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Welcome to the four hundred and third in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous four hundred and two. This week, learn whether famed filmmaker Federico Fellini wrote a Flash Gordon bootleg strip in Italy in the late 1930s! Discover whether Charlton Comics was really formed in a PRISON! Finally, marvel at the bizarre and convoluted journey the Mike Allred character the Horn took before he finally showed up in a comic!
COMIC LEGEND: Federico Fellini wrote a Flash Gordon bootleg comic strip in Italy during the late 1930s.
STATUS: I’m Going With False
Leading up to and obviously during World War II, nearly all American comic strips were banned in Italy and Germany. I have written in the past about a notable exception in Italy (you can read it here). What most countries did was to just do their own bootleg version of the comic. After all, these WERE popular comics after all!
In Italy, they planned to continue from where the Alex Raymond Flash Gordons were dropped in 1938.
Here are some of the Raymond strips….
However, they were forbidden from actually publishing them and they did not appear until after the war.
As legend goes, young Federico Fellini, well before becoming a world-famous filmmaker, either scripted or drew the strips!
However, the legend is just that. Fellini himself helped to perpetuate the legend for years, noting in an interview once:
I only continued the storyline, by anticipating, from what I’d read and from what had been published up to that point, how the various episodes would be configured. I tried to imagine the continuation of this story, while Giove Toppi, an illustrator for Nerbini, attempted to imitate the graphic style of the artist Alex Raymond.
However, first off, Guido Fantoni drew the strips, not Toppi.
Here is Fantoni’s take on the strip…
Secondly, there does not seem to be any actual basis for Fellini’s involvement in the strip. He did work as an assistant for Edizioni Nerbini, who commissioned the strips and Fellini DID do some cartoon captions and gags for Nerbini, but there does not seem to be any evidence that he actually wrote the Gordon strips. Most importantly, the timing does not work out when you look at Fellini’s timeline. He was not in Florence (where the strips were produced) long enough for it to fit. Late in his life, when he was asked about whether it was perhaps an exaggerated story, Fellini conceded that it very well might have been mis=remembered (or as Fellini liked to call it when he made up a story, an “imaginary memory”).
This is not to say that his time in Florence was not formative for Fellini, as obviously it was. He just didn’t actually write the Flash Gordon comic strip. After becoming a notable filmmaker, Fellini did do some comic books with Milo Manara, so clearly he enjoyed the comic book format.
Thanks to Tullio Kezich’s Federico Fellini: His Life and Work and Hollis Alpert’s Fellini for the information. Thanks to reader Gerard for the suggestion! And thanks to Fumetti Classici for the scans!
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COMIC LEGEND: Charlton Comics was formed in prison!
STATUS: Basically True
In 1931, John Santangelo, Sr. began a business publishing lyrics to the popular songs of the day (this was a popular business back in the days before steady radio play. If you wanted to hear the hit song of the day, you would play it for yourself). The only problem is that the Italian immigrant did not have the COPYRIGHTS to the songs. Years later, he would claim that he did not know that he was violating any laws. We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. Anyhow, he was arrested for copyright violations and sentenced to a year in prison.
While in prison in New Haven, Connecticut, Santangelo met Ed Levy, a former lawyer turned white collar criminal.
The two decided to form a publishing company together when they got out of prison. They named it after their sons, who were both named Charles. The T.W.O. Charles Company began publishing song lyrics (legally this time) and eventually, when comics became big in the 1940s, they got into the comic business.
Their first comic was Yellowjacket…
In 1946, they named their comic book company Charlton and they stayed in business until 1985, introducing a number of notable comic book characters, including Blue Beetle (the Ted Kord version), Captain Atom and The Question (it helps that they were where Steve Ditko went after leaving Marvel Comics and it also didn’t hurt that they had Dick Giordano working for them in the 1960s).
Quite a way to start a business!
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COMIC LEGEND: Mike Allred’s characters The Horn and Carla were originally invented as X-Force/X-Statix characters.
One of the craziest aspects of doing X-Force for Mike Allred was that he had to create a TON of new characters. As it turned out, one character he created managed to never actually make it into the book! Come learn the strange journey that the Horn took to finally appearing in a comic book!
The Horn was one of the initial group of characters that Allred designed for the book, almost all of whom became beloved characters in X-Force.
The Horn (he’s the dude with wings) did not make it into the book, though.
When X-Force ended and was relaunched as X-Statix, Allred and writer Peter Milligan were going to kill off a major character. To hide which one it was, Allred did three different fake promos for the new title, featuring different characters living and dying. Meanwhile, he also added a new version of the Horn to the covers as a new character for X-Statix.
Once again, the Horn did not make the cut. Nor, though, did another character who appeared on the final fake promo image.
Here is the eventual REAL cover for X-Statix #1.
It would not be until 2007 that the Horn and this other unnamed character finally showed up as members of the Atomics, in Mike Allred’s Madman Atomic Comics #5…
Carla is currently a member of the Atomics in the Image series It Girl and the Atomics…
Quite a journey! Thanks to reader Chris C. for the suggestion!
Check out the latest edition of my weekly Movie/TV Legends Revealed Column at Spinoff Online: Did TV’s Greg Brady REALLY Date His TV Mom?
Okay, that’s it for this week!
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