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Comic Book Legends Revealed #424

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COMIC LEGEND: The term “What this country needs is a really good five-cent cigar” was actually coined by a cartoonist, not Vice President Thomas R. Marshall.

STATUS: I’m Going With False

Reader Elliot wrote to me awhile back to ask:

I recently read in *Veeps* by Kelter and Shellabarger that Vice President Thomas Riley Marshall’s famous quotation about “What this country needs is a good five-cent cigar” originated from the strip *Abe Martin of Brown Country*. True? I can’t really find it anywhere else.

Thomas Riley Marshall, Woodrow Wilson’s Vice President, is likely one of the country’s least remembered Vice Presidents. Sadly enough, he really IS best remembered only for a one-liner he once delivered in response to Senator Joseph Bristow listing the country’s needs. Marshall retorted, “What this country needs is a really good five-cent cigar.”

That’s pretty much his legacy. A great one-liner.

But was it even his own?

Elliot refers to Abe Martin, who was an extremely popular character created by cartoonist Kin Hubbard in the early 20th Century (1904 until Hubbard’s death in 1930).

Abe Martin was a down-to-Earth character with homespun wisdom.

Here are a few of his classic quotes:

“Don’t knock th’ weather. Nine-tenths o’ th’ people couldn’ start a conversation if it didn’ change once in a while.”

“Flattery won’t hurt you if you don’t swallow it.”

“Nobody ever forgets where he buried the hatchet.”

“Nobody can be as agreeable as an uninvited guest.”

Funny stuff. Here are two of his comics…



So the charge is that it was Hubbard who came up with the quote in one of his strips circa 1905 and not Marshall in the 1910s. And there’s definitely something to be said for that, as Hubbard DID, indeed, make many comments about “good cigars,” although I don’t think Abe Martin ever said the EXACT phrase in any of the comics. Still, Marshall was the governor of Indiana and Hubbard was from Indiana, it seems logical that Marshall would have been influenced by Hubbard. In addition, Abe Martin WAS associated enough with the line that a company even used Abe Martin to sell…five cent cigars! Here’s a cigar wrapper…


So Hubbard had a decent case when it came down to who came up with the line.

HOWEVER, the issue is moot since the phrase predated BOTH men.

As Jeffrey Graf of Indiana University notes:

The remark, however, appears well before 1905. The Yale Book of Quotations cites the Hartford Courant of September 22, 1875: “What this country really needs is a good five cent cigar – New York Mail. Other earlier sources include The New Orleans Times of September 25, 1875 which reads under the headline “Personalities”: The Danbury News isn’t a dead journal yet by any means, but continues, at intervals, to hit the nail on the head with astonishing force and precision. It says: What this country really needs is a good five cent cigar. The Saturday Evening Post of October 16, 1875 under “Facetiae” reports: The Danbury News says: “What this country really needs is a good five cent cigar.” It is safe to wager ten to one that the editor’s wife enertains an entirely different opinion.

Sooo…yeah, NEITHER guy came up with it.

Thanks to Elliot for the question and thanks to Jeffrey Graf for the definitive answer! Check out Jeffrey’s paper on the topic here for more information.

Check out some classic Comic Book Legends Revealed related to other comic strips that DID inspire parts of our culture!

What comic strip gave us Sadie Hawkins Day dances?

What comic strip gave us electronic ankle monitoring bracelets?

What comic strip gave us the term “Google”?

What comic strip led (indirectly) to the Marx Brothers’ stage names?

What comic strip led to the nickname of the Clash’s drummer?

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!

Story continues below

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!). 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!

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About the Batman thing, you can change the status to “True”. Still, not bad for a swipe

I have it as true, no?

I own a Batman drawn by Marshall Rogers at the 78 San Diego Comic-Con. While Rogers was drawing, Kane was also up on stage drawing. Kane kept stepping back and looking at what Rogers was drawing.

Kane’s lack of attention led to him forgetting to put the “R” on Robin’s costume, to snickering among those present. But, Rogers, in a great gesture, put a “Created by Bob Kane” notation using Kane’s signature signature.

I have that issue of the great Comics Scene. There were also some Kane pieces in Detective 598-600 that were very McFarlane (I think they might have been in that Comics Scene, also). At the time I was around 14 and and thought Kane was great for creating Batman, and I thought it was really cool that he could still draw and that his new stuff looked great. I noticed a resemblance to McFarlane’s work, but that is as far as I took it at the time.

On a related note, look closely at the McFarlane drawing. A very good piece, but Batman’s boots appear to be behind the back edge of his cape.

Bob Kane—or a third-party artist hired by Kane like you suggested—actually swiped McFarlane’s art for a special lithograph sold in connection with the big promotional push for Tim Burton’s “Batman.”

The litho: http://www.comicdom.gr/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/batmanmovier1.jpg

An argument could be made that the artist is just incorporating McFarlane’s style of rendering Batman’s cape. But the middle image of the litho is taken directly from Detective Comics #576, page 21. I always thought that shot—a less-than-dynamic pose of Batman from behind—to be the oddest drawing to swipe. Maybe he thought: “No one will suspect thievery if I include a butt shot!”

(Interestingly, McFarlane actually lifts a Michael Golden pose from an old Batman Family issue for a small panel in Detective Comics #577.)

The Bob Kane drawing looks more like McFarlane than the McFarlane.

kdu, the boots on the Kane drawing look worse. They look like they’re next to Batman’s body instead of underneath it.

Joe V. the Batman pose on top looks like a Superman #1 swipe.

I had that issue of AH. I always wondered about the Kane reference. Now I know! (And knowing is half the battle.)

I’ve always hated McFarlane’s Batman. Wearing roughly an acre of cape just wouldn’t be practical.

Yay, my “Five-Cent Cigar” legend was picked up this week!

[…] according to writer Brian Cronin, who’s got a long history of expertise when it comes to deciphering pop culture legends and […]

I would be willing to bet my underwear that Bob Kane had NOTHING to do with that drawing, other than giving the OK for his name to be put on it. Even when he was “drawing ” the comics, he wasn’t drawing them.

In general, Tone, I would agree. But Kane DID draw Batman for a number of years until he gave it all up. So it is not like the guy couldn’t draw at all, especially when all he had to do was copy McFarlane’s drawing. Would I be surprised if that was a ghost artist? Of course not, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if that was an actual Kane drawing.

Highly recommend Weldons book. Great read

It wonder if that would feel like a weird kind of honor, to be shamelessly copied by the (co)creator of Batman. Seems like it would be a pretty surreal experience, in any case.

My thought too, b. Bizarre swipe, to say the least. Kane chose well, though, the original is a compelling image.

Adding to the truth of this one is the content of Todd’s interview in that issue of Amazing Heroes. He tells of how after those Bob Kane pieces came out, he and his wife ran into GIL Kane at a party or somesuch and she threw a fit at Todd for being nice to Gil Kane, not realizing she had the wrong guy!

Are you sure that Batman picture was by Todd? It has feet!

You’ve confused Todd MacFarlane with Rob Liefeld, there, Eric. Liefeld’s the one who doesn’t draw feet or hands. MacFarlane’s major flaw is occasionally rather baroque posing.

Also, Brian, there appears to be an unclosed center tag on page one that’s making the comments look weird.

Thanks, Kamino! It’s funny, since there was so little text after the last image, I didn’t even notice the error!

Travis Pelkie

June 21, 2013 at 9:41 pm

“MacFarlane’s major flaw is occasionally rather baroque posing.”

Kamino, is that why Spidey’s spine looks ba-roque in Todd’s Spider-Man stuff?

hyuck hyuck hyuck!

Funny piece of information. Great work!

*tosses a drum kit off a cliff for Travis*

Hey, don’t take my bad punning out on an innocent drum kit. :)

And in actually reading the pieces all the way through (I skimmed! I skimmed!!), I wonder if that McFarlane swipe is actually BY McFarlane. If Kane referred to him as one of his ghosts, and the stuff Joe V said, it got me thinking.

If you’re ghosting something for someone else, also, why not swipe a panel of yourself? It’s a way of “signing” it without signing it. And doing a neat drawing without having to be bothered with redoing composition and all that.

The main reason I wouldn’t swear to this being the case is that Todd is so outspoken, I don’t see where he would have stayed quiet about ghosting Bob Kane.

And in actually reading the pieces all the way through (I skimmed! I skimmed!!), I wonder if that McFarlane swipe is actually BY McFarlane. If Kane referred to him as one of his ghosts, and the stuff Joe V said, it got me thinking.

If you’re ghosting something for someone else, also, why not swipe a panel of yourself? It’s a way of “signing” it without signing it. And doing a neat drawing without having to be bothered with redoing composition and all that.

The main reason I wouldn’t swear to this being the case is that Todd is so outspoken, I don’t see where he would have stayed quiet about ghosting Bob Kane.

McFarlane was so irritated with Kane at the time for the swipe that it really wouldn’t make sense for him to have actually done the drawing FOR Kane.

In regards to Mcfarlands Batman looking like his legs are behind the back of his cape. Batman has his cape pulled in front of him, from both sides. Meaning the right side of his cape and left side are both pulled in front of him, so there are 2 layers of front cape.

I like how when you write “Hilarious” at the end you do it with a deadpan period. It makes me think you don’t really mean it, which makes it funnier.

Another one here that had that issue of Comics Scene… if you could see the issue, you’d know how obvious it was that Kane had ripped off McFarlane. It looked like he’d just taken one of Todd’s Batman Year Two comics and traced over it, adding in a few stylistic touches so that it looked like a Bob Kane Batman. Pretty pathetic, really.

I love how every single comment until now has been about the Batman legend. Not a single one is about the other ones.

I always got the impression that Bob Kane was a man that used people and took the credit ( and money) for himself. Swiping Mcfarlane is low.

Kane was tracing Batman off of other comics from the very beginning of the strip.

Bill Williamson

March 17, 2014 at 5:10 pm

Doesn’t surprise me about Kane. He was such a hack.

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