi, Brian! Congratulations on making it to 400! By the way, who illustrated the Justice League / Adam Strange team-up? If I had to guess, I’d say it was penciled by Carmine Infantino. Am I correct?

Infantino and Murphy Anderson inking.

Here’s a “What If?…” What if the JLA series was drawn by Infantino and Anderson instead of Sekowsky? I think their sci-fi slick style was much more suited to the sci-fi dominated stories written by Fox in the first 70-odd issues.
More suited to the title than – with all due respect – Sekowsky. I feel his style was far too stiff for a group book. I’ve seen a few of Sekowsky’s Wonder Woman issues in reprints and much preferred them. Sekowsky was good at drawing women and capturing the fashions of that “Mod/Groovy/Mrs Peel” era.

Since you did three comic book legends revealed for your 300th anniversary, shouldn’t you be doing four for your 400th? Sorry, just being greedy for my favorite column.

I look forward to this column every week. Keep up the GREAT work.

Mr. B.C.: There’s not many CBR blogs that has lasted as long as your “Comic Book Legends”. 400 columns is definitely a milestone to be proud of! I remember it used to have the copyrighted word “Urban” as part of the title.

“Urban” is not copyrighted. I just changed the title because I thought that the name sounded better without the “Urban.”

Thanks for the well wishes, folks!

Pete, Sekowsky also did a great Alanna in the first couple of Adam Strange issues. He did indeed draw women well.

Congrats on 400. YAY! (I assume in response to Tom’s nonsense you mean that it sounds better “without” the Urban.)

Drancron made the point I was going to about the Flash nominating Adam Strange. No need for a story (although, hey, this one is neat), especially one that gets that man-crushin’ look on Barry’s face — “I’m SOOO gonna “nominate” him the next time I see him!”

It’s the way Flash says it in the first bit — “he’s achieved an excellent record”. That implies that, at least in the superhero community, Adam Strange is getting a good reputation. Although I will concede Fraser’s point.

I’ve read the first Gonick History, love the footnotes. Had no clue Jackie was involved. First she swoons over Herbie, then this…

In the quoted bit, though : “a man named Karl Katz, who was the head of the film and TV office at the Metropolitan Museum, and Caroline Kennedy for him at one time” — is it that Caroline Kennedy interned for him at one time? Otherwise I’m-a no know what you say here.

And of any of the big comic publishers, I would have least guessed that DC would shy away from an adult telling of a gay relationship in a comic. Particularly with the Wildstorm stuff, iirc, but they’ve won plenty of GLAAD awards in the past for depictions of gay relationships, and don’t seem to shy away from that material. I might have thought that the 49ers was intended as a mini and not an OGN, but that would not have been the reasoning I’d have thought of about it.

The Justice League used to have a space row boat? Was that something that has been seen before or just something that appeared once and was never explained? And Adam Strange got to Rann on the ship so couldn’t he stay and not have to worry about the Zeta beam wearing off?

Regarding whether or not DC would allow a depiction of a gay couple in The 49ers — I’m not sure if Brian has covered this one before, but one of (if not the) earliest totally unambiguous identifications of a character as being gay in mainstream comics was in ‘Mazing Man #3, published by DC way back in 1986.

The space row boat was Kanjar Ro’s. And no, while Adam had managed to settle permanently on Rann as of the previous story, Kanjar Ro’s energy blast, being fueled by Alpha Centauri (Rann’s star) made it toxic for Adam to stay on Rann long-term.
Matthew, I think the Pied Piper came out as gay not too long after that (a great scene too).

They ignored the option of having the super-heroes take Alanna back to Earth until Hawkman does it maybe 15, 17 issues later. And for various reasons (having nothing to do with preserving the story formula, of course) they never tried it again.

Fraser, that Flash story actually came out a full five years after MM #3, in 1991: http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2011/08/08/almost-hidden-the-pied-piper-comes-out-of-the-closet/

Agreed that it was a great issue.

Thanks. I have it but couldn’t be bothered to check before I commented.

The debut of Kanjar Ro’s boat, “The Slave Ship of Space”:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Kanjarrodcu.jpg

[…] Jackie O, comics editor—how JFK’s widow edited comics for […]

Happy 400 to you!

Now, since we hear that John Cera is replacing Fred Flintstone as the spokeman for Pebbles cereal, how about the truth about Tony The Tiger competing the Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes spokeman spot with a kangaroo!!!

Well at least Adam Strange is finally married and has a daughter. Just before the ‘reboot” they did a story based on a previous story st in 1980’s when AdamStrange and JLA battle against Ro..

Congratulations on 400 columns! Might I suggest a recurring column (“Written for the Fans”), spotlighting other stories that were written in response to fan comments?

“Terrific! I’m going to propose Adam Strange for membership in the Justice League at our next meeting!”

Gotta love the subtlety of Silver Age comics. Of course that they couldn’t just draw the Flash with an impressed look on his face to explain his opinion of Strange in that JLA issues. They had to have him outright spell out in a thought balloon that he was impressed and planned to propose Strange for membership, lest they give the readers some credit and expect them to (GASP!) make the connection by themselves. And nerds wonder why many people can’t stand Silver Age comics. Maybe we would find them more appealing if they didn’t read like they were addressed at mentally handicapped people.

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