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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Legends Revealed #403

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!

Let’s begin!

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!

Check out some Entertainment Urban Legends Revealed!

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Did the Actor Who Played Eddie Haskell on Leave it to Beaver Later Work in Adult Films?

Was Arnold Vinick Going to Win the Presidency on The West Wing Before John Spencer’s Untimely Death?

Did Carly Simon Auction Off the Identity of Who “You’re So Vain” Was About for $50,000?

Was the Cookie Monster Originally Invented for a Cheese Snack Commercial?

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.

Story continues below

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!


Check out some classic Comic Book Legends Revealed related to both Flash Godon and also comic strips in Europe being affected by politics!

Was Flash Gordon based on a rejected John Carter of Mars comic strip?

When Flash Gordon appeared in Australia, what did they change his name to and what was the strange reason WHY?

Were all American comics banned in Fascist Italy…except Mickey Mouse?!

Did a translated version of the Dan Dare radio show lead to a “brand new” Spanish comic book hero?

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!

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!


Just one precision: the strip used to illustrate the Flash Gordon legend was done by Edgar Pierre Jacobs for the belgain magazin “Bravo”. It was one of the last strips done before nazi cansorxhip forced “Bravo” to stop the publication of Flash Gordon. To replace it, Jacobs created an other science fiction strip, “Le Rayon U” (the U Ray). After the war, he would use some of that strip’s characters as blueprints for his “Blake & Mortimer” series. And the rest is history.

Thanks, Gerard, I will admit that I was having some confusion regarding the strips’ origination (considering they are all in languages I don’t read). I’ll just take them out for now. I’ll try to put an Italian strip in there.

I don’t know how far it got, but De Laurentiis wanted Fellini direct Flash Gordon in 1980, too. Dude must have dug the character!

Man, people think modern copyright laws are draconian…at least they don’t include jail time…

Man, people think modern copyright laws are draconian…at least they don’t include jail time…

Right? Crazy.

I don’t know how far it got, but De Laurentiis wanted Fellini direct Flash Gordon in 1980, too. Dude must have dug the character!

I’ve been interested in that one for awhile, too. A lot of misinformation seems to abound about what exactly happened. Was there an offer? How far did it go? I’d love to find out more!

Chief the Was Arnold Vinick Going to Win the Presidency on The West Wing Before John Spencer’s Untimely Death? link is bust

Fixed it. And as Perry White would say, don’t call me Chief! :D

Awesome a bootleg publisher and a lawyer turned white collar criminal got together with a disgruntled objectivist comic creator and gave us some of the best comic characters in history.

Right? It’s crazy!

How great is that the Hornet doesn’t even get the main cover on the first issue of his series lol?

Fellini did also direct Armando Mastroianni as an actor playing Mandrake in Intervista.

Here’s the clip:

Brian: Sounds like something you need to get onto! :)

If you want an image by Guido Fantoni (fantoni, not Fantini) to ilustrate the article. The first one here is from his flash gordon take.

The other ones in the blog entry come from other european Flash versions (also an interesting matter for future legends)

In Flash Gordon 80’s film, one of the characters in Ming’s court is a midget called Fellini.
Find him in this list:

Thanks for the typo alert, Juan, and for the image link. I’ll add that into the piece!

I’d quibble about Charlton introducing Blue Beetle (and I guess this is me quibbling now), but eh, they introduced Ted Kord, and the version of Dan Garrett that modern readers are most familiar with (insofar as they’re familiar with him at all). So fair enough, even though Fox Feature Syndicate did the original Blue Beetle.

I’ll throw in a Ted Kord qualifier just for you. ;)

i remember reading about the Horn in Wizard back when X-Statix was about to come out. i even remember seeing that exact image of him as the 2nd fake promo. never realized that he actually materialized somewhere else down the line. thanks for the info!

Before moving to the United States and making schlock,* Dino De Laurentiis produced two of Fellini’s classic films — La Strada (1954) and Notti di Cabiria (1956). Fellini did have an affection for Flash Gordon and for King Kong, and De Laurentiis approached Fellini about directing both of those films. If my memory of my undergraduate course on Fellini is accurate (the professor had interviewed Fellini multiple times), Fellini seriously considered accepting the offer to direct King Kong. But he turned it down because he preferred not to make adaptations (only two and a half of his films were based on other texts).

*He didn’t make only schlock in the U.S. — he did produce Serpico (1973), Ragtime (1981) and Blue Velvet (1987).

That Charlton started in prison would explain why the guy on the cover of Yellowjacket Comics has a tattoo on his arm….

I was hoping that I could correct you Mr Cronin, by pointing out that Ditko worked for Charlton in the 50s (so before he went to Marvel, much less before he left) but I reread that section, and I guess “…where Ditko went after leaving Marvel…” does not imply that he had never been there before. I was so pleased with myself too…


We’re American comics banned in all of Europe leading up to WWII? I’ve never heard of such a ban here in Ireland

Oops, yes, Marty, I meant most of mainland Europe, but really, specifically Italy and Germany so I just changed it to those two countries.

Is it just me, or does that one guy in Madman Atomic Comics look an awful lot like an antenna-less Guy Smith?

[…] the rip-offs were prohibited and the strips didn’t see publication until after the war had ended. The faux-FLASH was produced by writer Edizioni Nerbini and artist Guido Fantoni, but for years after…. While Fellini’s claims are empirically false, he did serve as Nerbini’s assistant for some […]

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