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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Legends Revealed #426

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Welcome to the four hundred and twenty-sixth 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 twenty-five. This week, did Superman comics inadvertently lead to kids in Bosnia intentionally entering minefields? Were the Dreadnoks originally going to be anthropomorphic BEARS?!? Was a comic book story reprinted twice times in ten years…with a different lead character each time?!

Let’s begin!

NOTE: The column is on three pages, a page for each legend. There’s a little “next” button on the top of the page and the bottom of the page to take you to the next page (and you can navigate between each page by just clicking on the little 1, 2 and 3 on the top and the bottom, as well).

COMIC LEGEND: Superman comic books about the dangers of landmines inadvertently led to children in Bosnia going into minefields because they wanted to meet Superman.

STATUS: I’m Going With False

Reader Jonathan S. wrote in with this suggestion based on a recent piece he saw on reddit that cited the following:

An unfortunate outcome of this apparently well-thought-out production was that some Bosnian children actually entered a minefield because they wanted to see Superman come rescue them.

The discussion here is related to the 1996 Superman giveaway comic book Superman: Deadly Legacy, about the dangers of landmines.

deadlylegacy1

It was given out in Bosnia. A few of the sample comics (especially those given to UN peacekeepers there) were in English, but the vast majority of the giveaways were in the two main languages of the area. Here are some samples from the comic in English (the book was written by Louise Simonson and was drawn by Kieron Dwyer)…

deadlylegacy2

deadlylegacy3

deadlylegacy4

deadlylegacy5

deadlylegacy6

Now, the effects of these comics have been studied over the years, but a major problem with the studies (admitted in the studies) that it is pretty difficult to gauge the effectiveness of these materials in places like Bosnia where the population was constantly being spread about. There was not enough manpower to accurately test these things. However, the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) DID do a study on the effectiveness of propaganda tools (including comics) in the cases of Cambodia, Nicaragua and Kosovo. Kosovo used basically the same comic that was used in Bosnia, just with slight alterations. Nicaragua used a different comic book starring Superman and Wonder Woman.

hiddenkiller

In the Nicaragua study, they noted that:

Group participants who had used [the Superman and Wonder Woman comic book] to give talks or classes to children affirmed that their students’ comprehension of the messages was often mistaken, precisely because of the intervention of the comic book characters in the narrated story. In almost every case, children said that they would try to find minefields so as to be rescued and to meet the superheroes. The participants complained that this interpretation had caused significant problems, and its clarification cost them much time and effort.

So that would be on point. However, note that they said that children just SAID that they would try to do it (before being dissuaded). Nowhere do they specifically note that children DID go into minefields. Similarly, there have been no proof that any such instance took place in Bosnia, either. There have certainly been talk to that effect, but I’ve read a number of general studies on the effects of the comics in Bosnia and none of them have mentioned anything about children going into minefields. I have seen some criticism that suggests that PERHAPS children WOULD be willing to go into minefields to meet Superman and that was a criticism of the use of the comics (and a reason why most studies have shown that these comics are best used for children 10-up, as they fear that younger children COULD become confused and believe that Superman and Wonder Woman are real and that they could meet them if they went into minefields) but not that it actually happened. In addition, a whole lot of these studies have been critical of the comic, so they’re not exactly trying to sugarcoat things in favor of the comics, so if they ever had instances of this happening, it would certainly be something they’d report on.

Now COULD it have happened? I would not be shocked, but I think such an occurrence would have gotten more attention and would have been featured in one of the many studies of the effects of these comics. So I am going to go with a false for this one.

Thanks to Jonathan for the suggestion! And thanks in particular to Delmont Stephens (who was actually in Bosnia as a UN peacekeeper back in the 1990s), who wrote a great paper back in 2011 sort of coalescing all the various studies on the use of comics (and other propaganda) in landmine education into one thoughtful paper.

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Was the Violinist for Bob Dylan’s Album Desire Hired Right Off of the Streets?

Did Star Trek Once Get John Drew Barrymore Suspended From the Screen Actors Guild?

What Weird Reason Did ABC Have for Baretta Having an Instrumental Theme Song Originally?
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On the next page, were Dreadnoks originally supposed to be like Ewoks?

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37 Comments

What was the publisher for the Lady Satan story & reprints? Was it all the same publisher? And yeah, that’s one authentic police case, all right.

Incidentally, page 3 has that weird thing where all the text is centered, including the comments.

Chesler did the original, St. John did the next two.

Thanks for the center pick-up! It’s fixed now.

Nitpick on the first story. Cyrillic isn’t a language, it’s an alphabet, which is used to write Serbo-Croation.

Also, that’s an interesting outfit Wondie’s wearing in the Nicaraguan comic…was that unique to that story?

it should be noted dc also did a land mine story featuring batman but the out come was sadly batman unable to stop a little girl from being blown to bits playing in a mine field. and given how gijoe had characters like serpentor and even near the end of the comic and line raptor. not surprised they almost added teddy bears. though surprised they wanted them to be the dreadknocks for that would have hurt zartans cred as leader of them.

I think that WW outfit is from the late-90’s when John Byrne was doing the WW book and had Wonder Woman’s mom Hyppolyta replace her for awhile. Her version of the costume was similar to the one in the original Sensation Comics debut of the character (although that early version of the costume featured culottes instead of a skirt). Byrne actually later wrote a plot wherein Hyppolyta turned out to actually be the original WWII version of Wonder Woman (!) due to a bout of time travel. This created the confusing situation wherein the Diana version of WW came first in contemporary times, but because of her own mom’s time traveling, the rest of the world thought she debuted in the WWII era. (I hate time travel stories!)

The Mad Monkey

July 5, 2013 at 11:41 am

It’s no surprise that St. John’s changed Lady Satan into Marietta/Celeste! They were, after all, a Christian-based comic book company and were the ones responsible for publishing some pro-religion propaganda Archie comics in the 70s. So, with that in mind, they simply couldn’t have the heroine of their story be named after the “Dark Prince”.

I remember the Hyppolyta Wonder Woman wearing a skirt, but still rocking the metal breastplate and cleavage. I think it is more likely that the costume was changed so the comic could be used in countries that might reject the comic if the WW costume was too revealing. What’s the story, Brian?

Brian, I hate to be “that guy” but I just wanted to point out in the lead, it states, “Was a comic book story reprinted twice times in ten years…with a different lead character each time?!”

Think you can lose the twice, on that one…unless it’s some little known grammar rule I missed.

http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2011/02/05/saturdays-irrelevant-relevance/

Greg Hatcher covered similar such specials, including some dealing with landmines.

This sort of subject matter seems more appropriate for others properties. For example:

http://community-2.webtv.net/CaptainHermes/CLIFFHANGERS/page2.html

The whole point of the Hornet is that he is not going after world-conquering madmen with crackling death rays or legions of obedient zombies. He is a dedicated public servant who is determined to clean up his city of racketeers, corrupt politicians and con artists of all types……….There’s a rigged mayoral election that needs to be exposed, a faulty underwater tunnel built of substandard material, a hot car ring, a protection racket victimizing dry cleaners — these are all crimes that really ruin the lives of innocent people, and if heroes like the Shadow or Doc Savage were not concerned with mundane affairs like these, the Hornet was ready to fight for the safety and rights of ordinary citizens.

I remember the Hyppolyta Wonder Woman wearing a skirt, but still rocking the metal breastplate and cleavage. I think it is more likely that the costume was changed so the comic could be used in countries that might reject the comic if the WW costume was too revealing. What’s the story, Brian?

While I don’t know for certain, I imagine it would almost surely be that very reason, to make the costume less revealing. I recall Andy Mangels, the awesome Wonder Woman expert, also believes that to be the reasoning.

In addition to Polly’s WW costume still having the cleavage-baring bodice, her skirt was also shorter and pleated. It was, in fact, a pretty good approximation of the Golden Age costume with the skirt. (Except I think the skirt was a little shorter, stopping just a little below her rump, rather than mid-thigh – both are shorter than what Diana’s wearing in that Nicaraguan comic, in any case.)

I can’t believe they were going to make the Dreadnoks talking bears- at the time the GI Joe comic was relatively realistic.

Talking bears wielding chainsaws while riding motorcycles?
I cannot conceive of any way in which this is not the most awesome idea ever!

Get Michael Bay on this stat!

@Michael
Yeah the G.I.Joe comics were fairly realistic, but the cartoons have done a lot worse than talking bears.

Holy freaking… Dreadnoks as bears…? My… my mind boggles.

It might have fit in with the ridiculousness of the show, but I cannot fathom that working in the comic book AT ALL.

Then again, it might explain the silly names of the original three–they’re both Tom, Dick and Harry AND Wynken, Blinken, and Nodd (I think I got the spellings of the last names right, they were all a bit off from the nursery rhyme).

Buzzer certainly looks a little… chubby in that first G.I. Joe cover.

And you’re right about the original Dreadnoks names. They were:

Buzzer: Dick Blinken (Richard Blinken-Smythe)
Torch: Tom Winken
Ripper: Harry Nod

There are several instances in the 1940s where things like the Lady Satan story occur. Scripts from one story get recycled for another character, sometimes the art gets re-used and the story is almost totally re-scripted and cases like this where the story is reprinted almost verbatim with just a slight tweaking in art and script to change the characters’ names (the Black Dwarf becoming the Blue Monk for example). Interesting that it would happen twice with the same story, but not very surprising. It must’ve been a doozy.

Ed – I was looking through the Public Domain Superheroes wiki, the other day, and ran into another good example of it – involving the same two companies as the Lady Satan story!

The Gay Desperado was published by Chesler in 1945. In 1948, St. John reprinted some of his stories as The Bold Buckaroo, then again, in 1950, as The Lone Vigilante.

Looks like St John made a habit of doing this.

@The Mad Monkey: I think you’ve got your publishers mixed up. St John quit publishing comics in the late 1950s and the company closed up shop completely in the late 1960s. I think where you’re getting mixed up is that the Archie line began as MLJ Comics which published a series in the early 1940s called Blue Ribbon Comics (and later, Blue Ribbon Mystery Comics). St John also published a title also called Blue Ribbon Comics but completely different. The Christian comics that featured the Archie characters were published by a company called Spire Christian Comics but it didn’t start publishing until 1972.

It also doesn’t make sense that they would change the character’s name but retain the story’s overall supernatural theme if St John had been a “Christian-based comic book company.” (After all, if you look at the material published by Spire, there was NO use of Sabrina–and Sabrina was an occasional “visitor” in the regular Archie comic stories. Additionally, Spire tended to completely avoid Satanish, the supernatural and the occult unless the story was intended as an ANTI-occult/supernatural story or had a Biblical component like Saul’s visit to the Witch of Endor to show God’s opposition to the occult or to show God/Jesus defeating Satan in the end times. Overall, though, Spire’s preference was to completely ignore or avoid any supernatural elements when possible, preferring to stick with stories that were either completely inspirational and uplifting or made Communism the bad guy.)

I always got a kick out of the JSA calling Diana’s mom “Polly.” (I would have had it “Hippy.”) But when I encountered this, I wondered why time travel had to be involved. Certainly someone who lived from the days of classical Greece to the modern day was around during WW2, and could have justified going to Man’s World to help in the latest War to End All Wars.

Was St. John’s the company behind Spire? That’s the name I remember on those Christian Archies.

I must agree that age is probably the key factor on how kids might take land mine comics the wrong way (and why the Batman version, where he doesn’t save the victim, is a “good” approach). An example: young kids who still believe in Santa have been known to slip downstairs to wait for the jolly old elf. Though this obviously has less severe consequences…

Thanks, JosephW, I didn’t see your note when I began mine.

Pretty good instalment.

I would like to share some stories about this period in former Yugoslavia’s countries, but it’s neither place nor time to tell. Let’s just say that one could see the full picture of insanity of animosity between the countries.

The comic book was a nice gift to kids in Bosnia. Wonder how many kids had a chance to read it.

The comic book was a nice gift to kids in Bosnia. Wonder how many kids had a chance to read it.

The reports were that the books were remarkably effective, at least in terms of reaching its audience. The issues most critics had were with the approach of the comic, including whether the comic was technically accurate enough, whether it gave off the right advice, whether kids would even be familiar enough with the characters for it to work and, as noted earlier, whether kids could appreciate that these were fictional characters.

Jeff Nettleton

July 6, 2013 at 8:59 am

While JosephW mostly has it right, I think you might be mixing Spire Christian Comics with the earlier Treasure Chest of Fun & Facts, just a smidgeon. Spire Christian started in the 70s and adapted both Christian novels and memoirs (Cross & the Switchblade, the Hiding Place, etc…) and the Archie characters in religiously-themed stories. However, I don’t recall much Commie bashing. Granted, I haven’t seen every book they ever published, so I might have missed the more political stories. Meanwhile, Treasure Chest was produced by an Ohio publisher and distributed to Catholic schools, back in the tail end of the Golden Age. It did feature quite a bit of Commie bashing, including one rather infamous issue where that was the focus of the main feature. A neighbor of mine, when I was young, came across a bunch of those at a garage sale and bought them, then eventually passed them on to me. They had some good features and some good artists (Reed Crandall did a bit of work for them in the 50s). Most of the ones I had came from the 60s, after they toned down the rhetoric.

Reposting, since the original, with links is stuck in moderation purgatory:

Ed – I was looking through the Public Domain Superheroes wiki, the other day, and ran into another good example of it – involving the same two companies as the Lady Satan story!

The Gay Desperado was published by Chesler in 1945. In 1948, St. John reprinted some of his stories as The Bold Buckaroo, then again, in 1950, as The Lone Vigilante.

Looks like St John made a habit of doing this.

I believe the publisher of Treasure Chest was George A. Pflaum – and no connection to St. John, which was named after the publisher Archer St. John. St. John was quite the solid publisher who quit publishing aruond the time of the Kefauver Hearings (but not because of the Comics Code IIRC). Joe Kubert did a lot of work for the company (including the original version of Tor) I believe. Matt Baker was also a regular artist for them. If anything, St. John was liberal to the point that his non-comics publishing created political problems for him.

Bluewater has put out a collection of stories from Treasure Chest – at least digitally through stores like Drive-Thru Comics and Comixology.

Great Scott! Superman was in Bosnia? Could’ve stopped the war while he was there… dick…

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Thank god they didn’t ACTUALLY make the Dreadnoks bears.

Well, in a way the Dreadnoks look like a certain type of bear.

I heard that the real reason that the Dreadnoks were changed was that Larry Hama did not want to be outed as a furry. In retrospect, all the signs were there.

[…] was de-satanized AGAIN in 1952, this time in Strange Terrors #1. (To read up more on this, check here and here.) Yes, this same story was re-written and published again twice. Anything to just keep […]

I refuse to accept that Bosnian children– or any children– are that dumb.

The story of Bosnian children being killed is true. I was there working in the Army as a Psychological Operations NCO. within a week of the incident we had to destroy dozens of shipping containers full of comic books and posters of the superman comic.

The children were aged up to 8 to 10 and they said if they were playing in a dangerous area, superman would save them. What age do American rugrats stop believing in Santa Claus?

Those kids played anywhere and everywhere. Many families lived in actual landfill areas. I think two were killed and the rest injured with a few amputees.

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